Blood and Wine
The wards accept her and she's running so fast the sentry doesn't remember to stop her until she's inside the house. There's a meeting on in the kitchen, at least half the official Order stuffed in there. Every eye goes to Hermione when she bursts in and a moment later several wands are leveled at her. Arthur and Percy are each holding one of Ron's arms, keeping him from running to her.
"I know," she gasps. "I know protocol and you can't trust me after so long but I know where Harry is and do you really want to waste time?"
Those not holding wands on her turn to look at Remus, but it's Moody who speaks. "I say let the girl talk. She's not Secret Keeper for any of our hideouts so her babbling can't be a distraction."
"And if she's just going to attack us at the first opportunity?" Kingsley asks. "No offense," he adds with a nod to her.
"None taken," she says.
"She's not likely to do it now," Moody says. "And it'll be good practice for us all to find if she's under Imperius or an imposter."
Hermione looks to Remus. He gives a faint nod of permission.
"Neville," she says, "your family farm, how much can you tell us about it?"
"What?" Neville asks, his confused face a mirror of every other in the room. "Why?"
"That's where they've got Harry."
"What makes you think they're keeping him there?" Remus asks, his voice carrying over the crowd.
Hermione worries her lip and forces herself to meet Remus' stare. "You said I had your blessing to keep it secret," she says. "And I'm sorry but this is part of it."
His gaze hardens and he leans back into his chair, physically pulling away. She's lost his trust.
"Tell us everything you can, Neville," Remus says, his eyes still trained on Hermione. "We'll need to scout the place out first."
Neville does his best to tell them about the house he grew up in: all the ways in and out, the secret passages, the trick stairs. His memory's certainly improved since their school days, or they hope it has.
"Hermione?" Ron asks, finally having escaped his family's hold. "How do you know?"
She shakes her head and fingers the vial in her pocket. "I can't say."
Ron looks away. When this is over and they have Harry back she'll fix this. She'll get Ron's trust back and restore Lupin's faith in her. Later.
It's worse than the last battle. The Order is desperate to free Harry and the Death Eaters are just as desperate to keep him. Curses saturate the air so thoroughly just moving stings the skin. Hermione tries not to look at anyone too closely, noting only masks and where wands are pointing to determine whose side they're on. There are far too many mutilated corpses walking around, not to mention the people who survived such curses and are still fighting.
There was a plan at one point. They were going to be sneaky, using Neville's knowledge of the house to get in and out quickly. That fell apart fast though and things became so desperate that no one even bothered trying to keep her out of the fight. They don't trust her yet but she figures since no Order members have tried to hex her, she's doing okay.
She still hasn't heard anything about Harry when the first shouts of "Fire!" reach her. It doesn't register in her brain. She's too busy fending off hexes and curses aimed her way by a grinning Death Eater. He throws the Cruciatus at her and she has just enough sense to dodge to the side, nearly tripping over a fallen beam in her rush. She hurls a frantic Jelly Legs Jinx at him, the first spell she thinks of.
People are rushing down the stairs behind him, throwing spells over their shoulders. Even this mob doesn't distract her from her opponent. The blond trying to force his way through the mob does.
His hood's been pushed down. He fairly throws men aside trying to get through to the upper floors. Someone pushes back and Malfoy staggers. His eyes meet hers and even at this distance she can see he's frantic.
"Morsus!" the Death Eater yells. The spell catches Hermione in the leg and she falls, feeling rows of shallow cuts circle her calf.
"Stupefy!" Malfoy yells. He's passing the Death Eater before the man even hits the ground.
"I'm fine," Hermione says.
Malfoy doesn't take her at her word and instead pulls up the leg of her pants. Hermione does a healing spell before he can and the cuts vanish. He frowns at her but she's not about to be chastened by him.
"Do you know-?"
"Potter's safe outside, I passed him and Weasley on my way in."
"Thank God," Hermione breathes. Her relief vanishes the next second. "Wait, if he's out there what are you doing in here?" Shouldn't he be trying to get him back?
Malfoy looks up to the ceiling. Smoke is gathering there, the upper floors no longer enough to hold it.
"My father started this," he says. He meets her eyes again, his desperate, determined. "I have to find him."
"Malfoy," she says with no idea what she means to say next.
"Be safe," he orders, the same way he tells her to chop rat livers.
"I can help you," she says quickly. "You'll have a better chance of finding him with two people looking."
He shakes his head and makes to stand. She grabs his wrist, anchoring him down by her. He growls in annoyance, ready to be off. His eyes soften behind those two small holes, seeing something in her gaze she can't identify herself. Her free hand reaches up for his mask. He catches her wrist before she can touch the cool metal.
"Only a Death Eater can remove their mask," he says. "And I'm really not the sort of guy you should be kissing goodbye."
Instinctively she opens her mouth to lie and say she wasn't going to do anything of the kind. He uses her anger to his advantage. Her grip on him has loosened and he runs away. She jumps up to follow but a hand grabs her wand arm from behind. She turns, twisting her wrist and elbow so her wand is pointed up at her attacker, only to find herself face to face with Neville.
"It's burning down!" he gasps. His face is covered in soot and there's a bloody gash in his shoulder. He pulls her from the house and they gather other Order members they pass on the way. Most of the battles have broken up as the impending destruction of the building's become apparent. Hermione only has to throw one hex before they make it outside where the rest of the Order is already gathered around Harry, protecting him from any fleeing Death Eaters who might think to take him back.
"Hermione!" Harry gasps. His voice is a rough breath with barely any sound to it and even the one word makes him pull back sharply in pain.
Ron holds him while he coughs and Hermione rushes to his side, her stomach turning at the sight of blood falling through the fingers over his mouth. She forces him to stand straight and begins examining him.
There's little she can tell for certain on the battlefield but he'll live. She tells him as much and he smiles weakly.
The battle seems to be done. No one's coming out of the house anymore and it's been several minutes since any spells were cast. Smoke is rising high into the air, blotting out the stars. Hermione only hopes no Muggle authorities see it. Corrupt as the Ministry is right now, they'll still have someone out here once the fighting's finished and that someone will be more likely to kill than memory charm.
"It's a shame, son," Remus says gently and Hermione looks up to see him resting a hand on Neville's shoulder. The boy's face is lit up by the flames consuming his childhood home.
"I'd rather it burn," he says, though Hermione can see the shine of tears on his cheeks.
Hermione worries her lip. There's no way of knowing if Malfoy is still in there or if he got his father out by now. She prays it's the latter.
"A great victory," Moody says, jovial as he ever is. "Granger back, Potter rescued, and a captive of our own."
Harry shoots Hermione a questioning look but she ignores it, searching for the captive. On the ground, between Tonks and Bill, is a shivering body. He grasps his dark cloak tight about himself.
"What I wouldn't give to see the git's face when he realizes we've got his father," Ron laughs.
Hermione gasps and rushes over, pulling the hood away from Lucius Malfoy's face before anyone can stop her. He turns his face to her with an animalistic hiss but it softens the moment he sees her. Several pairs of arms pull her away from him.
"You," he says, turning away. "Not your fault. Filthy mudblood." He says the words without malice. To him they are a fact, certain as the sun's rising.
A foot, Hermione doesn't see whose, hits the man in the back.
Lucius coughs painfully. "Snape's," he goes on, no mind to his injury. "Never should have trusted… My oldest friend."
"Hermione," Ron says, holding her shoulders tight and trying to take her attention away from him. "It's okay. We've got him and we've got Harry. It's okay."
Hermione shakes her head. It's not. Not at all. There's a great creaking behind her and Hermione turns just as the house collapses.
That night, after a vigorous round of healing spells and potions, Harry, Ron, and Hermione sit up together in an empty room. Harry tells them everything specific he can remember from his questioning. Ron tells them what the Order was up to while they were gone - mostly searching for them both but also cutting off owl communications across the country. Luckily Voldemort is busy quelling a rebellion in Scotland and hasn't yet received word of Harry's capture, otherwise tonight might have had a whole different ending.
The boys both turn to Hermione, waiting for her tale. She looks away, unsure what to tell them. Before she has time to find words, two hands rest over hers.
"You don't have to tell us what happened," Ron says.
Harry simply pulls her into a one-armed hug. She reaches for Ron and for several minutes they're content to just hold each other. When she begins crying she lets them think it's because of whatever nightmare she's supposed to have suffered the last few days.
They're all too exhausted to find beds downstairs and instead roll up their cloaks and coats for pillows and spread out on the wood floor. If either of them notice Hermione's new clothing they don't comment.
There's a lump in her pocket and as she tries to adjust her position she remembers what it must be. The candle from the Manor. She stuffs it into her rolled-up coat along with the vial of unicorn hair. The smell bleeds through the fabric and she takes a deep breath. Smoke, herbs, blood, and wine. She sees Draco watching his father dance alone; feels him staring at her while they work in the sweltering kitchen; hears him tell her it will be okay while he cuts into her; and tastes his breath, close enough to kiss, on the battlefield.
She hugs the coat he gave her tight. She wants to pretend it will be all right, that he's alive somewhere, but she's too rational for that. He never would have left that house without his father. No son who would spend months brewing Amortentia in secret just so his father could live in a fantasy world would leave without him. Draco Malfoy is dead, the least she can do is protect his father for him.
It doesn't take long to convince the Order that Lucius has gone insane. They're understandably disappointed that their prisoner is no longer the high ranking Death Eater they thought him to be.
In a meeting with Harry, Ron, Remus, Mad-Eye, and Tonks, Hermione comes clean.
She tells them everything, leaving out only the parts of her story that no one needs to know. Following in Snape's footsteps and disillusionment after his mother's death and father's decent into insanity are good enough reasons for Draco's change of heart. No one needs to know what Amortentia smelled like to him. Or her.
"He saved your life," Harry says in awe.
She nods. "He saved all our lives. My healing potions wouldn't be half as potent without his help and I never would have mastered the Wolfsbane potion."
She sees Tonks' hand grip Remus' tightly and ignores the small pang it sends through her heart.
"Are we-" Ron begins but cuts off when he meets her eyes.
"What, Ron?" Tonks asks.
He shifts uncomfortably in his seat and doesn't look at her again. "Are we sure this is really Hermione?"
"Ron!" Harry hisses.
"I'm serious! If there's anyone less likely than Malfoy to switch sides it's - it's You-Know-Who!"
Hermione keeps her gaze level on all of them. She has nothing to hide.
"If she was going to betray us," Mad-Eye says gruffly, "she would have done it last night."
Remus nods in agreement and that's the end of that.
"What I don't understand though," Tonks says, "is why you didn't tell us."
"Would you really have let me go? If you knew who I was going to?"
"No," three voices say at once. Remus glances indulgently towards Harry and Ron, and continues himself. "But I still wish you'd have told us. Knowing, as we do now, that he had truly changed … we could have used someone like him."
There's not much else to be said after that. Hermione is allowed to continue her work as Potions Master, but is confined to Order hideouts.
Lucius is a new problem. They can't let him go but having a half-mad Death Eater in an Order safe house isn't a good match. Hermione does her best to look out for him, making small batches of Amortentia whenever she gets the chance. He's well-behaved in general and even takes a shine to Teddy, telling the infant fairy tales and singing him nursery rhymes. On his bad days he destroys whole rooms. Once he even ripped out half a wall with his bare hands, sparking a debate over whether he should be given any of their precious healing draughts. He never asks about Draco but sometimes he will look around, suddenly alert, and Hermione knows he's searching for his son.
He'd be better with more Amortentia but with only one small fireplace to work from Hermione doesn't have the means to make it often. The liquid loses its smell faster than the candles do and she sets herself to seeking out Draco's secret. If nothing else it will distract her from the distrustful looks she still feels.
She shouldn't be here. She's under strict orders not to go anywhere without escort and though no one's ever said not to come back to Malfoy's second home, it's the sort of thing she should know better than to do.
Still, she needs to find a way to help Lucius and if she can only see the kitchen again, look at the stores of ingredients, she knows she can figure out how Draco altered the Amortentia.
The smell of it permeates the house even now. It's so thick Hermione has to stop at the kitchen door. She thinks it might be making her sick, whether from actual nausea or heartache she doesn't know. It will be worse in the kitchen but she has to do this. She pushes inside and walks down the familiar set of steps, only to stop dead. There's a cauldron on a single blazing fire, a man in dark robes bent over it.
Her chest is so tight she can't imagine how her heart can find room to pound so loudly. She must make some noise because he turns sharply, surprise and joy flashing quickly over his face before it settles into a defiant mask.
He's alive. He'salivehe'salivehe'salive. The thought must rattle around in her mind for a while because he finally gives in and speaks first.
"You're late," he says and glances at his watch-less wrist. "By several weeks in fact. Get to work. No doubt your Order is suffering with only you to brew for them. We can discuss my father's return once you've prepared the ingredients for a Dreamless Sleep potion."
"You," she says.
"Yes, me," he says testily, going back to his potion - another batch of Amortentia from the looks of it. "I apparated out just before the support beams gave way. You should have seen the looks on the other Death Eaters' faces when I walked into that meeting. They'd all thought I was dead. Most of them were fighting over who got my family's money and land with me gone and my father in the Order's tender care." He lifts a ladleful of the potion and pours it slowly out, watching carefully. "As it was I got the remains of the Longbottom property as my reward for 'dedication to the cause' and 'staying until the bitter end,' as my lord put it. You can tell Longbottom I'll take good care of it for him until all this is over."
Hermione ignores most of this, paying only enough attention so that she can examine what he's saying later.
"You," she says again.
"What?" He frowns, half-turning towards her, the ladle again suspended over his cauldron.
She takes a deep, calming breath and walks forward. When they're an arm's length away from each other she says, "I smell you."
He stares - for so long that she begins to question her memory and wonders if his confession was all in her head. Finally he drops the ladle. He grabs her while stepping forward, bringing their lips crashing into one another. Her arms wrap around his neck and his around her waist, holding her so tight to him it's almost painful. She digs his fingers into his hair, returning the pressure and barring all escape. When he pulls back, gasping, they rest their foreheads against one another.
Hermione smiles into his bright grey eyes and breathes deep.