Disclaimer: This will be the only one I do. It applies to all the chapters following this one. The characters and locations belong to JK Rowling and whomever she has contracts with.
Author's Note: This will be the only AN I do as well. I will respond to comments via PM, unless you have your PMs turned off, in which case you'll not be receiving a response. This story is completed and I will upload one chapter every Friday until it's done. I started writing it as a simple 2k work oneshot...and it turned into this...
A Loose Connection
By: J. Green
He remained calm, standing aloof despite his arms being chained above his head, stretching him uncomfortably. He wasn't sure where his wand was, but he couldn't afford to worry about that at the moment.
"I wonder what Granger would think about this treatment of me, Weasel," he couldn't resist the taunt, even in this precarious situation. He was a Malfoy after all.
A jeering laugh echoed against stone walls. "Don't you know? Hermione's the one who arranged your lovely accommodations. And besides, it's Mrs. Weasley now."
"Oh?" he responded with a sneer. "It seems Mrs. Weasley was less than forthcoming during our little…trysts in London." He was rewarded with a sharp intake of breath. The redhead always did wear his emotions on his sleeve. He began to laugh harshly, almost hysterically when the fist connected with his stomach. "You hit like a girl, Weasel-face. Wait, no, that's an insult to Mrs. Weasley. You hit like Potter."
This time, there was no fist, only a shouted word that cut off his air supply. It was difficult to remain calm when black spots began to swim in front of his eyes. He tried to focus on Weasley, tried to keep his thoughts together and keep himself conscious, when suddenly he was able to breathe again. He did not take huge gulps of air in, but rather kept a steady in-out as if there had been no interruption of his air supply at all. Slowly, one by one, the spots disappeared.
"You're lying." He smirked at that. Oh how he loved to have the upper hand, even if it wasn't physically.
"You don't sound as if you believe yourself. Trouble in paradise?" Once again, the fist connected with his abdomen. "Careful there, Weasel, you might accidently hit Mrs. Weasley's favorite bits." The fists flew without abandon, and all Draco could do was laugh. He and Granger hadn't actually done anything; in fact, their meetings were far from anything remotely friendly, and it wouldn't surprise him if she had indeed arranged for him to be chained in a dungeon at the mercy of her illustrious husband.
In truth, he felt rather betrayed. She hadn't told him she was married, allowing him to call her by her former surname as he had in their schooldays. While it didn't truly affect the matters they had discussed or the current situation he was in, he had always been completely honest with her, holding nothing back, while she had chosen to hide things. It bothered him, and it bothered him that it bothered him.
When Weasley had finished, nursing his hands and glaring at him as if it was his fault, Draco merely sneered back. "Do you feel better? Like a big badass? Beating on a defenseless, chained man…you're no better than a filthy Death Eater." With that, he spit some of the blood that had been pooling in his mouth from the attack at the boy, hitting him squarely in the face.
As his childhood nemesis closed and locked the door to his cell, he finally allowed himself to slump against the wall, the chains now supporting him and cutting into his wrists painfully. He had come here in good faith, based on the promise of protection, should the need ever arise, in exchange for information. While he didn't much like playing the spy, he had been giving the information to Granger for months now, tired of bowing down to someone of inferior blood and much more interested in saving his own skin than any paltry power Voldemort could give him.
It seemed he had made the wrong choice. He would know what to do and how to act if he had been cornered by the Dark Lord for his espionage. He would be in control of himself. He had not expected to be jumped and chained here, not with the Order. They had seemed much more "ask questions first, act later." And so now, here he was, dirty, cold, wandless…and at the mercy of people whose actions he couldn't even begin to guess.
In a word, he was screwed.
Hermione hummed an old tune from her Muggle childhood as she magically strung garland on their oversized Fir tree. This had been a rough year at Order Headquarters, with the death count being higher than any of them originally imagined. Still, they had not lost hope and Voldemort was losing power every day because of their efforts. It was only a matter of time; with each death caused by Death Eaters, a whole family of supporters joined the Light – the other side could not make the same claim.
And so it was with a light heart that she was decorating Grimmauld Place from top to bottom for the coming holidays, with the tree being the last on her list. She had a mission tonight, so she couldn't quite give it the care she desired, but she knew it would be appreciated by all anyway. A splash of gold streamers shot from her wand just as she heard the door open behind her.
"Still at it, huh? The halls look great."
She smiled, but didn't turn around. "Welcome home, Harry."
"I know just the thing this tree needs," he stated when she stepped back to inspect her work. With a flick of his wand, enchanted snow began to drop from the ceiling, lightly dusting the branches in front of them. She laughed and stuck her hand out to catch a few of the flakes, her laughter growing as they passed right through her hand.
"Your illusion spells are getting stronger!"
"Just watch!" he turned her to face him before flicking his wand again, this time at himself. His hair turned red and long, his face shortened and became dusted with freckles, and his green eyes turned a startling shade of blue. When two breasts threatened to pop out of his shirt, he began laughing, and instantly snapped back into himself. Hermione stared at him with her mouth hanging open. "I can only do Ginny, and not for very long, so it's not exactly the most useful illusionary charm."
She closed her mouth and smirked, "So you can only do Ginny? Is it from the hours of staring longingly in her direction while she ignores you?"
"She's not ignoring me, she's just busy," Harry pouted.
Hermione threw her arms around his neck and she laughed, "Oh Harry Potter, will you just suck it up and tell her you love her already? You know that's the only reason she ignores you." He blushed a harsh shade of red just as the door opened so quickly it slammed into the opposing wall, causing the friends to jump.
When all they saw was Ron, back from a mission that had kept him away for a few days, so infuriated that flames of anger almost seemed to leap off his body, they lowered their wands from the defensive position and sighed. Ron always seemed to be angry these days, ever since…well, she tried not to think about that too often.
"Happy almost Christmas, Ron. Do you like the tree?" She said no more when he turned his glare to her. Usually his eyes softened when they fell on her, but not this time, and she couldn't for the life of her figure out why. Harry seemed to sense something was amiss as well, and casually stepped slightly in front of her as if he was just moving forward to greet Ron.
With a frenzied Reducto!, Ron exploded Hermione's tree into millions of pieces. Several shards of glass from the ornaments caught her in the face, leaving small trails of blood in their wake. She didn't even bother to hide her tears as she turned back to him, infuriated. His wand arm had dropped back to his side, and all the anger had drained from him as he stood there in shock at what he had done.
Harry was shouting furiously, but Hermione just stared at him, waiting her turn. When it appeared Harry had run out of steam, she said in a deadly quiet voice, "I hope your memory has gotten better, Ronald. It better look exactly as it did by the time I get back."
Instead of turning him to a quivering bowl of jelly, like they normally would, her words only seemed to bring some of the fire back to him. "And just where do you think you're going?"
"I have a mission," she stated coolly, before stepping out of the room without a backwards glance. Even when Ron shouted after her that she didn't have a bloody mission and she needed to stop lying to him, she continued walking, pulling on her cloak and heading towards her daughter's room to say goodbye.
He wasn't sure how much longer he could last. He hadn't been fed once since being thrown in here, and his legs were refusing to support him. His beautiful pure blood was running down his wrists with every movement, but he could no longer feel the pain in his numb arms. No one had come to even check on him, to make sure he was here and alive, since Weasley had left. It was as if he had been forgotten.
He thought for sure that at least she would've come to see him, if only to explain her betrayal or laugh in his face about his misplaced trust. That bloody bint. That stupid, mudblooded bint. He'd love to wrap his hands around her neck and squeeze until she turned purple. If he could feel his hands, that is.
Black spots began to dance in front of his eyes again, as they had time and time again since Weasley abandoned him. He was tired of trying to stay conscious. Tired of being hungry. Tired of not being able to feel his hands. And so, he let the blackness take him over, not sure if he hoped it was the last time or not.
He hadn't been there again, and she was worried. She didn't want to worry about him, but she couldn't help herself. He had missed meetings before, and oftentimes without explanation, but never more than one. She never worried about it, because there he would be the next time, that stupid smirk on his face and a Did you miss me? on his lips. It usually took everything in her to not smack him across his jaw and wipe the expression off his face, opting instead to stare at him coolly and get down to business as if he hadn't spoken at all.
But this was the third missed meeting. And Hermione was worried. She calmly hung her cloak on the rack by the door, trying hard not to make any noise and wake Mrs. Black, and consequently the household. She tiptoed past the staircase and towards the kitchen, where she could hear soft murmurs behind the closed door.
Harry would be waiting up for her, she knew, but she wondered who else was there. These missions were of utmost secrecy, the nature of them only known to Harry and Moody, and Moody was currently in France dealing with his own mission. She knocked, so as not to surprise anyone, and opened the door only a crack to show the occupants of the kitchen who it was.
"Come in, Hermione." Harry's voice sounded strained, almost defeated, as if he was dreading telling her something. Her eyes quickly moved past him, though, and settled on the smug looking redhead leaning by the fire.
"Ronald. I assume my tree has been repaired?"
"That's not important right now," Harry stopped any reply Ron might have given her. "Ron has some…news for you, Hermione. I'm not sure if it's good or bad, or if you should even hear it, but I don't like keeping things from you."
She leaned against the doorframe and waited. When it seemed he had nothing else to say, she prompted, "Well?"
Ron's smug face took on an almost sinister look as he said, "I caught him, Hermione. I caught him and I'm going to make him pay for what he did to you."
She felt as though everything had been drained from her as she slowly righted herself, leaving a hand on the doorframe for support. She must've looked a fright, because Harry immediately stood up and hurried over to her, looking as if he was going to catch her if she fell. "W-what did you say?"
"Maybe you should sit down," Harry said as he wrapped his arm around her waist. Her legs gave out at that moment, and he quickly used his other arm to steady her, holding her in a hug.
"I caught that bloody git Malfoy and I'm going to make sure he knows exactly how you felt when he tortured you." Unable to hold on any longer, she allowed his words to take the consciousness away from her.
He saw her face again, mocking him. The sneer that graced her lips was a far cry from the blank expression she normally maintained during their meetings. He wished he could see that blankness again. He craved her flashing eyes that gave away her emotions rather than this cold look facing him now.
His hysterical laughter filled the walls of the dungeon. "Back again to view your handiwork, mudblood?"
With that word and a soft touch against his wrist, the haziness on the edges of his vision cleared and the sneering, cold face was replaced by soft features and sad eyes.
"Remove these shackles at once, Ronald."
"Granger? It's really you?" He wasn't happy with the weak croak of his voice, but he was proud of himself for not crying out as one of her fingers brushed against a cut on his wrist.
Brown eyes locked with grey, the apology evident in their depths. This was real; this wasn't his imagination, a hunger-induced hallucination. She was really in front of him, saving him from this nightmare, apparently innocent of the blame Weasley had assigned to her. And he still wanted to kill her.
As the bindings on his wrists gave way, he slumped forward in her arms, angry for being unable to support himself. It was a testament to how much weight he had lost that she was able to hold him up with no evident effort.
Resting against her shoulder, his dry, cracked lips brushing the shell of her ear in a mockery of a lover's whisper, he stated simply, "So much for your empty promises, eh, Mrs. Weasley?" Seconds later, the darkness overcame him.
She was livid. That Ron had the audacity to take a prisoner, abuse him, and then not feed him for days angered her. The fact that it was Malfoy, someone she had made promises of protection to in exchange for information, information that had prevented numerous deaths at the risk of his own, infuriated her. But the crowning glory, the one thing that could very well keep her from speaking to the redheaded pikey again, was the fact that he had told Malfoy they were married. A lie that, for numerous reasons, only complicated matters.
She was mad, and feeling guilty, and for this reason, was currently playing nursemaid to Malfoy's patient. His gaunt form frightened her, and so once she had confirmed he was settled and comfortable in a makeshift hospital cot set up in the library, she had immediately begun brewing a strengthening potion. She was afraid to give him even the simplest broth until she was sure his stomach wouldn't immediately expel it, putting his already fragile state at risk. Not that it mattered too greatly as he was still passed out. She would pour her brew down his unconscious throat if she had to. Anything to be rid of this overwhelming guilt.
Every hour, on the hour, Hermione dispensed the potion into his mouth, keeping watch on his vital signs and tracking them in her log. When she finally determined that his breath had evened out, and his once sluggish heartbeat had regulated, she risked waking him up magically.
As soon as the spell left her lips, his eyes snapped open and focused on her. "How long?" he asked her with a glare.
"You were down there for approximately eight days, I knew for 45 minutes that you were there before releasing you, 44 of which were spent unconscious from the shock, and you've been here for," she paused as she checked the hourglass on the mantel over the fireplace, "14 hours." She hadn't been positive as to what exactly he was asking her, so had given her usual too-detailed answer.
His eyes were still narrowed accusingly. She sighed and handed him a small bowl of chicken broth she had kept warm with a simple heating spell. His glare moved from her to the bowl, as if disgusted by its mere presence in front of him. Without warning, he flung the bowl to the wood floor, shattering it and causing her to jump in surprise at his childish outburst.
"Bring me some kippers," he said petulantly.
"Absolutely not! You haven't had food for days, Malfoy, your stomach can't handle it, especially oily fish!"
"Bring me. Some kippers."
"I will not. I may have been able to put some weight back onto your body with a modified strengthening potion, but you are far from healthy," she argued. When he did nothing more than glare at her with almost pure loathing, the guilt hit her again in full force and she bent to his will. She summoned Dobby with a snap of her fingers.
When he was tucking into the steaming plate in front of him with abandon, she couldn't help but snap out, "When it disagrees with you, don't come crying to me." And when, not minutes later, he was retching the contents of his stomach into a bin she had conjured and held to his mouth, she couldn't help but smirk. Unconsciously, she began stroking his hair as she stared at the far wall, listening to Malfoy dry heave over the bin.
When he had finished, he weakly slapped her hand away from his head, saying, "I don't need you to mother me, Granger." With no response, she stood and scourgified the bucket before returning to her chair against the wall.
Feebly, Malfoy fell back against his pillows and fell asleep.
When he was awake again, his eyes immediately went to the chair still occupied by Granger. How long had she been there? Her rumpled clothing and haggard face led him to believe she had yet to leave his side. He couldn't remember if she was wearing the same clothing as before, simply because he hadn't bothered to pay attention earlier, being hungry and sick and weak and all.
He sneered at her frizzy brown hair and muggle clothing, not caring that she was taking care of him. He wouldn't be in this position in the first place if it wasn't for her. Attending to his every whim was merely what she deserved. Suddenly, her body jumped as if she had been shocked and she opened her bleary eyes in the direction of the fireplace. He closed his eyes, feigning sleep to see what she would do.
He listened as she rose from her chair and quietly stepped over to him. He felt her cool hand brush away some hair that had fallen across his forehead before she murmured a spell and passed her wand over his inert form. Draco risked a peek through his eyelashes when he heard a slight scratching sound and was unsurprised to see her scribbling something in a booklet of parchment. After making her notations, she walked back to her chair.
She repeated this action every hour for three hours, somehow being shocked awake each time. Finally, unable to pretend sleep anymore, he watched her move towards him again the fourth hour with his eyes wide open.
"How long?" he asked for a second time, not elaborating any more this time than he did before. Granger was a smart girl, she could figure out what he meant.
"I'd say you've been in here for about four days," came the quiet response.
"Four days? Have you left at all, Granger?" Her lack of reply was answer enough. She kept her eyes focused on her wand as she once again checked and recorded his vital signs. He was shocked. She had watched over him for four days, only catching an hour of sleep at a time. Why? Surely there was someone else who could've switched with her, if only to let her sleep. Where was the rest of this glorious, kindhearted Order she always spoke so highly of?
She began to step away, back towards her post, when he reached out and grabbed her arm. It was when her eyes finally met his that all hell broke loose.
With a slam, the library doors swung open and a little girl came running into the room, obviously intent on reaching the woman by his side. Granger's face filled with horror as she watched the child make the trek across the throw rugs. She was shortly followed by a tall redhead Draco immediately recognized as Ginny Weasley. She wore a matching face of horror.
"Mummy, why have you been hiding in here? Come play with me!" At the little girl's petulant whine, he finally focused his attention on her. Soft, pale blonde hair adorned a sharp featured face that was almost overpowered by wide, grey steel eyes. The eye shape was all Granger, as well as the pudgy shape of her body. But everything else, much to his shock and dismay, screamed Malfoy.