Prologue

It's Ok by Tom Rosenthal

WARNING: This is a dark story. It deals with torture, murder, dubious consent and foul language. This will be the only warning.

A/N: This is my first ever multi-chaptered fanfic and I'm a little nervous about it. The prologue is a little short but rest assured the other chapters will be much longer. I'd just like to point out that even though this is a Fred/Hermione story there's isn't going to be much interaction between them until chapter 4.

Also if anyone is interested in beta'ing this story please message. Hope you enjoy !

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When Hermione was eight, she remembered coming down the stairs and heading for the living room only to be stopped by her mother who instructed her to go back and play upstairs while the adults talked. She cast a quick glance into the room and noticed all their neighbours sitting on the sofas. The dining room chairs had even been brought in to accommodate everyone. Never one to disobey her parents Hermione agreed and carried on up under the watchful eye of Adeline Granger.

And Hermione did stay in her room, for a total of five minutes, time enough for her mother to have ascertained that she had obeyed her and to have made her way back to her guests. She quietly crept out of her room and sat at the top of the stairs listening to them talk. The adults weren't even whispering like they did when they knew kids were around, safe were they in the knowledge that Hermione was out of earshot.

That was the day she found out that little Dan from two doors down had drowned in his parents pool. They talked in detail about how it had happened. How Dan had seen his older brothers swimming without any floaters and had wanted to emulate them. How his mum hearing the doorbell ring had gone indoors to see who was at the door and the little boy had taken the opportunity to jump into the pool without his floaters. She hadn't been gone for more than ten minutes, signing for a package, but it was already too late, she had come back to find him floating face down in the water. Hermione remembered how the women gathered around the little coffee table had gasped in unison and how she herself had felt her stomach clench in horror, tears burning at the back of her eyes.

However that day Hermione had learned something else, something that had stayed with her to this day, far longer than any other piece of information she had learned at that age. Voluntary Apnea. Those two words rang in her head for days and she could still hear Doctor Maller, her parents' friend, telling them about it.

He explained to them, how when you are drowning you don't inhale until right before you black out. Hermione remembered wondering if a boy as young as Dan would have known to not open his mouth to let air in. She later found out that it was a survival mechanism, ingrained in everyone to give them a chance at survival. And then Doctor Maller, wanting to reassure his friends and neighbours had told them he surmised Dan hadn't suffered much. Because when you can no longer hold your breath and you feel like your head is going to explode, you finally take a breath, you let the water in and it stops hurting. It gets kind of peaceful and you black out.

At the time, Hermione had trouble believing that. Though it was a comforting thought that in his last moments little Dan hadn't suffered as much as she would have expected, she couldn't believe that willingly inhaling water could actually be peaceful. Now, ten years later, lying on the marble floor of Gringotts, in a pool of water and her own vomit, her head throbbing from a lack of oxygen she could only hope that what she had learned so many years ago was true.

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Hermione woke up abruptly, a cry escaping from her lips as she sat upright in bed. Her lungs were on fire and she was finding it hard to breathe. Struggling with the sheets that were tangled in between her legs, her hands searched frantically under her pillow for her wand that she usually kept there. As she looked around for a wand that wasn't there, the realisation that she wasn't in a tent dawned on her and her stomach dropped in dread. The events of the previous day unfolded in her head and she felt sick at the thought of having been captured, her breathing became ragged and tears started prickling her eyes. The fact that she was in a bed and not thrown in a wet and dingy cellar had not yet occurred to her. She remembered being tortured by a Death Eater and that was proof enough that things had gone wrong. Hands shaking she tried to get out of bed so she could find her wand and get away from whatever place she was in.

Hermione managed to tentatively stand up, her feet still somewhat caught in the sheets. The room was spinning around her and she was feeling faint, her moist palms gripped onto the bedside table to keep herself steady. Panic was rising in her chest and she stumbled a few steps forward before a searing pain shot up the right side of her body causing her to stop and steady herself on the wall.

Hermione's whole body had started to shake and she couldn't catch her breath. She could hear the floorboards outside the room creaking as someone approached the door. Her heart was pounding out of her chest and as the door opened and the soft glow of a candle filled the room, she slumped to the ground sweat dripping down her forehead and down her neck.

Fleur stepped in holding a bowl of water and a flannel in one hand and a candle in the other. At the sight of Hermione collapsed on the floor, a look of surprise flashed across her face quickly followed by that of worry. Hurrying across the room she put down the items she was holding on the bedside table and crouched down beside her, brushing the hair away from her face.

"'Ermione what eez wrong?" the Frenchwoman asked, her voice calm, despite the concern she felt at having found the young witch on the floor.

Hermione's eyes found those of the blond woman and a confused looked passed through her face. She didn't know what was happening anymore, she had been so sure that she had been captured, her brain felt fuzzy as if she was wading through cotton. "I…I can't… breath," she managed to pant out, tears now streaming down her face.

Fleur took a hold of Hermione's hand and placed it on her chest, between her breasts and started taking deep breaths. "Concentrate on my breathing. In. And out. Say it with me 'Ermione. In. And out."

Startled at first, Hermione did as she was told, repeating the words as Fleur instructed her to. Slowly she felt her breathing start to even out as the French woman soothed her with words of comfort and encouragement.

"You shouldn't be out of bed," she said when Hermione had managed to calm down. "Your injuries are not fully healed," she continued taking her wand out of her dressing gown and casting a basic diagnostic spell on her.

"Are you fine to stand up?"

Hermione nodded her approval and Fleur placed one hand under her armpit and the other held on tightly to her hand as she helped her up and together they slowly made their way back to the bed.

"Where am I?" Hermione questioned as Fleur helped her get into the bed before bending down to pick up the sheets and casting a cleaning charm on them. Once the sheets were clean she proceeded to tuck the young girl back in.

"You're at Shell Cottage," she replied a warm smile spreading on her face.

Hermione watched as she reached for the flannel and the bowl of water she had come in with and started to wipe the sweat from her brow away. The water was cool and felt nice on her overheated skin. Her night-dress, which she now realised did not belong to her and was probably one of Fleur's, was damp with sweat.

Settling back under the sheets, she let the young woman fuss over her. Her whole body ached from overexertion and her still unhealed wounds.

Hermione closed her eyes and tried to concentrate on breathing slowly. Fleur took hold of her wand once more and with a swish the curtains parted open and the window opened just enough to let the night air in.

The fresh sea air filled the room helping to ease the musty smell that had developed from not having been opened for a prolonged amount of time. Hermione could hear the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore and it left her feeling uneasy. She didn't know why, but it made her feel uncomfortable. It reminded her of that feeling you get in your gut when something bad is about to happen. She couldn't put her finger on it. Trying to block it out she concentrated on Fleur's reassuring touch and repeated to herself over and over again that she was safe.

Until finally sleep overtook her.