Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Harry Potter characters or situations, they belong to J.K. Rowling. I don't mean them any disrespect in my writing, because I absolutely love them.
Author's Note: This is my first fic on ff.n. It takes place during Hermione, Draco, Ron and Harry's seventh year, except that Hogwarts is closed due to the war. It is a dark Draco/Hermione romance with a pretty good plot. It is rated R contains violence, vampires, language, sexuality (in later chapters) and religious offensiveness. Please don't flame me if I've said anything in here to offend the church. It's part of the story, it has nothing to do with hating God. Reviews and all sorts of criticism very welcome!
Dreaming in Crimson
First Hogwarts closing, and now, an early winter, Hermione Granger thought sourly. She pulled her cloak around herself tighter to keep out the chill.
The muggle road was deserted at this hour except for the occasional noise of a distant automobile. It was true that it was unnaturally cool for late October weather; orange lights from building windows mocked the cold gray street below. Hermione sighed jealously at the thought of the innocent, unaware muggles warm in their beds, innocent potential war victims that she was working so hard for to protect.
Hermione took out a small, silvery mirror from her bag and flashed around the darkened alleys keenly. There didn't seem to be anyone around, and no murky shadows appeared in the Foe-glass. She held her breath and listened…but didn't hear anything. Farther down the street, another figure, wearing the same heavy cloak as Hermione herself, was doing the same. She knew who that was; Seamus Finnigan, a fellow Gryffindor classmate – now fellow Auror –he too was checking the streets for dark activity also.
No one here, Hermione thought, almost disappointedly. They hadn't caught a Death Eater in this neighborhood yet, and she was almost beginning to doubt they were looking properly. The neighborhood she was in was a muggle housing district not far from Diagon Alley, the main center for magical commerce in London.
Hermione was an Auror in Albus Dumbledore's top-secret Light Resistance.
Dumbledore had assigned Hermione as well as five other Aurors to look after and filter through this certain part of the muggle city for any Death Eaters in hiding. Those five others were all young, inexperienced and classmates of Hermione (Parvati, Lavender, Dean, Padma, and Seamus). Diagon Alley had been the site for the last serious raid by Death Eaters, one in which Cornelius Fudge, the last Minister for Magic, had been murdered.
The Dark Lord. You-Know-Who. He was always the cause of bad things that happened in the wizarding world. If it weren't for him, Hermione would have been in school, not stalking around on a muggle street at night looking for Death Eaters. If it weren't for him, she'd be with her best friends, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley, except that they were fighting the Dark Side abroad. If it weren't for him, a lot more people - magical and muggle alike - including Fudge, would still be alive. Ever since the summer after Hermione's fourth year three years ago, the Dark Lord had risen steadily back to power to become, for the first time since his 'downfall' at the Potters' thirteen years before, the greatest dark wizard in all of magical history. Hermione supposed she must be an important character in this war because of her close friendship with Harry Potter, the infamous Boy Who Lived. Harry, by no wizard or witch's ignorance, was first on the Dark Lord's list of enemies to be destroyed. Harry had been Hermione's best friend forever (along with Ron, of course) since their first year in Hogwarts, seven meaningful years ago. It was the main reason why she was inevitably tied in to the war – her close relations to Harry.
The murder of Cornelius Fudge back in early September, when their seventh-year should have started, had and enormous impact on the magical world. They were still far from catching the Death Eaters guilty of the murder and raid on the Ministry of Magic buildings. Hermione and the other Resistance Aurors were working non-stop – as she was now - but the raids had not stopped.
If only that was the only thing gone bad. Hermione's thoughts trailed back to Hogwarts. Fudge's death was what caused Hermione having to be a full-time Auror at seventeen, but worse still was the closing of Hogwarts that was unavoidable. Dumbledore had been firm to keeping Hogwarts open since the reincarnation of Voldemort. He never let them down making sure the school stayed one of the safest magical strongholds in Britain. The children were safe there, they were safe there. But why did Fudge have to die?? Hermione bit her tongue angrily. She was being immature thinking about it that way, but could hardly help it.
Dumbledore had been called away to help with the Ministry duties. Hermione sighed and a felt a lonely pang thinking about this. It was a decision agreed upon thoroughly by the entire magical community. Dumbledore was the greatest wizard of their time and after all, the only wizard capable of taking Fudge's place. Dumbledore vowed never to leave Hogwarts, but it was the best choice. No one could deny that. The students were sent home, most in tears, to their worried families living in scattered homes over the country. Separated from their friends and teachers, their educations cut off, not knowing what could happen to them…
"Snap out of it," Hermione scolded herself under her breath. Hogwarts closing still gave her nightmares. It scared her not only because of the loss of education, but because it meant that her childhood was very much over, just like that. Hermione had to learn to be an adult – in about three weeks - for the sake of herself and everything that meant something. 'Suppression' of the Dark side meant hard work on their part. Dumbledore had promised it would be only temporarily, until the Dark Side could be 'suppressed'.
Until whenever that is then.
Everyone thought the Dark Lord was gone for thirteen years, and now he back, so who knew how to tell whether he really gone or not? Dumbledore acted optimistic with his undying faith, and thus everyone had faith along with him, but still, no one knew for sure when the war would end.
It was hard to keep that faith. Hermione knew it well.
They had all been trained hard at dueling by some of the best senior Aurors in the Ministry, but Hermione had never fought in a real raid. The Dark Side was powerful and cunning enough to get to and murder to the Minister of Magic; theoretically it would be easy to take down a few virgin Aurors not yet out of their teens…it was no longer a matter of petty Slytherin rivals in school, but real enemies capable of murder…
Hermione pursed her lips determinedly amidst her thoughts. She couldn't think about it that way, she wasn't going to let herself or any of her friends get killed. She had been the top student in Hogwarts – a hopeless bookworm, yes, but top student – she wasn't completely useless. She had been top prefect for two years before getting her Head Girl letter, everyone told her what a bright future she had all the time. Besides, she had plenty of experience fighting the Dark Arts from her after-curfew adventures with Harry and Ron. And we've got a damn good team of Aurors, she thought. Great, now I sound like Moody…
Mad-Eye Moody, one of the senior Aurors had a point when he said that, however. Dumbledore was their leader; with Moody himself; Arneldo Bywater, the current Head of Defenses Office; Arabella Figg, Mundungus Fletcher, Sirius Black and Remus Lupin, experienced wizards with the Dark Arts from Harry's dad's time; Severus Snape and Minerva McGonagall, two of Hogwart's finest professors; and of course, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Parvati and Padma Patil, Lavender Brown, Seamus Finnigan, Dean Thomas and herself, the new junior Aurors. Besides the active Aurors, they had important allies in the wizarding community all over the continent, like the Weasleys.
We're going to win this war, Hermione thought defiantly. Whether it was just a comfort to herself or if she really believed it, it didn't matter. Hermione pulled a lock of thick brown hair behind her ear, held her head a little higher, and walked down the street.
And she was just another piece in this chess game, just like he was.
Draco Malfoy sneered at the brown-haired girl walking two stories below him on the street.
He was perched on top of some filthy muggle building like a silvery-blond caped gargoyle, stonily still as he was disciplined to, carefully observing the Auror below him.
Tsk, tsk, tsk, not up to your usual standard, Miss Granger, thought Draco sarcastically, imitating a professor who might have been admonishing the perfectionist little mudblood over a grammatical error in an essay. Then he grinned savagely to himself. Although the street was empty now, normally she could very well have hidden among the muggle prostitutes and drug dealers easily had they been out in the cold weather. So it was mostly due to luck, but tonight it had only taken a few minutes to find her.
Draco recognized her easily a few nights ago, with her signature brown curls – now a legendary Hogwarts symbol for academic excellence – visible even underneath the hood of the heavy winter cloak she wore. She left from the same building at different times each night, but generally wandered around the same area. She was walking in the shadows discreetly now. If he didn't keep his eyes open, he could lose her easily in the dark.
A vague beam of light flashed quickly from the figure that was Hermione Granger. Draco tensed for a moment and reassured his footing. He still had to be careful.
What was that? She was checking for Dark magic, he knew that much…some sort of detecting device? A Foe-glass? Hahahaha, Draco laughed silently. It probably was. The dim beam of light from the glass was now traveling to other places. Yes, without a doubt. He smiled amusedly. It was a pretty good idea, actually. Pity he was so high up on a roof; it wouldn't reach him.
Draco was sure the younger Aurors, Dumbledore's Light supporters who were his age, would be around this part of the muggle city. It was a large but tedious job to try and track the Ministry-raid Death Eaters (some of which were still in the area, but not in Draco's contact). Obviously, such a job would be handed to the less experienced.
Draco had hidden quietly among muggles (something he braved once and did not plan to ever again) for a week without using magic. Now that there were so little traces of magic in the air left from the raid on the Ministry buildings, the Aurors were getting off-guard.
Right there was one of them, just like that, out in the open.
How stupid can you possibly get? Draco thought, partially in glee. He could easily have jumped off the roof of the muggle building and grabbed Granger, right there and then, and brought her to the Dark Lord. She would be, no doubt, an invaluable source of information. He knew the Lord would reward him fabulously.
Hand her over, yes he would, but not quite yet.
There were six Aurors there, but he left them all alone. He just wanted to watch them for a while. They had no idea he was there, so why not try and play around with them for a while before handing them in? He especially liked watching Granger. He was enjoying thinking up fun ways to torture her.
Cruciatus would be too easy…perhaps the use of old-fashioned muggle torture for the mudblood…
Nasty thoughts crossed Draco's mind thinking about ways to torment her. The Dark Lord could wait. His need for evil had to be satisfied first. And it would be sweet. It wouldn't be like burning muggles in their houses. It would be a skilled Auror, one he had hated for years.
Just then, an automobile passed by on the quiet street, and he saw Granger duck into an alleyway. The car made him slightly uneasily for a moment. Muggle machinery could be both annoying and dangerous at times. Not that would matter to her, she was a mudblood, she ought to know these sort of things well. Draco climbed down the wall and followed her stealthily.
Draco carefully hopped from the fire escape of a stucco-walled flat to the neighboring building. Granger was prowling around on street ahead. At this point, she looked as if she was trying to meet up with her goody-Gryffindor playmates. Draco scowled derisively at this.
He was now crouching on the roof of the taller building, a castle-like structure with white walls. It had a tower with a large bell hanging in an open room at the top. A large cross was planted at the top of this tower.
Damned religious muggles. Muggles were so sickeningly gullible into believing. He had read about muggle religions before; it made him look down upon them even more. Foolisheness. Draco turned away from the tower to look back at Granger.
She was an Auror, he was a Death Eater. They had always been rivals. For one, they had been the top two students in the school. She would have been Head Girl, and him, Head Boy. She was a real brain (which would no doubt come in handy for her) in school; Draco had to admit, as well as he did, he had never been able to surpass her at schoolwork. She seemed to have memorized the textbooks before they were taught in class, the teachers praised her nonstop, and Draco seemed to see her in the library every time he set foot there. Her grades were so perfectly straight and she was such a teacher's pet it made Draco want to vomit.
And she was a disgustingly good Gryffindor. She was always with her best friends, Potter the Wonderful Boy With A Scar and Weasley the Poor Noble Sidekick. They were always together, running around after hours playing superhero and detective, and they never, ever got in trouble. Draco wondered the teachers would let them off all the time just for being The Dream Team. Dumbledore had always favored the brave, selfless Gryffindors in their act of trying to save the world.
How could it possibly not make anyone sick?
Potter, just because he was parentless and such a noble Gryffindor, everyone wanted to lick his shoes. Weasley, the penniless pureblood who insulted other purebloods by being the pet of half-bloods like Potter and mudbloods like Granger.
They had been his sworn enemies in school. But now, the real game was on. It was no longer a rivalry in grades or house Quidditch victories but for their lives in the war.
And they were all on the list of people who had to die. Hell, they deserve it, Draco thought darkly.
From where Draco was perched, on the roof of the muggle church, it looked as if brainy Granger would be the first to die. It was too bad, actually. Granger had a lot of potential. If she hadn't been a mudblood and been sorted into Slytherin, her brains and talents could be very useful for the Dark Side. Draco would even have liked her. They had a lot in common, in fact, except that they were mortal enemies. He smiled to himself.
Below him, Hermione Granger had met up with two of her Auror friends. Fellow Aurors, Draco recognized them as Dean Thomas and of the Patil twins. Damn, this is going to be too easy. Draco allowed his attention to be diverted to observing the Aurors below him.
They were so innocent looking. They really had no idea. Draco focused on Granger. She had a very professional, determined look on her face. The streetlight glowed on her face, surrounded by the frame of her brown hair.
Draco sneered. It wasn't just her brains that he could have used. Granger, behind her thick textbooks, untamed curls, and the protection of Potter and Weasley, would be quite pretty. She probably didn't even realize it herself, but he had to admit that. Although it was never seen outside of school dances and other formal functions, Granger was very attractive, probably more beautiful than most of the popular Slytherin preps Draco normally associated with. Still, most of the time, Draco never thought of her as a girl, but just a clever brain pinned between the Potty and Weasel.
What the hell are they doing now? Draco thought, glaring at the threesome below him. They were stopping in front of the church, for some reason. He'd have to get them the next night. He knew they'd still be there. Besides, he still had to think of a proper method of torture for Granger before he used his wand again to capture them.
The Dark Mark, the sign of the Dark Lord, was burned into his forearm. It was stinging painfully as Draco knew it was glowing on his arm. The Dark Lord was calling his Death Eaters for a meeting. Draco pulled up the robe of his sleeve. It a fiery crimson, now, so bright Draco had to close his eyes against it. He had to get somewhere far enough to Apparate. He started to climb down the wall of the muggle church.
He was starting to see red as he crossed through the alleyways. Dark magic was intriguingly powerful, even for Draco himself to overcome when he had grown up around it. Within a few minutes, Draco had run well out of range of the Aurors' area. One last image formed in his mind: Hermione's hauntingly innocent expression, flooded over in a wave of scarlet light. She was going to die, he thought.
Then he raised his wand to himself and disappeared.
A few minutes later, Hermione stopped again, and took another Dark detector from her cloak, a Curse-Wave tracker. It was a set of curvy metallic antennae that she held to her ear. If there had been any powerful curses recently used in the area, excess magic could be picked up in waves. "Sonorus," she whispered, pointing her wand at the base. A few crackles could be heard. "Priori Incantatum." Hermione pointed at it again, but nothing came out, no shadows of Dark curses.
Hermione put it back into her cloak. On their nightly rounds, Seamus, Dean, Lavender, Parvati, Padma and her would check the streets carefully with their Dark Detectors, of which they all had a set. Hermione turned around to see if Seamus was still there, but he wasn't. The neighborhood they had to check was large: at least a half-kilometer radius all around the entrance of Diagon Alley. They routinely had their own area to look after. It took about an hour every night.
Hermione found herself crossing through alleys to use a different route. It wasn't like there could anybody watching her, except maybe an odd muggle, but still. She didn't think major discretion was necessary yet but made a mental note to learn a few Invisibility Spells for security.
I really hope this goddamn helps a little, she thought grumpily. Was this really helping? They never found anything.
"Herm?" a familiar female voice broke the midnight silence and made Hermione jump.
She spun around to face Padma Patil, the only non-Gryffindor Auror. "Hi!" she replied rather stupidly. Padma was dressed in dark clothes, like she was, her shoulder length dark hair blending in with her silhouette.
Instinctively, they both ducked into the shadows of the muggle building nearest to them.
"Herm, did you find anything?" Padma asked intently in a hoarse whisper.
Hermione shook her head. "We need to talk to Dumbledore," she said quickly. She startled herself at how confident logic escaped her lips when she was telling it to someone else. "He has to know there hasn't been any success here. We…"
"Can't just keep looking in the same place for so long," finished Padma.
"Did you find anything?" a third voice interrupted the conversation.
A tall male figure stepped up to the two girls next to the muggle wall. It was Dean Thomas, a handsome Gryffindor with dark brown curly hair. Hermione couldn't help raising her eyebrows as he wrapped his arm protectively around Padma. The war certainly didn't halt the growth of any romantic affections budded from school.
"No. We were just planning on telling Dumbledore about it," she told him somewhat dryly.
"Seamus says he picked something up down on the east side," Dean said slowly. "But I don't know. He sounded pretty confident, so we could go a little farther tomorrow night." He shrugged. "But no more for today, I'm sleepy."
"It seems pretty hopeless, doesn't it?" Padma murmured. Dean pulled her closer to him.
"Dumbledore wouldn't send us here if he didn't expect us to get anything," Hermione said, and before she could stop herself, "It's only been a week. How do you expect to get anything done if you give up now? We'll owl him, but we'll stay try Seamus' lead. In fact, we can do it tonight, if you're up to it."
"Yeah, yeah, you're right, of course," Dean responded hastily.
"It's cold. Where are we?" Padma said suddenly.
Hermione looked around as if for a street sign. "Pandora Street?" she guessed. Looking up at the white-walled building they were standing next to, she saw that they were surrounded by flats and darkened shops. The white-walled building was a church. "This is the Church of St. Mary."
The other two looked up. The church was a tall, elegant one, with stained glass windows and a simple cross at the roof.
"It's really beautiful," Padma said softly. "Muggles, they take their religions seriously, don't they?"
Hermione saw that Padma was eyeing a pile of flowers placed on the steps. A large bouquet of deep red roses had been placed in the center. She stepped up to it, and fingered them gently. They were velvety soft, and in fullest bloom.
"Who would leave such nice flowers here on such a cold night?" Dean wondered.
Hermione traced the edges of the dark red petals between her fingers. They were flawless and perfectly attended to. The colors were so bright and pure it looked almost liquid-like. The florist must have been skilled.
"And how come so many of these flowers are black?" Dean asked again.
Hermione noticed he was right. There was only one red bouquet. The rest of them, all black, were wrapped in assorted ways: gifts from different people. "I think they're sympathy flowers," Hermione said. She picked up a dear. "Dear Mother…" she began.
"Who died?" Dean picked up a card as well.
"Oh…" Padma gasped, as if recalling something. "I read about it in the Daily Prophet this morning. There was a death reported of a muggle. They said it was vampires."
"Vampires?" Dean snorted loudly in the quiet of the atmosphere.
Padma nodded sternly at him. "The muggles have no idea how he died. That's why there aren't any people out here on the street. They're all scared."
"What do you think, Hermione?" Dean turned to her.
"That's mad," Hermione blurted. "There are hardly any vampires in Britain. Why would they go around attacking muggles when You-Know-Who is in power? I've never heard about a vampire attack before. They're very secretive, you know."
Padma and Dean shrugged. Normally no one argued with Hermione's opinions.
A cold gust of wind blew by, and Hermione wrapped her cloak tightly around herself. Dean brought Padma closer to his side.
"Muggles," Dean said quietly, shaking his head.
Hermione sighed and turned her eyes away from the stunning red roses.
"We should go if we're not searching."
"Okay," Hermione said, nodding. Slowly, they parted to take their own routes, knowing they would only meet back again at the Diagon Alley. Dean and Padma were now holding hands underneath the eerie street lamps. Hermione may have lived her childhood and her summers in the muggle world, but it was still chilling her now.
Black means mourning. Red roses mean love. It was a nice metaphor. The muggles must have been very kind people. Religion is a wispy thing, but love isn't. And the world is built on love, isn't it?
Hermione put her hands into her cloak pockets, her hand wrapped instinctively around her wand.
Hermione knew the attack could not have been vampires. Vampires are too rare, and judging from her Defense against the Dark Arts class, not powerful enough. It had to have been the Dark Lord, one way or the other.