Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter in any way, shape or form. No copyright infringement is intended.
Authors Note: I believe apologies are in order to you all for the delay in this chapter. I can make no real excuse except for lack of time and perhaps even dedication, and you are therefore free to throw pointy objects at me. Much thanks to all previous reviewers - I hope you enjoy this chapter :) Also, if you'd like to be informed whenever a new chapter of Unforgiveable Sinner is released, there's a link to its notify list in my profile.
Chapter Four: Broken
Darkness; it was all Draco could see as he lay on his dirty old bed. The mattress was so thin, he could feel the bed frame underneath. But he didn't care. Sleep was the last thing he planned to do that night. His arms were folded behind his head, a substitute for the musty old pillow he refused to use. Sighing deeply, he watched his breath conform into white clouds of smoke as they evaporated into the chilling night air.
It had been one day. One day since Hermione Granger had returned, determined to make her interviews with him profitable. The night before, her performance of the strong and content housewife had been transparent for one such as Draco, who knew her inside and out. When she had arrived that morning, she seemed to expect to him to care about her exclamation that she and Potter were happy together.
But he knew the truth; he could see it in her eyes as she asked him more and more questions. 'How long were you in Voldemort's service?', 'What kind of tasks did you perform for him?', 'Are you guilty?' were the ones she focused on the most, but he refused to give her a straight answer. She didn't deserve a straight answer, Draco told himself. She didn't deserve to know the truth, because after all, she had already made up her mind.
But they were speaking and for once, one of them had not ordered for a guard to come before the interview was complete. She had stayed only an hour, refusing to answer any questions about Harry or Ron in fear that Draco might start up his little game of show and tell again. But he could see the confusion and fear in her eyes; she didn't know why she was still there, or even why she was bothering to make an effort.
That satisfied Draco a little, though not much. Turning over in his bed, he faced the mildew ridden and dirty old stone wall, envisioning Hermione's face – and lips – from one night ago when she had stood in this very cell. He had surprised even himself by allowing himself the pleasure of scaring her with his touch – for touching her was one thing he had vowed to never do again.
She had thrown it all away, or at least that was how he had seen it. For years now he had hated her and the memories she had bequeathed to him. Their years at Hogwarts - the last two to be precise - had changed his life dramatically. Perhaps if he and Hermione were never to have started a relationship to begin with, he wouldn't be lying here in this cell contemplating a death sentence.
Did blame her? Yes. But did he hate her? Some part of him willed so hard that he could turn her away, that he could inflict unspeakable tortures on her and that he could finally let go of the last shred of humanity he possessed. But he couldn't hate her. No, never again could he truly hate her. There are some people in the world who are impossible to let go off and as he lay there, simpering in the darkness; he realized that she was the one true person who had never let him go.
Life didn't end that night for Hermione, but rather it removed a few of the misconceptions both she and her interviewee had about one another. And so a month went by, with peace of some sort between the two. His calmer demeanor nowadays unwittingly aided her in their sessions and in a way, allowed her to continue on with her life away from Azkaban.
To some extent at least.
"I'm really sorry, Ron, but I can't stay," Hermione muttered as she pulled her long brown hair up into a ponytail and clipped it tightly. Ron's expression faltered slightly and he sighed, leaning his Nimbus Two Thousand up against the wall.
"Then come for dinner," insisted Luna. She was flipping through the pages of the latest edition of The Quibbler. After graduating, she had taken up a position at her father's magazine as a coeditor, but her job was never one to get in the way of watching one of Ron's games.
The Chudley Canons had just beaten the Wimbourne Wasps at another game and were well on their way to another World Cup if they kept at this rate. Ron was rather excited and his crestfallen expression only broke Hermione's heart into pieces as she grinned at him apologetically.
"Dinner would be great," she said, throwing her bag over her shoulder. "I'm busy tomorrow, but how does the night after sound?"
"It sounds fine to me," Ron shrugged. "But will it work for Harry?"
He gave Hermione a curious look, but she ignored his gaze, suddenly interested in the front cover of Luna's magazine. "You'll have to ask him yourself."
"You and Harry aren't having…er...problems?"
"Of course not," she muttered, waving her hand around airily. "He's just been rather busy lately. As have I."
"Oh yes," said Luna. "You're still interviewing those Death Eaters."
A rather dark look passed over Ron's face as he scowled at the mention of Hermione's job. It was no surprise really, since he had been acting this way ever since he found out Hermione would be interviewing Draco. Still, one month on and he persisted in his usual routine of muttering insults under his breath and scowling invisible holes into the Quidditch Pitch.
"You really should take some time off," he said, trying to make it sound as nonchalant as possible. However, she knew better; she was used to this charade he put up, trying his best to suppress the disgust he held. "You should spend some more time with Harry. We rarely see you two together these days."
"I have a deadline, Ron, there's so much more I have to do. If Harry wants to spend time with me, then he can stop quadruple checking maps that never change."
Ron and Luna shot each other nervous glances; they knew Hermione's snappy tone was usually reserved for her moments of great frustration or unease. But neither of them dared to say anything about it. Hermione announced she had to leave, and as she Apparated to the all too familiar fortress of Azkaban, they bid her farewell and reminded her not to be late for dinner.
"Good afternoon," Draco murmured, leaning back in his aluminum chair, bored. Hermione shot him a small smile before seating herself. As soon as she had, she threw her arms onto the table and slammed her forehead down. Draco raised his eyebrows at the loud thud she made as he picked at his fingernails uninterestedly.
"You could say that."
She stood up and began pacing back and forth across the length of the room slowly. Her black shoes tapped loudly with every step she took, making Draco's concentration on his fingernails less apprehensive.
"What questions do you have for me today?" he asked after a few minutes. He was growing rather impatient with her less-than-attentive mood. Usually when she came into the room, she was all geared up and focused all her attention on him, something he secretly enjoyed. Unfortunately, it seemed the novelty had worn off.
Hermione pursed her lips. "If I ask you questions, I never seem to get an answer," she answered rationally.
"Oh hush," he drawled. "You get some kind of answer, it's just not always the type you're looking for."
"If I were looking for answers which led me in circles, I'd have gone to Sybill Trelawney."
"Yes, well she's not a Death Eater, is she?"
Hermione rolled her eyes, absentmindedly massaging the back of her neck with her hand as she slumped herself back down into her seat. She reached into her bag and extracted a large manila envelope. Tossing it lazily onto the table, she was sure Draco noticed the dark black letters bearing his name.
"Your case file," she began, hoping to see some kind of reaction in his casual and unimpressed face. "In the past month, my superiors have noticed that nothing has been added into it."
"Your point being?" he asked coolly.
"My point, Draco," she grumbled, "is that in one month's time I've learned absolutely nothing from you."
"And you're telling me this because?"
Draco was smirking in a satisfied manner, whereas Hermione looked so exhausted she didn't even have the strength to look as if she'd slap him -- which was what she felt she just might do if things kept progressing as they were. Groaning inwardly, she forced herself to look him in the eye. The boy across the room seemed the very image of an angel; his few frown lines and the darkness that loomed in his eyes remained the only traits that could ever give him away. His frame was that of someone his age – a thin, twenty-year-old man that had obviously not had enough space to move about or exercise in general.
She wondered for a moment how his body could transform from the lean one she remembered; one toned and mastered from his years as a Seeker. His silver-blonde hair, unruly and untamed, was very uncharacteristic for someone of his sort, and fell into his deep gray eyes every time he inclined his head. His robes, though old and prison standard, were tattered and rugged, but not in incredibly bad condition. In fact, compared to some of the other prisoners Hermione had seen that night a month ago, Draco looked downright decent.
"Why aren't you answering me Draco?" she asked. Very slowly her strict and exhausted demeanor was slipping away. Sitting there, in the cold room with no one but him, the silence was eerily calming. His eyes though hard and at times ruthless, were amazingly serene for someone of his nature.
"It is no use answering someone when they've already made up their mind," he said plainly, surprising Hermione.
"Who said I've made up my mind?" she questioned curiously.
"Yet another question," he snapped, his tone deepening and his eyes bearing the warning signs of anger. He was obviously not the least bit concerned with her growing curiosity.
"I thought you wanted questions."
"What I want is for you to get on with the interview!"
"Fine!" Hermione spat. "How long did you serve Lord Voldemort?"
"Three years!" he growled, his fingers tightening on the edge of the table. His knuckles were going white from his grip, which was intensifying by the second. He didn't even begin to consider the fact that she had unknowingly gotten him riled up or that he was pissed off beyond belief that she was delving into questions he had refused to answer time and time again. "There, that's something for the sodding file!"
Hermione seemed extremely bewildered at the silent fury he was suppressing; though it was plain for her to see that he was far from his calm self. His eyes were darkening, he was scowling, and she blinked in even more vivid confusion.
"Why on earth are you so angry, Draco?"
"Because you're so bloody blind sometimes," he scoffed loudly.
"What are you getting at?"
"Oh, figure it out for yourself," he muttered, standing up and slowly walking over to the door. He knocked twice and waited a few minutes but no guard came to the door.
"Where the bloody hell-"
"He's probably on a lunch break," Hermione broke in knowingly.
"He's on a lunch break while you're in here interviewing me?" questioned Draco and she nodded slowly. "Well, why the hell isn't he guarding the door? What if I'd tried to attack you? I'm a criminal you know, I could have easily tackled you and stolen your wand!"
And then something unexpected happened. Hermione began to laugh. And it wasn't just a giggle or a low sort of dignified laugh, but rather a loud, deep, amused laugh. A look of surprise and embarrassment stole Draco as he stared at her from across the room. Her face began going red and she could feel tears building up in her eyes, so she kept them closed.
Her chest became sore and after a minute or so, Draco wasn't sure whether she was laughing or sobbing. Her voice died down and she took a few gulps of precious oxygen to calm herself before biting her lip and calmly surveying him. Her face was red and burning; she was sure she'd just made a fool out of herself. But truth be told, she didn't care in the least.
"What's so funny?" asked Draco, as silence returned to the room.
"I'm not sure," said Hermione, raising a cold hand to her burning cheek in a hope of cooling it down faster.
"Then why'd you laugh?"
"Because…Because I needed to," Hermione said after a moment's pause.
Draco slowly returned to his seat, his lanky limbs throwing themselves down lazily as the girl in front of him watched him cautiously. It was definitely one of the most peculiar sights he had seen in his entire life: Hermione Granger, the straight laced, serious and intelligent Gryffindor, laughing her head off in Azkaban. It was more than peculiar or odd – it was unnatural.
"It's been a long time since I heard you laugh," he mumbled softly, his eyes focused on the table. Hermione relaxed a little; he wasn't in one of his violent paranoid moods today.
"It's been a long time since I've laughed at all," she said, almost mournfully. Draco looked up at her in surprise, but he was met with the smallest of plain smiles. It wasn't encouraging, nor was it antagonizing, but it did calm him somewhat. They sat there, staring at one another before Hermione cleared her throat and stood up.
"I'd better be going," she insisted, returning Draco's case file to her bag and slinging it over her shoulder. She turned towards the door and took out her wand, but she turned back to face him for a moment. "Thank you for your help, Draco."
"Until next time," he said, a bit regally.
"Indeed," she said to herself before turning around. Hermione tapped the door with her wand and muttered an incantation under her breath. Hearing a soft click, she made to turn the handle, before drawing back her hand.
"I'm here to help you, Draco, even if it seems I have other intentions. All I want to know is what happened…"
"Curiosity killed the cat," he purred languidly.
"Did curiosity also kill Ginny?" she asked daringly. Hermione turned to face him. Draco's cold gray eyes seemed to silently question her motives. She didn't have the courage to ask him the question to his face. She had surprised herself by even asking it then. She dreaded whatever answer she would get, for obviously no answer could appease her and set anyone's mind to rest.
Draco frowned, his face suddenly quite serious. He took a moment to register the question, propping his elbow up on the table and resting his head neatly in his hand. "Do you really want me to answer that?"
She stood there in the silence, unshaken, before turning the handle and walking outside without answering him. She closed the door behind her, locking it with the same spell she had previously heard an Auror use before she silently made her way back to the front desk.
Hermione was so caught up in her own thoughts that she didn't even notice Moody waiting for her at the entrance, his magical eye fixed on her form as she neared him. He cleared his throat, causing her to shake off her previous thoughts and bring herself back down to earth.
"Mr. Moody," she said, nodding her head in a welcoming gesture.
"Miss Granger, how goes the interviewing process?"
"As well as can be expected," she mumbled.
Another evening came and went. Night drew on and Harry had already owled her in the morning telling her he wouldn't be home. Hermione wondered just how many married witches stayed home on Friday nights, while their husbands were out fighting the impending evil and soon-to-be war of their world. Perhaps she was lucky. At least she wasn't married to a man who was an alcoholic or a competitive gambler. No, instead she'd chosen 'Mr. Perfect' as Parvati had once deemed him.
'Oh how very wrong she had been,' Hermione mused.
Sighing, she decided to go searching in the old storage cupboard where she and Harry kept many of their old Hogwarts things. Harry hadn't wanted to return to the Dursleys' at all once he had graduated and even though he would be safe there with Aunt Petunia's protection, he had pledged to leave as soon as possible.
It had only been a month after graduation that he popped the question to Hermione and a few weeks later, they had gotten married in a quiet little church just north of Hogsmeade. Ron had been Harry's best man; Ginny had been her maid of honor.
They had been so happy that day, neither unaware of the tragedy that struck soon after. Dumbledore had attended the ceremony, as had Professor McGonagall, Lupin, and an assortment of friends from Hogwarts. Hermione had extended an invitation to Tonks and Moody, who had just accepted her into the Auror Academy, but Moody had entertained fears about a spiked wedding cake and opted not to attend.
Prowling through a box of old photographs, Hermione sat down in the large dusty cupboard and absentmindedly examined a number of them. Some were wedding photos; others were ones from Hogwarts that Colin Creevy had been so kind as to capture. She couldn't help but smile at the large grins Harry and Ron were sporting in almost all the photos (excluding of course, the ones where they were shaking their fists at Colin).
She soon stumbled upon the large picture from their graduation. It featured all the students in their year, all of whom were smiling proudly and holding up their diploma's, waving at her with excitement. She spotted herself and Harry, hugging tightly to the left of the photograph while Ron was trying to pry off Luna, who had run into the picture for some odd reason.
Hermione laughed softly as the Harry in the picture winked at her, causing her miniature self to glare at him angrily. She remembered those moments, those oh-so precious moments, which seemed to have been so long ago. Then again, three years was a long time.
She wondered what had happened to Parvati Patil or Lavender Brown or whether Dean Thomas had ever achieved his goal of becoming a football player. The only other person she had kept up to date with was Neville, and that was only because he was the current Herbology teacher and she visited him time to time when she had messages for Dumbledore.
She ran her finger across the photograph, matching names with faces until her finger landed on one pale, pointed face. His gray eyes glared menacingly across the crowds of people and Hermione followed his gaze until it landed where she feared. She had never noticed it before, the almost savage look Draco had sported that afternoon. She didn't know how many times she had seen that picture, but it had never struck her as important.
Now, after spending so much time with him in Azkaban, she realized just how a young man could bottle so much fury up inside of him. He hadn't changed at all. His scowl darkened in the photograph and Hermione tucked it away, not wanting to look at it anymore. She returned the box to one of the higher shelves and almost choked on a cloud of dust. Waving it away, she turned to leave before something caught her eye.
Sitting on the bottom shelf was her old school bag. Curiosity got the better of her and she reached over, pulling the old bag out of the closet. She closed the door behind her and made her way into the living room. Turning on one of the lamps and lighting the fireplace, she sat herself down and emptied the contents onto the coffee table.
Many books and quills came spilling out. Old, dust-ridden, yellowed pieces of parchment and ink pots clinked together before her bag sat empty next to her. Pawning through the familiar items, her eyes soon came to rest on an old and worn black book. Weary, but unable to stop herself, she pulled it to her, and gently opened it up to the first page.
I know that all you ever crave for is what you don't know. Mysteries intrigue you, fantasies inspire you, magic motivates you, and love… Love is a mystery of its own. This is my gift to you, my angel. All you've ever wanted to know about magic is inside here and all I can ever hope is that you understand why it's a magic that has become so feared and so hated.
This book is now yours and all I can ever hope is that you read and learn from it. I've made my choice; I've made it for you. I went one step too far, engaging in a relationship with you; no doubt my father knows I have. But I can't turn back now, not when I've had a taste of the only fruit that will ever be forbidden to me.
Hermione bit her lip, exhaustion, frustration, and confusion all capturing her body. She felt so tired and so weak. She lay down on the couch. The fireplace was lit, though it didn't warm her at all as she hugged the book to chest and rested her head gingerly on one of the cushions. The silent old house suddenly felt too large and utterly empty, and Hermione found she couldn't help but feel so cold, lifeless, and above all else, she felt alone.
Draco had broken his promise to her. He had left her and joined the Dark Side. He had broken whatever trust she had in him and thrown it away the night Ginny's body had been found. And still, his innocent words played on her senses. He had been so sincere, yet not so different from how she knew him now.
Could it be possible…?
No, of course not. He was guilty. He had joined the Dark Side. But even to this day, he had never confessed, never admitted to the crimes he was being charged with. He hadn't even had his trial yet, for Dumbledore and Fudge had regretfully informed her that there wasn't much proof they could piece together. Fudge didn't seem to be looking for proof though, as he was sure Draco could be convicted either way. Dumbledore, however, had insisted they do things the respectable way, and so it had proceeded slowly.
Hermione wrung her fingers together nervously, not daring to reopen the book again before she sat up and stared across the room into the flickering fireplace. It seemed ridiculous to be contemplating the notion, for she had thought she had known the truth all along. But the feeling of unease inside of Hermione didn't subside.
Perhaps some old spark, some old hope that yearned for him to be that bratty boy she had known so long ago, still resided within her. She would prefer a bratty Slytherin to a guilty Death Eater. Perhaps deep down inside she didn't want to believe that Draco Malfoy, the spawn of an inhuman and malicious bastard, had become the very specter of his father.