Chapter 12 : A Light in the Darkness
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Desire and Demise
“Come on, baby, tell us what you know.”
“No. No, get off me!”
Hands clasped around Hermione’s head, and she felt her neck twisting dangerously. Her arms were pinned to her sides by yet another pair of hands, leaving her unable to ward off her attackers. Pain shot down her spine as she was thrown backwards into the stone. A heavy body collided against hers, pinning her to the wall helplessly. She felt warm breath on her face.
“It wouldn’t have to hurt so bad if you just told us where your little friend is.”
Hermione snorted indignantly.
“I’ve already told you, I don’t know anything. And even if I did, I’d never tell you,” she said as the man kneed her thigh forcefully.
“Don’t be an arse, girl. I could break your neck, and just like that, you’re dead.”
Hermione didn’t respond. She feared that if she continued talking, she’d receive yet another blow. How much more of this could she take? Her sickness was slowly destroying her interior, and the Death Eaters had waged war against her exterior. A battle raged on all fronts.
“I thought that would shut you up,” he said as he slowly moved away from Hermione. Without his weight holding her against the wall, Hermione slid downwards and came to rest upon the cold floor.
“We’ll be back later with some… motivation,” the other man warned her.
“You can’t get something out of me that isn’t there. I don’t know where he is,” she said quietly. Her words earned her another sharp kick in the knee.
A shriek of pain erupted from the defeated girl. Hermione massaged her knee tenderly, willing the terrible pain to go away. The two men left the room, laughing.
It was morning, but Hermione knew not which morning it was. The fourteenth morning, perhaps… or the twentieth. It made no difference. She was still hungry. She was still exhausted and aching. She was still being held captive by Voldemort, and with no escape in sight.
“Stubbornness gets you nowhere, Granger.”
There it was. The voice that was haunting her dreams.
“Just leave me alone,” Hermione pleaded, still massaging her ailing knee.
For a minute or two, there was silence. Neither of them spoke. Draco stood in the center of the room, peering down at Hermione with an emotion she couldn’t place. It was almost like… fear.
She, in turn, gazed up at him, willing herself to hate him, to loathe his very existence. But she couldn’t.
“I see my friends didn’t persuade you,” Draco observed. “How’s that knee feeling, by the way?”
“Perfect,” she responded before letting out a small cough.
“Not very friendly this morning, are we? You know what happens when you don’t play along. Do you want me to bring my friends back out?” he threatened.
Hermione said nothing. She didn’t break eye contact with Draco, determined to show him that she wasn’t bothered by his games. But she was. Deep down, she wanted to scream. She wanted to rip out his hair and tear that stupid smirk off his face. But most of all, she wanted to kiss him until everything was okay again.
“The Dark Lord isn’t pleased,” Draco said, fidgeting slightly. His in-control façade was beginning to fade. He was now revealing the true reason he had been sent in, and he didn’t seem too happy about it.
“I’m glad to hear it,” Hermione replied, pulling a lock of filthy hair behind her ear.
“He has ways of getting the information He needs. We tried to be nice, but He is running out of patience,” Draco continued. “I’m afraid it’s time you got the punishment you deserve.”
Cocking her head to the side, Hermione peered up at Draco with half-open eyes. His pursed lips and feigned calm expression struck her as odd, but it didn’t take her long to decode his words.
Realization set in, and Hermione scurried backwards against the wall. She gripped at the stone with dirty fingers, but there was nothing to grasp, nothing to cling to. There was no indent in the smooth wall. Nothing but cold, uncaring stone.
The two Death Eaters that had attacked her earlier entered the room. Their expressions were wild, eyes locked on Hermione’s frail body. They moved to the far side of the room, and their eyes shot towards the doorway. Both men fell into a deep bow just as a dark cloud came forth.
The dark cloud became a figure in a black cloak. This figure entered the room, nodding politely at each of the Death Eaters, and at Draco. Its cloak was blowing wildly as though caught in the wind, creating the illusion that this being was floating through the air. A cold chill struck Hermione, and she began to shiver. Her kneecaps rattled together. As the figure glided towards her, Hermione felt her lips part as her mouth dropped open.
There it was again - that hellish voice. It flooded her mind, ushering all other thoughts out.
“Yes,” Hermione heard herself say. She hadn’t meant to. The undeniable power emanating from Voldemort’s person had urged the word from somewhere inside of her, and she had been too weak to resist.
‘You haven’t been very cooperative.’
Try as she might, Hermione could not suppress a whimper.
‘Do you wish to die, Hermione Granger? I’ll gladly end it for you. All this pain.’
Her breath was coming in short, jagged spurts. Was this it? Was he going to kill her? Another whimper squeezed its way out of her throat, and she brought a hand up to her lips, as though attempting to grab the whimper right out of the air before anyone heard it.
‘But I’m sure you wouldn’t want to be alone at your time of death. If Harry were here, you wouldn’t have to be. And it would be that much more pleasing to me – seeing his agony at the sight of your dead body.’
“I won’t tell you anything, you monster!” Hermione screamed with every bit of strength she had left. Her throat ached with the effort.
A strange sensation flooded her mind. She felt as though she was flying and falling at the same time, and with nothing to grab hold of. And then, the sensation left her. A blinding light burned her eyes, and she wanted to close them, but found that she couldn’t.
Then came a succession of images. They floated past her eyes like scenes from a movie, cut up and out of order. Her and Ron at Hogsmeade. The Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. Draco sitting before her in the Room of Requirement. Harry hunched in the corner, bruised and bleeding. Her and Draco kissing by the Black Lake. Vincent and Margaret, advancing on her. The ominous trees of the Forbidden Forest.
And then it stopped. Hermione returned to the dark room once again, and found herself looking up into the face of Voldemort once again. He didn’t seem so sure of himself now. He seemed angrier, almost worried. He hadn’t found what he needed, and he wasn’t going to. Harry hadn’t told her where he was going. All she knew was that he was back with the Order, but where they were, she didn’t know.
‘What are you hiding from me, Hermione Granger?’
Hermione swallowed. “I’m not hiding anything. I don’t know where Harry is.”
A jolt of electric agony struck her body at every angle. Her limbs began jerking spasmodically as each new rush of pain coursed through her veins. Tears ran freely from her eyes.
Then, as soon as it had commenced, the pain stopped.
Hermione pulled her knees to her chest and clenched her teeth. She could still feel a dull pain rattling around inside her bones. A wheezy cough racked her body, and she felt a cold sweat break out across her forehead.
The Death Eaters were snickering. Draco was merely standing there, a look of indifference plastered onto his face.
‘Come now, Hermione Granger. You’re smarter than that. It’s easy. You tell me where Harry is, and you’re free.’
Free. No, he was lying. She couldn’t listen to him.
No more pain. She could tell him what Harry had told her, couldn’t she? What would that hurt?
Harry. She had to think about Harry. Betraying him, in any way, was out of the question.
“No,” Hermione said, raising her eyes to meet those terrifying red slits.
‘No? That’s not the right answer.’
Hermione knew what was coming next. She wrapped her arms tightly around her bent legs, pulling them tighter to her chest. Her eyelids closed, and she braced herself for the pain.
A thousand needles jabbed into her flesh. Scalding hot misery burned her skin with an excruciating sting. She screamed out, unable to cope with the pain.
“Stop!” she shrieked, straining to fill her lungs with air. It was all around her, yet she couldn’t seem to get enough. A saw was slicing through her middle, cutting her in half and draining all her oxygen.
And then, the torment stopped. She could barely lift her head of out sheer exhaustion, but she did lift it to look into the face of death once again. He would not defeat her.
‘Let me make this very clear. I’m doing you a favor with each breath you take, Hermione Granger. I presume you’ve been told that favors ought to be returned?’
At that precise moment, one of the Death Eaters sneezed. The other looked quite terrified as he elbowed his comrade in the chest. Voldemort turned his skeletal head towards his minions, a glimmer of disgust in his snake-like eyes. Deciding that this was their cue to leave, both Death Eaters hastily exited the room, almost tripping over each other in their hurry to escape Voldemort’s murderous stare.
‘I will give you some time to ponder all I have told you. I expect you will have seen the light when we next meet again.’
With one final heart-stopping glare, Voldemort was gone. The room seemed brighter in his absence. However, there was one spot of darkness that had not dissolved, and that spot was named Draco Malfoy.
“You might as well just tell Him, Granger,” he said, casually walking towards Hermione. “He said He’d spare you if you just told Him where Potter was.”
Wiping the sweat from her brow with a disgustingly unclean sleeve, Hermione scoffed. “That’s the difference between you and me, Malfoy. I would never betray a true friend, even if it means I have to give up my own life, but you… you’re a coward. Everything you do is for your own benefit. You may say you didn’t want to become a Death Eater, but the fact is you did become one. You’d rather sell your soul and live than resist Voldemort and risk dying. You’re the pathetic one. Not me.”
Draco kicked at the ground with his foot, clearly agitated. His calm, collected exterior was cracking. As he approached Hermione, his eyes were burning with anger.
“You have no right to speak to me like that, you Mudblood. You think you’re clever don’t you, that you’ve figured me out? Well, think again. I became a Death Eater to rid the world of filth like you and Potter, not because I was afraid of death. You shouldn’t have believed all those stories I told you,” he explained, although not altogether convincingly. “Being afraid of death is a waste of time,” he added in an offhand manner.
“Really?” Hermione pursued, her voice clouded with exhaustion. “Then why don’t you kill me now? Get rid of me, Malfoy, isn’t that what you signed on for?”
“But the Dark Lord still needs you. I’m not a fool,” he replied.
“That’s what I thought. You’re afraid. If you kill me, he’ll kill you. It all comes down to saving your hide.”
Draco said nothing for a moment.
“Fine, I value my life,” he admitted, running a hand through his sleek hair. “Everyone does… or should. Seriously Granger, if you just told Him what you know, you wouldn’t have to continue suffering.”
“Why do you care so much?” she asked. “You call me filth, yet here you are, bugging me to betray Harry so that I won’t ‘have to continue suffering.’ What’s in it for you, huh?”
“Nothing,” Draco answered, picking a piece of lint off of his sleeve. “I just don’t want to have to carry another dead body out of here. It’s rather disgusting, you know.”
“Oh. Terribly sorry that my death is going to put you out. Poor little Pureblood Prince, doesn’t want to get his hands dirty.”
Draco’s eyes narrowed, and he opened his mouth to retort, but he couldn’t seem to find words, so he resorted to turning his back on Hermione. He began to walk away, but Hermione’s words stopped him:
“You coward,” she growled weakly.
Draco’s wand was out in less than a second. Hermione could’ve sworn that his eyes had turned a deep crimson. She hadn’t expected her words to affect him so severely. After all, they had always been rather cruel to each other, and Draco had never shown that she had struck a nerve. Why was this any different?
“Say that again. I dare you,” he urged, pointing his wand towards Hermione’s chest.
“You. Are. A. Coward.”
Draco bared his teeth, and his stare was murderous. The hand that held his wand was shaking, and Hermione felt certain he was about to curse her within an inch of her life.
But he didn’t.
After about thirty seconds, Draco seemed to relax. He inhaled sharply and let his arm fall to his side. His head fell back and he stared up at the ceiling, lips opening and closing in a chorus of unspoken words.
“What on earth are you doing?” Hermione asked, utterly confused.
“Would you just be quiet for once, Granger?” he asked, shooting her a glare. “I need to tell you something, and I swear on my life, if you interrupt me even once -” He paused for a moment, putting a hand up to his forehead in frustration.
“Spit it out,” Hermione snarled, still burning with anger. She had backed herself up against the wall so that she was sitting upright. Her head was throbbing, but she chose to ignore it for the time being.
“The truth is, I was lying to you,” he began, moving towards the far corner of the room and sitting upon an old, wooden chair. It moaned in protest. “My sole reason for getting to know you was in order to fulfill my task.”
“You already told me, you git,” Hermione stated, before adding, “What are you getting at?”
“Did I not tell you to keep your mouth shut?” he growled, but quickly continued on as though nothing had happened. “The Dark Lord told me to gain your trust ‘by any means necessary.’ Only when I had your trust would you willingly follow me here. I was hesitant to set off, considering how much I despised you.” He paused, shaking his head slowly and sighing. “I slowly began opening up to you, only to find that you were willing to accept my cries for help. Those two Death Eaters didn’t think I was going entirely fast enough, though, and continued to punish me for it. Turns out it actually helped me in the long run. But the thing is, something went wrong. Despite weeks of intricate planning, our little undertaking hadn’t gone entirely as we’d expected it to. Something happened that we couldn’t have suspected, that we never would have foreseen.”
“What do you mean?” Hermione asked, hope kindling deep within her.
Just then, a loud crack echoed through the room, and a figure in a dark cloak appeared. The figure was facing the opposite side of the room, and Hermione felt her stomach go numb with anxiety. Had Voldemort returned already? No, it couldn’t be him. She needed more time alone with Draco. She needed to hear what he was about to say. She absolutely needed him to say what she thought he was about to – that he had developed feelings for her, and that he had only brought her here to save them both.
Then again, how could she be so sure that he was about to confess his undying love for her? He could’ve been building up to tell her that Voldemort was on his way to kill her as they spoke. He might’ve just unveiled his whole plan to her, and then mentioned, because the plan had gone wrong in some way, that they were ending it now with her death.
But when the figure in the dark cloak turned around, Hermione’s heart sprouted wings and began to flutter around in her ribcage.
It was Harry!
“Hermione!” he exclaimed, running over to her and resting a hand against her face. “Are you alright? We thought you were dead!”
His relieved eyes examined Hermione, looking for any injuries. Hermione said nothing. She could not tear her eyes from Draco’s. The boy had not moved an inch upon Harry’s arrival. He was eyeing Harry with curiosity, but his expression was as cold as ever, and Hermione’s lips twisted into a frown.
“Hermione, what’s wrong? Why aren’t you talking to me?” he asked, grabbing hold of her filthy hands. Harry soon noticed that she wasn’t looking at him – that her attention was directed towards the corner of the room. He followed her eyes to the figure of Draco Malfoy, hunched over in a termite-eaten chair.
“You,” he hissed, standing up and pointing his wand towards Draco.
And that was when it began. It was the beginning of the end.
Author’s Note: -hums- There’s chapter thirteen. I had a rather fun time writing it. Anyway, the end of this fic is drawing near. I can’t believe it! I’ve been working on it for nearly two years now.
Any predictions? I wanna know what you think. (:
One more thing. This is for Girldetective85. I meant to write this in a reply to one of your reviews, but seem to have forgotten it. About the Death Eaters breaking into Sirius’ place, I’m afraid I’m not going to provide an explanation as to how they got in. I feel it’s better left a mystery. Both sides have spies, and I suppose I’m just going to leave it to that.
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