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I couldn't blame him. He tried to save me.

We both saw the knife coming straight for his chest and I could tell he flinched in fear.

I'm not sure how I knew, but I knew he was about to do his type of apparating to get us out of Malfoy Manor.

But he took that extra moment to spare his own life.

And that's why I'm here, locked away in the dungeon, probably to be tortured to the brink of insanity like the Longbottoms before I'm executed.

It's dark in here; I bet Ron used that device from Dumbledore. Apparently there were others down here, including a goblin.

It would be like Harry to go back and save everyone, even after what happened in the Department of Mysteries.

And yet, I'm here. Alone. With the dead body of Wormtail to keep me company.

Footfalls alerted me of someone coming down the stairs, but as I was behind bars, there was nowhere I could really hide.

"Granger." The voice was flat and raspy; and I could tell it belonged to someone as resigned as I was in this war. Lights came on, and it was almost too much for my eyes.

As she came down the stairs, the poise and grace she had stood starkly against the tattered and spell-torn robes she wore. Her robes were supposed to be pale blue, but now were stained with the brown of drying blood.

Her ice-blue eyes met mine, and the sheer flatness of them made the floor drop out from beneath me. Those same eyes were dead as they stared at me as Bellatrix tortured me. She had just stood there and watched helplessly as her deranged sister had her way with me in front of everyone.

"Forgive me if I don't offer my condolences, Mrs. Malfoy." I said, mustering the last of my Gryffindor Bravado. If she was going to hex or kill me, I'd rather have her be angry at me than look so broken.

"That was my son's wand. That it worked well enough for you to have done that is just..." She seemed confused and disgusted. "unexpected."

I had sliced the man in half with the Sectumsempra curse. I only regret having done it so low on his abdomen that it bisected his colon. The smell was probably going to haunt me for the rest of my life.

"So what's to happen with me? Azkaban? More torture by your sister? Or is it too much to ask for a swift death?" My voice quivered as I asked. I didn't want to die, but what else could happen? You-Know-Who was on his way and angry, Harry had said.

"The Dark Lord is very angry over the loss of Potter, and not so much over my husband. In fact, he is quite... 'fascinated' with you." She said the word with a bit of disgust, but I could have sworn she had pity. "My son's wand had switched allegiances to you apparently, and with it, you have claimed certain spoils of war."

"I had heard that wands choose their wizards, but what other spoils of war are you speaking of?"

"You defeated my husband on his own land in a duel. Pureblood tradition states that you claim all that was his."

My mind flashed through the entire ordeal. Dobby and my boys attacked, I got away from Bellatrix, and Dobby took one step to the left as the knife severed his arm and they all disappeared. I fell upon a severed arm and a wand was pressing between me and the floor, and I used it to cleave Lucius in half. The wand was mine. The duel was mine. The Manor was mine.

"Including his wife."

 

Including his wife? No... that makes no sense. What would I do with a wife?

"You cannot be serious."

"The Dark Lord follows the Old Traditions, Granger. And he is demanding reparations for his losses." Narcissa's composure seemed to be mostly out of a sense of shock; as if she defaulted into some semblance of 'polite'.

"What does that mean?"

"You are to take Lucius' place, as it were. After a fashion." Her face pinched somewhat as she said it. Probably disgusted at the mere idea

"I'd rather die than be a Death Eater!" I spat, knowing that I had no choice if he decided to bestow a Dark Mark upon me.

"No, you stupid Mudblood, he would never allow the likes of you take the Mark!" She snapped, and she flinched in pain. "I apologize sir, miss" she amended quickly, "oh shite. It appears that I am indeed your wife. Certain bonds I had with Lucius have apparently transferred to you. One of them is I cannot speak rude or ill towards you without pain."

"That's barbaric!" I replied, wondering what other spells bound us together.

"It is what it is; and if you refuse The Dark Lord, both of our lives are forfeit." I looked at her and realized that she had no say in any of this. She was as much a pawn as everyone else; while she was no innocent, she was never an active participant either.

"What reparations does he want?" I asked, confused at the current situation.

"Between your intelligence and magical ability and my status as a Pureblood, he desires us to produce offspring. You've seen the likes of Crabbe and Goyle's progeny, and Bellatrix is barren."

"But we're both witches! Surely he knows we can't..." Polyjuice could be used, right? There probably was some sort of potion for this already.

"Either this is sport for the madman to watch us fail or he... it doesn't matter. I plan on surviving."

Narcissa lifted her wand, and a series of arithmantic equations appeared. It was complex yet stunning in its focus. The probability line for Lucius faded away into nothing, adjusting other nearby lines only slightly. A golden line split in two, one dropping sharply and ending while the other wavered and rose, darkening slightly. Narcissa seemed to notice this as well before she banished the equations.

"Problem with applying binary theory is that you need to define all possible variables to get a more precise probability." I mumbled, forgetting this wasn't Hogwarts any more.

"I know Arithmancy quite well, Granger... It was how my family could afford to pay Abraxas' Dowry request." I knew that the Purebloods still had arranged marriages, but the Blacks had to hand over Galleons to ensure a wedding took place?

"I didn't know. I..." What could I say? Am I sorry for her place in life?

"Show me your arm, Granger." Her wand was out and already cleaning the wound that her sister gave me. "She and The Dark Lord aren't the same people from twenty years ago." From a hidden pocket she pulled out a small bottle of dittany, and charmed a bit of my sleeve into bandages. As she applied the dittany and wrapped my arm, a warmth began to build within me. My breathing went shallow as her bare fingertips touched the inside of my forearm and grazed my skin. Her slightest touch had overwhelmed me utterly, and if it weren't for these bars between us I would...

What in Merlin was that? I wondered as the sensation ended as she pulled away. Narcissa also seemed to be affected by it, but composed herself into a cool demeanor.

"I shall fetch you more suitable garments for when we must present ourselves to The Dark Lord." She mercifully left the lights on as she left the dungeon, careful to step around the body of wormtail.

As the door upstairs opened, I could barely make out the hushed whispers.

"...think you're doing, Bella?"

"...congratulate you new husband, Cissy..."

"...not to be harmed!" A sharp cackle broke through the air.

"Such strong words from the Mudblood's Broodmare. It disgusts me to know that my sisters have stooped to whore themselves out to the filthy muggles."

One of the sisters stomped away as another came down the stairs. Disheveled black hair and bright, twisted eyes faced me. "So the Mudblood went and raised her station! Here's some friendly advice from your new sister-in-law... You'll never sully my sister nor my family's reputation!"

That really wasn't advice, I thought errantly as Bella's wand was trained on the dead body of Wormtail.

"I'd love to stay and watch, little girl, but I'll need an alibi as well as ditch this spare wand." Bellatix cackled as she ran up the stairs and warded the door as she left. That was oddly logical and thought out for her.

The corpse began to spasm its limbs to get up, as its death rattle grew louder. Harry faced this with Dumbledore! What did they do?

Something about light, right? Wish I still had that wand... I should be safe behind the bars here, right?

The corpse of Pettigrew began to shamble its way toward me, with the only thought to feed.

I was safe behind the bars here.

It couldn't get through.

But the door upstairs was sealed and silenced. They'd never hear me scream as it begins to eat my lungs...

The loud clang of the gate shook me out of my thoughts. It was up and grabbing the bars, trying to pull them apart to get to me. I backed away from it, my back against the far wall as it pulled at the entry but the gate's lock remained firm.

I'm safe here I'm safe here it can't get me I'm safe here...

The inferi couldn't feel pain; so it was able to pull with superhuman strength with that damn silver hand and wouldn't feel exhausted. And the hinge pin was starting to bend under the stress.

So much for a magically locked gate when the hinge is the weak point... I thought as I realized that the gate was going to give way.

I need something to scare or hold it off, and I have no magic... what could I do before I had a wand? THINK!

The squelch of distressed metal gave way as the door dislodged itself and the Inferi stumbled forward. Its movements were jerky and... unnatural. Coming at me oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck...

I panicked, and raised my hands up in front of me, remembering the bluebell flames I was able to hold onto and not scorch myself.

Cool, blue flames sprung from my hands. I used to keep this in jars so I could read by in the evenings, so I wasn't really scared of it. I hoped that the thing in front of me was, though.

"BACK OFF OR I'LL THROW THIS AT YOU!" I yelled, hoping that it understood. Rationally, I knew Inferi didn't understand language... only to feed. But screaming seemed to help.

The corpse stumbled and stopped in place, eyes wary on the flames. I had a standoff with a zombie bent on eating me, and only one of us could feel fatigue.

What once was Wormtail's silver hand reached out towards me, testing the bluebell flame. It couldn't feel the heat anyways...

Merlin.

It knew the fire couldn't burn him.

Lurching forward, the Inferi grabbed hold of my wrist and pulled me in. I doused it in the bluebell flames and shoved away, scrambling up the stairs to the doorway. I can manage a wandless unlocking charm, right? This is my house now... I thought in vain as I came up against the warded doorway.

The Inferi, still looking like a waxy version of Wormtail, stood up and looked at itself on fire. It didn't seem to care, and started to come after me.

With this door warded shut, I was as good as trapped in a dead end.

The scuffing sounds of it shambling towards me had me wonder if it could handle the concept of stairs. Maybe I'm safe

True to form, as the Inferi hit the bottom step, it fell forward. And started to crawl up the stairs at me.

Panicking, I screamed. I yelled. It was coming after me and there was nothing I could do.

"NARCISSA!" I screamed, hoping she would be back by now. Never thought I'd ever be screaming for her help...

The thunk-thunking of its knees jerkily pushing the Inferi up the stairs made me look at it, and my eyes were stuck on the empty eyes as its fingers grasped my ankle and pulled me down to the ground. The bluebell flames engulfing it made it all the more eerie, since it was on fire but not burning.

Kicking with my other heel, its head was knocked back momentarily as I crab-walked into the corner, hoping the door would open. I shut my eyes as I felt hands seize on my shoulders, tears streaming down my eyes as I expected the feeling of teeth sink into me.

"Incendio!" came Narcissa's voice from above me, her left arm wrapping me protectively. Wormtail really as on fire now, and she sent it flying back with a banishing charm, making a sickly crunch as its skull cracked on the back wall.

I scrambled to my feet, burying my head into her embrace. I could smell the flesh burning and the hair and clothes singing in the air, knowing that the only way to stop this was a complete immolation. She felt warm and safe and I held her tight, needing that sense of security.

The smell was acrid and I buried my nose into her robes to avoid breathing it in, and realized where I was. I'm cuddling Narcissa Bloody Malfoy!

Gathering my resolve, I pulled away, and it hurt. I wanted to be by her. To touch her. I needed her.

"Are you okay, Hermione?" Her eyes held concern.

"I guess we're on a first name basis." I took a step away and my ankle had a shooting pain of heat. "Ankle..." I managed before her wand was already healing it.

"The Dark Lord wishes to speak to you before dinner. For our sake, go along with whatever he says." Narcissa's voice had wavered, and I didn't like that. She should stand proud and certain, not look beaten like this.

"Why are you helping me? Healing me?"

"It's hard to explain; if you'll allow me..." Narcissa's hand reached towards me and I wanted to nuzzle it, but backed away in anger.

"I'm a smart witch, tell me." I clenched my jaw and resolved myself to not turn into jelly at her touch. Perhaps holding onto anger helps.

"I'm your wife. It's a modified compulsion curse. It was designed to strengthen the arranged couples, as you can imagine." She cupped my cheek, and I moaned into it. "If I were hurt, you'd blast your way through Hades if you had to."

"You didn't love Lucius?" I asked, my fingers trailing over her knuckles. Why does this feel so good with her? And why am I asking about her love life?

"I had a duty to fulfill. Before we were Bonded, I found him handsome enough... for a man. Odette wasn't as thrilled, considering. It came as quite a shock when Draco told his he wished to date her daughter Pansy." Somehow the back of her knuckles were brushing against my lips, so I laid a gentle kiss upon them. This memory bothered her and I didn't like it. Or was I jealous of Odette Parkinson?

"See, Hermione? It's not so bad once you accept it; in fact, it will lessen once we have produced a new heir." Narcissa's eyes closed as she leaned in towards me. She's going to snog me?

I pulled away, disliking the feelings ripping through me. "I want my free will!" Narcissa's eyes opened sadly, and nodded.

"I know, Hermione. In fact, it makes me somewhat glad to realize that you're not going to take advantage of me. For that at least, I'm grateful." My heart sank for her. "I was taught from a young age I'd never be allowed to spend my wife with another witch, and I'd have to overlook my husband's infidelity."

"Do all of the Pureblood families do this?" I asked, trying to stay on a path of logic. Narcissa's smile was wistful.

"Not anymore; Cordelia Zabini never allowed it. You would think that husband number six might opt for the Bonding purely out of self-preservation..." a shy smile graced her lips, and I couldn't help but chuckle a little. Being married to Narcissa might not be that bad after all. I looked at the clothing she had for me. The look in her eyes betrayed how much she didn't want to be around Voldemort. She opened a door nearby and lead me into an opulent bathroom.

"You'll need to change, and remember: don't anger him. He's..." she swallowed her fear, "prone to outbursts. Help me protect my son and I'll be the best wife for you. To hell with what others say about us." Her eyes watered slightly as she placed the robes on the counter and turned her back to me. I couldn't tell if she was being modest or wanted to hide her tears.


 

Harry had decided to give Dobby's remains a muggle funeral as Bill and Fleur took in the other prisoners from Malfoy Manor. As he buried the brave house elf, he cried as he knew he couldn't get back into the Manor to rescue Hermione. His earlier row with Ronald didn't help either.


Harry immediately knew that something went wrong when they left Malfoy Manor. His quiddich skills had his eyes tracking the dagger flying towards them just like any Golden Snitch, but he knew he was unable to stop it as they twisted into nothingness. The impact of the House Elf into Harry made him drop a wand; the abrupt shock reminded him of the car crashing into the Whomping Willow.


The split second of being everywhere and nowhere seemed to last for an eternity as a wail of pain hit their ears, a squickening noise of a kicked puppy and snapping bones as the boys realized that the House Elf was bleeding freely from where his other arm should have been...

Then there was the landing. The impact with the ground was worse than the first time he had used a Portkey; he had no control of the landing as he and Ron stumbled and tripped over the lifeless body of Dobby. The elf was pale grey; there was almost no blood left inside him as he turned to ask Hermione for some Dittany to tend to Dobby's wounds.

That was when they finally realized that Hermione had been left behind. The lurch in his stomach winded him, and Harry frantically tried to figure out how to go back for her.

"Harry, we can't rescue her!" Ronald cried, his eyes redder than his hair. "If anything, they'll kill her and it will be the best thing for her!"

"How can you say that! She's like a sister to me!"

"I love her! And you know we've got a mission to complete. You two kept going without me and we're going to have to do the same without her!"

"But she was the brains of the group." Harry said sadly, reflecting on the truth of his words.

"I'm not too shabby when it comes to strategies. Look, we have to get into Bellatrix's vault at Gringotts. I'll talk to the goblin while you take care of Dobby." Harry put his anger and tears into the shovel as he dug the small grave.

Harry filled in the dirt and made a makeshift tombstone, not noticing the rest of the witches and wizards behind him. "Rest in peace, Dobby."

Bill spoke up first. "Harry, whatever Albus had you do, we can help."

Ron thought about it and nodded. "Yeah, we could use a curse-breaker, specially if we're going after horcruxes."

"Mon Dieu! Horcruxes?!" Fleur's eyes widened in shock. Bill looked to her in trepidation.

"Sweetie, what's that? I've broken through some of the toughest traps laid by King Ramses and never even heard of that."

Fleur spat it out, disgustedly. "Soul-splitting magic. Makes one unable to fully die... We're going with them; they won't be able to break into Gringott's without us."

Ron didn't seem too convinced. "I guess we can use her to flirt with a guard or two to get us in under the cloak..."

Bill rolled his eyes at his younger brother. "You've never seen an angry Veela, have you? Wings and fireballs, they have. Stuff of bloody terror."

Fleur smiled something sinister. "Why else do you think I'm with this man? He knows how to deal with me. Harry, we come with you, but you make sure Ronald doesn't get in my way."

"Why you worried about me?"

Bill chuckled at the question. "Because she'll be a loose cannon, Ronniekins. But she'll be our loose cannon. Look, people are going to get hurt if we do this. More than likely, with the dragon they have down there guarding the lower vaults like the LeStrange's, people will get killed. The goblins that used to run that place now have ministry wizards crawling all over the place... which does lead me to believe that You-Know-Who stuck something down there."

Harry seemed angered at that. "We've avoided hurting people Bill. We're not like Snape."

Fleur snapped at that. "This is war, Harry! War doesn't care if you're innocent or not, think of your parents, think of you! You, a baby, were targeted to be killed! How..."

Bill stepped between them. "Hon, calm down, he doesn't understand..."

Fleur put her hand on his arm, turning him to face her. "No Bill! We risked our lives getting him out of his Aunt's house and it was kill or be killed! Only then to plan to run away and do who knows what! Do you have any idea how many people died there?"

Ron stood up, unsheathing his wand. "Don't blame Harry for the Death Eaters!" Bill eyed it and started to understand what was going on.

Fleur's jaw was set defiantly. "Five! And they weren't Death Eaters, they were normal wizards under the Imperius Curse!"

Harry was livid. "YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO KILL THEM!" Bill could see the traces of Dark Magic that had slowly seeped into them, causing them to be less in control.

Fleur's skin paled as her nose seemed to extend slightly. A thrum of magic shifted in the air. "They were sending hexes at my husband and myself as we were a kilometer above the ground! They were trying to kill us too!"

Ron was hiding behind his brother, his eyes locked on her hands. "Harry, she's on fire!" Bill's hand stroked the back of her neck; it was a gamble, but he was sure he could calm her down.

"Fleur, they are on our side. And have been infected with the Dark. Ronald in his right mind would be flirting with you, as awkward as that is." Bill's touch calmed her, and her features returned to human. Making a fist, the fire in her hand went out.

"That's bloody scary." Ron replied, his voice quivering.