Chapter 5 : V
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It had been an hour since Malfoy had left my cell, and I was once again curled into a ball in the corner. If I didn’t get food or water soon, I would likely die.
Knives of pain stabbed around in my stomach, reminding me every second how I’d no longer take sustenance for granted. If there was a no longer, that is. Before I’d gone into the desert, there must have been an abundance of food and water for me — I couldn’t deny the fact that I had been incredibly fit only days ago. Now, where my stomach had once been firm it was soft and sucked close to my spine, the only definition being the outlines of my ribcage, which jutted out. It was disgusting. My arms had been slim, even in the desert, but they had also been wrapped in cords of muscle. Compared to then, I was a skeleton.
At that point, my cell door opened again. I glanced up, hardly able to see the silhouette there. The world was spinning.
“Jocelyn?” asked the man. His voice was lighter, more honest… Zabini.
The door closed behind him with an audible click, and I groaned, rolling onto my back. I had little interest in fraternizing with my enemy’s smitten counterpart.
His footsteps neared, and he cleared his throat. The cell was lit again, and I studied the dingy wall with halfhearted resentment.
“I have food,” he announced quietly. I turned. Yes, it was true; he stood before me with a modest white plate, and I couldn’t see over its edge, but the aroma hit me like a slap in the face. Meat. Chicken? Yes. Burnt.
“Please,” I croaked, rising to my hands and knees. I started to stand, but my knees shook so powerfully that I deigned to sit against the wall. My stomach growled with impatience.
He stepped to my side, and presented me with the plate. I grabbed it eagerly, hardly able to control my hands as they snatched a (yes, burnt) chicken leg off its surface and tucked in. I barely chewed, swallowing most of the meat whole. A slight helping of potatoes was to the side, and without hesitation I scooped some onto my finger and sucked it off. It wasn’t buttered or seasoned but the flavour of overcooked potato was welcome to my mouth in a way I’d never known, so I greedily scraped the rest up. I was finished with my meal in a matter of seconds.
The pain in my belly didn’t ebb away, however. Instead it seemed to flare, and bile rose in the back of my throat, stomach heaving. I retched my first meal in days faster than it had taken me to clean the plate.
“Easy, easy,” Zabini said, taking the dish from my hands. I wiped my mouth, my hand shaking, as he frowned and flicked his wand. The plate was now gone, replaced with a nondescript goblet, which I accepted without hesitation; my mouth was sour with the foul aftertaste of throw-up. “Drink slowly, or you’ll vomit again.”
This time I did as told, and paced myself through the clear, cool water presented. I sipped a few times and had to visibly fight the urge to continue; I did not handle vomit well. To be honest, it made me wince to think about it. The little time I’d had to acquaint with myself had revealed few fears, yet apparently regurgitation was one of them.
He flicked his wand again, and the mess disappeared. My shirt was still moist where some had splattered, but the smell was gone and replaced with something clean and lemony.
I looked up at Zabini for the first time, and studied him. Black cloak, brown leather boots, cherry-colored wand and dark hair. He had stubble too, though the unkempt look didn’t do badly for him. His eyes were dark brown in the silvery light.
“Thanks,” I offered, though it was short.
We sat in relative silence for a while, me sipping occasionally and him shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot, glancing about. After a while he conjured a second plate of food, this one smaller and with only potatoes, though I didn’t complain — this dish was taken slower, and I managed to keep it down. All the while, he watched. Studied. I held out the plate once I was finished, and he took it with no words to me. It made me wonder about what Malfoy had said.
He started before I got to.
“So your name is Jocelyn Eames,” Zabini blurted, surprising me by kneeling into a sit by my outstretched feet. Apparently the grime didn’t bother him. “Tell me: does that sound familiar to you?”
It did. Well, now it did. I tried to imagine answering to Hermione and couldn’t — it was too strange. Then again, if someone were to shout “Jocelyn!” into a crowd of people, I doubted my first instinct would be to turn to them.
“Somewhat,” I answered, and took another sip of my water. It tasted so good.
We stared at each other for a minute, unsure of whose turn it would be now. Had he expected me to elaborate? Possibly. Would I?
He cleared his throat. “Eh… listen, Jocelyn, I’m trying to fix you. I’m not really doing this for the Followers, either… a case like yours hasn’t come around in a while. If you try to help me, I can help you.”
I felt myself bristling instinctively, irritated at the reminder of who he worked with.
“And at what cost will my memory be revived?” I asked. “How many days or weeks will I be locked up and crucioed until you lot get what you need from me?”
At this he visibly flinched. “No, that’s not how it’s going to be. I don’t even want to be here, I’m not going to keep you here too — but until I have a safe place to go, neither of us can just walk away.” He swallowed, combing his hair back from his face with a deep exhale. “And no one’s going to be torturing you in here. You’re perfectly safe.”
“Not according to Malfoy,” I said quietly, ignoring his sentiments.
Zabini stopped mid-comb, eyebrows furrowing in question. “What do you mean, ‘according to Malfoy?’”
A lackluster chuckle escaped my throat. “Yeah, Zabini, I’m perfectly safe. Now tell me who was on guard duty that let Malfoy waltz in here?”
It wasn’t hard to tell, the way his face changed from weary to confused to shocked. His mouth opened, then closed, searching for the words to match his thoughts, but apparently found none. He turned to look at the door, and turned back to me.
“Malfoy was in here.” It wasn’t a question he posed. I nodded. “Then I suppose neither of us are as safe as I’d originally thought.”
The door banged open, revealing not one or two but three of the people I now decidedly feared. In the front of the trio stood Draco Malfoy, who must’ve washed and combed since our last meeting; he stood tall, smug and quite pleased-looking. Behind him was the Death Eater called Nott, who walked in behind Malfoy with no expression on his face, instead staring at me blankly the entire way. Lastly was a man I knew more by voice than by face: Antonin Dolohov, Nott’s previous partner. With his hood down I could see more clearly his narrow, sharp features and dark eyes. All three were clad in familiar dark cloaks, brandishing lit wands. A pair of leather gloves hung from Nott’s pocket.
Shit, shit, shit, I thought, my heartbeat suddenly racing. Zabini spun, now kneeling in front of me, though I noticed he made no move to entirely block me from view. He seemed content to focus on Malfoy, and leave the other two at his peripheral.
“Malfoy,” He greeted, not unkindly. “Nott, Dolohov,” he added with small nods. Neither returned the gesture.
“What an interesting conversation to overhear, Blaise,” Malfoy drawled. I cringed. “I half expected you to propose — eloping always seemed to fit your style.”
Dolohov’s mouth curled up in a cold smile. “How sad it is that we should interrupt, then,” he said, his voice just as chilling as before. “I must say, when Draco approached me with a promise of some interesting news, I thought I’d be disappointed. Now I’m glad I decided to play along.”
Malfoy’s smirk fell a little, but his eyes landed on me and it returned. I glared at him, clutching my goblet fiercely.
“You three realise you may be compromising our situation,” Zabini told them, ignoring their taunts. “You have no reason to be here.”
“Oh, we do,” Nott said suddenly, his voice deep and restrained. He was watching me, mouth closed into a tight line. He flicked his wand my way, and I flinched. “The girl has caused us enough troubles. The punishment is mine to deliver.”
Merlin, what is he going to do? My mind raced, the gloves in his pocket now an alarming symbol. It took an immense amount of effort to hold my glare, and I aimed it at Nott now — he smiled.
“No.” Zabini stood, holding his wand out at the others. “I can’t let you do that. Do you want her memory or not?”
Draco laughed from the corner, and we all turned to him. “We have no intentions of disturbing her memory, Blaise. I can assure you of that.”
“It’s unnecessary!” Zabini snapped.
“Why don’t you tell Miss Eames what it means to be full-access, Zabini,” Dolohov said, voice calm and cool. He was now staring at me too. “Draco tells me she’s curious. Aren’t you, little girl?”
The atmosphere of our small cell changed drastically; Zabini straightened. Everything felt heavier.
“She’s restricted,” he growled.
“Not anymore.” This came from Nott. His smile had grown.
“Zabini, tell me what it means.” I demanded, tired of sitting silently. Everyone’s attention was soon on me. After a few seconds, Zabini turned.
I’d yet to see this expression on my Healer… pure, unrestrained frustration. My heart seemed to swell slightly; yes, it disgusted me to know that a Death Eater was “smitten” with me, if that was even true, but so far he’d been my only ally. Smitten or not, he was only trying to help, and had now jeopardised his own position.
“It doesn’t matter,” he said quietly. “It really doesn’t —”
“Yes it does.” My words were final. He breathed out slowly.
The hairs on the back of my neck stood up, sending a shiver down my spine.
“Prisoners among the Followers have access statuses,” he told me, looking down. “To be restricted means a prisoner is in the care of one Follower. Usually the one who apprehended said prisoner, or in my case, the one who is responsible for mending them. That Follower gets to do with said prisoner has he or she wishes.”
It didn't sound like an appealing situation. “And I’m supposed to be restricted?” I asked.
He nodded, eyes darting away again. “Yes. By me.”
“But Zabini wasn’t your captor, you see,” Dolohov interrupted. I glanced up at him. “Yaxley was. Yaxley prefers field work — a lot of them do, these days — and he left you in my charge.”
My hopes were gradually sinking, anger fighting with surrender in my head. I squeezed the goblet in my hands, refusing to let go of my resentment.
“So why is Nott here?” I seethed.
Malfoy answered this time: “Because Dolohov recently announced a status change, Eames. You’re full-access. Would you explain, Blaise?”
“No,” Zabini answered, stepping back toward me and raising his wand at the others. They mirrored his stance, ready to fight. “You don’t even care about her gods-damned memory, do you? None of you do!”
“Put down your wand, Zabini,” Dolohov ordered, no longer playing games. “We don’t want to hurt you.”
“Well too bad,” Zabini shot back, and I took my chance to stand, using the wall for balance. My knees shook, and I clung to it uneasily. “You won’t have a Healer without me, and you need one. I’ve been here long enough. I’m taking her with me.”
“Blaise,” Draco said warningly. He seemed especially jittery, as though he hadn’t expected this. Maybe his jokes hadn’t been so truthful after all.
“You’re only making this harder,” Nott added.
“Zabini, don’t do this,” I whispered, but he heard me. Searching for the right words, I cringed as they came out: “I need you to stick around, okay?”
“You don’t know what they’ll do,” he argued franticly. I could see him shaking. “They’re sick, Jocelyn, and you’re not ready for it. You won’t ever be.”
“Hey,” I said, quiet. I reached out, trembling, and touched his shoulder. His stance eased somewhat, and he looked back at me. “I know. But you need to be there to fix me up.”
It surprised me, how easy it had been to convince him. I’d been expecting to argue for minutes, ending in a struggle, but all in all it seemed like he’d wanted a way out of that situation without needing to try too hard, and I gave it to him. He’d been sweating — it rolled off his forehead in beads, staining the collar of his button-up. I hadn’t noticed before, all of the handsome qualities of my Healer, from his straight narrow nose to his natural frown to the golden-brown color in his eyes, which went so nicely with his tan skin. But he still needed a haircut anyway, and I wasn’t about to distract myself when I’d soon need all my wit and concentration. I just hoped he’d made his decision because it made sense, not because it was less painful.
“Fine,” he declared, lowering his wand fully and dipping his head toward the others. “I’m going to my quarters. Send an elf when you’re finished.”
He left too soon, his resentful finale the only trace that he’d been there at all. It filled my head, sending a content tremor through my fingers and toes, but it came with a grave reminder that he’d been only too easy to convince.
He’s just another Death Eater, I reminded myself. Just another lousy Death Eater.
The door shut with a slam this time, and I wasn’t sure if it had been Zabini’s doing or the work of Dolohov, who had flicked his wand noncommittally. Nott stepped forward, smile growing.
I should start calling him Blaise, I thought, shrinking into the corner. Nott’s meaty hands closed around my shoulders, slick with sweat. Zabini never did sound right…
The other two left. They didn’t care to watch.
“Stop!” I screamed, my shrill voice unrecognizable. I hit the floor again, fireworks of pain erupting in my elbow and hip; this time I’d managed to cover my head. “Stop, please!”
Apparently Nott had preferences other than Unforgiveables; he’d begun probably half an hour ago, and had taken to tossing me about in our confined space. The stone walls and floor had become my enemy.
He laughed, deeply and heartily, stepping an inch from my nose. I flinched, and he knelt down. “No, no, no… tell me again, girly, what’s your name?”
My breaths were quicker. He’d asked me several times by now. “Jocelyn Eames. Jocelyn Eames.”
The floor flew from my grasp, his hands around my waist and hurling me over his shoulder.
“Are you sure, now? You’re sure you aren’t Hermione Granger, are you?”
“Yes!” I cried, frantic. In the beginning I’d held onto this hope that he would crucio me a few times, I would pass out, and he would be done. But no… he’d spent long minutes just staring at me after the first throw, which had smashed my forehead into a wall and caused me to collapse from sheer surprise. He was taking his time. That was what scared me.
That, and he hadn’t put on the gloves yet.
“You are, now?” He called, laughing again. My head was spinning.
“Yes!” I screamed, and he flung me at the floor again. I did a wild half-somersault and took the impact on the back of my shoulders, the bottoms of my feet slapping the wall. There hadn’t been enough room to flip over fully; my back popped painfully.
I slumped over, laying my head back onto the cool ground. I wanted to die.
Just like in the desert, is that it? You’re giving up? Come on, Jocelyn. Keep your guard up.
A groan escaped my throat. This was a far cry from the desert. In the desert, my enemy had been either the heat or myself, but either way it wasn’t a Death Eater with some deranged revenge plot to save his pride. No… the heat I could handle.
“Alright, girly, we’re going to do something different now,” he said, and I couldn’t decide between relief and dread.
I looked up to him, the cell swirling in my vision and upside-down. He was pulling on those gloves, sliding one hand in and letting go of the wristband with a snap… sliding the other in, and snapping again. All the while, his eyes were on me, that stupid grin on his face, the sweat glistening on his forehead. His thinning brown hair stuck to his scalp in a way that would have disgusted me, were I not facing impending doom.
His foot landed right in front of my eyes before I’d even noticed he was stepping nearer, and I flinched away. Big, gloved hands slid under my shoulders and lifted me by the armpits – my vision went blank as he stood me up.
“Please… stop…” I pleaded. My eyes burned with tears, though I didn’t know I’d been crying. Whoever Jocelyn Eames had been before her memory was erased, she was strong, but she couldn’t take this. I was afraid for my life, I was afraid for the pain, but I was also ashamed that I’d been reduced to this puny ragdoll. Crying wasn’t a gesture of weakness. It was a sign of acknowledgment that I was over my limit.
He laughed. A cold metal cuff was slipped onto each of my wrists, conjured from nowhere, and he let go. With my support gone, I fell again, and the manacles bit into my skin as they held me up, toes barely brushing the floor… I groaned, straining to stand tall enough to ease the pressure in my wrists. Everything hurt. If I couldn’t lift myself, my hands would surely pop off.
His laugh continued. I’d grown to despise the gutteral, heavy sound.
Merlin… I prayed, squeezing my eyes shut. Merlin, save me…
A hot breeze brushed against my face.
A hot breeze… smelling of firewhiskey.
His breath on my face...
My eyes flew open, and he was there, he was so big that he blocked out everything else, and his face was so close to mine. Nott wasn’t angry, not anymore. He hadn’t been for a while. He’d been playing.
“Wotcher, dearie,” he whispered, but his voice was too deep to be soft. His eyes were a plain hazel color, and their stare was filled with superiority. A gloved hand had been placed on either side of me, the cool leather pressing into my arms as I continued to struggle.
He kissed me.
It was passionate, but there was no romance in the way that his lips forced themselves onto mine; his passion was in the fight, his lust in power, not skin. He was teasing me, and I could feel it in the way his teeth bit at my lower lip, sinking in with a spark of pain. His lips were dry and chapped.
I turned my head away, flattening against the wall to resist, but his hand was already gripping my chin and wrenching my face back to his. No kiss followed. He only stared.
“Tell me, love,” he said, and I was surprised at the gentleness in his voice. I could feel how wide my eyes were — I probably looked twice as scared as I felt, though my heart was pounding. “Where do you tickle?” The hand that wasn’t on my face crept down, into his pocket… “Shall I start with the toes?”
He pulled out a knife, the blade long and sparkling in its serration, and raised its tip to my cheek. I screamed.
There was a crash, and a bang. A clatter, as the knife was dropped, and Nott spun. He was shouting in surprise, and I couldn’t see, but the door was open again and Blaise was there, and I couldn’t see him but he was screaming Avada Kedavra and Nott was disappearing from view. My hands were numb from the cuffs, and my heart was exploding in my chest as it raced along, and Blaise was standing in the doorway just as I’d pictured him, wand out, cloak swishing, breaths heaving, and looking at me like he was terrified. Terrified for me. His eyes danced between the mountainous body of Nott and my own scrawny one, disbelieving of what had just happened. I barely believed it myself.
He came back for you, my mind prodded. A relieved smile twitched at the corners of my mouth.
“Joc — Jocelyn, we need to go,” he stuttered, shaking his head and striding over to me. Stepping around Nott, he wrapped an arm over my stomach and flicked away my cuffs with his wand, managing to catch me somewhat gracefully. I clutched at his shoulders, slumping over into him. “We — we got a portkey. Hurry.”
I wasn’t sure how he expected me to hurry; after a moment’s hesitation, he looped his left arm behind my back and half-dragged, half-carried me out the door, my feet still wobbling and unsure of how gravity worked anymore. In his right hand was his wand, wielded high and prepared to fight again. My mind had stopped working long ago, and I didn’t even care to look around at the corridor as we shuffled along.
There was no interruption. No party of Death Eaters blocked our escape this time, and there was no last-minute hitch to our getaway. Somehow we were in Blaise’s room, and I was lying on a soft bed (just like home) and soon I could feel something cool and thin in my palm — a spoon? — and then there was that familiar yank… and we were gone.
Before I passed out, I was dreaming. I saw Blaise, and he was smiling… we were in a bright place, a clean place. His grin was blurry to me, but purely of relief, and there were voices… they were surprised… someone shrieked, something shattered… voices saying my name, and Blaise was saying over and over she’s okay, she’s okay.
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