Draco stood in his room beside the window, the curtain pushed back so that he could see the front of the Malfoy estate. On the right side, between two posts, he could see Hermione hanging by her arms. Her cherished brown robe was gone, leaving only her plain underwear. There were some barely-visible marks on her skin (or at least barely visible from his window), but she looked otherwise all right. He expected her to be a bloody mess by now.

He dropped the curtain and paced around a bit. He was very frustrated, especially at his inability to come up with a solution. If only he hadn't told her to save the girl herself. If only he had dragged her up the stairs, kicking and screaming, and locked her in his room. If only he had stopped her before she could reach the bottom of the stairs.

But it was all said and done now. Hermione had done something extremely stupid, and she would die for it. He wondered what sort of punishment he'd receive for his lack of control over her. He'd probably be suspended from using magic for a month, or maybe locked in his room for a week. He didn't care about any of that. His punishment for allowing Hermione to die would be far worse. He'd never be able to forget it. She'd haunt him forever.

The door to his room opened and he looked up. His father stood in the doorway, looking very displeased. "Come along, Draco. We're about to start."

Draco blinked. "Start what?"

"Torturing the Mudblood of course."

"You mean it hasn't even started yet? I thought…"

His father almost laughed. "That pathetic little beating this morning? That was practically a warm-up! You've been to a Mudblood execution before, Draco. You should know better."

Draco stood perfectly still, letting everything sink in. He remembered the horrors he'd seen at executions. He remembered the blood, the screams, the bodies marred beyond recognition. He'd thrown up at the first one, only to be scolded by his father at his show of weakness. Since then, he'd learned to control himself.

He tried to imagine Hermione, broken, torn apart, and splattered across the grass. His stomach heaved at the thought. His breathtakingly beautiful angel would be destroyed, and he would have to watch it happen. He knew her eyes would be on him, staring at him with such a look of horror and betrayal that he would surely have to run away, up to his room to cover his ears with his hands and pretend it wasn't happening.

His father's voice drew him from his thoughts. "We're going about this one a bit differently. What she did was a double offense. Not only did she use magic, but she used it to aid a Mudblood criminal. She will be kept alive for three days, instead of one. We will gradually increase the torture each day, so that maximum punishment can be achieved."

Draco cringed. This was going to be far worse than he thought. He didn't know if he would be able to stand it. Maybe he could fake an illness, convince his father that he was on death's door. But that idea seemed far-fetched, as his father could read him like a book.

He slowly followed his father out onto the grounds of the estate, to where Hermione was hanging helplessly. She looked up when he approached, and her eyes lit up. "Draco!" she cried, struggling against her bonds.

He looked away. He couldn't meet her eyes. His father looked surprised. "She calls you by your first name?"

Draco nodded. "Better that than allow her to speak the Malfoy name," he said quietly, hoping it would satisfy his father. It seemed to work.

"Let's begin," his father said, and several servants pulled out their wands. They all pointed them at Hermione, who's eyes were darting around furiously, wondering what they were going to do. Draco pretended to be watching, but instead focused his eyes on something else.

"Crucio!" the servants shouted in unison. Hermione screamed out in agony, her body convulsing as a few drops of blood leaked from her mouth. They repeated the curse, many times. Each time Hermione sobbed, cried, and bled. A few times she called out to Draco, but he didn't respond.

The same thing was repeated for hours, until the sun went down and the sky became black. At that point Draco's father signaled for them to put away their wands, and they all began to walk inside. "We'll continue tomorrow," his father said.

Draco was one of the first to make it back to the mansion, eager to escape Hermione's gaze. He slammed his bedroom door shut and flung himself across his bed. He covered his face with his hands and tried to block it all out, the memory of Hermione's suffering, the sound of her crying out his name, and the blood running down her face and neck. He wanted to forget it. He scanned his mind for a charm that would erase his memory, but none could be remembered offhand.

The night wore on and Draco's mind grew more disturbed. He thought of how cold Hermione must be, all alone out there, half-naked. He couldn't help but imagine what they would do to her the following day. What horrors lie ahead for her?

Finally he threw on his cloak and walked down the stairs. He just had to check on her, to make sure she was even still alive. In the back of his mind, he wondered if he would be doing her a favor if he simply killed her and got it over with. He could easily enough make up a story to tell his father. He'd say he was so angry and upset with her that he couldn't contain himself. Regardless, he had to talk to her too.

When he neared her, she lifted her head weakly. When she realized it was him, she narrowed her eyes. "What are you doing here?"

"I wanted to talk," he answered, stepping up on the wooden platform and standing inches from her.

"There's nothing to talk about. You watched them torturing me! I know you never cared for me, but I didn't think you hated me so badly!"

"My father forced me to watch! I didn't want to!" he yelled.

"You could've stopped them! You could've done something! You have power and influence!"

"I have nothing!" he screamed, so fiercely that Hermione flinched. "I have nothing at all! I'm nothing without my father, and he bloody knows it!"

Hermione's eyes were wet. "How can you say that? As far as I'm concerned, your father is a nobody! You're everything to me! I belong to you!"

Draco lowered his eyes. "No, I'm the nobody. And if I'm your everything then I truly pity you."

"I don't care if you're a nobody! I still love you, and I'll always be yours!"

Draco chuckled weakly. "I guess you're nobody's girl then."

Hermione allowed herself a tiny smile. "I guess I am."

Draco leaned forward and kissed her. He couldn't hold himself back anymore. The kiss escalated and soon his hands were all over her, his mouth threatening to devour hers. A tiny moan of pain from her stopped him dead in his tracks. He remembered the beating she'd received earlier that day and stepped back suddenly. "I…"

"You're sorry?"

He nodded. "Not just for this. I'm sorry for everything. This is my fault. I shouldn't have let you use magic."

"You didn't let me do anything. I acted on my own."

He kissed her again, but this time he remembered to be gentle. His hands danced over her wounds delicately, soothing her aching body. "I can't stand this," he murmured into her ear, "I can't stand thinking that I'll never be able to touch you again."

"Draco, do you love me?" Hermione whispered.

He stopped and looked her in the eyes. He hadn't really thought about it. He knew that he loved her body, and he loved having sex with her. He knew that he didn't want her to die, and he didn't want her to suffer anymore. But was that because of love? She was a Mudblood, but was that so important to him? "I… think I might…" he said uneasily, "I don't know how it feels to love someone…"

"Don't you love your mother?"

Draco was quiet for a moment. "I suppose I do. I'd never thought of it before. The thought of her dying scares me to death. The thought of being without her… it almost makes me want to die myself."

"And how do you feel about me dying?"

Draco stared at her with wide eyes. "It scares me to death," he replied. He kissed her again. "I think I do… I think I love you."

Tears leaked from Hermione's eyes. "That's enough… I don't care to die now. You've made me so happy!"

Draco pulled away. "I've treated you like shit!" he said.

"But I loved you anyway! And my life was so meaningless. I spent day after day in that horrible cage! That's why I'm so glad you bought me, you gave me a purpose!"

Draco looked down. She was already using past tense. It sounded so terribly sad. He couldn't handle it anymore. Suddenly, without a word, he reached up and untied her arms. She looked at him in shock. "What are you doing?! You'll be killed!"

He shook his head. "I won't. I'll make up an excuse, and my mother will defend me. You have to run away. There's a place you can go to, right? A place where you can hide out and be safe?"

She nodded. "There is, but I don't know if I can make it there. I tried to use magic to free myself, but nothing happened. I think I've lost my ability."

"You haven't. These bonds are designed to suppress magical ability. You're free now, so go!" he said, handing her his cloak.

She stood motionless in front of him. "Come with me!"

"I can't. Then I'd surely be killed."

Hermione couldn't keep from crying. Draco had set her free, yet she already missed him. Why couldn't they be together? Why couldn't they be happy? She reached out and wrapped her arms around him. She hugged him tightly, her face nestled under his neck.

Draco had never been hugged before. He'd never known affection outside of the bedroom. It felt so strange, to be held by someone so tenderly. He wasn't sure how to react, but he decided that resting his hands on her shoulders was a decent idea.

She pulled away from him. "I'll still love you! Even after a hundred years!"

He frowned. "You're acting like you'll never see me again. Do you seriously think I'll be executed for this?"

"No, but I'll never be able to come out of hiding…"

He put his hands on her face. "Someday, when I'm free of my father and I've made my own name for myself, I'll come for you. I'll find you, and take you to my own house, and everyone will think I simply have a new slave."

Hermione hugged him again, then leaned up and kissed him. "Keep that promise, Draco! I'll be waiting for you!"

Draco nodded, and Hermione wrapped his cloak around herself. She concentrated hard for a moment, and then she was gone. He didn't know what spell she had used to transport herself off the Malfoy estate, but he knew she was no longer there. She was free, and she was safe. That's all that mattered to him. He would no doubt be punished severely for he did, but with enough cunning and well-thought lies, he would avoid death. And then, when he took over the Malfoy name, he would find his angel, and they would be happy.

Author's Notes: So there you have it! Then end! It's not a particularly happy ending, though not particularly sad. I wanted it that way. Now, before you all write to me and tell me it's too unresolved or needs more story, don't fret! I DO plan to write a sequel. In fact, I plan to create a special website just for these fics and create many stories that take place in this world. The first sequel has already been started (and will be posted here soon). It is called "Seldom Tread Paths" (look for it!!) and it tells what's become of Harry and the Weasley family in this very different world. Be warned that it will include slash (yaoi) and some incest. If you cannot tolerate those things, you probably shouldn't read it. The next sequel after it will take place five years down the road, and go back to Draco and Hermione. The next story will be a prequel, and basically explain how the world came to be this way in the first place. After that, there will probably be one more story, though I can't tell you anything about it without ruining some surprises! In the meantime, if you would like to write some stories that take place in this world, please contact me! I'd particularly like to see detailed lemons of the scenes I skimmed over in this story (and will probably skim over in the next one, since I'm really bad at writing lemons). If you write one, I'll post it on the site (when I make it, that is). I'd also love to see some fanart for this story, if anyone out there is good at art (unlike me).

Anyway, I'm glad that most of you seemed to be enjoying my story. It really makes me happy. I appreciate all the reviews and e-mails! And if any of you want to do me a big favor, you'll go and join my forums at ^_^