…ke it was somehow her fault in the first place. What was he going to do now? Would he just leave again now that she'd helped him? If not, what did it mean? Was there no way out of here?

She was sitting by her campfire remains when he came striding back into the circle of trees, his gaze haughty, contemptuous as he scanned the clearing. Looking for what, she wasn't sure.

" How…" he hesitated, then met her curious gaze and just as quickly looked away, "Are there no monsters around here or something?"


Ha! I knew he didn't know about the trees.

" This place is protected." She told him, pointing, "These trees…the circle, they protect this clearing."

He nodded, a haunted look in his eyes.

" You should probably get some sleep." She said slowly, disturbed by what she saw in his face.

His eyes snapped to her, suddenly blazing," Don’t tell me what to do, Mudblood!"

She growled at him, "It was only a suggestion. I've been sleeping right there." She pointed to a spot across from where she sat.

After a night of lumpy discomfort, she'd dug up a small spot of earth, sifted out as many of the rocks as possible, filled the hole back up with the soft crumbled dirt and sand, then packed it with as many leaves as she could. It wasn't perfect but it was a lot better than what she'd started with.

"You can use it if you want."

He just gave her a dirty look and muttered something she couldn’t quite catch, though she did hear the words 'Mudblood', 'germs' and 'amputate'.


" What did you do to the Shutoeis?"

" What do you mean?" Grudgingly, he examined her makeshift bed.

" What did you do to make them mad?"

" I didn't do anything."

She blinked, "You must have done something. Shutoeis don't just attack people. They have to be provoked."

" Well apparently they don’t. I was just walking by and they charged."

" That's not possible." She scoffed in disbelief, " Maybe it was an accident or maybe it wasn't really a threat and they just perceived it that way, but you did something!"

" I didn't. I told you, they just attacked."

" Malfoy, you really expect me to believe that?"

" I don't care what you believe, that's what happened." He wasn't even really paying attention anymore, he stretched out in her dugout and tried to get comfortable.

Hermione opened her mouth, shut it. He was so matter-of-fact about it. She supposed maybe it was possible. If something happened and Malfoy just happened to be the only one around for the Shutoeis to blame, they might attack him. But it hardly made sense, especially considering her knowledge of Malfoy. How many times had he pulled some nasty prank in full view of everyone only to vehemently protest his innocence with guileless eyes a moment later?

She knew this, but being who she was, she wanted to believe him. It was her nature to take people at their word.

Malfoy seemed to have forgotten her. He curled up in her little dugout and passed out almost instantly. She watched him sleep, watched the hard planes of his face soften and his scowl fade away. He must have been utterly exhausted.

How had he managed to survive for three days and three nights alone?

It struck her as odd that such a spoiled, nasty little brat would have the determination to spend three days hunting for what he wanted. She had figured that he would be the one to sit on his butt and whine until someone saved him or dragged him out by his ears. Maybe he'd just gotten lost and that was why he was gone for so long.

A light wind stirred the white-blond hair against his cheek.

She pulled her knees up to her chest, resting her chin on them, and for a long time she just watched him.

Next Time: Hermione has to deal with a fully awake, fully energized Draco and she may wish she'd let the Shutoeis have him. Is Draco right about Hermione? Will she know which way to go to get home?

A/N: Before you ask, "Why didn't they just run to the protected circle to get away from the Shutoeis?"

Its like this, the circle is mostly against malignant magic and that would include most large, angry, magic predators (the presence of fire will keep most regular predators away). Shutoeis are plant eaters and technically they were defending themselves. Plus no one knows how much magic they have, they could have very little. It is questionable whether the circle would have kept them out or not.

And if you're wondering about the name "Shutoei" Its from the copyright statement on my DBZ poster. : ) A combination of the words Shueisha and Toei (from Toei animation) and I'm pronouncing it "Shoo-toe-y" cuz I can. Nah.


Shang Tsung~ “Liu Kang! I can see into your soul… You. Will. Die.”

Liu Kang~ “You can see into my soul, sorcerer, but you don’t own it! Just as Gravidy doesn’t own Harry Potter or even a decent pair of sneakers!”

A/N: I love that movie.

Chapter 7: Paradigm Glitch

Unless you’re a heavy sleeper, or wearing earplugs, it’s impossible to sleep past dawn in the forest. Sound carries well in the mountains and the many varieties of obnoxious forest fowl want to make darn sure you know it. Light sleepers in general are pretty much doomed because these aren’t pretty songbirds that welcome the dawn with a gentle trilling tune, but large, croaking crows, screaming, pounding woodpeckers and screeching blue jays. And those are just the non-magic kind.

In a magic forest this problem is severely amplified. Certain varieties of magic bird seem to have a penchant for waking slumbering humans and no amount of earplugs, bespelled or otherwise, will stop the sound. Imagine a sort of non-lethal mandrake cry just horrible enough to make you wish it were lethal. On the other hand, in a certain light, such wakeup calls can be seen as a blessing…because squirrels, chipmunks, gibbertots, bakimies and other small rodent-type mammals are quick to discover such things as a store of gathered roots, berries and fruits.

Hermione screeched and lunged at her already pitiful pile of edibles, sending tiny animals scurrying in all directions and others flying off or disappearing in a puff of smoke.

The sun had yet to rise above the mountains but already every annoying, noise-making creature in the woods was awake and hard at work.

The exhausted girl knelt over the pile panting, and groaned as she assessed the extent of the damage: chewed fruit, scattered berries, dirty paw prints. Somewhere above her, the nasty little bird who woke her chuckled as if enjoying her predicament. Hermione tossed a furious scowl up into the treetops, then sighed, her anger leaking away. She scooted into a more comfortable position to sort through the pile and toss out the ruined bits.

It wasn’t really the animals’ fault. Technically this was their food. Food they should be eating to get ready for winter. She was the intruder, a big, nasty greedy intruder eating up all their food.

Hermione sighed again unhappily.

Cute little forest animals or no, she wasn’t about to starve herself for them.

She’d been dealing with this problem as best she could since the moment she discovered it was a problem, but there seemed to be no real solution. She’d thought the food pile’s proximity to her and the fire would keep the little critters away but they’d grown bolder over the last few days. She tried covering the food with her robe but the chipmunks weren’t averse to wiggling under it to get at the pile. There were magic means of warding off the little creatures, but she had yet to find any around. Maybe tonight she’d wrap the food in her robe and hang it from a tree. But what would she use for rope?

Hermione moaned and rubbed her face, scrubbing sand from her eyes.

It was really hard to think when she felt like this. Her brain was all achy and throbby from lack of sleep.

She hadn’t been comfortable on the cold, hard ground and then something was always waking her. And she never got to sleep in because of the birds.

She ached. Her body was stiff and chilled and she felt greasy and disgusting. The feel of her own filthy, bedraggled hair on her neck was enough to gross her out.

Scowling, she glanced over at her blond companion and found him sprawled on his back in utter abandon in her dugout, his arms thrown wide and his mouth hanging open. He was the picture of contentment, as if he didn’t have a care in the world. Unduly irritated, she hoped nastily that he’d swallowed a few insects during the night.

After collapsing the day before, the boy had slept straight through the rest of the afternoon. He’d started awake more than a few times only to dart a few tense glances around the clearing, mutter something and collapse back into oblivion. When the sky started to darken, Hermione realized she wouldn’t be getting her dugout back and quickly dug herself a new one. This one wasn’t nearly as good as her first since she worked in the half-light of dusk and the pale orange of firelight, but it would have to do.
So really, it was his fault she was so achy and irritable.

Hermione restocked the fire then huddled up near it to warm herself. She sat cross-legged and held her hands out to the fire, basking in the heat.

Her eyes flicked to her food.

She was hungry. Her stomach felt pinched and twisted and she knew her blood-sugar level was probably low enough to contribute to her already foul mood. But it didn’t seem right to start eating before Malfoy was awake to eat his share. It seemed like cheating somehow. If he was this exhausted, she couldn’t imagine how hungry he must be.

Well, if she couldn’t eat then she wanted to go clean up in the stream.

Hermione chewed her lip.

But what if the animals came back to get the food? It wasn’t a good idea to leave the pile alone. And what if Malfoy woke up and panicked because she wasn’t there?

No, that was stupid. Malfoy was the one to spend three days alone out there already. He probably wouldn’t even notice she was gone. She wasn’t thinking straight.

Her brain hurt.

She scrubbed her face with her hands again.

Fine, she’d wait for Malfoy to wake before she did anything. They’d eat, clean up and then discuss how the heck they were going to get out of here. She’d decided last night that it would probably be a good idea for him to tell her about everything he’d seen out in the forest. Maybe there were some clues or something in his observations that she could work with. Maybe Malfoy even had a few useful items on him.

That knife of his would sure be useful.

If the two of them pooled their knowledge and resources they would be a lot better off. With him here, she could finally relax a little. Now there were two people to look for food and watch out for danger and help out with gathering plants and restocking the fire. Malfoy was obviously a very resourceful guy, together they’d have this stupid forest licked.

The thought cheered her a little.

The sun was shining through the canopy and smattering the ground with golden splotches when Malfoy finally stirred. Unlike the day before when he’d started awake as if afraid of what he’d find looming over him, this time he woke with all the leisure of a drugged sloth. His eyelids sagged heavily as they opened and he stared dreamily up at the sky for a few minutes before he slowly turned his head to the side to gaze at her placidly with glazed, groggy eyes.

“ Fuck.” He slurred sleepily, “It wasn’t a dream.”

Hermione gaped at him.

He stretched like a cat, yawning hugely before he stumbled unsteadily, almost drunkenly, to his feet and brushed off the worst of the leaves and dirt from his robe. Without another word he turned and walked lazily away from her and off into the woods.

Startled, she opened her mouth to ask him where he was going but he cut her off.

“ Malfoy…”

“ Shut up!” he snapped, not even looking back, “Cor, don’t need to tell you where I’m going every second of the day. Stupid Mudblood thinks she’s my keeper or something...” His voice trailed off as he disappeared into the trees.

Insulted and embarrassed, Hermione couldn’t do anything but seethe uselessly.

Didn’t he ever take a break?

But then this was Malfoy. This was probably as pleasant as he got.

She wanted to think up something cutting to say to him when he returned, but that would start a fight and she did not have the energy for a drop-down drag-out brawl with Malfoy this early in the morning. She’d put it on her to-do list.

Pick your battles, Hermione. He’s probably not even awake enough yet to realize what he’s saying.

Yeah right.

It was over twenty minutes later when he came swaggering back into camp looking considerably more awake. His hair was damp and slicked back, though it would never stay that way, and his face was wet and clean, telling her that he’d doubled back at some point and washed up in the stream. He ran a newly cleaned hand through his hair and made a show of looking disdainfully around the clearing before his condescending gaze settled on her and he cocked an eyebrow.

Hermione found herself wondering resignedly if she was going to have to suffer this kind of grand entrance every time he came back to the clearing.

Malfoy loved being the center of attention, even if his audience was a lone Muggle-born.

“ Do you have anything to eat?” his tone said clearly that he didn’t think she did, but his eyes flicked furtively to her pile of supplies and then back to her.

She recognized the crafty look in them. It was the same look he’d given her just before he’d lunged toward the pile of crates and tried to find the Portkey so he could abandon her in the woods. The look was as clear as his tone. He was just as willing to push her out of the way and take what he wanted now as he had been then.

Suddenly she realized just what an idiot she had been. She should have eaten before he woke up.

“ Yes.” She told him flatly, “There’s food right here. There’s a little bit of fruit, some berries, roots. Stuff like that.”

To emphasize her point, and to make darn sure she got some breakfast too, she scooted over to the pile and took two pear-shaped fruits and a handful of berries. Her suspicious sidelong glance had him narrowing his eyes and striding over to the pile. He dropped down across from her, swiped up as much as he could, which happened to be nearly everything, and went to sit on the other side of the fire and hunch protectively over his spoils.

He didn’t thank her, not that she was expecting him to at this point.

“ You sure all this stuff is edible?” he asked, eyeing an ugly root.

“ It would serve you right if it wasn’t.” she grumbled, eating quickly lest he decide he wanted what she had too.

The boy made a face and proceeded to ignore her in favor of the food.

He was just as hungry as she had imagined he would be. He didn’t even complain about some of the fruit being bruised, others being hard and the berries beginning to mush. He simply started tearing into his breakfast with relish, sucking the last bit of juice from the fruit cores, crunching the roots and tearing as much of the pulp as he could from the pits…and then tossing them to the side.

“ No! Don’t leave that lying there!” Hermione yelped, “ It’ll attract ants and birds and things. Keep the junk in a pile and take it outside the circle when you’re done!”

He cast her a withering glance and tossed another pit to the side, “Do I look like a garbage man to you? If you’re so worried about it, you clean it up.”

Hermione bristled.

That’s right! The little jerk has probably never had to clean up his own mess in his life.

“ Slob.” She spat, “ There aren’t any House-Elves here to clean up after you! So if you don’t want to wallow in your own filth, you’re going to have to pick up after yourself. ”

“ No House-Elves.” He agreed airily, popping another cherry into his mouth, “But there’s a perfectly capable Mudblood right there.” He gestured grandly to her, “ Its about the same thing when you get down to it. You even look like a House-Elf, what with those bulging eyes and leathery skin…big ears too.”

She stiffened a little more with every word, “Why you rotten little pureblood maggot!” she hissed in outrage.

Malfoy threw his head back and laughed, “Don’t blame me, you walked right into that one.”

Miserably, she realized he was right.

She started to make a spiteful comment about what else the House-Elves could do for him but then quickly changed tactics. He was apparently in a cheerful, if relentlessly obnoxious, mood. If she antagonized him he’d just get mad, but maybe she could get him to talk about something else.

Would he answer her if she asked him a question outright? Better not chance it.

“ I can’t believe you made it this long without someone taking care of you! What in the world did you do in the woods without your precious House-Elves, Malfoy?” she challenged.

His lip curled up in a haughty sneer, “ I can take care of myself. Its not so bad out there.”

“ It must not be if you came back alive.” She replied blithely.

His eyes narrowed, “ You couldn’t have made it.”

Okay, this wasn’t working. He wasn’t answering her, he was just trying to cut her back. Fine. She’d try asking him.

“ What’s out there? What kinds of things did you see?”

He gave a long-suffering sigh, as if she were an annoying younger sibling badgering him with stupid questions but then began to tell her in dramatic exaggeration about his trip. Hermione was delighted when he went into detail and silently cheered the Malfoy trait of loving to hear themselves speak.

“ Nothing?” she asked when he was done.

“ Absolutely nothing.” He finished glumly, “Just trees and more trees and dirt and more dirt.”

He seemed to lose interest in the topic suddenly and gestured to her pile of supplies, probably hoping there was more food in there somewhere.

“ What’s all that stuff?”

“ Oh, I’ve been gathering bits of all the magical plants I’ve been able recognize. Most of them are things we’ve used in Potions or studied in Herbology. Others are things I’ve read about. I’m hoping they’ll be useful somehow. I’ve made lists of possible spells or potions or poultices they can be used in. This one is laurel.” She pointed, “I’ve got a pile of tansy and some yarrow over here. This is sphagnum, you put it under your tongue before you drink spring water, it strains out the impurities, then you spit it out. That way you don’t get sick…”

She paused for a moment at his startled expression. He’d been opening his mouth, to say something mean judging by his expression, but when she’d said that last part he froze. She realized with a kind of patient exasperation that he’d probably been drinking the water straight.

Well, she thought dryly, he’s still alive. I guess the water is safe.

Taking advantage of his panicked silence, she continued her lecture, “ This is vervain and this is hazel wood.” She picked up a forked stick, “You use hazel to divine water.”

Malfoy pounced, “ Why would you need to divine water? There’s water right there.”

Hermione opened her mouth, shut it and then settled for glaring at him. He knew why, he just wanted to rub it in.

He grinned when she didn’t speak, “So, you’ve finally accepted that no one is coming for us. The great all-knowing Granger was wrong about something and she knows it. What would the professors say!” he mocked, “Well, good. I’m glad you’ve finally figured it out. I was certain I was going to have to drag you from this clearing.”

She sniffed scornfully, “What’s that? An invitation?”

“ Yep. You are cordially invited to get me the fuck out of here. You should be grateful that I’ve decided that you’re useful, otherwise I would have just left you.”

A slow burning anger was starting in the pit of her stomach, rising to heat her cheeks, “Let me guess.” she said sweetly, gritting her teeth, “You want me around so I can find food for you, clean up after you and save your butt whenever you get into trouble.”

“ That’s about the size of it. But first you need to figure out which way we’re going.”

Hermione flew to her feet, hissing, “You worthless little leech. If I go anywhere, it will most certainly NOT be with you!” She didn’t care if it was ridiculous, at that moment she would have willing marched blindly into the wilderness alone rather than take him along.

Malfoy’s face flickered with annoyance but then he chuckled, “Like you can stop me. When you leave, I’ll just follow. Besides, you said it yourself, the two of us disappeared together and if just one of us comes back the Ministry’s going to pose a lot of uncomfortable questions.”

Fuming, she struggled with her temper, wanting to haul back and punch him.

He was right, of course. She was leaving anyway and she couldn’t very well stop him if he decided to follow. He had already proved that he could survive without her if he really wanted to. Could she survive without him?

But then, it wasn’t like she could really expect help from him. He was using her, like some sort of albino parasite, with all the indifference of a tapeworm for its host.

No, that wasn’t right.

He wasn’t indifferent to her. Heck, he was probably actively plotting against her right this moment. She glanced at him and found him smirking with cold satisfaction. All he needed was a cat and a leather armchair and it would be just like one of those old movies.

She had wanted to believe that the two of them would work together to get out of the forest, that they could put their differences aside until they were safe. But now she wasn’t so sure that was at all what Malfoy wanted.

“ You’re right, I can’t stop you.” She spat, the truth bitter in her mouth, “But if you’re coming with me, you’d better pull your own weight. Now, do you have anything useful on you at all?”

“ Useful?” he asked languidly, flopping down on his side beside the fire, propping his chin on his hand, for all the world like a big cat.

“ All I have is my backpack, my spell books, a few quills, a notebook and a few other completely useless things.”

Malfoy gave a half shrug, “ No, I don’t have anything useful.”

“ What about that knife? That’s definitely useful.”

His eyes darkened and he sat up, hand jumping protectively to his waist, “No way! This is my father’s knife. It’s a wizard’s knife and not meant for the hands of filthy Muggles. If you so much as breathe on it, I’ll beat the shit out of you.”

Hermione’s eyes widened and she took a step back automatically, feeling a small stir of alarm at the menace in his voice. But then she caught herself and put her hands on her hips, “If you’re going to be a baby about it, fine. You’ll just have to do all the chopping.”

“ I mean it. You touch it and I’ll make you wish you hadn’t.”

“ Drop it, Malfoy. No one cares. Do you have anything else?”

“ Not a thing.” His face was bland.

Hermione let out a disappointed breath, “Shoot. Then I don’t know what else to do. Without our wands we’re limited in our options. I’ve been thinking about it since we got here and our best bet was a fairly easy potion that can be used to find objects. If we gave it a manmade object to find, it could be used to lead us to people. But I don’t have anything to brew the potion in.”

“ You can do that?”

“ I’ve got everything I need. The potion was created to be simple. I was thinking we could make it find books or quills or something.”

“ Couldn’t you make it find people?”

“ No. If you smeared it on a person all it would ever do is find that person. Never anyone else.”

“ Hmm. You know… I think…”

Malfoy reached into his robe and pulled out a small, flat, black satin pouch. He opened it carefully, reached in, nearly his whole arm disappearing inside, felt around a bit…

…and pulled out a small cauldron.

Hermione’s jaw dropped. Malfoy tossed the cauldron onto the ground at her feet, where it fell with a clank and rolled on its side.

“ Could you use that?”

Hermione sputtered,“ You…you said…you said you didn’t have anything useful!”

“ I forgot I had this.” He said easily with a small innocent smile, “Its so small that I forgot that I had it in my pockets from yesterday. I remembered it when you mentioned potions.”

Hermione stared at him suspiciously for a moment but then brushed off the suspicion in favor of excitement.

“ Do you have anything else in that pouch?” she asked eagerly.

He reached in and felt around, “Not much, another set of robes, nothing useful.”

“ Darn. But I guess we should be grateful you had this.” She gave a happy little bounce, suddenly energized, “This is great. I can brew that potion and we’ll be set!”

She got to work immediately, feeling like herself for the first time since she arrived. Malfoy hovered over her, strangely silent. Once in awhile she asked him to hand her something and, surprisingly, he did so without a fight. When the brewing got underway, he got bored and wandered off.

She didn’t ask where he was going.

The concoction took three hours total to complete, and then she had a slimy brown gunk that smelled like old cabbage. All she had to do was smear some on the object she wanted the spell to find, say a few words and then let the gunk boil away. When the last of it vaporized, she would find a small compass-like object at the bottom of the cauldron, made from the cauldron’s own metal. From then on, the compass would point them towards the closest target, the closest quill or the closest book or whatever she decided to use. She was fairly certain she was going to use books.

She was about to call Malfoy over when she was suddenly struck by a disquieting thought.

Malfoy had come back for one reason, and that was because he didn’t know which way to go. Once the compass was made, he wouldn’t really need her anymore. What if he took the compass and the cauldron and deserted her? He wouldn’t do that would he?

Uneasy, Hermione grabbed something else from her pile and sprinkled it in the gunk, then she leaned over, spit in the cauldron and whispered her name. It was a trick she’d learned from Moody, and it was probably the smartest thing she’d done all day.

“ Hey Malfoy, its ready!”

The albino leech came prancing over to examine her potion. “ Yum, home cookin’.”

“ Ew, shut up. I’m going to smear some on this book.” She held up one of her books, “The potion will then point us towards the nearest book.”

“ Will it find the closest book or the closest spell book?" Malfoy asked dubiously.

Hermione turned her head to stare at him in utter shock and amazement and blurted out," Dear Merlin, you just had an intelligent thought. Are you okay? Do you need to lie down?"

To her further amazement, he didn’t get angry, he just raised his eyebrows, “ Potions is my best subject, Grimy Granger. Don’t get smart with me or I’ll toss you in the creek.”

She didn’t know what to say to that, especially since she believed the creek part, so she just ignored it and got to work. The potion soaked quickly into the book and after she’d said the words the potion in the cauldron began evaporating very quickly.

“ Don’t inhale the fumes.” She leaned away from the cauldron.

“ Fuck you, I can do what I want.”

She blinked at him, startled, and then realized he was probably joking. Probably.

As the last of the potion vanished, Hermione gave a squeak and reached into the cauldron to pull out a small, round and incredibly hot little device. Yelping, she tossed it back and forth between her hands and blew on it until it cooled enough for her to handle it. The little piece was smaller than her palm. It looked like a compass, except there were no symbols for the four main directions on it.

“ Where did it come from?” Malfoy asked in surprise.

“ It was made from the cauldron metal.”

“ Shiiiiit! It probably weakened my cauldron. You owe me a new one!”

“ Well you owe me a new wand so let’s call it even.”

He opened his mouth to get the last word but she shushed him loudly.

She lifted her arm and turned slowly in a circle, eyes locked on the compass. The madly spinning dial in the middle suddenly went still and jerked around until it was pointing somewhere towards the South-East.

“ It works.” She whispered, “It works, it works, it works!” she practically shrieked the last part, jumping up and down and spinning in a circle in excitement.

“ Gimme that! Let me see!”

“ Hey!”

She stumbled, nearly thrown to ground as Malfoy ripped the compass from her hand. He stared at it for a long time and then frowned.

“ It just keeps spinning!” he snarled at last, whirling on her, “Its not pointing any direction.”

Hermione smiled, a small self-satisfied smile, “ I spelled it to work only for me.” She said sweetly.

Mafoy’s jaw dropped.

“ Why you little…” he started, and then he surprised her again by bursting into laughter.

It was Hermione’s turn to be stunned. What the heck was he laughing about?

“ Maybe there’s hope for you, after all.” He chuckled finally, still shaking his head, and he tossed the compass back to her.

She was learning. The Mudblood was finally catching on and he found it delightful.

It was a cruel way to teach, a Slytherin way to teach, but he liked giving her the lessons.

Since he arrived back in the clearing, she’d been acting like they were old friends, like they were here to cling together like first-year girls and help each other out or some shit like that.

It was disturbing.

She was being nice, nicer than she’d ever been to him, and he wouldn’t have been so annoyed if he thought she was only trying to get on his good side. But he knew better. She was trying to take care of him in the annoying way that Gryffindors often took care of each other. She’d apparently thought they were going to be best buddies.

Well here was her wake up call.

The real world didn’t work like that.

Friends were friends. Enemies were enemies. And sometimes the former was more dangerous than the latter. She would be a lot safer if they remained enemies, but she didn’t understand that, couldn’t understand that. There was no suspicion, no darkness in her way of thinking.

She was just a tool to get to where he was going and if she were smart, she’d see him in the same light.

He’d seen the first hint of understanding in her eyes over breakfast. She’d realized in that moment that, given the opportunity, he’d take every last crumb of her hard-won food just because he could. She’d taken some for herself before he got there, but not nearly as much as she should have.

If she wanted her share, she needed to take it.

She was too soft. That was his trump card. He knew for a fact that no matter how badly he treated her or what he took from her, she’d keep helping him and do her best to keep him out of trouble.

It was a Gryffindor trait. A really sad one.

That wasn’t to say that Slytherins didn’t help each other out. In fact, now more than ever Slytherins stuck together, but ambition knew no allies and those who wanted to be on top learned fast how to rely only on themselves, use everyone around them to their best advantage, and trust no one else.

He didn’t even trust Pansy or his mother, though he loved them both more than anything else. His mother, as far as he was concerned, was on his father’s side. And Pansy…they’d played too many political games when they were younger to ever trust each other again. They had forgiven each other, but never forgotten.

Slytherin kids learned to take care of themselves first. Then they learned to form alliances but to always watch their allies carefully and to know when it was best for them to go behind an ally’s back to secure an even better deal.

It was business, that was all.

And the forest, nature itself, was business at its best.

He didn’t like that he was now somewhat dependant on Granger, though no more than before he supposed, but he could appreciate that she had taken steps to ensure her usefulness. Besides, even if he didn’t have an exact location, he now knew the general direction they were going to go.


“ Hey, Malfoy!”

Granger’s voice broke him from his thoughts.

“ What now? Aren’t you ready to leave yet?” he growled.

She gave him a look that somehow managed to convey the fact that she thought he was stupid but that she was willing to be patient anyway. He was beginning to hate that look.

“ I need to bring some of this stuff along. There’s not much room in my backpack, so could we put it in your pouch?”


He turned to her with a perfectly serious expression on his face, “This bag doesn’t work like that. It can only carry a certain number of items.”

She frowned in surprise, and he could almost see the lists of spell and enchantments scanning behind her eyes, “I’ve never heard of one like that. That spell should be pretty basic and allow enough room for anything you want to put in there.”

He shook his head, “Too much physical mass inside it and the spell will just collapse.”

Her eyes narrowed, “That’s not even possible!” she said, the first hint of suspicion coloring her voice.

He didn’t even blink, “ Well that’s how this one works. So you’re going to have to carry your own stuff.”

“ But I can’t carry it all. This is stuff that we need! I can’t leave it behind!”

“ You’re just going to have to pick and choose.”

Granger was always good for a laugh. She was so gullible

“ I’m telling you Malfoy, it doesn’t work like that. Just let me try it.” She pleaded.

“ No way, you’ll ruin it.”

“ Malfoy, trust me, I know about this stuff.”

“ No, I’m not going to let you break it.”

“ I won’t break it!” her voice rose in exasperation, “ It won’t break, it can’t break. It…” she trailed off as something in his face gave him away.

Damn, what had she seen?

Her face darkened, “You’re lying.” She sounded shocked and then she yelled, “ You’ve been lying to me since you got back! You lied about the Shutoei’s, you lied about not having anything useful, and now you’re lying about the bag.”

He couldn’t help it, he grinned.

Granger exploded, “ I can’t believe this! I can not believe this! I thought you had some brains, Malfoy! We’re in a life-or-death situation and you’re playing stupid mind games! Grow up! Are you trying to get us killed? Because if you don’t help me out here, that’s what’s going to happen!”

“ Now that’s going a little far.” Draco chided mildly, “ I doubt we’ll actually die because I lied to you.”

“ So now that you’ve had your fun, can we put this stuff in your bag.” She gritted out, chest heaving with fury.

“ No. I don’t think so.” His voice turned cold, no longer joking around,“ Its luggage, and Malfoy’s don’t carry luggage.”

Her jaw dropped, “You’ve got to be kidding.” She protested, “ You wouldn’t even feel it in that bag!”

“ You have plenty of room for that crap in your backpack. Just leave your school books behind.”

“ Leave my books?!”

He savored the horrified expression on her face. Oh, this was rich.

“ I know it will be hard for you Granger, but I assure you that it is possible to survive without school books.”

“ Why..why are you doing this? What is the matter with you?”

He opened his mouth but she cut him off.

“ Don’t! I don’t want to hear it. I know exactly what’s wrong with you! But guess what? I don’t care! I don’t care that your daddy loves Voldemort more than he loves you. I don’t care that your girlfriend only wants you for your money. I don’t care that you’ll never be as wonderful, well liked or as good looking as Harry Potter. I don’t care that your precious House-Elf is the only sexual partner you’ve had for the last four years. You’re pathetic. I hate you. And I don’t care. I’ve had enough! It doesn’t have anything to do with me. You’ve made your point, I’ll never count on you for anything ever again.”

He had gone rigid during her speech, shocked. A few barbs in that string of nonsense had actually hit too close to home. He couldn’t believe she had the gall to speak to him like that.

Now he was pissed.

He grabbed her arm when she started to turn away, “ Listen you little bitch…”

She knocked his hand away,“ I’m sick of listening to you!”

“ Too bad!” he spun her around and grabbed her by the collar, wrenching her forward. She started to struggle in surprise but he shook her and she went still, eyes wide.

“ Malfoy…”

“You seem to think you have some sort of control over this situation.” He cut her off, voice deceptively soft, “ You act like we’re equals or something. Well guess what, we’re not. Those two fuckers you hang out with at school might let you lead them around by the balls but we’re far far away from Hogwarts, kiddo.”

He shook her again and she gasped and grabbed his wrists, lower lip trembling, “You’re alone. You’re weak and helpless and no one is here to protect you. Except possibly me, and that’s a very distant possibility since I would love to see you suffer and I’ll probably be the one to make you suffer. You’re going to do as I say and you’re going to be damn grateful that I even allow you in my presence or I’m going to beat the shit out of you. Do you understand? If you ever talk back to me again I’ll tear you apart.”

She was actually speechless. He liked that. Her face had gone white and her eyes were wide. He could see the realization. She was finally realizing that she was alone with him and he could do just about anything to her and there was no one around to stop him. There was real fear in her eyes. He savored it, drank it in. Maybe the little bitch would be a little humbler now.

He shoved her, sending her crashing to the ground hard enough that she smacked her head.

“ Get up.” He barked.

She sat up quickly, rubbing the back of her head. He could see her struggling between fear and outrage.

Her eyes went hard and her chin jutted forward stubbornly, outrage was winning, “ You…”

That pissed him off again. She should be blubbering by now, cowering away from him and begging him not to hurt her. Granger broke off in a yelp as he grabbed her and hauled her to her feet, his fingers digging into her arms hard enough to bruise.

“ Dump your books and pack your stuff. NOW!” He ordered and gave her a little push.

For several heartbeats she just stood there with an unreadable expression on her face, but then, apparently seeing no other alternative, she strode grudgingly, bitterly to her backpack and dumped the contents onto the ground. The sight of her treasured books lying forlornly in the dirt like somebody’s dead puppy made her eyes softened and she gazed at them regretfully.

Savagely satisfied, Draco stalked up behind her, “Do we need to give them a proper burial? Have a moment of silence maybe? We can leave a tombstone if you want?”

“ AGH!” she swung around and clobbered him twice across the face with her backpack.

The heavy material smacked him in the head and had him yowling and scrambling back, more surprised then hurt.

Granger snarled at him, backpack held in attack position and he was so dumbfounded he couldn’t even retaliate. When he didn’t move she dropped the backpack and put a hand on her hip.

“ If you have to beat up a girl to prove what a big strong man you are, then you’re even more pathetic then I thought.” Her voice was mocking and cold and not the least bit afraid,“ I’m going to go wash up, Malfoy. When I get back we’ll pack up and leave. Go pull the wings off a fly or something.”

She tossed her hair, the bint actually tossed her hair at him, and stomped away off into the woods.

Well how the fuck do you like that?!

He realized his mouth was hanging open and quickly snapped it shut. His face flushed warm with embarrassment.

That bitch. That fucking bitch! He couldn’t let her get away with that.

Without stopping to think, he darted off into the woods after her.

He’d had several days of practice when it came to moving quietly through the woods. Moving silently was impossible it seemed, but quiet he could do. He kept far to the right of where he guessed her path to be, he doubted she’d stray far from the creek, so that he wouldn’t come through the brush and walk right into her.

He found her in a small, sandy cove about five minutes walk from camp. The ground rose sharply on both sides, and the inlet was almost completely surrounded, it probably made her feel safe. The water was deep and fast there as well, nice, clean and fresh.

Draco stayed on the high ground, crept around the curve of the inlet to the highest spot and ducked down. He could see the whole cove from his vantage point and he had plenty of cover.

Granger was leaning heavily against the dirt wall, her face buried against her arm and her shoulders shaking. For a moment he thought she was crying and he practically burst with unholy glee, but then she raised her head and he could see her face was pale and strained but dry.

Okay, so not crying but she was shaking and definitely frightened out of her wits.

That was nearly as good as tears. He could feel a measure of triumph in that. He could gloat. It was nice to know that her little outburst back at the clearing had been nothing but grandstanding and that on the inside she’d been about to pee her pants in terror.

She pushed away from the wall and slid her robe off.

With a start, he remembered that she’d come there to wash. Was she going to get naked? His first reaction was utter and complete fascinated revulsion. A Mudblood bathing. Nasty, this was going to be a train wreck! Then he realized what a ridiculous thought that was. She’d look just like everyone else, wouldn’t she? Not like she’d have tentacles or something under there, right?

With a quiet snort, he realized his subconscious probably half believed she did.


He could easily believe that Muggles and Mudbloods were inferior insects compared to wizards, but really, the Death Eaters like to exaggerate too much. When he was five, before he’d ever seen a Muggle, he’d believed everything he was told and had honestly thought Muggles were short, fat, pasty-skinned cousins to the troll that wandered around like brainless lumps and ate their own babies. That last was something Goyle’s father liked to say.

Well, here was a golden opportunity.

He could stick around and find out exactly what was under a Mudblood’s robes. It was a scientific study for the good of wizard-kind…and it would be great revenge. Granger would be so humiliated when she discovered he was watching. He could tell her how disgusting she was and maybe then she’d finally cry. And once they got back to school, he’d tell all the Slytherin guys about the warts on her ass or something. He’d even recreate pictures with the Mind-Image spell.

He congratulated himself on his wicked plot and settled back to watch.

Granger was completely oblivious to his presence. She folded her robe neatly and laid it on a relatively dry log and then she started unbuttoning her white blouse.

Quite suddenly it was hard to swallow, his mouth had gone bone dry. He leaned forward. She really was gonna take it off!

She slid the white shirt off her shoulders and all his thoughts vanished, scattered like dry forest leaves in the wind. Gone. His brain was empty of everything except a rushing white noise and all his senses seemed heightened, sharpened.

Granger’s shoulders were tan from the summer sun, her belly was flat and soft, her bra was lacy white…and she was peeling off her skirt.

Draco’s stomach seemed to drop as his eyes followed the skirt over her round little bottom and down her long, shapely legs. Her panties were a shimmering dark blue mixed with an equally dark green and seemed to be shaped funny. French cut was the word, though he didn’t know that. He’d never seen panties quite like that.

And she was reaching for her bra, holy fuck, she was reaching for the clasp.

It was hard to breathe.

The scrap of white fabric came away and his eyes locked on her breasts hungrily. Perfect, plump mounds, full and soft with rosy tips. Probably the most gorgeous breasts he’d seen outside a porno magazine. What would they feel like? His imagination immediately kicked in, drowning him in images, textures, what it would be like to cup her in his hands and run his thumb…run his thumb over…

She was peeling her panties down.

He focused on taking deep even breaths as her little bottom swayed naked in front of him. His fingers bit into his thighs, his teeth bit into his lip and he actually whimpered as she half turned to drop her panties on the log with her other clothes and he could see her. The apex of her thighs, the center of her.

Perfectly naked before him. Perfectly naked. Perfect. Gorgeous. Desirable.

He watched her step into the water, watched her squeak and shiver at the cold, watched until her breasts disappeared under the cool mountain flow and then he flopped hard on his back, scrunching his eyes shut, breathing hard through his teeth, his hand passing once, dangerously, over the painful, hardness in his pants. He wanted to press his hand there, rub, stroke, relieve the pressure that had built to a steady ache. He wanted to just shut his eyes and replay those last moments in his mind over and over again. He wanted to sit up and watch her scrub herself clean, rub her hands over her belly and breasts absently as she washed.

But he knew better. He knew better and he was a FUCKING IDIOT!

What the hell was wrong with him!

Mudblood! Say it with me now: Mudblood! She was a Mudblood, not even really human and he was getting hard over her! The point had been to embarrass and humiliate her, not to get off on watching! It was like getting hard over a farm animal. How sick could you get! A sudden ugly feeling rolled through his belly, like he was going to be ill.

She looked pretty human to me. Cackled a nasty little voice in the back of his head. Nice and pretty and soft and female and completely free of tentacles, slime or warts on her ass.

She had looked female. Completely, utterly female.

But that didn’t matter! Maybe they were similar on the outside but she was still a Mudblood on the inside!

Calm down, Draco, just calm down.

But he couldn’t. He was shocked, confused and suddenly quite furious at her more than with himself. A lifetime of bigotry and prejudice that had been blind and deaf to the girl’s brilliance and talent had just been blindsided instead by sheer femininity. He hadn’t expected his body to react to her. He’d expected it to know the difference between a disgusting Mudblood and a real girl. And that was the problem. Granger was suddenly no longer an ‘it’. She was a she, female. And that just wasn’t right. It couldn’t be.

Behind the brain and the huge black robes, Granger was a lovely young girl and that knowledge, subconscious though it still was, shook the pillars of his entire existence. And when the pillars people stand on are shaken, they tend to lash out, to save themselves at all costs.

Draco got quickly, silently to his feet. He caught one glimpse of Granger, dripping and gleaming with spring water, and fled.

He spit and cursed all the way back to the clearing, raging. He quickly realized that working himself up wasn’t going to help. It just made him want to do something drastic, like shove a tree branch through his ears and scrub his brain off, or rip his eyes out and wash them clean. He paced around the clearing and tried to flip the situation, tried to find something to gloat about in the fact that he’d seen what Potter and Weasley, and probably a fair number of the other Gryff boys too, only got to see in their imaginations while they were in bed wanking each other off.

He tried to imagine Granger’s horror and humiliation when he told her he’d been watching her bathe. He tried to imagine the Slytherin boys laughing their fool heads off while he told them about it, with a few extra details added in of course. But his brain kept going back to pictures of Granger soft and curvy and naked for his eyes alone, while another part kept whispering ‘Mudblood’ viciously over and over.

A twig snapped and he started, jerking around, eyes wild.

Granger froze at his startled movement. Her hair was dripping wet and her robe was open a little so he could see her white shirt sticking to her still-damp skin in a few places. But that didn’t matter because he could still see her, golden and gleaming, right behind his eyes. Her face was damp, clean and pale. Surprise faded from her eyes and haughtiness took its place.

His fists clenched.

He stalked over to her, practically shaking as he tried to keep himself under control. He didn’t know what he was going to do when he got to her, he wasn’t even thinking about it. Granger started to sneer at him but whatever she saw in his face caused her words to die on her lips and now she stiffened, uncertainty and a trace of fear crossing her pretty features. She held still, absolutely still.

Did he look as crazy as he felt right now?

Or could she sense it, sense it like animals sense earthquakes and storms, like tingles of electricity along her nerve endings, primitive warnings in the back of her mind whispering ‘Danger’.

He stopped in front of her.

If she had spoken, he didn’t know what he would have done. Instead, she stood quivering like a mouse before a snake and he gloried bitterly and viciously in that power.

His eyes narrowed and he raised a hand…and ran the pad of his thumb over her cheek slowly, softly, leaving a dark streak of dirt in stark contrast to her fair skin.

“ Filthy…”

He ran his index finger over her brow leaving another mark.

“ Dirty…”

He ran two fingers down her other cheek, making twin stripes.

“ Mudblood...”

He admired his handwork for a moment, before turning and walking away, going off into the woods to cool off. Maybe even to wank off. Anything to clear his head.

Granger stayed standing like a statue where she was. She didn’t say a word.

She didn’t dare.

Next Time: The trek home is underway. The tension is rising, tempers are flaring and something is seriously wrong with Draco.
A/N: whew! These chapters are getting too long. Anyway, I’m taking outrageous liberties with the plant life at this point (though I think you can find wild cherries where Draco and Hermione are). I have to fess up cuz my Botany club pals will get together and jump me if I don’t.

Other Notes:
Sexydevil: Will there be sex in this story? There will be at least mention of sex and/or heavy petting. Exactly how graphically detailed that gets is still being debated at the moment. I don’t have a problem writing hardcore stuff but I don’t like that the little ‘uns might be reading it, that’s the only reason there’s a debate at all.

Disclaimer: I have an uncle who legally changed his name to Fred Flintstone. I am dead serious. Luckily, he's only an uncle by marriage.

A/N: …::walks in and finds everyone dead::…Ah, dammit…

I apologize for this being so late. I spent the last five weeks on the road and then had some terrible computer problems. But I'm back at my apartment now and school started so things have majorly settled down.

I sort of took a step back and sliced chapter 8 in two cuz there was just way too much going on. So I didn't get as far as I thought I would. So the "Next Time" blurb from last chapter applies to this chapter and next chapter.

Wow, put a little bit of nudity in a chapter and everyone goes crazy. You bunch of hentais. ::is wearing an Official Hentai Club President badge::

Chapter 8: The Eyes of the Beholder

Hermione’s fingers brushed over her cheek and came away with dirt.

Her hand trembled.

She wasn’t exactly sure what had just happened, but she knew that something had changed and not for the better. Malfoy was already bad news. He’d abandoned her, used her, lied to her, bullied and attacked her, this whole situation was his fault to begin with and now she had a terrible feeling that the honeymoon was over. Something had changed just a moment ago and she’d been more afraid of him than she had ever been in her life.

She’d been frightened, really frightened, of Draco Malfoy. He'd stood there with blazing eyes and violence in every taut line of his body and she'd been frozen. Completely stunned by the change in him, struck dumb by the idea that he was someone to be feared. It wasn’t even so much what he had done as the feeling that something else had nearly happened. Some disaster just barely averted. And she didn’t want to know what that disaster was.

Funny, she’d never really thought of Malfoy as dangerous before, not really. Oh, she’d been scared he might beat her up or something, and she’d definitely been afraid that he might hurt her with that knife when he’d shown it to her back in Diagon alley but she’d never once thought ‘Oh my gosh, Malfoy’s going to kill me’. She’d never once thought he’d do anything that she couldn’t walk away from once it was over.

She walked slowly to the stream, fingers still touching her cheek as if the secret to the boy's behavior could be divined from the marks he'd put there. Kneeling in the moist sand, she leaned over to wash her face. Her back was stiff, tense, and she realized that she was listening intently in case Malfoy decided to sneak up on her from behind.

Merlin! Was she really that shaken up?

She stared blankly down at the rushing ice water, taking slow even breaths, trying to calm herself and get a clear perspective on the situation.

Her trip to the stream before had been nothing so much as a graceful retreat from a bad situation that promised only to escalate. She did not want to be around after Malfoy got over the shock of her smacking him upside the head with her backpack. She’d hoped she’d given him enough time to cool down while she washed and had expected to come back to find him sullen and angry, not pacing like a caged animal. Had he really spent the entire time she was gone seething?

Okay, so maybe she shouldn’t have bashed him in the face with her backpack but it wasn’t like he didn’t deserve it. Realistically, she had expected some sort of retaliation, what she hadn’t expected was to be dealing with a spoiled brat throwing a temper tantrum one second and then find herself staring into the eyes of a psychopath the next.

He’d scared her. Really scared her.

A year ago, the idea that Malfoy was dangerous would have seemed ludicrous. Not even Dumbledore himself could have convinced her he was anything more than a shameless bully. It wasn't like he'd do any real harm. He was just a kid. They were both just kids…

Except they weren’t anymore. They hadn’t been for awhile.

She didn’t think about it often, arrogant in her assurance of her own invulnerability, but Malfoy had done some pretty awful stuff in the past couple of years. He’d kicked Dorgan Roxit off his broomstick fifty feet above the quidditch pitch during a game and nearly got the boy killed. He broke Nikko Duarte’s arm and pushed Tabby Sieck down a flight of stairs. She’d lost count of the number of people he beat up. He even beat up people from his own House. He’d put an Exploding Turtle Egg in Ron’s bag that, luckily, exploded out on the grass during Care of Magical Creatures. It could have seriously injured Ron or burned the boys’ room to the ground if it exploded indoors. He’d tried to Crucio Harry twice that she knew of and the boys had told her several times to be careful, that Malfoy had tried to lure or follow her and Ginny off to secluded areas.

She hadn’t taken them seriously. Malfoy wouldn’t touch her so long as she had her Prefect’s badge. Malfoy wouldn't touch her because Dumbledore took extra special care of his Golden Three. Malfoy wouldn't touch her because she was the smartest student at Hogwarts and knew more spells than he ever would. Malfoy wouldn't touch her because Harry and Ron were always there to protect her.

They weren’t here now.

Hermione wiped the dirt away, rinsing her hands in the water, watching the mud swirl and disappear.

Was she overreacting? She could almost convince herself that she was, except if she replayed the scene over in her mind she knew with a terrible certainty that she wasn't.

Had she been kidding herself th… Продолжение »
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