…t in case I finish and want to meet up with you there?"

Karina smiled, "Craighton mall."

Black and white.

The phone clattering to the floor. Her aunt falling to her knees, wailing. A sound she was certain she'd never heard a human being make before.

Her mother hugging her, sobbing into her shoulder, saying words that she simply couldn't understand.

Karina is dead.

Good and bad.

Moody's weathered, pockmarked face looking down at her grimly but not without a certain amount of satisfaction to it.

" It was Wizards. Death Eaters."

Unicorns and Dragons…

Draco Malfoy snarling into her face," 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."

It was simple really. There were a set of natural, intuitive rules of conduct, common sense courtesy that people should live by; things like being polite and honest, and taking responsibility, and always reading the instructions thoroughly. And if everyone just lived by these rules all the problems in the world would just solve themselves.

World peace was possible if people just put their minds to it. There was no reason why people couldn't learn to understand that hating each other for asinine differences was wrong, that slave labor of all forms should be outlawed and House Elves set free, and that horrible things like guns and drugs should all be destroyed and banned for good. Once these things happened then everyone would get along and be happy.

What a goal to aspire to! World peace. She couldn't understand why more people didn't actively pursue it.

Didn't they realize that all people were inherently good and that there was no such thing as true evil, just people who were misguided and misunderstood? Why, if someone were to sit down and just try to understand them a little, they'd probably learn to see the error of their ways right quick.

The Order stood in a grim circle. Harry and Ron and Hermione a little away from them.

" We have the full report of the crime scene as well as the photos and the autopsy reports." Kingsley was saying, " The Ministry has already gone over them but I thought the Order should as well." His eyes turned to the three kids, "You should stay out here."

" I'm coming in." Harry's voice, soft and fierce.

" Harry…" Lupin began.

" I have to see. I don't care if it adds to the hundreds of nightmares I already have. I can hardly sleep anymore as it is. I don't care how horrible it is. This is the reality and I need to face it." he looked up at them, face pale and shining with determination, " I can't run from it. I can't pretend its not happening. Whether I like it or not I am part of this. I have to know."

Kingsley looked over at Dumbledore questioningly. The older man stared into Harry's eyes for a long time, "It is a burden," he said finally, "That I had hoped you would never have to shoulder. I do not wish you to be present for these proceedings….however, the cold truth is, that you are correct."
Harry went in, followed, slowly and hesitantly by Ron. They both looked at her as they reached the door.

She turned from them and walked away.

They came out two hours later. Neither looked at her. Harry went right up to his room and didn't come down again. Ron walked out the front door, hugging himself and Hermione wasn't sure where he went. The other members of the Order went off on other business, all except for Mad-Eye Moody who stood staring at her with a strange look on his face.

" Granger," he said when all the others had left, " Follow me."

Curiously and trustingly, she had followed him into the conference room, it was empty except for a large table.

" Sit." Moody ordered, his back to her, something in his tone making her obey instantly while fidgeting nervously.

" I am disappointed in you." He said lowly, and she felt a twinge of contrition that such words should be directed at her though she knew not the cause, " Your cousin died horribly, and you refused to acknowledge her."

" I.. I didn't!" she gasped in horror.

But Moody was continuing," You, Granger, live in a fantasy world. A world of rose-colored windows and happily ever after." He turned back to her, his scarred face pulled in a frown, " That's not how the world works."

" What are you saying? I don't understand."

" House-Elf liberation." He said softly, scornfully, " Rehabilitation for Dark Wizards, Laws to allow Muggles into the Wizarding world."

" B..but sir.." she gaped at him, " Just because I have ideals doesn't mean…"

" I understand that you are a little girl and normally you would be entitled to a little girl's dreams. But you are an important part of this war because you are important to Harry Potter. I don't think you understand the severity of what happened. I don't think you understand just what it means to be a Dark Wizard."

" But Professor!"

" Your cousin died for you, Granger."

Hermione's mouth snapped shut, "W..what did you say?"

" Dark Wizards came to Craighton mall looking for Harry Potter's girlfriend. Looking for you. Your cousin is dead because Harry Potter loves you. She is dead because she is a Muggle. She is dead because you are Muggle-born." He pulled a packet from his robes, his face severe, " I think you need to look at these photos. I think you need to acknowledge just what they did to your cousin."

Hermione's eyes went huge, her lips trembling. She wanted to get up and run but something in his face told her it wouldn't be a very good idea..

" They stripped her down and beat her like an animal." Moody said coolly, "Then they raped her, sodomized her. They performed the Cruciatus several times and then the Killing Curse."

Tears slipped unheeded down her cheeks, cold horror keeping her silent and still.

Moody stepped forward and slapped the packet down in front of her. She instinctively tried to jerk away, only to find she was somehow stuck to the chair. Her eyes flew to his in disbelief. And then her nightmare began.

He made her look at every single picture. Pictures of young girls lying broken on the ground, their arms and legs at strange angles. Pictures of infants and little children with wide unseeing eyes. Pictures of men slumped against the wall with their stomachs slashed open and their innards spilled into their laps.

Pictures of her cousin.

Pictures of her beautiful cousin with her face twisted horribly in pain and still, silent screams. Her beautiful cousin, who wasn't beautiful any longer, lying naked in a puddle of blood and semen.

Hermione thought her mind would break. Moody used spells to keep her eyes forced open. She begged him to let her go, she cried and wailed and struggled and screamed herself hoarse. Screamed in horror, screamed in pain, screamed for her tilting sanity and for the black bloody rage at the people who had done this and she screamed for her beautiful cousin. And Moody kept calmly showing her the photos, telling her names and details and specific methods of murder.

Harry and Ron burst in what felt like hours later. She didn't really remember what happened. She thought they must have fought Moody. All she could do was continue staring down at the latest picture, a picture of a dead mother huddling over her broken baby, while all around her spells were being cast and people were shouting and screaming and when she finally came around she was in Harry's arms and he was clutching her so tightly she couldn't breathe, his face buried in her hair.

Hermione blinked, inhaling a short sharp little breath, and came back to herself.

She was lying on her side in the dirt, her breasts exposed, her skirt up around her waist. The world was all cool wind and warbling birds. Peaceful. Silent. Surreal.

She sat up slowly, feeling slightly achy and mildly nauseous but otherwise fine. It sort of surprised her. How could the world feel so calm and normal when everything should have been splintering apart at the seams?

She figured logically, that she was experiencing a mild form of shock. There was no way she could really be this calm about what had happened. If she was then she was in more trouble than she had thought. It would be really sad if she went insane now.

Numb fingers fumbled with her blouse. She messed with the buttons until she realized, blankly, that they were all still buttoned and that all she had to do was pull her bra back into place and pull her shirt down. She started to straighten her bra and touched breasts wet with saliva.

Her hands jerked away from her chest as if burned, a strangled, animal sound issuing from her throat. She stared at her hands in horror, at the glistening smear on her palm. She turned her hand back and forth in revolted fascination.

She hadn't been able to push him off.

Her emotions teeter violently at the thought.

She'd been too weak to stop him. Her mind had been spinning too fast for her to think rationally. Go for the eyes. Jam your fingers into the hollow of the throat. Pull upwards into the jaw. She hadn't even felt around for rocks. Why hadn't she thought of bashing his brains out? She couldn't even really remember the details of what had happened. It had all been so fast. Where was cool, logical Hermione? Where was the girl who had sworn she'd never be a victim? Where was the girl who was so sure of her own strength?

Stupid, useless, panicky flighty creature.

Her hands started to shake uncontrollably and she clenched them, digging dirty nails into her palm. Humiliation and revulsion and disgust and self-hatred like a lake of lava in her belly, in her brain, boiling up too fast for her to handle all at once, constricting her throat. She couldn't seem to breathe. For several minutes all she could do was sit there and try to fill her lungs properly.

She thought she would cry. She wanted to cry. Her eyes burned with it but remained dry. She tried to force the tears to come and simply could not. Was there something wrong with her that she couldn't cry over this?

Frustration quickly hardened to rage.

That's right, sit here and bawl like a baby. That will fix everything, won't it.

She hissed in a breath, grief drying up before the swelling tide of black rage, an emotion as dark and filthy as the frog-water. Her thoughts sharpened with diamond clarity it that darkness, while her emotions continued to tip back and forth.

She had failed one of the acid tests of life, the only tests that really mattered in the end. She would not fail again. She would never fail again.

She groped for logic, rationalism, the guiding forces of her life, determined to think clearly. Determined that she would NOT fall apart until after she'd had her way. Later she would break down. Later she would collapse into a tight ball of hurt and wail for all that was broken inside her. But not right now.

She found strength she didn't know she possessed and got to her feet.

Unclenching icy fingers, she finished straightening her dusty clothes. Her movements were calm, efficiently indifferent as she ran her fingers through her knotted, now almost dreadlocked, hair, finding a short smooth stick on the ground to pin it up in a bun.

She pulled her robes around her, briskly searching for the knife and found it lying forgotten a few feet away. When she picked it up, its power immediately wrapped around her in a cool burst, with all the anxiousness of a lost child who had just found its parent, probing her with a questioning pulse.

Where did you go? It asked her.

She smiled slightly and told it what she required of it. It gave a lazy smirk.

I'll do whatever you want. It told her.

Her world had always been black and white.

There were good people and there were bad people.

She had always considered herself a 'good' person. And good people didn't hate. Good people believed that no one was beyond hope. Good people believed that no one deserved to die no matter what.

No one….

"…I spit in their faces…"

…was really evil…

" …bitches…"

…not even…

" …I killed them…"

…Voldemort or the…

"…and I laughed…"

Death Eaters…

She lay limp and silent in Harry Potters arms, her insides a twisted burning mass of unquenchable hatred. Something inside her had broken, she knew, but her face was calm and serene as she decided coldly and rationally that if she ever found the people who had murdered her cousin she'd slaughter them all. She'd do it without hesitation or remorse.

She'd do it because some people just deserved to die. Because human beings were killers after all. And when it came right down to the bare, white bones of the matter, so was she.

In that moment, Hermione Granger lost the ability to touch a unicorn.

Her world was no longer black and white. It was gray, without color or contrast. And the S.P.E.W. badges were gathering dust under her bed. And she no longer read Muggle-Tolerance articles about integrating Muggles into Wizard society. And she had forced her father to buy a shotgun before she went back to Hogwarts. And she practiced the Unforgivables because she knew that someday she would use them. And she no longer believed in world peace.

And she hated.

She hated herself for not being there to protect her cousin. She hated herself for being Muggle-born, for being a disgusting Mudblood. And she hated everyone else, remembering, while her heart wailed, every jab,

" I'm sorry, Miss Granger." Professor Tofty said uncomfortably, "That scholarship is for purebloods only. Because they've become a minority you see. Its nothing personal."

Every thoughtless rude comment,

" Are you insane? Dad would disown me if I brought home a bleedin' Muggle. Its not like I'm serious about her. You fuck the Muggles and marry the witches!"

A round of male laughter met this remark.

Every casual snitty remark about Muggles

"…so while no one was looking, I hexed the chair and made it chase after the Muggles. You should have seen them, running around bleating and throwing things at the chair!"

And everyone who'd said them.

" …the worst sort of rubbish. We may need a grade below Troll. Perhaps "M" for Muggle…" McGonagall said as she and Sprout turned the corner and then froze, " Oh… I didn't see you there Miss Granger…"

And she found that deep down she hated every single pureblooded witch and wizard she knew. Hated them for hating her. Because even the nice ones, the sympathetic ones, despised her on some level, thought she wasn't good enough.

She hated them all.

Hermione closed her eyes and shook her head to clear it, to still the babbling voices inside her until only one was left.

"…Craighton mall massacre.. I was there."

She was so stupid for ever believing Draco Malfoy was anything more than an animal. How could she be such a fool? Hadn't she learned her lesson? Hadn't she learned that the worst monsters in the world were human beings? Hadn't she learned that all people possessed the capacity to be cruel, selfish and evil and that most used it to its fullest extent?

Especially Draco Malfoy. He was everything she hated in the world but she'd turned a blind eye to it.

Stupid, gullible, worthless girl.

Just this morning, she had trusted him. Fully and completely. She'd been so sure of him.

He'd treated her awful from the beginning, it was true, but that was nothing new. It was the shining glimpses of other facets of his personality that captured her attention. She'd seen more depth in him over the past few weeks then she'd ever imagined he possessed. She'd seen him laugh, she'd seen him act ridiculously silly, she'd seen him embarrassed and comically outraged. He was clever, he was unselfconscious, he was determined, he was funny, he was very smart though it wasn't necessarily book smarts but more an ability to manipulate and be insightful.

She still disliked him intensely and she had been terrified of him on more than one occasion but…

But when she really thought about it, he'd never actually hurt her. He'd threatened to, he'd said some pretty horrible things but his actual physical torment never escalated past a certain level. If she were brutally honest, she'd admit that she'd seen the twins do worse to Ron on a regular basis.

Malfoy's bullying was entirely on the level of an elder sibling picking on a younger one. He'd pushed her down, twisted her arm, called her names, pushed her head under water, and poked at her scratches and it was all so obviously and embarrassingly juvenile that she was shocked she hadn't seen it sooner. Had she had an elder sibling of her own she might not have been so traumatized by his behavior. She might even have known how to fight back.

He hadn't ever really meant to hurt her. She knew that now.

She just hadn't realized it until the night before, when he'd seemed really ready to punch her but couldn't bring himself to do it; that was when she finally understood.

The violence was all contrived.

It was an act. He had to work at it. It wasn't his natural personality or the normal way he would behave. He had to remember to be a bastard to her.

The truth of him was other. The truth of him was the glimpses she caught when he was relaxed enough to let his guard down. The truth of him was the laughter, the easy mannerisms, the truth of him was that he did not respond instinctively towards her with violence.

With his secret out, she'd teased and harassed him and though he'd screamed and beat his chest, and nearly pulled his own hair out in frustration, he hadn't retaliated.

It made her so happy. It gave her hope.

Maybe Draco Malfoy wasn't such a bad guy after all. Maybe before this was all over he'd have changed his outlook on her, even if it was just the tiniest bit, even if he didn't know it. That would make it all worth it, every moment out in this forest, every terrifying experience. She'd live it all again if it changed his worldview. Wasn't that exactly the type of challenge she enjoyed?

Sometimes she could almost swear he'd changed a bit already.

" Why are you so pretty?"

She'd told herself over and over again that he was completely off his gourd when he said that. She told herself that she viewed those worlds with clinical disinterest and had disregarded them completely. Secretly she prized them, kept them close, thought of them often, always with a warm glow to her cheeks and a wobbly feeling to her stomach.

What if he really did think her pretty?

She'd fought so incredibly hard to remain aloof from him. It wasn't hard at school. She'd looked bravely right into those baby-blues that sent other girls swooning and felt nothing, not even a twinge. He was an insect in her eyes. She had never been attracted to him, had scorned the girls she knew who went on and on about how great he was. His words and actions made him ugly to her.

But out here, he'd somehow slipped her barrier. Somewhere along the way he'd made her look at him. Look at him like a girl looks at a boy.

She'd seen him for the first time.

He was beautiful. That curtain of white blond hair hanging to his cheekbones, she liked his hair much better that way, framing a face that was aristocratic, flawless. Even the new scar across his cheek didn't detract from his looks. She even secretly hoped he'd keep it. His eyes were so pale they should have been lost against his other features, but his hair was so light and his skin so fair that the granite blue-gray orbs were at stark contrast. His features were sharp, fine, almost delicate until he set his jaw and curled his lip and then she felt this shiver down her spine.

And then she thought: what if…what if…

She'd sworn to never fall prey to such silly, female notions.

But she did hope to see more beneath those walls he'd so carefully constructed. She was sure he couldn't keep them up forever, that they were dropping more with every day that passed. That first day he wouldn't even touch her to slap her but how often since then had he held her hand or carried her or clutched her to him.

She remembered in vivid detail what it felt like to be carried in his arms. No one but Harry had ever had so much physical contact with her. She knew his scent, the rhythm of his heartbeat, the feel of his bare skin.

It was terribly intimate.

There had been moments with him when she was incredibly and fiercely aware of her gender in a way she'd never been before. At school, and even at home, she'd always felt like frumpy bookworm Granger, about as sexy as a photo of Grandma.

He made her feel desirable.

She remembered that night after the field-piranha when Malfoy sat in the moonlight, naked from the waist up, letting her run her hands over his chest. There had been something primal in it, her kneeling in front of him, treating his wounds, while he sat there stoic and unflinching, something that made her feel small and feminine. There had been this brooding faraway look on his face and he'd been so relaxed, so complacent under her touch. His skin was warm, almost burning under her fingers. She'd taken in every detail of his body with stark fascination, the lines and planes of his chest, the swell of muscles in his arms. She'd been aware, with every fiber of her being, that she was female and he was male. Her pulse thrummed with it.

Harry was the only boy who'd ever made her feel even remotely like that. Viktor's attention had been flattering and exciting, but only because no boy had ever paid that kind of attention to her before. She'd been caught up in the rush of triumph that she, Hermione Granger had a boyfriend. There had been very little physical attraction involved on her part.

Ron's blundering advances were sweet once he got a clue but they fought more when they were 'together' than ever before. It eventually became clear that their affection for each other, though very real, was platonic. He'd certainly never made her stomach drop to her toes or her legs melt, he'd never made every cell in her body scream with need at the proximity of his body. She'd never breathed in his scent and felt like she'd die if she couldn't lean forward that last little bit and taste…

It sounded so ridiculous when she thought about it. She'd heard other girls say similar things and scoffed at them. There was no feeling or impulse so strong that one couldn't rein it in. And yet how often did she lean into him when he was close to her without ever meaning to? How often had she touched him for comfort?

She remembered their first day at the oasis, coming back from bathing in the stream to find Malfoy wreaking havoc around their campsite. Pacing and stomping and violently smashing anything that got in his path, looking for all the world like a caged animal tearing at the bars. He'd looked up at her and his eyes were burning. Her mouth had gone dry, her heart had stuttered. No one had ever looked at her like that; like they wanted to eat her, but then he'd blinked and it was gone.

How much had he evolved in her eyes since that first day?

And how much of her fury was due to the betrayal of that feeling? Fury at him for making her see those possibilities. Fury at herself for still being able to feel those possibilities when she'd told herself that it was best just to bury those feelings and pretend she never felt them. Fury that all those possibilities had turned into something ugly and degrading that was beyond sickening, that made her feel dirty. Fury that, once again, he'd made a fool of her.

But none of that mattered now.

None of those feelings. None of the good she could have sworn she'd seen in him. It didn't matter.

Because a person can always choose who and what they will be and Malfoy had chosen.

Now there was a debt to pay.

Her emotions tornadoed back the other direction in a howling demonic whirl, leaving her soul barren and torn in its wake.

She caressed the blade for comfort, trying to decide what action to take while ignoring the burning fist squeezing her lungs.

Malfoy would be back soon. She didn't have much time.

She took another deep cleansing breath, forcing herself to think as clearly and cunningly and as lethally precise as a general of war.

If she were smart she'd kill him on sight. She didn't even have to get anywhere near him.

No matter how satisfying it would be to stab him ten times right through his black little heart, it would be impractical of her to indulge in such a thing if it meant getting within reach of his arms.

He was dangerous. She knew it now with frightening certainty. It didn't matter that he hadn't actually gone through with the act. His Slytherin genes would have kicked in by now. He'd have realized that she would tell everyone what he had done when they got back. He'd want to silence her.

She had to get him first.

She stalked off into the bushes, barely paying attention to her surroundings.

Kill him on sight. There was no other option. It was kill or be killed. He was a Death Eater and he deserved to die.

" Is this lying about everything deal a Slytherin thing, a Malfoy thing or just a you thing?"

He lied so often…

She shook her head, blowing off the errant thought angrily. Of course he had been telling the truth this time. She hadn't believed him, even after he made the crack about Craighton mall. Not until he'd…done that.

She pulled her robes tighter around herself.

He wouldn't have violated her like that if he wasn't a filthy Death Eater.

Are you sure?

She rolled her eyes. Did it matter?

Malfoy carrying her in his arms, grumbling. Malfoy laughing at something she said. Malfoy swaying on his feet a look of anguish passing over his face, "He thinks he's better than me. Thinks I'm not good enough to be his son."

Yeah, well I wish he drowned you at birth. She thought grudgingly.

"Does he really hit you?"

That almost imperceptible moment of hesitation," No"

He was lying…

Hermione made a furious noise of frustration, stomping her feet. None of that mattered. She didn't care how angst ridden his life was. Nothing would save him now…


She came up short.

Except she had to know…

She bit her lip and then bit harder, dropping her head back on her shoulders to stare at the sky as blood slipped unnoticed down her chin.

Heaven help her, for Karina, she had to know.

If she killed him outright she'd never know for sure who had murdered her cousin, but if she interrogated him she could get the names of the others.

It didn't mean she couldn't kill him afterwards, she reasoned. Besides, he deserved to suffer a little before he died.

She just had to catch him first. The thought was like a cold drop of lead sliding into her belly.

She hugged the knife to her chest, shuddering uncontrollably as the terror she had felt pinned beneath his body returned with a vengeance.

He was so dangerous. She'd seen him fight. He was vicious, agile and quick and a lot stronger than her. If she messed up, if he got so much as a tiny sliver of opportunity it was all over for her.

For an instant, she considered discarding the interrogation plan. She was a coward and she knew it and she was scared that if she faced him again, and so soon, that she'd fall apart.

What about Karina? What about vengeance for Karina? How dare you turn your back on her, you sniveling, gutless Mudblood.

Her eyes stung and her face twisted and for a moment she thought she would cry, but the teeter-totter dropped back the other way and she grabbed her head and clenched her teeth on a scream. Breathing in wet, uneven gasps, she quickly and meticulously cut a long thin strip of material off her robe and twisted the length of it tightly. The result was a strong, durable cord. She looped one end and tied it off, then stuck the free end through the loop, creating a noose.

She wasn't nearly naïve enough to think she could keep him down with just the knife. He'd try to fight her and he'd be dead before she ever got any information. This way she had a little bit more control.

She slipped as silently as she could through the trees, and found a good spot to wait, crouching down in some thick bushes.

The seconds felt like hours and every breath she took seemed too loud and her skin was hot and cold by turns. The back of her neck crawled and she became paranoid that he was hunting her as she was hunting him. She began to cringe and whimper at every noise, huddling in on herself, her stomach lurching so hard and her mouth watering excessively until she realized she was on the verge of vomiting.

When he finally came crashing into view she nearly screamed. Her skin went cold again in a whirl of fear, her mind taking her back to that instant, that horrible eternity, of rough hands and hot breath. She nearly broke.

And then she saw his face, that lovely face with the look of confusion on it, the expression soft and concerned, making him seem young and harmless and her blood boiled with renewed rage. He walked past her hiding spot and, once his back was to her, she stood.

She wasn't even aware of grabbing the thick tree branch as she stood up. She didn't stop to think about being silent, she couldn't hear anything anyway through the roaring in her ears, but somehow he didn't hear her.

She gripped the tree branch like a baseball bat and swung as hard as she could. She felt the vibration rattle up her arm as the wood met his skull, she heard the hollow 'thunk' of wood on flesh. He staggered forward and she hit him again in the back. She hadn't realized until that moment that she had a plan.

His scream both horrified and elated her and she swung at the back of his knees. He went down like a sack of bricks. So much for the invincible Slytherin King.

She was on him like a rabid animal, looping the noose around his neck and tightening it viciously while he lay stunned and unmoving. He choked, eyes flying open as she lay the blade against his throat.

The knife was excited, sizzling with power. It was begging her to let it cut him. It wanted to taste blood. She was too focused on him to really care.

She looked down into those blearily confused blue eyes and snarled, "You're a dead man."

He went statue still, fear and amazement shooting through his eyes and it made something in her howl in triumph. She wanted him to be terrified. She wanted him to hurt.

His mouth worked, his lips forming her surname. " Granger?"

He started to move, to lift up on his elbows. It was automatic and thoughtless but she panicked. She wrenched on the noose as hard as she could and he gagged, hands flying to his throat as he fell back against the dirt. Her hand shook violently on the hilt of the blade and she nearly cut his head off without meaning to.

" Don't move!" she yelled, " Put your hands down! Put your hands down or I'll slit your throat!"

She dug the tip of the blade into his throat and he forcibly calmed himself, struggling for breath, eyes wide and tearing with pain.

" Put your hands down." She bit out darkly, easing on the noose.

Very slowly, he complied, hands dropping to his side. But his whole body was tensing at the same time, she could feel the muscles of his legs bunch as he prepared to buck her off. It wasn't his nature to lie still under threat.

She nearly saw red. She wanted him whimpering in terror, wanted him cowering like a dog and begging her not to kill him.

" If you so much as twitch," she hissed angrily, leaning heavily on the blade, "I'll cut your head off. Any sudden movements and you are dead. The knife doesn't have to touch you to kill you. You know that. I even think it, and your head will be my trophy."

He stared at her like he had no idea who she was but her words must have registered because he slowly went limp beneath her, "What…what are you doing?" he choked out.

Triumphant, she sneered down at him, ignoring his question," I should kill you right now, I should slice your throat open and let it all spray out. All that blood you're so proud of. The only reason you aren't dead, you little maggot, is because I have questions. After you answer my questions, I'm going to kill you and no one will ever find your body." Every word was even and precise and bitter gall on her tongue.

" You're bluffing. You…won't kill me." He wheezed.

He sounded so certain. That was the problem with liars, they never believed anyone else.

What an idiot.

She leaned over him," I'm going to spit in your face and laugh while you die." She hissed, savoring the words.

He blanched, fear and uncertainty flitting across his face. He was finally afraid of her! Her! The Great Slytherin King was trembling under Mudblood Granger!

She smirked, a twisted, sneer," Now don't move. Don't even think about moving or I'll lop your arms and legs off one at a time and save your head for last."

" Granger…" he wet his lips, " Hermione…"

Before she even knew what she was doing, she'd reversed the blade and slammed the hilt into his temple. He screamed and arched in pain.

" SHUT UP!" she shrieked, shaking him by the noose, jerking his head back and forth," HOW DARE YOU! How dare you, you disgusting ferret! You say my name again and I'll gouge your eyes out with the tip of this knife! Maybe I'll do it anyway for everything you did to me and everything you said to me and…" she clenched her teeth, realizing that she was literally freaking out. If she lost control now it was all over. She took several deep shaky breaths.

Malfoy was cradling his head, choking on the pain. The hand at his temple came away wet with blood, he stared at it in shock.

It sort of surprised her. She suddenly realized that an irrational part of her had been afraid that she couldn't hurt him, that she was too weak or maybe that he was invincible. The thought struck her as funny and she laughed, giggling hysterically.

He flinched at the sound. She didn't notice.

" Do you remember…" her voice broke and she had to stop and clear her throat, " Do you remember the other night, I told you I wasn't crying for the reason you thought I was? You're so stupid. You thought I was crying because I was afraid of you or because I thought I was going to die." She giggled again and wrenched the noose, making him jerk and choke for several seconds before she let up. She stared down at him, watching him gasp for breath, watching the terror flit through his eyes, the realization that he was in big trouble. Perhaps he thought she'd gone crazy.

She almost felt sorry for him.

" I was crying," she told him softly, " because I realized at that moment that I was going to have to kill you eventually. It made me sad. The last piece of my innocence will bleed away while you die. You thought I would be easy, didn't you? But I lied, you know. It was you who convinced me that there was no such thing as world peace. It was always you. And now you're maggot food."

" G-Gra…Girl," he was afraid to say her name, " Girl, you need to stop. You need to calm down and think about what you're doing. You're hysterical and you're not thinking clearly. I know you don't want to hurt anyone. The girl I know would never hurt a fly."

She laughed harshly, " The girl you know? The girl you know? That's rich! You don't know a bleeding thing! Now shut you mouth and hold still or I'm just going to start stabbing you until you decide to comply."

Holding tightly to the noose, she very slowly ran the knife down his throat, watching him swallow, his pulse flutter, as she ran the tip over his chest and up his arm.

" Straighten your arm, raise it above your head." She ordered, and he obeyed, probably realizing now what she was up to.

Concentrating hard, she slashed at the air above him with the knife and he flinched away with a yelp, probably thinking she meant to cut his arm off. The sleeve of his robe and the shirt underneath split open.

Hermione gasped, releasing the noose to grab the hilt of the knife with both hands as the blade fought her control. It was like an excited dog straining at the end of the leash because it saw a cat. Its energy struggled against her restraint, wanting to cut deep, to split muscle and hack bone, wanting to taste blood, wanting to kill.

She realized in a flash of inspiration that the knife gained power through killing. That each of the animals they had killed had fed the knife as well as themselves. The knife knew that killing Malfoy would provide a veritable feast of power.

Hermione felt a chill of unease through her rushing, raging power trip. The chill turned to wobbly uncertainty as Malfoy hissed and a line opened up in the skin of his arm, blood spilling out in delicate beads.

His skin.

She gawked in disbelief. The skin of his arm was pale and soft and unmarked. She used the tip of the blade to slit the rest of his sleeve open and made him turn his arm this way and that. When no black mark was readily apparent she turned to his other arm and slashed the sleeve.

She stared at his other unbranded arm in baffled incomprehension and reached out without thinking to pat at his skin, as if by touching she might be able to reveal a hidden brand.

" There is no mark." Malfoy said quietly. He seemed to have resigned himself to her inspection.

She turned a gaze full of deadly promise on him, "Doesn't mean there wasn't going to be. Now pay close attention, maggot." She grabbed the noose again, "I'm going to ask you some questions and you're going to tell the truth. If you lie its automatic death." She pressed the blade to his throat, and whispered," The knife will tell me if you're lying."

She could see in his eyes that he wasn't sure whether or not to believe her or, worse, whether or not she herself believed it.

Fierce determination filled her and euphoria, she was finally going to learn the truth. She was finally going to be able to help her cousin rest in peace. It was on her lips to ask him whether or not he had killed her cousin and then she realized he wouldn't know who her cousin was.

" Were you at the Craighton Mall massacre?" She snarled brutally.

He seemed surprised, almost confused, by the question, as if that were the last thing he had expected her to ask, and he hesitated before whispering, " No."


She gripped the knife, preparing to slit his lying throat in a blind rage.

He's telling the truth. The knife told her grudgingly with an air of boredom. It wanted to kill, why was she wasting its time?

Stunned she wavered, touching the knife to his skin, then taking it away again. Finally she growled and tried again, sputtering, "Who was at the Craighton Mall massacre?"

He shook his head, his eyes flicking from the blade to her face, "I don't know."

" It was Voldemort's plan, wasn't it?"

" I don't know."

This couldn't be right! This couldn't be…

She gripped the noose tighter and practically snarled, " Are you a Death Eater?" Her voice was desperate.

He hesitated, " No. I guess not. I don't have the Mark. I don't go to the meetings."

She could feel herself coming apart with every word he spoke.

" But you've killed people right?" she nearly yelled the accusation, unconsciously tightening the noose.

" No." he yelped, struggling under her increasing grip.

" You torture Muggles."

" No!"

" You rape girls!"

" NO."

" DAMN YOU YOU'VE DONE SOMETHING! TELL ME WHAT YOU'VE DONE!" she slammed the knife blindly into the ground next to his head and he screamed and jerked away, hands coming up automatically to forcefully shove her off.

She fell back in surprise, her hand slipping from the knife as it remained firmly embedded in the ground. Had she kept her grip on the blade, she probably would have killed him right then. He scrambled backwards in a crab-like motion, acting solely on the animal instinct to escape. Hermione recovered from her spill in near panic, hair spilling into her face from her bun coming loose, her head whipping back and forth as she searched desperately for the blade. She spotted it first but his eyes followed hers and he lunged a second before she did.

Malfoy was faster but with a scream of rage Hermione reared back and slashed him in the face with her fingernails, leaving four bleeding welts right across his forehead and nose. He might have kept going forward anyway but her other hand came up and gouged for his eyes. He yelled and jerked back, clapping a hand to his face. She grabbed the knife by the hilt and lunged at him, slamming her shoulder into him, knocking him over. Only pure stupid luck kept the blade from sinking into him. It missed as she fell on top of him and then she rose up, blade raised for the kill and he covered his face futilely with one arm, the other reaching up to grab at her wrist uselessly because even if he stopped the downward blow he was dead.

" STOP!" the scream was full of such terror and desperation that she froze automatically, her hand trembling on the knife hilt.

Did Karina scream like that?

Do it! Kill him quick before he fights again.

When he wasn't automatically killed, he slowly lowered the arm protecting his face. He was breathing in deep ragged gulps, " I haven't hurt anyone…" he said between breaths, almost pleading.

" What about me?" she rasped.

Something sparked in his eyes, something that, in anyone else, she might have believed to be shame, " I'm sorry." And his voice cracked, " I know you don't believe me but I am."

She giggled, her eyes merciless, " Oh I believe you. I just bet you're sorry now. But that's not going to save you." She jerked the knife upwards and he flinched, she sneered hatefully, " Look at you, you're pathetic. Aren't you supposed to be the bad boy? You're just a baby after all. A little baby playing at being a man, whose biggest problem is that someone might not share the same blood as him." She slapped him casually, knocking his head to the side, " Spoiled rotten little brat crying around the silver spoon in his mouth while the rest of us are fighting for our lives." Her voice deepened to a growl, her hand going to his throat, fingernail digging in," For our families lives! I hate you! You sit there and cry about how hard your life is when you don't know the first thing about pain or suffering! You go around hurting everyone else, trying to make our lives even worse, as if there wasn't a madman out to kill us all! Like its not hard enough just going to class everyday and acting like nothings wrong, like we don't need to spend every day trying to prove that we're worth something, that we have the right to live! I HATE YOU!"

" That's Hermione Granger, top of the class." She heard one of the O.W.L.S examiners say quietly to another, "It's a shame about the dirty blood. Imagine what she could accomplish if she were pure!"

She struggled to get a hold of herself," Half the people I know have been deprived of at least one family member because of your precious master! And you go around pretending to be one of them like its some great honor, like you're so cool for doing so. You think this is fun? You think this is a game? You think you're a big man? Well guess what, tough guy, you can't claim responsibility for what the Death Eaters have done and not pay the price with them. You told me you did it, so proud of yourself, now you can die for your cause!"

" NO WAIT!" His eyes were huge with panic and he was fighting the urge to struggle, knowing he'd be dead instantly if he moved.

" Why?" she yelled, " Give me one good reason!"

" You're not a killer…" he stuttered the words uncertainly, like a boy asking his mother to tell him the monsters under the bed weren't real.

" I AM A KILLER!" she screamed, lashing his face deeply with her fingernails again, making him scream and turn his head to escape," This is the real world, you snot-nosed brat! We're all killers and rapists and monsters! Its kill or be killed, and I choose to kill."

" But I didn't do anything!"

" I DON'T CARE!" she roared and the minute the words left her mouth, she froze, the blood rushing from her face.

That was wrong. That was so wrong. She didn't care? Was the situation that out of control?

She realized suddenly that she wanted to kill him. Guilty or not, she wanted to kill him. She wanted to cut him to ribbons not because of what he had done but because he was someone to punish for everything she and her family and all the other muggleborn kids had suffered. She wanted to make someone pay. Anyone. She wanted to avenge her cousin. She wanted to avenge the other kids. She wanted…

She slumped, hair falling down to cover her face.

She wanted to avenge herself.

But he's innocent.

He's a baby viper. She thought viciously, Give him a few years and he'll have a black symbol on his arm and a pile of Muggle bodies in his backyard. I won't let him live to do it.

He is innocent in the worst way. Look at him. He's never dealt with real violence before. What does it say about you, that you're ready to kill him for something he didn't even do and he couldn't even bring himself to hurt you? He's probably never even seen a dead body before.

He tried to rape me!

Him? And now the inner voice was scornful. He wasn't going to rape you and you know it! It was all part of his tough-guy game. If he had ever been guilty of that kind of thing before you would have heard about it.

I won't forgive him.

You don't have to. But you can't kill him…

She railed against the thought furiously, shaking her head violently. Below her, Malfoy flinched, probably certain now that she was completely insane.

So what if he's innocent now? I will not let him grow up to be a killer! If I let him go and he kills people then those deaths are on my head! They'll be my fault, my responsibility!

We do not kill the innocent. That voice said so softly, implacably. Karina was innocent. Those kids at the Mall were innocent. You were innocent. The innocent are to be protected at all costs. Wasn't that what you wanted above all else? Wasn't that why you decided to become a killer?

He'll kill me. If I let him go now that he's seen that I'm serious, he'll kill me before I can kill him.

The voice was silent.

I have to kill him! She screamed inwardly, desperately.

No answer. Just the silent weight of her own conscience, just her own mind, just herself that she had to live with.

Let me kill him!! The knife howled as it felt her conviction wavering.

Several answers trembled on her lips and then.


The thought made her weary to her bones.

I'm hungry! Let me do what I was made to do! The blade begged.

What it was made to do? It had been made to kill Muggles.

Her rage blazed up like a little flame that found oil and lashed out at the blade, horrified by its bloodthirsty, disloyal cry.

You were never meant to kill! She screamed at the blade. You're here to protect us! To get us home!

She thought the knife would protest, maybe even rebel completely against her, but it unexpectedly went silent, its presence withdrawing until the electricity sparking up her arm reverted to a cool hum. It seemed almost subdued, thoughtful, like a rebuked child.

Maybe it had to rethink its own existence. She knew the feeling.

Malfoy shifted, made some small movement and her attention snapped back to him even as her hand snapped around his throat again. He stiffened.

She raised her head slowly, opening eyes burning with unshed tears of frustration and hatred and her own worthlessness. Malfoy was staring up at her like the kid he was.

She spoke slowly, grinding the words out, " The wizards who slaughtered those kids at Craighton Mall deserve worse than death. They deserve to have their arms and legs cut off, their ears and eyes gouged out, their tongues removed, their castrated balls shoved down their throats. They deserve to be burned alive in boiling acid and revived just so it could be done again. If I ever find them I'll do it myself."

She slowly lifted her weight off him, knife still pointed at him as she stood. He didn't move, just stayed lying on his back, staring at her.

" The only reason you aren't dead is because you don't carry the mark. The only reason I didn't cut you to pieces is because you weren't there. I don't kill the innocent. I give you your life this once. If you ever and I mean EVER give me the slightest cause to fear for my safety I'll kill you where you stand. I won't hesitate, not ever again. I want to kill you. So don't give me a reason to." She searched his eyes, " Do you believe me? You need to believe me or you're going to die."

He leaned up on his elbows carefully, watching her, unsure if he was allowed to move," I believe you." He rasped hoarsely, blood seeping down his neck and smearing his cheeks.

" Good." She wiped her hair from her eyes, briskly marched two steps forward and kicked him as hard as she could in the crotch.

He howled, curling up in a little ball and clutching at himself.

" That's for what you did, you disgusting freak! You ever touch me again and I'll slice your balls off!"

She enjoyed the sight of him wailing and rocking back and forth in the fetal position for a moment longer before she dug the compass from her robes and decided to leave, honestly not caring whether or not he was able to follow her.

" Welcome to the jungle, maggot." She spat over her shoulder and left him there on the ground.

Let him get home on his own.

She was finished with him.

Next Time: Erm… I actually haven't decided yet. It'll either be a Draco chapter or a Hogwarts chapter. So I guess it will be a surprise.

A/N: Kind of a short chapter but honestly there was nothing left to say. There are three parts to this story, this is sort of the end of the first part.

I know some people are shocked about what Moody did and wondering how he could be so cruel. But you have to look at it from his point of view. He's basically a battle-hardened warrior type. He's seen the worst of the worst and he's done so for years. Things like pictures of murdered children stopped bothering him a long time ago. He's completely desensitized to it. All he cares about is getting the bad guys.

Then he sees Hermione. And in his eyes she's old enough to be taking responsibility and fighting the battle, especially since she has such strong potential but instead she's namby-pambying around playing with dolls and being a pacifist. He thinks he needs to show her that she has a responsibility and kind of toughen her up a bit.

He doesn't remember what its like to be young and innocent. He doesn't realize he could damage her psychologically. He didn't do it to be cruel and he in no way got enjoyment from it. To his way of thinking it was the right thing to do. It was a hard truth but it was the truth and that's all that matters to him. (someone might say: well in book 4 he was very sensitive to Neville and Harry's discomfort to the unforgivables. And I shall reply: But that wasn't the real Moody so I'm taking a bit of creative license)

And a word about McGonagall. She's not racist, she wasn't trying to be mean. She didn't even really mean what she said. It was just something that was so ingrained in her world that it just came out.

Other Notes:

Timid & Timbuktu: Its so incredibly hard for me to read some of these reviews and not come back and give stuff away. I'd love to give you hints on what's going to happen and why they happen a certain way. I practically had to duct tape my hands behind my back not to.
I really put a lot of thought into whether or not I wanted the near-rape scene to happen. I was even kind of turned off to the whole thing because it seems to be such a common angle. There are several reasons I chose to go through with it and those will be revealed (or not) as the plot progresses. I am actually very very sensitive to the whole rape/abuse issue and I know even reading about it in a fanfic can be emotionally stressful.
I rewrote the reply to your review like ten times and it got longer each time. So I'm just going to say that Draco and Hermione have a very long way to go and all the time in the world.

Aku-neko: Hmm, was I too vague in the last chapter? Seriously, tell me if I was.
The seventeen-year-old girl who got raped that Draco was thinking about was his mother. And he was thinking that he, himself was the result.
Go over that part again and you should get it. (I hope) Then the next part should make more sense when he's thinking of Narcissa and his own 'unfortunate birth' and the relief that follows when he realizes 'he's not his father, he's not a rapist'.
Both this and what happened to Blaise will be discussed more plainly later.

A/N: Bleh. Chapter was horrible to write. I literally rewrote it three or four times trying to get it right. I went with a Draco chapter for timing purposes. The planets weren’t aligned right. But tremble and fear for in a time when ye know not, I shall strike with mighty wrath and vomit forth a Hogwarts chapter of the likes of which ye have never imagined… er… BTW: if I’m ever taking awhile to update, you can always check my profile page, I usually leave notes there when I can.

Chapter 15: Survival of the Fittest

Mishiranu machi no mishiranu hito wa
Eiga no you ni toorisugiru
Dareka watashi ni michi o oshiete
Yuku hazu data, mou hitotsu no michi
Moshimo doa o akete
Tonari no sekai ni
Hairikomeru no nara
Watshi o sagasou

Strange towns’ unknown people
pass on by as though in a movie
won’t someone show me the path?
The one remaining path I’m expected to follow
If you open the door
to the neighboring world
If you can go inside,
Search for me.
Tooi Hibi no Nagori (Traces of a Distant Days) from the Final Fantasy: Love Will Grow album

Welcome to the jungle, she had said.

Draco dropped lazily down to the forest floor, landing in a practiced crouch on soft, dark soil. He stayed in that position, eyes narrowed and alert, fixed straight ahead, waiting for movement.

It came. A quick dart of black robes and fuzzy brown hair.

Draco grinned darkly.

Found you.

He rose and dashed through the trees as swiftly and silently as possible, certain of his quarry’s path now.

The whole world was foggy gray and swirled with white mist. The air was chilled and damp, biting. Dark clouds overhead threatened to open at any moment and drown him in a torrential downpour. He stayed under the trees where the shadows were thickest, where he was least likely to be spotted.

Welcome to the jungle…

He had never heard that particular expression before but the meaning was clear. He turned the unfamiliar phrase over and over in his mind. It was kinda catchy.

She hadn’t meant it though, or hadn’t known what she’d been starting when she said it. If she had, she would have killed him then regardless of his inexperience with Death Eater business.

Give her a little taste of the jungle…

He followed along almost even with her but far to the right. If she had looked, she would have seen him and that sort of made it exciting.

There was hardly any cover here. The land was completely flat, without hills or boulders to duck behind, the trees were nice and large for the most part but they weren’t close enough together to cover his movements and the underbrush was sparse and reedy, not nearly adequate to hide him.

The ground was wet with puddles and thick with mud but he paid no notice.

He looked wild. His eyes intense, almost glazed, his robes soaked, clinging to him like a second skin, his legs were perpetually muddy up to the knees. His hair was wet, plastered to a face which he was sure was flecked with mud. He hadn’t seen her up close in nearly a day but he doubted she was in much better condition.

He slid behind a tree as his quarry slowed to a walk and then doubled over, bracing herself against a tree while she caught her breath. What was she running from?

She must have heard a noise because a moment later her head jerked up and she stared around in paranoid dread.

He cocked his head.

Did she know he was around? He couldn’t think how she would since she couldn’t track like he could and he had been careful not to leave any sign or clue of his presence. But then he had been tracking her for days now, had found her every time, so maybe by now she was expecting him.

Welcome to the jungle, little girl.

He crept away when she turned her back to him.

The law of the jungle was survival of the fittest.

Which one of them was more fit?

Ask him that three weeks ago and he would have said himself without hesitation, but she had proven that she was just as capable of surviving in this wilderness as him. He was physically stronger and an able hunter but she was a better forager and had a working knowledge of the plants, animals, and dangers around them.

Plus she had the knife.

That definitely gave her an edge for the moment. But Draco was still Draco and that was all the edge he needed.

The strong preyed on the weak.

That would be the deciding factor, not who could survive in the wilderness, but which of them could survive against the other. It was something of a last resort but he saw no other option now. They were both still alive only by lucky chance at this point. Something had to give. If he was stronger than it was his will that would rein and that was it. He had tried to be nice, he really had, but she just wasn’t willing to be reasonable.

So law of the jungle it was.

He was far enough ahead now. He crouched down behind a tree directly in her path and waited, feet braced in a springing position, one hand on the tree, bracing himself.

He heard her before he saw her, the steady thump of jogging feet and wheezing breath. She didn’t sound so good.Продолжение »
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