Fade to Black: Prologue

Notes: I know the title is a Metalica song, but it has nothing to do with the song itself. It's just that the title fit the story too well. This fic was written in response to the Draco/Hermione Valentine Gift Fic Exchange held on Livejournal. There were certain stipulations to follow. This is the first time I've ever written in response to a request, so I'm a bit nervous. Thanks for reading.

She sat nervously on the hard wooden bench, her fingers knotting themselves tirelessly with the hem of her robe. She eyed the floor beneath her feet. A door in the back of the room opened, and chains rattled as a figure walked in. Hermione looked up to peer at the boy. Suddenly her stomach lurched and she had an inexplicable urge to dash out of the room and hide away under her covers. But she couldn't do that. After all, she was the prime witness in this trial.

Draco Malfoy was wrapped in chains from head to toe, and the sight of him bound up so tightly, with wide silver eyes and messy hair, made him look like a wild animal. The image seemed strange to Hermione, since he'd always appeared so neat and organized before. She felt sick again, nausea washing over her in waves. Had she made a terrible mistake? Did he deserve this?

He scanned the room full of judges and other important people until his eyes fell upon her. They narrowed, just like they always had when he looked at her, only this time the color flashed with his anger and hatred. Hermione flinched, wishing she had Harry's invisibility cloak to crawl under.

An old wizard stood up and began presenting evidence that Draco was a Death Eater. Finally he called Hermione to the stand, and it was all she could do to hold down her breakfast as she took her seat behind the small podium, facing Draco.

"Miss Granger, is it true that you were witness to Mr. Malfoy using the Dark Arts?"

Hermione tried not to look at Draco, to focus on anything else in the room, but her eyes were always drawn to him. She nodded and quietly said yes.

The wizard was pacing back and forth in front of her. "And, Miss Granger, could you please describe this incident to us?"

Hermione cleared her throat. "Well… I was walking back from Hagrid's cabin one evening, toward the castle, when I saw a flash of light coming from the edge of the Forbidden Forest…"

She paused and once again unwittingly glanced at Draco. He was glaring at her. The wizard stopped right in front of her. "Please go on, Miss Granger."

She cleared her throat again. It seemed that she had a lump there that just wouldn't go away. "I decided to take a look, to make sure there was nothing wrong or that no one was hurt or lost, so I walked toward the light. When I got close enough, I saw Malfoy standing in the middle of a circle he'd apparently drawn with a stick on the ground… he was holding his wand… and there was green light coming from it."

The wizard slammed his hands on the wooden podium beside Hermione. "Green light!" he yelled toward the judges, "Is this not the color of the Dark Arts?! And the circle on the ground, upon inspection by several respected professors from Hogwarts, turned out to be a drawing typically used in performing the Dark Arts. Here, we have a witness that places Mr. Malfoy in the middle of that circle, and using magic that emits a green light! And I need not remind you that Mr. Malfoy's father was a convicted Death Eater himself!"

Hermione was nearly trembling in her seat. She remembered clearly the night that she had seen Malfoy near the Forbidden Forest, and had ran as quickly as she could to tell Dumbledore what she had seen. She had been sure he was performing some horrible spell to hurt, possibly even kill, Harry. The professors had rushed to the scene, though Malfoy was gone by then. Because of Hermione's account, Malfoy had been arrested and put on trial, and Hermione had been called in to testify.

Since that night, she had worried herself to the point of becoming ill. What if she had made a mistake? It was dark, maybe it wasn't really him. What if her eyes had played a trick on her and the light hadn't really been green? What if she was now responsible for sending an innocent boy to Azkaban? Of course, Harry and Ron had assured her that she was right, that Malfoy deserved to be imprisoned and that he was no doubt a Deatheater who had followed in his father's footsteps. It was seventh year, after all, and Malfoy was certainly old enough to take on that position.

Suddenly the wizard turned to Hermione. "That is all, Miss Granger. You may take your seat."

Hermione stood up and stepped down from the witness stand. She had to walk by Malfoy's seat to get back to her place, and she stayed as far to the other side of the wall as possible. Though she tried very hard not to let them, her eyes were once again drawn to him, only to find his blaring into her.

Before anyone could realize what had happened, Malfoy had leapt out of his seat and knocked Hermione to the ground. He was laying on top of her, using his weight to pin her to the ground. His face was so close that the tips of his hair brushed her cheeks. "I'll never forget this, you lying, filthy Mudblood! Someday, I'll kill you for this! Wait and see!"

Several wizards pulled him away from her, though he struggled and screamed at her, trying to fight his way back toward her. The wizard who had questioned Hermione yelled above the shocked crowd. "Isn't it obvious that this boy is a danger to society?! Such acts of rage and violence are trademarks of those involved in the Dark Arts! In these dark times, we must not allow any who support He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named to walk the streets freely!"

The judges hastily nodded in agreement and sent Malfoy away. As he was dragged out of the room, his screams could be heard by all. "I'll bloody kill that Mudblood! I'll hex her till there's nothing left but a bloodstain!"

Hermione was shaking. She'd never seen Malfoy like that, so out of control and violent. She knew he hated her, had even wished for her death on occasion, but she'd never seen him act on those feelings. She was terrified. A witch from the judge's area came over to her. "Don't worry, Miss Granger, Mr. Malfoy will be in Azkaban for a very long time. He won't be bothering you."

Just as this was said, the door Malfoy had been dragged out through burst open. Malfoy was standing in the doorway, one hand free from his chains, holding a wand. He pointed it at Hermione and everything fell silent. She saw his lips moving, but couldn't hear anything. A vivid green light flew from the tip of his wand and came spiralling toward Hermione, striking her squarely in the chest. She fell to the ground, and everything went black.