She was led into the huge, stone building by the Aurors. She shivered as she felt the cold, from the bare stone building and from the Dementors as they entered a small room where two of the creatures were waiting. The Dementors had willingly returned to the prison and the Ministry's control after the battle with Voldemort, one more thing Fudge saw as proof that Voldemort was indeed dead. Hermione wasn't so sure. If Voldemort were laying low he couldn't afford to have hundreds of Dementors around, but each time Voldemort had come out in the open the Dementors had soon abandoned the Ministry. She couldn't understand why Fudge trusted them. She shivered, from the cold as well as from fear. She still didn't have her cloak and she was chilled to the bone.
"5437C," one of the Aurors barked. "One count of the Killing Curse, life." He released the silencing spell, then pushed her forward roughly, but not before she felt his hands trembled a little. She didn't start to cry or plead. It'd taken hours to get here, without Apparating or Flooing, and she'd had some time to collect herself.
The Dementors merely drew their rattling breaths, not replying. She wasn't sure if they could even speak with those mouths? The cold hit her in waves and a rotting smell emanated from the Dementors. Their hands felt clammy on her skin as they pushed their slimy, scaly hands out from their sleeves and grabbed her. The Auror's reaction was easy to understand, the Dementors were horrible! The Aurors quickly turned, leaving the room, and she was left alone with her jailers.
The Dementors pulled her around roughly, still without making a sound, leading her to the only other door of the room as they glided alongside her. The cold seeped further into her, and she was aware of them burrowing into her thoughts. She shivered with more than cold as she felt the despair hit her, her worst memories surfacing. The day her grandma died. The time in fifth year when she had found herself facing the Death Eaters. And most of all yesterday, when Fudge had broken her wand. The main things that were currently occupying her mind weren't happy thoughts, though, and were left alone. And part of her mind, the analytical part that was always curious no matter what her consciousness was thinking of, wondered how they did it, and whether they lived off the mental energy alone.
"Just tell me where you want me to go, I won't make any trouble," she said quietly as they dragged her roughly into the broad, stone corridor, through a heavy, barred door, and out into the gloomy corridor beyond. She wasn't near as calm as she appeared, but she would try to be polite rather than fight.
The Dementor on her right turned to her, although it did not stop gliding down the almost-dark hall. She couldn't see much of its eyeless features under its hood, but she could have sworn it was staring at her.
'You're a strange one. You aren't mad already?'
She could hear it inside her head, it hadn't spoken aloud.
"You're telepathic," she said.
'Why aren't you afraid like the others?'
She grimaced. "I would've thought if you fed on thoughts you'd be able to make them out better. I am afraid."
'Nothing compared to the others. It's all those who come here can think of, even the Death Eaters. Even the Aurors are afraid of us,' the Dementor sent to her.
"I could tell," she replied. "He…" She started to say he trembled, but since she thought that amusing, the Dementor immediately sucked the thought away and she stopped, blinking.
'Don't you know who we are?' it asked.
"You're Dementors," she answered automatically. "You guard Azkaban, and you take all remotely happy thoughts from the prisoners. I saw some of you before years ago, and I was scared then. I didn't think it was possible to reason with you. I'm…" Once again she lost track of her thoughts, as she had wanted to say she was glad to find out that wasn't all true. "It's really confusing when you do that while I'm talking, I forgot what I wanted to say," she remarked.
'No one ever talks to us.' Even though it hadn't spoken aloud, it had sounded, or felt, like the Dementor was puzzled. 'Only to scream or beg.'
"Or to give orders," she said, sneering as she thought of the Aurors. She really hated the Ministry. And then to think she'd once thought the Wizarding world had been only wonderful… She sighed. "Do you have to do that?"
'It's what we do, you know that.'
"Do you have to? I mean, is it like breathing or do you control what you take?"
'We can control it. The Aurors wouldn't dare come here otherwise,' it thought at her, and immediately sucked away the amusement that comment gave her. It really was getting on her nerves! 'We're just not used to controlling what we thoughts we take from the prisoners, why should we?'
"Because it's really hard to hold a conversation when you make me forget what I was going to say all the time," she replied, frustrated.
'No one ever talks to us,' it repeated.
"You said that. But I do," she pointed out.
She shrugged. "I'm gonna be here for the rest of my life, I figured it wouldn't hurt to be polite."
The Dementor stopped at an open door. For a moment she felt it hesitate, then it let her go as it thought at her. 'This is your cell.'
She went in without resisting. It was a small, bare cell, with only a cot, a thin, folded blanket, and a hole in the corner of the floor. It wasn't much, but she hadn't expected more. "Thank you," she said. "For telling me, instead of pushing me in." She was also aware that her relief at this wasn't disappearing. She was still shivering, but the cold was less than before, especially from the inside.
One Dementor turned as if to leave, but the other, who, she was sure, was the only one who'd 'spoken' to her, did not.
'Don't think that being polite will stop us from feeding on your thoughts. Is that what you hoped?'
She shrugged again. "Not really, I don't think. It's just what I said, it doesn't hurt to be polite, it can't make it any worse." She frowned in frustration. "At least I think that's all I hoped, it's hard to be sure if there's more I can't remember right now."
'You really are different from any others we've ever had in here,' the Dementor sent, fascinated. 'Why, who are you?'
"Maybe it's because I was Muggle-born, I don't have the same prejudices the wizards do."
'You think what the wizards think of us is prejudice?' it inquired.
She shrugged. "I was afraid it wasn't, but maybe it is. You're talking to me, aren't you? The Ministry hates the Werewolves too, and the Centaurs, and almost anyone who isn't human. But they are as bad or worse, they didn't care who it was I killed, didn't care Pettigrew would've killed me and my friend. I don't know if it'd have made a difference, but they didn't even hear my side of what happened. In the Muggle world even the worst killers get heard. And then… you work for them and yet they fear and loathe you, why do you stand for it?"
'They allow us to feed on you. They would fight us if we fed on them.'
"You can't need a lot. From what I've heard most here are too afraid to have any happy thoughts at all. There's got to be another way. They hold you prisoner here almost as much as us." She wasn't sure why she took the chance to say these things, except that, well, it had asked, and she probably couldn't make things worse than they'd be if she said nothing at all.
'They're afraid of us. They wouldn't allow us among them, ever. This works for everyone, we guard their prisoners and we can feed in return.'
"Of course no one cares what it does to the prisoners," she remarked dryly.
Well, she'd known that since Fudge broke her wand. She wasn't sure what else to say, and after a few moments the Dementors drifted back and closed the cell door.
She sat on the edge of the bed and as usual when she was alone and without a book to read, she lost herself in thought. There was so much she'd read before, she didn't need a new book to keep herself busy.
Whether it was this activity, or whether they always came to a new arrival, she didn't know, but she wasn't left alone for long. Soon she felt the cold and the charms problem she thought of was pulled from her mind. They didn't intend to leave her alone. Not that she'd really expected it, the Dementor had told her they would still feed on her, no matter what. Nor could she talk to anyone, these Dementors didn't open the door. She saw them through the small, barred window in the door, only stopping for a moment as they floated through the corridor.
More passed in the hall, and she didn't get a chance to think of any interesting anymore. Or of anything else but what a bitter disappointment the Wizarding world had been to her. She shivered again as the cold inside returned.
Then they did open her cell, coming in as they needed to go deeper to get to her pleasant memories.
She nodded at them as they entered, that was something she didn't really have to think about, they looked humanoid enough that some basic greeting came automatic. And they were surprised, but there were more of them here now, and she hadn't barely the time to register the thought before it was pulled from her. They had their hoods thrown back, their eyeless faces and round, toothless mouths clearly visible. The cold inside her grew worse and she was shivering uncontrollably. She started to cry, then grabbed her head, trying to hold on to something as she could feel the Dementors' touch deeper inside her, pulling out parts of her memory, not just current thoughts. The one thing that remained at the surface was how she was stuck here and how dreadful the Wizarding world had turned out, after all her high hopes and dreams –which she could no longer remember. There had to be six or seven of them in the small cell, now, with more of them in the corridor outside. Damn, they didn't have to come all at once!
'I told you we would feed on you, like on all the others,' she heard inside her head. She looked up and instantly picked out the one who had spoken to her before.
"You can read my thoughts literally," she said, aloud out of habit as much as anything. "You really are telepathic."
One of the Dementors instantly sucked the thought out of her head, and she shook her head in confusion as she heard another Dementor –a distinctly different 'voice', female?- sent, 'And you really do talk to us. I thought he was kidding.'
"Kidding? Dementors can be kidding?" she asked, incredulously. More of the Dementors had stopped feeding now so she had time to do so, but moments later the thought was sucked away by one of those who hadn't paused. She sighed in frustration. It was very unsettling and frightening to constantly lose the thoughts she had, as soon as she thought them.
'Yes, we can,' the Dementor sent.
Damn, how could anyone talk like this? "Can what?" she said out loud, as she'd also lost the thought she'd had earlier, learning the Dementors didn't need her to speak aloud.
She became aware less and less thoughts were pulled from her, until none were reaching inside her any more. She wondered why, since they'd taken every memory of the conversation that had led to this respite. She was about to ask when she received the answer.
'You really do talk to us,' the Dementor repeated. 'I didn't believe it when my brother told me.'
"Your brother?" she echoed. She wondered if she was so confused because of the thoughts taken from her, or if she was influenced by what the Aurors had told her. Dementors were intelligent enough to run a jail, why *wouldn't* they have a sort of family structure, even if they were energy beings? They didn't pop into existence fully grown, did they?
'We have families. Not that they care.'
'The Aurors,' the Dementor thought at her again. 'You don't have to speak aloud.'
Ah, of course, something came back to her now, she was sure she'd just heard that. 'You're full telepaths,' she thought. Then she added, 'do *they* know *that*?'
Since the possibility they didn't was very amusing, immediately, the thought was pulled out of her head. She blinked and shook her head.
'Sorry,' the Dementor told her, turning to the others. Several of the other Dementors now left the room. The two she'd spoken to remained, so did one other.
'No, the Aurors don't know we can read their minds. We only respond to what they say aloud. They'd be even more scared if they knew,' the first Dementor sent. 'They wouldn't ever come here or allow us to work for them, even here.'
She had grinned for a fleeting second when she heard the Aurors didn't know the Dementors read their thoughts, but she didn't need a Dementor to lose that pleasant thought when she understood the reason. Of course the Aurors wouldn't trust the Dementors, not with the way they treated anyone who wasn't human. She turned back to the previous topic. 'You have families here?' she asked.
'Just a few,' the second Dementor said. 'There is little energy to spare, and most of those who had young during the Dark Lord's reign have moved away. It's no place for children, ours no more than yours.'
'Makes sense,' she thought back. Then she realised that she had no idea where else the Dementors lived, except for in Azkaban. There weren't any Dementors in England outside Azkaban, were there? She wished they'd studied them more, instead of only learning how to fight them!
'They live abroad, in the mountains and the northern countries,' the reply came. 'We fare better where it is cold and dry, but some of us came to these parts of the world, where there are more people.'
The third Dementor asked, 'Why are you so curious about us? All others fear and loathe us.'
She felt some fear and loathing, and she knew it was useless to hide it. Even if it seemed they could only literally hear those things she consciously thought of, they'd dug deeper inside her just now. And of course they'd read this thought now, she thought somewhat peeved. She'd have to really learn to think about what she thought. If that was even possible. 'Because I'm curious about everything, I think,' she replied.
'We prey on humans, it's natural for you to be afraid of us,' the Dementor replied.
'You can control it,' she pointed out. 'So I can control my fear.'
'Are all Muggles like you?'
She snorted. 'Not exactly.' She'd been an outsider in the Muggle world, more often than not. People would shun her for the way she would rather read or dream than watch a popular series on television. Most of *them* would never accept the Dementors, even if they would be able to see them, would be more afraid yet than the wizards. Bigotry existed in both worlds, that much was sure. Remus had to leave the school when it came out he was a Werewolf, Madam Maxime tried to deny she was half-Giant, the house-elves were treated like dirt by many, and all of them looked basically human, or humanoid. Well, most of the month.
'We won't come with as many at once again,' the Dementor who'd brought her to her cell told her.
She was surprised. 'Thanks –but why?'
'You treat us like human beings,' -except that the word she heard in her head wasn't really 'human', for a Dementor would not use that in this context, nor was it 'Dementor' as she would attach a different meaning to that, clearly telepathy didn't solve all cultural communication difficulties- 'we will return the favor.'
'Thank you,' she replied. She frowned. 'Do you have.. names?' she thought next. 'It's confusing without.'
'We don't use words like humans do. We use mental images among each other. I am,' A thought she couldn't possibly describe in words flashed into her mind. 'My sister is,' A distinctly different image, but just as indescribable in English. She got the impression of 'cold' and 'dark' but that applied to both of them. The third Dementor added his picture. She might be able to send them –with some difficulty- but she'd never be able to say them.
'You don't need to,' (dark place with a cold breeze and –no, expressing his name in words was impossible) pointed out. 'No other humans know our image. No one but you has asked, and you will have little opportunity to speak with anyone.'
She grimaced as she was reminded of both facts. She'd already established no one cared for the Dementors, but she hadn't quite realised she would see no one but the Dementors here. In Muggle jails there was some contact with the other prisoners, as well as a little contact with the outside world. Here, she could expect neither. All the more reason to be friendly with the Dementors. She'd never been racist, or specieist as the case might be.
'I am Hermione,' she volunteered. Although they probably already knew that, they'd been deep enough into her thoughts earlier.
'So far, I've not remembered any one prisoner's image. I didn't have a reason to,' the first Dementor sent. 'But I will know yours.'
'Thank you,' she thought, and added his image as well as she could.
'Not bad for a human,' he replied.
'It is time for us to distribute the food. We will return,' the female Dementor told her.
She nodded, and the Dementors left without taking any more of her thoughts.