Written for lm_hgficxchange LJ 2012.

Once upon a time there lived a young wizard in a magnificent Manor. Although he had everything his heart desired, the wizard was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter's night, an old Muggleborn witch came to the castle and offered him a single rose in exchange for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her origin and haggard looks, the wizard sneered at the gift and turned the old witch away. She warned him not to be deceived by the status of a birth, for power and beauty are found within. When he dismissed the Muggleborn again, the witch's appearance melted away to reveal a powerful and beautiful Pureblood. The wizard tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had already seen that there was no love in his heart.

She gave him one last chance, telling the wizard that he must accept all things magical, no matter their origins or appearance. If he would fail to do this, he would be turned into a powerless, hideous beast. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would be shrouded in a delicate mist until he strayed from the path. Once the mist cleared, he would turn into a hideous beast and the rose would bloom for ten years. At that time, if he could learn to love a Muggleborn, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.

The wizard disregarded the warnings, joining the most feared wizard of all time. He didn't notice the mist slowly disappear, too caught up in the first war. After the war, he gained a wife and eventually a son, his life covering the old memories with new ones. His wife found the rose and the wizard simply moved it to the highest tower to ignore it, and the still-disappearing mist, once again.

When the Dark wizard returned, he went back to following orders. It was not until his son was sixteen and the war was at its peak that things changed; the mist finally disappeared and the Curse came to life. His wife and son, not understanding what happened, tried to run from the elegant Manor to get away from his new form. The Dark wizard thought this of great amusement and kept them, and most of his followers, there instead. It wasn't until after the war that they could escape his disgusting figure.

Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. As the weeks passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?

During the war, Hermione came across the locations of several Magical villages and she told herself that one day, she would live on the edge of one. When she got married and her husband, Ron, went to play professional Quidditch, she saw that dream vanish. However, a few years ago Harry happened to purchase a large home on the outskirts of Dragonshire and wanted company. After she begged and pleaded, Ron finally agreed that the three of them could share a home and they moved in. After all, he didn't want his wife alone while he was traveling with the team.

It was the best decision of her life.

Now Hermione got to wake up to a wizarding town, more like an old-style quiet village. Her favorite part was getting up as the town did, everyone pleasant and offering a kind "hello" as they passed one another. What more could a girl want out of a home? She smiled as she passed the baker, the smell of his famous rolls drifting into her nose. Sure, they might be the same thing every day, but they were delicious.

"Good morning, Hermione!" He wiggled his elbow a bit as his hands were holding the full tray.

"Morning, sir!" Hermione placed a coin in a bucket balancing over his arm before taking a roll for both her and Harry.

"Where are you off to?"

Her eyes brightened, and she reached into her basket to pull out a book. "The bookshop! I just finished the most wonderful story. It's about a Squib and a dragon and.."

"Ah, nice." The baker glanced at the cover and nodded. "My wife loved that one. Excuse me."

Hermione waved and left him to yell towards his shop assistant. She shrugged as she left, passing the village gossips (who never quite got over the fact that "The Harry Potter and Co." lived there) and other traders. When she first came here with Harry, she joked that living here would be like stepping back in time. So far, nothing had changed her opinion on that.

It was heaven, but sometimes, wrapped alone in her bed sheets, she wanted more. She would settle for her husband to be around more often, but something told her that would never happen. Not unless Ron injured himself.

She cleared her mind as she stepped into the bookshop, bowing her head just slightly as to not bang into the door frame. A dwarf ran the shop and he seemed to misjudge heights; the door was too low, but his shelves were always too high.

"Ah, Hermione!" The old dwarf waddled out from the back.

Hermione offered him a smile. "Good morning. I've come to return the book I borrowed."

"Finished already?" He adjusted his glasses and let out a small laugh. "You are a fast reader!"

"Oh, I couldn't put it down!" Hermione went to the shelves, looking over them. "Have you got anything new?"

"Not since yesterday, I don't." He put away the old book. "How's that Potter boy?"

"The same as always." She climbed a ladder, looking higher.

"Tinkering away in the basement?"

Hermione smiled and found what she was looking for. "As always. I'll just borrow this one."

"That one?" He took hold of it and laughed. "But you've read it twice!"

"Well it's my favorite!" Hermione got off the ladder. "Mystical places, daring swordfights, complicated spells, and a mage in disguise! It's interesting how they make it all work, even while in the constraints of the Muggle world."

He handed the book back, shaking his head. "If you like it so much, it's yours."

"But sir!"

"I insist." He led her to the door. "Anything for my best customer."

"Thank you. Thank you very much!" Speechless, Hermione paid the standard renting fee and left, clutching the book tightly to her chest. She originally meant to owl-order it, but hadn't had the time. She waved to the shop keep and left, all but running back to the house. Perhaps she could make him blueberry pie? The man hinted that he liked it.

Smoke gently drifted out of the basement door. Hermione wasn't too concerned; Harry had things under control if the house was just smoking. It was when she saw flames that she had to worry. She pulled open the basement door, wand out just in case, and took a look around before stepping inside.

"Harry?" She couldn't see her friend anywhere. "Harry, what happened?"

The closet door burst open and Harry fell into the room, plastic containers clattering around him. "Damn!"

"Oh, Harry." Hermione tried not to laugh as she rushed toward him. "Everything okay?"

"Yeah, I'm just trying to pack." He kicked a few containers out of the way. "I swore I put this stuff in here better. Sorry about the smoke, George had some of the smoke bombs in here."

Hermione doubted the organization, but she didn't say anything to it. "Come on, stand up. Here, I brought you a roll."

"Thanks." Harry glared at the closet. "One day, I'm going to organize that."

"You say that every time this happens." Hermione flicked her wand, not bothering to watch as everything went back in its place. "Guess what."

"Ron's not coming home tonight and I'll have to wait in order to gather the things I need?"

"What? No! Harry, you can get them even if Ron isn't here. I can handle myself." Hermione turned to go outside again. There was a door straight to the house somewhere in that mess, but it was buried behind various items. She didn't ask what half the stuff in there was anymore.

"Oh, come on. I'm teasing!" Harry followed her out, tripping a bit on the stairs. "I just need to get this stuff during a full moon while it's not freezing out. That just happens to be in a few nights."

Hermione heard the basement door shut. She smiled and opened the door to the house, letting Harry in first. "I know."

"You do?"

She grinned at him, placing the book on the kitchen table. "At least I got you upstairs. Come on, you need a good lunch before you go. Ron will be here tomorrow morning and I'll be fine tonight. I have a book for company."

Harry sat down and pulled the book over. "Haven't you read this?"

"Yes, but it's mine now. The old man gave it to me." Hermione bustled about the kitchen, making sure there was enough cooked food for Harry to take with him.

"Don't you have enough books?"

Hermione scoffed. "You can never have enough."

"Ravenclaw," Harry muttered. Hermione would have been offended if he wasn't grinning. "You should ask Ron to expand the library while he's here. I think you'll run out of room otherwise."

"Just eat your food." Hermione put a plate in front of him and went to pack the rest. "You'll want to get out before night falls, just in case. You know that first path is hard to find."

"Yes, mum." Harry stuck out his tongue before digging into his food.

The moment Harry disappeared from sight, Hermione went back inside and slipped into the tub. She cast a spell so one of her more private books would read to her, letting the words relax her almost more than the warm water did. This was her favorite thing to do, especially with both boys gone. If they were here, she wouldn't dare do this. Harry would be too embarrassed, and Ron would try to join her. As much as she loved him, his fumbling did nothing for her. No, private bath time was her favorite time.

She let the warm air fill her nose, lulling her into one of many fantasies. Very few included Ron these days and, for that, she felt a little guilty. At least they started out as Ron. Soon enough, the hair or body would change and someone else would be between her legs. As much as she didn't want to admit it, Hermione actually liked sex. Just not sex with her own husband.

She shifted in the tub, fingers sliding slowly across her stomach. Ron's face was already morphing, getting scars across his cheek and hair now dangling past his shoulders. She grinned, pressing her fingers down the way she figured Bill Weasley would do it. She heard gossip from Fleur that he enjoyed things a little rough.

She pressed her fingers into her sex, letting out a small gasp. It was already throbbing, wanting more of her rough treatment. Her free hand pinched at her nipples, pulling on them until they hurt. She pressed harder against her clit, rubbing in circles fast enough to disturb the water. Her back arched, toes curled, and all she could think about was how Bill would nip her neck, biting down until she bruised. She moaned loudly, splashing some water out of the tub.

"Oh, god." Hermione let go of her nipple to grip the side of the tub as she came, her vision swirling. Ron could never make her vision swim like this, but oh how she loved it.

She spent a few minutes winding down from her orgasm before climbing out of the tub and heading off to bed.

She heard the excited screaming halfway into her lunch. She didn't bother getting up and running to the door; Ron would be along after he met with the townsfolk. It always happened and, after the first few times, she got used to being one of the last people her husband went to. Hermione simply sipped her tea and finished eating her cucumber sandwich.

She just finished cleaning up when the door opened, the squeak in Ron's "lucky" boots easily recognized. She wiped off her hands and went to the kitchen doorway, smiling at her husband.

"Welcome home."

Ron looked up at the sound of her voice. He grinned, the fresh lipstick stain on his cheek stretching. "Hermione!" His hair got longer this time, brushing past his shoulders. A new scar traced over his right eye, but it looked cleanly healed.

"How were the games?" She pressed a kiss over the scar before wiping away the lipstick. "And the parties?"

"I didn't sleep with anyone, if that's your real question." Ron picked her up, spinning her in a circle. "Merlin, I missed you!"

The evidence dug into her hip, but Hermione pretended not to notice. "Ronald Weasley! Put me down!" She gave him a forced smile as her feet settled on the floor. "I just ate."

"Sorry." He kissed her neck, one hand groping her chest. "I'll go shower and then say a proper hello to you."

Hermione laughed, giving him a kiss before he went to the bathroom. She did love him, but she never said she married him for the sex. Sighing, she went back to finish the kitchen.

Harry had set up his camp before nightfall the day before. By morning, he was on his way to the next site, enjoying the scenery as he went. Apparating would have been faster, but something about this forest made transportation magic nearly impossible. He knew there was a Manor of some kind in the area and figured the magic had to do with it, but he didn't care. Travelling on foot was nice in a way.

However, it was not so nice when werewolves took residence in the forest. Harry had barely gotten to sleep the next night when he heard the howl. Having seen what could happen first hand, he simply got up and ran, unable to take anything with him but his hat. The werewolves played with him, getting close enough to spur him faster before backing off with amused howls. The longer he ran, the more tired he became. When he thought he couldn't run any further, Harry saw the tall gates that lead to the Manor.

Whatever it was, it was better than the wolves. He scrambled through the gates and up the cracked stairway. The doors creaked as he opened them, the sound echoing into the empty halls. No lights flickered on and, for a moment, he wondered if it had been abandoned.

"Hello?" Rubbing his arms, he stepped further inside. "Is anyone home?"

A sudden pop to his right startled him. "Lummy is to be showing you to a fire, sir! Sir is cold!"

"Thank you."

Another pop. "No, no, no! Lummy is a bad elf! Ticky is disagreeing with Lummy!"

Lummy shook his head and tugged on Harry's hand. Unsure, he simply allowed the still bickering elves to lead him to a well-lit parlor. Lummy pushed him into a chair; Ticky whined about it being "the Master's chair" before hitting his head against the wall. A third elf popped in with tea and it was all Harry could take before his head spun.

The three elves abruptly stopped arguing as an angry roar moved throughout the Manor. Harry flinched at the sound, wrapping the blanket he had been given around himself. The doors behind him slammed opened; he squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to see what he just put himself into.

"There is a stranger here," a voice growled.

Lummy stood next to Harry. "Lummy is explaining, Master. Sir was chased by—"

"Ticky was against Lummy!"

"And then Lummy was helping the sir—"

"Ticky said no!"

"Lummy didn't think the Master would—"

The monster behind him roared, quieting both of the elves. Harry felt the breath on his neck next and then the monster, a great beast stepped in front of him. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"

Harry tried to keep himself calm. "I was being chased by werewolves and—"

"You are not welcome here!"

"I-I'm sorry!" Harry tried to get up to leave. "I just needed a place to hide!"

"I'll give you a place to hide."

Harry screamed as the beast picked him completely off the floor. He fumbled with his wand and cast a quick Patronus, screaming at it as the beast knocked his wand down and carried him away.

The only time Hermione truly hated being married to a Quidditch star was when the team had a winning season. She trusted Ron, but she didn't trust the fawning fans that followed him, including the Patil twins. They moved to the town a short time after she and Ron had, insisting they were his biggest fans. When the team won, Lavender Brown usually joined them.

All three pined after Ron, following him wherever he went around the town. None of them liked Hermione or the fact that she was married to him. Normally she could deal with their dirty looks and general unpleasantness, but not this time. She was supposed to have a romantic dinner alone, but the three cornered Ron and insisted he re-tell them how he blocked the Quaffle in his games.

She was halfway across the town before Ron caught up to her. "Hey, what's wrong?"

"What's wrong?" Hermione smacked his hand away. "You let them corner you during our first night together in months, and you ask what's wrong? Please, Ron."

"They're just fans!"

"Who want to sleep with you!" Hermione scowled. "Damn you, Ron. You're too blinded by your fame to notice. Didn't you ever wonder why all three of them wear low-cut tops?"

"'Mione, all my fans wear low-cut tops. The women, I mean."

She threw up her hands. "Not helping! Ugh, just go away."


"I mean it. Go away and stay with Neville or Dean until you realize the truth."

Frustrated for reasons even she couldn't completely comprehend, Hermione ran the rest of the way home. She should have expected this; Ron came home every year oblivious to most of his fans. She just wanted more from her relationship. At her age, she wanted children, a proper family. Ron never seemed ready.

She sighed and leaned against the door once she arrived home. She wished Harry were here; he could talk sense into Ron, even without having to say much of anything. If Harry weren't gay and smitten with the town's robe maker, she might have asked if he could even take Ron's place. Not that he ever would anyway.

She pushed off the door and started for the bedroom when a familiar silvery wisp charged into the house. "Prongs? What are you doing here? Is Harry okay?"

The Patronus simply threw its head side-to-side before bounding out again. Panicked, Hermione grabbed her cloak and followed; she would tell Ron later. First, she needed to find her friend and make sure he wasn't terribly injured.

The stag led her through the forest and to a slightly familiar-looking Manor. She almost turned and fled, but she caught sight of Harry's hat on the steps. Hermione picked it up and, when she saw no signs of blood, went inside. The feeling that she had been here before grew with every step.

"Harry?" There, she thought she heard a noise. "Hello? Is anyone here?"

There, another noise came from an ornate staircase. She recognized this immediately, unconsciously rubbing her scarred arm. This was Malfoy Manor, where she was forever marked. Mudblood. Hermione shuddered, but descended the steps into the dungeons.

She found Harry quickly after that, a slight cough giving him away in the dark area. "Oh God, Harry."

"Hermione?" Pale hands gripped the cell bars. "No, you have to get out of here! I think the Malfoys are dead. There's this beast and—"

"Shh, Harry. Calm down." She rested her hands over his and frowned. "Oh, your hands are like ice. I need to get you out of here."

"Hermione, I want you to leave this place." Harry coughed, shaking his head.

She ignored him, reaching forward to rest a hand on his cheek. "Who's done this to you? Where's your wand?"

"That thing has it. You have to go now!"

"I won't leave you, stupid. You sent me your Patronus!"

"So you could get the Aurors." Harry leaned against the bars. "Please, just go."

"Shut up." Hermione reached for her wand, but she didn't reach it fast enough.

A clawed hand came down on her shoulder, ripping her away from Harry's cell. She cried out, mostly out of shock than anything else. Harry yelled for whomever it was to leave her alone, but she doubted the beast cared. She could see its glowing eyes, focused on her.

"Why have you come here?" he growled, claws scraping down the wall.

Hermione looked around, trying to see what she was dealing with. "Who's there? Who are you?"

The beast growled from her right. "The master of this Manor."

Hermione bit her lip, flinching as she felt part of his robe brush past her. "I've come for my friend." She glanced back as Harry coughed again. "Can't you see he's sick?"

"Then he shouldn't have trespassed here."

Hermione gripped Harry's hand again. "But—"

"There's nothing you can do." The beast stopped on the other side of the room. "He's my prisoner. It's been a while since I've had one."

Hermione swallowed her fear, glancing between her friend and the beast. She couldn't let Harry stay, but she doubted this thing would just let her leave. There was only one way to make sure one of them got out alive.

"Take me instead."

"No!" Harry squeezed her hand. "Hermione, I refuse to let you do this!"

The beast shifted closer. "You would take his place?"

"If you promise to let him go." Hermione let go of Harry's hand and shifted to her knees. "And promise not to hurt him."

"You would be my prisoner forever, never allowed to leave." He moved until he was just out of the room's only light. "Do we have a deal?"

Hermione bit her bottom lip, pulling it into her mouth for a moment. "Step into the light."

The beast seemed to hesitate before slipping slowly closer and into the beam of light. Pale white fur covered him from head to toe. A tail flickered from between his legs, his tight pants doing nothing to hide the bulge at his crotch. The only other piece of clothing was the tatters of a green cloak, clasped just over his breast bone. His eyes were molten silver and Hermione felt pierced by their intensity. Two black horns protruded from his head and each finger and toe had claws, completing his demonic look.

Hermione stepped closer, wanting nothing more than to touch him and see how soft he was. She held herself back, closing her eyes and reminding herself that this was a beast and could kill her. Now was not the time for experiments, no matter how tempting. She had a promise to keep.

"You have my word." She covered her face and fell back to her knees, wondering if this was truly the best choice. Would Ron try to help save her after their fight? Would Harry find his way home?

"Hermione, please." She looked up into Harry's eyes. "Don't do this. I was okay."

The beast dragged him away before Hermione could say goodbye. She leaned against the wall, pulled her legs to her chest, and cried.

Lucius dragged Harry to the gates. "You are no longer welcome here," he snarled. "She is no longer your concern." Not that he really wanted the blasted Boy-Who-Lived; he wasn't sure how to deal with him until she came in. He flashed Potter a toothy grin before tossing him a Portkey, one of the few things that still worked near his cursed Manor. How Potter's Patronus got out in the first place was still a mystery to him.

Now he had a Muggle born. She could break the spell, but he was running out of time. How could he prove anything to her so quickly? The fact that he knew her was going to pose a problem. After all, his sister-in-law tortured the poor girl during the war.

He would have to try. But what to do first?

"Lummy is to be giving the Master advice?"

Lucius snarled at the elf. "Make it fast."

"Perhaps since the ma'am will be staying for a while, Master could give her a room? Lummy thinks the ma'am would be more comfortable."

The snarl disappeared. That wasn't a bad idea. Without a word to the terrified elf, Lucius swept up the stairs and back into the Manor. There was a bedroom Narcissa set up once, just in case she ever bore a girl. It had a lovely view and a nice balcony. He figured it would be perfect.

He opened the dungeon door, pausing when he saw the girl crying. Lucius never could handle women when they shed tears. He cleared his throat, heart thudding in his chest.

"You didn't even let me say goodbye," she accused, her eyes shining. "I'll never see him again, and I didn't get to say goodbye."

He had already ruined this and he barely started. "I'll show you to your room."

"My room? But I thought…"

Lucius motioned around, a little frustrated at himself. "You want to stay in the dungeons?"

"Well, no, but—"

"Then follow me." Lucius turned, leaving the dungeons.

The walk was longer than Hermione would have wanted, especially since the beast told her nothing but rules the entire way. She would eat all meals with him or at least sit at the table and go hungry. She would be required to have an elf escort her at all times. Under no circumstances was she allowed in the West Tower.

When she asked what was in there, he growled at her and said, "It's forbidden." She didn't dare ask any more questions.

He brought her to a ridiculously girlish room. The walls were a pastel pink with purple accents. The bed had pictures of princess crowns embroidered into it, and the room itself was decorated with ponies and fairies. Hermione felt ill.

"This will be your room for the duration of your stay," the beast said behind her, his breath moving across her neck. "Everything in it is yours."

Hermione tried to find the words to tell him she didn't like it, but they never came. The door slammed behind her and the tears came anew. She threw herself onto the gaudy bed and cried herself to sleep.

Ron sat with Seamus in the town's pub, glad that his other friend was able to come so quickly. They had several empty mugs around them as they drank away their girl problems. Ron really wasn't sure which ones Seamus had since he was gay and in a steady relationship with some bloke from France, but he appreciated the support all the same.

"Who does she think she is?" a very drunk Seamus asked. "She's your bloody wife and she knows you love her."

"Damn right," Ron muttered. "Honestly I don't think I've been this… this dismissed!"


"Rejected and… and publicly humiliated!" Ron squeezed the mug he was holding. "And in front of my fans… it's almost more than I can bear."

Seamus offered him another mug. "More beer?"

"What for?" Ron took it anyway, wrinkling his nose. "Nothing helps. I'm disgraced."

Seamus scoffed. "Who, you? Never! Ron, you've got to pull yourself together. It hurts to see you looking so down in the dumps."

"Please, I'm sure you love it." Ron took a drink.

"No, seriously. Every guy in here would love to be you, even when you're in the middle of a horrible game where you're losing by three-hundred points. You're everyone's favorite guy!"

Ron laughed, pushing Seamus off the chair. "Don't even start. People hate me when we're losing by three-hundred points."

"Please. Nobody fights like you on the field. I saw you get suspended during the Ireland game." Seamus pointed at Ron's chest. "You wrestled with that Chaser and then bit him!"

"Seamus, come on. Hermione doesn't know about that one…"

"And not a bit of you is scraggly or scrawny." Seamus leaned against him, grinning like the drunken loon he was.

Ron laughed, shaking his head. "Okay, okay. Fine, I'm an awesome guy and you're secretly in love with me. I get it."

The door burst open then and Harry stumbled in. "Ron! Ron, thank God I found you." He just about fell on his best friend. "You've got to help me!"

"Whoa, Harry, slow down." Ron put his hands on Harry's shoulders, straightening him. "What's going on?"

"A beast! A horrible, monstrous beast has Hermione locked up in the Manor!"

There were a few seconds of silence before the pub broke out into laughter. Harry didn't seem to hear any of them, his eyes still focused on Ron. His eyes were wide and scared, but Ron lived in the Wizarding World long enough to know all the beasts. None of them lived in Manors.

"What did it look like?" he asked, pushing Harry to sit. Unfortunately, that prompted the eavesdroppers to ask their own questions.

"Is it a big beast?"

"With a long, ugly snout?" That particular patron made a motion with his hands in front of his mouth. "And sharp, cruel fangs?"

"Yes, yes!" Harry turned to point at both of them. "That's right! Will you help me?"

The pub erupted into laughter again. Ron sighed, patting his friend's shoulder. "Harry, I think you had a nightmare. No more late-night camping trips alone, okay?"

"But Ron—"

"Go get some rest. I'm sure Hermione just went to Ginny's place. She was mad at me before." Ron smiled and ruffled Harry's hair before turning back to Seamus.

He pretended not to notice as laughter followed Harry out the door. Everyone here was drunk and would forget any of this happened by the morning. Hopefully then Hermione wouldn't be mad at him anymore, either.

Hermione decided to skip dinner, something the beast did not like. He pounded on her door and issued threats, but she would have none of it. In the end, he simply stated, in his loud roar of a voice, that she could starve. His elves were then given strict instructions that she was to stay locked in the room until breakfast.

Yes, of course. The beast didn't know her if he thought she would comply with anything. Harry was out and it was only a matter of time until he came. She hoped, at least, that he would come. Hell, she would even take Ron at this point! It would get him back on her good side if he did.

It was nearing nine now and she was hungry. Order or no, she wasn't going to let herself starve. As quietly as she could, Hermione opened her door and left the room.

Her earlier tour of Malfoy Manor consisted of the main ballroom, back when the war was at its height and Bellatrix Lestrange still lived. Despite everything she tried, the scar never erased from her arm, just like Harry's stayed on the back of his hand. She was almost jealous of Ron; his scars came after the fighting ended.

The halls of the Manor were oddly empty. She expected the Malfoys to line them with portraits of long-dead ancestors, if only to prove how "pure" their blood was. She saw the evidence of some portraits, but they were all ripped down, only the occasional scrap of a frame left. Whoever roamed this Manor now did not want to be seen by anyone, even if they were just movable paint.

"Ma'am should not be wandering!"

Hermione jerked back at the voice and looked down. "Excuse me?"

The elf shifted on his feet. "Ma'am should not wander. Oh, Ticky is in so much trouble!"

"No, no, it's okay. Honest."

Ticky gripped his tea towel nervously. "Please, go back to ma'am's room. If there is anything ma'am wants, Ticky will get."

Hermione hesitated. "Well, I am a little hungry."

Another elf popped in. "Ma'am is hungry? Oh, Potsy make dinner!"

"No, no, no!" Ticky held his head, shaking. "Master will not be pleased!"

Potsy crossed her arms. "Potsy's been here long time and says Master won't mind. Ma'am needs food."

A third elf came up and took Hermione's hand. "Come, come! Lummy and Potsy will feed ma'am whatever the ma'am will like!"

Bewildered, Hermione simply let the two elves bring her to a dining room while the third followed behind. If she weren't a witch, she would think she was in the middle of a fairy tale. Maybe the beast would be her true love and all she needed to see was how kind he could be.

"Grow up, Hermione," she muttered to herself. "That stuff isn't real. Just survive."

The elves sat her down and wasted no time at all bringing in floating trays of food. Lummy tried to entertain her with elf folklore; Hermione found herself oddly entranced. Ticky eventually relaxed, adding his own stories and soon the three elves even acted out what quickly became her favorite.

When the last one finished, she laughed and clapped her hands. "Bravo! That was wonderful!"

"Yes, yes." Ticky smiled, then motioned her away. "Ma'am needs to sleep now, yes she does!"

"Oh, I couldn't possibly go to bed now." Hermione leaned closer. "This is the first time I've really gotten to know house elves. Usually they run away."

Ticky's eyes widened. "Ma'am is right! She shouldn't have seen so much of us."

"Oh please, it's okay!" Hermione patted his head, looking for something to say in order to calm him. "I bet you know everything there is to know about the Manor."

Ticky gripped his tea towel. "The ma'am is right. Ticky does know everything about the Master's Manor. Come Ticky—"

"And Lummy!"

"—will show you!" Ticky jumped up and down now. "Come, come, Ticky and Lummy will show the ma'am everything."

Hermione wondered if that included the West Tower, but decided not to mention it. "Lead the way, then."

Hermione relaxed as the two elves went through the Manor. They never mentioned names, but she pretty much summed up who stayed where. The only bedrooms they passed were guest rooms, so she assumed the Malfoys slept in the west part of the Manor.

Her curiosity would always win out and soon Hermione found herself wandering up a stairway Ticky accidentally labeled as the West Tower. The two tried to distract her with the library, but the forbidden way was more tempting at the moment, despite her love of books.

The West Tower had the most damage in the Manor with claw marks littered nearly every surface. If the Malfoys lived past the initial attack, they didn't live pain-free. Blood streaked along parts of the walls and over ruined portraits, making Hermione feel slightly ill. The paint of those portraits was unmoving, showing the frozen horrified expressions on the occupants.

She turned a corner and frowned as she saw something glowing ahead. Among all the destruction, a beautiful red rose gleamed out. It was the only thing left intact in the entire tower. Entranced, Hermione stepped closer. The magic behind it was strong and she felt it call out to her, running through her system. She almost felt drunk with the feelings.

Her fingers were inches away when she heard a growl behind her. She snapped out of her trance to see the beast looming over her, face twisted in a mix of anger and fear. Quickly, she backed away from the only true beauty she had ever seen in Malfoy Manor.

"Why did you come here?" he growled, stepping between her and the rose.

"I'm sorry—"

The beast stalked toward her. "I warned you never to come here!"

"I didn't mean any harm." Hermione put a broken table between herself and the monster in front of her.

"Do you realize what you could have done!" He tossed the table away. "Get out!"

Hermione stumbled a bit on some broken pottery. "Please, stop!"

"Get out!" The beast tossed a few other pieces of furniture, yelling.

Hermione wasted no time. She fled the tower, going down the stairs as fast as she could. Her heart raced fast in her chest; she didn't think she would ever be so afraid after the war, but in a way, this was worse.

Ticky and Lummy met her on the stairs. "Ma'am! Where is ma'am going?"

"Promise or not promise, I can't stay here another minute." She wiped at her eyes, trying not to cry.

"Oh no, wait. Ma'am can't leave!"

She made it to the front and, and then the gates, without incident. Tears now freely ran down her cheeks, the light of the full moon showing her the way. She tripped in the fresh blanket of snow, cursing as some of it seeped into her foot. She had to get out of the forest. Apparation, Harry told her, didn't work in this forest. Not that she could do it; the beast still had her wand. She could get another later, after she made it home.

A familiar howl cut through the night. Hermione felt her heart stop, and her mind brought her back to when she was eighteen and running away from the Snatchers. She knew this was different, but the fear felt the same. She forced herself up and kept running.

It didn't take long for the werewolves to corner her. Hermione picked up a long tree branch, sobbing uncontrollably. She was going to die here, all alone, and with no one to save her. Desperately, she swung the branch out. One wolf caught it in its mouth and pulled it away, slicing open her hand.

She was dead.

Lucius sat curled in a corner, staring at the cursed rose. He hadn't meant to snarl at the girl, but he panicked. He didn't know what would happen to the rose if she touched it. Would he remain a beast forever? He still had time, just barely enough, to get Hermione to accept him and he probably just ruined it. Would it have been so bad if she touched it?

Lummy came in to tell him of Hermione's disappearance. He tried to kick the elf, but Lummy disappeared before he could. This was all his fault. The curse would never be lifted.

The howl of a werewolf reached his ears. Lucius sat up, a new kind of panic settling in. Hermione was out there; that howl was a hunting tone. He stood up and ran to his balcony, listening.

There it was again, more determined this time.

Prepared the worst and hoping for the best, Lucius jumped from his balcony and let himself slide down from roof-to-roof. It was faster than using the stairs, and soon he was tracking where his hot-headed Muggleborn ran off to.

The smell of blood made him go faster and he soon came across a surrounded, but blessedly alive, Hermione. She held one hand against her chest, blood seeping between her fingers. Furious, not willing to admit to how scared he was, Lucius pounced forward, bodily picking up the Alpha male. The monster had tried to lunge at her, but he managed to stop it just in time.

Animal-like instincts took over. Lucius brought the werewolf to his face and snarled a warning before tossing it aside. He then crouched over Hermione protectively, daring any of them to come closer. One off to his right twitched, lunged, and the battle was on. Lucius would not lose her.

Hermione could just watch, mostly in horror, as the beast defended her against the werewolves. He didn't even seem to care as he got bitten or scratched, just that he was driving them away from her. He was protecting her, even after she broke his most important rule. She felt something surge in her chest at the thought.

The beast turned and caught one of them on the jaw, tossing it into a tree. At his cry, the others all backed off before turning and running away, leaving them alone. Unsure of what to do next, Hermione sat frozen on the snow, eyes locked with the beasts'. He took a shuddering breath, and then fell face-first into the snow.

She debated leaving, but her heart ached at the thought of possibly leaving him to die. No, she would never be able to live with herself if she left him now. Hermione stepped closer to the beast, looking over his body. How could she move such a thing without her wand?

"Erm… Lummy? Ticky?"

Immediately, two elves appeared beside her. "Ma'am called?"

"Master is hurt!" Lummy rested a hand on the beast's forehead. "Lummy is getting Master inside now!"

"I'm sorry," Hermione said miserably. Tickly simply took her hand and they disappeared.

Warmth instantly spread over her. The elves brought them to a parlor room, a blazing fire already crackling. The beast stirred a bit from the chair they had propped him in, his eyes slowly blinking open.

"I'll need something to clean the wounds," she told the elves. They left almost before she finished. "You're okay, we're safe." She tried to smile reassuringly at the beast.

He jerked fully awake, his face twisted in a snarl. Hermione kept sill, hoping that he would realize where he was and calm down. His eyes focused on hers for a moment before growling and cradling his injured arm. The elves popped back in with a bowl of warm water and a cloth. She smiled her thanks and settled before the beast.

"Don't lick at it," she scolded softly. "Let me see it." When the beast jerked his arm away, Hermione held back a sigh. "This might sting a little." There, got him.

He howled before getting close to her face and yelling, "That hurts!"

She let him yell, but she was not going to stay silent. "If you hold still, it wouldn't hurt as much."

"Well if you hadn't run away, this-" he motioned to the slashes on his arm "-wouldn't have happened."

"Well if you hadn't frightened me, I wouldn't have run away." She knew she had to stop. This was childish, but she couldn't let him get away with it. Besides, he seemed to grab for words at her latest statement and she felt smug at that. It served him right.

"Well, you shouldn't have been in the West Tower," he finally snapped.

"Well you should learn to control your temper."

That seemed to finally shut up him. The beast pouted, resting his chin on his good hand. Hermione took that as a good sign and continued cleaned the wound. She worked in a silence that grew uncomfortable. This was the first time she was able to see the beast like this, and he looked much different from the dungeons. He was lost, and maybe a little thoughtful.

"By the way, thank you," Hermione said after a long moment. "For saving my life, I mean."

The beast turned to look at her, his shoulders relaxing just a bit. "You're welcome."

Hermione looked up, surprised that he would acknowledge her thanks. He was right, though; if she hadn't been in the West Tower, none of this would have happened. She offered him a smile and reached for the bandages.

"Don't forget about your own wound." The beast motioned to her hand. "Infection might set in."

"Oh." Hermione looked at the hand she scraped open. The blood had long since dried, though most of it had come off on the towel she used for the beast. "I'm sure it'll be fine. I'll see to it later to—what?"

The beast had taken hold of her hand and brought it up to his mouth. His breath moved hot against her palm as he sniffed over the wound. Her face turned red as his tongue came out and traced along the skin. A shiver rolled down her spine and she gripped onto his leg, just so she wouldn't fall over into his lap. She had no idea that she ever wanted a man to lick her palm until now, her arousal building inside.

He seemed to smell that as well because the next thing she knew, she had been pulled into his lap. She felt his erection against her thigh, but didn't have the mind to do anything about it. Not when his lips were now attached to her neck. One hand still gripped her wrist, the other dug into her back to keep her on the chair.

"Wait." She hissed as his teeth grazed her neck. "Oh God, wait."

But he didn't, and Hermione wasn't really sure if she wanted him to. His erection rubbed against her legs; it took her a moment to realize that she was the one moving. He simply kept kissing her as she rubbed herself across him, eventually shifting so his trapped cock rubbed against her clothed cunt. She arched her back, crying out as he nipped at her neck.

The next thing she knew, they were on the floor in front of his fireplace, rutting against each other. Hermione's legs wrapped around his waist as he thrust against her. The hand holding her wrist had moved up to lace with hers; his other hand groped along her body until it reached her hips and then held there.

It didn't take much after that before Hermione cried out, her orgasm ripping through her. The beast growled and shifted against her; she could feel how damp his own pants had suddenly become. Guilt didn't have time to come to her before he licked at her neck.

"You will sleep in my bed from now on," he murmured in her ear.

She couldn't find it in her to refuse. She simply held on as he picked her up and carried her into his bedroom, past the forbidden doors of the West Tower.

Seamus passed Ron a drink and a smile. "Don't worry, mate. I'm sure Harry's fine. Besides, once he left I had an idea."

"What idea would that be?" Ron turned around on the stool, looking over the empty bar.

"Well, we've always known Harry was a little nutters after the war. I think it's time he got professional help." Seamus took a swig of his drink.

"Harry doesn't need that kind of help. Stop thinking that." Ron sighed. "He can just get a little…"

"Ron, I called in a healer from Mungo's." Seamus motioned to the door as it opened. "See, there he is."

An older wizard brushed off his coat before looking up. "Good evening. I don't usually leave the asylum in the middle of the night, but I was told you would make it worth my while."

"It's Harry Potter," Seamus said before Ron could get out a word.

The wizard smirked, settling himself at a close table. "Aah, I'm listening."

Ron groaned. "Harry doesn't—"

"It's like this," Seamus interrupted, leaning forward. "Harry came in here tonight, raving about a beast in a Manor."

"Mister Potter is harmless." He leaned back, drumming his fingers on the table.

"The point is, Hermione would do anything to keep him from being locked up." Seamus motioned to Ron. "Even forgive him."


He shrugged. "It's true, mate. It's always been about Harry."

The old wizard sighed. "So you want me to throw Mister Potter in the asylum until she forgives her husband?" He smirked, holding out his hand for the bag of gold Seamus was holding. "I love it."

Fresh snow had fallen the night before, making Hermione want to go home. Harry would have been back by now and they could have pulled the town's children into a snow fight. However, she had to make do with the grounds of Malfoy Manor. Now that she slept in the beast's bedroom, she hoped to find out what happened to the family. She knew nothing yet, but the beast himself started to seem oddly familiar.


Speak of the devil. She turned and gave him a smile. "Something wrong?"

"There's something I want to show you."

Curious, Hermione took his offered hand. "Where is it?"

"You'll see."

He led her through the Manor, pausing outside of an ornate door. It had always been closed, so she never bothered to open it. She had meant to try and figure out what the symbols meant, but that could wait for another day.

"You have to close your eyes," the beast said softly. "It's a surprise."

Hermione arched an eyebrow before letting out a dramatic sigh and closing her eyes. "If you insist."

She felt his soft furred hands grip her own. His thumbs traced over the back of her hands and she felt her heart flutter. He pulled her gently past the doors and into the room behind it.

"Can I open them?" she asked as his hands let go of hers.

"No, not yet. Wait here."

Hermione frowned, but did as she was told. She heard the sound of fabric and felt the dust begin to settle on her face and her curiosity grew. "Now can I open them?"

"All right. Now."

Hermione opened her eyes and gasped. It was a library, a large one, and she couldn't see where it ended. "I can't believe it." She stepped further in, spinning to see if she could see an end to the room. "I've never seen so many books in all my life!"

"You like it?"

She turned to him, taking his hands into her own. "It's wonderful."

He smiled, pulling her close to kiss the back of her hands. "Then it's yours."

"Really?" She looked around the room, astounded that he would just simply give her an entire library. "Oh, thank you so much." There was something sweet and almost kind about him, nothing like the coarse and unrefined beast that met her in the dungeons.

"Just don't spend all your time in here." He looked around, a clawed-thumb stroking the back of her hand. "I still want to see you."

"If you want to see me, why aren't you looking at me?"

He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, looking a little unsure. "If I look at you while you're this excited, I'll just want to take advantage of you."

Hermione felt her heart skip. She stepped closer and stood on her tiptoes to press a kiss to his cheek. "I am your prisoner, aren't I?"

"Are you sure you want to get into this?"

No, she truly wasn't, but there was something in him that she hadn't seen before. She wanted to see more. "I've been expecting it, actually. Unless you prefer your women more beautiful."

"Shh." He leaned in to kiss her quickly. "You are beautiful."

He took her, right there in the middle of the library. The ornate rug rubbed first against her back, and then rougher against her hands and knees. The beast never seemed to be satisfied and, when he let her go bathe hours later, his cock was again stirring for more. Hermione couldn't quite believe it, but she didn't question it either.

Within the next few days, he had pulled her into sex in various parts of the house, including (once) on the main staircase. The fur that covered him from head to toe was silk against her skin. She hadn't expected to like it and part of her wondered if she was a bit crazy for liking it so much. Her favorite time was at night, curled naked in his furry arms. She found herself enjoying everything, loving what he did more than anything Ron ever attempted. Guilt ate at her, but she figured Ron would move on with his life. He had all those Quidditch fans.

Harry, however, was a different story. He wouldn't be happy until she was rescued and safe at home. She needed to get word to him somehow.

She smoothed down the dress the beast wanted her to wear before making her way down the stairs. Lummy told her he was wandering in the ballroom, so that was where she was headed. Sure enough, he was at the base of the stairs.


He turned, smiling. "Hermione. Come join me?"

She laughed as he took her hand and pulled her out onto the floor. "There's no music."

"There doesn't have to be any for us to enjoy a nice dance." He twirled her around a few times before bringing her into a small kiss.

Hermione broke it before it could get too far. "I have a small favor."

"What is it?"

The claws stroking through her hair was distracting. "It's about Harry."

He pulled away, concern covering his face. "Aren't you happy here with me?"

"Well, yes," she said honestly, "but I need to tell him that I'm okay."

"And you think he might come for you if you fail to tell him?"

Hermione didn't even have to think about that. "I'm positive he will."

The beast lifted her hand to kiss it. "There is a way, then. Come with me."

Lucius led her to the West Tower where he kept the mirror. He had stopped using it years ago when he saw Narcissa bed another man. It was when he lost all hope of ever finding a Muggleborn to love him. The rose had lost its first petal the day Hermione walked in; Lucius hoped that he could admit his love tonight, and she admit hers the next night before the last petal fell. It was his only chance.

He picked up the mirror and handed it to her. "This mirror will show you anything you wish to see."

Hermione, skeptical as always, simply took the mirror and turned it over. "Sounds like powerful magic."

"More than you'll ever know." He pulled her against him, pressing a kiss to the top of her head.

"I'd like to see Harry Potter," she said softly, wincing as the mirror glowed to life.

Lucius looked over her shoulder, frowning when he saw the boy wonder staggering in the forest. Ice and snow coated his head and shoulders and Lucius knew that the boy had been out there a while. He expected him to be at home, preparing for some kind of fight. This was almost too much.

"Harry…" Hermione gripped the mirror tighter, tensing in his arms. "Oh, Harry! Can you hear me?"

The vision of Harry looked up. "Her… mi…" He reached out a hand, and then collapsed on the snow.

Lucius let her go, taking a step back. He felt his heart constrict and knew what she was going to ask.

"Harry, oh no." She looked to him, her eyes wide and scared. "He's sick, he may be dying. I don't know why he's there, but he's all alone."

He closed his eyes, resting his hands on the table with the rose. "Then you must go to him."

"What did you say?"

Lucius took a deep breath and opened his eyes. If this was going to be the last time he saw her, he never wanted to stop looking. "I release you. You are no longer my prisoner."

Hermione stepped forward, resting a hand on his arm. "You mean…"


"Oh, thank you!" Hermione looked back to the mirror. "Hold on, Harry. I'm on my way." She held out the mirror. "Here…"

Lucius shook his head, pushing the mirror against her chest. "Take it with you." He smiled, running a claw through her hair. "So you'll always have a way to look back and remember me."

"Thank you for understanding." Hermione leaned up to give him a kiss before running from the room.

Lucius squeezed his eyes shut, trying to remember how to breathe. He hadn't even felt like this when Narcissa left with Draco; it hadn't hurt this bad.

"Master should know that ma'am is leaving."

He straightened, berating himself for not noticing when Ticky came in. "I know. I let her go."

"Master what?" Ticky's large eyes widened further. "But how?"

"I had to." Lucius stared at the rose, watching as another petal fell. "I love her."

Hermione wasn't sure how she managed to get Harry back to the house, but she did. The fire was as hot as she could get it and he had at least four layers on top of him. Thankfully, they still had some potions in the cupboard, but this would take them all. Ron was nowhere to be seen and while that annoyed her, Hermione was still glad. She didn't want to explain anything to him at the moment.

Harry stirred in the bed, groaning. "'Mione?"

"It's all right, Harry." She pressed a warm cloth on his forehead. "I'm home."

Harry reached out a hand to her. "I thought I'd never see you again."

"Oh, hush. I missed you so much." Hermione rubbed his hand. "You were still stupid coming out by yourself."

"I was coming to rescue you." Harry smiled softly.

"And you did so well."

Harry struggled to sit up. "But the beast… How did you escape?"

"I didn't escape. He let me go." Hermione pushed him back down on the bed. "Lay still."

"Let you go? But he was so…"

"Shut up, Harry." Hermione reached over to grab some tea. "He's different now. He's changed."

"One person can't change that much in such a short time."

Hermione helped him drink the tea. "You'd be surprised."


She glanced over, eyes widening as she saw Ron in the doorway. "Oh…"

"You're back." Ron moved closer. "Where have you been?"

"Harry didn't tell you?"

"I told him." Harry looked away. "He didn't believe me."

Ron frowned, motioning between them. "Was I supposed to? He was raving like a lunatic!"

"A lunatic, really?" Hermione stood up. "I'm kidnapped by a beast and you think your best friend is a lunatic? Ronald—"

"Oh don't call me that. I hate when you call me that."

"Only because it means you're in trouble," Harry muttered from the bed.

"Boys, please." Hermione rubbed her temples. "Ron, we'll talk about this later, possibly by owl post. I'm here to make sure Harry gets better and then…"

"You're leaving me?" Ron asked, his voice soft. "But Hermione—"

"I have to."

"Well, maybe it's for the best." Ron backed toward the door. "Because if you're not here, then you both won't go to the nutter house."

"What? Ron, what are you talking about?"

Ron motioned outside. "A healer is here to take Harry to get professional help."

Hermione raced to the front door, jerking it open. An older wizard stood there, smiling at her. "Don't worry, my dear. We'll take good care of him."

"Harry's not crazy," Hermione insisted.

"Oh please, we all heard him." Seamus pushed off the side of the house where he had been hiding. "Came running into the pub, hollering about things that don't exist."

"I won't let you take him!" Hermione went to slam the door shut, but Ron stood in her way. "Ron!"

Harry stumbled out of the bedroom. "Hermione? What's going on?"

"Ah, Harry." Seamus grinned and motioned to the people starting to gather. "Tell us again, just how big was the beast?"

Harry glanced around. "He was… he was enormous. Probably eight or ten feet."

Those gathered started to laugh while Seamus twirled a finger around his ear. "You don't get much crazier than that."

"It's true," Harry insisted, clutching the blanket to his shoulders.

The old man motioned toward Harry. "Take him away."

"You can't do this!" Hermione looked to Ron as a few people took hold of Harry. "Ron, make them stop! You know he's not crazy."

Ron held up his hands. "There's nothing I can do. Unless…"

"Spit it out, Ron!"

"Unless you stay with me."

Hermione reared back. "What?"

"One little word, that's all it takes. Come on, we can help him through this together."

"Are you crazy?"

"Have it your way." Ron stepped off the porch to help them bring Harry to a waiting carriage.

Hermione bit her lip, and then remembered the mirror. "Harry's not crazy and I can prove it!" She brought out her wand and quickly summoned the mirror. As soon as it slapped into her hand, she held it up for all to see. "Show me the beast!"

The mirror flared to life and, if Ron wasn't already a wizard, he would think that this was impossible. The entire situation seemed a little weird and when an image of a beast did show up in the glass, he wondered how he got himself in this situation. Harry looked terrified, Hermione looked worried, and he knew his mum would have his head if she really knew what was going on. He hoped there wouldn't be any reporters, but Harry Potter was involved – there was probably someone already in the crowd.

"Is it dangerous?" someone asked, clutching her child close.

"Oh, no." Hermione shook her head, holding the mirror close to her chest. "He'd never hurt anyone. Please, I know he looks vicious, but he's really kind and gentle." She looking down at the mirror, looking at it the way she used to look at Ron. "He's my… friend."

He lost her.

"If I didn't know any better," Ron said, stepping up behind her, "I'd think you had feelings for this monster."

Hermione gave him a scathing look. "He's no monster, Ron. You and your friends are."

That hurt and Ron wasn't really sure how things went wrong. "You're as crazy as Harry. Look at him!" In the mirror, the beast growled. Ron couldn't have planned it better. "The beast will make off with their children, come after them in the night!"

"No!" Hermione looked around to the gasping people.

"I say we kill the beast!" Seamus clapped Ron on the back. "We're not safe until he's dead!"

Another villager stepped up. "He'll come stalking us at night!" He took his wife's hand, frowning.

"Come to sacrifice our children, I'm sure," she agreed.

"Yeah!" Another man stepped closer. "He'll wreck havoc on our village if we let him wander free."

"So let's take some action." Seamus pulled out his wand. "That Manor was in the woods, right?" He looked up. "Well, it is night, this'll be exciting."

Ron glanced at Hermione's horrified face one last time before pulling out his wand as well. "Let's go to that Manor, then. Find this beast." He summoned the mirror from Hermione, looking over the miserable face of the beast in it. "Nice fangs. I bet he's got killer claws, too."

"Give that back, Ron!"

Ron shook his head, stepping away. "We won't be home until he's dead, dear, so don't wait up." He put the mirror into his belt.

"I won't let you do this." Hermione pointed her wand at him. "I can't, Ron."

Ron flicked his wand, smirking as hers flew out of her hand. "If you're not with us, you're against us."

Seamus laughed, motioning to Harry. "Bring him. We'll shut them in the basement."

"Exactly, we can't have them running off to warn the creature." Ron turned away as the villagers put them both into the basement. He would talk to Hermione later. She would understand.

"We'll rid the village of this beast." Seamus pulled Ron into the middle of the crowd. "Who's with us?"

The crowd roared and Ron shook his head, forgetting about Hermione for a moment. If she really was kidnapped, she needed to be avenged. They would kill this beast. "Light your wands! We're going to this Manor where something is lurking that we've never encountered before."

"Screw your courage to the sticking place, men." Seamus pointed toward the forest and stared for it. "It's a beast and we won't rest until he's good and dead!"

"We'll lay siege to his Manor and bring back his head!" Ron followed behind Seamus, letting his wand shine brighter to better lead the way. "We'll save our village and our lives! We're fifty strong and fifty wizards can't be wrong!" He looked back at the angry crowd following. "Take whatever you want when we're finished, but remember the beast is mine!"

He would win Hermione back, and killing her captor was just the way to do it. Ron gripped his wand tighter, telling himself that this was the right thing to do.

The Manor seemed drearier after Hermione took off to help Harry. The elves left Lucius alone to stare at the lone petal of the rose, all of them knowing what was going to come next. Lucius wasn't even sure if he was quite ready to spend his life as a monster, but he had no choice now. He sighed when the door opened, turning away so he wouldn't have to see that it was just a house elf and not Hermione.

"Pardon Potsy, Master…"

"Leave me in peace." Lucius put a glass cover over the rose. At least then the petals wouldn't float away.

"But Master, the Manor be under attack."

Lucius looked out his balcony window, already knowing what she said was true. Angry wizards were rarely quiet. "I know."

"Lummy and Ticky will be wanting to know what we should do, master."

"It doesn't matter now." Lucius ran a hand over the glass, closing his eyes. "Let them come."

"But master—"

"Let them come," he repeated. "There's no point in any of this. She's gone." He pulled a battered chair closer, sitting. "I lost her."

It was about time wizards came to take care of him anyway. He wouldn't even fight them, not that he could properly do that in the first place. His wand hadn't worked for him since this mess happened. All he had was his claws and bad attitude. He just hoped the wizards coming to kill him would make it quick and as painless as possible. Killing curse would do perfectly.

With his luck, they would use Muggle means, make it more painful and slower.

Hermione banged on the door of the basement. "I have to warn him." She looked back to Harry, tears running down her face. "This is all my fault. God, Harry, what am I going to do?"

Harry took her arms and pulled her against him. "Shh, we'll think of something. Besides, Ron doesn't know the house as well as we do."

"Harry?" She pulled back to stare at him. "What are you talking about? He locked us in the—oh. Oh! How can I be so stupid!" She shoved away and went to the back corner.

"I tried telling you before, but you kept banging on the door." Harry grabbed a few supplies just in case they met with forest animals again. "I figured it might help you get your frustrations out."

Hermione shot him a look. "Harry Potter. The next time I'm that hysterical, you have my permission to force me to see reason." She pushed a few boxes out of the way of a door. "I don't care how you do it."

"Yes, ma'am." Harry followed her through the door and up the stairs. "You know, I don't think Ron ever realized that this door was here."

"He was never home to see it." Hermione shoved the second door open, making a face as a table scrapped across the floor. "Who the hell moved that there?"

"I don't know." Harry helped her as much as he could with the door. "Come on, I have Malfoy's wand—"

"You never gave that back?"

Harry opened a drawer next to the bookcase. "This is not the time to berate me. Later, okay?"

"Right, sorry." Hermione grabbed a cloak and pulled it about her shoulders. "Let's go."

Lucius could hear the fight downstairs and had to smile at the screams. His elves knew how to protect him, even when he didn't want them to. This was still the Malfoy Manor, after all, and he only kept the best elves around. He had broken the lines between servant and master years ago, but they seemed to try to keep it up.

The door behind him opened, the creak echoing across the room. Lucius glanced over to see two figures, one a fiery red head and the other a shorter and sandy-haired man. He shifted to better protect the rose, snarling lowly at them.

The shorter one motioned toward him. "Look, there it is. Blimey he's huge!"

"Shut up, Seamus. Let's just take care of this." The man raised his wand. "Come on, beast! We're here to take you down."

"Will you give up or fight?"

Lucius just curled his arms around the glass-encased rose, not saying a word.

"I see how it is." Seamus, the short one, raised his wand. "I guess we'll just have to kill him here and drag the body off." He twitched his wrist and a jet of pale blue came at him.

When the spell did nothing but shock him lightly, Lucius got angry. The least they could do was kill him properly! He growled, standing at his full height in front of the boys.

"I don't think you should have done that…"

"Hit him, Ron! Don't just stand there!"

Lucius dodged as they cast more spells at him. The windows of his balcony doors shattered behind him. Hoping they wouldn't chase him out there, he jumped outside into the light drizzle that just started. It was no use; both stumbled out after him. He swore and slid down to a lower, flatter roof.

"Come out and fight!" The sandy-haired man leaned over, watching him. "Stop hiding like a coward!"

The other slid down the roof after him. Lucius stepped back, narrowing his eyes. "Be gone from my Manor," he snarled. "I don't want to hurt you."

The red-head laughed. "What's the matter, Beast? Too 'kind' and 'gentle' to fight back?" He aimed his wand at Lucius' chest. "Well that's just too bad. Nobody kidnaps my wife and gets away with it."

Lucius closed his eyes, waiting for the end.

Hermione and Harry waited for the crowd of wizards to finish running away before they climbed out of the bushes. She had no idea why they were running, but all of them looked terrified. She hoped the beast hadn't done something too harsh to them; the rain washed away any blood if there was any in the first place. The villagers didn't deserve something like that when Seamus and Ron pushed them into it.

"I have to find him." She turned to Harry. "Will you help? If you find him, tell him that I'm here. He won't hurt you."


"I promise, Harry. He means no harm, really."

"Hermione, look." He pointed to the top of the manor.

She turned to where he was pointing and gasped. Ron had the beast cornered on an edge, his wand aimed straight for the beast's heart. "No!"

The beast turned first, getting Ron to look down as well. Hermione saw the surprise in both of them.

"Ron, don't!" Even as she screamed it, Ron's arm was moving. The beast reached out to knock the wand out of the way and that was all it took for Hermione to start running into the Manor.

Her heart pounded in her chest, fear moving through her. She couldn't lose the beast now, not when she just realized just how much the furry bastard meant to her. Something in her couldn't let him go and she knew that, if it came between the beast and Ron, she would choose the beast every time.


Hermione stumbled, turning to look at Lummy. "I have to get up—"

"Lummy knows." He held out his hand. "Lummy will take the ma'am to where she needs to go."

Hermione smiled and quickly took his hand. Not a moment later, she stood next to the rose that entranced her so much. One petal remained and she stared at it, contemplating what that could mean. Ron and Seamus' voice carried out from the balcony, dragging her attention away.

"Were you in love with her, beast?" That was Ron. Hermione carefully stepped over the shattered glass. "Did you honestly think she'd want you when she had someone like me?"

"It's over, beast!" Seamus laughed and something shattered.

Hermione reached the balcony in time to see Ron and Seamus standing over the beast, their wands close to his face.

"Hermione is mine," Ron told him, then stepped back to cast a spell.

"Beast!" Hermione glanced around, trying to see if there was an easy way to get down there.

"Hermione?" Three voices, all of them with various degrees of shock, called her name. She had one foot on the stone wall of the balcony when she heard the scream. Seamus was falling halfway down the next roof while Ron dangled helplessly over the edge. The only thing keeping him from falling was the beast's clawed hand around his neck.

"Put me down, put me down! Please, don't hurt me!" Ron gripped tightly to the beast. His wand lay inches away from the two. "I'll do anything!"

Hermione could only stare and hope the beast chose correctly. Sure enough, the beast slowly brought Ron back onto the roof and got into his face. Hermione couldn't hear what was said, but Ron's eyes widened. The beast turned to look at her and then climbed up the side of the roof. She leaned over, holding out her hand.

The beast took it. He continued until he was level with her. "You came back," he murmured, running his other hand through her hair.

Hermione leaned against the hand. "I always planned to."

The beast laughed and opened his mouth. Before he could say anything, he arched his back and growled. Hermione gripped onto his cloak and looked down; Seamus smirked at her from where he had stopped falling, his wand pointed toward them. When she looked back to the beast, blood already dripped out from a wound in his back. She quickly pulled him onto the balcony, resting him on the ground.


He just smiled, reaching a hand up to cup her face. "You came back…"

"Of course I came back. I couldn't let them kill you." Hermione ran a hand down his furry arm. "Oh, this is all my fault. It only I'd gotten here sooner."

"Maybe it's better this way." The beast coughed, blood coming up as he did so.

Hermione looked up as Harry finally came into the room. "Ron?" he asked, looking around.

She motioned toward the edge of the balcony and looked back to the beast. "Don't talk like that. You'll be all right"

"Always the optimist," he murmured.

Hermione tried a laugh. "We're together now and that's all that matters. Everything's going to be fine, you'll see."

The beast coughed again, his eyes drooping. "At least I got to see you one… one last…"

The hand dropped from her face. Hermione put a hand over her mouth. "No… No!" She took his cloak and shook him lightly. "Please don't leave me!" When he didn't respond, she leaned against his chest and cried, ignoring when Harry's hand came down on her shoulder. "Don't leave me. I love you."

Harry pulled at her shoulder. "Hermione, come on… We should go. He's gone."

He didn't finish his last word before the beast glowed beneath her. Hermione's eyes widened and she inched back, watching as the body lifted into the air. Lummy and Ticky stopped in the doorway of the balcony, looking between the beast and the now barren rose. They began to clap and, confused, Hermione turned her attention back to the suspended beast.

One-by-one, his limbs changed. Light shown bright and she had to cover her eyes from the pure power that radiated from him. When things calmed, she slowly opened her eyes and looked at the man that now lay on the floor. The cloak hugged his body, tangling just slightly with his long, platinum hair. She knew only two people with that kind of hair and she frowned, watching as the man now stood up.

He looked at his hands and feet before turning toward her. "Hermione…"

A very naked Lucius Malfoy was smiling at her. Hermione was sure she died and woke up in some twisted fairy tale.

"Hermione, it's me!" He stepped closer, holding out his hands to her.

The simple gesture reminded her so much of the beast. Hermione stood with a little help from Harry before moving closer to him. She was scared, but the smile was actually calming her. She raised a hand and cautiously slid her fingers across his cheek.

His eyes-there was something about his eyes. Hermione smiled, stepping fully into his arms. "It is you."

Lucius pulled her into a kiss and she ignored the cheering of the elves as magic poured out from both of them. Harry gasped from behind them and she heard him swear softly.

"Hermione, er…"

She broke the kiss, but didn't look away from Lucius. "Ron is not going to like this," she murmured.

Lucius laughed, putting a hand on her lower back. "Just let him try to take you away from me."

Hermione laughed and let him twirl her around, glad to have a pair of arms that she truly belonged in.