At the end of the war, when judgement was being
passed upon the losers, and the winners were carving up the spoils,
Hermione Granger might have chosen virtually any job in any department
of the Ministry of Magic. But the years of struggle had taken
their toll and, disillusioned with the Magical world, she instead
fled to Muggle London, where she found fame and fortune as the
author of a series of best-selling crime thrillers.
Well, says her editor, patting the printout lying
on his desk, its good.
Hermione breathes a sigh of relief; each book seems harder to
write than the last.
Ive made a few suggestions here and there,he
neatens the stack of paperand noted a couple of tiny
and Ive marked a few missed opportunities for
Hermione sighs again, this time in frustration. Writing sex scenes
is the bane of her life, and her publishers insist on a minimum
of five per book.
But overall,her editor looks up at her, smilingI
think this ones going to be your biggest yet.
A few months later, the Muggle newspapers begin reporting the
exploits of a cat burglar, whom they quickly name the Phantom.
With a series of spectacular jewel robberies, including that
of the Grantham diamonds, taken from a wall safe whilst their
owner was sleeping in the same room; the DuBarry tiara, lifted
from its owners head whilst she was going down to dinner;
and the priceless Diadem of Meretankhamun, spirited from its display
case in the Museum of Antiquities despite state-of-the-art electronic
surveillance, the Phantom soon captivates the British public.
The tabloids, aware of their readers contempt for old money,
dub him a modern-day Robin Hood, though there isnt a shred
of evidence that anything hes robbed from the rich has ever
found its way to the poor. But the quality papers take a more
sober viewno one, they say, has been hurt so far, but its
surely only a matter of time.
The Phantom proves them wrong, however.
Disturbed mid-robbery by the owner of a particularly fine gold
and ruby necklace, he simply binds her to her bed with silken
scarves, and blindfolds her, before making his daring escape.
He was a perfect gentleman, she later tells the Television
Ive decided, says Hermione, unfolding
her napkin, and laying it on her lap.
Good, breathes her editor, clearly very relieved.
Im going to write about the Phantom.
Her editor glances round the restaurant, quickly making sure
that no one can overhear them. Go on...
Well... My Phantom will be a man driven to crime
by some terrible injustice in his past, she says, though
Im not sure what, as yet. But hell be sexyvery
sexyand hell sweep poor Abigail,her heroine,
Detective Inspector Abigail Bristowright off her feet.
Her editor snatches up his pen, and starts making notes.
His terrible secret, Hermione continues, warming
to her story, will excuse his actions to the reader, but
it wont work with Abigail. Shes far too moral
and upstanding to overlook his crimes, even though she loves him,
so itll all end in heartbreak. Ill have to do a lot
of research first. I want to get the MO absolutely rightthe
climbing, the breaking in, all the electronic stuffand the
slangthe language must be perfectbecause I
want to describe the robberies from his point of view...
Basically, I need to know everything there is to know about
the real Phantom before I start writing.
Hermiones police contact in the Met, in exchange for the
vague promise of a date, introduces her to a whippet-thin ex-con-turned-security
consultant, who takes her on a tour of his clients premises,
showing her all the places where an agile man can gain access,
and demonstrating how its done. He also tells her, in very
general terms, how to obtain the necessary equipment without leaving
a paper trail behind.
Hermione takes volumes of notes.
Then a reporter friend on the Daily Comet lets her search
through several terabytes of unpublished material about the Phantom,
which she finds very useful, especially the mobile phone number
of the only person whos ever seen him.
The Phantoms lady victim is a well-preserved older woman.
Thank you for agreeing to talk to me, says Hermione,
settling herself on the sofa, and taking her notebook from her
Well, Im such a fan of your books, says the
woman. She smiles, nervously, and her hand rises to her chest.
So, of course...
It never ceases to amaze Hermione how readily people will open
up to a well-known writer. She smiles back, reassuringly. As
I explained on the phone, Mrs Fitzsimmons, she says, what
Im looking for is deep background, those precise little
details that make a book come alive. Everything you tell me will
be held in the strictest confidenceanything I use will be
altered so that no one but you can recognise its source, though
I will list you in the Acknowledgements, if you consent to it.
The woman blushes. What do you want to know?
Hermione starts off simply. What was the Phantom like?
He was a gentleman.
What makes you say that?
She shrugs. The way he dressed, the way he moved, the way...
She stops suddenly, and looks away, biting her lip.
Hermiones curiositys piqued, but she deliberately
takes a step backwards: Tell me how he was dressed.
All in black. A black hatone of those little woollen
So you couldnt see the colour of his hair?
Hermione makes a note of that, marking it with a large star.
A black polo-neckcashmere; black trousersvery
well-cut; black shoeshand made
Hermione makes a few more notes. Was he wearing any sort
of harness? For climbing?
No. The woman frowns. No, he wasnt,and
they both look out through the windows of her fourteenth-floor
apartmentI never thought of that...
Did you see his face?
Only his mouth. He was wearing a mask, you see. He had
a beautiful mouth, though, with full lips. Maybe a little cruel,
Cruel? Hermiones spider senses tingle. Are
you saying he hurt you, Mrs Fitzsimmons?
Oh, no! The womans genuinely horrified. No,
of course not! He was a gentleman!
But he did tie you up?
Yes, but only after,her eyes widen;
she looks from Hermione to the door, and back again, as though
hoping that someone might materialise and rescue herI
meanId rather not
Please, says Hermione. I promise that
no one will ever know what youve told me, but you
may have the satisfaction of seeing it in the book...
Theres a long pause. Then, Yes, he tied me up. Afterwards.
Theres an even longer pause. He was a perfect gentleman,
she says, at last. He took me in his arms andand he
seemed to know exactly what I wantedwhat Ive always
dreamed of. He carried me to the bed, and made love to me like
a virgin bride, Miss Granger. He made me feel beautiful.
It was,again, her hand rises to her chestoh,
it was magic, Miss Granger. Absolute magic.
Three days later, the Phantom strikes again.
A magnificent diamond pendant, recently photographed upon the
equally magnificent bosom of a certain celebrity, is taken from
the womans suite at the Winchester Hotel and, this time,
the thief is seen by one of the hotel staff, thoughsuspiciously,
Hermione thinksexactly what the witness saw isnt reported,
either on television or in the newspapers.
Hermione phones her police contact, and lets him invite her to
Over the coffees, she learns that the witnesss statement
is officially being ignoredit seems that the girls
Early the next morning, Hermione checks herself into the Winchester.
Her third book, A Time to Every Purpose, had been set
in a snow-bound hotel and, in order to get the details exactly
right, Hermione had spent a month working as a chambermaid. So
she dresses in dark, nondescript clothing, and tames her distinctive
hair, and lurks near the service lifts, waiting for the maids
to finish their work and head back to the break room, for a cup
of tea and a smoke.
When they do, she follows.
Naturally, theyre hostile at first but, once Hermiones
introduced herself and, luckily, one of the girls has pulled a
copy of Far Above Rubies from her handbag and asked her
to sign it, the maids are soon chatting with her, excitedly.
Hermione explains that she wants to talk to the chambermaid who
saw the Phantom.
The poor girls reluctant, but her co-workers push her forward,
and urge her to tell her story and, eventually, shes persuaded
to take Hermione up to the room, and show her where it happened.
Mrs Willis,the hotels codename for the
celebrityhad asked for clean sheets, she explains.
I came up whilst she was at dinner. The window was openI
noticed the draughtso I put the linen down over there,she
gestures towards one of the sofasand went to close
it, andand thats when I felt him.
He touched you?
Oh, no! No, he was just looking at me. You know how you
can sense it, when someones staring?
Hermione nods. You must have been frightened.
The girl frowns. No, he wasnt frightening. He was...
You saw his face?
No, he had a mask on. But he wasnt frightening. He
was tall and gracefullike a dancer...
Hermione opens the window and leans out, trying to see the building
through the Phantoms eyes, looking for chimneys and ledges,
for anchor points and footholdsall the things shed
learned from her security consultantbut, to her, the place
How in Merlins name does he do it?
She turns back to the maid. So, you said you were face-to-face
with the Phantom. What happened next?
The girl bites her lip.
I know the police dont believe you, Hermione
coaxes. But Im not the police, Amy. And Ive
seen things the police
He disappeared, the girl blurts out.
Hermione gasps. How?
I dont know! the girl cries. Thats
what they kept asking meagain and again and againand
I dont know! I just... I just... I just know what I saw!
Of course you do, says Hermione, soothingly. Here...
She coaxes the maid onto one of the sofas, assuring her that,
if the floor manager catches them, shell take the blame,
and sits down beside her. Now I want you to think hard,
Amy, she says. Did he disappear gradually, as ifsayhe
was draping a cloak around himself, or did he disappear suddenly,
Suddenly, says the girl. Pop!
You heard that sound?
The girl nods. Yes, she says, firmly. He disappeared
with a pop.
Back home, Hermione climbs up to the attic.
Her school trunk is sitting in a corner, covered in dust. She
kneels down beside it and, with a wistful smile, brushes the dirt
from her carved initials...
I should have known, she thinks, for the hundredth time.
The Phantom gets in through fourteenth-storey windows, he has
no trouble unlocking doors or wall safes, he makes himself invisibleI
should have put two and two together!
She opens the trunk.
Her wandten and three quarter inches of carved vine wood
with a dragon heartstring coreis at the very top, lying
upon her folded school robes. She picks it up and, for the first
time since she left the Wizarding world, she feels the warmth
of magic in her fingers, andalmost without thinkingshe
flicks it at a nearby dust bunny, saying, Wingardium
The dust rises into the air, and hovers about four feet from
Hermione regards it, thoughtfully.
Whoever this Phantom is, she thinks, hes broken
my ban on magic.
She slides the wand into her sleeve, and turns back to the trunk,
lifting out her robes, and various text books, and a framed photograph
of Harry and Ginny, and one of Ron and George, searching for her
copy of Hogwarts, A History.
A few hours later, she sits down at her desk, and turns on her
Shes trawled through the pages of Hogwarts, A History,
and scoured her own memory, and has drawn up a list of ten possible
suspects, though the physical description that both women have
given hertall, elegant, aristocratickeeps bringing
her back to one wizard in particular.
But why would he be stealing from Muggles?
She remembers how, back in school, Harry and Ron had thought
him the Heir of Slytherin, Voldemorts Golden Boy, a miniature
And it wasnt true, she thinks. Not really. He
was just a childand even more out of his depth than we were.
She knows she has a responsibility, both to the Magical and to
the Muggle worlds, to report her findings to Harry (as Head Auror),
but she decides shell tell him only what she knows for certainthat
the Phantoms a rogue wizard. She crumples up her list of
suspects, throws it in the waste bin, and opens her email program.
She hasnt seen Harry in almost five years, but theyve
stayed in regular contact, using email
She notices a mail from her publishers, marked Important,
and clicks on the link.
It seems that her most recent book, The Heart that Envied
Sinners, has been nominated for a Golden Knife Award. The
winner will be announced at a televised gala, to be held at the
world-famous Ice Hotel, a week before Christmas.
Hermione leans back in her chair, smiling.
Its an honour, of coursethough shes already
been nominated three times, and won twicebut, much more
than that, its an opportunity, and she already has
a plan, though she knows shell need to work on some of the
The next few weeks rush by in a whirl of preparation.
Since the events being televised, she has no difficulty
borrowing a daringly low-cut designer gown of sea-green lace nor,
more importantly, a fabulous emerald necklace, with matching earrings
and tiara, from Fürst of London.
How much are they worth? she asks.
The jeweller looks insulted.
Im always collecting that sort of information,
she explains, for my books.
The ensembles insured for a million pounds, madam,
he says, frostily, but, in truth, its priceless. The
stones in the necklace could never be replaced.
Good, thinks Hermione.
He goes on to explain the security arrangementshow the
jewels will travel to Lapland under armed guard, how theyll
be stored in the hotel vault overnight, and transferred to a state-of-the-art
safe in Hermiones own room on the day of the gala.
Whats to stop a thief simply melting the ice and
stealing the entire safe? she asks, wearing her crime writers
First, madam, the safe is in your warm room,
mounted on a steel frame, which is buried in a conventional wall.
Secondly, the safe itself is completely secure.
Hermione doubts that any burglar worth his salt would be impressed.
The locking mechanism, the jeweller continues, is
controlled by a timer. The door will open thirty minutes before
the gala starts, to give your hairdresser time to arrange the
tiara... He eyes her unruly hair; Hermione, whod been
intending to plonk the thing on her head herself, revises her
plans. After the event, he adds, you are requiredas
a condition of the loanto return the jewels to the safe
at the earliest opportunity.
Of course. Hermione signs the contract. But
I shall also need them, she says, for a photo shoot
on Tuesday week. The Sunday Comet is putting me on the
cover of its Style Magazineit seems Im the
odds-on favourite, so they want to do a feature beforehand.
The jeweller nods, tryingand failingto hide his glee.
Shes giving Fürst of London the sort of publicity
money cant buy.
A week before Christmas...
Its a pity, thinks Hermione, as she settles into
her seat on the plane, that I wont be able to use any
of this in my book, unless I move into the fantasy market.
And who would want to read a story about a wizard?
She pulls out her notebook, and goes over her notes again, wondering
whether the Phantom will take the bait.
The more she thinks about it, the more shes sure he will.
How could he resist?
First, theres the exceptional quality of the jewels. If
hes watching the Muggle newsand his previous robberies
convince her that he ishes bound to have seen them
in the Sunday Comet.
Secondly, theres her. If the Phantom really is
who she thinks he is, then the pair of them have unfinished business.
And, though neither the hotel vault nor the room safe would give
him any trouble, she thinks hell strike immediately after
the gala, when she returns to her room with the emeralds dripping
from her ears and cascading down her cleavage.
And, if she happens to be carrying the award as well, thatll
be the icing on his cake.
The Ice Hotels a work of art, its frosted walls built from
frozen snow, its transparent columns and jewel-bright chandeliers
carved from delicately-tinted blocks of ice. Hermione will be
sleeping, beneath a glittering ice-canopy, upon a faery snow-bed,
covered with reindeer skins.
And heated with the odd warming charm, she thinks.
The gala itself is to be held in a conventional Ballroom but,
afterwards, the guests will be invited to climb into their thermal
gear and move to the Ice Bar where, amidst a forest of ice-sculptures
glowing in blue and green light, theyll be plied with vodka
cocktails, which theyll sip from frozen ice-glasses.
Hermione walks into the hotel foyer, and grins.
Suspended from the ceiling theres a huge, flying ice-dragon,
embarrassingly rampant but, she notices, breathing nothing but
How very appropriate, she thinks.
The next thirty-six hours are frantic.
Hermiones ears are bent by other writers, anxious to share
their highs and lows without giving too much away; by publishers,
hoping to snap her up when her current contract expires; and by
film producers, competing for the rights to her books.
And all the while, shes scanning the fringes of the crowd,
looking for the tall, elegant blond shes convinced will
be lurking somewhere nearby.
The gala itself is a personal success. Hermiones hairdresser
and stylist have, between them, made her look astonishingly good
and, when she climbs onto the podium to give her acceptance speech,
and the flash bulbs of the worlds press almost blind her,
shes confident that the caption writers will be complimentary.
The after party in the Ice Bars funnow that the pressure
of competition is off, and anyone worth knowing is genuinely pleased
for herbut Hermiones anxious to catch her thief and,
pleading exhaustion, she slips away soon after midnight.
At the door to her room she pauses and, in the softly reflective
surface of the ice, she checks her hair, and adjusts her neckline
before she slips inside.
She isnt disappointed.
Starkly black against the frosty-white walls and the glassy-green
columns, his tall, lean figure reminds her fleetingly of Dracula.
His backs turned towards her, and his woollen hats
pulled low, hiding his long, pale hair, but theres still
no mistaking the aristocratic bearing and natural grace of Draco
He turns, and regards her with that insolent gaze that had made
him so annoying at Hogwarts. Granger, he says, appreciatively,
you have cleaned up well. And, acting as though
he has a perfect right to do whatever he wants, he stretches out
a hand, and draws his finger round her throat, just above the
top strand of emeralds. Green ice, he murmurs. Isnt
that what Muggle thieves call them?
Something in Hermiones body flutters, exactly when it shouldnt.
How should I know? she says, a trifle breathless,
and very annoyed with herself.
Malfoy chuckles. Youre a best-selling crime
His hand moves downwardsshe realises shes lost any
chance of stopping himghosting over her breast, lingering
at her waist, caressing her hip...
He moves closer, bending in to kiss her neck, and his hand continues
down, insinuating itself beneath her skirt, and sliding up her
leg, until his fingers reach something unexpectedher wand
holster, strapped to her thigh.
He looks down and, before he can finish saying, Kinky,
Granger, shes pulled herself together, drawn her wand,
and pressed its tip to his throat.
Back off, she growls, somewhat belatedly.
He steps away, raising his hands.
Now, she says, Im making a citizens
What am I supposed to have done?
Supposed to have done? Youve stolen millions of pounds-worth
Its a victimless crime, Granger.
Malfoy, she snarls, letting righteous anger distract
her from her mission, just because theyre Muggles
Insurance, Granger! He smiles, annoyingly.
They have something called insurance. I take their
jewels, and theyre given the money to buy more.
They pay for insurance, Malfoy. The more you steal,
the more we all pay.
Knuts and Sickles, he says.
Its still a crime.
Well Id like to see you explain to the Muggle police
that their Phantoms a real live wizard. And Potter wont
be interested, because theres no Dark Magic involved.
Theres magic in front of Muggles involved,
Hermione counters. Theres the small matter of Apparating
from the Winchester Hotel, in full view of a chambermaid, involved.
And theres whatever potion you used to seduce poor
old Diana Fitzsimmons involved.
Malfoys beautiful mouth curls in contempt. I
dont need a potion to satisfy a woman, Granger. Especially
not a frustrated woman.
She was old enough to be your mother!
So? Once shed relaxed, she was fabu He
breaks off, with a knowing smile. Oh. Youre jealous.
Dont be ridiculous!
Yes you are. She got what you didnt
have the nerve to take when it was offered to you.
Youre so full of yourself!
He grins, and she knows exactly what hes thinking.
Dont you dare say anything about filling me!
Youve said it for me. He moves closer, and
Hermiones forced to step back. Put the wand away,
Granger, he says, silkily, and let me give you what
you so obviously need.
Hermione takes another step backwards. A look like that,
she thinks, should be a one-way ticket to Azkaban...
Malfoy follows. Go on, Granger, he purrs, reaching
out again and, this time, tracing the low-cut neckline of her
gown across the swell of her breasts. Let me make love to
you in your green lace and emeralds.
His voice is like velvet, his touch electric. Hermione closes
And he takes her wand.
I told you I didnt need a potion, he says,
slipping it up his sleeve. But, how about it, Granger? Hmm?
You do owe me one, after the state you left me in last time. And
itll be hot. He slides his hands around her waist,
and pulls her close. Theres nothing like a bit of
breaking and entering, he murmurs in her ear, to get
a man going
going off half-cocked?
You know me better than that!
He brings her closer, and Hermiones world suddenly shrinks
to nothing but the empty ache inside her, and the ample promise
of relief pressing into her belly, and when Malfoy lifts her into
his arms, and carries her to the ice-bed, she doesnt even
think to resist.
She wakes, still cocooned in Malfoys warming charm, in
a state of delicious arousal, her body throbbing to the teasing
rhythm of his tongue, but heapparently realising that shes
awakesuddenly raises his head, and grins wickedly.
Oh...! She doesnt hide her disappointment.
Malfoy laughs, and kisses her stomach with a finality that tells
her she wont be getting any more until somethings
been settled between them.
I thought youd be gone when I woke up, she
sighs. Why are you still here? Her hand moves to her
throat. Why havent you taken the emeralds?
You look good in them. Malfoy rolls onto his back.
And I have a proposal for you.
What? she says. Hand them over and well
split the money two ways?
No, he replies. Marry me.
What? Why? Why would Iwhy would youwhy,
Because, as things stand, I cant touch it.
Hermione tries to decipher what hes saying. No,
she says. Translation?
The money from the jewels, he explains, with a touch
of exasperation. Ive got enough to rebuild the Manor,
Granger, but I cant start work without the Ministry getting
suspiciousthey, technically, control my assets. So what
I need is a way to disguise where the moneys coming from.
And thats where being married to the second richest female
author in the Muggle world would come in really handyvery
impressive, by the way.
So youd be using the proceeds of the robberies, but
youd pretend that I was footing the bill?
Youre quick, he says.
I know, she replies.
What do you say?
Shes thrilled at the thought of the Malfoys being
reduced to telling the world theyre rebuilding the Manor
with Mudblood money, but, What would I get out of
it? she asks.
Youd get me, Granger. He shrugs. A
Adorable blond kids...
Pale and pointy.
Amazing sex, twice a day
Well, I could probably manage three times, if you were
desperate and didnt expect too much else from meow!
Hermione nurses her hand; his muscles are hard. What
would I really get out of it?
Sonothing at all! I thought as much.
Im a catch, Granger. Witch Weekly says so.
And I think it would workin a lot of ways were well-suited.
Besides, your love life is just sad,he quotes
from the Sunday CometIts hard to
believe that such a vibrant young woman lives alone, but thats
what she maintains. They think youre a secret
lesbian, Granger. Marry me, and prove them wrong.
I must be going crazy, thinks Hermione. Id
never stop writing.
Of course not.
And youd never have access to my money.
Wed discuss that.
In your dreams, Malfoy.
He sighs. All right. Youd help out if I got into
difficulty with the Manor, but I wouldnt touch the restId
sign a pre-nuptial agreement if you wanted.
Thats not Wizarding law.
Youre Muggle-born. We could use a Muggle lawyer.
She looks into his eyes, and is startled by what she sees there.
Why, Draco? she whispers. Then, I mean,
apart from the money laundering?
He shrugs. Ive had girlfriendslots of girlfriendsand
even the best of them was boring. It takes brains and imagination
to be good in bed, and you have those in spades.
He slides his arms around her, and draws her close. If I
try to remember a time when I felt happy, Granger, I think of
youof ussitting in that holding cell at the
Ministry, disagreeing over my defence.
Getting more and more angry, she says, snuggling
against his chest, until we nearly ripped each others
throats out. You and me in a marriage, Draco, wed kill each
Nah... Thats what sex is for, Grangerhot, angry,
He nuzzles her neck, and her entire body responds. Wed
work ourselves up into a frenzy, he murmurs, shifting her
onto her back, and bringing his leg over, and then wed
set the bed alight.
Hermiones innards melt.
Oh, damn, she gasps.
Because, in that very instant, she knows shes going to
accept his proposal.
One year later...
Hermione sets a magnum of the finest Muggle champagne and two
crystal flutes on a silver salver. Shes about to inaugurate
what she hopes will become a regular tradition in the Malfoy household.
She draws her wand and, levitating the tray, guides it out of
the wooden chalet, across the frosty lawn, through the front doors,
and into the Entrance Hall of the Manor, where her husband is
in his element, supervising the builders restoring the marble
staircase, and the house-elves cleaning the smoke damage from
Hermiones heart warms at the sight of him.
He senses her presence, and turns, smiling. Finished?
Yes. She sets the salver on a work bench and, with
a flick of her wand, removes the cork and pours the champagne.
Draco touches his glass to hers. To many more.
They both take a sip.
Now, he says, putting their glasses back on the tray,
and drawing her into his arms, isnt it about time
you let your muse read the damned thing, Granger?