As usual, I own nothing.

When Hermione Granger awoke, she did not expect to find herself lying stomach-down on a comfortable bed. Despite Voldemort's ultimate defeat, the wizarding world still suffered the threat of his uncaptured minions. There was talk and speculation that a new dark lord was on the rise, and his target was one particular muggleborn. She thought she was safe as she wandered inconspicuously through Diagon Alley. Just as she stepped into Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes, she removed the Invisibility Cloak that Harry lent her. Hand still on the doorknob, she was grabbed from behind and Disapparated away to an unknown location.

"Ah, finally awake I see." Hermione turned her stiff neck to see Draco Malfoy, her childhood foe, leaning against the door to the bathroom.

"Where am I?" she demanded, her voice hoarse and throat sore from lack of use. With a snap of his fingers, he conjured a glass of water and helped her sit up. He held the glass to her chapped lips and offered her small sips. When she finished, he set the glass on the nightstand; then she repeated her question.

"Malfoy Manor, of course," he responded, a smirk residing on his pale and pointed face.

A look of terror flashed quickly through her dark brown eyes. "Why am I here? What do want with me?" she asked, her questions rapid fire as her panic rose. "What am I doing in here?" Her eyes swept the large room before focusing on the king-sized four-poster bed she lay upon.

His hand stroked her cheek before pushing a curl behind her ear. As hard as she tried to fight it, Hermione found herself unable to resist his touch. Taking hold of her left hand, Draco brought it to eye level. "This ring is all I need to keep you in line," he informed her, showing her his matching ring. "It binds you to me, allows me to control your every move, thought, and mood, until I decide to let you go."

Her eyes veered to Draco's hand. "Why do you wear one too?" she wondered, feeling suddenly calm as she took his hand to examine the matching gold band. "Are this a marriage bonding? Is it permanent?"

Lacing his fingers through hers, Draco nodded his head. "You will be my queen," he murmured, turning their joined hands to kiss her knuckles. His lips moved from her hand to the inside of her wrist. As he kissed the soft, delicate skin of her arm, he moved over her until his body covered her smaller one as he laid her back down.

"Why me?" she asked, as he placed kisses along the column of her neck. " hate me, remember?"

Sighing, he moved himself off of her and sat by her side. "Who wouldn't want the most brilliant witch in our world to rule by his side?" he wondered. As he spoke, his voice soft and words sincere, he traced his hand under her nightgown to stroke her side. It delighted him that his charm worked - she never once pulled away from his touch. Her eyes slid closed as his continued to touch her, revelling in the feel of his hand against her skin. A knock on the door startled them both and Draco pulled away. "I need you to stay in here," he told her, leaning down to kiss her.

When she nodded, he rose from the bed and left the room. In the hallway stood Theodore Nott, one of his most trusted followers. "The Order of the Phoenix is regrouping," he reported, leaning against the wall opposite Draco's chambers. "Potter is less than happy that you've captured his mudblood."

Draco could feel his face warming as he seethed, "You will not call her that. Let the rest know that as well. She is the new Lady Malfoy, and you will all address her with respect. Are we clear?"

"Yes, sir," Theo grumbled. Straightening up, he pushed away from the wall. "Your father wants to speak with you."

With a nod, Draco dismissed him. He checked the charms on the door, both to keep Hermione in and to keep the others out, before making his way to his father's study. A glass of firewhiskey sat on the desk when he entered, shutting the door behind him. "Drink," Lucius Malfoy instructed once his son was seated. A sinister smile crossed his lips as Draco obliged, downing the contents of the glass in one, healthy sip.

"What was it you wanted, Father?" the young wizard inquired, setting the glass back on the desk in front of him.

"In order to successfully situate yourself as the next Dark Lord, it is imperative you strike," Lucius stated. "The Order must be eliminated. Your new bride should be helpful on that front. She'll have information, locations, know their strategies. Wearing your ring, she will do whatever you command her to do. She is the key to our success."

Nodding mutely, Draco rose and left the study. His head buzzed as he made his way down the hall, climbed the stairs, and entered his room. Squeezing his eyes tightly shut, he held his pained head in his hands as he waited for the spell to pass. Warm hands cupped his cheeks, and when he was finally able to reopen his eyes, a worried Hermione stood before him. Moving his hands from his head to her waist, he pulled her against him in his tight embrace.

"What happened?" she asked, winding her arms around his neck.

"Nothing. I'm fine," he muttered, but held her tighter. It happened every time he spoke with his father. A pounding headache, a wave of nausea, and a sense of vertigo always set in once he exited the office. He wouldn't tell her though; a Dark Lord could never appear weak before anyone. "You trust me, don't you, Hermione?"

"Yes," she replied before giving it a second thought.

"Tell me what you know," he murmured, capturing her lips in a searing kiss. She whimpered as his kiss became fiercer and bruising. Pulling back only a centimeter, his lips hovered above hers as his breath warmed the lower part of her face. "Tell me, love, and I can make everything all better."

As he kissed her, he continued his mantra, "Tell me. Tell me everything." The small part of her mind she still had control over was glad that she had nothing to tell. Molly Weasley had been made the secret keeper under the Fidelius charm placed on the Order of the Phoenix's headquarters. There was no information she could share, but that did nothing but increase the nervous feeling churning in her stomach. Turning her head, she told him, "I know nothing."

All too soon, he removed his arms from her and stepped around her. "It will not bode well for you to lie to me," he warned. With her back to him, he pulled his wand from its hiding place beneath his robes and pointed it at her. "Legilimens." She put up no fight as he invaded her mind. Scenes of Potter and Weasley laughing as they sat around their Gryffindor common room; Christmas at the Burrow; an unfamiliar couple he assumed to be her parents as she wiped their memories of her; capture in Diagon Alley. There were no traces of the safe house used by the order, no memories of meetings to discuss strategy. Lowering his wand, he realized she truly had no information to offer.

Hermione whimpered when she felt him leave her mind, and finally she turned to face him. Dozens of questions raced through her mind, but she found she had no voice to ask them. She watched silently as he moved to the wardrobe and selected a set of emerald green robes. "Bathe and get dressed," he instructed firmly. "You will meet my men tonight."

A shiver of fear raced up her spine at the thought of being in the presence of his minions. She was, after all, a muggleborn, and their main objective was to rid the world of her kind. The panic she felt reflected in her eyes and she noticed that Draco softened minutely. Closing the distance between them, he took her face in his hands. "They can't hurt you," he promised. "Stay by my side, and you'll be safe."

Nodding her head in understanding, he let her go and watched her leave for the bathroom. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, he twisted the gold band around on his finger. How had his life come to this? After the fall of the Dark Lord Voldemort, he believed he would finally be released from the prison his father had created for him. The Dark Mark, which had marred his arm since he was sixteen, was gone; nothing more than a memory.

But Lucius Malfoy still firmly believed in blood purity and wanted to see his world cleansed of the filth that lived in it. He had told Draco that he would take up the fight, leading the Dark Lord's minions to finish their previous master's work. Only once had he asked, "Why me?" Lucius laughed mirthlessly at his son's doubt-laden question.

"It was the Dark Lord's final wish that you take his place," he replied, refilling Draco's drink.

Lost in thought, he never heard the bathroom door open, nor did he notice Hermione's presence until she sat down beside him. "Did you only take me because you thought I could lead you to the Order?" she asked.

When he turned to look at her, her eyes were downcast and focused on her fidgeting hands in her lap. "No," he replied honestly. "Although, I do expect them to make some attempt to rescue you."

"So, you're only holding me prisoner because you mean to attack them," she summarized.

"You are not a prisoner." His reply shocked her. "I've kept you in this room since your capture for your own protection. The other men...I feared what they might have done to you before we were bonded. As long as you wear my ring, they can't harm you."

She fingered the ring as he spoke, pushing it further up her finger until it hit the knuckle. For now she would keep it on, but a part of her wondered what would happen should she remove it. Would escape be possible if he couldn't control her? How far could she possibly get without a wand? Before she could think on it further, he rose and took her hand. Pulling her up to her full height, he held her close and kissed her gingerly. In his arms, she felt weightless; gripping him as he supported her.

Hermione watched a man be dragged away to his death that night. She sat by Draco's side at the long table, and on her other side sat a boy she recognized from Hogwarts. He introduced himself as Christopher Warrington, former Slytherin, and kissed the back of her hand. From the corner of her eye, she glanced at Draco and saw his gray eyes brim with fury. The first course was served, but Warrington had little desire to sample the soup. Beneath the table, his hand rested on Hermione's thigh and slowly slid up. Hermione's eyes widened and she grabbed Draco's forearm. Calmly, never setting his spoon down, he turned to his left to address Gregory Goyle and Marcus Flint.

"Dispose of Warrington," he instructed before he turned back to his meal. Her grip tightened on his arm as she pleaded with him to have mercy. He shook off her hand, rose from his seat, and grabbed her. Despite her attempts to dislodge her arm from his firm grasp, Draco was stronger and managed to pull her out of the dining room. Pushing her against the wall, he anchored her there with his body. "You dare defy me in front of my men?" he asked, his tone low and menacing.

"I'm sorry," she gasped as the ring around her finger began to burn. "Please, make it stop. It hurts."

Releasing the spell, he took hold of her left hand and examined the mark left on her finger. "Go back to the room," he said. "I'll be there shortly." He let her go and watched her leave before returning to his party.

Hermione waited, patiently at first, but as the minutes ticked by she grew more and more anxious. Hours passed before he joined her once more. She sat in the middle of the bed leaning back against the headboard, knees drawn up and arms crossed over her chest, when he caught her eye. "He's dead then, isn't he?" she asked, eyes narrowing on the blond.

"No," he replied as he began to undress. "I decided to show him, what was your word for it, mercy?"

"Why?" she asked, straightening her legs out in front of her.

He shrugged as he removed his pants, leaving him in only black silk boxer shorts. "The punishment should fit the crime," he stated. "A night in the dungeons and a few throws of the Cruciatus Curse should put him in his place."

"That's vile," she muttered as he pulled her down to lay beside him.

He pressed a kiss to her forehead. "It's been a long day, love. Sleep," he whispered.

It was weeks before she saw Draco again. Only days after she had awoken in Draco's chambers, Lucius had dragged him away in the middle of the night with news of the Order. For two weeks, she paced his chambers waiting for his return. Draco's protection ensured none of his minions could enter, but without him there, she didn't dare leave the suite. When he finally returned late in the evening, his robes were covered in blood. Hermione's face paled as began to check him over, hoping it was not his.

"Love, I'm not hurt," he assured her as she peeled off his black, button down shirt. It wasn't until she unbuttoned his trousers that he grabbed her arms and forced her to stop. "I'm fine," he restated.

"Then whose?" she asked, close to tears.

He eased his grip on her arms and rubbed his hands over her soft skin. "One of my men, Hatcher. He died in my arms," he told her sadly. Hermione stepped closer and slid her arms around his waist in a comforting embrace.

"You can stop this, Draco," she murmured, rubbing the bare skin at the small of his back. "You're the Dark Lord, after all. You can put an end to this madness."

Shaking his head, he replied, "That's exactly why I can't stop this. The Order will have to kill me to end this." Stepping out of her hold, he sat down on the edge of the bed and rested his head in his hands. "I don't want to die," he whispered.

Kneeling before him, she pulled his hands away and kissed his right palm, then the left. "You won't," she whispered.

Goyle Sr. and Mulciber stood reverently in front of Lucius's desk. "Only six lost, sir," Mulciber reported. "We managed to capture one of theirs. An Abbott. Pretty little blonde thing," he added lasciviously.

"Six dead, and you only managed to secure one of those Order nuisances?" Lucius cried in an outrage. "Perhaps it was foolish of me to believe my son capable of leading."

"We could just kill him," Goyle suggested, sounding rather giddy at the prospect. He had never been fond of the little blond brat, and was less than enthusiastic about calling him "Master."

"He seems quite content with his little mudblood," Mulciber supplied. "Perhaps the useless little creature can keep him distracted long enough. We don't really need him, Lucius."

Gray eyes hardened on the two lackeys, and Lucius's hand flew to his wand. "You will never make such a suggestion again," he stated easily, pointing his wand at one, then the other. "Do I make myself clear?" With a flick of his wand, Goyle writhed and fell to the floor under the pressure of the Cruciatus curse. Then Mulciber was given similar treatment. Tired of their presence, he released the curse and sent them away.

A small pit of guilt began to build in Lucius's stomach. It had never been the Dark Lord's wish that Draco take up his mission. He had always found the young man to be weak; drafting him into his circles only so he could kill him. It was Lucius who wanted to prove to the world that his son could be just as ruthless, just as unmerciful. He wanted power, and he had planned to use his only child to get it.

Draco was weak, though. Despite years of playing the role of bully, the young man wanted nothing more than for the war to end. He wanted to see Voldemort's demise and know the world was safe. As he lay awake with Hermione comfortably in his arms, he considered his actions. He couldn't kill, wouldn't kill. The smell of blood violently turned his stomach, and he'd spent much of the battles he fought cowering in a corner to avoid the carnage.

Hermione felt her ring grow warm, and it instantly woke her. Her sleepy eyes turned to the man beside her, and she sat up slowly. Resting a hand against his chest, she used it for leverage as she kissed him. "What happened?" she murmured before he tried to deepen their connection.

"You'll hate me," he replied, gently caressing her side.

Hermione snorted. "You won't let me hate you," she reminded him as their eyes fell to her ring.

Sighing, he sat up straighter and leaned against the headboard. His arms never left her as she relaxed against his chest. "You remember that night my father stormed in here and dragged me out of bed?" he asked. She, of course, remembered. She shuddered at the memory of Lucius pulling him from her arms as she begged him not to leave. Draco had pressed a soft kiss to her lips, and murmured his love for her. Draco arms tightened around her as she fought off the cold. "Potter wasted little time striking back in order to rescue you," he continued. "He believed my father was the one trying to claim power over the wizarding world, not me. Zabini began to brag about how...useful you are, if you get my drift." Hermione knew exactly what he meant.

"Is he..." She couldn't bring herself to finish.

Draco nodded. "Ron Weasley sent the curse," he told her. "He deserved it. I would have killed him myself if Weasley hadn't beaten me to it."

"But that was one night. You've been gone two weeks," she stated.

"We've been fighting all that time," he replied. When she stiffened in his arms, he continued. "We were the only side to suffer casualties. I Apparated away after Hatcher died in my arms. I couldn't bear to stay any longer. The Order is strong, stronger than my men. The most they managed to accomplish was securing a prisoner."

Hermione gasped. "Who?" she whispered. Her insides turned when he told her who now resided in the dungeons. "Please, Draco, please let her go. She knows less than I do about the Orders plans. The younger members are kept on a need-to-know basis and she's not the secret keeper. You'll gain nothing by holding her here."

His hand stroked her cheek softly. "Tell me you love me, and I'll let her go," he promised. His hand moved from her face to her left hand. His thumb and index finger rested on the ring.

"I love you," she replied. As he kissed her, he pulled the ring off of her finger and threw it across the room. Her eyes snapped open as she attempted to fight him off. Succeeding, she scrambled out of the bed and grabbed his wand from the bedside table.

Calmly, he slid off his own ring and set it down where his wand had been. His head pounded, and he wondered if hers hurt too. The spell that held her to him was broken. But another sensation washed over him. "What have I done?" he whispered as he stared at her wide-eyed. Six months of memories flooded his mind clearly - using the Cruciatus curse on men he had once considered friends, hearing the screams as his men tortured muggles and muggleborns, setting fire to a small house which was home to Bill and Fleur Weasley, his father's suggestion that he take Hermione as his bride and force information from her. The memories became less severe once she entered his life. Perhaps the bond had given her just a slight amount of control over him as well. He recalled the battles with the Order of the Phoenix in vivid clarity. Harry Potter was clearly in sight, prime for the killing, when Draco lowered his wand.

Looking up, Draco noticed the wand trained on him and began to shake. "Please, Hermione," he murmured. Perhaps his mind would finally be at peace if she killed him. Hermione lowered the wand, but remained on the opposite side of the bed. "I can't do this. I don't want this life. It's time that this war is finally over."

It dawned on her then what he was asking of her. Two simple words and he would be dead, the war over, and their world at peace. Instead, she dropped the wand onto the bed. "I won't be a murderer," she stated.

Slowly, he traversed the room until he stood before her. Her eyes held a look of defiance as she stood proudly firm. "Take the wand, Hermione," he said. "You're free. I'll get the Abbott girl out and you can both rejoin the Order. When you're out, contact the Aurors and send them here."

"And what will you do after that?" she asked, her tone biting and harsh. "How many more attacks will there be? How many more people have to die?"

Taking a step back, he sighed. "If I'm right, just one," he replied. With one last look at her, he left his bedroom in search of a wand. If his suspicions were correct, it was Lucius who was behind everything. Schooling his features into a hard look of disgust, he entered his father's study. "I need a wand. Granger's escaped."

A look of delight crossed the older man's face. The mudblood had been useless, and now he had the chance to do away with her. Graciously, he handed his wand over to his son. He watched curiously as Draco got a feel for the dragon heartstring, elm wand. But it quickly passed when he was staring down the tip of it.

"What happened to my mother?" Draco demanded, holding tightly to the wand. "I want the truth."

Lucius swallowed past the lump that had begun to form in his throat as he recalled the lie he had fed his son just before telling him he would be the next Dark Lord. For months, Draco believed Narcissa Malfoy had abandoned the family, claiming she wanted no further ties to the dark arts. "She's dead," he replied calmly.

"You killed her," Draco spat, knowing his father would never willingly let his wife go.

Lucius nodded. "She betrayed the Dark Lord, my son. She would have done the same to you to save herself," he reasoned.

Red sparks shot from the tip of the wand. "You're a liar," he seethed. "She lied to Voldemort to save our world, but you were too hellbent on carrying on where that hypocritical psychopath left off. You used the same spell to control me that you forced me to use on Hermione, didn't you."

The nod of Lucius's head was all Draco needed before casting the Killing Curse for the first time in his life. His father's eyes widened as the blast of green light struck his chest, and he fell to the ground.

With the wand still in hand, he ran from the office and took the stairs down to the dungeons. They were thankfully abandoned and he found Hannah Abbott cowering in a cell at the end of the hallway. He quickly unlocked the door and called her forward. Fresh tears sprang to her eyes as she unwillingly complied. Her clothes were torn and dirty, her hair matted, and her face was a mess of grime and dried tears. A long, deep gash ran across her right shoulder to her collarbone. Holding her still, he traced the tip of the wand across it, closing it as he went.

"Let's go," he told her softly. Pulling off his robes, he wrapped them around her shaking body and led her up the stairs.

"Malfoy, please don't hurt me," she simpered when they reached the foyer.

He pulled open the front door and led her out into the night air. Reaching the bottom step, he halted when a wand pushed into his chest. A short-lived sigh of relief escaped his lips when he saw Hermione holding his wand.

"The Aurors have been alerted and are on their way," she informed him coldly. Her eyes never left Draco as she reached out her hand to Hannah. He released his soft grip on the former captive's arm and let her go. "How do we get out of here?"

"Go to the end of the path, past the gates. You'll be able to Apparate from there," he informed her.

Turning her back on him, Hermione stalked down the path. Halfway down, Hannah tugged on her arm and she stopped. The two witches quickly and heatedly discussed something before Hermione sighed and turned back to him. "Come with us," she offered.

He knew it wasn't her idea, but he followed them down the path until they reached the gate. When she offered her hand, Draco quickly took it and felt the squeezing sensation of Apparation. They were safely inside the warm comfort of the Burrow, the Weasley family's home. A fire roared to live in the hearth as the lights illuminated the sitting room. Footsteps pounded down the stairs before Harry and Ron appeared before them. Ron halted as his eyes transfixed on Hannah before he moved again and enveloped her in a protective hug.

"Mione," Harry breathed before copying Ron's actions. He pressed a kiss to her temple and continued to hold her until his eyes landed on Draco. "What's he doing here?"

Hermione pulled out of Harry's embrace. "He saved us," she said, glancing briefly at the tall blond behind her.

"He's the new He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, Hermione," Ron stated incredulously. "This has to be a ploy. Why would you bring him here? He could kill us all in our sleep."

Draco shook his head wearily, and stepped minutely closer to Hermione. "It was my father the whole time. I was his patsy," he explained. He detailed the charm placed upon both Hermione and himself. "Lucius is dead though, and the Aurors are rounding up the rest of the men still at the compound. You're all safe."

"We won't be safe until you're in Azkaban," Ron retorted. Draco's head fell, knowing the pair would surely follow through on handing him over.

"That's enough, the both of you," Hermione declared, glaring at her two best friends. "Please, just, give Malfoy and me a minute."

Warily, Harry made his way back to the stairs, followed by Ron and Hannah. She waited until they were out of sight to cast a charm to render them unable to hear the conversation. Neither spoke for a long time. Draco sat down on the lumpy, blue sofa and cupped his hands over his face.

"He killed her, my mother," Draco finally said. "I thought about letting him live, turning him over to the Ministry, until he confessed that. Something inside of me snapped. I didn't even hear the curse come out of my mouth before it hit him."

Hermione took a seat beside him and placed a tentative hand on his shoulder. "You must have loved her very much," she commented.

He nodded solemnly. "I think she was one of the very few people in my life I've ever loved," he admitted. "She wanted so much more for me. When Voldemort rose again, she planned to take me and escape my father. He caught us in the middle of the night, and I didn't see her for a week. But the things I heard..."

"Why me, Draco?" she asked, hoping to pull him from his melancholy thoughts.

Reaching for her hand, he turned his head slightly to glance at her. "Why not you?" he wondered. "I meant it when I said you're brilliant. Wanting to be with you was the one conscious decision I made. You'll never understand how sorry I am for putting you through all that."

Hermione, who had focused her gaze on their joined hands while he spoke, looked up when he was suddenly silent. "You meant it, didn't you?" she realized. "That night Lucius took you away, you said you love me. You meant it."

A hot blush colored his cheeks and he had to look away from her penetrating eyes. "I did," he confessed. "I'm sure my father was livid when he found out. Being the 'Dark Lord' had its perks, I guess." A short, mirthless chuckle escaped his lips before he set them once more in a tight line.

Hermione shifted closer until her thigh brushed his. "You saved us," she pointed out. "You are no Dark Lord."

He turned and cupped her cheek. "And you saved me," he murmured. "I didn't realize the curse was on me until you came along. I could feel myself slowly realizing that that life wasn't what I wanted, was something I never wanted. It was like waking up from a long, torturous dream." Leaning forward, he gaged her reaction until his lips brushed hers in a chaste kiss.

"Do you think we're still bonded?" she wondered.

"You could go snog Weasley and find out," he suggested, causing Hermione to giggle. "But, yes, we are."

"He's busy with Hannah anyhow," she reminded him. She sobered momentarily before continuing. "I'm going to tell the Ministry everything - how your father cursed you into following his orders, that it was Lucius who abducted me, how you saved Hannah's and my lives. I won't let you go to prison for him."

Pulling his father's wand from his back pocket, he snapped it in half and threw it in the fire. "No more reminders of him," he muttered. He looked to her when he heard her snort.

"That was evidence," she pointed out, watching the flames reduce the broken wand to ash.

"Memories will be enough," he muttered, reliving some of his own. Hermione fingers intertwined with his own before she rested her head against his shoulder. He heard her sniffle, sure that she too was assaulted by her own recollections of time spent at Malfoy Manor. He whispered a sincere apology to the woman he loved.

Curling up beside him once more, Hermione let her eyes slide closed. "I don't hate you for what your father made you do," she murmured. "Give me time, Draco. I'll love you too."