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Nightshade

Roses are for wimps.

Summary:

Hermione Granger lost everything to the war: parents, friends, and former life. Now, the only thing she lives for is revenge against Draco Malfoy, the one person she hates above all else. When he binds her to live with him in his empty manor house for a year, she vows to do whatever it takes - but Draco has a few secrets of his own...

Draco Malfoy is cursed, and love is the only possible cure. Yet the clock is ticking. When the last petal falls, the consequences will be dire. However, he can't quite bring himself to care.

Two broken people begin the dance that is the tale as old as time - except this time, with a twist.

ONE: CONTRACT

Hermione hated him.

He was selfish, he was greedy, and he was cruel. He was a coward, preying on the weak; he was a bigot who thought others were abominations for their birth when, truly, he was the only abomination and him by choice. His very name was enough to incite burning rage in her veins. That singular hatred was the only thing that fuelled her as she sloshed through the rampant mud and rain, wand glowing and aloft, towards the looming manor behind iron gates. Hatred that she hid, pushed inward, disguised by an impeccable demeanor and ready smile.

Oh, yes, Hermione was ready for this.

The gates vaporized into fog at her practiced, meticulous salute, learned from her Ministry letter. She determinedly made her way to the great mahogany doors of the enormous stone building.

As Hermione grasped the gold-plated knocker, her hand froze. The briefest hesitation came over her mind as images of a lost grey-eyed boy in black and green came over her, and then dissipated like mist as her anger sparked again at the deceptiveness of appearance. If before it had been a fire, now it was an inferno, wired and blazing under her outer calm.

Boom.

The resounding, echoing thud pierced the thick silence just as Hermione wanted to pierce his shriveled heart, if he even had one. Her hands clasped together, clammy despite herself, but she schooled her expression and waited. Five seconds, ten, fifteen –

The doors opened.

He was standing there just as she knew he would. He was in his signature pose: back straight, broad shoulders back, sharp chin pointed upwards. His perfectly styled white-blonde hair and hawk-like silver eyes gleamed against the crisp dark folds of his robes, eyes that slowly travelled from her stockinged feet to her head, lingering on some parts longer than others. Seeing him healthy and strong made her want to rail at the injustice of the world.

She forced her loathing deep beneath the surface and smiled.

"Hello, Mr. Malfoy."

The liquid quicksilver met Hermione's orbs at last. There was something gleaming there that made her breathing grow shallow to her eternal irritation, something feral and predatory. She hated how quickly he was able to put her off balance.

"It's good," he drawled, looking down his aristocratic nose at her if she was something revolting on the bottom of his shoe, "that you haven't changed a bit, Granger."

If only he knew. She had lost her conscience in regards to Draco Malfoy long ago, and by God, Hermione was going to get her vengeance.

Draco Malfoy would never know what hit him until it was far too late.

"Thank you. I'm rather glad my hair hasn't gone as white as yours yet," the woman at the threshold replied easily in her warm, sensible alto. It was almost as if she knew Draco was lying, because she was no more the Granger he had known than Crabbe had been clever.

For one, the Granger of memory hadn't held herself so proudly, so confidently. If the girl had had curves, they'd been hidden under frumpy school robes and a rat's nest of hair. Her features overshadowed by roundness, her lips chapped and rough from too much time chasing Potter and Weasley while doing who knew what. The woman in front of him was different altogether. For one, her face had thinned, and the once-unremarkable features had suddenly become striking. Her chestnut curls tumbled past her shoulders in glossy waves, and as his gaze shifted downward to her slim waist incased by a tastefully grey sheath, he realized Granger had somehow grown up without his ever realizing it as he suddenly felt the strangest urge to –

Mudblood.

But the heat flooding his body wasn't lost in the slightest.

"Come in," Draco snapped, striding briskly into the sitting room. He didn't want her here. He didn't want a goddamn Ministry-assigned keeper, particularly Granger, who would only remind him of who he'd once been.

His hand moved towards his cheek. He barely stopped himself in time, seizing whatever was nearby – a teacup in this case – to disguise the motion.

"Did you mean to pour tea?"

Draco's head whipped around to stare at Granger. It hadn't been his imagination after all; today, she sounded friendly. And here she was, smiling at him just as she had at his doorstep, little dimples apparent with so much cheer it made him sick.

"No."

"Oh," she said with a little shrug that made the soft curves of her breasts bounce, "I guess I'll pour some, then."

"Get to the point."

His harshness was lost on her. Instead, she continued to appear infuriatingly pleasant.

"I'm quite glad we have this opportunity to talk about present circumstances."

His brows lifted in surprise. She wanted something. He would have expected her to be as rebellious as he at this arrangement; instead, she seemed almost…excited. Well, this would not do, to have her more at ease in his home, his domain, than he himself was.

"Who," Draco said with a smirk, knowing that the way his scrutiny was continually fixed on her, but never her face, was beginning to perturb her from the flush in her cheeks, "ever mentioned anything about talking?"

He was gratified by the two spots of red that immediately bloomed at his innuendo.

"Not if you were – " Granger began furiously. She stopped herself with visible effort as she caught sight of his smug satisfaction. "My eyes are on my face, not my chest. If you must stare, I would appreciate if you use your common sense."

"My tea," he demanded as if she'd said nothing of note at all.

Her full, pink lips pursed tightly as she filled his cup. Draco rather thought she was fighting the urge to throw the boiling liquid at his face. He chuckled darkly to himself. Let her; it wasn't as if she could do much more than –

"I'd like to turn over a new leaf."

His grip on the teacup slackened. He hadn't heard that correctly. There was no way in hell that he had heard that properly – but then again, this was Granger he was talking about, the obnoxious, self-righteous bitch who had walked through the halls of Hogwarts like she owned the place. She probably thought that she was taking the higher moral ground by taking pity on him.

"Is that so?" Draco's voice was deceptively calm.

"Well," she said, blushing a bit more, "I am to be your supervisor for the next year, and I figured that we might as well get along. I know we haven't been the best of friends in the past, but I was hoping…"

He didn't listen to anything past 'the next year.' A year, spent with the insufferable mudblood when all he wanted to do was to be alone, alone in the blessed silence without having to wear the goddamned –

This would be hell.

"I intend to add to the contract that my supervisor must live here."

That should send her running.

She appeared startled, those Cupid's-bow lips forming a perfect 'o.' "With you?"

"With me," he said curtly. So get out.

"Done."

He stared at her. No hesitation, no protest – just like that, Granger had agreed? Impossible. She must be bluffing, had to be bluffing. He rose, a swift, violent movement, and tore a sheet of parchment from the nearest book and began scratching in stark black lines. She watched in silence.

When he was done, he looked up. Their eyes met for the first time, the blistering anger still flying through his system, anger that she dared to try to intrude. Her chocolate pools were equally aflame. The heat between them could have vaporized water, but Draco was beyond caring. He felt something monstrous stirring inside him, and he welcomed it, hoping it would scare her into submission.

His smile was black and cruel.

"Sign it."

The searing look she returned made something in him burn, something that wasn't necessarily anger. Slowly, exaggeratedly, she plucked the quill from his now-limp grip and began to write in her neat, prim handwriting:

I, Hermione Jean Granger, agree to Draco Lucius Malfoy's stipulations as outlined above for one full year:

I will reside in Malfoy Manor for the duration of the supervision,

I will 'make myself useful' by managing accounts, overseeing housework, and other household duties to the best of my ability,

and

I will, to the extent that I deem reasonable, obey Draco Lucius Malfoy's commands.

Draco's throat went dry. There was no way – absolutely not –

He was so lost in his disbelief as he stared at the now-binding magical contract that he missed the growing, glittering, drop in the corner of his new guest's eye.

The full ramifications of what she had done hit her with alarming force, rather like a Muggle vehicle crashing into an unsuspecting passenger. She fought against the urge to slump backwards, or scream in horror. Hermione had, quite literally, just signed herself to the devil. The expression he wore when he'd taunted her with the sheet she was quickly growing to hate was nothing less than terrifying.

For Dad, she reminded herself fiercely.

As she recalled her resolution, the familiar layer of soothing, numbing ice drifted over her until she was nothing more or less than a semblance of serenity. Ice, but also a shade of triumph. For where better to begin tearing his life apart, piece by piece, than his home? It had an irony to it that would have made Voldemort proud.

"I'll need to pack."

The glare Malfoy cast at her was murderous in its fury. Hermione contained her smile. Oh, she was equally furious if not more so, and had been for the last two years as she quietly planned and lobbied for this result, but her hidden hate had worked so much better than his open antipathy. She'd beaten him at his own game.

"Go," he hissed.

Hermione rose. There was no need to push her luck, but the real chain of events had been set in motion, and for that she was glad. The minute she was off his land, she twisted on the spot and popped away, beaming like a madwoman all the while.

Her belongings were few and sparse. While her job at the Department of Mysteries had paid well, there was nothing material she wanted to spend it on. Most of it lay waiting in Gringotts, gathering dust until she needed it for her revenge. She stuffed in a navy suit, a few robes, some sweaters and jeans, and other assorted items until she came to a small blue leather-bound book. The lump in her throat grew.

Carefully, reverently, she opened to the first page, from which Harry and Ron grinned and waved at her in unison, along with a faintly exasperated but obviously amused younger version of herself. Her breath hitched as she flipped forward. Mary Granger smiled at her with all the cheerful warmth that she'd possessed when she was still alive. The next contained a portrait of her father, strong and comforting, always there to read her a book or recommend a story. While she'd loved her mother, her father's loss had been devastating.

Her vision was blurring. Quickly, she shut the book; grief could only come after retribution.

A few moments later, she was back at the door of the manor, suitcase in tow, mask in place. The doors opened without her needing to knock to reveal Malfoy standing in all his arrogant splendor. He had composed himself during her absence, Hermione realized, inspecting his flawless display of disinterest. No matter. She had waited years; she could wait a little longer.

"I thought we could establish some ground rules," he said curtly once they reached the sitting room again. Hermione had to admit it was beautifully decorated, with shining marble walls and vibrant Persian rugs to offset the ornate furniture. That the sheer state it was in was likely the result of slave-labor, however, curbed her admiration quite a bit.

She nodded.

"Of course."

Malfoy's eyes darkened with sadistic amusement.

"First, your quarters will be in the cellar. You know the place; it's where your dear friend Luna was kept. Second, you will, as agreed, 'make yourself useful' by helping the house-elves with their cleaning, which must be done before you may leave the manor each day."

Those silver-grey orbs blackened to a degree that Hermione began to feel a little afraid despite the ice surrounding her.

"Third, you will not, under any circumstances, enter the West Wing. Is that understood?"

"Perfectly," she replied coldly. "I'm to live in the old dungeon like a prisoner, toil my days away like a servant, and stay away from your secrets."

His lips twisted into a mockery of a smile. "I'm glad we could come to an agreement."

"An agreement! Those terms are outrageous! You can't possibly expect me to follow those."

"I cite the second and third clauses of our contract," Malfoy said nonchalantly, but she recognized it for the jeer it was.

Bastard. She wanted to hex him.

"The third clause says 'within reason.'"

"I find this entirely reasonable. And, I daresay, so does my magic."

Hermione stood defeated. If he retained his magic with no adverse effects, he was essentially following the terms. She quickly worked the figures in her head. If she rose early and finished her chores fast, she could potentially still keep her job. But what time would that leave for her plan?

Time enough. Patience was power. It would not do to forget that.

"Fair enough," she conceded, squaring her shoulders. She smiled knowingly as she caught the look of surprise on Draco's face at her easy capitulation.

He might have won the battle, but she would win the war.

Draco smiled grimly. If the mudblood was staying, he would do his damned best to make her miserable as possible. Assigning her the most menial tasks he could think of had only been the start. They had always been enemies, and time had not changed that in the least.

He was not a fool. Now that he'd had some time to think, to reflect, he'd settled on his previous conclusion: Granger wanted something from him, and wanted something badly. For why else would she agree to such a deal? He only had to figure out what it was. And, if at all possible, damage her prospects in some way in the process, for she and her friends had cost him everything.

He glanced at the blood-red rose in its glass case nearby and fought the urge to give in to deranged laughter. Love the cure for his troubles, indeed. It was a foolish, idealistic notion that he loathed, and even if it were true, it was utterly beyond his reach.

For who could love a beast?

The redhead lifted a glass of Firewhiskey and toasted Hermione.

“You did it!”

Hermione grinned in return, a grin that was nothing short of dazzling as the sense of victory rushed through her with the alcohol. All fears of tomorrow could wait. For now, it was time to relish that she was that much closer – so damned close.

“I did,” she laughed, clinking her glass against Ginny’s. “God, it feels unreal to finally have that bill passed.”

Ginny shrugged. “It was bound to pass. There’re so many seeking justice, and you – well, you were rather inspiring. To be honest, I’m surprised that the other side managed to drag it out for so long in the postwar climate.”

“Old money and old prestige goes a long way,” Hermione said almost bitterly. That had been her one failure. While she had managed to try and convict most of the Death Eaters, the one she wanted put away the most had slipped through her fingers by way of his friends and connections, and the simple fact that he had squirreled himself away on pretext of illness.

"Nightshade", posted on May 2, 2012 at 3:22 pm, updated on May 2, 2012 at 3:27 pm
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