Warning: For those who are squeamish or easily repulsed by graphic details of violence involving blood.
Disclaimer: I Own Nothing
"I need to be prepared for the worst. If Bellatrix takes me…"
"…if she does, I refuse to break. I won't give her the satisfaction," she said, recalling Neville's parents.
She shuddered and scooted closer to Draco.
"That gain…learning to withstand it… Is it safe to assume that it did not come without pain?"
Hermione exhaled a shaky breath.
"I want you to teach me…"
Hermione collapsed, her chin connecting with the wooden floors, making her wince as she fought to compose herself. Her breaths came out in harsh pants, unruly hair sticking to her face as a light sheen of sweat covered her skin. Her eyes were unclear and unfocused, the room swaying, and her body trembled from the aftershocks of the curse.
How did Draco do this?
She felt that at any moment, she was going to be unbelievably sick. You asked for this, she reminded herself. That she did, and while she knew that it would be hard, she didn't imagine just how hard it would be. Draco made it look like cake. Her lips trembled as she fought to open her mouth and speak.
"I…I c-can't d-do this," she wheezed out.
"You can, and you will," came his harsh reply from above her.
She looked up at him, the act of simply lifting her head taking so much out of her. His gaze was unrelenting, conveying that he had every intention of seeing this through.
They had been at this for weeks, with a few days of reprieve always thrown in so that she wouldn't overexert herself. She had been under the impression that it would get easier as time went on. She was wrong. How was it possible that she felt so much worse now than when they had started? The inside of her mouth watered, stomach churning as she lowered her head again.
She heard Draco heave a sigh before saying:
Hermione could have collapsed with relief if it weren't for the hands that were suddenly on her. She didn't even have the energy to protest as Draco swung her up into his arms. She leaned her head on his shoulder, eyes falling shut as he carried her up the stairs.
"How do you do it?"
Her question was quiet, barely a mumble as she wondered.
He chuckled, and her body shivered as the vibrations traveled from his chest to her frame.
"I go to my happy place," he simply said.
Hermione couldn't tell if he was joking or not, but she still chuckled nonetheless.
She was in and out of consciousness as he walked into the bathroom. He set her down onto her feet, one arm still wrapped around her waist as she leaned into him. She faintly recognized the sound of running water as he began to run a bath. Hermione found that she was even too tired to care about undressing in front of him, stumbling into the bath as it began to fill.
Draco seemed otherwise too preoccupied to care either. His jaw was clenched, eyes hard as he cupped the water in his hands and let it run over her head.
"It's been weeks, Hermione…"
She bit her lip, eyes lowering as she knew what he was talking about.
"I don't…I don't know how you do it. It's a pain unlike any other, and trying to focus on something else entirely seems…impossible," she murmured.
He paused in his movements, eyes intensely resting on her.
"You wanted this, remember?"
Hermione closed her eyes with a sigh, nodding. She felt him smooth her hair back away from her face, fingers trailing along her neck.
"You can do it. I know you can…"
She opened her eyes as his fingers ran along her shoulder.
"You're Hermione Granger."
"Sometimes it doesn't feel like it," she whispered, a sudden sadness overcoming her frame.
You're Hermione Granger. How many times had Ginny said that? Ron? Harry? She lowered her eyes, suddenly wondering what they were up to. She knew that Ginny was safe. Blaise wouldn't allow anything to happen to her, that she was sure of. Ron and Harry, on the other hand… Her eyes watered, wondering if Ron was even still alive. If Harry was dead, she would know, Draco would make sure of that.
Draco's fingers on her arm brought her out of her reverie, and she lifted her eyes to meet his. She could see the question swirling within their depths, and Hermione wanted to confess how much she missed her friends and her desire to know what was going on, but instead, she simply said:
"I'm just tired."
It was a strange feeling, being around Draco and not feeling that normal underlying layer of animosity. With just the two of them in this modest, secluded house, she didn't feel that. She didn't know why that was, but she had opted to not dwell on it. Was it because it was just the two of them? Did a part of her recognize the fact that there was no one around to please? That there was no one around to judge her for…succumbing to what she really wanted?
She swallowed, wrapping her arms around herself as the conversation with Draco from weeks ago replayed in her head.
"Why put yourself through that…why put anyone else through that, when we both know the outcome?"
Deep down, Hermione did know the outcome. She had known it for quite some time and had fought so vigorously against it. She had known that she was fighting a losing battle for a long time now, and Draco was right. She was tired of fighting. What was the point? It seemed so senseless now.
She glanced down, unsure of what was going to happen when all of this was over. As crazy as it sounded, she couldn't imagine a life without Draco in it in some way, shape, or form. She cared for him. A stupid thing to do really, but something that she could not help, nonetheless. That small part of her was hopeful, positive that she could sway him, even just a little.
"Keep frowning like that and you'll get wrinkles."
"Do you love me?"
Hermione didn't turn around as she threw the question out there, but she was certain that it had caught him off guard nonetheless. She wasn't sure what possessed her to suddenly ask such a thing, but she immediately felt stupid. She shook her head, eyes will glued to the window.
"Never mind. Of course you don't," she murmured more to herself than him.
She wondered if he could hear the bitterness in her voice. Nonetheless, he said nothing, but she did hear him slowly approach her. She could feel the heat from his chest settle warmly against her back and she felt his hands rest on her shoulders.
"What I feel for you is very strong."
She scoffed, a humorless sound as she took a step away from him.
"That much is obvious, but that isn't what I asked," she said, turning around to face him.
His face was void of any and all emotion, and Hermione fought to not just give up and let the subject drop.
"I feel very strongly about my cat, Ron feels very strongly about his wand, and You-Know-Who feels very strongly about Harry. Let's not do this, okay? I don't want to play dumb with you. I just want to get this conversation over with because…I'm tired. I'm exhausted and…I don't want to fight anymore," she said with a shrug.
Still Draco said nothing, and Hermione found herself becoming frustrated. She crossed her arms over her chest, eyebrows furrowing as she stared at him with hard eyes.
"Do you even like me?"
Draco scoffed and Hermione's anger grew.
"No, I'm serious. It may seem like a silly thing to even ask, but…you have to admit. Your actions don't exactly scream 'I care about you so much'. They scream 'I want you and want to marry you because I don't want anyone else to have you.'"
"Hermione," Draco warned.
"If I'm going to be subjected to a miserable life with someone who will only ever view me as some object, another trinket that belongs to him, then I want to know now. I want to know so that I can fully accept this for what it is, and so that I can stop torturing myself," she said.
Draco took a step towards her, and Hermione did not protest as he ran his hands down her arms, pulling her closer. He ran one hand upwards, traveling towards her collarbone. His nose brushed against hers as he leaned in.
"I've never loved anyone, Hermione…"
Hermione closed her eyes, accepting what she had already known.
"The closest anyone has ever been was my mother, and look where she is. I so easily cast her aside for your wellbeing. Now, what should that tell you?"
"That you're insane," she chuckled.
Draco chuckled too, a low, husky sound, as he wrapped the other arm around her waist, pulling her closer.
"That too, but that wasn't what I was hinting at, silly," he mocked, tapping her nose.
"I don't know," Hermione murmured.
"I've never loved anyone. I've never experienced it, known it, but what I feel for you…I guess you could say it's pretty damn close," he said, brushing his lips against her cheek.
"…but I don't want close. I want the actual thing."
He abruptly leaned away, looking down at her with an expression painted with disappointment.
"Do you need love," he spat the word "…in order to fully accept me?"
"Yes…," Hermione said with conviction "…look at everything I'd have to sacrifice. You think that I would risk everything to be with someone like you, and there's no possibility that you could ever love me?"
Hermione shook her head.
"If I'm going to lose myself, it's going to be for something that's worth it, at least."
Draco brought his hands up to rest on either side of her face, eyes boring into hers as he bent down slightly.
"Hermione…what we have doesn't even compare to something as fickle as love."
"She Weasley loved Potter, and now she loves Blaise. Blaise loved her back and look at how much he hurt her by treating her like trash and sleeping with other girls. Look how many people claim to love each other and still separate? Look how many cheat, and belittle, and do anything possible to hurt the people they claim to love," he whispered.
Hermione said nothing, reluctant to admit that he had a point.
"Did Potter not claim to love you?"
Hermione's heart faltered within her chest, recalling not just what Harry had done, but also what he had said. Never mind the fact that the incident was still quite ambiguous. All of the things he had said to her were not. He had accused her of being a spy, compromising everything for Draco. He had not respected her wishes to simply leave her be. He had pushed and pushed, despite the fact that she had verbalized how much she detested it.
"Do you love me?"
No. The answer was instantaneous, requiring no thought to it at all. She did not love Draco, and she probably never would.
"I don't care though. What we feel is consuming…"
His hand snaked its way up her chest.
His fingers bloomed around her throat, spreading along her skin.
"...and toxic and dangerous," she harshly whispered as his grip tightened.
He grinned, lips brushing against hers.
"That it is, but that's the fun part, no? What we have is beautiful because we'll never tire of each other, we'll never stray," he hissed, pulling her bottom lip in between his teeth.
"Speak for yourself," she panted.
"Oh? What would you do if I left right now and found some lucky witch to spend my night with? What if I decided that you just aren't worth the hassle anymore?"
Hermione brought her hand up, digging her nails into his arm as her eyes narrowed, jaw involuntarily clenching.
"You wouldn't," she challenged through clenched teeth.
Draco's grin grew and he sighed, a lustful sound as he tilted his head to the side, his eyes darkening.
"Green looks good on you," he said with a husky laugh.
Hermione tightened her grip, drawing blood.
"We don't need love, and you know it. So why do you really keep fighting?"
"You're a murderer, a monster. You have no soul, you cut people down as if they are nothing," she threw out.
"I can stop killing people. It takes nothing away from me. See how easy that was? What's your next excuse?"
"I already told you. I serve me, and since He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named has something that rightfully belongs to me…"
Hermione frowned in confusion.
"Draco serves Draco now more than ever," he chuckled.
"What does he have that belongs to you?"
Draco simply smirked before exhaling, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
"We need to practice some more…"
One minute, Hermione was in agonizing pain, gritting her teeth, back arched as her body was wracked with shudders. She had thought of every possibility, anything that she could focus on, and nothing had worked. She had done exactly as Draco had said, as he had described, but time and time again, it had proven to be futile.
Then, Hermione had suddenly remembered…
"You're weak. You're a weak, spineless mudblood. Just like your parents-."
Within a matter of seconds, the dagger was in her hand, the blade embedded in his shoulder. Lestrange howled, a muffled sound that barely reached her ears as she watched the blood, his life blood, trickle out of his wound, staining him more. Hermione stared as he writhed, transfixed as a rush of adrenaline washed over her like a wave.
This man had killed her parents. Two people who were everything good in this world, two people who had meant the world to her. He had murdered them with no sense of remorse or feeling. He had murdered dozens more before them and had even threatened to do the same to her friends, to Draco… Hermione was sure that if Draco were to die, it would be by her hand and hers alone.
Hermione yanked the blade out, paying little attention to him as she gazed at it. How many more would he kill? How many more lives would he ruin? She slowly slid her eyes up to meet his, his pained, hateful eyes meeting her empty ones.
This man was evil.
This man did not deserve to live.
With a shaky breath, Hermione abruptly leaned over, sliding the blade across his throat with ease.
Her heart thudded within her chest, and she watched, transfixed as the dark red liquid spurted out of his throat, some landing on her, gliding down the skin like a fountain. She exhaled, an odd sense of satisfaction washing over her.
She had done this. She had killed this man, taken his life with all the ease of handling a kitten, and probably saved numerous lives in the process. She tilted her head, leaning over him as his body twitched, then finally going still, eyes staring ahead, seeing nothing.
This man was a monster, and now he was dead.
A feeling like no other came over her…
Hermione gazed at the ceiling open mouthed as she registered that she felt…nothing. She felt nothing! A numbness had overtaken her, and she noted that Draco was quiet too. She stared above her for a few more seconds, her mind processing what had just happened.
She turned her gaze to land on him, and his expression confirmed her suspicions. She suddenly sat up, wincing as she did so, but too elated to care.
"I did it," she breathed in disbelief.
He smirked, and Hermione laughed, teeth bared. She stood on shaky legs, grabbing onto his outstretched arms to steady herself, bringing her hands up to cover her mouth as she giggled.
"I did it," she repeated, eyes watering.
She chose not to dwell on how she did it, nor the repressed memory that had come crashing back, leaving a slightly disturbed feeling. She would think on that later…much later. Now, she wanted to bask in her success.
"I did it!"
She wrapped her arms around him, and he crushed her to him, burying his nose into her hair, deeply inhaling.
"I knew that you could," he huskily whispered against the shell of her ear.
Hermione couldn't believe that it had worked. Her body ached, an obvious sign of her struggle, but she figured that it was worth it. Draco leaned down, lips nearing hers as Hermione's eyes widened. Just as they brushed together, they heard a loud bang come from outside, the ground shaking.
They pulled apart, and Hermione hesitantly looked over her shoulder, heart rate increasing. She slowly pulled away from him, turning around, fear growing in the pit of her stomach. Draco pushed her behind him just as the ground shook again from the force of a spell.
Hermione's eyes widened, and her fingers tightened around his arm.
"You've been a very bad boy," the voice loudly screeched.
Hermione didn't question how she had found them, she knew that it was only inevitable.
"You're hiding that mudblood bitch in there. I know you are," she quietly hissed, the words coursing through Hermione like venom.
"We can't stay in here forever," Hermione protested.
He suddenly tensed, looking up with a frown.
"They're weakening. She's going to get through the wards," he murmured, eyes narrowed.
Before Hermione could say anything else, she found herself on the couch and bound. She struggled against the ropes wrapped around her frame and glared up at Draco with hard eyes.
"Draco," she harshly whispered.
"I won't have you getting in the middle of this," he said, rolling up the sleeves of his shirt.
"This is my fight! Do you really think that you're a match for her all on your own?"
Hermione squirmed, huffing in frustration as the ropes only grew tighter. He ignored her and Hermione screamed in frustration.
"You controlling son of a bitch," she snapped just as the door slammed shut.
Hermione huffed and thought of every nonverbal spell that she could conjure up to help her in this situation. It seemed the more she struggled, the tighter and more painful her bonds became. She winced, eyes watering as she glanced around for anything that could be of use.
Another bang captured her attention, and Hermione stared at the door in fear. She could see flames just outside of the window and Hermione's panic grew.
It shouldn't have surprised her to end up in such a predicament. She should have known that Draco had no intentions of letting her fight, not if he could help it. Bellatrix was here for one thing and one thing only; Hermione's head. There was another loud crash, and the small house shook.
Hermione squirmed and winced as the ropes tightened, digging into her skin. She groaned, accepting the Devil's Snare like quality of the bonds. She sighed, resigned to her predicament when she blinked. She glanced down, eyeing the ropes before slowly looking towards the door, as if trying to find Draco through the wood.
She suddenly swallowed and closed her eyes. She leaned back, allowing her body to relax as she forced her mind to do the same. It isn't Devil's Snare, Hermione! Be that as it may, it was still worth a shot. Draco expected for her to struggle, to do anything possible to get out there.
Hermione exhaled, body becoming limp as her mind cleared, and she felt the ropes slacken a bit. It wasn't much, but it was enough to feed her determination to see this through. Another curse hit the house, and Hermione forced herself not to tense up. Hermione didn't know how long she stayed that way, she guessed twenty minutes, but eventually the ropes fell around her, and Hermione hurriedly kicked them away.
She could hear Bellatrix screeching now, and Hermione hesitantly looked out of the window. The crazed witch was on her knees, clutching her face as she glared at her nephew threw the openings in between her fingers. Hermione's eyes sought out Draco, and they eventually landed on him.
He was on all fours, back heaving, his hair sticking to his face with sweat. Hermione rushed to the door, throwing it open without hesitation and stepping outside. The raven haired witch's head snapped up, her one good eye locking onto Hermione. Hermione could swear she heard her snarl, and knowing Bellatrix, she probably did.
Hermione dived just in time to miss the curse that went searing past her, causing something in the house to explode. She looked up from her position on the ground to see Bellatrix standing, a fire just behind her, licking at the ends of her dress, but she paid it no mind.
The older witch was focused on nothing but Hermione as she stumbled forward.
"I'll always regret the day that my husband lost his life at the hands of someone like you," she sneered.
Hermione pushed herself up, glaring at the mad woman.
"He murdered my parents, good people who he had nothing against. He deserved to die," Hermione said with conviction.
Bellatrix pulled her upper lip back over her teeth and raised her arm. Hermione felt it, and her back hit the house from the force of it, but other than that, she felt little to nothing. She recalled that feeling of triumph, the odd sense of calm and satisfaction that had overtaken her when she had avenged her parents.
She gritted her teeth, closing her eyes as her body slightly shook, but she refused to fall. She reached back to dig her fingers into the cobblestone as Bellatrix put more force into it, clearly unsatisfied with the results, or lack thereof. Hermione opened her mouth, letting out a small gasp as her legs shook, beginning to buckle.
Just as she fell to her knees, Hermione saw Draco tackling Bellatrix to the ground, the physical assault catching her off guard. Hermione watched as Draco struggled to hold her down, his wand pointed at her. Hermione wondered what spell he was using as she noticed Bellatrix's legs kicking out.
The dark haired witch screamed and cackled just before Draco flew off of her, his back connecting with the ground with a hard thud. Hermione dived for his wand and wrapped her hand around it just as she felt something long and thin wrap around her neck.
Hermione pulled on the rope, eyes watering as Bellatrix began to drag her backwards…towards the pond. Hermione dug her feet into the ground, one hand on the rope that was killing her, the other around the wand. Bellatrix yanked, and Hermione almost lost her grip on both. A sadistic grin spread along her face as they neared the water.
Hermione began to panic, noting that the more air she lost, the less likely she was to communicate a spell. One spell came to Hermione's mind, one she swore she'd never use, not after Harry had told them of the incident… Hermione gritted her teeth, hard eyes glaring at Draco's aunt as she laughed, a high pitched sound that sent shivers down Hermione's spine. Her vision began to blur and she shakily lifted her hand, swishing the wand in zig-zag movements. With gritted teeth, she murmured:
Hermione gasped as Bellatrix lost her grip, the woman stumbling back, collapsing, the wand falling from her grasp. She coughed, throat filling with blood. Hermione gripped her throat as Draco helped her stand on shaky feet. She hesitantly approached his aunt, the older woman still alive and kicking as she reach out towards her wand. Hermione intercepted as the wand flew to her hand, stopping it beneath her foot and snapping it without hesitation.
Her cold dark brown eyes, rested on Hermione as she still fought to get to her. Hermione did not think as she lifted Draco's wand.
"What are you doing?"
She was dying, they both knew this. It was done…
"I'm ending her suffering," Hermione simply said.
She swallowed, tightening her grip, having never used the killing curse before. She felt Draco's hand on the small of her back, and it gave her a sense of comfort as she uttered the words for the first time.
Hermione's hair blew black, the flash of green illuminating the night. She exhaled, eyes wide as she stared at the still form of Bellatrix Lestrange. She felt strange, like she should feel guilty, but also knowing that she has no reason to feel such a thing.
She felt Draco's lips brush against her cheek.
"We have to go, Hermione," he murmured against her skin.
She looked over her shoulder in confusion, still dazed.
He wrapped his arms around her, resting his chin on her shoulder as he gazed down at the lifeless body of his aunt.
Hermione's heart skipped a beat, and her eyes widened as her eyes met his.
"…I told you, he has something that rightfully belongs to me."
Harry did not disarm Draco in Ch. 6 ;) Let me know what you think!