Author's Note: Thank you so much to all you wonderful reviewers! I love getting your feedback :3

Take You on a Trip

"Hurry the fuck up, Granger," Malfoy groused at her impatiently, shutting his eyes as he lifted them from the book on his lap and dropped his head tiredly back against the wall. Hermione glanced through foggy glass to see him rubbing at his neck, a wince making his lips purse up and his closed eyes crinkle at the corners. His hair was dark because of the jaunt they'd taken into Brora this morning, and if he opened his eyes they would be brown – the glamour took a while to wear off. It was disconcerting to see him like this.

The different colouring combined with his exhaustion made him look too human; very young and ordinary – far more so than Malfoy had any right to be in Hermione's opinion. He should look more like the pathetic bastard he was. Although he had been rather less of an evil git to her earlier, to be fair. Not decent at all – decent would be letting her go instead of holding her prisoner – but actually somewhat less horrible. Although she hated being even the tiniest bit grateful to him, she appreciated having more than one pair of underwear and clothes that actually fit her. She sighed, not bothering to answer his shirty verbal prods to hurry up.


She slicked a soapy flannel over the ball of her shoulder and down the length of her arm, luxuriating in the scald of hot water on her back. This was the first proper wash she'd had in a long, long time – and would likely be the last for a long time too. They were leaving Brora today, and Malfoy had mentioned something about a tent being involved. So Hermione had decided to enjoy this shower as much as was possible considering the circumstances. Such as her captor, sitting on the floor reading right beside the shower, having promised her relatively civilly that he wouldn't peek. She was fairly certain she could believe him – she doubted Malfoy would want an eyeful of mudblood.

"Hang on," she shot back in annoyance, and he growled under his breath like some kind of animal.

"Seriously, you've had more than enough time to clean yourself. This is not a fucking holiday, lest you forget, and I am bored as shit. So get the fuck out of the shower. Now."

"Make me, Malfoy," she challenged him lazily, almost feeling good with the hot water sluicing over her neck and shoulders and the clean scent of soap on her skin washing away the grime. Then she jumped and squeaked as he clapped his book shut with a bang, her burgeoning good feelings evaporating.

"Fine then," he said meaningfully, laying the book aside and making to get up, a half-nasty little smirk playing at his lips although he hadn't looked at her just yet. "I will."

"No!" Hermione yelped in protest, flannel-clutching hand going in front of her to shield her crotch and other arm covering her breasts. Embarrassed anger surged up in her at how her moment of brief contentment had been ripped away. She wanted to murder him. The flannel was a completely ineffective protection of her modesty, but Malfoy didn't look after all; he just settled back to the floor with his eyes still averted, smirking to himself at the reaction he'd provoked.

"Get out then," he said, mildly but with a subtle edge. "Or I will make you. And stop being such a smart-mouthed bitch, while you're at it."

"Fine, Malfoy." She ground the words out over the rush of the water and through clenched teeth, biting back a slew of filthy insults. For a moment there, she'd almost forgotten they were captor and captive. She couldn't afford to do that again, not even for a moment. Hermione got out as instructed as soon as she'd rinsed the soap from her skin, a heavy ball of resentment churning inside her. She couldn't even have ten bloody minutes of relative peace in which to try to blot out the realities of her miserable situation? Apparently not. She continued to fume as she wrapped a towel around her and stepped out of the shower, while Malfoy flicked through the pages of his book and radiated impatience.

"I hate you," she muttered with a dark glare for the git as she towelled her short hair into spiky dampness with a second towel. He made a small, rather condescendingly amused sound, and turned a page, his mouth pursing up thoughtfully before he responded.

"I hate you too." Malfoy flashed a quick, humourless smile, everything about him cold and sharp, and she clutched the towel tighter to her but didn't say a word. He seemed like a blade right now, with that cruel aloofness to his face and his manner – and if she pressed too hard against a blade's edge, it wouldn't bend or give at all but simply cut her, deep and to the bone. She didn't want to try to push him, an unwelcome fear sparking sickly in her belly at the thought of it.

Malfoy was altogether too unpredictable. He'd made her tea this morning, after their second long night as kidnapper and kidnappee, but then he'd chained her to the toilet and magically blindfolded her while he'd taken a lengthy shower – manhandling her onto the floor while she'd been blinded, blithely ignoring her panicked demands to know what was going on. It had been genuinely frightening – not that Hermione could tell him that. He'd probably only laugh at her, and tell her that it had been supposed to scare her. But it made the horcrux writhe darkly inside her when he made her scared and angry like that, and it had taken an enormous effort to keep the fragment of soul from swaying her into attempting something she would regret.

And then as she'd sat blinking back tears afterwards, as if he'd felt guilty Malfoy had told her they could go shopping if she liked. He'd taken her out to the local shops to get her a few changes of clothing that he'd allowed her free rein in picking out – telling her magnanimously to get whatever she liked, an odd expression on his face. Not that the shop they'd gone to had much variety, anyway, she thought as she finished drying herself, glaring at Malfoy's bowed head.

She'd considered escaping while they were out, but he'd kept the binding charm in effect and cast a damned silencio. And then after shopping he'd bought her breakfast at a local café as if they were just ordinary people and not mortal bloody enemies, and she'd eaten as they walked back to the inn, to have a shower – amongst other things – before they left. Left to go where exactly, she had no idea. Malfoy refused to tell her.

Hermione dropped her towel and quickly pulled on the sports bra and cotton knickers she had handed Malfoy with flushing cheeks in the shop earlier that morning – underwear shopping with Draco Malfoy had not been anything she'd ever thought she'd have to do, and it had been just as horrible as she could have imagined. She tugged on stiff new jeans, wincing and whimpering at the pain in her splinched thigh at the first touch of the denim. She ground her teeth together audibly and shoved the jeans back down, suddenly wishing she hadn't bought them. Malfoy looked up at her stifled sounds of pain, and she was only in her bra, her jeans around her knees. Her sense of privacy cringed. Oh Merlin.

"Don't!" Hermione snapped shrilly in protest as she tried fruitlessly to cover herself, and he rolled his eyes.

"It's nothing I haven't seen, Granger. Don't be a fucking idiot. What's wrong?"

She pressed her lips hard together and breathed in and out shortly through her nose. "My leg," she said very stiffly, standing there awkwardly, half-bent over with her jeans clutched just above her knees. "It hurts."

"That's your own fault," he snapped brusquely, and she made a sound of disgust and shook her head, trying to pretend there weren't traitorous tears swimming in her eyes.

"Why ask if you don't care then, Malfoy?"

He went up onto his knees, too close to her in the small room, his face all strange and blank. "Fine. C'mere then." He hooked his fingers around the waist of Hermione's jeans and tugged her closer with one sharp pull, and she went with the tug awkwardly, too off-balance to resist it.

"What're you –?" Malfoy's fingers ran down the livid, knotted scar without warning and Hermione dragged in a rough, stuttering breath at the shock of his touch, flinching back. "Malfoy –" She jerked away and tried to pull up her jeans, wincing and cursing inwardly at the irritation in the scar at the rasp of the denim. Malfoy hissed and batted one of her hands away in annoyance.

"C'mere. Let me have damn look at it, you stupid m–" He stuttered as her eyes met his full of blooming fury and hurt when she realised what he was going to say, and she saw him swallow hard but he finished. "–mudblood."

"Fuck off, Malfoy." She pushed him then, the heels of her hands slamming into his shoulders, and he rocked at the blow but didn't move, kneeling at her feet like a supplicant. It was unnatural.

"Don't push me," he snarled, shoving one splayed-open hand onto Hermione's naked stomach – she gasped – and using it to press her back against the shower glass hard, like a pinned butterfly. She froze, Malfoy's fingers pushing indents into her stomach, staring down at his darkened hair and feeling his hand very gently palm down the healing scar on her thigh. It felt so strange – no; it felt like madness. She shut her eyes and didn't struggle, jaw clenched tight.

"You going to behave reasonably?" Malfoy asked very casually, his fingers flexing against her stomach, cool on her shower-heated skin. She bit her lip and nodded tautly.

"Yes." The word was a hoarse whisper that was hard to get out, and Malfoy didn't answer, just dropped his hand from her stomach and put it to her thigh as well. Hermione kept her eyes shut, wincing as Malfoy's thumbs probed carefully down the knotted length of the wound, fingers inadvertently skimming along the tender skin either side. She sighed and rested her head back against the glass behind her, trying not to let the vague sense of claustrophobia she felt edging in take over. Malfoy wouldn't react well were she to shove him away again.


"Well, I'm not a Healer –" Malfoy said, his hands still sliding with cool assessment up and down her leg. "– but it seems to be healing perfectly. The scar can't be helped without the right potions, of course, but that's only cosmetic."

"Only –! It's my leg, Malfoy, it might be only cosmetic to you, but I don't particularly relish the –"

"Not being caused by Dark magic, the scar can be removed at any point, m–, Granger," he retorted, and when Hermione cracked an eye open to peek down at him – his two hands clasped casually around her thigh just above her knee – his expression was scathing. She wondered why he'd bitten the word back, and why he hadn't stopped touching her; she was acutely aware of the maddening sensations his touch caused, her skin sore and too-sensitive. She curled her hands into fists and wished Malfoy would move away from her – it felt wrong and alien to have his hands on her so carefully, so cautiously. She felt trapped, even more than she already was as his prisoner.

"The injury itself seems all right. I can try a few diagnostic spells to check, but I don't think they're necessary. Here." Malfoy flicked a wand down his sleeve and into his hand, pulled a handkerchief out of his pocket, and conjured a soft white padded bandage that settled into place over her scar. A muttered sticking charm issued from his lips, and the bandage sealed itself to her skin, protecting the scar from further irritation. Hermione blinked.

"Thank you." It spilled automatically from Hermione's lips before she could stop herself – she wished she could take it back the moment she said it.

Malfoy's face stuttered out of that carefully controlled blankness for a moment; glamoured brown eyes wide and unguarded for a second. They shifted up to meets hers, broadcasting a disconcerting shock and surprise, before he looked away – the moment so brief that it could have been just a trick of Hermione's imagination. Malfoy's expression shuttered completely and he stood fast, staring at the floor between them and shuffling back as he slid his wand neatly up his sleeve again. His mouth twitched and settled into a dull sort of sneer.

"Just get dressed, Granger," he told her, and she nodded absently as her eyes caught on the motion of his hands at his sides. Flexing and clenching, long fingers curling up to meet his palms, thumbs swiping dryly over them; as though he was trying to rub the memory of touching her out of his skin. She pulled up her jeans and nodded again, seizing at trailing threads of her anger and yanking.

"I wasn't planning on lounging around half-dressed, Malfoy. I would have thought you'd have noticed that I'm not in the habit of wanting to give people who kidnap me a free show. Not that you give a single bloody fuck about concepts like my privacy." Hermione spoke sharply and full of bitterness as she pulled on a light, loose beige top, shoving the sleeves up to her elbows.

Malfoy didn't take her bait; just bent to scoop up his book and then stood there waiting impatiently with his upper body swayed back to lean against the wall. His eyes skipped about the room to look at everything but her. She knew that because she watched him cautiously out of the corner of one eye, waiting for some hurtful retort about how she was so hideous that he wouldn't want to look anyway, or for a hand clasped angry around her throat and his snarled mouth spitting threats about how she wasn't to backchat at him. But he just stood there silently.

It was as if Hermione's barb about Malfoy's cavalier treatment of her privacy had gotten beneath his skin; his jaw clenched and bunched, his chin jutting up into the air a little as he scowled at nothing. She watched his wrong-coloured eyes dart about uncertain and frustrated, and her heart beat hummingbird fast. He radiated instability, and it made her want to be as far away from him as possible. She hated that she was at his mercy; whatever that might even amount to, she had no idea. He seemed to bounce wildly between civility and a furious contempt within minutes. She couldn't trust anything Malfoy did – she didn't think even he knew what he was doing. So far he seemed to exist in a state that was constantly only one short step away from sheer, mindless panic.

His fingers thwipped through the pages of his book idly, and then tapped on the cover in an irritated little drumbeat as Hermione took the time to hang her towel neatly back over the rail. His forehead furrowed deeply and his mouth was flattened in his impatience, eyebrows digging down in scrunches, fingers rattling a dull, staccato little beat on the book. Hermione smiled to herself and against her better judgement took her time just to annoy him, smoothing her shirt, checking her hair in the mirror and giving the short locks a ruffle so it spiked up damply, and generally moving excruciatingly slowly. Finally she turned and gave Malfoy a smile that could slice flesh, crossing her arms over her chest and enjoying the frustration carved deep in his scowl.

"Now what?" she asked him sharply, and his eyes finally fell on her, raking over her in her cheap shirt and jeans combination, feet bare on the lino. She felt weirdly exposed under that intent, almost objectifying gaze, and shifted uncomfortably – nearly missing the smirk that flashed over his lips at the sight of her discomfort. He was doing it on purpose, the fucking git. She sniffed and lifted her head, staring him down, despite all common sense telling her that perhaps she should be far more meek and biddable than she was being, seeing as she was at his mercy. Well, she'd been put in Gryffindor and not Ravenclaw for a reason, she thought wryly, and arched a brow at him, tone demanding and prissy.


"Hah. It just kills you to not be the know-it-all one in charge of bossing everyone else about, doesn't it Granger? I think you have control issues," was all Malfoy said with a nasty smirk, and turned to leave. Hermione huffed and followed him out of the bathroom to his rucksack – thrown carelessly on the kitchenette bench – hating him with every forced, limping step. What on earth did he expect of her? A cheerful acceptance of her situation? The magical leash he'd put on her tugged at her every time she lagged behind him by too much, and it was maddening – she would have clawed her own skin off if she'd thought that would help.

"Actually it kills me to be kidnapped you utter arsehole. I'm hardly going to be happy am I? Really, Malfoy, are you trying to be obtuse, or does it come naturally to you?" she bit out furiously, her eyes narrowed on his back as he rummaged through his rucksack. She could feel the horcrux writhing angry in her belly, nudging at her, feeding her anger and eating away at her self-control and good sense. She sucked in a deep breath and tried to resist it, but it was hard. She was so angry with him, and unlike when she had been wearing the horcrux and angry at Harry and Ron, she couldn't take it off, and besides – she had no reason to calm down and give Malfoy a chance.

"Control issues," he muttered again in a mocking little singsong as he pulled out a few sheets of parchment and a self-inking quill, his eyes flicking to her filled with an amusement that made her want to haul off and slap him. This wasn't funny, this was her life, and not only had he ripped everything away from her, now he was teasing her about it as if it were no big deal? Hermione's teeth ground together audibly as he gestured to the little table in the corner of the kitchenette, and sat down there himself. She stayed standing; close enough that the binding spell only exerted the faintest pull on her, the words 'control issues' repeating over and over in her head.

"Granger?" Malfoy's voice and eyes were bland as he canted his head to one side, eyeing her questioningly. "You wanted to know what we're doing. Well, we're going to –"

"You've kidnapped me. Of course I have control issues! You've taken it away from –" Hermione burst out then, choking to a stop as tears sprang up in her eyes and her voice went thick and choked. She pressed her fingers hard over her lips, blinking frantically and staring fixedly down at the blue and white geometric patterns on the kitchenette lino, vision hazing and wavering. A tear dripped in the centre of a pale blue diamond, and Malfoy made a hissing sound. Embarrassment seethed up in her again at crying in front of him.

"This isn't – this isn't just – you talk about civility like it means anything. You talk about – about a truce as if…as if I have any power right now." It hurts to spit the words out, ripping them out of her with flamingly hot cheeks and hating to admit her powerlessness. But it feels good too, flaring with rage and flinging it all at the stony-faced man sitting in front of her, his hair fading to blonde and his eyes caught between brown and grey as the glamour faded. And that he looked more like Malfoy only fuelled Hermione's fury. The fading of the glamour revealed his healing injuries, and she wanted to inflict new ones, her fists balling up and her breath whooshing in and out hard.

"You're holding me prisoner, you evil fucking Death Eater bastard, and then you have a laugh about how I have control issues? I don't know what the fuck this is to you, Malfoy, but this isn't funny for me." Hermione backed off a step as he pushed smoothly to his feet, and the binding spell tugged at her, crawling under her skin like ants. She scratched hard at her arms and stifled a whimper when that did nothing, forcing herself to back up another step, digging her nails into her palms, trying to make the pain overwhelm the maddening need to be close to him. Her voice went up as everything just engulfed her in a sea of anger and panic.

"This is my life! Not some joke! You told me that you just want out of the war, that you don't want to hurt me, that…that you…that you just want to be left alone, as if that makes a goddamned difference to me. As if I care. As if that makes kidnapping me and holding me hostage somehow less horrible, as if it means I'm supposed to be understanding and have a fucking civil attitude toward you, as if I'm supposed to make it easier on you!"

"Granger…" Malfoy slid a wand down into his hand, his face careful and his tone attempting to be soothing. It didn't work in the slightest. Hermione shook her head hard, backing up further as he took another step toward her, holding out a hand and pointing a shaking finger at him as if that could somehow ward him off. "Don't."

"You need to calm the fuck down." His eyes were fully grey now and narrowed on her, the half-healed gouges beneath the left one catching her gaze – the split in his eyebrow, his still faintly swollen bottom lip. She had done those things to him; she had hurt him. She felt trapped – a rabbit in a hole, and a fox outside, waiting. Her breath shuddered raggedly.

"Why?" Hermione asked, vehement, eyes darting over him, watching for any sudden movement. "Why should I?" She had hurt him, and the thought was both sickening and deliriously good. She had hurt him, she could hurt him, he deserved it. She felt dizzy, the rictus of a grin shaping one half of her mouth into a lopsided mockery.

"Because I'll hurt you," he told her as though it was just a fact and not a threat, and his face was still so expressionless, and Hermione wanted to hurt him and shatter that stony exterior so badly. She wanted to make him suffer. "Granger. Don't." His voice, warning her. She didn't care. It was an exhilarating rush – I don't care – she thought and her grin spread, hard and humourless, and if this was because of the horcrux, it didn't matter. She embraced the feeling, her fingers making claws, not retreating when he took another step toward her. "Granger."

"If you really wanted out of the war, you'd turn yourself over to the Order. Ask for immunity in exchange for giving over the horcrux and – and me," she said, vision blanking out everything but him, hyper-alert as he shifted on his feet, so stony, so fucking untouched by any of this. He should be hurting like she was. She didn't deserve it, not like he did. He was a Death Eater – he'd hurt and maimed and tortured innocent people, and he was acting like he was the one who had been hard done by. "If you really wanted out, that's what you'd do. If you really weren't an evil, disgusting excuse for a human being, you'd do the right thing. Turn yourself over."

"I can't do that, Granger." He kept saying her name, over and over, and she wanted to slap it from his mouth. She rocked half a step forward.

"Stop it! Stop saying it, like you have a right!"

His face was puzzled; he didn't know what the fuck she was talking about, but she didn't think of that at the time. All she saw was his hypocrisy, saying he didn't want to hurt her, while he was doing this. All of it, every last bit. Holding her against her will, humiliating her, leashing her for Merlin's sake – hurting her, ruining everything, and she couldn't stand it. She screamed it all at him, half-unaware of what she was even saying, chest heaving for breath and throat cracking on the words, every tendon and muscle in her body drawn wire-taut with a furious, pounding anger.

"I don't have a choice, Granger!" he cut in, and she snarled at him, lost somewhere under the red, red haze of anger that the horcrux had stoked into an inferno.

"Don't you dare start on not having a choice! That's a cop out and you know it, Malfoy! Everybody has a damned choice!" she screamed at him, and it seemed like she had hit a sore spot, because finally his tenuous self-control crumbled. Something inside Hermione – the horcrux, she would realise later – roared with satisfaction as his features twisted and turned hateful. A reaction, at last, she thought, as he spat anger.

"Shut up, Granger. You don't know a Merlin-damned thing about my life. You don't –"

"I know enough about what you've done! You're a Death Eater! You're nothing but a pathetic monster, just like the rest of them –"

"I'm not like them! I'm not – I'm not!" he yelled, and he was trembling all over, a vein throbbing at his temple and his features ugly with his anger, and in some still-partially-sane piece of her brain, Hermione recognised she must look much the same. Her breath came in ragged drags and her heart was thundering, her muscles bunched and trembling and adrenaline flooding her, rage consuming her whole.

"You are! Don't try to act like you're not like them, just because you aren't quite as bad. That's semantics, that just…stupid. You're a Death Eater, Malfoy. You aren't some noble bloody victim! You're the bad guy in the situation – you!"

"I didn't want to be! I've tried so fucking hard. You have no idea. You know, I've never killed a single damned person! Not one single person. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to do that when you're working for the fucking Dark Lord?" he demands of her, as if she cares.

She laughs in his face.

"Oh good job, Malfoy. I'm sure the people you've tortured and maimed really appreciate that you've never actually killed." She took a step forward, and he back this time, her rage like a physical force. "Even though the things you've done have led to people's deaths. Even though you've aided and abetted murders. Even though you've tortured and you've –" His wand slashed up, his expression dark and it startled Hermione into snapping her mouth shut, nearly biting her own tongue.

"Like I told you the day before yesterday, mudblood," Malfoy interrupted her in a low snarl that vibrated with dangerous anger. He smirked meaningfully, cruel and furious and filled with hate. "If I was like the rest of them, this would be a whole different situation right now; one in which a lack of privacy would be the least of your concerns. One that I think you would enjoy a great deal less than this. Unless of course, you like getting raped, you stupid bitch."

The air drove out of her, and prickles shocked through her body, revulsion sick and hot in her stomach, and everything blurred and shook before the rage snapped her world back into hyper-sharp focus.

"…could be arranged," Malfoy was saying, and a part of Hermione knew that he didn't mean it, but that he could even say it made her want to kill him by hauling his intestines out his throat.

"You bastard." She lunged forward without thinking and her hands slammed into Malfoy's chest before he could react, prompting a startled grunt out of him as the impact shoved him a stumbling step back. Her open hand lashed out at his face, and he caught her wrist in a crushing grip just before the slap landed, wrenching her arm down across her body and swinging her around. The room spun around her, dizzy, a ringing in her ears. A cry of pain broke from her lips as Malfoy slammed her into the kitchen bench, the edge of it digging deep into the small of her back and sending spikes of agony webbing through her back and down through her bum into her legs.

"Let me go." She thrashed on instinct and her other hand snapped up in a fist, catching him a glancing blow on the cheek as he snapped his head to the side and half-dodged the punch.

"Not again…fuck…I – Granger! Fucking horcrux – doing this – again! Stop. fucking. fighting. me – you – bitch." Malfoy dropped his wand to the ground and grabbed the wrist of her free hand, trapping both of them and then leaning forward and using the weight of his body to hold her pinned there. The edge of the counter sawed into Hermione's back as she struggled against him, and she hissed and fumed at him in blind panic and pain. He just held onto her wrists so tightly that it felt as though the bones in her wrists were going to snap, his bony, wiry body shoved all hard angles into hers. She thought of his half-threat, half-reminder that her rape "could be arranged" by him and she shrank from the feel of his body pressing hot and sharp against her, revolted.

"I hate you so much," Hermione choked out, and then brought her knee up hard between Malfoy's legs. Shocked agony blossomed on his face as she hit with bruising force; his mouth fell open and his eyes went huge, his grip on her wrists slipping. A whimper shook out of him as he slumped onto her, his weight so damned heavy, a thready groan sliding out of him. He clutched at his crotch with one hand, and Hermione tried to shove him off her and wrench free while he was distracted, but he was too heavy for her to shift while he leaned forward on her like that. She could feel his chest vibrate with his groans, feel it expanding and contracting as he panted hard against her shoulder, like some sick parody of his threat.

"Fucking well stop it," he got out in a strangled voice that welled with pain. "It's the horcrux. Not you."

"Fuckoff me!" she panted, and hit him in the ear – a quick, sharp blow that had Malfoy swearing and cringing away from her, his arm flinging up blindly and knocking her hand down, their knuckles rapping sharply together. They both bit out small cries, but Hermione didn't let the sudden little pain make her hesitate – she slammed the edge of her uninjured hand into Malfoy's throat, putting all her power behind it and grunting at the effort. He choked and gagged awfully, staggering back and wheezing for air that wouldn't come, forgetting about Hermione completely, it seemed – bent double and clutching his balls and his throat, face reddening as he sucked for air.

Running on blind adrenaline, mind blank of everything, Hermione turned and fled like a hunted animal. She got as far as the door before she fell like a puppet with her strings cut, pain searing through every fibre of her being, drilling into her head like hot spikes. She screamed once, and then everything slammed into her. The need to get back to Malfoy, the pain – she writhed on the floor, trying to keep herself from scrabbling back toward him like some pathetic thrall, sobbing and choking, her nails clawing at the carpet. It was like the Cruciatus, and it was unbearable, and she was huffing little awful wounded sounds into the carpet and sobbing hot tears as she tore her nails jagged on the carpet. Then all of a stopped.

The pain went away, the need went away. Then a hand grabbed at her arm, dragging her ungracefully and un-gently up to her feet. Malfoy, she thought dazedly, lost in the shocky aftermath of the binding spell's effect. She wobbled and her legs nearly went out from under her, and then Malfoy's other hand and arm were sliding awkwardly under hers and wrapping tight around her upper back, holding her upright as she swayed, limp and wrecked. All the fight had gone out of her – for the moment at least – and she shook with reaction. Malfoy guided Hermione's back gently up against something cold and flat – the wall, she thought dizzily – in an echo of two days ago, both pinning her and keeping her from falling, and she blinked up at him, arms dangling numbly at her sides.

"I hate you so much," she whispered dully, staring up into Malfoy's face, so close over hers. His chest heaved raggedly and his gaze was turned down so that his eyes locked to hers, grey and seething with a furious, exhausted kind of worry and anger. His left cheek was red with the imprint of her hand, the split on his swollen bottom lip from the other day trickling the tiniest bit of blood again – he swept the tip of his tongue over it, breathing hard, smearing away the ooze of crimson. Hermione gulped.

There was a purpling, livid mark across his throat from her – rather brilliant – strike on it, and he winced with the pain of every jagged breath. His right arm wrapped hot around her upper back, fingers curling around to edge at her right breast, his left hand braced against the wall as he held them both up, the heat of his body radiating off him, his fringe tickling her forehead as his head slumped toward hers with weariness.

"I'm sure you fucking do," he rasped out, his breath hot on her cheekbone. It sounded like he had been gargling with glass shards and alcohol, his voice utterly shredded and raw, and she winced in instinctual sympathy at the pained sound. "And I don't exactly blame you for that. But this...this is the fucking horcrux influencing you, Granger. This isn't – it isn't you, is it?"

Hermione could almost see the driving fury run out of him as he spoke, his eyes searching her face. She blinked, feeling small and vulnerable in the tiny space between his body and the wall, the remnants of her own anger dissipating as his did. She felt the return of a fragile semblance of sanity, and began to shake a little, her shoulders drooping, blinking hard as though to clear her vision.

"No," she whispered, feeling trembly but in control of herself again. Relief settled into Malfoy's features as she stared up at him, and she recognised it there. Doing so felt…odd. His eyebrow cocked in a query.

"Good. You all right then, Granger?" he rasped with mild concern, as if the last ten minutes hadn't happened, as if he'd just finished gently examining the wound on her thigh, and what had happened between that and now had never taken place. She flushed red at the thought of what had happened – how she'd behaved. Merlin.

It was one thing to attack Malfoy, but quite another to attack him like that, with the horcrux driving her on until all she could think was of literally tearing him apart with teeth and nails and fists and feet. A shudder ran down her spine at the horror of how she had felt but she nodded once in answer to him, a little jerk of her head that bumped it forward to nudge against his forehead.

He was too close, too close to her, really – but he was about the only thing holding her up as she wobbled there, and he felt so warm, and…

"I'm fine," Hermione told him, pressing her head back against the wall away from him but relaxing into the feel of being held up, warm and secure. If she shut her eyes she could almost pretend that he was Ron. So she did. She sighed and let the tension leave her, and Malfoy's forehead bumped in firm against her cheek as her weight shifted, his breath puffed heated on the underside of her jaw as he shifted, the muscles in his arm twitching her closer, his body pressing in hard against hers for a brief moment. He made an odd, surprised sound then, and pulled back fast as if shocked at the way she had remained so placid in his grip.

Malfoy had expected Hermione to keep fighting him then, or jerk away, she assumed. That she had surprised him gave her a stupid little sense of satisfaction. If he could be unpredictable, so could she. She opened her eyes as he cleared his throat awkwardly and painfully and straightened a little, making her eyes level with his chin. She looked up, exhausted and feeling as somewhat like she had been used as a punching bag; utterly wrung out and sore all over, slumped in his grasp like a sack of potatoes.

"I'm sorry," she said without thinking, even though she was only half sorry and half still crowing over how she'd successfully kneed him in the bollocks. In fact, she had no idea where that apology came from, but she left it hanging there in the scant bit of air shared between them.

"I need to learn to watch my fucking mouth," Malfoy interrupted, that painful-to-hear, rasping voice attempting wryness and eyes unreadable on hers, and it was his turn to surprise her. She hadn't expected him to imply he'd been even the slightest bit in the wrong. "I was asking for the horcrux to send you psycho, with what I said."

"Yes, you were, you complete arsehole," she said in as sharp and angry a tone as she could muster, embarrassed that the term 'psycho' actually fit her behaviour, and still utterly furious at him.

"I shouldn't have said it. I didn't mean –"

"No, you shouldn't have said it," Hermione agreed and wriggled in his grip, wanting to get free. Malfoy's arm tightened as she wriggled, pulling her body flush against his, and her breath jerked in and so did his, sharp and rough. And then he was releasing her and stepping back fast and limping, coming to an awkward halt just inside the range of the binding spell. His eyes narrowed on her as she stayed leant back against the wall, too shaky to want to even try to walk yet, and he…hissed with pain and gingerly adjusted himself through his trousers without showing any kind of self-consciousness. Obviously she'd kneed him even harder than she'd thought.

"But let's both try to do what we can to avoid this whole possessed horcrux thing a third time, hmm? My bollocks would appreciate it." he said condescendingly, as though she were a child. "Because having you clawing at me is not exactly enjoyable, Granger, and I doubt you like the end result of these little…altercations, either. This is why I talk about things like us being civil –" he continued. "– Because as much as this is a fucking unpleasant situation in general, doing this kind of thing only makes it worse. Do you understand me, Granger?"

"…Yes," she mumbled, almost sulky, but he was right and damnit she recognised that.

"And you shouldn't tell me I'm just like Bellatrix and Rodolphus and Avery and the others, because I. am not." The words came out very, very calm, but with the weight of a well of seething anger beneath them. "Am I?" he demanded, waiting for her to answer. She mentally squirmed, hating him for making her say it, as if it made any real difference. Because it didn't.

"Well, you may not be as bad, Malfoy, but you –" she began, and he slashed his hand through the air and cut her off. His eyes did not move from hers as he wrenched the words out of his damaged throat with vicious, measured clarity.

"My crime, Granger, is that I do not want to be killed or rot in Azkaban for the rest of my life. I am stuck, between a rock and a hard place, and I have been ever since I was damned well born as son to a Death Eater. I have never had a choice, not really. I tried to stall for fucking years – my whole life ever since the Dark Lord's return has consisted of stalling, of trying to balance on a fucking knife's edge. Trying to do as little evil as possible. And now I can't stall any longer. My life and my parents' lives hang in the balance. If you are not my prisoner, then my death, and their deaths, is assured," Malfoy said quick and hard, and there was brutal, desolate truth on every line of his face, as there had been when he'd told her about it the other day. Like then, Hermione couldn't disbelieve him; every word was sincere. And like then, it did give her pause. Still…

"Why should I care, Malfoy?"

"I don't know. Why do you care?"

"Fuck you." But he was right. She did care. The fucking smarmy, hateful, despicable bastard, she did care. Free of the confusing haze of the horcrux, she didn't think Malfoy deserved to die. And it was undeniable; he wasn't as bed. He wasn't even close. He was positively angelic compared to the other Death Eaters. But that didn't make Hermione hate him any less. Or…maybe it did? She glared at him, rubbing the heel of her hand tiredly over her forehead, brain muzzed and body sore.

"You still hurt people," she said very simply, the truth of it loud and filling up the room. Malfoy flinched and his eyes looked dreadfully old as the accusation sank in, and tired and haggard and defeated. He didn't try to deny it. He merely nodded shortly and looked down at the ground as if he was ashamed to meet her eyes, his hand smoothing over his bruised throat in a nervous, self-soothing kind of motion.

"Yeah. I did. I never said I was a good person, Granger. Not once. Because I know that I'm not. I'm just…not a monster." He sounded as tired and resigned as he looked, and she flattened her mouth, glaring at him.

"That depends on your definition of monster."

"I'm not as fucking bad as…as them," Malfoy burst out scratchy and ruined. Angry, his fingers twitching at his throat, and Hermione flinched, and he saw and scrubbed a hand through his hair and made an obvious effort to get a grip on himself. He stifled his anger, turning away in his frustration and breathing deep for a moment, before flicking his gaze back to her.

His eyes bored into hers and she looked away, because it felt he was pleading with her to understand and to sympathise – as if he cared about her opinion of him – and that was just weird and wrong and confusing. "All right? I'm not."

"No, you're not," she agreed then, unable to summon the energy to argue with Malfoy anymore. Just…not caring enough to bother. Not when she hurt all over, and the shock of the horcrux's influence, the fight, and the binding spell's nasty effect had sucked all the life out of her. If it made Malfoy feel better because he could tell himself he at least wasn't as bad as Bellatrix Lestrange or her husband, then… Well, then all Hermione felt about that was pity for him.

Hermione straightened and took a watery-kneed step toward where Malfoy stood, looking oddly uncertain with his eyes still fixed rather disconcertingly unblinking on her, the grey of steel and half-pleading, half-cold arrogance.

"I believe you were going to tell me what we're going to do now?" she asked, and was very proud of herself that her voice stayed steady and cool despite how she felt both inside and out. Malfoy blinked and his expression sharpened – he looked at the kitchenette table, where the two sheets of parchment and the quill lay, and then back to Hermione. All traces of his anger and uncertainty vanished, and Malfoy's hoarse voice was controlled.

"We're going to leave. But first, we're going to write a letter. To the Order of the Phoenix," he told her in a tone that brooked no argument. It was an order, a demand – another damn switch, this time from fury and trying to convince her he wasn't a terrible person despite the Dark Mark on his arm, to a distant, superior coldness. Captor and captive once more, Hermione thought, biting her lip, heart feeling heavy in her chest as she nodded. She had been expecting this, after all. It was part and parcel of being a hostage; Malfoy's little human shield. Bitterness swelled in her throat, but she said nothing, just nodded again and moved toward the table at a wobbly gait, Malfoy shadowing her.

"You want me to write it?" Granger looked up at him across the table with eyes that looked huge and wet in her ashen face, as he pushed a piece of the parchment and a quill toward her.

"Yes, I do. Why not? Hopefully it may reassure them that you're all right, which no doubt you want." Draco said with a shrug, trying to keep his tone casual and aloof. "You don't wanting them worrying that you're being…hurt, do you?"

Granger winced at the way he'd said the word hurt, no doubt thinking of the threats that Draco had made about torture and rape. He wished now that he hadn't made them. He wished he hadn't said a lot of things. He'd told himself that he wouldn't provoke Granger, for one – wouldn't kick her while she was down. And look what he'd gone and done. He couldn't seem to keep control of himself around her – kept losing his fucking head and saying shit he shouldn't. He was an idiot.

"I suppose not. Fine. What – what do you want me to say?" she asked with a meekness that was entirely unlike her usual tone, looking oddly fragile in the wake of the fucking bollocks-destroying, throat-crushing that she'd just inflicted on him. Draco was somewhat ashamed that he hadn't managed to get her under control this time – but he attributed it to not wanting to just beat the shit out of her, which gave her a clear advantage.

She had been fucking psychotic while the horcrux held sway, but when he'd hauled her up off the floor she had been helpless and vulnerable, hanging in his arms with her breath coming in little pained sobs. Dizzy and warm and soft in his grasp, shaking like a leaf. It was fucked up, but apart from his mother, Granger was the only person he'd been so physically, well, intimate with in a long, long time – holding her up the other night, and then tonight, and touching her scar earlier – he hadn't touched anyone else so much since Stori...he cut off that train of thought.

And then Granger had let out that sigh and gone boneless in his arms, as relaxed as if she trusted him completely. As if he hadn't been a complete bastard to her. As if he wasn't the one holding her prisoner.

"Er…I suppose something that tells them not to attempt to track us down and rescue you, because if they attempt to I shall murder you in a horrible, brutal fashion before they can succeed?"he ventured, scrubbing at his forehead with both hands, brow crinkling in thought. Everything was so fucked up. Draco just wanted to go and find a quiet place to lie down and let the world go to ruin around him, but he couldn't. He needed to try, for his parents' sake if nothing else. Granger let out a soft snort.

"You wouldn't," she told him, obviously sure that he'd been trying to make some sort of joke. Draco hadn't been so sure himself. "You couldn't even kill – kill Dumbledore…" Granger's voice trailed away as Draco lifted his gaze from the tabletop to her pallid face, framed with that still unfamiliar short, ruffled hair, and big, tired eyes smeared around with dark shadows.

"Wouldn't I, if it were for my mother's sake?" he asked, fiddling with the large rectangle of parchment in front of him, watching as her weak attempt at a smile faded away. "I don't particularly want to find out. Actually."

"…Oh." The one word was so small that he could barely hear it, and her eyes cast down to her piece of parchment. He frowned, something about her meekness getting under his skin and irritating him, despite the fact that he should have been happy about it. He shut his eyes and pinched the bridge of his nose, pushing thoughts of Granger aside and trying to put together a coherent message for the Order. He'd tried to think of something the past few days, but he'd never had to write the equivalent of a ransom note before and his current situation wasn't exactly conducive to productive thought.

"Give it here." He gestured for the parchment, and then the quill, and she handed both over silently. He tapped the quill thoughtfully against the table for a moment, and then quickly scrawled:


I have both Granger and the horcrux unharmed in my possession. I will keep them safe until such time as Voldemort has been defeated, at which point I will destroy the horcrux and return Granger to you unharmed, in exchange for a total pardon. If you or anyone else in the Order make any attempt to retrieve Granger and/or the horcrux, I will turn them both over to Voldemort.

The parchment enclosed with this letter is charmed to mirror whatever is written on a second piece of parchment, (which I have in my possession,) and vice versa. Should you need to contact me, do so by writing on your piece and it will appear on mine. Check yours twice a day. If Granger behaves, I may let her keep in supervised contact via the parchment.

I'll contact you when I've considered how exactly I'll make sure I get my pardon, and not a trip to Azkaban.

All I want is out, Potter. I'm not fucking around, so don't fuck with me.

D Malfoy

He pushed the parchment back toward Granger without a word, the quill sitting on top of it. He saw her eyes skim fast across the words as she picked up the quill, and her chin trembled briefly before she set her jaw and met his eyes. "What do you want me to write?"

"Whatever you like, Granger. I'll have to check it before I owl it, obviously, but just write something that will prove to them you're alive and…" He dragged his eyes over her, and grimaced. She looked rather like shit, all ashen complexion and bruises. "…And mostly unharmed, anyway. It's not my bloody fault that – I didn't – I was defending myself."

Draco felt stupidly defensive about that – and even more stupid about it when Granger just nodded, as if it was perfectly all right, what had happened since that first night in the tent. He told himself he shouldn't feel bad, but even if she was a mudblood and Hermione sodding Granger besides…it still felt so fucking wrong, the way things were. He felt filthy for what he was doing, and he hated himself and her for making him feel that way.

"I know, Malfoy," she said placidly, and then turned her attention to the parchment, dark slashes of eyebrows crinkling together as she thought. She twiddled the pen back and forth between her fingers, mouth pursing slightly, brown eyes going hazy and warm in thought. Her shoulders were thin and angular in that loose shirt she wore, the wide neck slipping a little so that he could see the white cotton of her bra-top-thing, and the fresh finger shaped bruises that he had left on her skin.

He realised that he was staring and looked quickly away, and then a few minutes later made a harsh sound of frustration and got up, chair legs scraping too-noisy on the floor. He kept fixating on her, damnit. It was infuriating. He had to distract himself. The kitchenette was tiny enough that Draco could move around in most of it without causing the binding spell to activate, so he pottered about pointlessly – making a sandwich and eating it at the kitchen bench, and dashing off a quick note for his father.

He was going to drop off the package for Potter at his parent's small seaside house in Cornwall – they had a system set up that would alert his father to the drop. The note was a quick set of instructions that didn't give away any details of the situation – he didn't want Voldemort getting any information from his father's head. He didn't sit at the table to do that in case Granger read it, but instead hunched over the bench uncomfortably.

After that he put on the jug for a cup of tea without an issue, but when he went to get clean cups out of the cupboard Granger dropped her quill and made to half get up, making a small whining noise in the back of her throat. His head snapped toward her at the sound and she looked at him with miserable pleading written all over her face. "Malfoy…I…"

"Sorry," he mumbled, feeling awkward and weird, and snatched the cups out of the cupboard and shuffled back in her direction, clenching his teeth together hard as he made the tea, keeping half an eye on her as she scribbled away in small, neat cursive. She was the picture of concentration; lower lip caught between her teeth, thumb rubbing at her cheekbone occasionally as she paused in her scribbling to think, the quill scritching on the parchment. Draco…was finding it difficult to hate her the way he thought he should, just at the moment. She was too vulnerable. He hunched his shoulders and set a steaming hot cup of tea on the table beside her parchment.

"Here," he said shortly as he sat down opposite her with his own cup, and she glanced up and a smile began on her lips, appreciative and genuine, stabbing straight into him. And then he could see her remembering and realising where she was and who he was, and the smile faltered and fell away, leaving him disappointed, and fuck, what was wrong with him. He knew. Right now she reminded him a little bit of Stori when he'd first gotten to know her after Hogwarts, when their parents had arranged the engagement – quiet and shy, and so damned vulnerable that it was impossible to be awful to her. But she wasn't Stori; she was Granger. This irritating submissiveness wasn't who Granger really was – she was a bossy, prissy, loud-mouthed bitch of a mudblood, and…

"Thanks, Malfoy," she muttered, scowling at him and complimenting him at once – sharp and shirty and somehow authoritarian, as if she had a right to lay judgement on him, saying: "At least I'm being held captive by someone who makes better tea than Harry or Ron could ever hope to."

Draco's thoughts stuttered to a halt at that. No, she wasn't Stori. "You're welcome, Granger," came out of his mouth perfectly civilly before he could even stop to think about it, and she shot him a suspicious look before going back to her letter, sipping her tea occasionally. He drank his tea just as slowly and watched her over the rim – the sight of her drawing him like the sight of a bad crash in Quidditch; morbidly fascinating – while he pretended to read a very dry, boring book.

He didn't know what the hell to make of her. Granger was a mudblood, and that alone made her lesser than he was, less suited to be in the wizarding world. She was an intrusion - she should have stayed in the Muggle world, as should have all the other mudbloods. Muggles and their freak , and wizards with steong bloodlines, didn't mix well - Draco had been told that all his life, and he believed it. If Granfer amd those like her had just stayed out of the wizarding world, then none of this - the war, Stori, this moment - none of it would be happening. Her blood status made it so that he was supposed to hate her for so many reasons, only…fuck, he didn't even know anymore.

All this time spent around Granger was driving Draco fucking barmy, and it had only been two bloody days. Salazar. He drank his tea, staring at his book and listening to the quill scratch over the parchment, hoping desperately that the war would be over soon. Please Merlin.

And then a short time later, Granger laid down the quill. "I – I've finished. You can read it now."

It felt like pawing through her diary – Granger had obviously decided she would rather take full advantage of communicating with the Order, than hide personal things from Draco. Her writing was tiny so as to fit it all on the one sheet of parchment he'd given her, cramped onto the paper in a rounded, flowing hand.

He read through it as dispassionately as possible – her reassurances to Potter and Weasel that she was perfectly all right and that he – Draco – wasn't so bad. He harrumphed and scowled at that uncomfortably. He read through her apologies to Potter and Weasel for being captured, as if she should be sorry, and her pleas for the two of them to be careful and sensible without her. And then there were her expressions of love to multiple others…well, it was a long letter. But nothing seemed amiss. He could find no secret messages hidden in her lengthy letter.

He rolled it up with the blank charmed communication parchment, and sealed both them well with a series of spells that ensured a Death Eater couldn't open it without being hexed and having the parchment become unreadable. Then he enclosed them in a parcel with the letter for his father, and shoved it in his rucksack with a grim sort of satisfaction.

"Right. Now we can get the fuck out of this Muggle hellhole. And this time, Granger, try not to get yourself pointlessly splinched."

Her eye roll was impressive - he barely stopped himself from smirking at the sight of it, his lips twitching a little despite himself.

They arrived at their ultimate destination after a brief stop in Cornwall to drop off the package for Draco's father to have delivered to the Order, and Potter.

Granger vomited on arrival, shaking with the kind of displacement reaction that unfortunately came with long distance disapparition. Draco had to choke down on his own vomit, feeling so dizzy that just one light nudge might just knock him down to the ground. He gritted his teeth and tried to banish the dizziness, shutting his eyes and attempting to ignore the sound of Granger spilling her guts on to the tussock beside him. Disgusting. Salazar's sake, he wished she'd shut the fuck up.

He managed to get a hold of himself shortly before she did, after about five minutes of hovering on the verge of throwing up his internal organs. But his stomach settled in the end, and by the time Granger straightened and looked around herself, Draco was already staring, drinking in the sight.

"Where..." Granger began and then trailed away helplessly, and Draco looked over at her, curious to se her reaction.

There was fear and confusion on her face as she stared around at the plains that stretched out to the horizon in every direction. The wind whipped chill against them both, and she shivered and wrapped her arms around her. She pulled the hood of her black hoodie up over her head, her teeth beginning to chatter. Draco felt the same wind strike icy, needling fingers through his clothes, and relished it. He breathed deeply, smiling into the wind, feeling oddly free under the enormous bowl of the sky.

They were just two tiny dots in an ocean of grass that was richly tinted by the setting sun, the flat expanse reaching out all around them as far as they could see, the vastness almost too much to comprehend. He was staring around just as wide-eyed as Granger was, only ever having seen this place in pictures before. It had seemed like an appropriate place to disapparate to, having a hostage in tow – where was she going to run to?

But he couldn't think of the practicality right now; that didn't seem to matter. It was beautiful; stark and empty, a strange serenity already soaking into his bones.

"Welcome to Mongolia, Granger," Draco told her, and grinned to himself as he glanced down at her; her eyes sweeping over their surrounds as her mouth dropped open in bewildered disbelief.


Please leave a review! They're the most powerful force in my 'verse XD /muddled Firefly reference

I'm taking the relationship growth (realistically) slowly, but I hope this chapter I got across the fact that now that they've begun to accept that the dynamics have changed between them (and they could be stuck together for ages,) they're trying to fumble their way to finding a dynamic that works for them. It is obviously not going to be easy for them.

Next chapter shall be: "In a Tent in Mongolia", and things will really start to...ferment? develop? grow? fester?...between them XD