Author's Note: Thanks to everyone who reviewed last time.

Disclaimer: the HP universe does not belong to me; I am just borrowing.

Act Fourteen: Affetuoso

Tom abruptly pulled away from Hermione, his mind reeling. What had they just done? Now her brown eyes were filled with anguish at the tense silence which was strung tight as a bow between them. And yet how his blood was burning in his veins, for some reason that he could not identify.

"I should get some rest," she whispered, swallowing her own turmoil as she rose to her feet. Tom watched her go, her shoulders rigid and tight as the door slammed behind her.

After a night of fitful sleep for both Hermione and Tom, Hermione found herself hurrying through the snow with a Disillusionment Charm over her. The Order had deemed that it was too soon to attack Hogsmeade, and the snow was too heavy — the winter would soon be over, and then they could attack. Severus had advised everyone that the snow was to Grindelwald's advantage, not theirs. After all, Grindelwald had grown up in the snowy north, in a castle in Sweden, while his father ruled from Durmstrang. He'd been taught, as a boy, to battle in the snow. It was unwise to challenge a man like Grindelwald in the winter.

This suited Hermione just fine, as it meant that there was more time for her and Tom to make their plans, and consequently, more time for her to make her own. It also meant there was a lot of free time, and Hermione had never before really had free time. She was only confined to the Muggle house as much as her disguises could not help her, really, and with Tom's instruction she'd become more and more free to roam as she pleased — so long as she brought no unwanted attention to the Order's headquarters.

No one bothered much with Hermione, so it was no problem to slip out unnoticed and into the snowy morning.

Hermione walked for ages as she was too scared of brooms and a horse was too difficult to conceal. Finally, in the distance, a little Muggle village was becoming more and more distinct. Checking that her Disillusionment Charm was still in place, Hermione scurried towards the front gates, wand at the ready.

The village was guarded by a rickety snow-covered fence and a rotund guard, who was currently amusing himself with imitating someone in a high-pitched, squawking sort of voice — Hermione suspected it was his wife.

With her concealment it was easy to slip past him unchecked. A thrill of exhilaration rippled through Hermione as she entered the village's snowy streets — she'd never set foot on Muggle territory...At least, not that she could remember.

However, she had been expecting one thing, and gotten another entirely. The streets were mostly abandoned, though strange shadows and lumps marred the grey snow. As Hermione approached them out of curiosity, she gasped. Dead, frozen bodies littered the streets. What on earth had happened to them?

Covering her mouth and nose with her cloak, Hermione stepped closer to examine them. She suspected the plague had gotten them, and she was right: their skin was mottled and bruised; lesions with frozen pus turned purple and black from the cold. Hermione's stomach lurched and she scampered backwards, retching. How could that guard possibly sit there so merrily whilst these bodies populated the streets?

Forgetting her objective, Hermione hurried down the street, looking for an open door. She needed to find people who might be discussing this plague, so she could learn more about it. There were no signs of life, however, until Hermione finally stumbled upon a hulking, cloaked creature looming over the bodies piled on the street — a black silhouette against the falling snow.

It had a long, black beak that stretched out for a foot at least, and no eyes. Terror seized her — was this some sort of magical Creature? She backed against a house, wondering frantically if Disillusionment Charms worked on Creatures, but the thing seemed to take no notice of her.

"Wot are yeh thinkin, Docter?" called someone from a window directly next to Hermione's head. They had an accent so thick that it was almost like they were not speaking English. The thing looked back at the window, and Hermione turned her head. An elderly woman with a scarf wrapped round her head to cover her face was surveying the thing, no signs of fear — at least, not towards it — apparent in her wizened eyes. "Come inside and warm yerself; yeh'll not fin' anyfing out there worth savin'!"

Hermione watched in confusion. Was that actually a man? Why on earth was he wearing that strange beak, then? Where was his head? She stayed put as the thing seemed to shrug its shoulders and approach the woman. She nodded her approval and closed the shutters again. Hermione, thinking quickly, wedged a small stone she had found in between the shutters just as they were shutting, so that a sliver of light cracked between them. The thing hurried to the door, and it was opened and then shut in hasty succession.

Hermione crept to the shutters and, with painstaking care, pried them open a bit wider, so that she could see inside.

The woman had taken off her scarf to reveal a pock-marked face, and was currently ladling some steaming liquid into a bowl. The thing shrugged off its black cloak, revealing a heavy-looking grey waistcoat. His neck disappeared into the black beak, which, in the light, Hermione could now see was leather. He reached back behind him to the back of his head and undid something, and the beak mask came off, revealing a surprisingly handsome older man with salt-and-pepper hair and dark brown eyes.

"Sometimes, I think this thing is just superstition," he sighed, setting the enormous mask on the little round table. The woman shook her head vigorously.

"Nonsense, Docter Granger, 'tis the on'y fing keepin yeh alive! Those herbs've got magical qualities, I reckon."

"That, and your excellent cooking, ma'am," said the man kindly with a charming smile.

Hermione was frozen as she stared at the man. Had she heard correctly? Her hands trembled and she fisted them. It's a coincidence. Granger is probably a very common last name.

...But what if... Oh, Merlin. What if her father had been within shouting distance of her for her whole life? Thoughts whirred in her head and Hermione scrunched her eyes shut tight. This was no time to question — she needed to hurry up and find a disguise!

Still, worry gripped Hermione. What if she took the hairs of someone infected by the plague? It seemed that the Wizarding world had not been effected by the plague, but what if that was just due to its isolation? What if it were too late; what if the plague were already working its way through her body, just from setting foot into this miserable little village and breathing in the air?

Hermione panicked. She began sprinting out of the village and burst through the gates, leaving the guard to be shocked at how specific a gust of wind had been to only blow open the gates. Then she was trundling through the snow back to the Muggle manor, coughing and hacking as her lungs burned from the cold air that she gulped in rapidly. The plague's effects were disgusting; would she soon be covered in lesions? And had she just seen her father?

No, it's impossible, she told herself fiercely. She was nearing the manor, and in the distance she could see a tall, svelte figure by the stables. Only one person walked like that, and Hermione was admittedly relieved to see Voldemort, of all people, even if things were so strange between them right now...

"Voldemort!" she called once she was in the bounds of the secret charm. "Finite incantatem," she muttered, watching her body seemingly materialize from thin air. Voldemort was entirely unsurprised to see her there. He was apparently tending to a black horse, brushing its coat.

"What," he began, without looking at her, "is the point of a Disillusionment Charm if you go thundering everywhere anyway? I could see you coming a mile away."

"Never mind that," Hermione blustered irritably, still gasping to catch her breath. "I went to the Muggle village just over there, and nearly everyone had died of the plague, and I was scared that I might catch it, and oh Merlin I think I saw my father, and I just —"

"One thing at a time, Hermione," Voldemort ordered, grasping her shoulder to steady her. His dark eyes were stern and yet there was a twinge of amusement to them. His lips twitched, as though he were attempting to stifle laughter. "Come inside the stable; we can speak there unmonitored." He glanced meaningfully back at the house, where Hermione spotted Molly Weasley spying on them from the kitchen window.

"That's wise," Hermione sighed, feeling a strange flare of dislike for Molly. Voldemort made a show of leading the fine black horse into the stables, where the air was charmed to be warm, and smelled strongly of manure. It was a heavy, suffocating stench that did nothing for Hermione's nausea.

"So. They were nearly all dead because of the plague?" Voldemort was looking round, his eyes narrowed. He flicked his wand and nothing happened, which seemed to satisfy him, and he returned to brushing the coat of the horse.

"Yes, and oh, it was horrific. The bodies were just lying in the streets!"

"Mm. Can't burn them, because the plague might become airborne in the smoke and kill everyone else. Can't bury them — the sod's frozen. Best to leave them in the snow and wait for the plague to die out of their bodies," said Voldemort disinterestedly.

"There were babies out there! Do you not care?!" Hermione demanded indignantly, fighting the urge to slap him or shake him. Voldemort glanced over his shoulder at her, a slight smirk on his pale lips.

"Not really." Hermione glowered at him.

"Well, what if I caught the plague?" she asked, crossing her arms and arching her brows at him. Voldemort actually laughed at this, and backed off for a moment as the horse whinnied loudly and shook out its coat.

"You can't catch the plague, Hermione," he said patronizingly, as though speaking to a child. "The plague was created specifically to kill Muggles."

The silence was now deafening.


"A hundred years ago, when Salazar Slytherin's empire stretched all over Europe, he worked with his mistress, the brilliant Rowena Ravenclaw, to develop an efficient means of killing all Muggles in the world."

Hermione really was beginning to feel sick now. Voldemort, however, seemed as cool and collected as always. "Rowena was talented with Potions and, desperate to please Salazar, happily did his bidding, reasoning that with the way Muggles' bodies worked, the plague wouldn't actually kill all of them. So she brewed the Potion, but they never used it. Godric Gryffindor, Slytherin's oldest friend, recognized that Slytherin was becoming unstable, and rose up against him and slaughtered him and everyone in his court. But, because he happened to have a soft spot for the lovely Rowena, he let her live.

"So Rowena, scarred from the bloodshed, decided that she would forget about the potion. She destroyed it. However, after her suicide, Gryffindor left her personal rooms in Hogwarts Castle untouched forever. This meant that all of her personal items — possessions, clothing, books...notes to herself — remained preserved. The room was bolted up for good, and Godric died at a ripe old age."

"Grindelwald found out about the room," Hermione concluded immediately. Voldemort nodded.

The world seemed to spin, and Hermione gripped a railing barring one of the empty stalls to steady herself. "How many other people know this? And how did you find out?"

"Severus," replied Voldemort simply. "He is privy to Grindelwald's greatest secrets. He learned that the alchemist before him, a weak-willed man named Horace Slughorn, brewed the Potion for Grindelwald without knowing what he was doing. The way the potion worked, only one Muggle had to drink it, and the sickness spread like wildfire."

"And isn't he trying to develop an antidote?" Hermione cried, seeing red in her rage. Voldemort shrugged.

"Who knows what Severus does with his free time? He's an odd man; he may have tried, perhaps not. He does harbor a special affection for Muggles..."

"I will remind you that both of us come from Muggles, and so if not for them, neither of us would be here," snarled Hermione. "And here you are, practically siding with Grindelwald!"

"Don't speak of things you do not understand," Voldemort retorted coldly, turning on her, his eyes flashing. "You are just an impertinent, foolish girl with an unusual aptitude for magic. But in the grand scheme of things, you are nothing — do not forget your place."

"My place?" Hermione hissed, gripping her wand and advancing on Voldemort. "My place?!"

"I would not do that, if I were you." Voldemort nodded at Hermione's wand as he produced his own from his robes. "You cannot defeat me and you know it."

They were at a stalemate. Hermione's hands were trembling with anger.

"I suppose that there is no part of your grand master plan that includes aiding the Muggles?"

Voldemort laughed callously and circled Hermione, his eyes dancing.

"Ah, so now that you're out of captivity, now you choose to be moral," he hissed silkily, his voice serpentine and raising the hairs on the back of Hermione's neck. She turned repeatedly, trying to face him, but he continued to circle her. The effect was dizzying. "Now, after you've burned down houses — full of innocent servants, many of them helpless Squibs, and House Elves — and stolen food and tricked your 'friends' and dueled to kill — now you have the right to judge others?"

Hermione worked her jaw as she furiously tried to come up with a counterattack, but Voldemort was on fire now, as his circles became tighter, and their shoulders brushed as he moved. "We've had this discussion, Hermione. There is no right and wrong, there is no good and evil — there is only power, and those too weak to seek it."

He paused in his circling, standing behind her, his breath tickling her neck and his tantalizing scent filling the air. "Tell me," he began in a whisper, his breath warm and sensual against her ear, "Are you weak... or are you powerful, like I know you are?"

Hermione swallowed, both wishing to push him away and yet, painfully, longing to turn and pull him closer. She drew in deep, steadying breaths. It was not part of her plan to blow up at Voldemort — she had to make him think her entirely complicit — and yet, perhaps it was better to let her true feelings show a bit more? Perhaps, if she didn't seem so willing to go along with his plan like a mindless sheep, then she'd be less suspect?

"Why don't you have any sentiment for pointless death?" she finally queried. Voldemort let out a sigh and it blew against her skin again.

"Muggles will always be at the mercy of Wizards and Witches — it is our burden, Hermione. We have power that we can choose to use at any time. The fact that we haven't gone and killed and pillaged their homes is already a display of mercy."

"That's barbaric."

"Humans — Muggles and Wizards alike — are barbaric, Hermione. You of all people ought to know that by now." Voldemort's voice was flat and his words, so cold and detached, made Hermione flinch. He was right: she had seen the ugly facets of human nature. In that way, Muggles and Wizards were equal. She thought of Draco above her, pounding relentlessly, heartlessly, into her — and the venom began to spread.

"But we're not like that, Voldemort. Or at least, we don't have to be," Hermione pointed out in a small voice. She turned to face him, again so tantalizingly close to him. "We could change the world for the better — we could make humanity more civil and evolved. We could stop this insanity and barbarism."

Voldemort arched his brows at her again and brought his hand to her cheek, cupping it and studying her with close amusement. His thumb brushed against her skin in something nearly a caress.

"Such idealism in such dark times. You are fascinating, Hermione."

He pulled his hand away and turned away, back to his horse. "You are also nearly as calculating and sinister as I am. Do not try to fool me, Hermione. You cannot beat a master at his own game."

And with that, he left the stable.

After a heavy dinner of Molly's rich cooking, the Order dispersed. The women went into the drawing room to sew and discuss Ginny's forthcoming birth of her child, and Hermione was implicitly expected to do the same. Would rather die, she thought with a roll of her eyes. In late pregnancy, Ginny was goddess-like, glowing and radiant as the sun. Just seeing her made Hermione sick with a horrible mixture of envy and regret.

But I didn't want that child, she thought vehemently. She had only known she'd been pregnant for a matter of hours, so why was it still bothering her? The loss was unbearable, and yet, had she not wished it the moment she'd learned of her pregnancy?

Disgusted with herself, Hermione slipped off to her chambers to retrieve the Polyjuice potion. After her strange and disturbing conversation with Voldemort, she had returned to the Muggle village, and, with Doctor Granger — perhaps her father — already asleep, she had plucked hairs from his head.

Of course, it hadn't been so simple, mostly due to Hermione's own curiosity. Invisible in Doctor Granger's humble abode, she had rummaged through his things, in feverish search for any sign of him having had a daughter.

But, as far as she could tell, Doctor Granger did not even possess a wife. He kept no pets and no signs of having once had a family, and lived alone above a former butcher's shop. His home was a single room, with a desk piled high with notes. Hermione flicked through them, but they were only notes on the plague and its progression. With a grim-set horror, Hermione had picked up the quill lying on the table, and, hand hovering over his papers, had considered copying his handwriting and revealing that the plague was beyond Muggle means.

But at the last minute, she had decided against it. Who was she to tell him that there was no hope for Muggles? Besides, he'd think he'd written it in his sleep or in a bout of insanity — he'd never actually believe it anyway.

So she had returned to the Order bearing the hairs of Doctor Granger, and, with matters still tense between them, Voldemort had slipped her a flask of the Polyjuice potion that he'd gotten from Snape, who had apparently transported his wares to the Order immediately after Bellatrix had attacked.

She couldn't take the potion inside the house, so she sat in her chamber, waiting to hear that everyone had gone to sleep. Finally, late into the night, Voldemort slipped into her room and gave her the signal to go ahead.

"Remember the spells I taught you," he ordered in a hushed voice as he handed Hermione men's clothing to change into. "You can switch in the stables; then cast a Disillusionment Charm so that no one sees you. Do not lift it unless you have to. I trust you to know when that is." He paused, casting her a stern look. "And do not be so foolish as to go anywhere else or contact anyone, Hermione."

"Why would you think that I would?" she asked innocently. Voldemort's lips twisted.

"I fear you are determined to convince me that we can save the Muggles as well."

"I don't even know what your true plans are anyway, Lord Voldemort," she reminded him cheekily as she examined the clothes he'd gotten her. "Where did you get these from? Are these yours?"

"Yes. You said he was a tall man and, aside from Dumbledore, there is no man in this house as tall as I am whose clothing would go unmissed. They're old things of mine, so no one will recognize them, either."

Voldemort paused. "...And perhaps I haven't told you my plans... but I'm sure you have guessed." He was studying her intently now. Hermione flushed at his stare.

"You're probably planning to take over Hogsmeade yourself and double-cross the Order at the last moment," she replied. "Though how you plan on defeating them all, I have no idea."

Voldemort smirked.

"You never disappoint me, Hermione." He began to pace, as he seemed to enjoy doing. "The Order has made too many enemies over the years — specifically, Albus Dumbledore. He's made some powerful enemies. I, meanwhile, have placed much energy into making powerful allies. ...Allies who often happen to be Dumbledore's enemies."

"And how do you know they won't double-cross you as well?"

Voldemort smirked.

"Never trust anyone fully, Hermione."

They regarded each other now.

"You don't fully trust me?" she pressed. Voldemort scoffed.

"You know I don't trust you, and I have never, for a single moment, imagined you fully trust me. That is why this arrangement works so well. We are both too intelligent to be tricked too greatly."

The fire's crackling was the only noise in the room as they gazed at each other with heavy intensity, each recalling the events of the night prior. It permeated the air, a blazing and magnetic sort of attraction. That he had hinted that he considered her to be something like his equal, on some level, was both terrifying and elating. It was the reason for the attraction between them, though, wasn't it? They had a strange sort of mutual respect for each other, because they each seemed to be wary of each other.

Hermione had never been unsure that she could outsmart a man before.

"I suppose it binds us together forever then," she said, her mouth having gone dry. She licked her lips. "We have no choice but to work together — we have the greatest potential...the greatest chance of defeating Grindelwald if we are together."

Voldemort's lips curved into a smirk.

"You are more like me than you realize. You are inclined to make estimations of power, to weigh your own abilities against others, and use those abilities when you see it to be advantageous."

"That's just cleverness."

"Play with semantics if you like; you've still got a job to do and the night will not last forever." Voldemort nodded to the window. "You ought to get going."

"I'll be back before sunrise," said Hermione. This was their parting: not a trace of sentiment and bittersweet it was. With the clothes in hand — Voldemort's clothes — she left him standing in her room.

With everyone aside from Voldemort asleep, Hermione could leave the house freely. Once inside, among the horses, she retrieved the flask and Doctor Granger's hairs. Remembering a tip Voldemort had given her, she slipped out of her dress and underthings, leaving them hidden between two bales of hay. She shivered in the frigid air and hurried to change into Voldemort's clothes.

There was something sensual about feeling his clothes against her skin. His scent hung about the fabric and she found herself inhaling deeply, closing her eyes. His clothes were much too big for her now, and she liked to examine the apparent differences in their bodies. They were opposites; he was tall and slim, the shoulders puckering around her narrow ones, but his pants were a bit tight around her hips. The sleeves hung far past her hands and she found herself smirking at how ridiculous she must look.

With a gulp of apprehension, she tucked the hairs into the flask, gagging a little at the idea of drinking something with hairs in it. Steeling herself, she tossed the flask back, swallowing the mixture in a single gulp.

"Ugh!" she retched, having to clap her hand over her mouth to stop herself from coughing the Polyjuice potion up.

For a moment, she stood there, staring at her hands — still her own — and how the sleeves were bunched up ludicrously about her wrists. Nothing's happening. Perhaps the potion had gone bad?

And then it happened. The flask dropped from her hand as she began to writhe in excruciating pain, shuddering and bucking as grotesque bubbles seemed to rise beneath the surface of her skin. Her very bones ached as she gripped a railing of a stall to steady herself, and the horses whinnied in surprise and fear. She was stretching, growing, morphing. The ground was becoming further and further away; the railing seemed to become smaller in her hand though she knew it was truly just her hands growing. Her hair was disappearing, sliding back into her head, and hairs were sprouting along her forearms and knuckles.

And then, suddenly, it was over. Voldemort's clothes now fit quite nicely on her. Hermione wiped the sweat from her brow and went to where some old hunting equipment lay in a heap in the corner. A square, shiny tin lay atop the stack of things and Hermione rubbed at its surface to better see herself. The face of Doctor Granger stared back at her, though at first it looked like she had retained her own face, for the eyes were strikingly similar.

But she couldn't think of it now — she had only an hour before she'd return to her own appearance. Hermione hid the flask with her clothes, cast a Disillusionment Charm over herself, and began sprinting towards Hogsmeade.

Though her limbs were so much longer and more powerful, she had less breath in her lungs, and by the time she reached the outskirts of Hogsmeade, she was sputtering and wheezing. Only a few minutes had passed though, luckily, and so Hermione, still invisible, strode past the gate and onto the streets. Over the city loomed the menacing silhouette of Hogwarts Castle.

It took a few moments for Hermione to recall where Ollivander's pathetic dwelling was, though soon she made her way to the shabby line of homes. Hogsmeade was silent in the night; it practically seemed abandoned. We got out just in time, she thought grimly. Perhaps too many people had been thrown in Azkaban, leaving the city ghostly and lonely.

Shaking off the sadness, Hermione went to the door. Ollivander's home had remained untouched, and when she went inside, a lump covered in familiar cloth remained beneath the noose. No one had yet removed Ollivander's body, then...

She stood in the doorway, casting about the room, squinting in the dim light provided by the moon, which streamed in through the doorway. She looked down and gasped — she could see her silhouette interrupting the moonlight!

Of course. The Disillusionment Charm merely made one's skin like that of a chameleon, allowing them to blend in with their surroundings — it did not actually make the user invisible. She'd need an Invisibility Cloak to truly become invisible. Glancing around in fear, Hermione hastened into the room and pressed against the wall, holding her breath, which had also been clouding in the air.

Fortunately, there seemed to be no need to be stealthy — it was quite apparent that no one was here.

That was it — Draco was positive he had seen something or someone. It looked like a very large person under a Disillusionment Charm, though of course it could easily have been some sort of Creature — though Draco highly doubted it could have possibly been a Creature. No Creature would move with such purpose.

Crouched by the gates, he narrowed his eyes as he watched the wet snow fly about by the intruder's feet. Though he too was under a Disillusionment Charm, he still hid himself carefully. One could not be too free in their movements under such a flimsy disguise; it was almost better to be fully visible, he thought.

He slunk after his target. The light of the moon was bright; the shadow cast by this person was tall and broad. Definitely a man. Probably not too old, given how quickly they were moving — so, Dumbledore was out. Could it be Uncle Severus? It was always possible, though Draco didn't see Severus as being so foolish as to waddle about in Hogsmeade, especially given how he was being hunted right now. Snape hadn't gotten to be the King's Alchemist by being a fool, obviously. Probably not Snape.

Draco watched as the shadow lingered in front of a crummy little dwelling; then it disappeared. There had been no telltale crack of Apparition, so the person had probably gone inside the house. He ducked across the street, his heart pounding. He hated being out in the open. He felt much better once he was in the shadows again, out of the way of the moon's beams.

He almost laughed as he watched the figure's shadow appear across the floor of the dwelling, then the shadow froze and a gasp — surprisingly high-pitched for such a large person — was heard before the figure ducked out of the moonlight. Good work, witless, he thought with a smirk. Finally they had realized that they still cast a shadow.

The floorboards creaked as the person moved about the room. There was something in the center of the room, covered by an expensive-looking cloak that looked strikingly familiar. Draco narrowed his eyes. Even in the darkness, he could see the heavy evergreen material. It made the back of his mind itch. Where had he seen that fabric before?

There was a whispering noise, and, holding his breath, Draco watched from the window as a silvery substance materialized in the air. A bottle appeared, floating in the air, and the substance was caught.

Apparently satisfied, the figure began to leave the dwelling. The bottle disappeared, probably inside the person's cloak. Draco crouched, wand at the ready, and watched for the telltale shadow to appear to signify the person was leaving. He was torn: either he could follow the figure and try to catch them, or he could go inside and see what it had been that the person had been doing.

He decided to be quick about it. The person was walking hurriedly, and Draco decided to slip inside the dwelling.

The room was just as unremarkable on the inside as it had looked from the outside. Draco knelt down by the lump of familiar fabric, and lifted the corner. Immediately, his senses were assaulted with two very different scents: one, of putrefying, rotting flesh — the other, a soft, subtle scent of a woman's skin mixed with her perfume.

He retched, clapping a gloved hand over his mouth, and lifted the fabric further to reveal a dead body — and not just any dead body. It was Ollivander, the wand-maker.

Draco was on his hands and knees, dry-heaving and trying to ward off the urge to vomit. He crawled to the opposite wall, and nearly tripped over an empty vase. What the hell? Trembling, he hugged his knees and rocked slightly, until he felt more in control of himself again.

And only then did he realize why the cloak — and the soft scent clinging to it — was familiar.

It had belonged to his Mudblood.

There was no mistaking it — holding his breath, Draco snatched the cloak off of Ollivander's rotting body, and, grimacing, inspected it. It was caked round the middle with dried, frozen blood, and bits of Ollivander's flesh had stuck to it. It was the most disgusting thing he had ever seen. But beneath the blood and rotting skin, he recognized the print all too well. Draco cared much for appearances and had made it his business to pick out all of his Mudblood's clothes. When he had given Madame Malkin the measurements, he had also chosen the patterns and the fabrics. He had chosen this evergreen wool with the Mudblood's dark eyes in mind. She had looked so regal — in spite of her lowly birth — in true, classic Slytherin green.

Disgustedly, he dropped the cloak in a crumple back on Ollivander, his mind working quickly. Realizing he might lose his 'new friend,' Draco scampered out of the little house and scaled the shadows, scanning the streets for telltale signs of a person plowing through the wet, late winter snow.

At long last he found them: they were approaching the gate to Hogsmeade. Now he was at an impasse: what could he do? If he caught this person, what could he possibly do with them? Discovering their identity was the obvious choice, but what would he do with such information? He still hadn't decided if he were on the side of the Royals.

But having that information would be leverage... And even if they didn't turn out to be anyone important or of use, he could still rest assured with the fact that he had tried. With his decision made, Draco cast aside all precautions, and began sprinting towards his goal.

Hermione was positive she was being followed. She'd seen a shadow of someone looking through Ollivander's window, and she had heard them following her in the silent night. Hermione had steeled herself, knowing if she had given away that she knew she was being followed, it would be all the worse for her. Better to let her pursuer think she was ignorant of them for now... She ran through all of the defensive spells and Hexes she knew, as she gripped her wand.

The other problem was that the hour was fading...and soon, she would go back to looking like Hermione Granger.

I just need to get out of the gates of Hogsmeade... once she was back on the tangled moors, she would easily be able to conceal herself in the woods. But here, in Hogsmeade, she was too unsheltered. Hermione cursed her clumsiness. If she'd been more careful and less arrogant, she could have avoided this.

Unless... unless there was someone waiting for me. Who could have known she would be there tonight? Had she been triple-crossed by Voldemort? Was this just his way of getting rid of her? Stupid, idiot.

But just as she reached the gates, wheezing and sputtering, a searing pain rippled through her, and she realized it was happening: she was turning back into Hermione Granger. Far off, the bells struck midnight, and just as the last chime rang out, a hand gripped her cloak, and a familiar voice hissed, "I got you."