Instead of returning to Hogwarts to finish her last year, Hermione takes an offer to work at the Ministry in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. While visiting Wiltshire to release Malfoy from his house arrest, she finds that something else has trapped them both in Malfoy Manor. [slightly longer version here]
Hermione stifled a shudder as the gates of Malfoy Manor dissolved around her body. She actually shrieked as an albino peacock burst out of a nearby shrub and ran across the gravel path. As she walked, she noticed that the manor’s grounds were unkempt and covered in ivy. For lack of a better word, it seemed wild.
She had to fight the urge to turn and run as she stepped up to the dark doors. After minutes of waiting she swore she heard a crash come from the left wing of the house. She then chose to use her Gryffindor bravery, government authority and general disregard for rules by breaking into Malfoy Manor.
"Malfoy? On behalf of the Ministry, I’m here to - " She was cut off by a shout and a banging noise that came from the left wing of the house. It was as if someone was throwing furniture around.
On full alert, Hermione raised her wand and surveyed the dim manor house. Sheets covered rows of couches and paintings lay discarded in the corners of the home, waiting to be reclaimed by some other pureblood patron of the arts. She let her hand ghost across the lip of a porcelain vase and marveled at the layer of dust that came away on her fingertips.
Another series of noises from upstairs caused her to knock the vase over. Hermione swore, and urgently fixed the heirloom. She heard no more noise from upstairs, and it gave her courage to move forward. After all, she thought, he probably knows I’m here.
Hermione had almost made it to the top of the stairs when a pale figure darted into the hall. In shock, she stumbled and blacked out, falling backwards down the stairs.
When she opened her eyes, Malfoy stood crouched over her, eyes wide and wary. She scuttled away from him and reached for her wand, but he simply stared at her, breathing hard.
"What are you doing here?" he panted. "How’d you get inside?"
She gaped at him. This was nowhere near her job’s description.
"You’re making a huge mistake," he continued.
"Malfoy, what are you going on about? Where’s my wand?" She stood clumsily, wincing at the pain in her head.
"You fell on it," he said flatly. "This house is dangerous, Granger."
She exhaled and crossed her arms, expecting him to smugly reveal her wand at any moment. “This house? Dangerous? You’re telling me, Malfoy.” His eyes darted to her arm, and she stepped away coldly. “I actually came here to release you.”
He chuckled bitterly at her response. “Out? That’s a laugh, Granger. I haven’t been able to get out since - “
A loud crash rang out from the room right next to them. “Since that.” Only hesitating for a second, Malfoy grabbed her hand and pulled her down the stairs. She managed to wrench her arm from his grasp after six rooms and spun around, wand raised.
"If you would give me my wand, Malfoy, I would have Apparated us out of here!”
"I told you, you broke it, and you can’t leave," he shot back. "When my parents died and I returned, something happened here. I’ve tried to leave, I’ve tried contacting the Ministry, I’ve tried bloody everything and yet here we are, trapped in a madhouse.”
“What have you done?” she shrieked. He leapt forward and covered her mouth with his hand.
"Shut up," he hissed. "They can hear you. And before you ask, I’m referring to the ghosts of Malfoys past, Granger. They got a hold of the family’s dark artefacts, and they’ve been attacking me for days. I’m wandless, for Merlin’s sake."
Days? Hermione whimpered in fright, and Malfoy felt her shiver. His eyes turned a little softer as he slowly pulled his hand away. He was standing much too close for comfort. “Please, Granger,” he pleaded, looking half disgusted and half something Hermione couldn’t name. “Get me out of here.”
Another crash came from down the hall and made them both jump, but what scared Hermione more was the way his voice wavered as he said her name. Whatever scared Malfoy, she reasoned, was truly worth running from.