Warnings: Adultery, slight AU, "beast"iality, masturbation, long fic (~13k)
Summary: Lucius Malfoy pissed off a witch in his younger days and is turned into a hideous beast. Luckily, Hermione Weasley could be the right person to break the spell.
A/N: Written for lm_hgficxchange 2012. Special thanks to my super beta tickledsunlight!
Disclaimer: Harry Potter belongs to J.K.Rowling. Beauty and the Beast belongs to Disney.
Once upon a time there lived a young wizard in a magnificent Manor. Although he had everything his heart desired, the wizard was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter's night, an old Muggleborn witch came to the castle and offered him a single rose in exchange for shelter from the bitter cold. Repulsed by her origin and haggard looks, the wizard sneered at the gift and turned the old witch away. She warned him not to be deceived by the status of a birth, for power and beauty are found within. When he dismissed the Muggleborn again, the witch's appearance melted away to reveal a powerful and beautiful Pureblood. The wizard tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had already seen that there was no love in his heart.
She gave him one last chance, telling the wizard that he must accept all things magical, no matter their origins or appearance. If he would fail to do this, he would be turned into a powerless, hideous beast. The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would be shrouded in a delicate mist until he strayed from the path. Once the mist cleared, he would turn into a hideous beast and the rose would bloom for ten years. At that time, if he could learn to love a Muggleborn, and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.
The wizard disregarded the warnings, joining the most feared wizard of all time. He didn't notice the mist slowly disappear, too caught up in the first war. After the war, he gained a wife and eventually a son, his life covering the old memories with new ones. His wife found the rose and the wizard simply moved it to the highest tower to ignore it, and the still-disappearing mist, once again.
When the Dark wizard returned, he went back to following orders. It was not until his son was sixteen and the war was at its peak that things changed; the mist finally disappeared and the Curse came to life. His wife and son, not understanding what happened, tried to run from the elegant Manor to get away from his new form. The Dark wizard thought this of great amusement and kept them, and most of his followers, there instead. It wasn't until after the war that they could escape his disgusting figure.
Ashamed of his monstrous form, the Beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world. As the weeks passed, he fell into despair and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?
During the war, Hermione came across the locations of several Magical villages and she told herself that one day, she would live on the edge of one. When she got married and her husband, Ron, went to play professional Quidditch, she saw that dream vanish. However, a few years ago Harry happened to purchase a large home on the outskirts of Dragonshire and wanted company. After she begged and pleaded, Ron finally agreed that the three of them could share a home and they moved in. After all, he didn't want his wife alone while he was traveling with the team.
It was the best decision of her life.
Now Hermione got to wake up to a wizarding town, more like an old-style quiet village. Her favorite part was getting up as the town did, everyone pleasant and offering a kind "hello" as they passed one another. What more could a girl want out of a home? She smiled as she passed the baker, the smell of his famous rolls drifting into her nose. Sure, they might be the same thing every day, but they were delicious.
"Good morning, Hermione!" He wiggled his elbow a bit as his hands were holding the full tray.
"Morning, sir!" Hermione placed a coin in a bucket balancing over his arm before taking a roll for both her and Harry.
"Where are you off to?"
Her eyes brightened, and she reached into her basket to pull out a book. "The bookshop! I just finished the most wonderful story. It's about a Squib and a dragon and.."
"Ah, nice." The baker glanced at the cover and nodded. "My wife loved that one. Excuse me."
Hermione waved and left him to yell towards his shop assistant. She shrugged as she left, passing the village gossips (who never quite got over the fact that "The Harry Potter and Co." lived there) and other traders. When she first came here with Harry, she joked that living here would be like stepping back in time. So far, nothing had changed her opinion on that.
It was heaven, but sometimes, wrapped alone in her bed sheets, she wanted more. She would settle for her husband to be around more often, but something told her that would never happen. Not unless Ron injured himself.
She cleared her mind as she stepped into the bookshop, bowing her head just slightly as to not bang into the door frame. A dwarf ran the shop and he seemed to misjudge heights; the door was too low, but his shelves were always too high.
"Ah, Hermione!" The old dwarf waddled out from the back.
Hermione offered him a smile. "Good morning. I've come to return the book I borrowed."
"Finished already?" He adjusted his glasses and let out a small laugh. "You are a fast reader!"
"Oh, I couldn't put it down!" Hermione went to the shelves, looking over them. "Have you got anything new?"
"Not since yesterday, I don't." He put away the old book. "How's that Potter boy?"
"The same as always." She climbed a ladder, looking higher.
"Tinkering away in the basement?"
Hermione smiled and found what she was looking for. "As always. I'll just borrow this one."
"That one?" He took hold of it and laughed. "But you've read it twice!"
"Well it's my favorite!" Hermione got off the ladder. "Mystical places, daring swordfights, complicated spells, and a mage in disguise! It's interesting how they make it all work, even while in the constraints of the Muggle world."
He handed the book back, shaking his head. "If you like it so much, it's yours."
"I insist." He led her to the door. "Anything for my best customer."
"Thank you. Thank you very much!" Speechless, Hermione paid the standard renting fee and left, clutching the book tightly to her chest. She originally meant to owl-order it, but hadn't had the time. She waved to the shop keep and left, all but running back to the house. Perhaps she could make him blueberry pie? The man hinted that he liked it.
Smoke gently drifted out of the basement door. Hermione wasn't too concerned; Harry had things under control if the house was just smoking. It was when she saw flames that she had to worry. She pulled open the basement door, wand out just in case, and took a look around before stepping inside.
"Harry?" She couldn't see her friend anywhere. "Harry, what happened?"
The closet door burst open and Harry fell into the room, plastic containers clattering around him. "Damn!"
"Oh, Harry." Hermione tried not to laugh as she rushed toward him. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah, I'm just trying to pack." He kicked a few containers out of the way. "I swore I put this stuff in here better. Sorry about the smoke, George had some of the smoke bombs in here."
Hermione doubted the organization, but she didn't say anything to it. "Come on, stand up. Here, I brought you a roll."
"Thanks." Harry glared at the closet. "One day, I'm going to organize that."
"You say that every time this happens." Hermione flicked her wand, not bothering to watch as everything went back in its place. "Guess what."
"Ron's not coming home tonight and I'll have to wait in order to gather the things I need?"
"What? No! Harry, you can get them even if Ron isn't here. I can handle myself." Hermione turned to go outside again. There was a door straight to the house somewhere in that mess, but it was buried behind various items. She didn't ask what half the stuff in there was anymore.
"Oh, come on. I'm teasing!" Harry followed her out, tripping a bit on the stairs. "I just need to get this stuff during a full moon while it's not freezing out. That just happens to be in a few nights."
Hermione heard the basement door shut. She smiled and opened the door to the house, letting Harry in first. "I know."
She grinned at him, placing the book on the kitchen table. "At least I got you upstairs. Come on, you need a good lunch before you go. Ron will be here tomorrow morning and I'll be fine tonight. I have a book for company."
Harry sat down and pulled the book over. "Haven't you read this?"
"Yes, but it's mine now. The old man gave it to me." Hermione bustled about the kitchen, making sure there was enough cooked food for Harry to take with him.
"Don't you have enough books?"
Hermione scoffed. "You can never have enough."
"Ravenclaw," Harry muttered. Hermione would have been offended if he wasn't grinning. "You should ask Ron to expand the library while he's here. I think you'll run out of room otherwise."
"Just eat your food." Hermione put a plate in front of him and went to pack the rest. "You'll want to get out before night falls, just in case. You know that first path is hard to find."
"Yes, mum." Harry stuck out his tongue before digging into his food.
* * *
The moment Harry disappeared from sight, Hermione went back inside and slipped into the tub. She cast a spell so one of her more private books would read to her, letting the words relax her almost more than the warm water did. This was her favorite thing to do, especially with both boys gone. If they were here, she wouldn't dare do this. Harry would be too embarrassed, and Ron would try to join her. As much as she loved him, his fumbling did nothing for her. No, private bath time was her favorite time.
She let the warm air fill her nose, lulling her into one of many fantasies. Very few included Ron these days and, for that, she felt a little guilty. At least they started out as Ron. Soon enough, the hair or body would change and someone else would be between her legs. As much as she didn't want to admit it, Hermione actually liked sex. Just not sex with her own husband.
She shifted in the tub, fingers sliding slowly across her stomach. Ron's face was already morphing, getting scars across his cheek and hair now dangling past his shoulders. She grinned, pressing her fingers down the way she figured Bill Weasley would do it. She heard gossip from Fleur that he enjoyed things a little rough.
She pressed her fingers into her sex, letting out a small gasp. It was already throbbing, wanting more of her rough treatment. Her free hand pinched at her nipples, pulling on them until they hurt. She pressed harder against her clit, rubbing in circles fast enough to disturb the water. Her back arched, toes curled, and all she could think about was how Bill would nip her neck, biting down until she bruised. She moaned loudly, splashing some water out of the tub.
"Oh, god." Hermione let go of her nipple to grip the side of the tub as she came, her vision swirling. Ron could never make her vision swim like this, but oh how she loved it.
She spent a few minutes winding down from her orgasm before climbing out of the tub and heading off to bed.
* * *
She heard the excited screaming halfway into her lunch. She didn't bother getting up and running to the door; Ron would be along after he met with the townsfolk. It always happened and, after the first few times, she got used to being one of the last people her husband went to. Hermione simply sipped her tea and finished eating her cucumber sandwich.
She just finished cleaning up when the door opened, the squeak in Ron's "lucky" boots easily recognized. She wiped off her hands and went to the kitchen doorway, smiling at her husband.
Ron looked up at the sound of her voice. He grinned, the fresh lipstick stain on his cheek stretching. "Hermione!" His hair got longer this time, brushing past his shoulders. A new scar traced over his right eye, but it looked cleanly healed.
"How were the games?" She pressed a kiss over the scar before wiping away the lipstick. "And the parties?"
"I didn't sleep with anyone, if that's your real question." Ron picked her up, spinning her in a circle. "Merlin, I missed you!"
The evidence dug into her hip, but Hermione pretended not to notice. "Ronald Weasley! Put me down!" She gave him a forced smile as her feet settled on the floor. "I just ate."
"Sorry." He kissed her neck, one hand groping her chest. "I'll go shower and then say a proper hello to you."
Hermione laughed, giving him a kiss before he went to the bathroom. She did love him, but she never said she married him for the sex. Sighing, she went back to finish the kitchen.
~ ~ * * * ~ ~
Harry had set up his camp before nightfall the day before. By morning, he was on his way to the next site, enjoying the scenery as he went. Apparating would have been faster, but something about this forest made transportation magic nearly impossible. He knew there was a Manor of some kind in the area and figured the magic had to do with it, but he didn't care. Travelling on foot was nice in a way.
However, it was not so nice when werewolves took residence in the forest. Harry had barely gotten to sleep the next night when he heard the howl. Having seen what could happen first hand, he simply got up and ran, unable to take anything with him but his hat. The werewolves played with him, getting close enough to spur him faster before backing off with amused howls. The longer he ran, the more tired he became. When he thought he couldn't run any further, Harry saw the tall gates that lead to the Manor.
Whatever it was, it was better than the wolves. He scrambled through the gates and up the cracked stairway. The doors creaked as he opened them, the sound echoing into the empty halls. No lights flickered on and, for a moment, he wondered if it had been abandoned.
"Hello?" Rubbing his arms, he stepped further inside. "Is anyone home?"
A sudden pop to his right startled him. "Lummy is to be showing you to a fire, sir! Sir is cold!"
Another pop. "No, no, no! Lummy is a bad elf! Ticky is disagreeing with Lummy!"
Lummy shook his head and tugged on Harry's hand. Unsure, he simply allowed the still bickering elves to lead him to a well-lit parlor. Lummy pushed him into a chair; Ticky whined about it being "the Master's chair" before hitting his head against the wall. A third elf popped in with tea and it was all Harry could take before his head spun.
The three elves abruptly stopped arguing as an angry roar moved throughout the Manor. Harry flinched at the sound, wrapping the blanket he had been given around himself. The doors behind him slammed opened; he squeezed his eyes shut, not wanting to see what he just put himself into.
"There is a stranger here," a voice growled.
Lummy stood next to Harry. "Lummy is explaining, Master. Sir was chased by—"
"Ticky was against Lummy!"
"And then Lummy was helping the sir—"
"Ticky said no!"
"Lummy didn't think the Master would—"
The monster behind him roared, quieting both of the elves. Harry felt the breath on his neck next and then the monster, a great beast stepped in front of him. "Who are you and what are you doing here?"
Harry tried to keep himself calm. "I was being chased by werewolves and—"
"You are not welcome here!"
"I-I'm sorry!" Harry tried to get up to leave. "I just needed a place to hide!"
"I'll give you a place to hide."
Harry screamed as the beast picked him completely off the floor. He fumbled with his wand and cast a quick Patronus, screaming at it as the beast knocked his wand down and carried him away.
~ ~ * * * ~ ~
The only time Hermione truly hated being married to a Quidditch star was when the team had a winning season. She trusted Ron, but she didn't trust the fawning fans that followed him, including the Patil twins. They moved to the town a short time after she and Ron had, insisting they were his biggest fans. When the team won, Lavender Brown usually joined them.
All three pined after Ron, following him wherever he went around the town. None of them liked Hermione or the fact that she was married to him. Normally she could deal with their dirty looks and general unpleasantness, but not this time. She was supposed to have a romantic dinner alone, but the three cornered Ron and insisted he re-tell them how he blocked the Quaffle in his games.
She was halfway across the town before Ron caught up to her. "Hey, what's wrong?"
"What's wrong?" Hermione smacked his hand away. "You let them corner you during our first night together in months, and you ask what's wrong? Please, Ron."
"They're just fans!"
"Who want to sleep with you!" Hermione scowled. "Damn you, Ron. You're too blinded by your fame to notice. Didn't you ever wonder why all three of them wear low-cut tops?"
"'Mione, all my fans wear low-cut tops. The women, I mean."
She threw up her hands. "Not helping! Ugh, just go away."
"I mean it. Go away and stay with Neville or Dean until you realize the truth."
Frustrated for reasons even she couldn't completely comprehend, Hermione ran the rest of the way home. She should have expected this; Ron came home every year oblivious to most of his fans. She just wanted more from her relationship. At her age, she wanted children, a proper family. Ron never seemed ready.
She sighed and leaned against the door once she arrived home. She wished Harry were here; he could talk sense into Ron, even without having to say much of anything. If Harry weren't gay and smitten with the town's robe maker, she might have asked if he could even take Ron's place. Not that he ever would anyway.
She pushed off the door and started for the bedroom when a familiar silvery wisp charged into the house. "Prongs? What are you doing here? Is Harry okay?"
The Patronus simply threw its head side-to-side before bounding out again. Panicked, Hermione grabbed her cloak and followed; she would tell Ron later. First, she needed to find her friend and make sure he wasn't terribly injured.
The stag led her through the forest and to a slightly familiar-looking Manor. She almost turned and fled, but she caught sight of Harry's hat on the steps. Hermione picked it up and, when she saw no signs of blood, went inside. The feeling that she had been here before grew with every step.
"Harry?" There, she thought she heard a noise. "Hello? Is anyone here?"
There, another noise came from an ornate staircase. She recognized this immediately, unconsciously rubbing her scarred arm. This was Malfoy Manor, where she was forever marked. Mudblood. Hermione shuddered, but descended the steps into the dungeons.
She found Harry quickly after that, a slight cough giving him away in the dark area. "Oh God, Harry."
"Hermione?" Pale hands gripped the cell bars. "No, you have to get out of here! I think the Malfoys are dead. There's this beast and—"
"Shh, Harry. Calm down." She rested her hands over his and frowned. "Oh, your hands are like ice. I need to get you out of here."
"Hermione, I want you to leave this place." Harry coughed, shaking his head.
She ignored him, reaching forward to rest a hand on his cheek. "Who's done this to you? Where's your wand?"
"That thing has it. You have to go now!"
"I won't leave you, stupid. You sent me your Patronus!"
"So you could get the Aurors." Harry leaned against the bars. "Please, just go."
"Shut up." Hermione reached for her wand, but she didn't reach it fast enough.
A clawed hand came down on her shoulder, ripping her away from Harry's cell. She cried out, mostly out of shock than anything else. Harry yelled for whomever it was to leave her alone, but she doubted the beast cared. She could see its glowing eyes, focused on her.
"Why have you come here?" he growled, claws scraping down the wall.
Hermione looked around, trying to see what she was dealing with. "Who's there? Who are you?"
The beast growled from her right. "The master of this Manor."
Hermione bit her lip, flinching as she felt part of his robe brush past her. "I've come for my friend." She glanced back as Harry coughed again. "Can't you see he's sick?"
"Then he shouldn't have trespassed here."
Hermione gripped Harry's hand again. "But—"
"There's nothing you can do." The beast stopped on the other side of the room. "He's my prisoner. It's been a while since I've had one."
Hermione swallowed her fear, glancing between her friend and the beast. She couldn't let Harry stay, but she doubted this thing would just let her leave. There was only one way to make sure one of them got out alive.
"Take me instead."
"No!" Harry squeezed her hand. "Hermione, I refuse to let you do this!"
The beast shifted closer. "You would take his place?"
"If you promise to let him go." Hermione let go of Harry's hand and shifted to her knees. "And promise not to hurt him."
"You would be my prisoner forever, never allowed to leave." He moved until he was just out of the room's only light. "Do we have a deal?"
Hermione bit her bottom lip, pulling it into her mouth for a moment. "Step into the light."
The beast seemed to hesitate before slipping slowly closer and into the beam of light. Pale white fur covered him from head to toe. A tail flickered from between his legs, his tight pants doing nothing to hide the bulge at his crotch. The only other piece of clothing was the tatters of a green cloak, clasped just over his breast bone. His eyes were molten silver and Hermione felt pierced by their intensity. Two black horns protruded from his head and each finger and toe had claws, completing his demonic look.
Hermione stepped closer, wanting nothing more than to touch him and see how soft he was. She held herself back, closing her eyes and reminding herself that this was a beast and could kill her. Now was not the time for experiments, no matter how tempting. She had a promise to keep.
"You have my word." She covered her face and fell back to her knees, wondering if this was truly the best choice. Would Ron try to help save her after their fight? Would Harry find his way home?
"Hermione, please." She looked up into Harry's eyes. "Don't do this. I was okay."
The beast dragged him away before Hermione could say goodbye. She leaned against the wall, pulled her legs to her chest, and cried.
~ ~ * * * ~ ~
Lucius dragged Harry to the gates. "You are no longer welcome here," he snarled. "She is no longer your concern." Not that he really wanted the blasted Boy-Who-Lived; he wasn't sure how to deal with him until she came in. He flashed Potter a toothy grin before tossing him a Portkey, one of the few things that still worked near his cursed Manor. How Potter's Patronus got out in the first place was still a mystery to him.
Now he had a Muggle born. She could break the spell, but he was running out of time. How could he prove anything to her so quickly? The fact that he knew her was going to pose a problem. After all, his sister-in-law tortured the poor girl during the war.
He would have to try. But what to do first?
"Lummy is to be giving the Master advice?"
Lucius snarled at the elf. "Make it fast."
"Perhaps since the ma'am will be staying for a while, Master could give her a room? Lummy thinks the ma'am would be more comfortable."
The snarl disappeared. That wasn't a bad idea. Without a word to the terrified elf, Lucius swept up the stairs and back into the Manor. There was a bedroom Narcissa set up once, just in case she ever bore a girl. It had a lovely view and a nice balcony. He figured it would be perfect.
He opened the dungeon door, pausing when he saw the girl crying. Lucius never could handle women when they shed tears. He cleared his throat, heart thudding in his chest.
"You didn't even let me say goodbye," she accused, her eyes shining. "I'll never see him again, and I didn't get to say goodbye."
He had already ruined this and he barely started. "I'll show you to your room."
"My room? But I thought…"
Lucius motioned around, a little frustrated at himself. "You want to stay in the dungeons?"
"Well, no, but—"
"Then follow me." Lucius turned, leaving the dungeons.
~ ~ * * * ~ ~
The walk was longer than Hermione would have wanted, especially since the beast told her nothing but rules the entire way. She would eat all meals with him or at least sit at the table and go hungry. She would be required to have an elf escort her at all times. Under no circumstances was she allowed in the West Tower.
When she asked what was in there, he growled at her and said, "It's forbidden." She didn't dare ask any more questions.
He brought her to a ridiculously girlish room. The walls were a pastel pink with purple accents. The bed had pictures of princess crowns embroidered into it, and the room itself was decorated with ponies and fairies. Hermione felt ill.
"This will be your room for the duration of your stay," the beast said behind her, his breath moving across her neck. "Everything in it is yours."
Hermione tried to find the words to tell him she didn't like it, but they never came. The door slammed behind her and the tears came anew. She threw herself onto the gaudy bed and cried herself to sleep.
~ ~ * * * ~ ~
Ron sat with Seamus in the town's pub, glad that his other friend was able to come so quickly. They had several empty mugs around them as they drank away their girl problems. Ron really wasn't sure which ones Seamus had since he was gay and in a steady relationship with some bloke from France, but he appreciated the support all the same.
"Who does she think she is?" a very drunk Seamus asked. "She's your bloody wife and she knows you love her."
"Damn right," Ron muttered. "Honestly I don't think I've been this… this dismissed!"
"Rejected and… and publicly humiliated!" Ron squeezed the mug he was holding. "And in front of my fans… it's almost more than I can bear."
Seamus offered him another mug. "More beer?"
"What for?" Ron took it anyway, wrinkling his nose. "Nothing helps. I'm disgraced."
Seamus scoffed. "Who, you? Never! Ron, you've got to pull yourself together. It hurts to see you looking so down in the dumps."
"Please, I'm sure you love it." Ron took a drink.
"No, seriously. Every guy in here would love to be you, even when you're in the middle of a horrible game where you're losing by three-hundred points. You're everyone's favorite guy!"
Ron laughed, pushing Seamus off the chair. "Don't even start. People hate me when we're losing by three-hundred points."
"Please. Nobody fights like you on the field. I saw you get suspended during the Ireland game." Seamus pointed at Ron's chest. "You wrestled with that Chaser and then bit him!"
"Seamus, come on. Hermione doesn't know about that one…"
"And not a bit of you is scraggly or scrawny." Seamus leaned against him, grinning like the drunken loon he was.
Ron laughed, shaking his head. "Okay, okay. Fine, I'm an awesome guy and you're secretly in love with me. I get it."
The door burst open then and Harry stumbled in. "Ron! Ron, thank God I found you." He just about fell on his best friend. "You've got to help me!"
"Whoa, Harry, slow down." Ron put his hands on Harry's shoulders, straightening him. "What's going on?"
"A beast! A horrible, monstrous beast has Hermione locked up in the Manor!"
There were a few seconds of silence before the pub broke out into laughter. Harry didn't seem to hear any of them, his eyes still focused on Ron. His eyes were wide and scared, but Ron lived in the Wizarding World long enough to know all the beasts. None of them lived in Manors.
"What did it look like?" he asked, pushing Harry to sit. Unfortunately, that prompted the eavesdroppers to ask their own questions.
"Is it a big beast?"
"With a long, ugly snout?" That particular patron made a motion with his hands in front of his mouth. "And sharp, cruel fangs?"
"Yes, yes!" Harry turned to point at both of them. "That's right! Will you help me?"
The pub erupted into laughter again. Ron sighed, patting his friend's shoulder. "Harry, I think you had a nightmare. No more late-night camping trips alone, okay?"
"Go get some rest. I'm sure Hermione just went to Ginny's place. She was mad at me before." Ron smiled and ruffled Harry's hair before turning back to Seamus.
He pretended not to notice as laughter followed Harry out the door. Everyone here was drunk and would forget any of this happened by the morning. Hopefully then Hermione wouldn't be mad at him anymore, either.
~ ~ * * * ~ ~
Hermione decided to skip dinner, something the beast did not like. He pounded on her door and issued threats, but she would have none of it. In the end, he simply stated, in his loud roar of a voice, that she could starve. His elves were then given strict instructions that she was to stay locked in the room until breakfast.
Yes, of course. The beast didn't know her if he thought she would comply with anything. Harry was out and it was only a matter of time until he came. She hoped, at least, that he would come. Hell, she would even take Ron at this point! It would get him back on her good side if he did.
It was nearing nine now and she was hungry. Order or no, she wasn't going to let herself starve. As quietly as she could, Hermione opened her door and left the room.
Her earlier tour of Malfoy Manor consisted of the main ballroom, back when the war was at its height and Bellatrix Lestrange still lived. Despite everything she tried, the scar never erased from her arm, just like Harry's stayed on the back of his hand. She was almost jealous of Ron; his scars came after the fighting ended.
The halls of the Manor were oddly empty. She expected the Malfoys to line them with portraits of long-dead ancestors, if only to prove how "pure" their blood was. She saw the evidence of some portraits, but they were all ripped down, only the occasional scrap of a frame left. Whoever roamed this Manor now did not want to be seen by anyone, even if they were just movable paint.
"Ma'am should not be wandering!"
Hermione jerked back at the voice and looked down. "Excuse me?"
The elf shifted on his feet. "Ma'am should not wander. Oh, Ticky is in so much trouble!"
"No, no, it's okay. Honest."
Ticky gripped his tea towel nervously. "Please, go back to ma'am's room. If there is anything ma'am wants, Ticky will get."
Hermione hesitated. "Well, I am a little hungry."
Another elf popped in. "Ma'am is hungry? Oh, Potsy make dinner!"
"No, no, no!" Ticky held his head, shaking. "Master will not be pleased!"
Potsy crossed her arms. "Potsy's been here long time and says Master won't mind. Ma'am needs food."
A third elf came up and took Hermione's hand. "Come, come! Lummy and Potsy will feed ma'am whatever the ma'am will like!"
Bewildered, Hermione simply let the two elves bring her to a dining room while the third followed behind. If she weren't a witch, she would think she was in the middle of a fairy tale. Maybe the beast would be her true love and all she needed to see was how kind he could be.
"Grow up, Hermione," she muttered to herself. "That stuff isn't real. Just survive."
The elves sat her down and wasted no time at all bringing in floating trays of food. Lummy tried to entertain her with elf folklore; Hermione found herself oddly entranced. Ticky eventually relaxed, adding his own stories and soon the three elves even acted out what quickly became her favorite.
When the last one finished, she laughed and clapped her hands. "Bravo! That was wonderful!"
"Yes, yes." Ticky smiled, then motioned her away. "Ma'am needs to sleep now, yes she does!"
"Oh, I couldn't possibly go to bed now." Hermione leaned closer. "This is the first time I've really gotten to know house elves. Usually they run away."
Ticky's eyes widened. "Ma'am is right! She shouldn't have seen so much of us."
"Oh please, it's okay!" Hermione patted his head, looking for something to say in order to calm him. "I bet you know everything there is to know about the Manor."
Ticky gripped his tea towel. "The ma'am is right. Ticky does know everything about the Master's Manor. Come Ticky—"
"—will show you!" Ticky jumped up and down now. "Come, come, Ticky and Lummy will show the ma'am everything."
Hermione wondered if that included the West Tower, but decided not to mention it. "Lead the way, then."
* * *
Hermione relaxed as the two elves went through the Manor. They never mentioned names, but she pretty much summed up who stayed where. The only bedrooms they passed were guest rooms, so she assumed the Malfoys slept in the west part of the Manor.
Her curiosity would always win out and soon Hermione found herself wandering up a stairway Ticky accidentally labeled as the West Tower. The two tried to distract her with the library, but the forbidden way was more tempting at the moment, despite her love of books.
The West Tower had the most damage in the Manor with claw marks littered nearly every surface. If the Malfoys lived past the initial attack, they didn't live pain-free. Blood streaked along parts of the walls and over ruined portraits, making Hermione feel slightly ill. The paint of those portraits was unmoving, showing the frozen horrified expressions on the occupants.
She turned a corner and frowned as she saw something glowing ahead. Among all the destruction, a beautiful red rose gleamed out. It was the only thing left intact in the entire tower. Entranced, Hermione stepped closer. The magic behind it was strong and she felt it call out to her, running through her system. She almost felt drunk with the feelings.
Her fingers were inches away when she heard a growl behind her. She snapped out of her trance to see the beast looming over her, face twisted in a mix of anger and fear. Quickly, she backed away from the only true beauty she had ever seen in Malfoy Manor.
"Why did you come here?" he growled, stepping between her and the rose.
The beast stalked toward her. "I warned you never to come here!"
"I didn't mean any harm." Hermione put a broken table between herself and the monster in front of her.
"Do you realize what you could have done!" He tossed the table away. "Get out!"
Hermione stumbled a bit on some broken pottery. "Please, stop!"
"Get out!" The beast tossed a few other pieces of furniture, yelling.
Hermione wasted no time. She fled the tower, going down the stairs as fast as she could. Her heart raced fast in her chest; she didn't think she would ever be so afraid after the war, but in a way, this was worse.
Ticky and Lummy met her on the stairs. "Ma'am! Where is ma'am going?"
"Promise or not promise, I can't stay here another minute." She wiped at her eyes, trying not to cry.
"Oh no, wait. Ma'am can't leave!"
She made it to the front and, and then the gates, without incident. Tears now freely ran down her cheeks, the light of the full moon showing her the way. She tripped in the fresh blanket of snow, cursing as some of it seeped into her foot. She had to get out of the forest. Apparation, Harry told her, didn't work in this forest. Not that she could do it; the beast still had her wand. She could get another later, after she made it home.
A familiar howl cut through the night. Hermione felt her heart stop, and her mind brought her back to when she was eighteen and running away from the Snatchers. She knew this was different, but the fear felt the same. She forced herself up and kept running.
It didn't take long for the werewolves to corner her. Hermione picked up a long tree branch, sobbing uncontrollably. She was going to die here, all alone, and with no one to save her. Desperately, she swung the branch out. One wolf caught it in its mouth and pulled it away, slicing open her hand.
She was dead.