She sat on the bed in her muddy underwear as he walked in. She barely even glanced at her visitor: she had grown accustomed to people coming down to the dungeons to make fun of her or throw another curse at her. That didn't seem to be the case this time, however.
With the help of a tiny house-elf, the visitor brought a huge bucket full of water and a table loaded with different items in the cell. He nodded to the elf and she left the dungeons, closing the door to the cell behind her.
”What is this?” the prisoner asked her visitor. Her voice was hoarse for she hadn't used it much.
”I'm going to wash you,” he said simply. ”Can you stand?”
She looked at him, her empty eyes showing no emotion. ”I think so.”
She got up and made her way closer to him. The heavy chains in her hands and feet slowed her down. There was something about her that wasn't right.
He remembered the day she had arrived at Malfoy Manor.
Draco sat at his desk and stared at the blank paper in front of him. He wasn't the least bit interested in writing the damn letter, but it seemed there was no escape. Or so he thought.
Still struggling with the opening sentence, Draco glanced out of his window. The sight he encountered immediately grabbed his attention. There was a bunch of Death Eaters on the front yard of the Manor, but that alone wasn't particularly special. It wasn't that weird to see them form a circle and torture some poor creature, either. What made the situation so distinctive was the victim: a young, long-haired girl in her underwear.
Draco knew the Death Eaters loved to humiliate their captives, but this was something else. He had never seen them play with someone stripped-down. It also seemed they were giving the girl an extra hard time – she received the Cruciatus Curse again and again and again. There had to be something special about her, and he wanted to find out what it was.
Glad to have found an excuse to forget about his letter, he got up and left his room. He made his way through the empty corridors of the Manor and to the front door. Once out, he headed towards the group of Death Eaters.
As he drew closer, one of the hooded figures turned to look at him.
”Ah, there you are, son,” came the voice of Lucius Malfoy. ”Why don't you come say hello to our little guest.”
Draco took the last few steps and had now a straight view of the 'little guest'. She was down on her knees, breathing in quick gasps. She was shaking vigorously. Her long, curly brown hair covered her face.
”Well aren't you being impolite, miss?” Lucius mocked. ”Show your face!”
The girl did nothing to show that she'd heard the command.
”Alright then, let's do it the hard way... Imperio!”
She could no longer fight back. Her head was raised for her and as her hair fell from her face, Draco's jaw dropped.
Hermione Granger. The unbeatable, forever-strong Gryffindor Lioness, violated in the cruellest of ways. And even in the awful state she was in, she managed to give him a glare so intense he could've sworn she reached out for his soul and ripped it in two.
He had thought he'd become numb after witnessing so many people being mercilessly tortured, but obviously he had been wrong. It hurt really badly to see her in pain. All he could think about was that she shouldn't have been there.
”Aren't you going to say anything, Draco?” Lucius inquired.
”I, uh... I'm speechless,” Draco shook his head in disbelief.
A satisfied smile formed on his father's face. ”Yes, our guest is indeed very...special.”
Shaking off the memory, Draco realised what was different about her. She no longer held her head high – it seemed she had given up her hopes of getting out. She had only been at the Manor for a little over two weeks, and she looked miserable.
Draco rolled his sleeves up before taking a sponge, wetting it and gently starting to wash her left arm with it. She flinched a bit but didn't move away. He worked silently, washing both her arms, her neck, face, back and stomach. Not once did she say anything, or react at all for that matter.
When he was done washing her stomach, he wiped his forehead with the back of his free hand. His left hand. Up until then Hermione had been neutral and impassive, but she suddenly came back to life with a jolt. She grabbed Draco's hand and turned it so she could see his inner arm, disbelief written all over her face.
”You don't have the Dark Mark,” she spluttered.
Draco quickly looked around as if to see if there was someone listening to them. Apparently there wasn't, as he relaxed and then answered. ”I don't.”
”Because I haven't taken it,” he chuckled. ”My mother has been rather creative, making up excuses for me to not do it yet.” His face suddenly grew grim. ”But now I've turned 20 and there's not much she can do anymore. I guess it's only a matter of time.”
He crouched so he could start washing her legs, but she wasn't ready to let the subject drop.
”So you don't want to take it, then?”
Draco stayed silent for a while. ”I think it's best I don't answer that.”
They went back to not speaking. After a while Draco told Hermione to sit down on a small stool so he could wash her hair. He wasn't an expert on washing girls' hair, but he did his best and was done fairly soon.
”Why are you doing this?” Hermione asked as Draco was putting away the washing tools.
”Because you're having dinner with me. I thought this would make you feel a bit more comfortable.”
”So, uh... I brought you some clean underwear.” He seemed to hesitate, first glancing at her and then the set of plain white bra and panties on the table. ”Do you mind...?”
”Go ahead.” Her face was devoid of all emotion.
Draco grabbed a towel and carefully dried her. He then helped her change her underwear and even performed a small spell to get her hair dry. He'd also brought her one of his old t-shirts. It was big enough to look like a dress on her. Or maybe she was just really tiny, he couldn't tell – back at Hogwarts she had always been covered with big school robes. Either way, they were done with the washing part of the evening.
”Tinky,” Draco called.
The house-elf appeared outside the cell. Together they took the table and bucket out and brought in a new table, this time with dinner for two. The scents were incredible. A bowl full of chicken soup, a piece of bread, some vegetables and a big glass of milk were displayed on both sides of the table. Hermione hadn't seen that much food since the day she'd been abducted.
Draco gestured for her to sit down.
”You need to be careful with the food. Your stomach might not be able to take it,” he adviced her, sitting down too.
”And why do you care whether I throw up or not?” There was a hint of something new in her voice. Was it irritation? Draco felt a bit taken aback, because along with discovering he didn't have the Dark Mark, that was the biggest reaction that had come out of her. She almost seemed like the girl back in school, a clever response ready on her lips for every mean comment he sent her way.
”I don't,” he replied, shrugging. ”I just don't think you're getting much to eat after this. You might as well try and keep it in.”
”Why did they make you come here?” Hermione enquired.
”They didn't. I sort of volunteered.”
A look of disgust formed on her face. ”You volunteered? So you could rub in in my face, is that it?”
”What...?” Draco was genuinely astonished. ”No, you got it all wrong. They weren't going to give you food or anything, it was my idea.”
Hermione eyed him suspiciously. ”Why would you do that for me?”
He shrugged. ”Now that you're here, we might as well keep you alive.”
She still wasn't sure she believed him, but decided not to push it any further. Instead she turned to look at her food. Everything looked delicious...almost too delicious.
”It's not poisoned,” Draco said, as if sensing her thoughts. ”I'm having everything you're having.” To prove his point, he took a spoonful of his soup and swallowed it. ”See? I didn't drop dead. It's completely safe.”
”How do I know you didn't put anything in my food?”
”Gee, Granger. Why do you have to make everything so hard? Give me your bowl.”
He had a taste of her soup, too, and didn't pass out. She made him taste everything else nevertheless, just in case. Once he'd had a bit of every sort, she gave a pleased nod and tucked in. Draco shook his head, a slight smile on his face. The rest of the dinner was eaten in silence.
As he was leaving the cell after dinner, he stopped and turned around to address her. ”Look, Granger... You're not the only one who feels like a captive here. The least I can do is make you feel a bit better.”
She looked at him straight in the eye for a moment before lowering her head. He sighed and turned to leave, closing the door behind him. He was locking the door when he heard her quiet voice.
”Hey Malfoy... Thanks.”
She watched him go, feeling a bit puzzled. Maybe he wasn't that bad after all.
A/N: I'm finally publishing! I've been on the site for almost a year, which means it's taken me ages to actually get something out. But here it is now, and I'm proud of my baby. :)
The first chapter might seem a bit dark, but it'll lighten up soon enough. If you read it, please review and let me know what you think!