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On Crumbling Lives by cherry_pop94
Chapter 16 : Imprison
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 1


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WARNING: This chapter has depictions of graphic violence and mental illness. Proceed with caution!



Daphne opened her eyes and there she was in the home she grew up in. The familiar painting of yellow daffodils sat above the white fabric sofa. A Chinese vase sat on the table next to it with a coffee table covered in magazines and unopened mail in front of the sofa. The house was pristine, just the way Norella Greengrass always kept it. The shelves were dusted, displaying all the books she loved to read and there, right in the middle, was a framed photograph of the family’s latest Christmas. They all smiled brightly in the gaudy jumpers Astoria knit.

She was home. Daphne reached out and touched the white wall and there it was solid as ever. It was real. She continued through the home, the floorboards creaked right where they were supposed to under Daphne’s foot. The kitchen light at the back of the house was on and Daphne could smell the scent of roast. The light in the kitchen flickered though, as if it weren’t an electric light, but rather a candle. That was unusual for the Greengrass house, for Norella, despite her pureblood upbringing, preferred electric light to firelight.

As Daphne turned the corner into the kitchen, she saw two dark figures in the dim candlelight. They had their backs to her, but there was no mistaking who it was. One was lithe, with blonde hair wearing a purple floral dress. The other was larger, wearing a black waistcoat and pressed trousers.

“Mum, dad?” Daphne’s voice came out in a hoarse, cracked whisper. She reached her hand out slowly towards her mother’s thin shoulder, but before she could touch her again, Norella turned sharply towards Daphne. She stood up, taller than she should have been. Norella loomed over Daphne, her body longer and thinner than Daphne remembered – twisted into something grotesque. Bones protruded from her collar and arms, making her look more skeletal than human. The worst though was the dark, nothingness – just emptiness like the bottom of a cauldron, or worse, like the emptiness Daphne recognized when she looked in the mirror – that replaced Norella’s usually warm, blue eyes.

Daphne stumbled back from this creature impersonating her mother, but tripped over her own foot. She tried to scream, but her throat closed, trapping her inside herself. She felt like the terror was going to explode inside of her. She felt it all bubbling in her heart, making it beat louder, faster, until her own heartbeat seemed to take over her body. Daphne was just a heartbeat now. Lub-dub. Lub-dub.

“Dad?” Daphne managed to squeak. Linus Greengrass still didn’t move. He was frozen with his back towards her while monster-Norella reached closer and closer towards Daphne, her talon-like hands grasping for her throat.

Finally, Daphne was able to let out a scream, a desperate noise, crying really. Hot tears streamed down her face as she scrambled backwards away from the grotesque creature in front of her, but the further Daphne crawled, the closer the monster was. Where her mother’s neat, manicured hand should have been, this creature’s claw was, closer and closer to Daphne.

“Dad!” Daphne screamed again, desperate for her father to come save her the way he always had. He had always been there to save her, never from her mother though. Still, Daphne needed him, she was helpless as she always was.

“He can’t help you,” the monster hissed. Her tongue slithered out of her mouth like a snake’s, darting in and out.

“Who did this to you?” Daphne cried.

“Why you did, darling.”

The voice came from behind her and it was sharp, so, so, so sharp. Like the woman’s tongue was snapping against her lip. And Daphne recognized it all too well. It was the voice inside her head that urged her to become a monster herself.

A sweeping cloak whipped across the room, blowing out all the lights, plunging Daphne into darkness once again. But it wasn’t all dark, it wasn’t pitch black yet, Daphne could still see the monstrous creature that pretended to be her mother. But it wasn’t just the monster anymore, she could see the silver strings holding it up, controlling it.

Just a puppet, Daphne desperately reassured herself. She grasped all around her in the nothingness, searching for a light of her wand, or something. But somehow, she couldn’t even feel the floor anymore, but she wasn’t floating. Daphne certainly felt grounded, but the ground just wasn’t there. It wasn’t floating, it was just nothingness. And in that nothingness, was the puppet monster, still reaching for her with those bony marionette hands. Her eyes, just holes bored into her skull. They weren’t eyes, they were just windows into the nothing all around Daphne.

But the strings snapped. One by one by one. And the marionette, the demon puppet, collapsed little by little by little. And she wasn’t the devil anymore. Right before Daphne’s eyes, the monster became real, little by little by little. She was flesh and blood and skin and bone and so, so real.

“Mum!” Daphne screamed as the last string was cut, returning Norella’s bright blue eyes to where they belonged and she fell, down, down, down. But she never disappeared, she just kept falling, ever, so, so, so slowly. Daphne reached out desperately for her, but she was frozen, trapped as if a body-bind curse had been placed on her. All she could do was watch helplessly as her mother, her real, flesh and blood mother, fell further and further and further until she was no more than a dot.

THUD.

And it was Daphne falling now. She landed soon though, with no theatrics, no magic, just a good-old fashioned fall. The floor was suddenly real again, dark wood, and there was light. Not much, but it was there and it was warm on Daphne’s cheeks. Sunlight. She recognized it. The sunlight streamed in through an open window of the wood cabin. The cabin. Daphne knew this place too. It was no longer her prettily furnished home, but the empty, the cold, so cold, cabin.

As she got to her feet, she saw them there. Cold. Motionless. They were dead. Her mother laid there on the cold ground, her blue eyes open, staring up into nothing at all because they were empty, dead. Her father laid next to her, in front of the stairs. His last action in life was protecting her, buying her that last second she needed to escape. But now he was dead and she was alive and there was nothing she could do.

“You let them die, darling.”

Darling. Darling. My sweet, little darling. Her mother calls her that. Called, Daphne corrected herself. Called because Norella Greengrass would never call her daughter darling again, but this woman could. This woman who was no mother, but liked to call herself one. Mother, she was Daphne’s mother. You can ask me anything, Daphne. Her syrupy voice dripped with that artificial sweetness that made Daphne’s mouth go dry. I’m your mother here.

“You let them die, darling,” the voice tried to be sweet, tried to be kind, but it was raspy, croaking because the woman it belonged to could never be kind.

She stepped out of the shadows, all long black cloaks and dark, midnight black, hair. Her eyes, so empty, empty, empty, like Daphne’s own. “You let them die, darling,” she said again. Bellatrix walked towards Daphne slowly, her hand outstretched as if she were trying to help her. But behind her, she dragged a body. A small one – the body of a girl with bright blonde hair, yellow-gold, like Norella’s.

“Johanna,” Daphne breathed. Bellatrix tossed the body forward, as if she were nothing, as if she were just a little ragdoll.

“You gave her soul away. You let her die. And so many others, Daphne.”

Bellatrix came closer and closer, but still, Daphne scrambled backwards. But she couldn’t escape. How did she ever think she could escape? She thought herself invincible for a minute and now her parents are dead and now Marcus is dead, but Johanna, she was always dead. Not in body, but in soul. She was dead, dead, dead. They were all dead and Daphne wished she could be like them. Dead.

She tried to get away, Daphne tried as hard as she could, but she was stuck, not frozen, but stuck against something, something blocked her way. It was warm, soft, almost too familiar to touch. Daphne turned and screamed, a horrible cry escaping through her lips. A kind of howling noise that she didn’t know herself capable of.

In a pile, there they were. Every single person she’d ever killed. Those muggles, with their paper thin skin dragged over their brittle bones, an inch from death anyway. The ones Bellatrix lined up one after the other after the other and told her to kill. To die a little bit each time one of them dropped dead. Each time their skinny legs buckled and fell. Dispose of them, Bellatrix had told her. Wandless – punishment for hesitating for even a second.

They’re animals, she had said. Worthless.

And so they died one after the other after the other. They dropped dead and then they dropped into that endless hole in the ground. The gateway to hell, Daphne was sure. And they fell, one by one by one into the bottomless hole Daphne left them in to burn, to die another death all over again.

And there was the woman with the black hair and there was Marcus and there were her parents and there was Johanna. They laid still, unbreathing, dead in that pile, that huge pile of every fragment of Daphne’s broken soul. Marcus’s unmoving brown eyes stared back at Daphne with his last smile still etched on his face, but twisted somehow. Grotesque – because the cheerful, kind man that smile had belonged to was dead. Dead. Dead. Daphne screamed again and buried her face in her hands again, but even with her eyes shut, she could still see Marcus’s cold, dead eyes staring in her. Why did you let me die? They seemed to ask.

Dead. Dead. Dead. So many were dead and yet she was not. She wasn’t there yet. She didn’t get the luxury of death to relieve her from her suffering. Even now, Daphne knew this wasn’t death. It felt like a hell, like the last, the ninth circle. A personal hell just for her, to atone for her sins. Besides, there was nothing left of her soul anyway. The devil had taken it away from her.

“You let them die, darling,” the devil said again. But in this light, in the soft sunlight that was suddenly back, streaming through the open window, the devil was soft. Her normally sharp features became so soft, almost beautiful. The devil was a beautiful person.

“I’m sorry,” Daphne sobbed. She couldn’t look away though, not from the beautiful devil, not from the pile, growing, growing, growing still. “I’m so sorry! I’m sorry, I’m sorry… I’m so sorry…”

“Daphne,” it was a whisper first, but not the devil’s maliciously sweet call. Someone else.

“Daphne!” It was sharper, more panicked. But still, she didn’t respond. Daphne shut her eyes, maybe this time she’d die.

“Daphne!” the voice screamed out, still not the devil’s banshee cry. Someone else. A deeper voice.

“Daphne, can you hear me? Wake up! I know you can!”

~

Astoria did not struggle as the man with the prison tattoos and massive knife hanging off his belt grabbed her roughly from behind, his thick arm snaking around her waist and his large hand shoving her wrists together. She stood stiffly in his arms as his coarse hands rubbed against the bare skin below her the soft fabric of her jumper. She could feel his hot breathe on her neck, his foul smell nearly making her vomit.

“Your boyfriend’s not around to save you anymore, love,” the man snarled into Astoria’s ear. “Hand over the wand, poppet.”

Astoria dropped the wand into the man’s outstretched hand and bit her lip hard. He handed it over to another one of the snatchers and Astoria watched as he snapped her beloved birch wood wand in half. He left the broken pieces on the forest floor, one last bit of dragon heartstring still connecting them together.

“Let’s go!” the man holding Astoria shouted. “Leave the others, we’ll bring in the girl.”

Astoria shut her eyes tightly as the man disapparated, forcing her much closer to him than she would have ever liked. Her whole body was pressed up against his as his strong arm prevented her from moving even an inch. If the sensation of disapparation wasn’t making her nauseated enough, the man’s rough fingers still stroked the skin on her waist the whole way to the Ministry atrium.

This man, not skilled enough to have been called to Hogwarts for the battle, stumbled as he arrived, giving Astoria enough time to escape from his grasp. She jumped away, but tripped over her feet as her head kept on spinning from the disorienting trip. She fell to her hands and knees, already feeling the bruises forming on them, but before she could even take a single breath, the man pulled her up by the collar of her jumper, leaving Astoria to balance on her tip toes, her hands pulling back at her collar, to prevent herself from choking on it.

“Filthy fucking mudblood,” the man spat at her. “GET UP!”

He let her ago again, but pushed her roughly forward towards the lift. Astoria shuffled slowly in front of him, her eyes downcast, but still she could see the statue that dominated the atrium. She shuddered as she passed by the horrifying piece – the mangled, ugly bodies of muggles holding up a witch and wizard. ‘Magic is Might’ it read. Yet Astoria had no might left in her.

They stepped out of the lift onto level one of the Ministry – just Astoria and the man holding onto her, his three accomplices had been left in the atrium. Astoria head the security wizard mumble something of clearance levels. So Astoria spent her lift ride alone with just their leader. Though it was only a short ride, it had felt like a lifetime to her. She could feel his beady eyes trained on her body, his rough hands pushing her and shoving her around as he undressed her with his eyes.

She was almost relieved as she stepped out of the lift to see a woman in green robes staring at her from above purple glasses. The man pushed her towards this woman’s desk and gave her his wand. She scanned it on some strange device and handed it back to him. Talia Bode, her name tag read.

“What’s your name?” Talia snapped at Astoria.

The harsh voice made Astoria jump a little as she looked up at the woman. She was quite young, her mid-twenties perhaps, but with angry lines all over her face as she eyed Astoria suspiciously.

“Well?” she said impatiently.

“Speak up!” the snatcher yelled at her. He smacked her hard across her bottom. Astoria yelped out in pain as she felt tears well up in her eyes.

“A-Astoria,” she spluttered out quickly, dropping her gaze back to her feet. She felt small in the Ministry. The huge, high ceilings loomed over her, witches and wizards in carefully pressed robes, all well fed and warm at night, walked past her, staring at her with curiosity. She was a criminal in their eyes after all and she surely looked the part with her skin, hair, and clothes stained with blood and dirt.

“Surname?” Talia drawled.

“Greengrass,” she mumbled.

Talia raised her eyebrow and her mouth dropped open. She froze for a second before she composed herself again. “Astoria Greengrass?” she repeated in an astonished voice. “She’s pureblood,” Talia told the snatcher. “Pure as they come in fact. Family’s on the Sacred Twenty-Eight and all.”

“So what?” he growled at her. “She’s bleeding royalty that decided to go camping?”

“Not at all,” Talia pursed her lips. “If she is indeed who she says she is, then you just got yourself a very hefty bounty.”

~

Daphne laid completely still on a conjured cot in the corner of a classroom in the dungeons. Above her, the battle raged on, but in that dungeon, it was almost peaceful. Her breathing was shallow, but her heart still pumped blood through her veins, though a good portion of it was spilled out from the cuts that covered her whole body. There were thin, shakily conjured bandages covering some of the larger cuts on her, but Draco Malfoy could do no more. He couldn’t touch the leg that he suspected was broken in several spots, nor could he do anything about the painful looking bruises on her ribs. All he could do was watch over her.

Minutes ticked by, but still Daphne didn’t stir except for her even breathing. He had long given up on trying to wake her, instead Draco hoped that meant her sleeping meant she wasn’t in any pain. He hoped that she was just peacefully sleeping and maybe, just maybe, when she woke up, the whole thing would be just a bad dream. Still, in the back of his mind, Draco remembered that sometimes, people never woke up from these sleeps. A coma – he recalled. She might never wake up, forever doomed to lie there only half-way alive.

Draco kicked himself for thinking such a terrible thing. If he knew one thing about Daphne Greengrass it was that she was resilient. Daphne above all, Draco thought, was a survivor. He’d heard of the things she’d gone through that year – the torture, the training that he still had nightmares about himself, the tasks she’d been made to do, her parents’ deaths, and now this. Draco had watched as Bellatrix tortured her in that ring of fire. He’d heard her screams above all the others. She duelled back with an unparalleled ferocity after her companion was killed. Like the last few minutes with Bellatrix hadn’t even happened. Draco admired that about her – that she could still feel something despite it all.

But he supposed that maybe, just maybe, he could still feel something too. For months now, Draco Malfoy had himself resigned to a life of feeling just numb. He did things without thinking, without caring. Still, in the back of his mind, something told him that perhaps he did care, that he could care. He hadn’t identified Harry in the Manor, though they all saw through that, and now here he was, hiding from the battle his Lord had called him to with the girl that he wanted dead. His own aunt had tasked Draco with finding Daphne, but he had cursed Bellatrix to save Daphne instead.

He just saw her, lying there, lifeless. Daphne was his friend. Not his best friend, not even a close friend, but someone he’d spent his childhood with laughing and smiling. They’d studied together in the library, she’d always listened as he ranted on about how annoying everything was. She knew him. And Bellatrix had hurt him. Bellatrix had hurt them both. Daphne had never hurt him before.

Just then, Daphne’s hand, stirred just the slightest bit and her eyelids began to flutter open. Draco rushed to her side and sat next to her, a conjured goblet in his hand filled to the brim with ice cold water. He wondered briefly if she’d prefer warm water. But before he could raise his wand again, Daphne let out an ear shattering screech.

~

Astoria curled up into a ball in the corner, or at least what she thought was the corner, of a pitch black cell in the deepest depths of the Ministry of Magic. The only reason she was certain that she was still in London and not out at Azkaban was that she was sure that she hadn’t felt them apparate with her again. Though now she wasn’t too sure. The cell was drafty and cold, not a single ray of light entered through the steel door. In her one hour there, Astoria could tell that it was a small cell made of some kind of stone. The floor and the walls were all the same cold material. Other than a small, straw mattress in the corner, the cell was empty.

She shut her eyes as she curled up on the mattress, though whether her eyes were open or closed, Astoria saw no difference. But still, when she closed her eyes, she could almost pretend. She could almost imagine that she were back at home in her very own warm bed with her mother and father downstairs, and her sister in the room across the hall. Outside her cell, Astoria could hear the muffled voices of men talking. She couldn’t make out what they were saying, but she listened anyway, their deep, gruff voices almost lulling her to sleep. But then, when she tried to shut her mind off to finally rest, she just saw it all over again. All that blood, red, brighter than anything else she’d ever seen.

The images haunted her, eyes open or closed, the blackness invited the terror in either way. She couldn’t breathe in her little cage, dust filling her lungs with every breath she took and fear blocking her throat. She wanted to cry, to let the cathartic tears flow from her eyes, wash away the terror she felt, but they would not come. Astoria felt dry – like there were no tears left in the whole world.

As she lay in her cold, dark cage, she could hear the muffled voices outside disappearing further and further away, until they finally disappeared. She wondered where her guards were going, but then she felt it. The unmistakable chill of dementors. Astoria shivered as the coldness washed over her and pushed her knees closer into her chest. She could feel the last slivers of hope fading away, the cell became even darker, if that were even possible.

She shut her eyes and rocked back and forth on the straw mattress, but the darkness was once again replaced by red. Red blood stained everything Astoria saw, shrieks ran out in her head. Daphne, mum, dad, Sam, Johanna. They all screamed for her. 



Author's Note: See, I told you the wait for the next chapter wouldn't be that long! I wrote most of this chapter AGES ago, so that's why. What did you think of this chapter? I struggled a bit with it and tried not to make anything TOO horrible, but I still think this is the most violent thing I've ever written. Anyway, we're very close to the end of this story now...


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