…object and stumbled back towards the oblivious girl, falling at the hollow's edge and kneeling at the top of the slope.

" G..Granger!" he managed to croak, not bothering to get up.

She looked up, saw his blanched face and shot to her feet, "What? What is it?"

" Granger…" he still couldn't seem to force out anything louder than a whisper, " Come here…look…" He held the object out towards her.

Her brow furrowed and she scrambled, half crawling, up the slope, the crumbling dirt covering her hands and knees. She froze when she realized what he held, her hand flying to her mouth as she knelt there in front of him. It took her a moment to speak, "Where?" she managed.

" Right over there." He pointed to where he'd found it, "Right there."

She reached out with trembling fingers, tears welling up in her eyes to pour soundlessly down her dirty face. She took the empty Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Bean's box, running her fingers of the letters, bringing it to her nose to smell.

" Its real. Oh Merlin, its real." Her voice was shaking.

" People." He managed to choke, something inside him squeezing tighter and tighter until it threatened to burst him apart with it intensity, "Wizards."

" Oh my gosh… oh my gosh." Her eyes were dazed as they turned to him, " We made it…We…we…OH MY GOSH!" suddenly she was on her feet and screaming, shrieking at the top of her lungs and jumping up and down, " WE DID IT! WE'RE THERE! WE FOUND IT!"


" OH MY GOSH!" Granger shrieked and flung her arms around his neck, laughing and crying and he was so ecstatic all he could do was grab her and hold on tight, swinging her around in his arms, howling with joy.

Urgency burst through the excitement, through both of them. He swung her back onto her feet, grabbed her hand and they started running. A mad, wild blind dash for civilization along the borders of the Tangle Trees, the vines waving hurriedly at them as they past as if urging them on. They didn't seem to tire, they couldn't feel the aching in their feet or the burning in their legs. None of it mattered, they were flying.

And then they burst through the underbrush, yelping as they were blinded by the blazing intensity of the afternoon sun, Draco letting out another whoop of joy as he shielded his eyes.

" LOOK!" Granger shrieked.

Draco blinked the glare from his eyes. To their left the Tangle Trees abruptly veered South in an uneven line and ahead of them was an open brush field, behind it a huge dry lakebed, the dirt sun-baked gold and cracked in a web-like pattern all the way across.

Past the lakebed, three hundred feet in front of them was a low, crooked wooden fence and a large, well-kept, two story cabin.

" A cabin. A cabin!" She squealed, doing a spin and a little dance.

" No time for that, woman, lets go!"

She grabbed his hand again and they bounded through the field and leapt into the dry lakebed.

" Home, home, home!" Granger shrieked and he had no idea where she had gotten the air to speak, " Soft beds and clean clothes and hot water and FOOD!"

" And homework!" he quipped in a squealing girl's voice.

" And…what? SHUT UP!" she tried to hit him and he dodged, laughing.

" Oh come on, girly, I know how you are! The thought of homework makes you all orgasmic." He ran a circle around her, laughing when she nearly tripped trying to keep up with him.

" OH! Pervert! What about you, jungle boy? I don't even want to think about the reunion between you and your broomstick!" she made a disgusted face and a rude gesture that had him tripping with laughter.

" Ouch!" he winced, pleased with her quick comeback.

" Exactly!" She laughed.

" Oh nasty!"

" HEY LOOK!" she shrieked suddenly, her arm flying up, nearly smacking him in the head and sending him falling flat on his back as she pointed across the lakebed.

He turned quickly, head snapping around, a jolt going through him as he saw the figure of a man coming around the corner of the cabin.

" It's a person!" Granger screamed in delight.

The man looked up at her shriek and stopped walking when he saw them. Then he moved over to the low wooden fence and stood watching them.

" HI!" Granger shouted, waving so hard her arm might have flown off.

The man stood staring. They must have been quite a sight, two filthy, starved, black robed kids streaking from the forest like hell itself was on their heels.

Draco stumbled, nearly tripping as the ground gave a bit beneath his feet. He caught himself, flailing slightly and kept running. His foot came down and the ground gave again, this time about an inch and wetness swamped his foot. He looked down in surprise and saw that the soil was softer here, he was leaving footprints that were slowly filling with water.

" Hey!" Granger yelped and he saw she was discovering the same phenomenon.

The ground cracked under his next step and a puddle of water welled up. He still didn't think anything of it.

Not until the smell hit him.

" What the hell?" he gasped and jerked backwards, coughing as he got a big whiff of the noxious odor of death and decay.

" What's wrong?" Granger sang out, sprinting past him.

Draco wiped his tearing eyes and looked up to see black liquid begin to bubble up leisurely at the center of the lakebed.

" Stop! Don't go any further!" he yelled at her.

Granger slid to a stop in surprise, so fast that she tumbled to her knees and her hands broke right through the dirt like the thinnest of crusts and disappeared into thick black liquid.

She screamed in horror and surprise, wrenching her hands up and wiping them on the dirt, backing away as the liquid begin to spread. The golden clay under her was becoming darker, getting wet.

" Granger, get up!" he screamed, noticing the earth beneath him beginning to pool with disgusting water.

The girl lurched up and stumbled backwards. The dirt where she had been crouched bubbled up, thick, chunky water spewing up in a small geyser. The two of them backed away in horrified fascination, watching the ground everywhere they stepped turn from gold to a deep wet gray, forcing them continuously backwards. Granger kept wiping her hands furiously on her robes, making disgusted noises in her throat.

The man at the fence continued to watch them silently.

The dark water was everywhere now, coming faster, rushing in to swamp their feet.

A quiet sense of inevitability hushed the shock and confusion babbling for control of his brain.

Its filling up. This whole lake is filling up. He thought in astonishment. His eyes narrowed. But the lake is big, we can make it if we run.

The sweet trilling chirp of a single frog froze his muscles as effectively as a Basilisk's gaze.

And then the center of the lakebed exploded. Slimy water fountaining up in a roaring rush.

" SHIT!" he screamed, covering his mouth and nose as the smell hit him like a physical force, " Run! Get back to the trees!"

It happened very fast, like a flash flood, the sound roaring in their ears as they bolted back the way they came, scrambling for the little field as icy, mucking filth and slime rushed around their calves.

They were wet to their thighs when they finally threw themselves up onto the bank and into the brushy field, scrambling back on their hands and knees as the water continuing to rise.

" What if it doesn't stop?" Granger shrilled.

" It'll stop!" he rasped, knowing even as he said it that it was a ridiculous thing to promise. He had no idea what was going to happen. Nothing said the water wouldn't continue to rise and flood the entire valley.

But as suddenly as the roaring rush began it stopped.

The lake had filled right to the brim with oily, foul smelling liquid that rippled for several moments and then went completely, unnaturally still, like black glass. As if that were a cue, as if a switch had been thrown, the croaking of frogs sprang up in eerie chorus all around them and ice shivered down Draco's spine.

He stayed on his hands and knees, his arms shaking and weak. And across the dark lake the man never moved.

Draco's face twisted in a snarl and he leapt up, " You bastard! Why didn't you warn us!" he screamed at the man, wondering if the guy could even make out what he was saying.

The man shifted on his feet but didn't answer back.

" What's he doing?" Granger asked, voice thick.

" Old bastard's just standing there. Get up, we're going around the…lake." For lack of a better word. They had to get out of there. Something was going to happen, he knew it. He simply knew it, " There's no way I'm staying in robes covered in this shit. And that reek is going to kill us both."

The girl shakily got to her feet. Her hands were crusted with filth.

" Are your hands okay?" he blurted stupidly. Another ridiculous question since they'd both been standing in that shit a moment ago and they seemed to be okay so far.

" I'm fine." She said and the frogs went utterly silent.

Draco's head jerked up, every muscle in his back going rigid, so tense he thought his spine would break. Granger's eyes flew to his in alarm and he wondered if she was thinking the same thing he was. That another cue had just been given. But what was it?

Unnatural silence surrounded them, suffocating, and neither of them moved, afraid that even a twitch would break through whatever was building like the heavy pressure before a storm.

The water rippled.

" Run." Draco said very softly, "Get up and run."

Little waves lapped at the shoreline.

" NOW!"

They broke South, tearing along the bank down the line of Tangle Trees as fast as they could.

Black water rose up in front of them like a tidal wave and at first Draco was sure that's what it was. Something huge broke the surface, sending water spraying everywhere as it lurched onto the shoreline, clawing at the ground, flopping around. Muck and filth oozed off of it so that he could make out no distinct features, it might have been a huge pile of mud.

A giant frog. Was Draco's first completely irrational thought as he flung his arm out to halt Granger and the two of them retreated to a safe distance, coughing and choking on the stench.

Its going to open its mouth and start squealing next.

Its huge maw opened and he braced himself but it only spat dark water and mud. The thing twitched and lurched and rose up on four legs, a long thick tail lashing, dripping dirty water and Draco knew, before two bat-like wings that had been plastered to the thing's back rose into the air, before he caught a glimpse of dark red scales beneath the filth.

It was impossible, it made no sense, but he knew.

Golden, pupil-less eyes bleeding red at the edges slid open and a triangular head turned towards them.

" It can't be." Granger was saying but he barely heard her.

The wyvern...

" Malfoy…" Granger whispered when he just stood there.

The thing turned slowly, clumsily towards them, its head jerked and convulsed on its neck like a person with palsy but worse. The jerks were unnaturally fast, as if he was blinking and missing the movement. Despite the continuous shaking, those golden eyes never left him. They never looked away.

His muscles locked up, he couldn't seem to move. The eyes held him, turning his blood to ice. His heart was threatening to burst in terror.

" Malfoy lets go!" Granger begged, clinging to his arm.

He couldn't. If he moved, if he turned his back on it, if he even blinked it would get him. Because it wasn't really a wyvern at all.

" Its like the frog…" He felt his numb lips form the strangled words.

" Malfoy we have to run." Granger yelled, voice thick with unshed tears, "We have to get back into the trees. Its too big to easily catch us in the trees."

He didn't look at her. The wyvern-thing took another clumsy step towards them, practically dragging itself, as if its body was as numb as his. The twitching head jerked from side to side but he never actually saw it happen. That's how fast it was. These drugged slow movements were just an act. If he blinked he'd lose sight of it and then it would be on him.

" Malfoy!" Granger was screaming at him. She clutched his arm, shook him.

They were going to die. It was hungry but it would do worse than eat them.

With a resigned cry, Granger stepped in front of him, drawing the knife from its sheath with a startling crackle of energy and holding it ready. The tiny Gryffindor girl ready to attack the giant unnatural thing.

It shocked him from his frozen state.

" What are you doing!" he yelled, grabbing her arm and jerking her back.

They turned and bolted back towards the forest. And they very nearly made it.

Something white stepped out from the trees in front of them. Granger nearly toppled them over as she tried to wrench backwards with a scream.

" Its just a unicorn!" he yelled at her, trying to pull her forward, shocked when she continued to fight against his grip, screaming at him to let her go.

The unicorn stepped into the field on tremoring legs, its head flopped jerkily on a thin, boneless neck.

Oh hell no…

Yellow eyes speared them, blank and unseeing.

" What the fuck?"

The unicorn loped unevenly towards them with staggering, uncoordinated steps. Its body was strangely gaunt, and as he watched, tiny dark spots appeared on the pristine white hide and beads of dark water dripped down the skin.

…the skin…

The image of the skinned unicorn rose in his mind.

" It's the skin." Draco choked, clamping back on the scream that wanted to claw its way from his throat, "It's the unicorn skin. Its just the fucking skin!"

Granger had stopped fighting him and clutched at him instead, her fingers digging so tightly into his arm that he was sure she had drawn blood, her chest was heaving in terror. Draco looked back and forth between the creatures. The wyvern was plodding towards them leaving a trail of murky water. The unicorn was tottering towards them more quickly, its golden eyes unblinking and now dripping filth at the corners, its hide denting in oddly in places and its legs folding in strange directions because there were no bones to hold its shape.

But that didn't mean there was nothing inside it… There was something there and Draco had no desire to find out what it was.

The old man across the lake just stood watching.

" Help us!" Draco screamed at him, " Help us you mother fucking asshole!"

The man shook his head resignedly, slowly turning his back and walking away. He opened the cabin door and stepping inside, disappearing from view.

A scream of rage tore at Draco's throat.

He nearly ripped the knife from Granger's hands but inspiration struck at the last second," The knife, Granger! Use the knife on the unicorn." he commanded.

If they could get past the unicorn skin they might make it. Granger had said the wyvern was too big to easily follow them into the forest. She would have to be the one to use the knife though, because if he collapsed after using the blade the wyvern would still get him. If Granger attacked with the knife and then collapsed, he could carry her.

The girl was shaking so badly that he had to grab her hands and steady her. The wyvern made a deep lowing sound as it apparently saw or sensed the danger and lurched towards them faster. The unicorn saw the threat and charged and it was just as Draco had imagined, so fast and terrible and his eyes couldn't even follow it.

Granger was screaming as she slashed the air. Draco felt the power leave the knife through her but he was shocked at how weak the blow was. The magic ripped through the unicorn's chest and sent it staggering backwards. If he didn't know any better, he'd say it looked surprised. A line opened up in the white skin and black liquid gushed out in a startling gout to splash onto the ground, the puddle smoked and burned, the stench making his eyes tear and bile rise up in his throat. The liquid bubbled and coagulated. Shapes rose up out of it.

Frogs. The twitching flopping frogs rose up from the black liquid blood like half digested food chunks in vomit. Some of them began chirping others began speaking "Re'loiuth Eedai Mevnox".

Granger leaned heavily against him exhausted, clutching the knife with white fingers, but the unicorn seemed unfazed.

" FUCKING SHIT!" Draco grabbed tightly onto the slumping girl and snatched the knife from her hand. Heat stabbed through his arm as if fiery teeth clamped up and down his arm, making his muscles cinch and spasm, but it passed quickly to mild warmth and he readjusted his grip on the blade. For an instant he could have sworn he felt something else, a little smirk, a little hello, from the weapon.

The 'wound' in the unicorn skin was sealing up, the gout of dark liquid tapering off to beads of muck slipping through the damp white fur.

Draco drew the knife up but before he could strike, the unicorn opened its mouth, revealing yellowing, needle-like fangs and screamed. It shrieked and the sound was like nothing he had ever imagined. Not even the Mandrake's cry could be this bad. It was so high it pierced his brain, but so horribly deep that it felt like his bones would shatter under the force of it. It went on and on, going through them like a shock wave. Draco dropped Granger and the knife and howled, hands flying up to cover his ears. Something in his head burst, the left side of his face went numb and blood gushed from his nose.

The shriek died away, echoing through the trees. He collapsed to his knees, clutching at his throbbing head. Under he legs he felt the vibrations of the wyvern's footsteps. It was coming. He could feel it like an icy shadow at his back. He could even hear it grunting as it moved.

He struggled through the searing agony, snatching wildly at the ground until his fingers closed on the knife. He was shocked when Granger grabbed his arm and hauled him to his feet, taking the knife from his hand. He couldn't believe she could stand so soon after using the blade. There was blood on her face, leaking from her mouth and ears. She tugged on his shirtsleeve, screaming something at him but he couldn't make it out through the ringing in his ears. A determined light shown on her face and she wrenched him backwards.

Towards the Tangle Trees. .

" Honestly, Malfoy, if I have to choose between facing a wyvern and facing the Tangle Trees, I'll go with the Tangle Trees."

That's what she said before. Would it really work?

Merlin, they had no choice.

They bolted for the Tangle Tree forest. The wyvern bellowed.

The lazily waving vines of the trees snapped to attention as the two neared, beckoning excitedly, ready to crack forward and tear them apart. Draco grit his teeth and dove headfirst in between the first two tree trunks. The vines came shooting forward in mass. Granger hacked the air with the dagger, sending magic shredding through the vines. Each slash was much weaker than Draco's past attacks but that seemed to be a boon at the moment as it was enough to cut through the vines while only weakening Granger a little.

Draco glanced over his shoulder in time to see the unicorn lurch into the forest after them. The Tangle Tree vines lashed out, wrapping around the creature in an instant and yanking back in all directions. The skin burst like rotten fruit, sending dark, thick liquid raining down in all directions, the skin itself, suddenly empty, flopped to the ground, literally. It flopped and struggled and tried to squirm after them. Draco's scalp crawled at the disturbing site but he wrenched his attention back to Granger.

She was growing weaker by the moment, dragging at his hold, swaying and stumbling on her feet. Her slashes were coming slower, clumsier; eventually the knife would slip from her fingers. He grabbed her arm and helped her cut at the air but the vines were coming from all around them now.

Granger slumped against him and he wrenched the knife from her grip, screaming as one of the vines barely missed his head. The wyvern was lowing, a low moaning sound as it tried to force its way through the trees. The vines whipped at it to no avail. It was too big. The wyvern slammed forward and the trees cracked.

" Shit!" Draco shouted as a fresh wave of vines came striking down at them. Where were they all coming from?!

He slashed his arm through the air as hard as he could and the magic flared more powerful than ever. The power roared through the trees, disintegrating the vines and even blasting through some of the tree trunks. His vision immediately spun and darkened but he held tight to Granger, who had enough energy left to help hold him up, and staggered forward. Nausea burned up his throat but he screamed angrily through his clenched teeth, refusing to go down now and dragged them forward.

When it seemed as though he couldn't move another inch, he gathered the last of his waning strength and sprinted forward in a burst of movement, no longer able to see or think coherently, no longer sure where he was going or what was in front of them.

He took another step and the ground simply disappeared from beneath his feet.

They were falling.

Granger's screams were sharply cut off as they splashed down, plummeting deep into dark, icy water. The shock of it made him gasp and water filled his mouth, filled his lungs. He struggled violently and they burst to the surface, coughing and sputtering. It was dark, too dark to see anything. He flailed mindlessly in the water until he recognized the feeling of Granger dragging at him. He let her drag him and then sand was beneath his feet, beneath his hands. He forced his screaming arms to help Granger pull him up onto the shore.

She released him and he flopped onto wet sand, vomiting water, shuddering. Panic still gripped him even though his mind was too numb and dazed to really understand what was happening. He flopped onto his back, staring up at the night sky and a luminous half moon and everything went dark again.

He could hear Granger sobbing in that infinite blackness.


The gentle, comforting patter of rain filled his ears along with a soft rushing white noise that was somehow familiar. A light shower of rain spattered over his face, drenching his body. He was soaking wet and chilled to the bone. His head throbbed dully.

Stirring slightly, moaning, he forced his eyelids open a crack. Water spattered into his eyes and he cinched them shut, wiping at his face with numb hands.

He sat up carefully, sneezing water.

The world was hazy gray and hushed around him. Serene. He sat quietly, staring dumbly forward, his brain unable to process what he was seeing. One too many things that just didn't make sense. His mind slowly righted itself and the scene came into brilliant focus. His jaw dropped.

" What the fuck?" his voice was hoarse.

" Its not the ocean." The girl's voice was distant and hollow.

His head snapped to the side to see Granger standing next to him, staring out at the vast expanse of unending water that reached all the way out to meet the horizon. The rushing white noise was waves lapping softly at the shore. The sky was pearl gray with rain clouds and a steady sheet of drizzling rain poured over them.

" It fucking looks like the ocean!" he croaked, struggling to get up, and quickly giving up. He stared out at deep blue waters, " What…is…" he looked up at Granger, at the calmly blank expression on her face, "Is this a dream?"

She laughed sharply, an abrupt, hysterical sound that made him flinch, " Its beautiful isn't it. Look around you, its all very pretty."

He turned his head to examine the stretch of pristine, white beach, the large lovely shells speckled through it like brightly colored candy pieces in vanilla icing. The beach faded into a lush green field with sparse trees and then into a deep forest.

" The water isn't salt water." Granger told him clinically, "Its fresh water."

" So it's a lake? It did overflow?" he asked. It didn't look like it. This water wasn't murky, it was so clear he could see right to the bottom.

She shook her head, self-mocking amusement twisting a little smile on her lips, but she didn't answer his question, " We fell into the water from that direction." She pointed out into the ocean, "From that direction…it should be East."

He stared at her, " I don't understand."

She turned away from him," Get up. We have to get out of the rain. We'll get sick."

He found he was able to rise without assistance which was good because Granger was walking away without so much as glancing back and there was no way he was asking her for help. He was soaked through, his clothes clinging and chaffing against his pinkened skin. His hair was plastered to his head, the back of it caked and gritty with sand.

He followed Granger to the trees. She led him to the right where the ground rose sharply.

" Where are the Tangle Trees?" He frowned at the innocuous shrubbery around them.

" There are no Tangle Trees here." Granger answered in that disturbingly calm voice, not looking back at him.

Under the canopy the rain wasn't as heavy but the ground was still soggy and wet. Their feet slipped in the sludge as they muddled along.

" Where are we going?" he asked her, breaking the eerie silence, "We should try to go around the lake. There are people that way, aren't there?"

Silence. " Caves. We're looking for caves or streams. Water carves caves."

" You think we'll find a cave?"

" No."

He blinked, "Then why are we looking for one?"

" Because I don't know what else to do!"

He went still at the vehemence in her voice, her hands were clenched, her shoulders shaking.

" What the hell's wrong with you?" he asked in surprise, hurrying to catch up when she simply left him behind.

" You don't understand do you?" her voice was thick and breathy, she was crying, " You're so stupid. We were running West through the Tangle Trees in mid-afternoon and suddenly we fall into a huge lake. We fall into a huge lake, get up on shore and its nighttime. Its nighttime and I don't recognize any of the constellations in the sky. I know all the constellation even the ones in the Southern Hemisphere and these are like nothing I've ever seen. And then, just before it gets cloudy, the sun rises, only it rises from the wrong direction. That direction, the direction we came from, isn't East anymore, Malfoy. Its South. There is nothing out beyond those waters and guess what…I don't think there ever was."

" But the cabin…"

" HA! That cabin," she stomped away faster, " the compass never pointed towards it. I don't know, maybe it was an empty cabin and there were no books so the compass had nothing to point at or maybe you were right all along and this compass is a piece of junk. But I do know we aren't where we're supposed to be. We aren't where we were."

" But Granger, we had no idea where we were to begin with!" he threw up his arms, "None of that changes anything."

Her shoulders slumped, and she finally stopped, dropping her face into her hands," I really thought we'd made it." she whispered.

" Haven't we?" he demanded.

" NO!" she screamed, spinning on him and slamming her hands back to her sides, " There are no people here, Malfoy. There's no cabin and no people! I'm not even sure there's a way home. Those monsters chased us in here. They could have killed us, but they didn't. They forced us into the Tangle Tree forest. Into the cursed forest." She spat, "Now we're somewhere else. And if we were anywhere in the known universe I would at least be able to recognize the constellations!"

" We're somewhere else?" he asked faintly, his mind trying to process and integrate this new information. And completely refusing to. No, she was wrong.

" We're somewhere else." She nodded, voice trembling.

He about faced, a tight knot of controlled panic boiling in his stomach, "Then we'll just have to go back the way we came."

" What--you want to just swim out there?" she taunted, giving that bitter laugh again, " Go ahead. There's no telling what's swimming around out there and if your strength gives out and you can't swim back, that's too bad because I can't help you."

He stared out at the vast expanse of water.

This wasn't happening. This just wasn't happening…. They'd been so close.

He thought of the man at the cabin walking away from them and shut his eyes. Had that even been real? Had the man known what was going to happen to them.

" Even if by some miracle we can get back," Granger said softly from behind him, "There's no saying those things won't chase us right back in. Besides…the compass is pointing North now."

" Fuck the compass!" he gritted out and sat down hard, staring out at the water.

" Yeah. Yeah, that's how I feel." She turned and walked away and he just sat there with the rain sluicing down his skin.

He didn't know how long he sat there, his mind blank. He couldn't think. He'd dealt with too much in a short space of time. But the rain didn't let up and then Granger was back.

" I've found a place that's dry. Lets go."

He rose and followed her without a word.

Dry turned out to be a relative concept. Further inland, the trees became huge, bigger than the giant Redwoods and Sequoias in the States. Some of them had large hollow trunks and it was in one of these they found refuge. It was dusty and cobwebby but dry. Granger ducked slightly and climbed right inside, going back to sit at the far wall.

" You really want to stay in here?" he asked, poking his head inside the dark hollow, hands braced on either side of the trunk.

" No."

" Then why are we…?"

" We need to talk, and we need to get out of the rain and out of the open for a minute."

He frowned but followed her in, dry leaves crunching under his feet. He chose a wall and settled against it, still soaking wet, "Are you going to build a fire?" he asked.

She stared at him with a bland expression until he started and sat up.

"Where's your backpack?"

She shut her eyes, and confessed softly, " I left it behind. After you found the package, we ran and I never stopped to pick up my backpack."

" Then our supplies?" he rasped.

" All gone. We have no food, no medicine and no source of fire."

" SHIT SHIT SHIT! How could you be so stupid!" he lashed out, but the fire of his anger couldn't sustain itself and he slumped back down.

She ignored him, resting her cheek against the tree trunk. Another thought struck him and his hand flew to his side, " My knife!"

She touched her waist, " I have it. It's a miracle but you managed to keep hold of it after falling long enough for me to get it from you." She frowned slightly, "I'm not sure it would have left us of its own free will anyway."

Draco rubbed his hands over his face, "Then we're not completely fucked."

She gave her sickly laugh again, as if disagreeing with him.

" SHUT UP!" he yelled.

They spent the rest of that day and night miserable and freezing to death in their tree hollow. They took off their robes and hung them over the entrance to try to keep the wind out and fill the little space with body heat but they were still in their soaking clothes and the wind at night was icy. Neither of them slept.

To their relief, dawn bloomed clear and bright and they spent the entire morning sunning on the beach to dry their clothes and hunting through the immediate area for supplies. Granger brought him some sort of shellfish for breakfast, it was cold and slimy but rather tasty. Food and sunshine eased them and put them in a better mood. They had no sphagnum to clean their water and after being faced with the frogs again they were both loath to drink from the lake but thirst won out in the end. The water was cool and sweet and untainted.

The beach really was beautiful. So beautiful that it was as if no one had ever been there before them to kick up that white sand and collect those gorgeous shells, a chilling little voice in the back of his head said. But Draco had decided that wasn't possible.

Granger was wrong. What did she know anyway? She was just as blind and clueless as him in this situation.

Maybe they had been sent somewhere else just as magically as they had been sent to the forest in the first place but that didn't mean there was no hope. They would be a little uncomfortable until they got some new supplies and got used to their new surrounding but for all they knew they were closer to home than before.

The thought made him restless and rearing to go. They shouldn't be wasting time doing nothing.

" I really think we should get our bearings and find out more about this place. We could use a stockpile of supplies first too." Granger argued, as she sat on a fallen log in the shade of a beach tree. She'd taken off her robes and was sitting in her skirt and now very brown blouse, her hair was knotted up in a bun on her head and held with a pair of slim sticks. She looked like a secretary who had taken up mud-wrestling.

" I'm not giving you a say in this, you stupid Muggle." He snapped, crossing his arms and glaring down at her. Whatever had given her the idea that her opinion mattered? "Lets go."

Her sun-darkened face hardened mulishly, " What's wrong with you?"

They didn't have time for this.

He grabbed her arm and tugged her to her feet, wrenching her forward when she set her heels, " I'm sick of this sitting around doing nothing bullshit. I'm done babying you, lets go."

" Babying me?" she sputtered, jerking her arm from his grasp, "Where do you get off…" but then she shook her head, taking a deep breath, " We're not having this argument again. I don't know what's gotten into you but you'd better get it OUT of you or I swear I'm just going to start screaming and not stop."

" You do that and I'll just hold your underwater until you shut up." He snarled, tossing her a sneer over his shoulder.

She stared at him in outrage and disbelief but only made a disgusted noise and walked on ahead of him. Satisfied, he followed after her.

The day passed without incident mostly because they were both so mad at each other that they didn't speak much and when they did it was to snap at each other. They managed to find food and other possibly useful items as they went along but they found no firestone and not nearly enough material to cast a circle. The night was cold and they had no protection from the elements or from passing carnivores. Granger suggested they take turns keeping watch. Draco agreed just to shut her up but then sat the whole night awake, not daring to switch places with her. She was angry with him in the morning but he just shoved her on her ass and told her to deal with it.

" You need your strength." She snapped, running after him, "I'm going to have to give you the knife today or tomorrow. It'll be really bad if you're not strong enough to handle it! I mean, besides a couple of naps, you haven't slept since we got here."

" I can handle myself, bitch. Get out of my face." He knocked her to the side.

She stumbled back a bit, face a mask of surprise before her eyes narrowed. She glared at him for a heartbeat before throwing her hands up, "What is wrong with you?" she demanded, "Why are you acting like this again?"

" Acting like what again?" he shouted, turning on her, " Acting like normal?"

" Acting like a wanabe Death Eater. I thought we were past this. I thought we were past all the grandstanding and macho bullcrap!"

A hint of color rose to his cheeks.

Wanabe Death Eater? She really thought that?

Of course she did. How could he forget? She thought he was harmless, someone to be bullied and pushed around with her obnoxious attitude.

He took a threatening step towards her, " I am a Death Eater." He hissed.

To his amazement she smiled, " You are not a Death Eater. You're a little boy playing at being evil like daddy."

He flinched, face flaming with embarrassed rage.

How dare she!

She stepped towards him coyly and held out the sheathed blade, "Here you are Mr. Big Tough Death Eater. Here's your evil weapon of destruction. Run along and take over the world now."

He swallowed hard, struggling to find his voice, " Have you forgotten who I am? I am the son of Lucius Malfoy, who is second only to Voldemort. I mean to kill you before this is over," he whispered, "You don't think I will?"

She proffered the knife again, her grin widening, "I'm not afraid of you. You just don't have it in you. You really should quit pretending before you really disappoint your father. You need to tell him the truth before he starts taking it for granted that you're following in his footsteps," she shook her head wryly, "You just don't make a very good Death Eater."

Draco will never be a Death Eater

He'd been gaping at her before, but now his face blanched.

" You…you bitch…" he whispered.

She gave him an irritated look

" You think…you really think…" he couldn't seem to form a coherent sentence. She thought she'd won. She actually thought… She thought what his father thought: she thought he was a coward.

For a moment he felt such blind, mind-numbing, choking rage that he thought it was going to consume him.

But then it passed.

He stood staring at her. All the boiling, bone-crushing fury burning inside him had frozen solid. He was suddenly calm. Deathly calm.

Hatred was a cold emotion after all.

This was the time to prove himself. To show this bitch and his father just who and what he was. It was sort of ironic that both of them would die by his hands.

He took a leisurely step towards her, calmly considering what to do with her. Something must have shown on his face because her self-confident expression wilted slightly, becoming wary.

What to do with his little Muggle bitch…

He couldn't kill her. Not yet. Beating her would be satisfying but would slow him down in the long run. There was a much better option available. Break her. Humiliate her, shatter that snotty little smile into a million pieces.

Gryffindor's little princess, had no idea what she'd just gotten herself into. She had no idea what the real world was like. She had no idea what hatred and pain were. She had no idea what others had suffered because of her kind.

It was time someone showed her.

He laughed softly, coldly and Granger started in surprise, taking a step back. He knew she had expected him to fly into a rage, she had expected threats and insults and maybe for him to shove her down. The last thing she had expected was for him to laugh.
" You are so stupid." He said slowly, disgustedly, " I told you. I am a Death Eater."

He strode forward quickly and backhanded her arm, sending the blade flying, clattering to the earth yards away.

" Hey!" she yelped, turning towards it automatically but he grabbed her just below the shoulder, digging his fingers in as hard as he could. She tried to jerk away from him but he slammed her back into a tree trunk and pinned his arms on either side of her head.

" Look at me you stupid bitch." He ordered softly.

Her bright eyes flashed towards him, confusion blatant on her features.

" You listen to me, you little whore. I am a Death Eater. I've been one for over a year. I am one of My Lord's favorites. I am one of his chosen. Do you have any idea who I am? What I've done? How many Muggles I've killed?"

Her brow was crinkled in disbelief but he could see the cautious tension running through her body.

" Its part of the initiation ceremony." He told her with a chilly smile, " My first task was to prove my worth to My Lord by bringing him my kills. I chose a cute little Muggle family that had dared to impose on our borders. A mom and a dad and two little girls. I made them beg for their lives and then I brought them to My Lord in pieces. He was very impressed. They were my first and I still dream about them. Very pleasant dreams."

Granger was staring at him in mesmerized horror, her lips parted slightly. She shoved at him, ducking under his arms and scrambling backwards. He turned to face her, in no hurry to catch her.

" I like killing them. They're vermin." He told her coldly, "And you… Out here, all I do is think about killing you. I think about it all the time. I think about how many different ways I could do it. And I've got to be really careful because it would be so easy for me just to let go and gut you one night in your sleep."

She took another cautious step back.

" I hate you and I hate your kind and I will not stop until I wipe the last of you off this planet." He stalked towards her, forcing her to retreat. His voice raising, " Do you remember the hit on the Edelman family? I was there. Do you remember the Margos, the Bierys, the Quinns? We burned their fucking houses to the ground with them inside. I watched them run around in their nightshirt, burning like a torches." He sucked in a breath as if relishing the memory, " I'll never forget those screams."

" You…you're lying." her voice was shaky.

" Do you remember the Craighton mall massacre? I was there. I raped those bitches before I killed them. I spit in their faces while they cried and I laughed while I did it."

He saw the shock of his words go through her and he lunged forward and grabbed her upper arms. She didn't fight. Her eyes were suddenly wide and glassy and blank. He noted with extreme satisfaction that she was trembling.

He tightened his grip on her snarling, "You're just another stupid Muggle whore. Another filthy bitch. I'd kill you now if you weren't more useful alive. I'd beat you like the dog you are but you deserve worse."

" You…won't…" she started but he smacked her face, making her give a little scream, and then shoved her onto the ground, falling on top of her, "Malfoy…what are you…?"

" I'll put you in your place." He growled, deep and furious and tore into her like a rabid animal.

" Malfoy!" she screamed in panic, grabbing at his arms as he ripped her robes open.

It seemed to happen very fast, so fast that it was all muddled up in his head. He grabbed at her shirt, panting with lust, knocking her hands away when she scratched at his arms. She kicked and scratched and bit and tried to buck him off but after that initial cry she made not a sound except for harsh, panicked breathing.

Blaise cowering in the corner, her arms held protectively over her face, " Stop it! Stop it! Leave me alone!"

He pinned her down, wrenching her shirt upwards because it was easier than tearing the buttons off, bunching the material at her neck. Her flat little stomach was heaving, her breasts bouncing free of their restraints. He palmed one of them, squeezing. She made a desperate keening sound in the back of her throat, teeth clenched as she raked at his hands.

" I don't like you." Millicent said grudgingly, "But…you've been really good to Sky. He looks up to you. You're his hero."

She suddenly changed targets and went for his eyes, hands curled into claws. She was vicious and fast but he caught her hands before she could score his face and shoved them down, pinning her more fully under his body.

I just walked away. I knew what had happened to Blaise but I just walked away.

His seeking mouth found her breast, found one taut nipple. He ground his hips into her, the bulge in his pants so hard it hurt.

"You're a good guy, Draco, you really are," Pansy said with a soft smile.

He forced her legs apart with his knee, forced her skirt to ride up around her thighs. He reached down with one hand to yank it upwards.

" So you don't believe in world peace?"

" Not anymore."

Eagerly he tugged her panties to the side and groped her, cupping her in that warm soft place that girls have and she finally screamed. She howled, a ragged, desperate sound of rage and hopelessness.

Except it wasn't Granger he heard screaming.

Draco flung himself off her, clambering backwards, gasping in horror.

That scream… It couldn't, couldn't possibly…. But it was so real.

She was seventeen too…

How could he have heard that scream? How could he ever hear it except in his nightmares? Because he hadn't been there. He hadn't been there when...

Did she scream like that? Did she scream and fight like that, as hard as she could?

Bile rose up in the back of his throat as Granger curled into a shivering little ball.

All that strength. All that willpower. It wasn't enough for her. He didn't stop.

Don't run. It'd be admitting you did something wrong. Don't run. Don't run. Don't…

And you're the result.

Nausea swamped him and his vision kaleidoscoped. He lurched to his feet and bolted into the forest. He ran blindly until he tripped and sprawled on his face and then he vomited. He vomited and tried not to cry.

He curled into his own shivering ball, his ears still ringing with that scream. All his thoughts spinning and dancing randomly. They floated around without reason or pattern.

He saw Blaise with her father's fists marks on her face, smiling at him in honest happiness. "Oh I'm fine! I don't really remember what happened. Daddy says I fell down the stairs." Happily oblivious. Oblivious. Obliviate.

Its not the same. Its not the same. Its not the same….

Is it?

Granger smiling at him with sun-bronzed cheeks and dirt on her nose, laughing. Happily oblivious.

Did she really deserve what he had done? She was a Muggle. They were disgusting, vile, evil creatures. They wanted to destroy wizard-kind.

Granger hovering over him in concern, worried about him even after all he'd done to her.

Did she really deserve…

Narcissa smiling at him, kissing his forehead. "I love you, my sweet boy."

How could she possibly love him? How could she even stand to look at him? He was a walking, talking reminder of everything she had suffered. He thought of if every time he looked in the mirror. How could she not think it every time she looked at him?

The only thing he could do to pay for his sin, to pay for the sin of being born, was protect her. But how could he protect her if he couldn't fulfill his duty as a Death Eater?

Fulfill his duty?

What would his mother say, what would she think of him if she found out about this particular duty? What would she think of her sweet boy then? His blood ran cold. He could only imagine the look on her face. The look of sickened horror she'd give him as he proved that he was, after all, his father's son.

His father's son?

Lucius staring at eight-year-old Draco with a strange expression on his face. He reached out and tussled the boy's silky hair, causing the boy to scowl and cock an eyebrow. Lucius chuckled softly, warmly, "Hey kiddo. How's my boy?"

His breath shuddered. There was no way out.

What was the right thing to do? Every direction he turned he betrayed someone. How many people had he hurt just getting to this point?


" You will not see the Parkinson brat any longer. They are not a respectable family and I expect you to have better associates." Lucius' lip curled, "As well as better taste. They may have money now but a few years ago your little girlfriend was probably digging through the Weasley's trash for her supper. She's common bred filth. Drop her."

The cold disinterested scowl on his own face,"Yes father."


" You saw what he did to her! Draco, we have to do something!"

" Its not my problem. Her father is one of us, we don't turn in our own kind."


He shrugged, "Daughters are for making alliances and serving the family, nothing else."


Millicent still standing there, staring into the distance, one cheek sporting a red-handprint.

" Hey, Millicent! " he crowed, "You know what the fastest way to lose weight is? Suicide."

The girl didn't so much as twitch but Sky, still sobbing, screamed and attacked him. He punched the little boy to the ground, laughing. And looked up in time to see Millicent's fist.

Hermione Granger…

Her smiling at him, "I'm not afraid of you." Trust. Trust shining in those chocolate eyes.

He'd heard it as a taunt, his own mind twisting the warmth in those words to scorn, but what she had really been saying was 'You won't hurt me.' It was proof of her innocence that she could trust anyone so blindly. Her life was practically perfect. She had the perfect cookie-cutter family, the perfect friends, the perfect grades the perfect happiness that so many of the Slytherin kids dreamed about. She was pure and innocent and untainted by the world.

And he had tried to take that away from her…

He was an unforgivable bastard.

What right did he have to take that innocence and happiness from her?

She's a Muggle. That's all the right you need. A vicious voice in his head answered.

But what had she ever done to him?

She was born. Snarled the voice.

Just like me, huh? He answered with a watery smile.

Unfortunate blood. Unfortunate birth.

It wasn't really her fault. And yet what choice did he have? He had to fight the Muggles. He had to fight.


He sat up in the dirt, eyes wide, " I couldn't do it." he rasped aloud.

He had tried. He had honestly tried to rape her. He'd had every intention of going through with it.

But I couldn't do it! I couldn't hit her! I couldn't rape her!

He couldn't do it. He couldn't hurt her no matter how angry he got, or how much he wanted to. He no longer had any choice in the matter.

He had failed.

He knelt in a frozen moment of awe as the implications sank in.

And then he threw his head back and laughed until he cried.

He had failed.

Relief. Waves of choking, unutterable relief pouring through him like cool healing water, undoing all the painful sick knots in his stomach, and on the heels of that, joy. Joy like light, burning through the dark despair, turning it to sweet peace. He trembled and shook with the intensity of it. He laughed until he collapsed against the ground, faced buried in the dirt, sobbing.

Because he had no choice. He could not do what he was meant to do. And that made him happier than he thought he'd ever been.

He wasn't a rapist.

He wasn't his father.

He turned his face and laid his cheek on the earth, a content smile on his face as he just basked in the rare moment of peace.

He couldn't give up fighting the Muggles, he wouldn't. He wouldn't stop protecting his mother. But maybe there was a way to do it on his own terms. He didn't know yet. He could see no solution to this sudden, possibly fatal dilemma. He could give a flying fuck at the moment though. None of that mattered right now. He'd deal with it later. Right now…

Right now, for just this moment, he was free.


His eyes snapped open.

He had to tell her. He had to explain. He had to apologize. He had gone too far. No girl deserved what he had done and he had undoubtedly done terrible damage. She was so soft and fragile.

Merlin, he hoped he hadn't broken her as he had planned to all along.

He got to his feet urgently, intent on finding her, apologizing, comforting her. They were enemies, it was true, but this was a matter of honor.

He raced back to where he had left her lying half-naked in the dirt. The thought made him cringe.

He stepped out of the brush, scanning the ground, expecting to find her still huddled in a ball, sobbing.

She wasn't there. His mouth tightened in a grim line of worry.

Shit, did she go wandering off? She was probably running for all she was worth and he didn't blame her.

He circled around until he found the exact spot he left her.

Damn it, he was going to have to track her down before she got into trou…

Something cracked into the back of his skull. Light exploded in his head and he stumbled forward, his mouth opened but he couldn't scream. The next blow smashed into the middle of his back and agony roared up his spine. This time he did scream, just before his assailant hit the back of his knees and he was falling.

He landed hard on his back, cracking his head against the ground, the air rushing from his lungs. Stunned, he could only lay there.

His attacker pounced on him, pinning him down. A rope was looped around his neck and pulled tight, cutting off his air. He choked, struggling until something cold and sharp and familiar was pressed to his throat.

He went still, blinking rapidly to clear his vision.

What he saw froze him to the core.

Granger was on top of him, a cord made from a twisted strip of her own robes was cinched tightly around his neck, the other end secured on her wrist. The dagger was in her other hand, glowing and hissing, kissing the skin just above his pulse. Her face was cold and twisted in a hateful snarl, her eyes frosted with ice, dark and pitiless. There was not a single tear or tear stain on her cheeks.

She tightened the noose very slowly, leaning over him with an expression of murderous fury that he had never imagined could don her face.

" You're a dead man."

Next Time: More angst, flashbacks, secrets and attempted murder all from Hermione's POV

A/N: HA! Who's the crazy one now?

A lot of your questions about Hermione will be answered in the next chapter. Also, I didn't keep the scene that explained the GOTL title, sigh. Everything will get explained eventually.

On another note, I've been bullied into starting a mailing list. So if you want me to email ya when I update, leave a message after the beep.

Other Notes:

Eav: Honestly, I have no idea. Ahem, things I know about Britain: They have a Queen and they drive on the wrong side of the road. But seriously, If you know anything on the subject feel free to enlighten me, I'd love to learn something about it.

Ashley88: The mass sterilization thing came from a discussion we had in my Pop. genetics class. I actually wasn't paying that much attention. But what caught me was something about a virus that sterilized people. At first I was absolutely horrified by the idea and then I found it extremely amusing because it would be hysterical on some sick, ironic level if we accidentally sterilized the entire human race.

Bad Author's Note: I don't like horses. I think I was emotionally scarred in my youth by watching "Darby O'Gill and the Little People". So that's why unicorns=horror story with me.

A/N: WEEE ::party streamers:: the fic is 1 year old!! I can't believe it. Its like a nightmare. And some of you lovely wonderful people have been with me from the beginning. Ah, I'm feeling all sentimental. I thought about posting some sort of anniversary thing but I was threatened with dismemberment if I posted anything but the next chapter. I kinda have to agree, I always get mad when other people post and you get all excited cuz you think it's a new chapter but its not…

Btw: Because of some people wanting to be on the mailing list but not actually saying so I decided to err on the side of caution and everyone who left their email got on the mailing list. If you don't want to be on the mailing list and your pissed that I had the nerve to send you an email then just send one back and tell me to remove you from the list. But this is the only time I'll add people without them asking to be added. From now on, if you want to be on the list please specifically say so or I won't add you.

Chapter 14: Shattering Rose-colored Windows

All Have Said Their Prayers
Invade Their Nightmares
See into My Eyes
You'll Find Where Murder Lies

Metallica "Harvester of Sorrows"

To Hermione Granger the world had always been black and white.

A tall sophisticated young woman stood in front of a full-length mirror expertly applying a soft shade of rose lipstick while her younger cousin sat on the fluffy bed gazing at her wistfully, wishing she were as tall and as pretty and as sophisticated.

" You're sure you're not coming with us, Sunshine? It'll be a blast, I promise." The older girl cajoled, putting the lid on her lipstick with a decided snap and pursing her lips..

" Well…I'd really like to, but I have tons of homework to do. I've really been putting it off this last week." The younger girl hugged one of her cousin's stuffed teddy bears and flopped back on the bed, staring up with an arched brow at the Chip &Dales poster on the ceiling.

She missed her cousin's indulgent smile, " Then you'd better hurry and finish it. We still have to go shopping for sandals and new bathing suits for Friday. You're coming with me to the beach party whether you like it or not!"

The young girl frowned, "You're friends think I'm a nerd." She pouted.

Her cousin glowered, pretty face becoming haughty and superior as she primped her hair," My so-called friends can kiss our combined London-born asses. I bet you they show up here tonight begging your forgiveness. I bet they bring you roses and love letters."

The girl sat up, giggling,"I thought Marcy was going to faint when you told her who I was."

" That bitch has a lot of groveling to do before I decide whether or not we forgive her." the older girl said darkly and walked over to the younger girl and lifted her chin, "No one messes with my cousin."

" I wish I was as popular as you." The girl said, her gaze adoring.

" Well I wish I was as smart as you." She bent and kissed her cousin's forehead and ruffled her hair before grabbing her purse and walking to the door, all swaying hips on stiletto heels, "I'll see you tonight then."

Hermione scrambled to her feet, "Where are you going again? Jus… Продолжение »
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