Chapter 3 : Tainted
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A/N: This chapter has been betaed by Ash from the fantastic Aqui Para Usted beta portal. Thanks!
Chapter 2 – Tainted
Voldemort leant back on his aristocratic armchair, which gave a quite un-aristocratic creak as the uncomfortable backrest protested against being used after such a long time. Actually that antique piece of furniture belonged to the Lestranges for it was their house, of which the Dark Lord used as his current hideout and also where Hermione's interrogation took place.
Voldemort pouted his thin lips in a manner of having to contemplate things of utter disinterest. Pretending that he was not amused by the expectant stillness which prevailed over his followers gathered in the chamber, he scrupulously examined his own hands with special interest to his crooked nails. His wand was neatly put on the arm of the chair for the better effect, as a phlegmatic accentuation of his unquestionable power.
"Do you know, stupid girl, who you are talking to?" he quietly asked and his eyes darted now from his fingers to Hermione's pale face. His hand moved over the wand, but instead of gripping he slowly patted it, making sure the gesture gave Hermione the proper answer.
Hermione lightly nodded, her eyes nervously fixed on the wand. His look could almost be considered mild, but his servants knew well not to trust his misleading ways. He was playing with his prey, and feigning the generous but stern emperor was just part of his usual game. Some Death Eaters standing in a loose half circle around their lord unwittingly withdrew, knowing the scenario just too well.
"You dogged Potter just long enough to make us believe you know whom you are facing, but, alas, it seems your comprehension is weaker than your good old Potion teacher, so nobly, assumed. There's no use playing the brave Gryffindor here, girl, don't be as inane as your dear friend, Potter. You know I will hurt you, don't you?" his features stretched into a sardonic expression of concern.
Hermione repeated her nod, only a bit more stiffly.
"That's a good girl." Voldemort nodded slowly in response. The corner of his mouth lifted; he gave a sign with his left hand, keeping his right one still on his wand, and Hermione could hear someone's confident strides nearing to the Lord.
When she turned her head she saw Severus Snape's black cloak swirling behind him. He took no notice of her, as if she never existed; he abruptly stopped before the chair and bowed to the Dark Lord. For the first time Hermione's fear was suppressed by thunderous fury; that stinking prat, slimy reptile Snape – now he can have his fun, harvesting the fruits of his betrayal, she thought.
"Now, Ms Granger" Voldemort continued "I suggest that you take that Veritaserum, your dear old Professor has brought you, on your own volition. I hope I won't have to ask him to teach you manners." His eyes now turned with a nasty glow to Snape, who was standing there with a blank expression on his face as though instead of being a living creature he was merely a puppet, an insignificant element of the scene.
He gave a curt bow to his Master again and handed Hermione a small vial.
She hesitated to take it, pondering what other choices she had, but she had to come to a sobering conclusion; no matter what happened she would be forced to drink that stuff this way or the other. She tried to prepare herself for what was most likely coming, but found that though her mind accepted death, her heart was unable to grip its reality.
She reached out for the vial.
Heat flushed her as she discovered how hard her hand trembled, but she would not show her abjection to that git. She pressed her lips tightly and looked Snape straight in his dark eyes, casting such an ugly leer that Snape never believed she could muster.
He returned her look with loath and disgust, though in his case the contrast to his former appearance at school was not that striking. He thrust the vial into her palm with impatient abhorrence, but did not move away. Hermione still held his gaze. Her eyes narrowed and with a swift move she threw the vial to the ground.
What happened next was a question of seconds and later, when Hermione recalled it, she was surprised by the perfect arrangement and speed of the actions.
Snape pounced on the vial almost at once as Hermione threw it, not bothering drawing his wand and, before the girl realized what was going on, he stepped behind her and pulled her in a tight grab. His left hand reached for her chin and seized it with such force that her jaw opened; with his right thumb he immediately uncorked the vial and dripped the liquid into her mouth. Hermione clasped his hand that still held her fast, trying to tear it away, when they both fell onto the floor amidst terrible moans of pain.
Voldemort was standing in front of his chair trembling with fury. He was still pointing his wand at Snape and Hermione, when he finally spoke.
"What the hell did you think you were doing, you idiot! I told you to teach her manners so that she took it willingly, not to force it down her throat! I want my prisoners to obey me and not my servants to do it for them!" his voice became shrill as his fury peaked again and he shot a Cruciatus curse once more at both of them so as to ease his tension.
The Death Eaters seemed both pleased and uncomfortable with the situation for the next actions of the Master were unpredictable. They chose the tactics of cautious observation.
"I beg for your mercy my Lord!" Snape groaned when he finally managed to breathe again. "I beg for your wise mercy my Lord! I beg you to forgive me my stupid rashness O' Master, which can only be explained by my firm belief that we cannot risk the success of raiding the Order and capturing Potter by wasting time on the pathetic demonstration of heroism by a stupid teenager. I was confident you wanted all crucial information at once, not willing to allow time for the Order to change the place of its headquarters." He stayed on the floor with his head bowed; his body slightly shook which was a usual after-effect of the curse.
Hermione listening to Snape's servile eagerness wanted to kick him in the ribs, and kick him hard, but she couldn't gather her strength to do so; so she chose to ignore him completely, as if he was a nauseous insect not worthy of being looked at.
Since she did not dare to turn her look at the Dark Lord and didn't want to see the Death Eaters either, she stared at the floor.
"Stand up, Severus." Voldemort slowly paced before his chair absorbed in his thoughts, with every step he gently stoke his left palm with his wand. That was usually the omen of rather unpleasant events for his followers. As he turned he noticed the girl still curled up on the floor; with an irritated jerk of his head he said.
"Pull her up, you idiot."
Snape did as he was commanded; he didn't dare to step aside because Hermione's legs seemed very unsteady and there was a great chance that struggling against the effect of the Veritaserum potion she will come down again.
"All right then Ms. Granger. Be as kind as to inform me about the whereabouts of the precious Mr. Potter." Voldemort screeched as unoiled gears.
Hermione slowly shook her head.
"I don't know. He must have left the headquarters by now. It's unlikely that he would return there." she kept her gaze on the floor; the Dark Lord's red piercing eyes burnt her mind and she was unable to stand it.
Voldemort gripped his wand tighter with a move, which suggested that he fought great desire to fire another Cruciatus at her, but he withheld the urge and spoke again.
"That's not an answer I accept, you know." He said with feigned gentleness. "But time is pressing us, as Severus rightly put it. We will come back to Mr. Potter later. Where are the headquarters Ms. Granger?"
Hermione thought she heard his teeth grit.
"At the Burrow's" her voice was small and weak.
"That's the Weasley hovel, my Lord." Snape explained with a repeated bow. The girl jerked with anger, but didn't have the former courage to turn and throw a murderous look at him.
The Lord fixed his stare on Hermione. He stepped closer as he inspected her with a newfound interest. He lifted his sharp chin and tilted his head as he looked down at her, stroking his non-existent beard with one hand.
Without turning he quietly said.
"What are you all waiting for? You heard the Lady: the headquarters are at the Burrows. Go and kill as many as you can, but bring Potter alive!"
There was hasty rustling and paddle in the background as if the Death Eaters were relieved to leave the chamber.
"You too, Severus. Leave."
Hermione heard Snape hesitate for a second before turning and leaving the place with brisk steps.
The air became dense and hot for Hermione and to her surprise she felt a surge of panic, worse than she had felt before. No matter how awkward it sounded, but the presence of the Death Eaters still offered her some comfort, more than the menacing possibility of being left alone with Lord Voldemort.
She slightly withdrew, her cold hands nervously clutching the fabric of her cloak.
"Bella, did you hear me saying I needed you here? I believe you have a duty to do. You annoy me here; I have some questions to pose to Ms. Granger and I don't need you to help."
Hermione could not decide what was in this voice that made her quiver so strongly; the malice was meant for Bellatrix, who was strikingly daring showing reluctance to obey the Lord's command and not her.
"My Lord…" she mumbled in a faint voice which surprised Hermione with the tint of pain and rage blended in it.
"Go." He repeated calmly and Hermione still staring at the floor felt her panic soaring higher at the prospect of Bellatrix leaving. She no longer could explain herself the confusing sentiments she experienced, it was like an absurd nightmare which would not want to end.
The door slammed fiercely and Hermione thought that was her last heartbeat. She closed her eyes tightly and hot tears run down her face as she did so.
"Hm. That's a silly thing to cry, my dear. Tears don't change anything; you won't feel any better if you cry. Drop this sentimentalism, it just irritates me." Voldemort's tenor was tamed to a silky purr, which still could not veil the threat beneath it.
"I could ask you about the members of the Order, but I don't need to. I know who they are. In fact there is nothing you can surprise me with and that's not the reason for you being here. I wonder if you are strong enough to guess the real reason." he murmured.
Hermione could not hear him stepping closer, but the swish of his robes told her so; she unwittingly stepped back. That moment she felt heavy ropes crawl upon her wrists, her eyes flung
open and wide; she flinched in terror, with insane expression on her face she tried to fight the ties off. She fell roughly back as she squirmed in horror. There was no use for that however, as her hands were soon firmly fastened behind her back and all she could do was watching Lord Voldemort advance towards her.
He smiled contentedly, his pupils narrowed to mere black slits as they usually did when he felt especially pleased or especially furious. No one knew which was worse.
With his wand hand he made a delicate move, something between the gestures of the baroque etiquette and complex wand work. Hermione no longer could escape his piercing leer; with pupils fixed with dread she stared at him, as if instead of her paralysed lungs she could gasp air with her widely opened eyes.
Her body was lifted and she found herself on her feet again, but no matter how she tried she could not control them; they refused moving and Hermione had no idea whether it was her fright that bound her or the Dark Lord's magic.
"No…" she squeaked.
"No – what?" he asked arrogantly. "No, no, no!" he mocked the death cries of his unfortunate victims. "That's all people say. Just no. Never yes." He resumed pacing up and down again, but this time his moves became smoother as a sure sign of his good moods.
"I want to hear: yes!" he turned sharply back to her and Hermione jerked, closing her eyes instinctively, like protecting her vision from a sudden lightning.
"What is the use for me of sparing your life? Look at me! Do you have any ideas?" now he stood right in front of her, so close that Hermione felt herself shrinking, shrinking as badly as her woollen skirt did, when Molly Weasley washed it in hot water together with Ron's dirty shirts.
"Look at me, I said." and Hermione felt sharp pain for a moment in her head. With eyes watering she looked at Voldemort finding him now only inches away. She saw her bad intuitions come to life; his eyes were hazy and obsessed, they bore deeply into hers and no matter how hard she fought, she could not break the eye contact. A contemptuous smile crept upon his face; with a long, thin tongue he licked his lower lip and grinned.
"Do you want me to tell you why I spare your life?" as he asked this he leaned to Hermione's ear and the end of the sentence was hardly a whisper, but he still did not touch the girl. She shivered as his warm breath reached her.
He retreated a bit just to see her eyes. What he saw must have pleased him for he continued whispering in her ear again.
"Because me having you will torture Potter more than your death." He retreated again, now to cast a devilish grin, which matched his face better than any other expression.
"Isn't it ironic? He would rather see you dead, than being mine. He would rather bring flowers on your grave than look into your eyes and see me in them." he paused to see the effect of his words. Hermione turned her head away to deprive him of that satisfaction, but there was little she managed to hide.
"You see that all I say is true. That's why it hurts you so much. And you call that a friendship." he disgustedly pouted. "Or is it more?" He reached out his hand and gently but firmly turned her head to him. His eyes searched for something and soon they found it. His grin widened, showing his uneven, but sharp teeth.
"So, it is." he purred.
"No. It is not." Hermione was most surprised to find her voice still existed moreover it could still muster strength.
"Is it not, really?" he was clearly enjoying himself and Hermione blushed so uncomfortably that for a moment she forgot about her fear. Voldemort was right, once, only but once it really did happen. The trio's friendship, love and care for each other was so deep that it was almost unavoidable, it was kind of coded in their relationship that sooner or later it will develop some sexual aspects as well. And it happened to be between Ron and Hermione, yet Harry could not be ignored as a potential third. It was also coded, even if the three of them had no idea, that one day Hermione will find Harry unable and unwilling to resist. It was just the nature of such friendship. Yet, it would be unfair forgetting to mention that that night didn't alter Hermione's feelings for Ron; for some peculiar reason it deepened her attachment to both of them, while it also enabled Harry to open up to her to a much greater extent. But that was a long ago. It seemed like ages.
"But that's true, my dear, and you know it. I believe you would not be surprised to learn that I'm an outstanding Legilimens." his smile grew wider and some gruesome excitement coloured his cheeks.
Still holding her gaze Voldemort moved his cold hand up her cheek, back into her hair. His touch was icy and very smooth as if she was touched by a hand made of steel.
Hermione winced and closed her eyes again. She no longer cared for hiding her trembling.
"Oh, you will get used to it, don't be afraid." he growled with passion clearly showing in his voice.
She jerked at the idea and jerked more drastically when she felt his hand slide to the back of her neck and down her spine. She was fierce, but Voldemort wasn't intimidated by her fury, it only fanned his excitement. He pulled her closer holding her waist, his grin more resembling a snarl. His fingers moved down the pulse of her neck without any sign of inhibitions, they leisurely traced her collarbone slowly slipping under the neck of her top she was wearing.
He grabbed at her cloak and with a vigorous move ripped it off her shoulders. Hermione struggled to free her hands with rage, till the skin, where the ropes cut into her flesh, started to bleed; panting, she looked up again at Voldemort, but saw no mercy in his eyes.
He smiled a mirthless smile, his gaze cold and cruel, he was waiting, coolly observing and enjoying all the phases of desperation and fear Hermione went through. He drew his wand and with its tip softly pressed Hermione's lower lip.
He smiled seeing her harden into stone; with a teasing move the wand run down her chin and moved down to her chest. Drowning her scream Hermione gasped, she could feel the fabric of her clothes rip.
"Don't… please…" she whispered hardly holding back her tears.
"You're just as miserable as Potter, no dignity, no nobleness. You squeak like a mouse in the trap, unable to accept its fate. By the way Potter, I'm sure you know, he will attempt to break into the Malfoy manor again, just to rescue you. What a pity you won't be there! But I left some good servants of mine there to keep him good company." He smirked rolling his eyes with irony.
"You bastard!" Hermione barked in a voice that was no longer hers and she spat him in the face, which she had never ever done before. She received a forceful slap in reply, which made her lose her balance, and she fell painfully on the floor. With her legs bound by the Lord's magic she was powerless and mad with fear and humiliation. Voldemort was right about her squeaking like a mouse, that was pitiable, quite true; nevertheless, she swore she would fight as long as she breathed - but without a sound. She won't give him the pleasure of hearing her scream for mercy, not like that git Snape.
She gritted her teeth not paying attention to the tears that blurred the figure of Voldemort before her and prepared for the unequal fight and the unavoidable defeat.
See, I told you it will be getting darker. :) I hope you liked it so far. Please let me know what you think of it. Thanks, wings
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