I've been away from my computer all Thanksgiving break, so, before going stir-crazy, I decided to write this one-shot that I thought up. Hope you enjoy it!
Hermione Granger heaved, her knees drawn to her legs, crammed tight in the farthest corner from the door. The room was dank, smelled of urine and vomit, and worst of all, death. She had been there half a day at most. There were others in the room with her, but she didn't dare lift her head, didn't dare make a sound to upset the witch or wizard on guard only feet away.
How had it come to this? Her, the finest in her class, in her school, holed up in an impenetrable prison. Her captors?—Death Eaters. And if they were the only ones in the building then escape would have been simple. But they had the Dementors on their side now, and one false move and your brain was worse than mush.
She had to stay strong and get through this. Someone would come, eventually. Harry, the great Harry Potter, he would rescue her and Ron and Ginny and all the others that Voldemort's lot had managed to capture on their latest raid.
"Mudblood," came a gruff voice at the cell door. Hermione looked up, having been on the receiving end of that insult more times than she could remember. "Yeah, you. Stand up. And if you even think of trying something then—"
"I'm not going to do anything," she spat. Wrong move.
She was on the floor, her body convulsing violtenly before she knew what was happening. Every fiber, every tendon in her body burned and stretched and screamed for an end.
"Still sassy, mudblood?" the Death Eater laughed. "Now stand up."
She was knocked to the floor the moment her feet were outside the cell. Icy metal chains snaked around her neck, cutting off too much air. She gasped and sputtered and the Death Eater laughed at her attempted to breathe. She drew in as much air as she could, bracing herself for the inevitable.
Some five minutes later, her neck bruised and bleeding after being dragged through the compound, she was deposited on the wet floor of a new cell, completely alone.
And this was where she would spend the next six months of her life, in total isolation, before she even heard another voice.
She bolted upright, her eyes bloodshot and hazy from too many nights without sleep. Her stomach awoke not a second later, howling for the gruel they called food.
What was that? she thought, straining her ears to hear whatever had woken her.
"Uhhh," moaned a voice.
She waited until the footfalls of the Death Eaters were completely gone. And then, very slowly, she inched her way across her cell and pressed her body against the wall.
"Is someone there?" she whispered just loud enough for them to hear.
"Obviously," the mystery person bit, proving themselves to be male.
"Who are you?"
"Does it really matter?"
"I don't care what your name is," he sighed. "Or anything about you. It won't help either of us get out, so what's the point?"
"Well excuse me for wanting someone to talk to. I've only been here six months. Forgive my forwardness," she hissed back. Why did this feel so familiar? Why did she know she wanted to harm the person on the other side of the wall?
It was days before Hermione attempted conversation again. When she was awake she'd listen intently, trying to pick up clues as to who she was housed next to. But he was too smart for that, saying nothing and only moving when food was slid into his cell.
The Death Eater closed the outer door with a click, his footsteps fading away into the night, or day, or whatever time it was now. Hermione crawled to the very edge of her cell, the corner closest to his cell. She reached her arm through her bars, around, and touched the bars of the next cell. Immediately there was movement from within, and a second later she felt a sharp heat on her hand. She retracted it and cursed under her breath.
"You didn't have to slap me," she sighed.
"Then leave me alone."
"Tell me one thing then, and I'll never talk to you again."
"Fine. But if I don't want to answer—"
"Of course." She smiled for the first time since before the war. Well, not quite a smile, there was nothing happy about it, but it was enough to keep her going a few more days. "Ok…How were you captured?"
"That tells too much."
"Why are you so hell-bent on being anonymous!" she yelled, slapping her hands on the floor. "What does identity matter in here! We're both prisoners to the same evil. Obviously we were on the same side."
"Are you always so sure you're right?"
She didn't answer. How many times had she been asked that same question, or one just like it, in her life?
"You win," she sighed. "I give up. I won't talk to you anymore."
The cell door swung open, shattering her resolve. She didn't know what she'd done—nothing, she was sure of it!—but she would pay regardless.
A masked Death Eater stepped into her cell, their wand poised to kill.
"The Dark Lord is not pleased," came a harsh, but very female voice. Hermione guessed it was Bellatrix LeStrange. But whoever it was it didn't matter. "Potter is no closer to death than he was as an infant."
Hermione fought the urge to spit out a witty comeback.
"Where. Is. He?" the Death Eater seethed, snatching her by the front of her filthy shirt.
"You already know the answer," Hermione managed to whisper.
"Tell me or I kill you right now."
"Then kill me."
Ten minutes later, an hour, a day, a week? She didn't know, but one eye was swollen shut and the other was fast approaching. She coughed into her only slightly broken hand, the better of the two, and gasped—though it was more of a wheeze—when she saw blood.
"Harry," she cried, her body curled in a pitiful ball in the middle of her cell. Her bones were beyond aching. They seared with pain. Pain so terrible that no single word in any language could ever describe it. She was inches from death, yet she wouldn't allow it. Somehow, some way, she knew she would get through this.
She couldn't lift her head even if she wanted to.
"Wha'?" she pushed out, her lips so big it was nearly impossible to speak.
"I'm sorry." And he sounded so genuine that she almost forgot how rude and cold he'd been to her all these months. How long had it been since he'd been captured? Two months? Three?
"I…I tried to stop her."
"Wha' do you mean?" It hurt so much to talk, to move any part of her body.
"I told her to stop."
Hermione lifted her head, as painful as it was, and looked at the wall where his voice was coming from. Was it just her damaged eardrum, or did his voice carry what hers did?
"S'e—S'e hur' you 'oo?"
A moment later she saw his hand, fresh blood dripping a pool on the floor.
"Th-thank you," she cried. And she didn't stop until she'd cried herself to sleep.
In the next year her mysterious neighbor was all Hermione had. After the day she'd nearly been beaten to death, and he too in an attempt to help her, they formed an instant bond. Of course being held captive was an added factor.
For hours on end, when they could, they talked and talked, sometimes until their voices were raw. Keeping his wishes in mind, Hermione never divulged any information that would give her away, and he said nothing personal as well. What they did discuss was the war, their situation, and any general topic about their world.
"I never cared for Quidditch much," Hermione said, after hearing that he had been an avid watcher as well as player. "But you remind me of friends I had. They loved Quidditch." She held her emotions at bay, her heart aching at the mere thought of Harry and Ron, wherever they were. I will see them again.
"You don't like Quidditch!" he gasped, half mockingly. "Well, you're a girl. Most girls don't."
"I'll have you know that a very good friend of mine in—" She clamped her hands over her mouth, her heart racing. She'd just been about to say "in Gryffindor" when she caught herself. How close were they going to get to the truth without ever knowing a thing about the other? "Sorry," she sighed. "That was close."
He didn't respond. He'd known it, and she didn't know if his silence was relief or disappointment. Could he be wanting to know now? After all this time surely he wanted to know who he'd been talking to.
"Well now, isn't this cozy?"
Hermione gasped and prepared herself. She felt the bones in her spine crack before she knew she'd been thrown across the cell. And in her heart she knew there was a definitely chance that she might not survive this beating.
She cried uncontrollable from the instant she regained consciousness. Bellatrix had kicked her awake, only to leave her cell. A minute later and she was tearing him apart in the next cell. His screams of pain were too much, but where was no way to block them out.
"Don't die," she whispered over and over, rocking in a ball in the corner. "Please, God, don't let him die."
Bellatrix must have been tired, for only twenty minutes later and she was leaving. The outer door slammed shut and with a pop Hermione knew she'd Apparated away.
"Please be alive," she whispered, dragging herself to the front corner where she could reach through and touch him if he was there. "Please, please, ple—"
"I'm here," he gasped, then coughed. He stuck his hand out and grabbed hers, holding it with all the strength he had left.
"Who are you?" If she was dying, if he was dying, then she had to know.
"I thought we—"
"Things change." She was crying again, sobbing as tears soaked her dirt-smeared face. "Please, I have to know."
"Because I…I…have to know. Before I die—"
"You're not going to die," he snapped, squeezing her hand. "I…won't let you."
"But I think it's happening…I can feel it. And I think I'm ready."
"No," he said, and she could imagine him gritting his teeth, though the only picture in her head was a mouth, a mouth that issued his rough, yet soothing voice. He had no face to her, and yet—"You can't die in here. Not here. Not at their hands."
"Then tell me your name!" she pleaded. "I have to know!"
"Because I can't love a nameless man anymore…"
"I know it's stupid, but you're all I have. I love you and I'm sorry for whatever that might mean to you. But I do, and I'm dying."
"That's not what I meant," he sighed, his fingers caressing her hand. "I meant, how can you love me too?"
Hermione smiled and coughed and cried all at once, her heart seizing up at his words. So much for Fairy Tales.
"Who are you?" she whispered.
Her head snapped up, a blurred figure advancing on in her direction. It couldn't be! After all this time? No, it was impossible. Yet—
"Harry!" she gasped. "Harry?"
"Oh God, Hermione." He collapsed on the ground in front of her cell, kissing her face where he could reach it. "It's over. It's over. He's dead. I did it. It's over." He was crying and laughing at once, his hands shaking as he reached for his wand and opened the lock to her cell. "I'm so sorry," he whispered, cradling her broken body in his arms. "I'll get you a Healer, I'll fix it, I—"
"Shut up," she laughed, clinging to him as best she could. "You made it, that's all that matters."
"But Hermione," he said, his voicing issuing true pain. "It's been almost two years. How could I let you and the others stay here for so long?"
"There wasn't a day you didn't try to rescue us," she said confidently. "It's not your fault."
Harry pulled her to her feet, kissing her face again as if to make sure it was really his best friend and not some horrible illusion. But he only managed a few steps when she tugged on his sleeve, stopping him mid-stride.
"Who's in the cell next to mine?" She couldn't see at the angle he was holding her, with her left eye swollen shut and her other eye buried against him. "You have to save him too."
"You can't be serious." And he would have laughed had the situation permitted it. "Hermione—"
"He has been the only company I've had for two years, Harry! I can't leave without him!"
"No Harry! He comes with us! I—" And just then Harry had moved in such a way that his cell was visible to her. He sat, dressed in the finest of filthy prison rags, his eyes glued to her. A pain worse than the beating she'd endured struck her heart. It couldn't be! "Y-You?" she cried, her body going limp in Harry's arms. "But how—"
"There was a reason I didn't tell you my name," was all he said, then turned from her and retreated into the shadows of the back of his cell.
"You knew?" she whispered, her eyes unable to cry another tear. "You knew? You knew!" she screamed, nearly throwing herself at his cell, if not for Harry's lightning reflexes. "How could you! You—you—you let me…How could you?"
She was in the light of day before she was the wiser, her eyes aching from the sun's brilliant rays. The others were there: Ron, Ginny, Neville, everyone that they'd captured. But all she could do was cry dry tears, her heart ripping in two.
"Harry," she whispered, reaching for him. He kneeled beside her, having not gone far. "I…love him."
"You…What? Who Hermione?"
"You know who…"
A week with a Healer and Hermione was as healthy as ever. And in all that time she'd hardly said a word to anyone, holing herself up inside, her thoughts turned to the man she loved. But how could she love him, especially now, after learning his identity?
Then why do I? she thought, curling against her pillows at night when sleep wouldn't come.
By the second morning after she was better Hermione couldn't stand it any longer. Times were different, weren't they? The war was over and everyone had changed. Why couldn't she love who her heart wanted to love? The rules were long dead with Voldemort.
"Where are you going?" Harry asked, jumping to his feet.
"The prison," she said immediately. "I'm sorry Harry, but I can't leave him there. He saved me in ways you can't understand."
"I know," he sighed, walking towards her. "But he's not there anymore."
"What? Where is he?"
"I'll take you."
Harry left her to walk the length of the path to the front door. Every step was uneasy, her feet like cement, dragging down her heart. She'd been a coward, and she was a coward now for being so scared.
With a deep breath and straightened her back and walked determinedly to the porch. She knocked three times on the door, then held her breath as she awaited an answer.
"Who's there?" came his voice, both angry and hopeful. She was instantly calmed.
"It's me," she called. "Hermione."
For a moment she thought he might not open the door. But then, very slowly, it creaked open and for the first time she was happy to see his face.
"I guess it's my turn," she said, not daring to take another step, "to apologize. I shouldn't have left you there."
"Your people cleared everyone out within the hour," he replied with a shrug.
"How can you be so calm about this?"
"Because I deserved it."
"Don't play noble with me!"
"But it changed everything, didn't it? Seeing me? Knowing who I am?"
"In a way."
"In what way?" he asked, trying to remain cold, though on the inside he burned to finish this, one way or another. Either she truly loved him, as he so painfully still loved her, so she couldn't bear it and was going to walk away.
Hermione let a sly smile spread across her features as she took a bold step towards him, her fingers grazing his hand on the doorknob.
"It took a little longer to get to 'Happily Ever After'."
But she wasn't going to satisfy him with an answer. In one smooth motion her arms were around his neck, her lips pressed so wonderfully against his she knew it could no longer be wrong that she loved this man.
"I can't deny I was shocked," she sighed, resting her head on his shoulder. "Or angry. I couldn't handle it, not then, not at that moment. But now…"
"What about now?"
"It must be awfully lonely living in this house by yourself."
"What are you implying?" he asked, his lip curling into a smirk.
"I've lived with you for too long to be separated now."
"What about your friends?" He wrinkled his nose as he glanced up, spotting Harry immediately in the driveway, watching them intently.
"It's like you said," she laughed, kissing him hard on the mouth. "Everything's changed."
"Does that mean you'll marry me?"
She only hesitated to take a breath to answer.
"Of course it does." She turned in his arms and waved to Harry, telling him he could go now and that she was alright. He waited almost a full minute, then disappeared back to The Burrough.
Her turned back to him in the doorway, having never felt so happy and scared in all her life. This was it, there was no turning back now.
"What?" he asked, seeing something playing in her eyes.
"Nothing," she said with a smile, ushering him inside. "I was only thinking."
"How crazy this all is."
"But," she said, and stopped him, her hands on his face so he was forced to look her in the eye, "I love you, and that's all that matters, Draco Malfoy."
I hope everyone liked this. I wrote it in a few hours off the top of my head. Not for any reason in particular, but just because. I think it's alright. A good filler for when I'm without my computer files anyway.