"Tell me where the boy is!" Voldemort's voice was only a whisper but Hermione felt as though his words were slapping her causing physical pain. His tone was deadly, alluding to pain and suffering for her and those she loved. Still, she managed to gasp out,
"I don't know sir." She struggled to dredge up enough energy to cast a mental shield, knowing that he was about to assault her mind looking for Harry's whereabouts. She would not yield even if it killed her.
When Voldemort felt her resistance he gave a casual flick of his wand though his slit-like nostrils flared in anger. Hermione managed to keep her gasp of pain contained to a slight whimper as deep cuts appeared on her hands which began to bleed profusely. Voldemort gave her a chilling smile as he spoke once more.
"I will get the information I need mudblood. It's only a matter of time. So why don't you minimise your suffering and tell me now. Where is the boy?"
When Hermione gave no response, he administered another lash with his wand before having her dragged away and thrown into her cramped and filthy cell.
Over the course of the day, various Death Eaters would come in to "tend" to her wounds while taunting and jeering at her. Some would wipe the wounds so roughly that they would draw more blood. Others would wash them with lemon or vinegar, cleaning away the blood but causing Hermione to clench her teeth together to stop from screaming at the pain. Others would not even pretend to wipe the blood away but would inflict more wounds. So when Hermione heard the door to her cell creak open, it was with great trepidation that she raised her arms so that they lay behind her head, knowing that to protest or try to prolong the inevitable would cause more pain. Yet the hands that began tending to her wounds were gentle. They carefully soaked her hands in warm water before bandaging them softly.
"I wish I could do more but if I heal the cuts with magic it will just make things worse for both of us," a familiar voice spoke from above her.
"Malfoy?" Hermione gasped jerking to a sitting position in surprise.
"Hello Granger," his cold voice drawled.
Ignoring his sneer, Hermione asked, "Why are you treating me kindly at all?"
Malfoy's face softened as he replied in a surprisingly gentle voice, "Because nobody deserves this." After hesitating for a long moment he added, "Particularly you."
"What do you mean?" Hermione inquired breathlessly.
Malfoy's grey eyes bore into hers as he explained, "You have already sacrificed and suffered so much. You of all people should not have to endure this as well."
Before Hermione could reply, Malfoy had pushed her back roughly causing her to bang her head against the stone wall all the while saying "Stop those pathetic whimpers mudblood! You're getting what you deserve!" Hermione managed to raise her aching head in time to see him leaving her cell to meet the Death Eater who had come to fetch him.
It was a couple of days and several rounds of interrogation and torture later that Malfoy came to visit her once more. Hermione awoke from an uneasy sleep to cool fingers brushing against her forehead.
"I'm sorry about your head," Malfoy said to her sounding genuinely remorseful.
"You did what you had to do Draco," Hermione affirmed.
"Draco?" he asked.
"That is your name isn't it?" Hermione laughed with a quirk of her eyebrow.
Chuckling, Draco said, "I suppose it is."
He stayed for as long as was safe, exchanging light conversation with her, providing a friendly face and some positive human contact, neither of which she had had in a very long time.
When it was time for him to leave, he bid her goodbye before hesitantly suggesting, "Maybe it would be best for you to just give him what he wants. That's your best hope of staying alive."
"He's never going to spare my life. I'm a muggleborn. Harry still has a hope though, and I'm going to do everything in my power to protect him. For the sake of my best friend and the entire wizarding world, Harry has to survive."
Draco gave her a sad look before exiting her cell quickly upon hearing footsteps approaching.
The next time he visited, he brought her a slice of bread and cheese. "Eat up!" he said trying to sound cheerful as his eyes raked over her thin, frail body.
Hermione studied him while she eagerly gobbled down the first meal she'd had in a long time that didn't contain rotting food. When she had finished, she asked him,
"Why did you join the Death Eaters?"
Draco laughed without a trace of humor. "Joined is a bit generous. As if I had a choice! I was forced into becoming a Death Eater after the Dark Lord threatened to kill me and my family. I had no choice really. You have to remember that I was raised to believe that muggleborns were inferior and that power and dark magic were to be prized above all else. I have come to the realisation however that any ideology that is supported by someone like the Dark Lord is not an ideology that I want to follow."
Impulsively, Hermione leaned in and kissed him. He kissed her back enthusiastically for a moment before gently but firmly pushing her away.
"I'm sorry," Hermione said, cheeks flaming.
"Don't be," Draco said simply though he made no move to reciprocate.
Eager to change the subject, Hermione continued in their previous vein. "So you don't want to be a Death Eater?"
"No but what choice do I have? My hands are tied. I wish I could do something to help your side though."
"You already have," Hermione said sincerely, gesturing at herself.
Draco smiled warmly before bidding her goodbye and slipping out.
Over the next several days, neither of them made any mention of their kiss though they were both much more accepting of the close friendship that was forming between them. The two talked about anything and everything as Draco nursed her back to health after her torture sessions. They even began confiding in one-another. There was no question that they had begun to truly develop feelings for each other.
One day after a particularly harsh interrogation, Hermione lay bleeding on her cot. Her entire body ached and she felt completely drained from trying to withstand Voldemort's invasion into her mind. Rage, unadulterated rage, consumed his every thought when Draco found her weak and beaten body curled up in her cell.
Approaching her quietly, he stroked her hair while he told her the hard truth.
"I really can't do much to heal you Hermione. I think that the others are starting to suspect that I'm doing more than the bare minimum required to keep you alive." Pausing for a moment, he added with a smile in his voice, "The only thing that I can do is to kiss it better." Hermione turned over as much as she could given the pain and watched with wide eyes as Draco leaned in.
At first he didn't kiss her mouth. He planted a feather-light kiss on her bruised temple followed by one on each of her battered hands. He left a trail of kisses up her arms, neck, and jaw before finally kissing her lips. He was careful to be incredibly gentle and slow knowing the state of her body, but the kiss was nevertheless infused with passion. When they broke apart at last, they smiled at each other for several moments, simply revelling in one-another's company. With great reluctance, Draco had to eventually tell her that he had to leave before he raised even more suspicion. After a quick kiss he left her cell, trying to get himself back into his contrived role as Death Eater.
When he had arrived upstairs he was told by one of the others that the Dark Lord wished to see him. With his heart in his throat, Draco entered Voldemort's meeting room.
"You wished to see me my Lord?" he spoke, working to sound calm and collected.
"I am worried Draco. Worried that your heart does not lie in our current project. Might you be struggling to fulfil your duties in regard to the mudblood because she went to school with you?"
"Not at all my Lord," Draco replied smoothly. "I realize now that I may have succeeded too efficiently in healing her. At the time it had seemed that we may be losing her and I did not want to risk that knowing the valuable information she may posses about the Potter boy. I care not for the girl personally. She and her filthy blood disgust me." Draco thought at first that he might have succeeded in convincing the heartless dark wizard. Unfortunately, Voldemort's next words indicated otherwise.
"That is perfectly understandable. Thank you for your effort. I must ask a favour of you now. It has become clear that the mudblood possesses no knowledge of Potter's whereabouts. She is of no further use. Please go and get rid of her."
"My Lord?" Draco worked to hide the desperation in his voice.
There was no mercy in the snake-like red eyes. "I need you to kill the mudblood. And please don't fail me Draco, I would hate to have to dispose of you."
"Right away my Lord," Draco whispered. He bowed and exited the room, trying to hold back the bile that had risen in his throat.
Walking down to Hermione's cell he flung open the door and rushed over to her where he kissed her desperately.
"Draco! Whatever is the matter?" Hermione cried in surprise.
"If I don't kill you he'll kill me," Draco told her desperately. "But I can't do it. I won't!"
"Draco, it's either you kill me or one of the other Death Eaters will. Save yourself!" Hermione urged him sounding surprisingly calm. It was clear that she had accepted her fate a long time ago.
"I won't do it!" Draco insisted.
"You won't will you," Hermione said not as a question, but as a statement. Before Draco could quite process what was happening, she had lunged at him and had begun kissing him passionately. He felt his wand get wrenched out of his hand; saw her point it at her own head and heard her mumble an incantation. There was a blinding flash of green light and a great rushing sound followed by silence. The kind of total silence that presses in on you, smothering and choking you in its oppression. The kind that only happens when you are completely, utterly alone.
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