A/N: Please forgive the long wait. Enjoy!
Thursday afternoon found Hermione diligently peeling through pages of hundreds of books in the library. She did not have a class that time of the day so she had decided to get back to combing through thousands of lines of texts to find something, anything, on Horcruxes. She had searched tirelessly last year in search of info on Horcruxes, but proved unsuccessful. Having done all her homework, Ron and Harry now doing their's, and Viktor currently teaching a class, she decided that she'd make herself useful and try, once again, to find something.
Within the hour, two piles sat idly to her sides. To her left sat a stack of books that she had discarded, deciding that they were utterly useless in her search while the other, to her right, was a stack of books that she had yet to comb through. The former of the piles was beginning to grow taller and taller in height.
As another hour went by, Hermione shut the final book that she had extracted from the "unread pile" and, with a huff, dropped it onto the now towering Discard Pile. Hermione then lowered her tired, clouded head onto her arms and sighed sadly.
'Dumbledore must have taken every precaution of students finding out about Horcruxes in the library,' she said irritably to herself. 'But there must be a way… some way to learn more.'
Suddenly a thought rocketed through Hermione's mind so un-expectantly that she almost fell out of her chair in shock. 'How could I have been so blind; so stupid?' She berated herself as she gathered her things as fast as her hands could go and sped out of the library, ignoring Madam Pince's hostile shrieks over Hermione leaving all her books on the table.
Hermione dashed through the many corridors, zipped around various corners and came skidding to a stop outside Viktor's classroom. She waited outside the door for the bell to ring, signaling the students from within to move on to their next class. She did not have to wait long because within a mere few minutes, the bell sounded and the students came flooding out.
When Hermione was certain that the class was empty aside from Viktor, she took a deep breath to settle her nerves and then stepped into the classroom. She saw Viktor sitting at his desk, evidentially grading some essays from his last class.
"Herm-own-ninny!" Viktor called, looking up from the parchment that he had just graded with an 'E'. "Vat can I do for you?"
Hermione did not answer right away. She strode all the way over to where Viktor sat at his desk, took one last look around to make sure no one else was in the room and then said, "Viktor, I was wondering if I could ask you something. That is, I need some information on something and I was hoping that, well, maybe you could help me."
"Of course, Herm-own-ninny," Viktor replied. Viktor eyed Hermione with genuine curiosity, which was starting to make Hermione feel a little uncomfortable. She only hoped that that look of silent curiosity would not turn into a look of outrage after she asked her question.
"Viktor, they taught the Dark Arts at Durmstrang, correct?" Viktor nodded.
"Well," she was feeling very uncomfortable now. She silently prayed that he wouldn't think badly of her after this question. "I was wondering if you knew anything about…about Horcruxes."
Whatever Viktor had been expecting Hermione to ask, it was not that. The quill he had been holding fell to the polished wood surface of his desk and he raised his eyebrows, staring at Hermione. Hermione took notice that even his jaw dropped slightly. Viktor then stood up from his desk and maneuvered around it to stand face-to-face with Hermione.
"Herm-own-ninny, that is very dark magic. Vhy vood you be vanting to know about that?" His look of silent curiosity had transformed into a hard look of suspicion. His dark eyes bore down upon her, making her feel four feet shorter.
"It's not what you think!" Hermione hastily added. "I don't plan on making one or anything! I just-" Viktor's eyes grew colder- "I just, well, actually I want to learn how to destroy them and what to watch out for."
Viktor studied her for a moment. His dark eyes were beginning to fade away from their cold, intimidating sharpness they held just seconds ago, but he had yet to abandon his stern gaze.
"Herm-own-ninny, I am thinking I know you vell enough to know that you vouldn't make one. That is not vat is concerning me. Vat concerns me is vhy you vould be including yourself on subjects such as Horcruxes." His eyes grew sharp again as he stared into her own eyes. Hermione was beginning to get the horrible feeling that he was trying to read her mind.
'Oh I hope he doesn't know Legilimency.' Hermione thought to herself. It was then that it dawned on her that she did not know if he could or not. She began to avoid his eyes, praying that she did not just give herself away. 'Stupid, stupid! Why didn't you think of the possibility of him knowing Legilimency?'
"Herm-own-ninny, I vant you to know that you may alvays come to me if you ever haff any questions. For this reason, I vill answer your question. I am sure that you are avare of just how evil a Horcrux is- yes?" Hermione nodded.
"Vell, there is only one fool-proof vay of destroying a Horcrux and that is to destroy it vith something so destructive that the Horcrux can not repair itself. Ripping, smashing, or crushing the Horcrux von't vork. It must be destroyed beyond magical repair. It must be destroyed vith something like Basilisk or Acromantula venom, or Fiendfyre. Do you understand Herm-own-ninny?"
Hermione nodded her head. At that moment she could feel an odd mixture of emotion bubbling beneath her surface. She felt glad and thankful of the fact that she finally now knows how to destroy Horcruxes, but at the same time, slightly down-trotted. Where would they possibly get Acromantula or Basilisk venom? Well, actually she knew how to get both of those venoms, however one would require her and friends risking their lives in the Forbidden Forest (Ron would definitely not be up for that) and the latter's venom, would require reentering the Chamber of Secrets, which would be a pretty big risk. It isn't like students are welcome to go down there at their leisure. And attempting to use Fiendfyre was completely out of the question. She'd have to think on this one.
"Thank you so very much, Viktor. You have no idea how much I appreciate this." Viktor nodded mutely. As Hermione turned and headed for the door (perhaps a little faster than she intended to) she could feel Viktor's stern, dark eyes on her retreating back.
As quick as Hermione could go, she hurried down the various corridors until she made it to the stone staircase leading to the Gryffindor common room. Once there, she found Harry and Ron playing Wizard's Chess. Their half-touched homework lay forgotten off to the side.
"I have loads to tell you!" Hermione cried as she hurried over to where the boys sat. The boys looked up, half startled at Hermione's sudden appearance.
"What happened?" Harry asked as Hermione sat down between him and Ron. After checking around to make sure no one was close enough to listen, Hermione retold her whole story in a hushed voice.
"I can't believe you went to ask Krum about this," said Ron scornfully.
"I'm sorry, but I didn't know what else to do," Hermione replied in a pleading voice. "I've been looking endlessly in the library for anything on them and I couldn't find anything. We need to find out as much about them as we can and I thought of Viktor and… well…" Hermione faded off; now starting to feel guilty at the disapproving look Harry was giving her.
"Oh please don't look at me like that, Harry. I never told him my reason for wanting to know. I didn't tell him what we plan on doing-"
"It's fine, Hermione," said Harry, while trying to plaster on a reassuring smile, but Hermione could tell right off the bat that it was fake. "It's better this way then going at it blind, right?"
Slowly, consciousness began to return to Draco, but his eyelids remained shut. He could feel the chilly, hard earth underneath his body. He could also feel the immense soreness that had overtaken his joints and muscles. Of course, it was not anywhere near the pain he had experienced hours ago, but it still made it quite uncomfortable to move.
He breathed deeply, quite surprised that he was still alive. From the pain he had gone through, he was sure that his organs would've shut down on him. He was positive that his heart, under all the stress, would have stopped beating. However, there he was, alive but not necessarily kicking.
His face felt sticky and uncomfortably caked with a mixture of dry and muddy substances. Slowly and with great effort, he lifted his fatigue arm to feel his face. That's when he remembered that his shoulders had been dislocated. Draco decided to assume that, while he was unconscious, Snape had popped them back into place.
His fingers traced along his now gaunt face. They felt the muddy texture of a substance that he had hoped was just mud. As his fingers crawled up, they came across a different texture. It was dry and slightly crusty. He could feel it leaving a trail from his eyelids, nose, and mouth. Was it blood?
His fingers then left his face and trailed down his throat where more of the crusty, muddy substances had gone. He winced from the pain on his skin. It felt like he had just touched a fresh bruise. It was then that he realized his whole backside was screaming to get away from the ground's contact. With a great heave, he forced his reluctant body to turn over in an attempt to relieve his back from the ground's contact. He immediately regretted doing so when his side met the ground and with a sharp intake of breath, he flopped back over on his back. He felt like one big bruise.
'What the hell was in that needle?' he mentally questioned. What could they have possibly injected into him that had caused him so much horrific pain? What could have turned his body into one big bruise? What had caused him to vomit so much and even, judging by what he felt, bleed from his eyes, nose, and mouth?
He heard and felt his angry, empty stomach growl furiously, demanding for sustenance, but after all the retching he had done; eating again was the last thing on his mind. Judging by his severe hunger pains, he had been out for quite some time, perhaps even days.
His temples throbbed, his throat ached, and his lips felt as dry and as chapped as ever. His body screamed for water. Judging by all this, he decided that he was definitely unconscious for a few days. With no water or food, he was quite dehydrated and severely uncomfortable.
Hours slipped by as Draco lay there, miserably awake, his mind mulling over whatever substance they had injected into him and why. And then, a thought occurred to Draco.
When Voldemort had given him the near impossible task of killing Albus Dumbledore, he, Voldemort, had no intention of Draco succeeding. What was worse, he threatened him with the lives of his family if he did not succeed, causing Draco a whole year of agony and stress. When that year had ended and he arrived at the Death Eater's hideout, he was immediately dragged away from his parents and thrown in here. The day after that, he began torturing him day after day. When Draco finally started resisting the Cruciatus Curse, Voldemort resulted in having him get injected with that needle, causing him more agony than before. It was like Draco was some kind of pin cushion- constantly getting another pin jabbed in him every time things seemed like they couldn't get any worse.
Draco gasped… that's exactly what he was. Every time he turned around, Voldemort would do something worse to him than before- like jabbing another pin into him, almost like he was testing how many pins he could push in before all of Draco's stuffing (or in this case, his strength and defiance) would come spilling out. Instead of being treated like some old dog, like Draco originally believed, he was actually getting treated like something that wasn't even a living thing- a bloody pin cushion.
Draco stared out into the darkness, seething with ugly hatred. Exactly how long he laid there he had no idea, but like all the other times, his mind was snapped back to reality as the dreaded flash of light shown in and split the room in half. He unconsciously winced away. Words could not describe his hatred of that light. After all the times it's brought him so much horrific pain and torture, the light had securely labeled itself as an enemy to Draco.
"Ah… Draco, finally awake I see," said Voldemort's cold, cruel voice.
Draco could feel a mixture of horrific fear and intense rage rear up inside him all at once. There was only one thing he detested more than the light and that was the creature that came striding into his safe-haven of darkness.
"Come." For a brief second, Draco thought Voldemort was talking to him. When he had glanced over at the approaching Dark Lord, he saw that he was speaking to three Death Eaters. To Draco's immense horror, he recognized one of the Death Eaters as his mother; his guardian angel.
Narcissa Malfoy couldn't help but allow a strained moan escape her lips when she set eyes on her haggard-looking son. She was positively stunned at how different from her Draco that he now looked. She was under the impression that he couldn't look any worse than the last time she had saw him- she was morbidly wrong.
Her eyes were wide with nothing but sheer horror as she examined his face from afar. She felt absolutely revolted at the site of him. His face was covered in blood and vomit, the former looking like it had come from his eyes, nose, and mouth. The vomit and blood had traveled down his black and purple throat, staining his already immensely tattered old shirt that he sported.
Her horrified eyes drank in his still body that remained motionless on the floor. His skin, which was extremely pale the last time she saw him, had changed to a disgusting mixture of purple and black. Not one part of visible skin remained unmarked. His whole body was just one big bruise.
She could barely stand listening to him breath. He sounded like a dying old man rather than a lively seventeen-year-old. Then their eyes met. His had grown colder and sadder than she ever could have imagined. They appeared almost cloudy-looking. If he wasn't looking her dead in the eyes she'd believe him to have developed cataracts or something.
"What have you done to him?" she moaned out before she could stop herself.
She had just realized she had a river of tears streaming down her cheeks.
"Restrain her," was all Voldemort said in reply.
To Draco's horror, one of the big, burly Death Eater's seized his mother's arms and clamped them behind her back. She shrieked angrily and began to struggle.
Draco, forgetting his immensely bruised body, sat up quickly and said, "Take-your hands-off-her," in a dangerously low voice.
Voldemort simply sneered at Draco before turning his wand, not on Draco like Draco expected, but on Narcissa. Voldemort snapped his fingers and hissed, "Crucio."
Instantaneously, Narcissa let out an ear-piercing scream and sunk to her knees. Her screams sparked something inside Draco. So much hatred, so much anger and grief and regret all at once; it consumed him. It was like a pair of heavy weights had been fastened around his ankles, pulling him down, down underneath a surface of thick, blood-red rage.
Before Draco could even realize what he was doing, he was on his feet and charging, not at Voldemort, but at the Death Eater who had dared to put his filthy, unworthy hands on Draco's mother. The second Death Eater quickly seized Draco by his shoulders. As Draco struggled for freedom, his eyes met with Voldemort's.
Voldemort stared back into Draco's eyes for a brief moment. He then smiled coldly at Draco, and then lowered his wand. Narcissa collapsed on the ground, whimpering silently.
"I think that will do," he said calmly.
The Death Eater holding Draco cautiously released him and hurried after his master, followed by the man whom held Narcissa. Narcissa, however, remained on the ground still whimpering, but Draco got the feeling that she was no longer weeping over the aftereffects of the Cruciatus Curse.
The aches and pains of his body returned full swing. It was as if the mere action of standing could crumple his battered body to the ground. However, the site of his distraught mother, weeping on the ground was enough to keep him standing.
The last time he had been able to lay eyes on her was when, he thought, had been a dream. After that moment he had been receiving good food, presumably, from her. And now here she lay, so close to him. Within a few steps he could hug her. He had missed her so much.
Ignoring his body's shrill screams of pain, he hurried over to his mother and dropped to his knees beside her.
"Mother?" said his harshly strained voice. Narcissa's body clenched up and then, slowly, she raised her face to stare at her now up-close son. When their eyes met she made a strange sort of squeak noise. If Draco hadn't known better, he would've said it sounded like she had just tried to hold down a shriek of terror.
"What have they done to you?" she cried out, shaking her head so hard that her tears splattered Draco in the face.
"They…mother…" Draco looked at her earnestly. He could feel the array of her emotions radiating off her shivering body. He could feel them so clearly, like a breeze hitting his face. He had never seen or felt so much despair on one person. It shredded away at his heart. "They injected me… with something from…a muggle needle."
Judging by her horrified expression, she was not aware of this arrangement until that moment. Narcissa then grabbed handfuls of her white-blonde hair, her mouth hanging open in a silent scream. Draco got the feeling that she was fighting off the temptation to hug him in fear that she'd hurt his bruised body; he wish she wouldn't.
"I don't know what it was, but…" he paused, wondering if he should continue. He noticed that she had frozen, staring at the ground, silently signaling that she was listening. "It hurt… a lot."
Narcissa peered up at him again, her eyes blood shot and still leaking with tears. Her face had contorted into a look of anguish and horror as she examined his face, taking silent note of the purple, vomit, and blood that had taken the place of his once pale complexion.
It was then Draco noticed something strange. His mother's body was quivering and shaking, from more than just anguish. Her teeth chattered as if she were freezing. He could also see her breath as a cloud of vapor expelling from her mouth every time she exhaled. However, even though he clearly was breathing as well, he could not see clouds of his own breath. He didn't even feel any sort of chill that had obviously befallen the room.
"Mother?" he felt stupid for what he was about to ask. "Is it… is it cold in here?"
Narcissa sat bolt upright as if startled. Then, it hit Draco, she was freezing-cold and he felt completely at room temperature. That thought alone scared Draco like nothing else had.
"Draco…" she finally spoke. "I am so sorry. I am entirely to blame for this," said Narcissa, her voice laced and cracking with sadness. She then got up to her feet gingerly took Draco's purple hands within her own. "Please… I want you to run away. When we get out there, I will create a distraction while you Disapparate."
Draco's eyes left his mother's face and stared out into the brightly lit corridor beyond his dungeon door. The thought of leaving his "save haven of darkness" and moving into the light was unthinkable to Draco. The thought of the light caused horrific images of him being tortured to flicker through his mind.
Draco's eyes met his mother's and he shook his head. He then backed away from her, receding into the darkness and away from the light.
"I see…" Said Narcissa sadly, gazing earnestly at her son's terrified face. "It is the light, isn't it?"
Draco said nothing. Narcissa took his silence as a confirmation of her statement, and silently headed for the door. Her feet moved unsteadily, her head bowed low. When she reached the door, she turned around to stare back at her watching son.
"I should have killed you while I had the chance," and with that, she stepped over the threshold and shut the door, leaving her stunned son alone in his darkness. Only one thing went through Draco's clouded, frozen mind; Voldemort had jabbed yet another pin into him.