Hermione stared out of her bedroom window at the swirling snow. It was the first week of December and Hermione's spirits were as low as they'd ever been. Following the revelations about Draco the last time Harry had visited, Hermione had been filled with thoughts of her boyfriend. She still couldn't believe what had happened to him, and she wanted nothing more than to get back to him. She knew being part of the dark would have changed him, but she'd already decided that it didn't matter to her. Whether he was dark or not, she still loved him and she wasn't going to hold anything he'd done in the time since her fake death against him.
Of course, Hermione still had to find a way to get back to Draco, and it wasn't looking like it was going to happen any-time soon. After her initial attempts to escape, she'd allowed herself to be distracted by useless research for the Order, but since she'd given Harry his marching orders, her attention had turned back to trying to escape. Sadly her second attempts at escaping hadn't gone any better than the first attempts, and Hermione was stuck with no idea how she was going to escape and get back to Draco.
For a while she'd focused her attempts at escaping to coincide with people arriving and leaving the house. When people came, they either used the floo or they apparated outside of the house's boundary and merely walked through the door. However, Hermione had already discovered that she couldn't get past the wards around the boundary, not even when she tried to time it so she was passing through them the exact same time as someone arrived or left. And as for the floo network, it just didn't respond to her when she tried to activate it.
Following her argument with Harry, Hermione's relationship with the Order had taken a swift nosedive. Things hadn't been great beforehand, but now she knew Draco was a Death Eater because of them, she had even less time for her captors. Fortunately Harry had taken her warning to heart and she hadn't seen either him or Ron since the day she discovered Draco's fate. Molly was slowly spending less and less time doing her share of the guard duties, meaning more often than not Tonks, Sirius or Remus, or a combination of the three, were her guards. Not that Hermione spoke to them very often, and when she did they often received the sharp end of her tongue.
The only problem with not really talking to them meant she didn't know really anything that was going on outside the house. Since the first incident with the paper, no-one had brought another one into the house. Now the only reading material the Order ever showed up with were books, even magazines were banned. Harry and Ron had been the ones to talk to her about the war, but with them not visiting any more Hermione was left wondering what was happening. She was also wondering about Draco, but unless she was going to ask about him, she had no way of finding out what he was currently up to.
Hermione was suddenly jolted from her thoughts about Draco, and what he could be doing right now, by Tonks' voice drifting up the stairs. Currently Tonks and Lupin were in the house with her, but Hermione was spending most of her time in her room. The pair were clearly in the first stages of a romantic relationship and it made Hermione feel ill to watch them together. She found it profoundly unfair that they should have happiness when she'd been brutally torn away from the wizard she loved, sending Draco into a dark spiral she had no idea if he could even be saved from.
"Hermione," Tonks called for a second time. "Come down here."
Knowing Tonks would only come up and start badgering her in person if she failed to respond, Hermione tore herself away from the window and made her way downstairs. In the front room she found Tonks standing in the middle of the room, smiling happily. In the corner was a large Christmas tree, and beside it was two boxes stuffed full of decorations.
"I thought we could make the place more festive," Tonks said brightly.
"That's not possible," Hermione replied tonelessly.
"I borrowed the decorations from Molly, and I got the stuff for us to bake mince pies," Tonks continued, ignoring Hermione's sullen tone.
"You can't make a prison cheerful," Hermione snapped.
"I know this isn't ideal, but we have to make the most of the situation," Tonks said with a sigh as she looked up at Hermione. "We can't just ignore Christmas."
"Why not?" Hermione retorted. "Do you think my parents will be celebrating Christmas? Do you think they'll be decorating a stupid tree, or making mince pies? I see no reason to celebrate Christmas. For me, Christmas is about spending time with the people you love, and thanks to you lot I've lost all the people I love. All the people I care about think I'm dead. That hardly makes for a cheerful Christmas."
"It won't be forever," Tonks said quietly, taken aback by the venom in Hermione's voice. She was getting used to Hermione snapping at them, or even ignoring them, but it had been a long time since she'd been so angry. "Once the threat is gone, you'll be free to continue on with your life."
"What life? You've taken my life away from me," Hermione snorted. As eager as she was to get back to Draco, she knew the longer she was away the more chance he would have had to move on. As it was, she had no idea what things were like for him right now, for all she knew he could be preparing for Christmas with a new girlfriend on his arm.
"I'm sorry, Hermione," Tonks said sounding genuinely apologetic.
"So am I," Hermione replied sharply. "Sorry, I ever got involved with this bloody Order."
Turning her back on Tonks, Hermione left the front room and headed into the kitchen. Lupin was in the kitchen and the look on his face showed he'd heard the entire conversation. Not bothering to even speak to the former Professor, Hermione yanked open the back door and strode out into the garden with its thin layer of snow. Despite the fact it was snowing lightly, and she wasn't wearing anything more than jeans and a jumper, Hermione made her way towards the bottom of the garden. At the bottom of the garden was a hollowed out tree, with a seat situated inside the actual tree. The seat was charmed to never get covered in rain or snow, so the wood was perfectly dry as Hermione settled down on it.
Hermione spent over an hour sitting in the tree thinking. She mainly thought about Draco, and if he had moved on romantically. What she'd learnt from Harry had made it seem as though he was still struggling with her 'death', hence his recklessness when in battles. However, that had been weeks ago and Hermione knew Draco couldn't mourn her forever. It really did break her heart to think of him with someone else, but at the same time, it devastated her to think of him so torn up with grief that he couldn't move on. Of course things were complicated given the fact she wasn't really dead, but Hermione knew that if she had been dead, she wouldn't have wanted Draco to waste his life mourning her. She would have wanted him to move on and find someone else, she just hoped he hadn't already done it before she finally made it back to him.
When the cold eventually got too much for her, Hermione reluctantly left the tree to head back inside. By now the snow was getting heavier, and Hermione was shivering with the cold. When she did finally enter the house, she could smell fresh mince pies as she shook the snow off herself. A whole tray of mince pies was sitting cooling on the bench, but Hermione ignored the temptation to have one as she walked through the kitchen to the front room.
In the front room, the tree was almost decorated, and Tonks and Lupin were busy hanging the last few baubles. Watching them smile at each other as they worked caused a pang in Hermione's chest, and she carried on through the front room without acknowledging them.
"Don't go, Hermione," Lupin called after her.
"And why would I want to stay?" Hermione retorted, whirling round in the doorway leading to the stairs and glaring at the couple. "I'll just go off upstairs and leave you two to your tree and mince pies."
"None of this is for us, Hermione," Lupin said. "We're doing this for you. We wanted the place to be cheerful, for you. We made mince pies because they're your favourite Christmas treat, and we thought the tree would help get you in a festive mood."
"And that's supposed to make everything okay?" Hermione yelled. "I shouldn't be mad, because you've made me mince pies and decorated a tree for me. That makes everything all right, does it?"
Hermione had barely closed her mouth when a loud shattering noise rang around the entire house and every window in the place shattered. For a second Hermione thought she'd broken the windows using accidental magic. Everyone knew accidental magic was more likely to occur when strong emotions were involved, and even though she was a fully grown witch and accidental magic was rare in adults, it did still happen, especially when they were without a wand to channel their magic. However that theory quickly dispersed, when Lupin and Tonks rushed forward and grabbed onto her, before Lupin tried to apparate them away.
"What happened?" Tonks questioned when Lupin failed to get them to move.
"I can't apparate," Lupin answered with a frown.
"But Dumbledore built in safety features to the wards, meaning we could apparate if we were in any danger," Tonks protested.
"They've been dismantled," Lupin said worriedly. "Take Hermione through the floo to Grimmauld Place."
As Tonks pulled her towards the fire, Hermione sensed her opportunity to escape had arrived. She had no idea who was outside the house, but they'd managed to break Dumbledore's wards, meaning escape was possible. All she needed to do was get away from Tonks and Lupin. Hermione waited until Tonks loosened her grip to grab the floo powder, before wrenching her arm out of the older witch's grasp. Without waiting to see how Tonks reacted, Hermione turned and fled towards the kitchen.
Hermione ran through the kitchen at top speed, only vaguely aware of Tonks and Lupin calling her name and running after her. Without stopping, Hermione yanked open the back door and ran straight into a figure in a dark cloak. Looking up, she found herself face to face with a masked Death Eater.
"Going somewhere?" The Death Eater asked with a chuckle. Before Hermione had a chance to move, the Death Eater grabbed hold of her. "Get the other two, and search the entire place," he ordered four more Death Eaters as they entered the house.
Hermione struggled against the Death Eaters grasp, but it was so much stronger than the hold Tonks had on her moments earlier. Unable to get away, Hermione could only watch as Tonks and Lupin battled against the other Death Eaters. Unfortunately for them the fight was brief and they were quickly knocked out and restrained. Once they were restrained, the other Death Eaters set about searching the place.
"There's no-one else here," one of the Death Eaters announced as they re-entered the kitchen.
"Take these back to the manor and throw them in the dungeons," the Death Eater that had hold of Hermione growled as he pushed Hermione into the equally firm grasp of another Death Eater. "I want a final look around."
"Do as you want Rodolphus," the other Death Eater shrugged. "You won't find anything."
"It's better to be safe than sorry," Rodolphus replied. "Now take these three and go."
Hermione barely had a chance to see Rodolphus stride from the room, before she was being whisked away by the Death Eater who had hold of her. The harsh feeling of side along apparition was made worse by the fact the second she hit solid ground, Hermione was thrown to the floor. She landed on a cold, stone floor and as she landed she felt her wrist twist awkwardly underneath her body. The pain in her wrist was enough to distract Hermione from lashing out as she was yanked over to the wall and shackled by her right ankle.
"You don't want to do this," Hermione warned her captors. From the second she'd heard the word manor, Hermione had felt hope bubbling up inside of her. Unless she was very much mistaken, she'd been brought to the very place she'd been trying to escape to – Malfoy Manor.
"And why not?" one of the Death Eater's asked as Tonks and Lupin were shackled to another wall over the other side of the room.
"I want to see Draco," Hermione stated, instead of answering the question she'd been asked.
"It's not up to you who you want to see," the Death Eater sneered.
"Not that he's here anyway," another one added. "The jumped up little git is away again."
Not giving Hermione a chance to make more demands, the Death Eaters left the small stone dungeon and shut a heavy door behind them. Groaning in frustration, Hermione checked the shackles and not surprisingly found they couldn't be loosed using wandless magic. Flicking her gaze over to the other wall, she found that Lupin and Tonks were still unconscious. Not that she was really bothered by that, all she was bothered about was finding a way to get Draco down to see her. She was so close to the love of her life, yet so far as he seemingly had no idea she was being held prisoner under his house.
An hour later, Hermione had just been getting used to the peace and quiet in the dungeons when Tonks and Lupin began to stir. Within ten minutes they were both awake and asking if she knew where they were being held.
"Malfoy Manor." Hermione replied, watching the way they exchanged worried looks at the news.
"This isn't good," Lupin said at last.
"Being held prisoner is never good," Hermione retorted.
"This is far worse than anything we've done to you, Hermione," Lupin said. "We're all in real danger here. Especially if The Dark Lord brings Malfoy into play. I've heard rumours that he thinks Draco has the potential to turn his hand to torture."
"I'm sure he does," Hermione said. "Especially when faced with you two."
"I think you mean three," Tonks said. "Or do you think he'll spare you because you went to school together? I'm sorry Hermione, but he's not the sentimental sort. You're in for a whole world of pain, just like we are."
"I don't think so," Hermione replied with smug smile. "You see there's something the Order had no idea about when you kidnapped me and faked my death. I had a boyfriend. A boyfriend who has since turned to the dark and forged quite a reputation for himself. So ask yourself this, Tonks, just what do you think Draco will do when he finds out I'm alive and two of the people responsible for keeping up apart are right here in his dungeons?"
"No," Tonks gasped.
"You and Malfoy," Lupin stated in a shocked voice.
"Yes, before you interfered in my life I was with Draco," Hermione confirmed, smirking when she spotted the pure fear reflected in Tonks and Lupin's eyes as they took in the fact they were about to come face to face with the one wizard who had a serious grudge to bear with them.
Hermione didn't say anything else, but nothing else needed to be said. Tonks and Lupin were now both aware of what a monumental mistake they'd made in taking part in Hermione's kidnapping, but it was too late to take it back. They'd gotten involved in the foolish plan, and now they were about to pay the price as neither of them doubted that when Draco found out the truth about what had happened, he would make them both pay for the hell they'd put him and Hermione through. Their lives were nearly over, and everyone in the dungeons knew it. Draco would take his revenge, and Hermione found that she didn't care if it meant he killed Tonks and Lupin. After everything she'd been through, she'd also changed and she was more than ready to let the darkness into her own heart.