…tion. He’d cut her to pieces before she even got close! Why did her brain keep going back to the stupid knife?

The light from the knife was illuminating Malfoy’s face and there was indeed a wind blowing his hair and her heart sank to her stomach as she saw how ghastly pale he was.

Malfoy’s attention had gone back to the knife. He was staring at it dumbly, his breathing labored. It seemed to grow brighter as Malfoy paled even further.

Oh mi gosh.

“I can use it most of the time and it only makes me a little tired. But when I use it to fight…its like it sucks my strength right out of me”

She remembered him saying that earlier.

The knife was draining his energy.

It must have been doing it for some time but it was only now really taking its toll on him. It explained why he’d gotten steadily clumsier as the days progressed, why he’d lost his appetite, suddenly developed insomnia, and stopped talking. It was the knife.

She had no choice, she had to get the knife from him.

He’s really slow and disoriented right now. If I’m quick, I might be able to take him by surprise.

She backed away from him until she was hidden in the trees. Malfoy seemed to have forgotten about her completely. He was staring at the knife, his face paper white. As she watched his legs gave out and he hit the ground on his knees. Quickly, trying to make as little noise as possible, she circled around behind him, checking to make sure his attention was elsewhere and then slowly slinked towards him from behind.

He didn’t hear her and when she was close enough to feel the hot wind from the knife and feel its warm light illuminating her face, she pounced.

Malfoy yelled as she grabbed the wrist holding the knife in one hand and tried to wrench the blade from him with the other. The instant her fingers touched the silver hilt, lightening jolted up her arm like she’d just stuck a fork in a toaster. The force of it smashed her backwards into the ground and she screamed in surprise.

With an outraged bellow, Malfoy threw himself at her. She tried to spring out of the way but he shoved her down, his weight landing on her, pinning her down. She screamed again as one of his hands grabbed her throat with clumsy fingers and the other raised the knife above her, his eyes were wild, his face ugly with hatred. She grabbed at the hand holding the knife, futilely trying to keep it from falling all the while knowing she couldn’t stop him. He was too strong. She was going to die.

“ MALFOY STOP! MALFOY PLEASE STOP!” she screamed, her fingers digging into his wrist.

The boy froze above her, swaying erratically, “Granger?” he slurred, his eyes hazy and confused.

“ Yes! Yes! Its me!” she sobbed breathlessly, “ Malfoy, please stop!”

“ Granger?” he asked again, like a little kid.

“ Malfoy, let go of the knife, please.” She moaned.

He didn’t seem to hear her. The hand at her throat relaxed and rose slightly to brush her cheek, “Why are you so pretty?” He mumbled thickly.

Then, in a flare of light, his eyes rolled up and he went limp, collapsing on top of her. The breath left her body in a whoosh and for a moment she could do nothing but gasp and tremble. He was heavy, his shoulder pressed against her face and his cheek rested against her hair. The scent of him was all around her. She just laid there, her brain still reeling with shock.

Oh my gosh, what if someone sees me like this? Was the first completely irrational thought she had when some of the traffic in her head cleared and then she couldn’t help giggling hysterically.

Her next thought was that the knife was still glowing, it was practically lighting up the forest.

Oh gosh, where is it?

She whimpered when she realized it was still in his hand, the flat of it pressing against her arm.

She shoved at Malfoy, grunting because he weighed a ton and managed to push him off her. He flopped bonelessly to the side and she crawled over him to try and pry the knife from his hand. She bit her bottom lip, hesitating with finger tips a millimeter away, as she remembered the electric blast she’d gotten for touching it last time. If all else failed, she supposed she could use a straight stick to break Malfoy’s wrist. Better broken wrist then dead boy.

Flinchingly, she touched and this time the knife only felt warm. With a sob, she tore it from his limp, cold fingers.

And then she gasped.

Her back arched as she felt it go through her, whatever it was. Like icy tendrils of a ghostly vine wrapping around her and snaking through her soul, it went right through her, into her, and found a place to settle, finding purchase and hooking in. The breath she gasped in suddenly whooshed out as another jolt sent something she couldn’t define pouring from her body, sucked from her flesh, leaving her feeling cold.

The knife went momentarily as bright as the sun and then, she couldn’t really describe it… There was a flash, a sound that was something like the scream of metal and the warping of bells and when her dazzled eyes cleared she was still holding the knife…only it was different.

She stared at it, turning it over and over.

It was longer and heavier, the blade was curved and the stock was hard and wooden. Two thin strips of leather decorated the butt of the stock and strange designs were inlaid along the steel.

A smug smile slowly curved her lips.

She was pleased, proud of herself. She was…

NO! Hermione shook her head to clear it, wanting to throw the dagger away but her fingers were cinched tight around the handle and wouldn’t let go.

Parasite! She screamed inwardly, panicked.

But didn’t it feed her? Didn’t it fight for her? Wasn’t she pleased?

Her breath shuddered from her throat, her eyes going round and her mouth popping open in a little ‘o’. It wasn’t like words. It was more like feelings, impressions. They were vague and so quiet that she nearly missed them or mistook them for her own, but they were there.

“ You nearly killed Malfoy,” She accused, “ Oh gosh, Malfoy!” clutching the knife she turned to the boy and put her free hand to his throat.

His pulse was strong and steady, though his skin was still pale and clammy.

But it had been calling her for days. Why didn’t she pick it up?

“ He…he wouldn’t let me.” She murmured in a daze, remembering how distracted she’d been by the knife and how she’d wanted to hold it. She wet her lips, “ What are you?”

There was no answer for the question. The thing wasn’t really sentient, she could feel, it was more like a gathering of energy and it wasn’t ‘smart’ enough to convey complex ideas. All it knew was that it was hungry, its old source of energy had been fading and now it had a new one and it was pleased.

It had been calling her. And now it had her and it was adding her energy to Malfoy’s. It was happy to finally meet her, having felt her energy ghosting its peripheries ever since waking up.

She knelt on the ground in a daze and began to run her fingers over the blade, exploring the dagger as it explored her.

Next Time: Draco discovers something’s missing…

A/N: The rabbits are mine. They were inspired by my frequent drives to the edge of town in the middle of the night. The jackrabbits line up at the edge of the fields and I can see their eyes glowing as I drive by.

I didn’t want to cut this chapter off at this point but I’m tired of trying to edit 50 page chapters, so you’re only getting 25 pages.

BTW: Yes Dean is actually Muggle born and I know that the straying from canon is going to drive some of you absolutely bonkers but the scene just works better that way. Big fat raspberries to everyone who ratted me out. I feel so betrayed *sob*. Heh. I’m only teasing. Corrections are always welcome, questions, comments, complaints, sarcasm, life stories anything you wanna say.


A/N: This is the second half of chapter 11. I really don’t like the result of chopping the chapter in two. I don’t like breaking up events I had planned and organized to go into one chapter, it feels like the balance was lost and I’m all disgruntled.

Chapter 12: He Who Hesitates…

You see the pain in my face
While you keep putting me down
Inside the rage starts to build
You push me I won't go down
You're the one who's always screaming at me
I'm the one that keeps your lives so care free
What the fuck more do you want me to be?
Why must you do this to me?

Run away, I can't see
Lead the way, make them pay

Counting, on me.
Always hoping I'll be
There for all of your problems
and in turn you're never there for me
You sucked the life out of me
You hate everything you see
I can't take this anymore
I always stay when I should leave

~from Korn “Counting on Me”

“ Oooooh Shiiiiiit!” Draco croaked, writhing in agony and digging his palms into his eyes.

He was dying.

He had to be dying. No one could be in this much pain and live.

He’d been dreaming that he was playing Quidditch when suddenly his head turned into a bludger and the Weasley twins (the terrors of his younger years) started slamming him up and down the pitch. Apparently the dream had followed him into real life. Either that or a mountain troll had just stopped by to do some tap dancing on his skull.

His other senses came into play slowly, dulled as he fought to feel them through the steady thudding going on in his temples.

The surface at his back was cool and gritty. He was on the ground, he realized in confusion. Where had he been? Was he supposed to be at school? Or at home at the mansion?

He could hear birds and a light wind stirred his hair. Had the girls slipped him something last night and dumped him out on the Quidditch Pitch again?

“ Fuuuck. What happened?” he groaned, flopping an arm across his face, “ Who spiked my pumpkin juice?”

A feminine giggle made him start and he growled, cracking an eye open only to squeeze it shut in pain as sunlight seared his vision. He’d been right. He was outside.

“ Blaise!” he bellowed hoarsely, “If you’ve drugged me again, so help me I’ll…”

“ Malfoy, its me.” Someone cut him off gently.

He went still.

Who the hell?


Memory returned in a ragged jumble of confused blurry images, like broken shards of a mirror, and along with it a wash of misery so strong it choked him. He had been so sure in that first moment that he was back at Hogwarts…

“ Granger…” he coughed, his throat so dry it felt like it was cracked and bleeding, “What happened? I remember…shit, its all mixed up in my head.” He tried to swallow, tried to get some moisture in his mouth. He wished she’d give him something to drink.

“ You were really sick.” Her voice came from his right, but not very close to him, “You’ve been asleep for two entire days.”

“ What?” he tried opening his eyes again, lowering his arm cautiously. He squinted against the light, vision bleary but bearable.

“ What’s the last thing you remember?”

“ I remember…heh, I remember chucking the rabbit into the river.”

“ Rabbit? Oh, the meat.” Silence, “ You are such a jerk.” She sounded disgusted.

He sat up very slowly, wincing as his joints cracked, hissing in pain when his back seized up and his muscles shrieked in agony. He took several deep steady breaths through his nose and waited for his stiff body to relax.

“ I remember getting mad, I…” he trailed off, wiping crust from his eyes and trying to focus on the shape hovering off to the side that he assumed was Granger.

If that was her, she was standing a good twenty feet away from him, which was sort of odd considering how she was all over him every single time he’d gotten hurt before.

“ Its like dream images. I remember seeing them but I can’t see them now. What happened?”

“ You were…sick. Then you passed out.” Her cautious tone sent alarms ringing in his already pounding skull. It was more than that, he was sure.

“ What happened?” he repeated.

“ Eat and drink first. There’s food right there next to you and the cauldron is full of clean water.”

He turned slightly and saw the items laid out next to him. He’d missed them when he first woke.

Oh sweet mercy.

He ignored the food for the moment, not sure his dry throat could get anything down, and slid stiffly to his knees. He would have plunged his head into the cauldron of water if the opening was big enough. Instead he lifted it with extremely shaky arms and tipped it back, letting the pleasantly cool water spill into his mouth and all down his front.

He had to pace himself. His throat burned at that first contact and then slowly he could swallow again. When he was finished he collapsed back with a pained groan, dropping the cauldron so that it toppled and sloshed on the ground. He wiped his dry, cracked lips with the back of a dusty hand and eyed Granger shrewdly. She was standing even further away from him, fidgeting nervously.

Something was up.

He tried to act like he didn’t notice. He turned his back on her as if he oblivious to her odd behavior and concentrated on standing. He was slow and it took a minute but he found that besides being really stiff and unsteady, he was otherwise fine. He even felt sort of good underneath the physical pain, more rested than he’d felt for days. His head, now that the throbbing was beginning to fade, felt clearer.

Without a word or a backwards glance he limped towards the forest and Granger let him go. He was back a few minutes later and she jumped up from her seat on the ground, pulling her tattered robes tightly around her in almost a defensive gesture. He walked towards her as nonchalantly as possible but apparently not nonchalantly enough because she side stepped away just as casually, one hand going up to fuss, nervously, at her hair.

He felt his muscles tightening at her obvious evasion, bunching instinctively as he readied to pounce.

She opened her mouth to speak and he lunged at her. Unfortunately his body reacted too slowly. Granger yipped and darted away, evading him easily.


“ What did you do?” he glared at her accusingly, chagrined by his weakness.

She wouldn’t be acting like this if she hadn’t done something wrong.

She held up a placating hand, eyes wide, “ Look, you’re not gonna like it, but I had to do it.”

“ Do what?” his voice rose. He had absolutely no idea what she could have done to make her act like this but if she was this nervous about it, it was probably bad.

“ Do you swear you’ll just stay there and hear me out?”

“ No.” he said bluntly, as if she were stupid for asking.

“ Let me explain.” She pleaded, wetting her lips, “ Stay calm until you hear everything. You almost died.”

That gave him pause. He straightened, feeling a small twinge of fear at her words.

“ Just stay calm, okay?” He said nothing but she seemed to take that as agreement. She took a deep breath, “ Your knife did something weird it changed shape and it sucked all your energy out and it nearly killed you so I took it from you.” It was said in one breathless rush, her brown eyes cringing as she awaited his reaction.

There were several tense moments of complete stillness.

His hand slid down his side to feel the blank spot where his knife should be and then he uncoiled, knotted muscles melting as he slowly relaxed.

He shrugged casually, “ Oh. No big deal.”

Granger shrank further in on herself, “ You’re gonna beat the crap out of me, aren’t you?”

“ Oh no.” he gave her a friendly smile and she flinched, slowly stepping backwards as he took two steps forward, “I’m not gonna beat the crap out of you. I’M GONNA KILL YOU!”

He dove for her.

He wasn’t nearly as fast as he usually was but he’d bet he was still faster than her, especially now that he was fueled by white-hot rage.

He couldn’t believe she’d touched his knife when he’d made it absolutely clear that she wasn’t to handle it under any circumstances. She’d probably ruined it. His father was going to kill him.

Well, at least Granger would go first.

She wasn’t going down easy though. The girl was off like a shot, shrieking. He was hot on her trail when she entered the forest but she was easily jumping over obstacles and dodging around trees while he was reduced to half his speed, trying to get his still-numb body to maneuver.

She’d obviously planned this.

“ Damn, girl! When did you get so squirrely?”

“ LEAVE ME ALONE!” she wailed over her shoulder and slipped lithely between two trees and darted down a small incline.

“ I told you not to touch it! I fucking told you a hundred times.” he roared back, breathing too hard,“You put your shit-filthy Mudblood hands on my knife! You ruined it!” He jumped down the incline and landed close enough to her that she screamed. Unfortunately, he lost his balance and slammed his shoulder into a conveniently nearby tree. He shoved away from the tree and took off after her.

“ You would have died!” she ducked behind a large tree. He lunged around it but she circled the trunk, keeping it between them as she tried to explain, “ I saved your life!”

He feinted to the right and she blasted off the other direction. He exploded after her, his fingers actually grazing her shoulder, causing her to scream and redouble her speed.

“ I should have known!” he panted, “ I knew you were going to try and steal it! I saw the way you looked at it. You only wanted it because I said you couldn’t have it!”

She was heading back towards the river now, zigzagging through the most treacherous terrain she could find, footing deftly through a patch of up-thrust roots and scaling a huge fallen log as if she knew exactly where to step to boost herself.

What the fuck? Had she practiced this?

She halted on top of the log, glaring down at him,“ I didn’t steal it, you ungrateful, grease-headed quidditch whore! If I didn’t hold it for you, the knife would have been ruined! Without energy it would have stopped working.”

He didn’t know what she was talking about so he ignored it.

“ Doesn’t matter now! Voldemort is going to murder me himself! That was his knife!” He jumped up and tried to grab her leg. She yelped and leapt down the other side.

He yelled in frustration and quickly scrambled over it.

“ You can have it back! Just calm down!” she begged.

“ Too late!” He ducked a tree branch, tripped on a root, stumbled forward and caught himself just barely in time to keep from getting a mouthful of mud.

“ No one has to know, Malfoy! No one has to know I touched it! I swear its not ruined!” she cried desperately.

She broke through the brush into their campsite and put on extra speed as she ran right for the river.

What was she doing?

“ They’ll know! They’re not stupid!” he slowed as she reached the river. He was completely out of breath and trying not to show it.

She stopped on the shore, turning to face him.

He forced himself not to double over and wheeze like an old man. Instead, he swaggered forward, panting so hard he was sure he looked ridiculous and readied himself to dart whichever direction she tried to go. Instead, Granger reached into her robes and pulled out the knife, sheath and all. Her jaw was set and determined.

“ If you don’t back off, I’m going to throw this into the river. You’ll never find it in there!”

He went still, eyes flicking to the river. It was wide and it was deep. The middle murky enough that he couldn’t see the bottom. It was very possible that if she threw it in, he wouldn’t find it again. It was also possible that if he tried to swim out to get it, the current would take him.

“ You throw it and I’ll kill you.” He warned, stalking forward.

She actually grinned, “ I’m dead either way right? If you swear to me, swear on your pureblood honor, that you won’t hurt me, I won’t throw this. Otherwise, its going in.”

She meant it. He could tell. That brought him up short. He considered her warily.

“ What do you want?”

“ Swear you won’t beat me up or hurt me in any way.”

“ And you’ll give it back?” he gritted out furiously, chaffing under his inability to leap forward and wail on her.

“ No.”

“ WHAT?” He readied himself to pounce on her, hoping he could get her before she turned all the way around to throw the knife.

“ I can’t give it back until you’re better. You weren’t listening to me, you jackass. It drained your energy. It would have killed you. You’re still very weak right now. In a few days, when you’re better, I’ll give it back.”

It all sounded so very reasonable. But he didn’t feel like being reasonable. He felt like doing some serious maiming. He glared hard at the girl, willing her to die. When she didn’t, he realized he was going to have to give in.

“ Fine!” he yelled, “ I swear on my family, my ancestors, my honor, the blood of my father, that I will not beat you up or hurt you.” He thought for a moment, “…this time.”

Granger slumped, dropping her arm to her side with a sigh of relief.

He was on her in a heartbeat.

“ You swore!” she screamed just before he grabbed her and tried to wrench the knife out of her grasp.

His fingers touched the sheath…and the world exploded. Lightening jolted through him and he was thrown backwards, slamming into the ground violently with an audible crack. He landed on his back, unable to even scream. The arm that touched the sheath was shaking uncontrollably, he grabbed it with his good hand and clenched it to his chest, doubled over in agony.

Through a haze of intense pain, he heard Granger calling his name. She was crouched next to him, touching his shoulder.

“ What did you do to me?” he rasped when he could speak again.

“ It wasn’t me.”

He groaned wordlessly, feeling his body relax by slow degrees, the pain decreasing to a low unpleasant buzz in his bones. After a moment he realized Granger was mopping his forehead with a cool, wet cloth. He growled in annoyance and pushed her away.

She gave way gracefully, falling back on the balls of her feet,“ I don’t think you can take the knife from me. I think I have to be willing to give it to you or it will shock you. It did this to me when I first tried to take it from you, not nearly as strongly, I think, but you were almost out of energy at the time.”

“ Then how the fuck did you get it from me?” he squinted at her, flexing his fingers and shaking the numbness out.

“ You passed out and the edge of the blade was touching my arm. Since you willingly let it touch me, I could take it.”

He passed out and the blade was touching her arm?

“ Shit, will you just tell me what happened in chronological order because this isn’t making sense.” He collapsed back, pressing his palms to his eyes.

“ I woke up from a nap and you were staggering around with the knife in your hand. You almost seemed drunk. I tried to figure out what was wrong with you but you went completely berserk and started yelling nonsense at me. You were quite delirious.”

Yelling nonsense?

“ What did I say?” he asked suspiciously. This didn’t sound good.

“ Well,” she hesitated, fidgeting, “ Just incoherent ramblings.” She wouldn’t meet his eyes.

He went rigid, feeling a ball of ice in his chest, “What did I tell you?” he rasped.

“ Nothing. It wasn’t…” she started to scoot away.

He grabbed her by the collar with his good hand, fisting his fingers in her shirt, and slowly sat up, drawing her close, panicked because she was hiding something and a hundred different possibilities were running through his mind.

“ What. Did. I. Tell. You.” He bit out threateningly.

She blinked at him, large brown eyes innocent, doe-eyes, “ Its okay, Malfoy. I won’t tell anyone. I love Harry too. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way you feel for him. Its natural. I think once you learn to accept that part of yourself, everything else will fall into place. Draco…its okay to be gay.”

He stared at her with his jaw hanging open for several heartbeats. Had she really just been setting him up for that line?

When her earnest expression cracked and she started to giggle, his eyelids drooped, “ Don’t bullshit the bullshitter, little girl.” He said dryly, amused. Maybe it was the intense relief that he hadn’t spilled his guts that allowed him to find her little joke slightly funny. He was actually impressed with how serious she’d kept her face.

He pushed her away, “ Go on.”

She settled back on her knees,“ You ranted about how I was trying to kill you and steal your ‘precious’.” The way she drawled the words made him think there was a joke he wasn’t getting but he dismissed it, “ I had no idea what was wrong with you. Then I remembered what you said about the knife absorbing energy and I noticed that the knife kept getting brighter while you got paler and weaker. So I jumped you and took the knife.”

“ You jumped me, huh?” he asked with a snort.

She just raised an eyebrow imperiously and ignored his amusement,“ When I touched the knife it was like an electric shock. It threw me back. And then you tried to kill me.”

“ Damn, and I can’t remember.” He was honestly disappointed, “ Hey wait, if I tried to kill you, you’d be dead. Believe me.”

“ Well, you weren’t exactly coherent.” She snapped, “ And you stopped after a moment and passed out.”

“ On top of you?” he asked, aghast.

She nodded, and said dryly, “If there were any squirrels around with Polaroids my reputation is ruined.”

“ I’m gonna be sick!” he clutched at himself dramatically, “No wonder I smell bad.”

“ So glad your back to normal.” She grumbled, getting to her feet and stalking away to go sit on the big rock, facing the campfire, “ Now that you’re awake, you have to answer some questions.”

“ Oh yeah?” he hefted himself up, remembering that there was food next to the cauldron and that he was famished. He needed to rethink his strategy and it would probably be easier to do so if he filled his empty stomach. He flopped down beside the fire to sort through what lay there.

“ What kind of knife is this? What does it do?” Granger asked, looking down at the sheath in her hands. She turned it over and over, frowning.

He hesitated. He didn’t want to tell her anything about it. It was an illegal item and if she knew what it was, she could report his father. On the other hand, everyone knew his father had tons of illegal items and it hadn’t stopped him yet. And what if she had any useful information about it?

“ It’s a Base.” He told her, biting into a crunchy, watery bulb, and making a face at it,“A precursor to a Subtle Knife.”

“ A WHAT!?” he was impressed with the volume of that shriek.

Granger dropped the knife as if burned, jerking her feet up off the ground as if she expected it to turn and bite. They both realized simultaneously what she’d done and dove for the blade lying in the dirt.

He was too far away. He grumbled as Granger snatched it up, glaring at him as she resettled herself on her rock.

“ Do you have any idea what that means?” she asked him curtly, “ I bet you don’t.”

He glowered at her, stuffing some kind of fruit into his mouth.

“ Did your father say you could play with it?”

Now she sounded like his mother.

“ He told me I’d go blind.” He drawled, mouth full.

“ What?” She looked adorably blank for a moment before her face scrunched in disgust, “ EWW!”

“ He told me not to draw it under any circumstances.” Draco conceded with a chuckle.

“ Do you know why?” she asked with sarcastic sweetness, batting her eyes at him, “ Because the fatality rate on the first draw of an uncharged Base is 80%. There’s a reason these things are illegal, Malfoy.”

“ First draw? What are you talking about?”

“ I mean the first person to take the knife from the sheath usually dies instantly. A Subtle Knife is an extremely powerful weapon. Some people call them Legendary Weapons. There have only ever been a few in existence because the process of making a Base into a Subtle Knife is extremely difficult, hardly understood and usually fatal. In most cases the first person to draw the knife dies. When that happens the knife is called a Rogue. Anyone who touches it after that dies and the knife eventually fails. If the person happens to live, there’s still a 90% chance the knife will either kill him or fail.”

“ So…this thing can still kill us?” he was feeling just a bit alarmed and slightly nauseous at this information.

Oh Merlin, he could have been killed. Again. When he first pulled the knife out, he could have been zapped right then and there and no one would have ever known.

“It almost killed you the other night.” She reminded him impatiently.

He licked his lips nervously, “ What do we do?”

“ Well, my first impulse is to get rid of it. But I’ve been thinking and we probably owe our lives to this knife. It hasn’t been really dangerous to us yet. As far as I can tell, its just absorbing energy. Hopefully when it starts taking too much from me, you’ll be well enough to take it again. We can hand it off to each other.”

“ But as far as you know it could just zap us at any moment.” He pointed out bluntly, surprised that she was defending the blade.

“ I’m not entirely sure.” She said slowly, biting her lower lip, “ I figure if it was going to kill us, it would have already.”

This didn’t sound a bit like careful, cautious Granger.

He studied her shrewdly, analyzing her words and then noticed her hands running over the sheath and hilt almost caressingly.

That was it. He’d experience it himself. She didn’t want to give up the knife. There was something about it that made a person want to hold it. Seeing it now from the outside made his hackles rise. But Granger had been right when she said they owed their lives to it. He’d be dead now if it wasn’t for the knife. And he definitely did not want to go back to a vegetarian diet.

They’d hold onto it just a bit longer.

“ Why do you think it didn’t kill me when I first drew it?” he asked.

Granger shrugged, “ I have no idea.” She changed the subject suddenly, “ Hey, look, it changed shape.” She grasped the hilt and drew the blade and he felt his jaw drop as he saw what she meant.

“ How does it still fit in the sheath?” he blurted the question out before his brain caught up.

She gave him a look, “Its magic.”

“ Shut up, bitch. Why did it change shape?” He walked over to her for a closer look.

“ How should I know?” she stirred uneasily at his proximity, glancing up at him through her lashes, “ I think maybe it got more powerful. But also…” she turned the blade over, “ it looks like a hunting knife. Maybe it’s a hunting knife because that’s how you’ve been using it.”

He held his hand out casually and she moved, thoughtlessly and automatically, to hand the knife over. At the last second she realized what she was doing and jerked back, glaring at him.

He grinned, cursing inwardly because it had been so close,“ How do we keep it from failing? You said it could still fail.”

“ You keep asking questions like I’m going to know more the next time you ask.” She snapped, exasperated, “ Lets just keep doing what we’re doing and hope for the best. If it needs something it will try to tell us, and hopefully not kill us in the process.”

“ Tell us?”

“ You haven’t felt it?” she frowned at him, “ Its like…its like… I want to say a presence but that doesn’t describe it. I want to say the knife talks, but it doesn’t. Our energy is in the knife and our energy will let us know what the knife needs but we have to be listening.”

“ I have no idea what you’re talking about.” He lied.

“ Oh.” She blinked, “You’ll probably feel it the next time you hold it.” she sheathed the knife and hooked the sheath to the waistband of her skirt, “ So, do you think you should rest for today? Its only late morning,” she checked the position of the sun for confirmation, “ but we should probably...”

Irrationally annoyed, maybe at the sight of her wearing his knife, or the deft way she hooked the sheath to her skirt, he smacked her on the forehead with his open palm, cutting her off mid-sentence and making her yelp and catch herself on her palms as she rocked back. She growled and rubbed her forehead, expression petulant.

“ We stay.” He commanded sharply and walked away, not wanting to be around her anymore.

“ But..” she started, confusion coloring her voice, “ Malfoy?”

He didn’t look back, heading off into the forest again. He needed some time to think, to get his bearings.

Besides, he’d just thought of a spectacular way to terrorize his little Mudblood. The stupid bitch had taken his dagger. It was a personal blow. It made him feel as if he had been bested somehow.

He knew exactly how to repay her.

He returned an hour and half later with an amiable smile on his face. Granger was instantly suspicious. The girl had her robe laid out before her on the dirt and she was sorting some plants into piles on top of it. She went still when he approached her, shoulders tense.

“ You hungry, Granger? Haven’t had meat in a few days, right?” his smile widened and he flung the dead rabbit he’d been holding behind his back into her lap.

The girl went ballistic. He would have thought it was a flaming bag of poo the way she shrieked and bolted away, sending her plants flying every which direction. The carcass hit the ground with a heavy plop, looking offended. Granger stood, chest heaving, staring down at it.

“ Malfoy, if you ever do that again, I swear I will not rest until you’ve been drenched in pheromones and dumped into a pit of horny ogres in mating season.”

“ Now that is hitting below the belt!” Draco declared in righteous indignation. He grinned at her, “ I think you’re about to become a lot more familiar with Mr. Bunny.”

“ What are you babbling about?”

“ You have the knife. I want the meat. You get to prep the animal.”

Horrified realization dawned on her face, and he gleefully savored his revenge as she looked down with huge eyes at the rabbit that stared right back up at her as if saying ‘what do you expect me to do about it?’.

“ Forgot about that part, did you?” he chortled.

“ I won’t do it.” she said curtly, folding her arms, “ We just won’t eat meat until you’re well.”

“ But I already killed the animal.” He said slyly, “ Isn’t this wasting meat? For shame Granger! Don’t you realize that we’re in danger of starving? Has that knowledge slipped your tiny Gryffindor mind?”

“ I… I…” he was delighted to see how pale she was.

“ You’re not a hypocrite are you?” he cajoled, clasping his arms behind his back and smiling at her.

“ No, I…” she whined.

“ Don’t you care about my health? I’m sure I’ll get better a lot faster if I’m eating properly?” he cooed.

“ But…”

His teasing expression vanished abruptly, becoming cold and fierce, “ Do it or I’ll make sure meat is the only thing we have to eat.”

She sucked in a breath, her fists clenching at her sides, “ I hate you so much.”

“Its not nice to hate.” He sneered, knowing he’d won.

He searched for a good place to sit back and watch the drama that was about to unfold and finally settled on Granger’s rock.

The girl stood silent and still for a long moment, eyes closed as if searching for zen. She took a deep cleansing breath, gathering her courage and opened her eyes. Her face fell.

“ Do I have to do this right now?” she whined, fidgeting.

“ Get on with it, girly, I’m hungry!” he demanded.

Granger took another shuddering breath, one hand at her throat as she stared down at the dead animal. With a gulp, she knelt down in the dirt and drew the knife. Shaking, flinching hands reached for the rabbit and she cringed, making a sickened keening sound in her throat when her fingers brushed the fur. She pulled the limp body into her lap, knife raised.

Draco hooted, “ Looks like a sacrificial victim. You’re not supposed to stab it, Granger, its already dead”

“ I know, will you shut up?” she gritted.

She made another sound of revulsion as she brought the knife to the fur and let the tip bite in that first little bit.

“ That’s right.” Draco coaxed, “ Just like I showed you.”

Whimpering and whining the girl began, very slowly and clumsily, to make the cuts she had seen him make. Draco watched with rapt attention, more entertained then he’d been in ages.

“ Oh gosh, oh gosh.” He could hear her saying softly, her voice high and faint.

“ Good. Now pull the skin off, you might have to cut at the sinews.” He propped his chin on his hand.

It took her a bit to get the skin off. She struggled with it, her hands now sticky and red.

“ You’re going to have to practice that.” He admonished, “ Okay, now’s the fun part. What do you want to do first, gut it or cut the head off?”

“ I…” her voice was a dry whisper, she licked her lips, “ I can’t gut it while its looking at me.”

“ Well there’s nothing around here to lay it on. So you’re just going to have to hold it and saw the head off. Lucky for you the blade’s got a serrated edge now.”

“ Oh gooosh.” She moaned, “ I can’t.. I can’t.”

“ Do it quick, Granger.”

She positioned the knife, looked away, jaw clenched, and sawed as fast as she could. There was a sickening wet sound of tearing muscle and cracking bone.

“ Help me! Help me!” Draco cried in a high-pitched voice, “ Please don’t cut my head off. What did I ever do to you?”

“ STOP IT, YOU JACKASS!” she screamed at him, her breathing heavy, her face slightly green.

“ Look at that gaping hole in the neck.” He said in wonder.

She glared at him angrily and seemed to draw herself up. Apparently deciding she was going to act tough. She sliced the belly open in one furious hack but she cut too deep and dark liquid and thicker things poured out and onto the ground.

The next thing he knew, the rabbit was on the ground and Granger was flying for the edge of the forest. She barely made it before she collapsed to her knees and puked. Draco was roaring. He clutched at his stomach, laughing so hard tears streamed down his face, he nearly fell off the rock, his sides feeling like they were going to burst.

When he had hold of himself, he got up quickly and walked over to the mess lying on the ground. His laughter died suddenly as he stared at the ground.

“ Looking for this?”

He turned to see Granger still on her knees, glaring at him murderously, the knife still in her hand.

She hadn’t dropped it like he had been sure she would.

“ You’re not as clever as you think.” She hissed, wiping at her mouth with the back of her hand.

He gaped at her.

She had known?

“ Why do you keep trying to get it?” she asked coldly, limping tiredly over to the river to wash up, “ I told you, you’re not well enough yet. Is it the knife, is it calling you?”

He thought about it and was surprised that the answer was no. He remembered what it felt like to want to hold the dagger, remembered the need to touch it, but looking at it now he felt nothing. Just anger that he had been, as far as he was concerned, outwitted and out maneuvered.

“ No.” he answered.

“ No?” she repeated with a sneer, “ You’re just that stupid, huh?”

“ You’re pushing it, kiddo.” He said dangerously.

“ Oh go play with something poisonous.” She snapped. Her gaze went contemplative for a moment, “ Its not calling you because it doesn’t need you right now.” She said, surprising him, “ While you had it, it wanted your energy so it made you want to hold it. I didn’t really feel the pull until you started getting weak. The weaker you became, the more I wanted it. This knife is just like an animal, just like the antlion. It’s hungry, so it uses a lure to get its prey and then it feeds on us.” Her voice was calm and analytical and that tone, along with her words caused the hair on his arms to stand on end.

Without another word the girl walked back to the dead rabbit and picked it up to finish prepping it. He blinked in astonishment. He had expected her to abandon the task and refuse to finish it no matter what. Instead, she determinedly finished the gutting, though her face remained rather green. Afterwards, she washed the carcass in the river and roasted it. She even ate some of the meat, which he had been certain she wouldn’t be able to bring herself to do under any circumstances. That she did left him in a foul mood.

He didn’t like losing.

He was put-out about having to share the meat to begin with. He had hoped to keep the meat supply to himself but, now that she knew, Granger would probably find a way to exploit his hunting skills. He might not plan on sharing but she’d eventually wheedle some away from him, even if she had to collapse dramatically in a heap of robes and fuzzy hair to do so.

He was certain that he had yet to experience the full brunt of her wrath on the matter. She hadn’t seemed very angry about him hoarding the meat, but he wasn’t fooled. She just hadn’t had time yet. The moment someone wasn’t fainting or being attacked or running for their life she was going to scream the forest down and probably throw some rocks at him too.

He frowned. Her aim was getting better.

He didn’t know what her problem was. What right did she have to his food? It wasn’t like he asked her to share hers. Of course if she hadn’t, he’d have simply taken what he wanted anyway but that wasn’t the point. The point was that she had no right to assume that he was somehow obligated to feed her.

Though if he were honest, which he wasn’t, he’d admit that he wasn’t about to let her starve. They had too far to go and she had her uses, no matter what he said, even if it was just entertainment.

Did she really call me a quidditch whore?

He had actually been a little worried when she fainted back in the oasis fields. For a moment he was afraid she was going to drop dead and leave him stranded on his own. The thought of making this journey by himself wasn’t a pleasant one, it was more panic-inducing then anything.

Carrying her back to the oasis had been embarrassing. Here he was, heir to the scourge of Muggle-kind, carrying her around like some kind of pack-animal, and she’d just laid her head on his shoulder as if he were Potter or the Weasle, as if he were someone she trusted. He hated her for that too.

What was worse was that it occurred to him later that he could have just stood there and waited for her to recover a bit and made her walk back under her own power. He hadn’t had to carry her, he hadn’t had to take care of her, hunting for hours to bring her back as much food as possible. His guard had dropped, somewhere along the way he’d started treating her, without thinking, like one of his girls. Carrying her like she was Pansy soused after a weekend in Hogsmead. Bringing her food like she was Blaise stuck in bed with a cold. Bantering roughly with her as if she were Millicent in a playful mood.

He supposed it was a natural side effect of spending so much time together but he made damn sure she paid for it, made damn sure they both remembered who was who. He’d pretty much outdone himself. After less than twenty-four hours of his full and complete attention, she’d looked as jumpy and nervous and as ready for an emotional breakdown as his grandmother’s Chihuahua.

Making her miserable was only one motivation though. It was also an excuse to touch her.

He knew he shouldn’t. The idea should disgust him. He’d solemnly promised himself he wouldn’t.

He snorted, a bitter smile twisting one corner of his mouth.

He couldn’t keep his hands off her.

It was like overkill. As if because he’d tried to restrain himself, he had no restraint at all. Like the time when he was 12 when Lucius told him not to touch a set of huge diamonds and emeralds he was holding for someone. Draco had managed to keep his greedy hands to himself for three days, though he walked by the office where they were held everyday, before he finally lost all self-control and touched every single one of the gems and then stole one.

He’d always had something of an impulse control problem.

Luckily, Narcissa had found him before the curse in the jewels caught up with him and administered the proper treatments to keep him from simultaneously turning into a goat, turning to stone, and coughing up his own lungs. She had made him keep the duck feet for a week though. She even kept pictures that she sometimes used to blackmail him with.

Since carrying her to the oasis, he’d used every imaginable excuse to touch her, every opportunity. But it was okay. He wasn’t betraying his father or Voldemort if he only touched her to terrorize and hurt her, right? If he only touched her to punish her then it was completely acceptable, wasn’t it?

At least that’s what he told himself.

Speaking of terrorizing, if he hadn’t been hunting before, he would have definitely started now just to pay Mother Nature back for sending all her various little critters out to fuck with him. Did they go after Granger? Nope. They went straight for him. The Shutoeis, the antlion, the roc, the field-piranha, all intent on disemboweling him for the general amusement of all.

Then Granger went and got herself attacked because she was too slow to make it to the woods and he’d been forced to go out and rescue her stupid ass. Heh. He might have gone back out anyway just to burn the little bunny-bastards to death.

No one fucks with Draco Malfoy and lives.

In the distance a faint sound filtered through the trees, “Bleeeeaaaa..”

Draco twitched nervously.

Except maybe the Shutoeis...

He didn’t remember much after the night of the field-piranha and reaching the Tangle Trees the next day. He did remember that he couldn’t sleep and that he didn’t have much of an appetite and even though he was sure there was something wrong with him, he couldn’t bring himself to care. He remembered the fight with Granger over the rabbit meat and that he’d subsequently thrown it into the river, but after that, it was just a blur. He remembered a glowing white light, Granger screaming, and one image he wasn’t sure was real, one impression, of brushing his fingers over her face while she stared up at him with tear stained cheeks.

“ Here.”

Granger broke into his thoughts to hand him the stick the cooked rabbit was impaled on. Apparently she was done eating and was giving him the rest. He flashed her an angry look as he took the offered meat but she only gave him a sneering smile, as if she knew the cause of his ire.

She walked back to the campfire to try and salvage the plants that were still scattered everywhere.

He supposed he should be grateful she hadn’t pulled the knife on him when he woke up today. She wouldn’t. He knew she wouldn’t. Hell, he didn’t dare pull it on her. If it had been a normal knife, he might have used it to scare and terrorize her. It wasn’t normal, he didn’t understand it and he wasn’t sure he could control it. There was no way either of them would willingly risk using it against the other. It was too risky. For all they knew they could kill the other just by thinking it. There was a line there that wasn’t crossed. It wasn’t even spoken of or acknowledged but they both knew it was there.

He ripped off a hunk of meat.

He was disappointed in Granger.

The other night, during their little discussion, she had said that there was no way for her to win the debate. She’d said he was completely unwilling to listen to the evidence she had presented and so could not be swayed. It was slightly hypocritical of her considering she hadn’t given consideration to any of his points.

He had done a lot of research on the subject and the chance to debate the facts he’d read about with a Mudblood was a unique one. It wasn’t like he could pull one aside at school and have a philosophical discussion. First, he’d get in trouble for the things he said and second, none of them knew anything about what made them so inferior or why they were seen as vermin and rightly so.

He hadn’t just wanted to anger Granger or frighten her that night, he’d wanted to convince her. He was certain that if anyone of Muggle blood was able to understand, it would be Granger. He knew it was ridiculous of him to think he could convince her on the first try. But he was still disappointed even though he understood that it would be a hard truth for her, something a person of her ‘unfortunate blood’ wouldn’t want to accept.

For all her assertions that she was levelheaded and unbiased, in reality she was still an idealist and could be as blind to the truth as anyone.

Though not so much of an idealist anymore. He thought, remembering her earlier words about no longer believing in world peace. And she’d given up on the House-Elves eventually too.

The concession heartened him. She was blind to the truth. But she could be made to see.

He was still brooding when Granger hefted her backpack onto her shoulders, “ I’ve got guts all over me, I’m going to go take a bath.”

Well fuck it. He closed his eyes. Why did she always have to announce it?

“ I don’t give a flying shutoei’s shit about your Muggle hygiene.”

“ You should take a bath too.” She shot over her shoulder as she strode away, haughtily, “ You’ve been lying in the dirt for two days, you smell like old ferret.”


He kept his eyes on the ground, not wanting to watch her walk away.

The temptation to follow her was instant and maddening. It always was. Draco wasn’t used to denying himself, not anything. If he felt like doing something, he did it. If he wanted something, his parents bought it for him. He wasn’t used to fighting temptation and he wasn’t very good at it.

He rubbed his hands over his face in an almost nervous gesture.

The first time he’d followed her had been an attempt to humiliate her, it was justified. The second time, which had been back at the oasis during their rest day, had been an accident. Really. Sort of. So it was okay.

His eyes slid to the patch of trees where she’d vanished. He had no such excuse now.

Was she unbuttoning her blouse now? Sliding it off her shoulders…

He bit the inside of his cheek, memories rising up to further dull reason.

The knife… His brain whispered. If she was taking a bath then surely she’d leave the knife on the shore with her clothes. He should go get it. It was his father’s knife and it shouldn’t stay in the hands of a Mudblood. He wasn’t about to let her beat him, was he?

Another part of his brain was screaming adamantly that this was just an excuse and a feeble one at that, that it was unforgivable of him and he was going to hate himself afterwards but he was already on his feet and jogging into the trees.

She wasn’t that far downstream.

Because she wholly trusted that he would never lower himself to do what he was doing now.

He glanced away uncomfortably. It was her fault for being so naïve.

He watched her walk languidly along the shore and followed through the trees, far enough away that he had plenty of cover if he needed it. She chose a patch of sunny shore, giggling as she disturbed a flock of duck-like waterfowl who scolded her frantically before diving into the river and swimming away under the surface like a school of fish.

“ And don’t come back!” she hollered at them, still giggling.

He rolled his eyes from his vantage point halfway behind a tall sycamore, amused, then went still and tense a moment later as she quickly began to strip, not bothering to fold her clothes, she tossed the shirt aside and kicked her shoes and skirt off. His eyes roved hungrily over every patch of skin, his throat squeezed making it hard to breathe, his body tightening painfully.

She started for the water but suddenly stopped and looked back at her skirt, at the sheathed blade. She hesitated, her features scrunched in a thoughtful frown, and then she smartly slipped the blade from its sheath and turned towards the river with it in her hand.

His jaw dropped, outrage and admiration warring for dominance in his mind. She was taking it into the water with her. Clever girl.

She slipped into the river, staying in the shallows near the shore. He watched her splash around, using sand to scrub the dirt from her skin. He watched with paranoid concentration while she leaned backwards in the water, breasts up thrust, to wet her hair. The knife she kept either in one hand, under the water, probably trapped by her knee, or with the hilt clasped between her teeth. He particularly liked the last look, her kneeling in the water, both her arms over her head as she ran her fingers through her tangled mane with the dagger held in her mouth. Her hair was a matted mess and it took her some time to work the knots from it, all the while lamenting its gnarled state and muttering to herself.

His lips twitched when he distinctly heard her say, “Stupid Malfoy.”

He braced an arm against the tree, resting his forehead against it, panting slightly. He kept his mind forcefully blank, refusing to recognize his own betrayal, absolutely refusing to acknowledge what his hand was doing.

She finished rinsing and sloshed onto the shore, wringing the excess water from her hair. His breathed hitched at the full sight of her, lean and lithe and tan. He groaned and bit his knuckle to muffle the sound, his other hand working in long, even strokes. She spent some time sunning so she wouldn’t be soaking wet when she dressed, but not too much time. She was always harping on about the dangers of too much sun.

Some part of his brain was looking her over for flaws almost desperately. But there were no flaws. She was perfect. This flawed creature was utterly perfect. It was bitterly unjust that she bore no outward markings of her lineage.

She turned to gather her clothing, a hand brushing absently over her breast, and there was a moment, just an instant, that her gaze turned towards him, that their eyes met.

It was an illusion, of course. Had she actually seen him, her reaction would have been nothing short of homicidal. But the illusion slammed the breath from his lungs, sent him over the edge, the illusion of looking into her eyes when… He jerked, shuddering, collapsing to his knees, riding out something so intense that it left him shocked and breathless.

He sank down against the dead forest litter in a daze until the last shivers faded. The world came back into focus slowly and on the heels of reality came the guilt. Crushing guilt and black self-loathing.

He leaned his forehead against the bark of the tree, his chest filled with the acid bile of self-disgust.

He could only imagine what his father would say about this. The man already thought he was worthless, could hardly stand to even look at him. And why not? Hadn’t he just completely and utterly justified his father’s attitude towards him? Hadn’t he just proved how weak and misguided he really was?

He had worked so hard these past couple of years to try and gain the man’s approval. Sometimes he felt like he was halfway there, but out here, when he was looking at her, it all started to unravel. He was a million miles away from ever gaining an ounce of respect from the man. How could he expect the man to respect him when he couldn’t even respect himself?

He sat there lost in his dark thoughts, not noticing when Granger dressed and flounced away, swearing to himself fiercely that it wouldn’t happen again and knowing, in some deep despairing part of his mind that it probably would.

He was still sitting there when a sound broke the stillness of the forest, sending flocks of birds bursting into the sky with panicked cries, sending his own thoughts bursting and panicking with them. It was a deep, resonating, wailing roar.

And it was very close.

Draco flung himself backwards, eyes like saucers as he fought to gain his feet. The rumbling cry died away, the echo lingering, as he stood breathing hard in sudden terror.

“ Holy shit!” he breathed, and bolted back towards the campsite as fast as he could go.

He got there in record time, skidding to a halt, “Granger! GRANGER!”

She was standing by the river looking nervous. Relief filled her face when she saw him. She jogged over, “ I was getting worried! When I heard that…”

He cut her off impatiently, “ Do you know what that was?”… Продолжение »
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