No, your eyes do not deceive you. This is an update :) Many thanks to Catherine Morgenstern for fixing my mistakes and working her usual magic.
Molly woke Barty at the crack of dawn and banished him from the house, her nasal voice ordered him not to put a foot anywhere near the place. He wasn't even to look at it. Barty was happy to comply, his mood was atrocious and the likelihood of him losing his temper was pretty much guaranteed. He'd let the little bird crawl under his skin.
His hands curled into fists as an angry sneer settled on his face. She wouldn't be there for long, he'd make sure of it, because he knew one thing with absolute certainty; fucking Hermione Granger had been a mistake. One that Barty intended to rectify. He felt the familiar sensation of madness swell up inside him, devouring his control, ripping apart his reasoning. He welcomed it. Closing his eyes, he waited for the voices to emerge, willing them to pierce his brain and drive all thoughts of Hermione out.
It took a long time, his senses still flooded with her taste and scent, but finally the whisper of a voice reverberated inside his mind. Hurt them. Kill them. Make them bleed. He smiled and pulled the voices around him, losing himself to darkness. He conjured up memories of the past, allowing the images to soothe his soul.
He remembered receiving the dark mark. How it had seared his skin, sunk into his bones and merged with his magic. The pain had been unbearable. Barty had loved every second. Even now he sometimes stroked the faded mark and wished for the agony of his Lord's summoning.
The memory shifted and he saw the Longbottoms, twisting and weeping beneath his wand; sanity snapping one thread at a time as he watched with an impassive gaze. It had been hard to hold Bella in check. The witch had been impatient to destroy them. Barty could still hear her laughter ringing in his ears, countless years later. But he'd managed to convince her of the sweetness of patience. Of how the slow unravelling of a person's life could give pleasure.
He could do that to Hermione; tug her apart piece by piece and revel in her despair. All he needed to do was distance himself from these strange feelings she stirred inside him. He disliked the way she looked at him, her brown eyes full of warmth and understanding. That would be the first thing he broke. The way she looked at him.
He bathed in his memories for hours, allowing them to darken his mood. Barty didn't move, occupied with the sounds of his own fractured mind as the sun crawled unnoticed across the sky. Only when he heard the distant sounds of the Burrow filling with Weasleys did he slowly emerge. And even then it was only to stand and stare at the shadows bracketing the door. He knew Hermione would come soon, her ridiculous Gryffindor heart would seek to reassure him, perhaps try to convince him that it hadn't been a mistake, that it could work between them. Barty had prepared himself against such pathetic notions.
Night was falling when she arrived. He could hear her soft footsteps sliding through the dirt outside the door. She hesitated for a moment before knocking softly on the rotten wood. That alone confirmed it was her, no one else would bother with such niceties.
Barty said nothing, merely glared at the door and hoped that she would take the hint and leave. The need to hurt her, to take back control, gnawed on his nerves. Naturally, his little bird did not disappoint. Hermione tentatively opened the door and stepped inside.
"Barty? Are you here?" She shuffled to the side before commanding her wand to illuminate.
He sneered as the harsh light chased away the darkness. "Where else would I be?" he murmured.
He watched her falter before she drew back her shoulders and lifted her chin. The action made his fingers twitch. It would take only a second - a single second - to wrap his hands around her throat and snap her neck. He was sure he could do it before the failsafe kicked in. But he wanted her to suffer. To feel pain burn away her resolve. He wanted to bask in her tears and nurse her back to health so he could start all over again. He knew she would be beautiful when brought to the brink of insanity. She would be worth worshipping in her torment as he shattered her.
Her words broke through his fantasies and he realised he'd been staring at her neck for some time. He flicked his eyes back up to her face and saw a frown rumpling her brow. "Whatever could be wrong, little bird?"
"I don't know. I just...well," Hermione said, clearly uncomfortable.
Barty grinned maniacally. "Have you come here to beg me to fuck you again?" He stalked closer, delighting in the flush colouring her cheeks.
"No!" Hermione fidgeted with the edge of her jumper. "I came to talk about a recent development concerning the Death Eaters. I take it you haven't heard what happened last night?"
He raised an eyebrow. "I heard you scream last night quite distinctly, Hermione."
The fading blush returned to her cheeks at the intimacy of his words. Barty grinned. It was so easy to crawl under her skin and scratch. Even now she wanted to shift her eyes away from his and pretend he hadn't spoken.
"Jonathan Creevy was killed by a Death Eater."
He stilled at her words. They were a tantalising glimpse of hope, yet he knew they must be untrue. "Impossible."
Hermione crossed her arms and tossed her hair over her shoulders. "I assure you it is possible. It's all anyone at the Ministry can talk about."
Barty narrowed his eyes and stepped closer to her, steeling himself against the heat from her body.
"Tell me," he demanded.
The witch stiffened at his tone, but continued after a few moments. "Nobody knows how it happened. The Death Eater seems to have found a way around the failsafe." She tilted her head to the side, exposing the soft line of her throat. "Creevy was killed slowly. Methodically."
"Hmmmm," Barty murmured, losing himself to images of torture.
The ghosts of his past rose up once more and he gloried in the rush of power the memories brought with them. Most people didn't understand how intoxicating it is to hold the life of another in your grasp, knowing all you have to do is squeeze and the light will drain from their eyes.
"Barty?" Hermione inquired with a puzzled frown.
He refocused on her, allowing his gaze to trace the freckles scattered along her nose and cheeks. It was only then that he realised how much he had closed in on her. Only a few inches separated them, but he did nothing to erase them.
"What became of the Death Eater?" he asked as he backed away and returned to his previous position.
The tension melted from Hermione's shoulders at the growing gap between them. "He was taken to the Ministry's vaults. I have no idea what they plan to do with him."
"Interrogate and examine I should imagine." He traced his tongue along his bottom lip. "I was particularly good at both when I served the Dark Lord."
Hermione flinched at the reminder of his past deeds. Barty grinned at her discomfort and decided to push further. "How does it feel knowing hands that touched you so intimately last night once skinned a man alive? I can still hear his screams when I close my eyes."
The blood drained from her face and she took a step back. "Stop it! I know what you're doing and it isn't going to work."
Barty cocked his head to the side. "What am I doing, little bird?"
"You're trying to punish me for last night. You felt things that scared you and-"
"Scared?" he interrupted. "I would advise you to stop talking, Hermione, or I will show you what feeling scared is really like. In fact, I would rather enjoy showing you."
Her eyes widened, but his brave little lioness didn't otherwise move. Barty was impressed and, oddly enough, proud of her. But what else did he expect from the infamous Hermione Granger. She'd survived the touch of Bella's madness and he very much wanted to know if she would survive his. He allowed a small smile to curl the corners of his mouth as he continued to stare at her. She wouldn't meet his gaze directly, but Barty knew it wasn't because she was afraid, it was because she didn't want him to see what she was thinking.
The silence lengthened until it was a solid presence between them. It had a weight that pressed against the chest and made breathing difficult. Barty felt himself harden as he watched her shift as the tension became unbearable. He stepped forward and saw her breath hitch the tiniest amount.
"They'll be taking you into the Ministry soon," she said, picking at the material of her skirt. "They're going to be checking all the Death Eaters' collars as a precaution. I expect you might be one of the first they bring in."
It was all said in a rushed way that spoke of how nervous she was. Barty smirked and took two more deliberate steps towards her.
"Umm. So, I think you should try to read Zeagburg's thoughts when they take you in." She moved her hands from her sides to her front, folding them in an unconscious effort to close herself off from him. "I, I mean we, need to know what happened. We need to know if the spell on the collars has a loophole, something we can use, something…" Her voice trailed off as he closed the gap between them.
Hermione still wasn't looking at him. Her gaze was fixed on the base of his throat and it gave her a demure, submissive look that made him harden further. "Something?" he murmured, watching his breath stir the loose strands of her hair.
"Yes. Something that could help us," she said, making to step away from him.
Barty lifted his hands to her waist, holding her so she couldn't move. He clenched his fingers until they were tight enough to leave bruises and delighted in the fact that she didn't cower, but shot him a glare instead.
"Help us, little bird? Why would I want to help anyone but myself?" He slowly drew one hand up her side, along her shoulder and around her throat. Her pulse fluttered against his fingers? and he pushed up his hand, forcing her jaw to lift.
"You know why," she said.
Barty hummed in agreement. He did know. There was no way he could do it alone; no matter what he pulled out of Zeagburg's head, he would need help. If he could use Legilimency against the wizard at all. The dithering, old fool had been surprisingly good at avoiding his eyes during the procedure to attach the collar. In fact, he hadn't made eye contact once. Of course, Barty had been out of his mind at the time, madness nipping at his sanity as the blackness eclipsed his vision, but he remembered now.
Hermione flinched beneath his fingers. It was a tiny movement, but it was enough to draw his attention back to her. He smiled, slowly dipping his head until his lips were a breath away from hers.
"Do you want me, little bird?" he whispered.
"You know I do." She said it so quietly that her words barely made a sound.
"Show me," he commanded.
Her eyes fluttered shut and she rocked forward, pressing their lips together. Barty held himself perfectly still. He didn't allow a single muscle to move as Hermione tried and failed to coax him into a kiss. After a few awkward moments, she pulled back and gave him a fierce look before shoving him away.
"Don't come to my room again unless you're ready to accept what you feel. I won't let you play me, Barty," she said in a perfectly calm voice.
Barty felt his eye twitch as she turned and walked out of the shed. The order she'd issued settled in his bones like a shard of glass and he felt the single thread holding his sanity in place snap in two. He gladly turned himself over to the madness, embracing the jagged edges and pushing all thoughts of Hermione fucking Granger out of his head.
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