Content Note: There is content throughout this fic that could be triggering, including incidents of very graphic violence and torture, and graphic sexual assault, and rape. It isn't a dead dove, but it is a hard read at certain points. Please be warned.

Essentially the premise of this fic is about the trope of Draco being a (not-necessarily loyal) Death Eater who for some reason has to sexually assault/rape Hermione in order to protect her shortly after they first meet in the story. I love pushing the boundaries myself, but all too often I find this trope extremely squicky. I'm capable of forgiving a lot of the characters thanks to extreme circumstances, and I often enjoy those extremes. There are some things, however, that cross the point of no redemption for me.

I can't enjoy it when Draco is doing it unnecessarily because he secretly 'loves' her; when he could reduce the trauma by telling Hermione he's on her side without it being too much extra risk but doesn't; when he 'makes' her enjoy the assault physically and/or mentally; and when their romantic relationship starts partially thanks to the rape because she likes it/grows to like it/develops Stockholm Syndrome. What can I say; I'm picky.

But, is it possible to write a fic that involves a sexual assault/rape shortly after they first meet in order to protect her, that doesn't ruin a possible relationship that follows between them, as per my standards? I'm sure it is, and I'm sure they've already been written, but this is my perspective on it.

See edit notes at bottom.


"Crumple-horned Snorkack."

The code words are whispered hot in Hermione's ear, and her eyes fly as wide as they can with the bruises and the swelling that disfigure her face, thanks to her enthusiastic welcome to the dungeons. Her heart stutters in her chest and she forces herself not to turn around and meet the eyes of the man who had known the code. She doesn't want to draw attention, just in case they are being watched. He must be an informant – a snitch, or someone sympathetic to the Order's goals, but not a member, not a double agent, just a 'possible source of information', as Remus put it. Because that is who the code is meant to identify – someone who maybe she can trust, someone who might be able to help her, somehow.

Hermione swallows hard, throat raw and dry as she stares across the dark, torch-lit cell at the brutalised, skeletal prisoners who are seemingly catatonic, their clothing rags and their flesh sore-ridden. The cells are crowded, but only women occupy this section of the dungeons. Adrenaline sets a fire in her veins and her bruised fingertips flex, scraping on the dank dungeon stones, sharp pains running up her bones and flesh on the fingers that have bloodied wounds where her nails once sat. She had thought she was as good as dead when they took her, at least a day ago now. Stripped her of her wand and beat her, until blackness had reached up through the pain and swallowed her whole. She had woken here to the sounds of screams echoing from elsewhere in the dungeons.

And now – now she has the barest spark of hope.

"You don't exist." She murmurs the counter sign, words barely intelligible through her split, swollen lips. Something touches her hair then – fingers reaching through the bars, curling hard in the wild, dirty strands and exerting enough pressure to hold her there, sitting on the damp, moss-slick stones with her upper body slumped to the bars. She stays very still and does not fight – it must be to fool someone walking past nearby, she tells herself, that dangerous grip on her hair. And even if it is not, what exactly can she do about it? She is helpless, utterly and completely, and the man whose fingers twine in her hair is currently her only hope of getting a message out to the Order.

Unless the enemy have tortured the codes out of another captured Order member, and this is all just a trick. She feels ill, fear threading through her as the pull on her scalp increases, creating sharp little stabbing tugs of pain. She whimpers, and squirms on the floor involuntarily. The man speaks at her ear again, muffled, his breath falling over her ear and jaw in hot puffs.

"There's a Snatcher watching us. I – I'm sorry, about this," he says, fast and blurred, voice low, and his tone is angry and ashamed in a way that makes Hermione even more afraid than she already is. "So sorry."

She barely has time to process what he has actually said, before a scream breaks her lips. Her hands shove uselessly at the dungeon floor and try to push her up as the man's hand wrenches upwards on her hair, tearing it out at the roots and making tears flood her eyes. Her bare feet can't get purchase on the mossy stones and she scrabbles helplessly, initial screams falling to wretched animalistic moans and cries, her hands flailing and shoving at the ground, back arching and her scalp is on fire.

A hand cages her breast then as she arches and twists, and shock slams through her – revulsion, horror. Those feelings are quickly chased down by hot agony as the hand squeezes through her shirt, until it feels like her whole breast is a mass of molten metal on her chest. Hermione forgets that this man is apparently here to help her, because he is hurting her and it hurts and it hurts, and she screams and thrashes and weeps and begs in a horrible choking slew of pleading. She struggles and tries to escape the pain, but his hand on her breast and in her hair hold her still, and she is weak – beaten and dehydrated and half-starved. And he is not. He is strong and he is hurting her.

His mouth is at her ear.

"I'msorryI'msorryI'msorry," he says, like some sick game, over and over in a desperate mutter, and Hermione is only half-aware of what he says. Lost in the pain and the terror and the humiliation as she is most of it sounds like a mockery, and just makes her sob and shake harder. "Just – just a little longer. You're doing so good. Just a little longer. I'm sorry, I'm so sorry. Shit, shit, shit he isn't leaving."

The grip on Hermione's hair eases ever so slightly; the pressure on her breast lets up – his hand searching out over other parts of her body within his reach instead. "Be still," he snarls shakily in her ear, and then: "Hey, hey you! Fuck off, would you, you pathetic tosser! This isn't a free fucking show!"

Hermione knows then. She recognises that voice, that tone, and numbness settles over her like a blanket of snow as the shock of it hits, and hits hard. She stares at the ceiling as his hand shifts in her hair – still yanking her head back awkwardly and sending needles of pain stabbing into her skull. Malfoy, she mouths silently to herself, excruciatingly aware of his hand fumbling roughly over the curve of her waist, across her stomach, reaching around to grab over the other breast. Malfoy.

"Yeah, fuck off, good fucking job," he yells shirtily at the Snatcher he'd said was there, his hand still moving over Hermione's body, his mouth back at her ear. She flinches when he speaks close enough that his face must be pressed to the bars, much as her head is yanked painfully back against them. "I'm sorry. So fucking sorry. He's going – he's nearly…" Malfoy's hand squeezes her left breast now and she whimpers in fear and disgust, and he apologises again, in stumbling, faltering whispers as he tugs and grabs just enough to cause pain that makes her sob a gasp or let out a moan. Very realistic, she thinks muzzily, and it has to be doesn't it, to fool the Snatcher. A sob rattles out of her.

And then his hands pull away from Hermione as though she has burnt him. The Snatcher is gone, she thinks, hazy and weak with burgeoning relief.

"Granger?" His voice is urgent, but she just sits there and breathes for a moment, feeling violated and still radiating pain, her eyes staring blindly at the cell wall opposite her, her brain frozen in what she thinks dully might be shock. She lifts her hands shakily to cradle her breasts which ache and hurt so much, and pulls her knees up towards her chest, hunching forward a little and letting out a whimpering sob. "Granger? I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I – I didn't – I shouldn't – I just reacted…it seemed like the best way to… Fuck. Shit. Granger, are you…are you…?"

She nods just a little, her wounded fingers rubbing gentle little circles over her breasts.

"I'm fine." It is the barest whisper and it is a lie, because she is not fine, she is not. But not because of what he just did – although, yeah, that fits in there somewhere. Her heart is going rabbit quick and her breath comes in shaky sobs – there is snot at her nose, and her cheeks are sticky-wet, and thin drifts of her hair are scattered around her, ripped out of her scalp by him. Malfoy. She had never – had never heard that he was an informant, or sympathetic to their side, but then they kept the names of such people to as few Order members as possible. Less chance of the information getting tortured out of people – you couldn't tell what you didn't know.

She turns her head slowly, painfully, shifting her bum on the mossy damp of the stones, and staring at Malfoy in the weird half-light. He is on his knees on the stones, his hands wrapped loosely around the bars, and his eyes round and scared, locked to hers. She wonders if this is all a trick, to try to get her to divulge useful information while she believes Malfoy is on her side, and decides it doesn't matter. Whether she believes Malfoy is truly a sympathiser or not – and at this point she very much wants to, because if not then she thinks she might want to die now before… She shudders and refocuses – regardless of what she thinks about whether Malfoy is genuine or not, she still won't tell him anything that could be used against the Order.

"I'm sorry," he says, ashen and horrified, low enough that no one else in the cells could hear, were they aware enough to listen – and from the moans and the crying, some of them were still. "I – I had to hurt you or it would look suspicious. That's the only reason anyone ever comes down here."

"I can tell," Hermione gets out, with a meaningful glance at the women who lie clad in rags and wounds, nothing human left to them at all – just bodies, covered in filth and slowly dying. She isn't accusatory – she can see on his face that he is not accustomed to hurting people in the manner he just hurt her, although she knows he has fought in battles before. She is filled to overflowing with terror that she will become one of the creatures in her cell, despite Malfoy being a sympathiser. A Death Eater sympathiser; what a fucking joke. How has he managed it? To fly under the radar like this, to go unnoticed by Voldemort? Perhaps his age, she thinks – being only nineteen, Voldemort might not expect a great deal from Malfoy yet. Or maybe he has learnt Occlumency skills beyond his years.

"I can't save them," he defends himself roughly and pitifully, looking down at the floor as she stares at him unblinking, his hands tightening white-knuckle around the bars. "I'd never be able to do enough to make a difference without being caught. And then the Order loses their informant. All I can do is…basically nothing."

Hermione can't argue with his reasoning - although a small part of her wants to rage, she knows the right target is not Malfoy. She shifts painfully to face him fully, scuffing over the ground so that she is kneeling just in front of the bars, her knees butted up against them. Her arms are still crossed over her chest protectively, and she feels horribly self-conscious and strangely embarrassed as his eyes drag down from her face to fix on her chest for a moment, his expression twisted up.

"I –" he begins helplessly, gesturing at her breasts. "Granger, I'm so sor–" She is sick of apologies, and there are more important things at stake.

"Can you – can you help me?" He shrugs a shoulder, torchlight flickering dulled in his eyes, which are still hollow with shame and shock, but his mouth is set in a determined, cold line.

"I don't know. But I'm going to try."

"Why?" Hermione asks – the million galleon question, the one that has been burning in her mind ever since she'd recognised his voice. Why Malfoy, the Slytherin Prince. Why is he an informant? Why is he here right now, speaking to her? Putting himself at risk.

"I grew up, Granger. My master told me to murder a man, and I realised that…that I don't have the stomach to be a murderer. That I don't…I don't want any of this. But by then it was too late." His eyes shift to his left forearm – covered by the dark shirt he wears. His lips press together hard as he looks back up at her, his pupils blown in the half-light, making his hollowed eyes look dark. "I'd already been Marked."

"So you decided to risk your life by becoming an informant?" Hermione finds it hard to believe, that selfish, bigoted, childish Malfoy could ever be so noble. He smiles coldly.

"Why not? It's not like I have anything to lose, except my life. And as long as – my master lives, my life isn't my own anyway." He looks down at his hands, releasing the bars and drawing them palm-up into his lap, staring at them as though he can see the bloodstains. "I'd rather not die. But…well, I'm careful. I don't stick my neck out when I think it's too dangerous. And I do what I have to do, Merlin forgive me." There is a long silence between them, the only sound their breathing, and the muted suffering of the other occupants of the dungeon. Hermione searches Malfoy's face, and sees nothing there but truth. She wonders if she would be able to spot a lie on Malfoy's face, dripping from his lips – and then she wonders why the other side would bother with a lie. She thinks she can trust him enough to let herself hope, just a little bit

"I –" she begins, but Malfoy winces then, the heel of his right hand rubbing down his left forearm, fingers curling over it and breath jerking in between his gritted teeth. The Mark, she thinks, staring at him as the pain of it twists his face and makes him ugly and wounded.

"I – I have to go, Granger," he says, trying to smooth out his features and even his voice, his grey eyes narrowed and his mouth shaped with the pain, the muscles in his jaw bunched, a vein throbbing at his temple. "I'll – I'll…do what I can. All right?"

Fear hits her. He is leaving her alone down here, alone like she was before. When anyone else could come down and hurt her just like Malfoy had, and worse. So much worse. Panic builds up as sobbing gasps in her chest, and she stuffs a fist against her mouth and tries to force them back down. She is so scared. What if he never comes back? What if she – she is tortured and raped and murdered down here? What if… It had been easier before she'd been given hope, she thinks dizzily as the breath whoops in and out of her.

And then Malfoy's hand is clasped tight over her knee.

"Granger?" He squeezes gently and she stares into his eyes. She can see the pain in the crinkles at his eyes and the lines carved around his mouth, the infinitesimal strain in his voice. "Granger. Be brave. Okay?" His smile wavers but lifts her spirits a fraction anyway. "You're a Gryffindor. It should come easily to you," he says then, and she actually huffs the shadow of a laugh. Two of his fingers tap her knee in an odd little pat, and then he is straightening to his feet, pushing his fringe off his forehead and breathing deeply and slowly. She can see the subtle transformation take place, his eyes becoming cold and flat, his features turning to stones, his whole demeanour altering, from scared and fumbling to ruthless and indisputably deadly.

"Malfoy?" she says as he begins to walk away, and he pauses and looks back at her. The nothingness on his face scares her. "Thank you," she tells him in a tiny whisper, and the barest hint of a frown crosses his face. He says nothing – perhaps he cannot say anything, as wholly in character as he is, and Hermione merely sinks back down from her knees to her bum, clinging to the bars and watching as he strides away.

Please, she thinks in time with every one of his measured steps. Please.

Food and water are delivered to the cells what seems like a good four or so hours later. But Hermione has no real way to tell time, so it's just a guess. She hides in a dark corner of the cell when she hears footsteps, thinking about how easily Malfoy had hurt her – how easily a real, loyal Death Eater or Snatcher might hurt her. She has to stay unnoticed, she thinks. Hidden. Safe. Invisible.

But the guards search through the cell to drag out all the women who do not come forward to eat and drink. Corpses mostly, and that ones that are still alive but on the verge of death do not live for long. Rough, brutal hands and boots, not spells, are what end them, and then they are dragged into a pile in the middle of the long walk that runs down between the cells. Hermione watches, huddled behind rags, knowing that she will be found. But by some miracle, they pass her shadowed corner by.

Instead the three guards casually beat several of the more alert prisoners, and one of the guards picks one to rape. Hermione shuts her eyes, but she hears every sound. Her world becomes the slap of flesh on flesh, the dull uh-uh-uhs that judder out of the barely conscious victim with each thrust, the rough, greedy grunts of the guard, until after several mercifully short minutes, the guard makes a low groan. Finished. She feels sick, because that could have been her, and because while it may not have been her, it had still been someone. Hermione doesn't open her eyes until the guards' footsteps are long gone. Orange light flickers behind her eyelids, and the acrid smell of smoke fills the air and the need to know what is happening forces Hermione to open her eyes, afraid of what she will see.

She sees nothing but the guards' victims sprawled on the floor, the ones who had been beaten, and the one who was raped. She crawls forward, feeling bile rise sour and bitter in her throat, and stares through the bars at the pile of bodies – seven or eight of them, heaped high and smouldering with flame. The smoke is thick and stinks, mostly chasing up the vent in the ceiling, but tendrils fall away and seep through the air, gradually filling it with the smell of roasting flesh. Hermione's hand clamps over her mouth as she stares, horrified. A pale hand in the pile twitches, and she chokes and whirls away, hiding her face in her hands. She can't…she can't…

The only reason Hermione doesn't throw up is sheer force of will. There is still water to drink, and thin stew to eat, and she refuses to waste the nourishment and liquid she so desperately needs. But first she does what she can for the other prisoners in her cell. The woman who was raped is in a fugue state, like most of them, but Hermione manages to coax her into crawling over to lean against a wall, and drink a little before she moves on to the next woman. And the next. There are six left now, and only one of them is conscious enough to speak – that one spits out the water Hermione tries to dribble between her lips, and rasps over and over that she wants to die, just let her die. Hermione's hands shake, and her heart is sick with horror.

The cell stinks of fear, blood, and roasted meat as she drinks the water that is left – a meagre glassful – and eats a large bowl of stew; few of the women had been capable of eating. Her stomach roils, but she keeps it all down by trying to think of anything but here, eating mechanically while she determinedly pictures long-ago dinners at the Burrow. She isn't sleepy although she is wearier than she has ever been in her life, but she curls up in a corner anyway, buried beneath rags, and tries to sleep. She prays that Malfoy has been able to do something, anything, toward getting her out.

She dreams of being burnt as a witch, tied to a stake and set aflame by Malfoy, screaming as her flesh crackles and slides sticky-slick from the meat of her, Malfoy's eyes unwavering on her face as the rest of the Death Eaters watch from behind their masks.

Malfoy doesn't come back by the arrival of the next meal, which is brought perhaps a day later; she doubts they are fed more than once a day. The guards don't bother searching the cell. Hermione thinks perhaps it is a weekly thing. The stench from the burning still hangs in the air, and the half-charred corpses are left there in their heap for now, beginning to gradually rot and stink more, in different ways. It is like hell, the smell. She waits for Malfoy, huddled in the back of the cell. She waits, and waits, for several more meals, growing more and more frantic as time goes on. He may be Draco Malfoy, former enemy, but she has accepted his story and now he is a lifeline, he is all she has. Her best hope, right now. And he hasn't come back.

Hermione doesn't know why, and she tries to tell herself there could be reasons, and that he might not have abandoned her, betrayed her, or been killed. She isn't sure if she believes the excuses she makes up for him, though. Perhaps she is just fooling herself, and she is on her own. It doesn't matter, she decides in the end, with her hands balled into dirty fists in her lap, her hair stringy and lank around her face. All she can do is focus on staying alive, until Malfoy comes through or the Order rescues her. Because they will, she tells herself. They will. Hermione refuses to die here, like this, starving and weak and forgotten. She will survive, no matter what it takes, no matter what she has to bear, no matter how much it hurts. Hermione Granger is a survivor.

Half-starved and nearly delirious with the dehydration that makes her tongue thick and her lips cracked, Hermione is just drifting beneath the surface of sleep when a hand wraps in her hair and pulls her up roughly. It hauls at her until she struggles and thrashes up to her feet in an attempt to reduce the yank on her hair. And then the assailant traps her between the wall and their warm, hard body. For a moment she panics and thrashes violently, a low keening sawing raw from her dry throat, but then another hand gently reaches and squeezes her right breast, before releasing it altogether. A crude, awful signal, but one that she recognises with a surge of intense relief, skin crawling anyway. Malfoy, she thinks, so relieved that she wants to weep and cling to him with gratitude just for being here.

Just in case someone else is there, watching, she keeps struggling – but less strongly now, sobbing raggedly in terror that she doesn't find hard to fake. It isn't really fake at all. Relieved Hermione might be, but she is still so scared, and she has held the worst of that bone deep, sickening fear bottled up inside her for the last five…six…days. She has lost count. She writhes in Malfoy's grip and sobs it out, and his hand tightens in her hair, wrenching her head back as though to examine her. His eyes are hard, pale marbles pressed into his face, absent of any emotion, and his fringe falls forward over his forehead as he drags at her hair and runs his other hand down to her crotch. He is empty and cold, and terrifying, and it feels like a punch in the stomach.

"She'll do," he says as he looks back toward the cell door, his fingers curling gentle but firm against Hermione's crotch through her jeans, and the feeling of violation makes her feel icy and numb and feverish at once. She shakes, so frightened; because what if it had all been a trick and this is what is real? What if Malfoy really just wants to hurt her and it was all just some sick amusement, to pretend to be on her side? Why did she ever believe him? What reason would Draco Malfoy have to help the Order? She's an idiot, and she's terrified. Goosebumps rise on her flesh and she chokes and struggles, the line between what is real and what is not so ragged and confused that she cannot find it any longer.

"Please," she gasps, with a voice that is becoming unused to speaking, the words thick and blurred, and wretchedly, pathetically desperate. She has forgotten whether she means the words or not – whether she needs to say them or not. Whether he will hurt her or not. "Please…don't hurt me…" Malfoy inhales sharply against her cheek in a way that speaks of horror and self-loathing, his jaw pressing hard to her temple, his whole body tensing as she begs him.

"But that's part of the fun – isn't it, Theo?" he says mockingly, as his fingers stroke at her through her jeans while holding her at an angle that Theo can clearly see what he's doing, and Hermione feels herself crumpling in his grasp. She shakes all over, sobbing without tears, a dry near-hyperventilation, begging again and again.


"Well I hope you can have fun with that, Draco. I'm going to go see if I can find one of the fresher intakes. I prefer my girls…not half-dead," Theodore Nott says with mild distaste, from where he stands outside the cell, his nose wrinkling.

"Oh, this one's plenty lively, Theo," Malfoy says, grinding his hips against Hermione's bum in an exaggerated manner. She moans in fear and horror and tries uselessly to wrench away, trying to shove back at him with her elbows and fists, to strike at him with her feet, making terrified little noises she is barely aware of. She doesn't know what's real and what's not, and she has no real reason to believe she can trust Malfoy, who laughs breathlessly as he subdues her and holds her pinned against him. "See? Lots of life left in her yet. But you go on and have your fun, Theo. You know I like my privacy anyway."

"Sure you don't want to take the slut upstairs? Shit, it fucking stinks in here."

"I'll use a bubblehead if I have to, idiot. Maybe you should do the same. To be honest though, I just breathe through my mouth, and don't even notice. It's just like the raids. You get used to the stench."

Nott says something in response that she doesn't hear over the whoosh of blood in her ears, but she hears Malfoy's reply: "She'll be no good to you once I'm done with her, Theo. This one…this one I am going to fucking destroy," he says with relish. "Dirty little Muggle bitch." His hands fasten like iron around her wrists, putting them together so that he can hold both wrists in his one, spinning her around so that she face the wall, before returning his other hand to her crotch. He rests it there, cupping the heat of her through her jeans, and it is sickening. It is awful. He holds her trapped in place with his body when she tries to writhe away, and he is hard and lean, pushing into her and jamming her breasts painfully against the stones of the wall. Her breath slams in and out frantically, and she is getting dizzier and dizzier, heart pounding. She tries to pull away, but she is laughably weak, especially as her dizziness grows and black dots dance in her vision.

Then there is silence, except for the sound of her own shallow breathing and the rush of her pulse over-loud in her ears.

Malfoy's jaw brushes against Hermione's cheekbone after a brief second of stillness, his hand frozen at the crotch of her jeans; no longer holding her firmly, but instead hovering so that his touch barely brushes the seam of her jeans. She whimpers at the press of his jaw warm to her cold, filthy skin, still half-hyperventilating, and he makes little shushing sounds then, trying to comfort her. After a moment his hand moves up from her crotch to flatten against her abdomen, as he draws her away from the wall a little, to lean back into him instead of into the cold stones. He drops her wrists, and wraps his arm around her just beneath her breasts instead, holding her up. His hand rests splayed there on her tummy, warm and motionless, and he whispers in her ear, gently and soothing.

"Breathe. Just breathe. It's okay. I'm not going to hurt you now. Just breathe, Granger." Malfoy's words washes over her, and she shuts her eyes and breathes, panic retreating, remembering now, and trusting him just barely enough to not fight. "I'm not going to hurt you, I swear. I swear. It's okay. Just breathe." His voice hitches as he says hurt you, and she can hear him gulp, his own breath a little short and ragged. "Shit. I'm sorry. I'm sorry I had to…you know. But – I didn't have a choice. Theo… I tried to sneak away, but he fucking intercepted me turning into this row of cells and assumed I was coming down here to… And I needed to convince him."

"I know," she croaks quietly, the words hurting her throat, and then shudders out a sigh, shoulders slumping as she lets herself fall back against him for a moment. "I know. I – I just got confused." He was the arrogant, cowardly boy at school who treated her like dirt. The one who tried to have Buckbeak killed and Hagrid fired. The one who tried to kill Dumbledore, who let Death Eaters into the school. The one who stood by and did nothing as Hermione was tortured in his parents' house, so long ago. She has no proof save Malfoy's word that he is here to help her instead of hurt her, and while she wants to believe him, it's very hard. He lets her go carefully and she sways on her feet, unsteady, and turns to face him. His face is no longer cold and hard, no longer as emotionless as blank slate; he looks human again, now. He looks scared and sorry and sick, and full of uncertainty.

"We have to – in case Theo comes back…" he says, and her eyes go big and round on him.

"What –?" Hermione starts, sharply, scared again on instinct. She takes a sharp step back and her bum and her shoulder blades hit the wall. He steps forward, awkward.

"Not…actually. Just – just looking like we're…" His hands fumble at his belt buckle, and it clinks dully as he undoes it, and fumbles to unzip his trousers. "You know… It has to look believable, or I may as well kill you now. And before you ask, no I fucking won't." The zip makes a snicking sound, and she slams her hand onto his, stopping it from unzipping any further, before yanking her hand back again, half-frightened at her daring.

"Malfoy!" she says it breathy and yet forceful, her eyes on his hands, on his crotch, on the waistband of his black cotton jockey shorts. Merlin. She feels disconnected, heady and dazed with adrenaline, fear, and her starvation rations and solitude. "Malfoy, stop." His hands are still frozen at his zipper, with the zip halfway down, but at her stop he drops his hands to his sides and his eyes fix onto hers, steady but so intent.

"Just unzip your jeans and shove them down, all right? Theo has a habit of trying to…catch people in the act, the peeping fucking Tom, and we can't afford to get caught fucking chitchatting, Granger," Malfoy says urgently. "We don't have a choice on this. Believe me, if we didn't' have to, then I wouldn't, but I'm not willing to take any more risks than I have to, yeah?" But she can't. She can't. And when Hermione just stands there doing nothing, Malfoy hisses through his teeth and yanks her jeans button open, drags the zipper down. Her eyes shift to his face, looking for some kind of reassurance, and he tries to smile – a broken, wretched expression that shouldn't reassure her, and yet somehow does, so much more than a charming, calm smile would.

"I'm not going to actually you know – shit, I wouldn't have brought Theo down here if I'd had a choice. But he asked where I was going and I had to tell him or he'd know I was lying, and – well, suffice it to say, this was the best solution I could come up with on the spur of the moment," Malfoy explains in a rough whisper, as he bends and yanks her jeans down, and pulls them entirely off one leg, leaving them hanging around the other ankle. She just stands there, and lets Malfoy arrange her like some kind of doll. She doesn't have the energy to resist even if she wanted to – it takes all the energy she has just to stay upright. He grabs the side of her knickers, and she makes a small, wounded sound, and he snatches his hand back like she's burnt him.

"Please, please, not them," she whispers cracked and small, and Malfoy's Adams apple bobs as he swallows hard, chin trembling. "I can't…Malfoy, if you want me to trust you, not them."

"Yeah, yeah, okay. Not them. Okay." He leaves her knickers on, instead touching his wand to them and whispering a charm so that the cotton becomes transparent, and Hermione feels her face go hot.

"Don't look."

"I - I… Merlin, I won't." He sounds just as mortified, his voice thick and cracking as he pushes her back against the wall, shoving down his own trousers around his hips, and pulling his jockey shorts precariously low, so that her eyes catch a glimpse of pale blond pubic hair before she squeezes them shut and turns her head away. She stares at the corner of the cell, at the place Theodore Nott will be reappearing from instead, focusing on breathing and breathing and not feeling a single thing.

"I'm sorry," Malfoy murmurs as he hooks her naked leg up, his arm around her waist, his face nestling down to the crook of her shoulder, hefting her up a little in his arms, experimentally. His breath is hot on her skin. "I'm sorry." And Hermione just stands there pliably, feeling distant – floating on clouds of hunger, separated from her body. Malfoy mumbles something about how that position should work all right, and then lifts his face. His cheeks are red with embarrassment as he meets her eyes; there is a scant inch separating their faces, and she can't look away.

"Granger? Hey, you still with me?" She nods just barely, her eyes not shifting from his, as though they are her anchor. Malfoy's eyes are grey and framed by surprisingly dark lashes, and they don't look cold and as unfeeling as glass at all – they are soft and clouded with worry and embarrassment and shame, and desperate apology. "It's okay. I'm not really going to…"

"I know," she whispers, but she doesn't sound very certain to her own ears, even though she is pretty sure she is. But it's been a long…week? She doesn't even know how much time has passed; it has been days of trying to care for the women who she shares the cell with, who are slowly dying around her; feeding them and giving them water, and trying to comfort them. Hiding from the guards. Existing on a glass or two of water a day, and one bowl of thin stew. The stench from the rotting pile of corpses constantly filling the air. Being afraid that Malfoy was never going to come back… Hermione isn't sure of anything anymore. She wants to both shrink from Malfoy and cling to him at once, and she settles for standing frozen in his grasp, his arm around her waist and his hand hooked around her thigh. Every point of contact is both too much and not enough. He is threat and comfort, and she just wants to go home. She licks her lips. "You didn't come back. For so – so long. I thought…"

"I'm sorry. I have to get hold of my contact in the Order, but I haven't been able to get away to leave a message at the drop point yet. My master's been watching me, lately. I think he knows that I was down here, the other day." Malfoy speaks soft and quick. "Hang on, I have to – have to pretend. But I won't…" His hips start to thrust into hers, and she jerks, half-startled, her hands clutching onto his shoulders. His crotch rubs again and again into hers, in rhythmic little movements, and it feels good and so, so bad. Disgusts crawls up and down Hermione's spine, and makes her stomach lurch sickly. "Not to mention, there are a lot of people here who dislike me because of the Dark Lord's favouritism, and would love to fuck me up. So…I can't come down here a lot, in case he gets suspicious, or someone like Theo figures out what's going on and tattles to him."

"Is he going to want to t-torture me?" Hermione asks in a small, scared voice, because all she can think about now is Voldemort, and what he's going to do to her. Malfoy's face changes – surprise, shock – and his little thrusts against her stutter to a brief halt.

"No – Granger, he doesn't know that you've been captured. He doesn't know you're here. The – the Snatchers didn't recognise you, the thick fucking idiots. I saw you, when they brought you in with the others, and I recognised you. I told them I'd get you…settled in, and I put you back here, with the ones who…who nobody really wants anymore. The ones that no one important notices. I thought that it might keep you safe, for a while. Maybe even long enough for me to figure out a way to get you out with the Order's help, without exposing myself."

It is her turn to stare at him in shock as he keeps pushing against her, and she tries to ignore the feeling. He had done that for her? Lied about who she was, and taken it upon himself to hide her? That was far riskier than what she had thought he'd done. She doesn't know what to say, exactly, stumbling over her words, awkward and uncertain, settling her hands up on his shoulders to help find her balance as he keep making those little nudging grinds into her pelvis. Her mind flicks to that for a moment – is this what dry humping feels like? If so, Hermione doesn't know why anyone would ever want to do it, because all it does is make her feel humiliated and awkward. It must be different, with someone you care about. His shoulders feel warm and lean under her fingers, and she finds herself holding on more tightly than she needs to. "Thank you, Malfoy. I – I'd probably be dead if you hadn't…"

His fingers squeeze at her thigh as he readjusts her leg, and his pelvis nudges into hers more…snugly than before as he shifts on his feet, and they both suck in their breaths sharply and look away; she can feel a blush heating her cheeks. She is only glad there is no bulge digging into her – that would be too awful. But he seems as far from aroused as is possible, thank Merlin. They shift against the wall awkward and jerky to try to get away from the too-realistic angle and nearly fall, only his quick save keeping them upright. Hermione breathes slowly, trying to keep her balance on the unsteady ground, with one leg wrenched into the air so that it is already beginning to ache and cramp a little.

"Sorry," he mumbles with acute embarrassment as their bodies bump together a little too intimately again, and she shakes her head, brushing off his apology as she gives up on trying to touch as little of him as possible and leans into him. He is so warm, and leaning against him seems to help in holding them steady.

"The – your contact in the Order. The drop point. When do you think you can do that?"

"I don't know." He shakes his head, frustration crinkling over his brow, and it is so strange to be standing here with Malfoy, talking about rescue, and simulating sex. Rape, she thinks then, and gulps hard, because that is what it would be were this really happening. She stifles the little whisper of fear that wants to squeak from between her lips, pressing them hard together. Malfoy doesn't seem to notice, going on: "The Dark Lord is watching me closely, like I said. That I'm coming down to the dungeons, especially back to this part of the dungeons, is an anomaly. And my master pays attention to anomalies. I don't think we have much time before he realises that you're here, and you're you." Fear ripples down Hermione's spine in icy fingers, but Malfoy keeps talking fast and she tries to focus on his brisk, urgent words.

"We don't have long now either, Granger – Theo doesn't, um, take long, usually. Like I said, he likes to play peeping tom, which is why I have to stay in character. I only came down here today to place a – a sort of monitoring spell on you. Like Healers use. It will monitor your vitals, and alert me to any severe changes that indicate you might be in trouble. Just in case... All right?" His eyes scan over her face, looking for her permission, and that makes her want to laugh – a bitter, horrible sound. He doesn't need her permission. And why would Draco Malfoy care for her permission anyway?

"Okay." She nods immediately, and Malfoy slides out his wand and mutters a sibilant, complex little spell. She feels the magic shiver over her; it soaks cool and tingling into her skin. Malfoy's eyes skim and skip over her as she slumps between him and the wall in a near daze, relishing the feel of magic on her skin. It feels far too good. She jerks to full awareness when his thumb drags over her cracked lips, trying to flinch back from him. "Don't," she says, blinking like an owl, watching him nervously, feeling trapped far too close to him. He bites his lip, looking apologetic but not saying it, something that worries her just a fraction lurking in his eyes. His body shifts against hers, and he hisses an inhale that he tries and fails to stifle. His cheeks flush slowly with colour.

"I'm – I'm sor– Um. I… You're dehydrated," Malfoy says in a rush instead of completing his stammering apology, and holds up his wand shielded from view between their bodies. "Here; open your mouth." She does so obediently, and he whispers "Aguamenti" and a trickle of water emerges from the tip of his wand. He puts it between her lips, and she moans in pleasure as it bathes her mouth with cool wetness, running down her throat and spilling out over her chin. It's heavenly and delicious, and she wants more and more. She drinks until her stomach is full and sloshing, while Malfoy watches her silently, carefully, and she thinks the expression on his face would suit Ron or Harry better than him. It is disconcerting to see Draco Malfoy stare at her with such gentle care. "This should hold you until the next time I come down. I'll – I'll try to bring you food and drink tomorrow, and perhaps by then I'll have been able to contact the Order."

Hermione doesn't speak, too busy gulping the water, and Malfoy fills in the silence with nervous words, his hips never ceasing that horrible undulating. She is shocked that he doesn't get an erection just from the pure physical stimulation, but he doesn't. "I will do everything in my power to get you out of here. Maybe if my master leaves on one of his occasional forays in the next day or so, I may be able to get you out myself without anyone noticing. I can't do it while he's here – he watches me too carefully. I'm his…protégé, I think." He laughs at that, low and unhappy. "I finally came to my stupid fucking senses and realised I couldn't keep going along with monstrous things just to save my own bloody skin, and that was when the Order told me to stay on and spy on my master instead. To ingratiate myself with him. So I try to get free of all this fucking horror, and end up being more part of it than ever."

"Why – why didn't you just run?" she asks, water running down her chin and chest, and soaking into both their shirts, before she resumes sipping at the tip of his wand, at the trickle of water it still emits. His little thrusting movements are almost forgotten now; she tries to ignore the strange sensation, and tells herself firmly that it's just a cover, just what's necessary, and they're both wearing underwear – there's no point in thinking about how gross it feels.

"I wanted to try to make a difference. To…to make up for all the shit I'd done," he mumbles as though embarrassed by the desire to make amends, and Hermione stares up at him, bewildered and disbelieving. Draco Malfoy, wanting to do something as – as right as make amends? Then footsteps sound, and Malfoy swears under his breath, finiting the charm and slipping his wand back up his sleeve. "I'm sorry," he murmurs in Hermione's ear, and she tries to mentally brace herself as she swallows the last of the sweet, cool water. "But you should fight me, if you can. This – this won't be pleasant – I have to make this look…real," he says, and her heart sinks, her stomach lurches with fear. "Theo needs to know the girl I'm – I'm raping, is scared…horrified…hating it. I'll be back tomorrow, if I can get away."

Then Malfoy's hand buries in Hermione's hair and he drags at it hard enough that she genuinely struggles against him before she can think about it, tears springing to her eyes. "I'm sorry." She barely hears it whisper from between his lips, as he begins to rut himself against her even harder than before, his eyes turning away from her. And within seconds, she feels an erection slowly swell, at last. She gulps, feeling sick and scared and not knowing how much to fight, and not knowing how far he will go…she feels like she is really going to be violated, and her breath comes in sobbing coughs, and she stands there frozen. And then he grinds himself into her and holds it, burying his face against her shoulder and choking out the beginning of a low, wobbling groan. Another thrust – another – stuttering and arrhythmic, then a satisfied sound rumbles in Malfoy's chest that makes her stomach flip and twist and he pulls away a little, acting as though he's tucking his penis back into his shorts. Acting as though he's orgasmed.

Malfoy lets her hair go then, and slaps her – hard enough that she knows the shape of his fingers will blaze red on her skin. She cries out and Malfoy grins and does it again, harder, and pain flares. Again, again. She chokes and screams. She hates this. She hates him even if he's only doing what he has to, but she's still frozen there, unable to bring herself to fight even if it would look more realistic. Even if she wishes she could claw his damn eyes out and beat his into unconsciousness. He raises his hand back as though he's going to hit her again. "Please…please, don't," she cries instinctively and tries to flinch away, and he laughs at her, face cruel and leering.

"What should I do then? Do you want me to fuck you again? Is that what you want, bitch?" He places his hand on her crotch – on the transparent cotton knickers, over her dark curls and stimulation-swollen flesh – and she chokes on spit and thrashes, begging him not to – not just to give Nott the show he expects, but because – because he is touching her there. She doesn't care if she's wearing cotton undies – they can still see everything, and barrier of cotton or not, she can feel it.

"Don't!" The backs of his fingers brush rough over the dark curls and soft flesh nestled between her thighs and she gasps and stiffens, trying to wrench her leg down from where he has it yanked up to his hip, trying to protect herself. Fighting at last. Malfoy fights her back – holds her still, cups her vulva firmly – "Stop!" she spits at him, clawing at his arms. He huffs a derisive sound and shoves her thighs apart with a knee, slapping her inner thigh with a force that stings and hurts, and then knocks her arms down, sliding one hand around her throat to pin her to the stone wall, leaving the other free. He uses that hand to grope at her crotch again, and she chokes against his the squeeze of his hand around her throat as he fumbles ineffectively against the invisible barrier of her knickers. There is a still sane part of her mind that knows he's just trying to make it look good to Theo, who she knows is watching from the shadows, but the rest of her is caught in panic.

"Stop. Don't. Stop. Please. Please – please please please –" The words waver from her on sobs and gasps as her panic overwhelms her. "Ah!" He pinches her inner thigh and she tries to jerk away. He slaps her and she throws her arms up to protect her face. "Pleeeease," she whines in a pathetic, snotty whimper. "Please, please, don't."

"You're dry as a bone again, you frigid little cunt," Malfoy complains, and he is avoiding her gaze, staring at her chest as he slaps her crotch hard with one hand. She cries out and tries to double over at the unexpected pain, and he steps back and lets her, and then shoves her rest of the way to the ground. He pushes her with one foot, knocking her onto her side, his eyes flat. His erection juts out against his jockey shorts, and he swears at her as he jerks up his trousers and arranges his erection inside them.

"Bitch," he tells her, and spits on the ground by Hermione's face, and she flinches as drops spatter cold on her cheek, lying there shivering, staring up at him, every muscle trembling and tears and snot smearing her face. She curls up, making a ball on the ground, trying stupidly to hide, hands covering the front of her knickers as though they can protect her. He had – he had – when Malfoy had said they wouldn't actually…but that, that had felt like actually to her. Even if it hadn't been technically actually, it had felt pretty fucking indistinguishable. She shuts her eyes, blocking out the sight of him. Just right now, she doesn't care that he is helping her, that it is all just pretend – she just hates him. Loathes him.

"Theo," she hears Malfoy say with just the right note of mildly irritated surprise, as she lies there huddled as small as possible. She has enough presence of mind to turn her face away from Theo, at least. "I thought I told you I like privacy?"

"To what, finger the bitch, and kick her around?"

Malfoy laughs. "I'd already fucked her once, Theo. And you can't talk anyway – I know why you always sneak off to the south tunnel. It's where they keep all the pretty boy–"

"Fuck up, Malfoy!" Nott snarls and Malfoy chuckles again, footsteps leading away from her, and the shrieking creak of the cell doors swinging open and then shut again rings through Hermione's head.

"Ladies first, Theo," he mocks, voice more distant. "I won't shit on your predilections – or expose you – if you don't mock me for only getting in one fuck." There is a long pause, and then Nott says something that sends chills down Hermione's spine, and makes her hide her face by curling up even tighter, shoulders shaking, body slowly going numbed with cold from the stone floor, and maybe shock as well.

"Hey," Nott says. "Don't I know that girl?"

"I wouldn't think so," Malfoy says, with perfectly relaxed timing. "She's a Muggle, far as I know. Come on, Theo. I'm sick of the stench down here. Fucking animals."

Hermione lies on the ground and cries until she has no more tears left, feeling violated and beaten, because she was. Fucking animals. The words run around and around in her head until she thinks they will drive her mad. Malfoy is far too convincing an actor; none of that at the end had felt pretend to Hermione. None of that had felt pretend at all. He had said to her that they weren't actually going to…and he had been telling the truth, but she hadn't realised how real it would feel. He had been completely honest when he had told her it wouldn't be pleasant, but she just had realised how unpleasant. It takes a very long time for Hermione to scrape herself up off the ground and pull her jeans back on, and once she has, all she can do is stumble over to the corner she has claimed as her own and curl there beneath the rags, imagining what it will be like when she is rescued.

When she sees Harry again, and Ron, and she is safe, and all of this is a distant nightmare.

When she is free.

Edit: As of August 2023, the fic has been edited for spelling/grammar, in preparation for the sequel, Aftermath

Edit: As of the 28th of April 2015, I have made major changes to this fic, thanks to constructive criticism by a reader. Scenes have been added, and the tone and content of many existing scenes have been altered or expanded upon. I hope that such alterations give a better picture of the dynamic between Draco and Hermione.

General Notes:

I'm back on a part-time basis after a long hiatus, despite family life and real life writing keeping me very busy. I'll be tying up loose ends and making some new beginnings as well.

I've gone through the entirety of Gravitation/The Risk-Reward Ratio and The Just World Fallacy, and edited them for style, typos, grammar, and minor plot inconsistencies that were bothering me, and as of 01/08/23 am beginning to re-upload them. I'm sure I've missed some mistakes (feel free to let me know once I'm done,) but they feel tidier to me now. I'm toying with the idea of an epilogue novella of vignettes, working title Axiom, and plotting it out just in case.

I'm working on Fascination, and am three-quarters finished, with 156,000 words pre-written, and a twice weekly posting schedule. I'm loving writing it, and highly recommend for something a little lighter and more mature.

I'm also writing a sequel to Crumple, titled Crumple: Aftermath, which was in fact what pulled me back to my fanfics. Much like Crumple it has little actual plot, and is most angst, an exploration of trauma, and relationship building. I'm currently 65,000 words into it, and have begun posting it.

He Dreams He's Awake is still on hiatus, but not abandoned. I enjoy writing in present tense, and may yet pick it up again once Aftermath is finished.

Onions and Icebergs is officially abandoned, I'm sorry to say. There's a chance I may yet finish it in the future, but I have no solid plans to do so at this point.

I also have plans to write a new fic, set at Hogwarts several years after the war, so watch this space!

All the completed and active fics mentioned above are findable over at AO3, under my user name MissiAmphetamine (Kaleidoscope).

Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions or suggestions.

Lastly and most importantly, thank you so very much to everyone who has ever read my fics, and favourited, commented, shared, or recced them. I'm so happy to be back doing what I love again, and I hope my writing is still enjoyable!