Thank you so much for all the love & support throughout the last year. I just wanted to make a quick note (that will appear on all WIP updates, so everyone has the chance to read it) about how I've organized the updates. Aside from Love Like Blood (which I'd finished & completed posting before moving onto the other updates so the story is complete & out of the way), the updates will be posted in the order of furthest back date of 'last update' to most recent.

I know some of you are really anxious for updates on specific fics & would like to ask for your continued patience as I move through this process. Literally every open fic in my story list has an update ready to go, so whatever story you've been waiting for will have a new chapter in the coming days/weeks.

Chapter Five

Hermione started awake. Blinking rapidly, she grabbed her wand from beneath her pillow as she sat up.

"Lumos," she whispered, casting only the faintest illumination as she looked about. She didn't want to disturb Teddy—who was finally down after she and Fenrir had traded off pacing with him and bouncing him several times—or Fenrir.

Clearly whatever had woken her hadn't jarred him from slumber, and at least one of the adults on this fraught journey should get a goodnight's rest.

But then that still begged the question: What had woken her?

Seemingly on cue, just as she considered the source, her beaded bag shuddered. It had been right beside her head as she'd slept, no wonder it had only bothered her.

Swallowing hard, she pulled the bag into her lap and fished about inside, hopeful for what she might find. Yet, as her fingers closed around Andromeda's coin and she extracted it, her heart sank the moment her gaze fixed on the changed inscription along the metal.

"Oh, no." She hadn't realized her words had escaped louder than she'd intended.

"Hmm? Wha'sit?" Fenrir asked in a sleepy rumble, not even opening his eyes.

"The coin… Compromised. Keep Moving."

Fenrir was up from his cot in a blink. Crossing the floor, he poked his head outside. Hermione thought certain if she listened close enough, she'd hear the sound of him inhaling deep of the pre-dawn air. Of course, Andromeda's planned destination being compromised didn't have any bearing on the security of their current hideout, but she understood his caution.

The very thought that someone could've snuck up on them—could somehow be lying in wait outside for them to show themselves in spite of her wards—was enough to set ice swirling in the pit of her stomach. There was already plenty of strain to go around with the full moon tomorrow night, more so now that they had to replan since warding the guard house and leaving him to transform in there while she camped outside with a bundled-up Teddy was scratched.

"Well?" she asked in a soft voice as he turned back to face her.

"Seems we're still clear, but we should be on the move soon." He gave her a quick once-over. "You good to head out in a bit?"

She nodded, aware she was a little disappointed to already have to leave the guard house with its quiet and its seeming security—after the last several months, it had been nice to be sedentary for a bit. However, also after the last several months, packing up and moving on a moment's notice was nothing new for her.

"Sure. I'll start packing up. Then once Teddy is up, we can feed and change him and then be on our way."

The werewolf's brows shot up and he blew out a breath from between pursed lips. "Can't we just take him while he's still asleep?"

Hermione paused in mid-motion as she was climbing out of her cot, her eyes holding his unblinkingly. "Sure, if we want him to wake up cranky because he's soiled and hungry, and risk him loudly announcing his displeasure with our subpar surrogate parenting skills to any living thing within a half-mile radius."

Fenrir's mouth twitched side-to-side as he weighed her words before conceding her point. "Well ... fine, if you want to be sensible about it."

She snorted a laugh and got to her feet, taking advantage of the fact that she already had her wand out by immediately setting to the process of shrinking whatever needed to go into her bag. For a moment, she considered the crib they'd transfigured from that old desk.

Yes, she'd take it with them, though …. Hmm, come to think of it, she wasn't certain if magically shrunken and then re-enlarged objects retained their transfigured form or reverted. Well, they were going to find out.

A sudden shock rippled through her, small and sudden, as she found herself thinking how much fun Harry would have with the fact that even now under such dire circumstances, she couldn't say no to the thought of a magical experiment.

Lowering her wand, she let her gaze fall with the motion so that she stared at the floor.

Still eyeing the distant treeline from the partially open door, Fenrir turned at the abrupt silence that fell. The sight of her sagging where she stood brought a frown to his lips.

Quietly shutting the door, he crossed to stand before her. She gave no sign of acknowledgment that he was dangerously closer to invading her personal space despite his complete awareness that the toes of his boots were now well within her field of vision.

Days had passed, a week now? Longer? No, a week felt right. Hermione and Fenrir had been minding Teddy for nearly three days now? It had taken three days for Fenrir to recover from the charm break, one day to reach Andromeda thanks to that storm ...

A week.

It felt like a blink and like some impossibly long stretch of time all at once. Seven days since her world had ended.

Seven days since her best friend had betrayed her and everyone who'd ever put their faith and trust in him. Seven days of her telling herself she would not think of him, of the past, of the pain he'd caused her and so many others.

And still thinking of him beside her was second nature. Wondering what he'd say or do about something …. Worrying if he was caring for himself. Curious what was going through his head when something unexpected occurred.

Her throat constricted.

The first moment after waking up—after instinctively grabbing her wand but before the specifics of where she was and why could enter her head—her mind jumped to her best friend.

Her vision misted.

Her best friend these last seven years. The one she'd stuck by through everything

Her breath felt trapped in her lungs.

The one she'd decided it was best not to even think about until she knew how to bring him back from whatever dark place had made him join Voldemort.

That same breath left her in a sudden, thundering rush and she all but collapsed forward. If not for the entirely too sturdy werewolf standing before her, the witch might've crumbled to the floor.

Fenrir caught her easily by the shoulders, pulling her so that she leaned against him but still had her feet under her. "Woah … all right. I got you." He tipped his head, looking into her face.

Her unfocused eyes wouldn't meet his.

Hermione shook her head, but couldn't work up anything to say just now. She hadn't taken any time to consider how much this all hurt. She'd focused on breaking Fenrir's charm, then focused on managing her confused feelings in his presence, then on Andromeda and Teddy ….

Always something so she didn't have to think ….

So she didn't have to think that on some sad and distant future date, if she couldn't find a way to bring him back ….

She would instead, for the sake of what was left of their world, have to kill her best friend.

Fenrir had absolutely no idea what to do as the diminutive yet often terrifying female in his arms burst out in huge, ugly, sobs, just barely stifled by the fact that she was somehow still mindful of the sleeping infant in the room.

"What the hell are you doing here?" Draco's voice was harsh, deep and dark in a way Harry'd never heard before, not in all their arguments over these last seven years, not in casting a spell …. Not even when he'd been fighting the other Death Eaters trying to haul him down here.

The former Slytherin prince didn't look up from his hands clasped in his lap. His pale hair was unkempt, a thick five o'clock shadow of slightly darker gold edged his jaw and he still wore the same robes he had during the final battle. If not for Lucius Malfoy evidently using cleaning charms on these 'special prisoners', Harry dreaded to imagine what the dungeon would smell like right now.

Harry turned his attention over his shoulder. The cell at his back held Narcissa Malfoy. She slept fitfully beneath a barely wide enough, threadbare blanket on the floor. Between her midnight robes and the black blanket, the only indication there was anyone among the mass of dark fabric was the fall of her platinum hair spilling across the gritty stone beneath her.

"Well? Aren't you supposed to be off somewhere being a good little Pet to the Dark Lord?" Draco snarled, reclaiming Potter's attention. How dare he come in here and then just stand about like a useless lump? Say something or leave, it was hardly a difficult choice.

"I … I just wanted to ask you something."

Brow furrowing, Draco uttered a scoffing chuckle as he tossed up his hands. "Sure, why not?" He crossed his cell to lean against the bars, folding his arms and then offering a bored shrug. "Not like I've better things to do."

It occurred to Harry, albeit distantly and dimly, that this was a question that hadn't crossed his mind sooner. He couldn't for the life of him think of why. Perhaps there had been too much to do? Or maybe he'd been distracted with more troubling things, like the Dark Lord accidentally sending the worst possible choice of Death Eaters in regard to anything to do with Hermione.

Finally, though, the words came to him, and for all the world it felt like a perfectly reasonable, logical question to ask. "What made you turn away from the Dark Lord?"

Draco didn't straighten up from his languid and sloped posture, but his shoulders stiffened a bit at the question. For a long, quiet moment, he merely stared into Harry's eyes unblinkingly from the other side of the bars.

"That's what happened, isn't it?" the Malfoy heir asked, tone incredulous. "You went mad. That's the only explanation for …." He lifted a hand from his folded arms to make a vague waving gesture in Harry's direction. "This."

"What?" Harry's features scrunched in question, but he only shook his head—whenever he tried to ponder his recent decisions, it all came back to the same answer, and then if he pushed further, his thoughts seemed to shut down entirely. A whispering voice in the back of his mind would insist how much easier it was to simply not question, and hadn't his life already been so bloody hard?

Wasn't not fighting, wasn't accepting a pleasant, easy solution after all that?

"No," he said, automatic, thoughtless. "I haven't gone mad. Just answer the question."

Draco's brows shot up his forehead, so high it seemed they might disappear against his hairline. "You honestly don't know? Do you not remember or …." His head tipping to one side, his brows lowered and his slate-colored eyes narrowed. "Or are you confused? Do you feel confused, Potter?"

Harry shrugged. "Sometimes. What? No, shut up. Answer the bloody question."

"Why should I?"

Frowning, Harry said, "You already said you would."

His eyes rolling, Draco pushed aside his own sudden curiosity about what precisely had happened to The Boy Who Lived. "The Dark Lord endangered the lives of myself and my parents again and again … without care, or thought, and very often entirely with intent. When my … my idiot friend unleashed that Fiend Fyre, it was you who saved me. You and Granger." Potter flinched at the name. Draco filed the notice of that reaction away for the moment. "Even though it was my fault my life was in danger, you two rescued me anyway …

"I didn't even think about it until after the danger passed. But you and Granger—" Another flinch, just as Draco was expecting— "rescued me. Even after how horrible I was to you for so long, even if …." He swallowed hard and nodded, forcing himself to continue—he'd not been expecting this to turn into a soul-baring session, but as he'd said earlier, it wasn't as though he had better things to do. "Even if I probably deserved to die in that fire for all I've done. You saved me because you're not like me. At least you weren't. You weren't supposed to be like any of us. You were someone who saved an enemy because while you may not have wanted to, you knew it was wrong to leave someone to die when you had the chance to save them."

"So …." Harry's lips twisted in thought. Well, for a moment, anyway. The moment Draco's half-pleading observation began to sink in, Harry's mind shut down whatever in him was reacting. "Your answer is you lost faith in the Dark Lord?"

Sighing, Draco shook his head. This was definitely some sort of charm or hex at work. "My answer is I was sick of fighting and being willing to die for someone who could not care less if I survived from one day to the next."

Harry nodded. "Still hearing that you lost faith in him."

Draco held in a groan. It was like trying to argue with a toddler. Pushing off from the bars, Draco pivoted to face Harry fully and curled his fingers around the bars. "Tell me … how did the Dark Lord win you to his side, anyway?" This was the time to test what he thought might be happening.

"You wouldn't understand," Harry responded simply before turning on his heel to start away from the cells. His curiosity had been satisfied—not that he wasn't disappointed by the predictable answer—he didn't need to stay here any longer.

"Have to do with Granger, does it?"

Potter froze in his tracks. Now was his turn to pivot, revolving slowly in place until he stared Draco dead in the eyes.

"I noticed your reaction whenever I said her name. She's Muggleborn … and there's some mad rumor she's a werewolf." Draco tried not to laugh at that. Oh, with how many times he'd crossed Hermione Granger over the years, he was rather certain if anyone would have learned firsthand she turned into a big, claw-bearing rage beast every full moon, it would've been him.

With every word, Harry took a slow, measured step back toward Draco's cell.

Draco, however, was not quite finished yet. "That's it, isn't it? She's got a target on her back now more than she ever did before, and he's promised to protect her for you!"

Harry scowled, the expression so impressively dark and moody, Draco dared to think it would give his father's grimaces a run for their money. "Everything I'm doing is to achieve that end. Do you understand that?" Tipping his head back in a haughty and defiant look, Harry shook his head. "No, I don't suppose you would. Since the moment we became friends, she has been the one constant in my life. She never doubted me, never turned her back on me …."

Forcing a gulp down his throat, Harry continued, "Never abandoned me." Yes, that was why he knew she could not be with Greyback of her own volition. She had never abandoned him. The Dark Lord had promised him that when Hermione was found, he would grant Harry the gift of making Fenrir Greyback pay for absconding with her.

"You wouldn't know the first thing about having a friend like that, would you?" Harry all but spat the question at Draco.

Lowering his gaze, Draco's expression soured. "No, I wouldn't."

With a satisfied nod, Harry at last turned and stomped away.

Draco stared at the rough, gritty floor of the dungeon for what seemed too long after that. Here he'd been trying to twist his way into Potter's head to figure out precisely what the Dark Lord had done, and he had a clue, yes, an inkling, but …. Like that, Potter managed to turn it on him.

Damn these attacks of conscience.


"Hmm?" The young man lifted his eyes, fixing his attention on his mother. His heart sank. She had pulled herself to sit up, but the blanket was pulled tight around her shoulders—she was always cold now, it seemed, and her cheeks had grown a bit narrow. Just a little, enough in the last week's time that only someone who had every inch of her face committed to memory would notice the difference.

Father had noticed, Draco knew he had. There'd been a look Father had granted him on his last visit that Draco hadn't wanted to acknowledge.

Narcissa Malfoy was dying. And there was nothing in the world he could do for her.

"You've got to get out of here."

A laugh that was a sound of pure, unadulterated disbelief bubbled out of him. "Oh, sure, Mother, just let me get the key to the cell out of my pocket. Oh, wait …."

Narcissa's frown showed stern disapproval of her son's whimsy. Forcing herself, she climbed to her feet.

"Mother," Draco started, concerned for her waning strength. "Don't—"

"Hush!" she snapped, for a heartbeat sounding precisely like her old self. "Now you hear me, if that girl is the key to Potter's mind, if she's the thing the Dark Lord is using to control him, you have to get to her first. Get to her, and help her."

Draco's eyes flashed wide with the sheer impossibility of the request. Not only were all the Death Eaters scouring Wizarding Britain for werewolves—including and especially the one who'd presumably kidnapped Granger—but he was, what was it? Oh, yes! Locked in a bloody cell in a castle crawling with the brethren he'd betrayed.

"How?" was all he managed in response, despite the many other things it had occurred to him to say in reply.

"Don't worry," she said, her voice dulling again as she lowered herself to sit once more. "Don't worry. Now that we have this piece of information, your father and I will think of something.