Two days later
Your wifes absconded.
Oblivious to his fathers cordial greeting, Draco sets down
his valise with a weary sigh, and glances around the Entrance
Hall. Hes just returned from a week of gruelling business
meetings, and hes been looking forward to kissing and making
up with Hermione. Where is she?
Ive told you, says Lucius. Shes
Its true, darling, says Narcissa, nervously.
Shes not here.
Draco shakes his head. Hes flown non-stop from Marseilles,
hes tired and hungry, and he wants his wife. What
are you talking about?
Oh, darling... His mother takes his arm. Come
into the Morning Room, and
No, Mother! Draco shakes himself free. Wheres
Shes gone, darling, says Narcissa. Your
father and I were only away for one night, and...
Draco stares at her foolishly. Then he turns to Lucius.
His father nods. I will say this for her: shes
taken nothing with herapart, that is, from a house-elf.
Draco runs a hand through his long hair. So youre
telling me that both Hermione and a house-elf disappeared
on the same night?
Yes, darling. Im so sorry.
And it happened when you were away, and Hermione was alone
in the Manor?
Draco closes his eyes.
He knows she hasnt left him.
For one thingaside from the odd tifftheyre
happy togethersurprisingly happyshe fits him
better than his wand.
For another, if Hermione were to leave him, she wouldnt
sneak away when he and his parents were out, shed announce
it over breakfast, enumerate her reasons, and storm down the Manor
steps like a force of nature.
And she wouldnt take one house-elf, shed liberate
the whole bloody lot.
Which means, he thinks, that either someone has broken
into the Manor and taken her, or that some ward or curse inside
the Manor has caught hersome Dark fucking shit
Draco, darling, says Narcissa, I know youre
upset, but please dont use such uncouth language.
She takes his arm again, and herds him towards the Morning Room
and, this time, he doesnt resist, but, Father,
he calls over his shoulder. I need to know everything youve
done to find her. Absolutely everything.
Half an hourand an untouched cup of tea and plate of biscuitslater,
Dracos in full possession of the facts.
There arent many.
Lucius and Narcissa had returned home early the previous morning
to find the Manor strangely quiet. Narcissa had knocked on the
door to Draco and Hermiones bedchamber and, when thered
been no answer, shed gone inside. I was afraid she
might be ill, darling.
She could see that the bed hadnt been slept in, so shed
tried the adjoining sitting room, and had found the curtains closed
and the candles still burning. Shed alerted Lucius, and
he had cast various Locating and ward-testing charms but had found
no sign of Hermione, nor evidence that anyone else had entered
or left the house.
Some hours later, theyd discovered that Twinky was also
missing. The house-elves say that your wife summoned him
around midnight, says Lucius, and he did not return.
Right, says Draco, rising to his feet.
You should get some rest, darling, says his mother.
Draco cant think of any way to express his frustration
at his parents attitude without using the language his mother
abhors, so he says nothing.
A thorough search of their chambers confirms that Hermione has
not left him a note, and the tiny, weaselly fear that had somehow
worked its way into his chest is banished forever.
His wife hasnt abandoned him.
But where is she?
And how is he going to find her?
Draco approaches the fireplace, takes a handful of Floo powder,
and calls in professional help.
Potter and Weasley, in their Auror robes, seem to fill the entire
Draco persuades them to sit, andpacing up and down in front
of themhe gives them a full account of Hermiones disappearance.
The only thing I can add, he says, is that a
candelabra also seems to be missinglook. He points
to an empty space on one of the sideboards. She hasnt
left meyou can take my word for thatand she hasnt
gone out of the groundswards are a Malfoy speciality, and
wed know if anyone had been in or out.
He runs a hand through his hair. Im convinced that
shes still somewhere inside the Manor. Obviously, I could
search for her by myself, but... His voice suddenly cracks,
and hes forced to swallow hard before he can continue. My
father will oppose it, but I need your expertise. This house can
be aggressive, and we have to be quickplease Merlin were
not already too late.
Malfoy, growls Weasley, with an authority thats
both unexpected and reassuring, well find her.
Draco nods. Thank you, he whispers.
He procures a plan of the Manor for Potter and Weasley andwhilst
theyre casting various charms upon itout of courtesy,
he approaches his father for permission to search the West Wing.
No, says Lucius.
A tiny part of Draco had considered this possibility, but the
refusals still devastating. Why, Father?
he cries. Why? He rises to his feet and, standing
toe-to-toe with Lucius, he suddenly realises that hes
the taller man. What could possibly be more important than
finding my wife?
You have no proof that that foolish
is still in the house, much less in the West Wing!
Proof? Since when have I needed proof to search
my own home? This is Hermione were talking about, Father;
this is,he bites his lipthis is the mother
of my son.
Luciuss eyes narrow. Are you saying
Draco nods. We think shes pregnant. He can
see that Lucius doesnt believe him. Hermiones failure
to give him an heir has been a bone of contention between him
and his parents since the early days of his marriage. Look,
I dont know what youre hiding, he hisses, and
I really dont care any more. Im taking Potter
into the West Wing.
He turns to leave.
No you are not. Lucius follows him. I
will not have that
that half-blood meddler trampling
over my property! I will not
Draco swings round, roaring: PETRIFICUS TOTALUS!
The curse carries the entire weight of his love, and fear, and
Luciuss eyes stare out of a frozen body.
Im sorry, Father, says Draco. Ill
release you as soon as Ive found Hermione.
And Ill face my punishment like a man, he thinks.
Good, says Potter, when Draco returns to the sitting
room. Weve just finished.
The plan of the Manors spread out upon the table. Various
sigils hover above it, glowing in diagnostic coloursDraco
recognises Auror magic, and cannot help but be impressed. What
do they tell you?
Around midnight, two days ago
When Hermione disappeared, says Draco.
yesa large magical disturbance took place,
here. Potter taps the plan with his wand.
The White Tower.
The magic was certainly Dark but, beyond that, we cant
tell you much. Except,Potter sighsit involved
death. He points to one of the sigils.
Draco swallows hard. Well, he says, Ive
just discovered that my fathers hiding something up thereDark
artefacts, I suspectso there could easily be blood magic,
maybe even death magic, and
Recent death, says Potter, gently.
No. Draco pulls away, edging backwards, shaking his
head. No. Its almost a sob.
Malfoy, says Weasley and, again, his manners
unexpectedly kind, well find her. Alive.
The door to the White Towers physically locked and magically
His Malfoy blood gives him a head start, but it could still take
days to unpick his fathers magic and, even then, theres
no guarantee hed get all of it. My father wont
cooperate, he admits, and wonders whether he should confess
what hes done to Lucius.
All right, says Potter, stand back. He
levels his wand at the slab of oak. Effrego totalum!
The door falls off its hinges. Auror magic, he explains.
Merlins balls, mutters Draco.
Weasley grins. Its all about having the confidence,
he says. Most of us can handle a handful of wards, but Harry
can open just about anything.
Lets go up, says Potter, modestly.
As they climb the stairs, Dracos hearts threatening
to burst from his chest. Why would she come up here?
And how did she get in? says Weasley.
The house-elf must have Apparated her here, says
They reach the top. Well go first, says
Dracos not used to being ordered aroundand certainly
not by a childhood enemybut he wants Hermione found, so
he stands back, and watches the Aurors enter the tower room, waiting
until their silence becomes unbearable. Is she there?
he grates out.
Draco scrambles through the door.
The first thing he notices is a thick layer of dustundisturbed,
apart from Potter and Weasleys footprints. Then his eyes
are drawn to the centre of the chamber, and he sees the missing
candelabraits candles burned outlying beside an ornate
wooden chest, about the size of a hatbox, andnext to thata
Twinky. Draco rushes to the little body.
Dont touch him, warns Potter.
He was her favourite, says Draco. He looks around
anxiously, butthank Merlintheres no sign of
Hermione. There are no footprints, he mutters.
No, says Potter. Hes passing his wand back
and forth over the tiny victim. He was killed by some sort
of Dark curse, he concludes, which isnt surprising,
given whats in these cabinets. He turns to the open
box. Whats this?
I dont know.
It looks like somethings usually kept inside itsomething
valuable. Potter scans the room again.
Draco tries to pull himself together. It could be anything,
he says, reaching into the velvet hollow. This is sort of
His fingers are tingling.
He strokes the fabric, and the sensation grows stronger, spreading
up his arm, and down into his vitals, reviving memories of the
war and, with them, feelings of anger and aggression
? cries Weasley, suddenly.
Shit, hisses Potter, flinching as though someones
shoved him aside.
Ow! The box flies from under Dracos
hand, and crashes into one of the cabinets. He sucks his bloodied
fingers. What just happened?
Someone pushed me, says Potter. What did you
It felt like a hand. Weasley casts
a disclosing charm. But theres nothing
Hermione, cries Draco, getting to his feet, Hermione,
is that you? Please, Bookworm, if youre there, come to me.
He holds out his arms. Please
Potter, meanwhile, is casting another spell. Theres
no one here.
Draco runs a hand through his hair. Theres something
wrong with this, he says, prodding the box with his
foot. Its all about this
Be careful, says Potter, coming up behind him.
Why dont you ask your father what it is? asks
Weasley, joining them.
Youre sure you want to do this on you own?
Draco can see that Potters almost as anxious to find Hermione
as he is, but he has to insist: Its my only
Weasley grasps his shoulder supportively. Good luck, Malfoy.
Well be waiting to hearif you need us, just Floo.
I will. He watches them prepare to leave. Then, Potter,
he says, what will happen about my fathersyou
Ill send him an Official Notice in a couple of days.
Provided he disposes of everything within a fortnight, and uses
a licensed Dark Artefacts Destroyer, the matterll go no
Draco knows that Potters sticking his neck out for Hermiones
sake. Hell face no charges?
Thanks. Thatll help.
Potter nods. Keep us informed, he says, and the pair
Lucius isof coursestill standing where Draco had
Wearily, Draco raises his wandFinite Incantatem,and
prepares himself for the fireworks.
To his surprise, Lucius simply slumps into a chair. Did
you find her?
Its too hard to explain. No.
His father sighs. I realise now that Ive always underestimated
you, Dracounderestimated your feelings for yourfor
Hermioneand, it seems, underestimated your strength
of character. The son supersedes the father. You are an adult,
I never wanted to hurt you, Father. Butthe thing
is,Draco shrugs, sadlyI love her
Lucius sighs again. I assume that Potter found my collection?
Draco waves a hand. He did. But thats all dealt with.
Therell be no repercussions, provided you do as he says.
What I need to know,he pulls up a chair and sits before
his father, leaning forwardis: what was in that box?
Draco describes the chest, and its velvet lining. What
was in it?
Youre saying its empty?
How can it be?
What do you mean, Father? What was in it?
Lucius shakes his head.
Look, says Draco, I think that Hermione
took whatever it is,he remembers how something
had ripped the ensorcelled box from his handsand that
shes somehow fighting it. What in Merlins name
is it, Father?
Lucius sinks further into his chairsuddenly, hes
looking old, and frail. Its your Death Eater mask,
Draco, he says.
And he tells his son the story of the Dark Lords gifthow
Voldemort had presented it to Lucius; how hesuspecting
a traphad ensured that Draco never wore it, inventing more
and more bizarre excuses to keep the boy safe; and how, after
the war, hed locked it in the White Tower, behind wards
designed to preserve and protect his new collection of Dark artefacts.
Why Father? Dracos at his wits
end. Why do we keep on making the same mistakes?
Fuck! Hes touched, of course, by this further
proof of his fathers love for him but, at the same timeso
help himhe could beat the mans fucking brains out.
He forces himself to calm down. Lookjust tell me everything
The White Towers in darkness.
Draco retrieves the lost candelabra and, setting it upright beside
the box, he conjures fresh candles and lights them with his wand.
Then he sits down in the pool of light and, leaning back against
one of the cabinets, he waits.
The Dark magic Voldemort had prepared for him has ensnared
Hermione. He doesnt know what its done to her; he
doesnt know if it can be reversed. Earlier, it had seemed
to him that she was resisting itand protecting him
from its influence.
But she clearly cant escape it.
Should he summon Potter, and tell him what hes learned?
Who better than Potter to deal with Voldemorts magic?
But, when Potter had tried, he couldnt find Hermione.
The curse has made her invisible, to the eye and to magic,
thinks Draco. But shell come to me. If its
at all possible, she will come to me
He wakes with a start.
The candles have gone outthe chambers pitch blackand
a weights pressing down upon his chest.
He grasps itits a hand, fingers splayed.
His heart races. Hermione?
She doesnt answer, but he feels her leg slide over him,
feels her lower herself upon him, and pin him to the floor.
Bookworm? Hed hoped shed make contact,
but hed never expected it to be like this. He reaches
up, finds her arms, runs his hands upwards, over her shoulders,
her neck, touches her face
And its therecool and hard, with sneering lips and
Shes wearing the mask!
She grasps his wrists, and moves his hands to her breasts. Theyre
But her insistence is a powerful love charm, and he cant
stop himself shifting his hips and pushing the hard ridge of his
erection up against her.
She rises and, when he tries to pull her back, she gently deflects
his hands, and then he feels her unbuttoning his fly, and he gives
in to her completelycould he possibly do otherwise?until
shes freed him. Then, grasping her waist, and lifting her,
he helps her impale herself upon him. Ah
She knows his body, knows what he likes, and she gives it to
him, riding him like its the last time theyll ever
Oh, please Merlin, no
He wants it to last foreverhe tries to make it lastbut
his climax is building fast, and he cant hold it backhe
cantoh fuck, he cantand he sobs
her name as his body betrays him, exploding inside her with spasms
so powerful he blacks out from their intensity.
When he comes round, he cant find her.
Hermione, please! he cries, but she doesnt
respond. I dont want this, he shouts.
Its my masktaking the Mark was my
mistakeI should be the one to pay the price, not
He knows what shes doing.
Shes protecting him.
Hes never properly held the masknever felt the full
force of the curse that dwells upon itbut hed felt
an echo of it, when hed examined the box, and he knows something
of the horrors Hermiones experiencing now. She must have
triedagain and againto take the thing off; she must
have used every form of magic she knows and failed; she must have
resigned herself to being trapped forever.
The sex had been her farewell.
Merlin, he thinks, she must be terrified.
Hermione, he pleads into empty space, let me
help youlet me get Potter and Weasley back. He makes
no attempt to hide the emotion in his voice. I cant
lose you, Bookworm. I love you.
He sees nothing, hears nothing, but somehow he senses
that shes come to him, that shes kneeling beside him,
and he finds her hand and raises it to his lips, whispering her
name as he kisses it. Her flesh is invisible, but its also
strangely insubstantial, and he wonders whether the effects
progressivewhether she can feel herself fading away, and
if thats whats made her despair.
Listen, he says. The mask was meant for me.
Im sure that, if I pull it, itll come off. He
feels her movea flurry in the air beside himand he
knows that shes protesting. No, listen, he insists.
All we have to do is stop it attaching itself to me.
Her wispy fingers squeeze his handHow? he imagines
Im not sure
He clasps her hand to his breast and, bowing his head and pressing
a kiss to it, he thinks hard.
He can feel her other hand stroking his hair, and he longs to
surrender himself into her arms, longs to feel again the way she
holds him when hes tired, or anxious, or after theyve
They argue sometimesyes, they can fight like cat and dogbut
that means nothing.
Their marriage is forever.
Hes not going to lose her.
Suddenly, he has an idea: Who can protect me from the mask?
The person who protected me before.
He gently releases her, and scrambles to his feet. Wait
here, Bookworm. Dont moveand dont worry. Ill
be back as quick as I can.
Lucius is still sitting in his study.
Ive found her, says Draco.
Shes wearing the mask.
And I was rightits cursed?
Its eating her away. But I have a plan, Father.
He explains it, such as it is. We must be quick.
Lucius hesitates. If it fails
Then Ill be cursed, Draco admits. Listen
to me, Father. All my life, Ive been a coward; all my life,
Ive let people downyou and Mother; Snape; Potter;
But this is my wifethis is the only woman
I,he sighsthis is my wife, Father.
If I dont do this
He shakes his head. I
wouldnt want to live without herI wouldnt know
how. I want you to promise that, if anything should happen
to me, youll make sure shes all rightshe probably
wont let you, butwelljust watch over her. For
Lucius eyes him, sadly. You were lying about the grandson,
So do I, Father, but we havent time for that now.
Pleasewill you let me use it?
Lucius nods. I have no choice
He rises stiffly, and crosses to the fireplace, wherewith
a curt acknowledgement of its inhabitanthe pulls aside a
portrait of Abraxas Malfoy andto Dracos astonishmentreveals
a Muggle safe. He turns its circular lock this way
and that, casting counter-charms between turns, then wrenches
open the heavy door, and draws out a large velvet bag.
Im coming with you, he says.
The White Tower feels empty.
Hermione? Draco tries to sense her presence. Hermione,
please dont back out of this. Look. He takes
his fathers Death Eater mask from the velvet bag and puts
it on. See, Bookworm, if Im wearing this, my fathers
magic will come between me and the curse.
He feels her fragile hand touch his arm, and his heart leaps
into his throat. Its going to work, Bookworm,
he assures her, softly. Im going to save you
He reaches out, blindly.
Wait, says Lucius. Hes picked up the
wooden box, and he sets it, upright and open, on the table. Once
you have the mask, he explains, put it in here, and
Ill seal it in.
Right, says Draco.
His hearts pounding, and hes finding it hard to get
enough air into his lungs, but hes determinedno lurking
cowardice nor instinct for self-preservation is going to stop
him this time. Are you ready, Bookworm?
Theres no reply, but he trusts that she is, and he reaches
up, and finds her hair, as thin as a cloud, andinstinctively
closing his eyes to focus better on his sense of touchhe
searches with his fingertips until he discovers the edges of the
That, alone, is solid; he curls his fingers around its metal
Magic rushes into his arms, filling his body with a sense of
power, and his head with dreams of violent domination, but he
turns from them, and pulls
And the mask comes away so easily, he almost falls over backwards!
He catches a glimpse of his wife in her pussycat pyjamas, her
face red and swollen, before hes fighting the mask, struggling
to keep it at arms length as it tries to fly up to
his face, and seal itself to his flesh.
Draco! croaks Hermione, grabbing it and pulling and,
together, they wrestle with the accursed thinghim pushing
and her pulling, him shoving and her draggingand his father
moves the box beneath their joined hands
But its a losing battle. He feels the mask attach itself
to his fathers mask, feels a dozen points of silver graze
his skin as the curse invades the protective layer of metal
Then he feels Hermione lose her grip, and his heart sinks.
Hes been beaten
PROTEGO MARITUS! bellows his wife.
And, suddenly, Draco feels the masks power falterand,
at the same time, his own magic soarand, with a surge of
confidence, he wrenches it off, and rams it down into the box
and slams the lid shut.
Lucius drops the box on the table, and draws out his wand.
Obfirmo infinitum, he declares, and imprisons the
mask in its casket, forever.
Theyre still sitting where theyd collapsed when the
fight was overhim leaning against one of the glass-fronted
cabinets, Hermione in his armsand hes just noticed
how perfectly she fits on his laphow her head lies, just
so, upon his shoulder; how her hand rests over his heart; how
the soft yet firm curve of her hip presses him in exactly
the right place...
Andas he gently shifts her, so that he can burrow inside
her pyjama top and tease her delicate skinhe realises that
hed almost stopped noticing how wonderful his wife ishow
bright, and beautiful, and right for himthat hed
got so used to having her there, whenever he wanted her, hed
started taking her for granted
I am never staying behind again, she says,
interrupting his foreplay.
He lifts his head, and looks at her.
From now on, Draco, when you go on your business trips,
Im coming too.
He smiles. Theyre very boring, Bookworm.
I dont care.
Youll have to fly.
And youll have to give up your job at the Ministry.
So? Youll have to employ me, she says,
He presses his lips to the top of her bushy head. Sounds
like a plan, he says and, because she tastes of dust, he
adds, now lets go and have a bath. And he grins,
because its been a while since theyve splashed around
together, and thats given him another idea: Then well
spend at least a week in bed.
Hmm, she says, yawning theatrically, I could
sleep for a week.
Well, he replies, nuzzling her neck and making her
giggle, if youre luckyvery, very luckyyou
may get the odd nap, when I need a rest.
Coda: nine months later
Scorpius, says Draco, watching the tiny hand curl
around his finger
Hyperion, says his wife.
She sounds exhausted; he decides to compromise. Scorpius
Hyperion Malfoy, he declares, kissing his sons forehead,
you have your mothers hair...