Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, just this freaking plot, and some characters which shall be important later on…

Well, sorry for the long delay, you guys! I hope this chapter and the following chapter prove to be satisfying!

Chapter Summary: With the knowledge of why things had happened, Hermione is awake the entire night. Displeased with finding her awake, Malfoy finds a way to make her unconscious, and does it. And although Lucius blamed Draco for the fire, Troy covers, gaining him a favor in turn, but at the moment, he could care less. Draco has been granted permission to take his winnings... for now. He must wait before he can take the whole prize. Hermione, after hearing this news, is far from thrilled, especially when she learns that she is the prize itself.

Yaaay let's begin!

The October Hollow
By Darkwing731

((--Chapter Four--))
Winner Take All

-

Tuesday, October 20
Day 3

And when she understood that it was no one else but her was in danger because of this, things suddenly seemed to be a lot worse.

She glanced down at her fingertips, recalling previous times when they had been so hot, so burning, that she feared they would melt her down to her very core. Now, they had melted away things that were much larger and stronger than her, and she wasn't so sure about herself anymore…

She had started a fire, and had almost killed Malfoy. Murdering someone didn't make her any better than a Death Eater, so she felt as if she was falling into Voldemort's trap already, just by doing something that came as a natural defense.

But who could've known? Surely not the know-it-all Hermione Granger who got perfect scores on everything and anything she handed in… surely not the bossy, intelligent witch who knew what she was doing… surely not Hermione.

Yet, was she Hermione anymore? Now, it seemed, she was a victim.

A victim of Voldemort, and a victim of herself.

"How much longer?" Draco asked Troy, more impatient now than ever. Troy rolled back his sleeve and looked at his watch.

"Five more minutes," he replied. "Give it a rest, Draco. It's your fault we came early, so stop asking me the bloody time of day."

"Well excuse me for being anxious, I'm just eager to get permission from my father," Draco sniffed. Troy smiled slyly.

"I knew you had some weird kind of obsession with her."

"Please," Draco scoffed. "I'm not obsessed with the little Mudblood. It's merely a form of punishment that I'm inflicting… and looking forward to."

"Because it's not so painful for you, is it?" Troy drawled. "That is, unless your trousers are too tight." He laughed aloud at this, and Draco rolled his eyes, but could not hide his grin.

The door in front of them opened abruptly, revealing an annoyed-looking Lucius Malfoy.

"Well don't just stand there, boy, get in," he snapped at Draco. He nodded obediently and swept past his father, and Troy gave Lucius a bright, taunting smile in return to Lucius' dangerous look, and entered in after Draco.

"Sit," Lucius commanded. The boys did, and looked to the man expectantly. Lucius stood in front of them, balancing his signature cane with his long fingertips.

"Now, please explain to me why the Mudblood has been moved to another room," Lucius said silkily, his voice soft and dangerous.

"She was saying distasteful things, and I decided that a smaller holding cell would be more convenient," Draco said calmly, ignoring the taunt that Troy would toss at him later on.

"Convenient for you, you mean," Lucius said quietly. Troy was tempted to laugh wildly at the contempt in the elder Malfoy's face, but he knew the kind of trouble he would be in.

"Yes," Draco said, trying to speak as firmly as possible. "A smaller room would frustrate her."

"The new room is not much smaller than the old one, and there were several nearby that were twice as small as the one you selected," Lucius purred, enjoying the panic that crept into his son's eyes. Troy wanted to groan; Draco was slowly being backed into a corner.

"Well, I thought that I could keep moving her to smaller places. If I had just gone straight to the smallest cell I could find—" Draco faltered noticeably, and Lucius took the stumble to interrupt.

"In a smaller cell, it would be easier to start a fire, would it not?" Troy covered his face in frustration, and Draco swallowed the alarm that was rising in his throat.

"Whatever do you mean, Father?"

No! Oh Draco, you're an idiot, Troy mused, frustrated.

"I think you know exactly what I mean, Draco," Lucius spat, now quite openly angry. "You started a fire to teach her a lesson and look what happened! You destroyed the holding cell!"

Draco was nervous now, and Troy didn't need to look over to see his cousin fidgeting. "Father, I—"

"Don't play games with me, Draco," Lucius snarled.

"I did it, sir," Troy said suddenly, and Lucius whipped towards him; Draco looked alarmed at Troy's sudden interruption.

"Explain yourself!" Lucius demanded.

"Granger was being a little bitch, so I set her clothes on fire, and somehow the bed went up in flames, the torch caught, and I had to drag her out of the cell because she would've died," Troy lied calmly.

"And you let Draco take the fall for this action of yours?"

"Yes, sir. I mean, why would I take the blame if someone else was held responsible for it? I didn't get caught, so why confess?" Troy asked rhetorically, but then realized his mistake.

"Exactly, Troy. Why admit to this?" Lucius said sharply. Troy stared back into the man's powerful silver eyes, his mind closed but racing for a decent excuse behind the walls.

"Draco will pay me back later," Troy said after a long pause. "I do something for him, he does something for me. And if not, well then, there are always ways of persuading him."

Lucius examined his nephew closely, and Troy stared right back at him, not trying to act timid or defiant. The elder lifted his jaw slightly, his liquid eyes gleaming in suspicion, before he finally, doubtfully, accepted Troy's words.

"And what, in time, will you demand of my son?" Lucius asked softly.

This was the kind of game that Troy took pleasure in; virtually anything he said could be taken two ways, and even if Lucius claimed Troy meant one thing, the boy could announce that he meant the other.

And, fortunately, Lucius seemed to like Troy better than he did his own son. Troy was perfect in his own father's eyes, and it seemed that way to everyone else.

"Well, you know, a bit of his punishment time," Troy said offhandedly. "I just want to have a little fun with him, if you know what I mean." He had an awful time fighting the smirk on his face, but Lucius did not try to suppress his.

Draco sighed wearily into his hands, while his father crossed his arms leisurely over his chest. "A little fun time with my son?"

"Just to play around, yes," Troy confirmed lightly, now grinning cheekily. Lucius stared him down, clearly amused, and only played off of Troy's words.

"I wasn't aware Draco was willing to do anything of the sort," Lucius said slowly.

"Well, there is plenty you don't know about your son," Troy said brightly. "This boy, why, he takes it any which way they prefer. He seeks to please."

Draco groaned into his hands loudly, disgusted. "Will you shut it, Troy? You're such a damned liar!"

"Watch it," Lucius clipped, his mood changing abruptly. Draco shot Troy an angry look, and the boy shot back an amiable smile.

"Well excuse me for defending myself," Draco snarled angrily. Lucius did not make an extremely tentative change in his anger, but immediately, Troy sensed it.

He regarded his son with a cool sort of fury, the type that Troy's father seemed to possess. Draco glared back at his father, aware of how much trouble he would be in, but certainly not caring a bit.

"What did you say to me?" Lucius asked quietly, his voice at a dangerous low.

Draco fought the urge to scream back, and merely dropped his eyes from his father's instead, wishing he had a bit more courage than usual.

Because he had looked away, he did not see Lucius lift his silver-headed cane; the tip, belligerent and sharp, suddenly prodded beneath his son's chin, and Troy could hear the sharp intake of breath.

"You do not speak to me in that manner, boy, understood?" the elder Malfoy growled. Draco did not respond automatically, and with a jerk of the cane, Lucius was glaring down at his son, ignoring the dribble of crimson blood on the boy's neck.

Troy needed to stop this; "Uncle—"

"Quiet," Lucius snarled loudly, bearing only a glance at him. Troy silenced immediately. Lucius turned his acid gaze back onto his son.

"Do you understand me?"

"Yes," Draco said at once, his voice low, ashamed at being so easily dominated. Troy had sympathy for him, but he knew it would never be shown.

"Good," Lucius snapped, withdrawing his cane. He was satisfied that he had bullied his son, easy as it was.

Again he switched moods, this time to a businesslike manner. "Now, both of you are to go back to the Mudblood's cell. I've things to do and you two only get in my way. You may go."

Draco took only a matter of seconds to leave the room, trying to subtly rush out but not act as if he were utterly intimidated. Troy sighed, stood, and walked out slowly.

"Draco has my permission to start his task. Tell him of the restrictions, though, Troy," Lucius called.

"Yes sir," Troy threw over his shoulder, and sighed quietly; Draco would be a bit furious about this.

Punishment for Granger meant joy for Draco, and that was about it. Troy knew what was going on; hell, he'd even suggested it. It was a form of abuse, and well, enough of it would wear down Granger's mind and sense of logic, her quick wit, she would be distracted, and the Dark Lord (Draco too, possibly) would get what he wanted.

But there were restrictions; always restrictions. Draco did not know any of these, while Troy did. The only reason he did was because he knew every little detail of this whole goddamned plan, and Draco didn't. Troy had to watch his footing, because if his younger cousin caught on that Troy had an advantage… then things went down the drain.

"Wait up," Troy echoed into the dark corridor. He cursed, stumbling along, and withdrew his wand, knowing that Draco would never wait in the darkness. "Lumos, you bastard," he muttered.

Troy caught up with him soon enough; he was walking down the corridor quickly, with no light to guide him and his eyes closed in thought.

"You've been given permission, you know," Troy said loudly, breaking his cousin's reverie quite purposely.

Draco spun around, suddenly looking a lot happier than he did moments ago. "Are you joking?" Troy shook his head. "After that, I thought my Father would've killed me. I can't believe he still trusts me to do this."

"About that," Troy said hesitantly. Draco stopped, his brow raised, his eyes angry. "Well, you know, you can carry on doing what you like," Troy said delicately. "But you can't do the Full Monty."

"What!?" Draco exploded. Troy allowed himself to grimace at the shriek, but nodded afterwards. "Why not?"

Troy shrugged, feigning ignorance with expertise. "No idea. That's what your father told me, though, and I wouldn't go against his word if I were you."

"But… so what if I did? How would that affect anything?" Draco demanded furiously.

"Do you even know what they're preparing to do?" Troy asked sharply. Draco looked away with a frown. "Neither do I. And with the Dark Arts, a lot of important things happen when the person that's being dealt with is a virgin."

"Rubbish," Draco muttered to himself. "I can't believe you're just telling me this now. I had such things planned for the next two weeks!"

Troy rolled his eyes at the innuendo. "Alright, you rapist," he jested.

Draco grinned. "After what I put her through, she'd be more than willing." The boys roared with laughter at this, and through the short journey back to Granger's cell, they bounced back their crude jokes to one another.

Troy was like Draco in many ways, but there was one vital difference between the two of them: he gave people chances. Draco was suspicious of everyone and everything from the moment it lay within his vision. Troy, although doubtful, could be very trusting.

That was why when they finally came upon Mudblood Granger, Draco would give no attention to her pleas, and only do as he wished. Troy, well, he had no choice but to stand back and witness, and try to stop the inevitable from happening.

Soon enough, though, the one they held prisoner would be having her own say.

And it would matter very, very much.

-x-x-x-

It was only three days worth of food that she had not had, food that she was longing for. It wasn't that much, surely, and the fatigue she felt was not from lack of nutrition, definitely not; it was from the beating Malfoy had given her.

Of course, only the starved, slightly delusional voice in her head kept reiterating the nonsense she knew not to believe. It was lack of nutrition that forced her to be so weak, and she could do nothing about it but conserve what little energy she had.

Hermione was, in a word, exhausted. She hadn't had a bite to eat in three, almost four days. She last had something in her mouth at the dance, perhaps an hour or so before it started. It seemed too long ago to remember, and she didn't dare try. The thinking might waste what energy she had left to spend.

Not thinking about food and when she had last tasted the heavenly substance was easy enough to do. What was hard not to think about was the fire… the pain in her joints and the power her anger seemed to wield.

She had not slept because of the frightening subject. As soon as Troy had shoved her inside the door of the new cell, she had fallen to the floor, not taking any notice of the pain that rushed to her knees. All that she knew was the consuming horror of what was happening to her.

She had found a corner and pulled her knees to her chest and sobbed like a little girl. She could not be comfortable with herself like she had when she blamed Harry without anger. Now, she could only blame herself, for she was the only person who wielded such power, such… danger.

It had almost bloody killed Malfoy, so who knew the extent of this strange power she seemed to posses? It wasn't the first time she had stared down at her small hands, sculpted nicely but more belligerent than ever, it seemed. She had spent hours gazing at them, more through them than anything, trying to probe about her own mind in an attempt to find what cursed her like this.

Had there been any type of warning in previous times? No, she could not recall a period where her anger had been so brutal, so cold, that it had provoked this ancient heat inside of her, and another human had almost been slain because of it.

Only once…

Just before Malfoy had confronted her in the dark, in the midst of the night while the rest of the castle was still throbbing with energy. Just when Ron had left her… or maybe, when he had informed her of his leaving. Just after she had realized truly how stupid she had been for allowing his infidelity to continue… and she had been angry. Livid, fuming, anger swirling like fire, rising up from the depths of her soul. It seemed to control her mind and her body, and everything, all of it, betrayed her that night.

She had been subject to her own haywire emotions, and because of that, the rage took over. And the power announced itself.

So that had been the only warning. Yes, she was quite happy she identified that, but there was also a much larger problem consuming her ever-questioning soul: for what purpose would these be to Voldemort? Hermione could barely understand them, much less wield it, so what could Voldemort possibly do?

He's got to know what's creating this strange power. Otherwise, I wouldn't be here. I'm not a trap for Harry, I'm a prisoner of my own power. And he knows how to control it, she realized suddenly.

And then, she realized something else.

And he wants me like this, so very confused. He doesn't want me discovering how to use these powers of mine, because when I do, and I will, they'll be stronger than he could ever imagine them to be.

The thought of being more powerful than Voldemort was unimaginable. Impossible, even.

But there was Dumbledore, and being more powerful than him was not a thought so amazing to her; she did not want to be compared to Voldemort because he used his outstanding power for evil, while Dumbledore used his own for good. If she was to wield such power, she wanted it to be for the glory of peace.

All in all, though, Hermione still hadn't a damn clue about what was going on. She had powers that she had no clue how to use, yet Voldemort must know how to use them. It was something so foreign and powerful that it scared the daylights out of her, and how could she forget? She was missing, kidnapped, being held hostage in this baleful, twisted place that she didn't even know what it was.

Her situation, in a word, was positively shit. She was being played as the fool and she couldn't even determine what was going on.

It was a miserable idea, really, but she was living it.

She moaned forlornly into her hands, and stared into the inky darkness that was thinner than it had been before. Ever since Troy had shoved her into the room and left, she hadn't slept a wink. She was exhausted and starving, and confused out of her mind.

But now, dawn was here. And that meant one thing to her.

They were coming back.

Hermione didn't know what would happen to her on this day, if she'd be suffering at the hands of Malfoy or at Troy's unknown character, but whoever she would be dealing with, she knew it wouldn't be pretty.

-x-x-x-

"Shut it, you idiot," Draco hissed at Troy, who was laughing loudly. They were swiftly approaching Granger's door, and because Draco wanted to scare the daylights out of their hostage, it had to be quiet. Honestly, he couldn't understand why Troy didn't get that.

"Give it a rest, Draco, she's probably asleep," Troy shot back lazily. Draco sneered at him, and drew his wand.

"'Probably' does not mean definitely, so shut the hell up," Draco clipped. Troy gave a loud sigh deliberately, and Draco glared at him.

"You're an arse."

"So are you!" Troy declared.

"Ugh, whatever," Draco muttered. They continued down the hallway, following Draco's powerful wand light. The beam was so strong it lit up the entire hallway, seeping through the cracks of the doors, under the dust that inhabited every surface, and into Granger's cell.

They didn't know she was awake to spot the new light with wide eyes.

Draco gave a little flick of his wrist, the whispers of his mind echoing a spell, and the light dissolved into darkness immediately. The spell to open the door was provided, and the two boys entered. Draco grinned at his cousin, and silently crept into the chamber where Granger, terrified, was huddling up against the wall.

Troy gave a fake little giggle of excitement, and Draco whacked him sharply, muttering curses under his breath. He reached back and shut the door, and smiling darkly to himself, he ignited the light of his wand.

Light filled each and every crack of the room, seeped behind every curve and crevice, and Granger was seen with terror plastered all over her face.

Troy, who had been tensing up in mock excitement gave a loud, disappointed sigh. "Oh damn, she's awake. I told you!" he declared wildly to Draco.

Said cousin rolled his eyes, and drew out his wand; now, all he had was revenge for the little bitch before him, and he couldn't wait to start.

"Miss me, Granger?" Draco drawled, grinning devilishly at the battered girl against the wall.

"Not a bit. How could I miss rubbish like you?" she snarled back at him. She might've been weak, exhausted, starving, but nothing could take away her wit.

"Ouch," Troy said, feigning sympathy. Draco ignored his cousin, and continued on with Granger.

"Clever," Draco said dryly. "But one would think a little know-it-all like you would have a wittier retort."

"Being starved can do that to a person," Granger spat. "Food seems to help the mind."

"Exactly why we aren't feeding you, Mudblood," Draco said coldly.

"You might want to rethink that, Malfoy," she hissed. "If I die of starvation, I'm not going to be the one in trouble, you realize?"

"What do you mean, Granger?" Troy interjected suddenly, more alert than he had been before. Draco shot him a curious glance.

Granger turned her gaze icily onto Troy. "Obviously I'm a powerful use for Voldemort—" Both boys flinched noticeably, and Granger laughed at them. "So if I met my demise because of you two, well you could say you'd meet your demise because of me." There was a dark, victorious smile on her lips now.

"You aren't needed," Draco snarled. "You're a tool, good for nothing else."

Way to go, Draco, Troy thought dryly. He had just revealed more than he had even known to Granger, and Troy knew the intelligent Muggle-born had caught the implication.

"Exactly, you imbecile," Granger spat. "And because I spared your hideous soul from that fire is enough proof that your master needs me."

The Malfoys stared at her intensely, each caught in their own string of thoughts, and Hermione felt herself growing nervous. It had been a dangerous step to mention the fire in front of Draco Malfoy, and he seemed to be growing furious about it, despite his masking it behind a stoic face. Troy, however, looked extremely suspicious, and was watching Hermione closely. She swallowed the fear in her throat and tried to stare back at him.

Troy opened his mouth slowly, ready to trap her into a verbal corner, when suddenly, Draco struck before him.

"Flammo!" Draco shrieked, his eyes wild with anger.

Troy flinched, taken by complete surprise. He watched Draco, his face twisted in dark pleasure, and still, bitter anger, as Granger writhed on the ground before them, screaming louder than the ears could endure.

Draco willed all of his energy into this, the punishment of the Mudblood who had so viciously attacked him with her fire. How dare she even mention the mere subject to him—for sure, now, she'd be handling a punishment far worse than anyone else. More painful than Lucius acted towards his own son, more painful than the disappointed, furious wrath of the Dark Lord, more painful than anything he had ever known.

Her body was shriveling up, shaking uncontrollably as her voice gradually became hoarse. Her twitchy, jerky and temperamental movements kept catching him off guard for just a moment—a moment of mercy for Granger, he mused, though it was not intentional—before he gripped the anger in his mind and made her withstand it.

But she was weaker than he, and in so many different ways. And now, like a delicate object, so fragile that it would break into a thousand scattering pieces if touched, Granger's screaming body crumpled in physical defeat before them. It happened all at once: one moment, she had been shrieking, her body arching in pain, and the next… she was still.

Fainted, Draco presumed, from the pain, or the lack of nutrients, or both.

Still, he could not help but think: if I had been in her state, I could've lasted so much longer. She's weak, and she barely knows anything of pain… she could never be me.

Draco did not realize he was panting furiously until Troy's hesitant voice broke through his angry thoughts. He ripped his gaze from the Mudblood, unmoving and muscles still twitching, and glared at his cousin.

"What?" Draco snarled. Troy stared at him, and was not moved by Draco's bitter, hard eyes.

"She deserved as much, you know," Troy said quietly. "But nothing more of that sort. Get your revenge in a different way, channel your anger through something else."

"I know," Draco growled brusquely.

"You could kill her if you did that again; she's much too weak to handle any kind of pain like that," Troy said, softly again.

"What do I care if she dies?" Draco spat, and although he didn't mean for his voice to be harsh, he refused to apologize or feel guilty.

"Your father would be furious, and so would everyone else. For destroying her, they would destroy you. And if they didn't, the Dark Lord would," Troy confirmed gravely. "Granger was right; he does need her."

Draco glared at his cousin; it hurt him, stung his pride deep down to hear those words. She was right, not he, and it had always been this way. He hated Mudblood Granger just for that, if not for anything else.

"She's never going to know that, not as long as I'm alive," Draco growled, the anger deep in his throat.

"She's not supposed to. How she guessed—"

"Are you joking?" Draco cried, turning to stare at Troy in incredulity. "She's Granger. Give her ten minutes by herself and she could decipher the damned legend of King Arthur for Merlin's sake!"

"Don't exaggerate, Draco," Troy sneered. "She could never be as clever as that."

"Then how did she realize she was needed, Troy? How?" Draco demanded, his hands clenched so tightly around his wand the fragile wood was close to snapping.

"Logic, that's how," Troy stated firmly. "She's well-informed, and extremely logical. She's not a bloody genius; she just isn't dimmed by the natural assumptions of society."

"Whatever," Draco muttered, throwing a hateful glance at the unconscious girl before them. "She just knows too much."

"Then watch what you say," Troy replied sharply. He sighed at Draco's annoyed look. "Listen; there's nothing we can do to her when she's unconscious, so we might as well leave."

Draco wasn't listening; his attention was directed on the still girl on the floor, his gaze dark, full of spite, brimming with artful revenge that he longed to take. It was only a matter of short time, now, and why waste a moment of it with Troy? No, he was staying here, waiting, watching, preparing to pounce at the nearest sign of her life, just for the pleasure of taking it.

She was his, and now that he knew it, no one could get in his way.

"You go," Draco murmured, his eyes trained on Granger, her fluttering chest the only sign of life.

Troy didn't like the predatory look in his cousin's eyes, and yet… there was nothing he could do about it.

Accepting this, Troy sighed, turned, and left.

He just hoped that he could stop his younger cousin in the blinding rage that was soon to come.

-x-x-x-

Someone was calling to her. She could not distinguish who, but because it was the first sign of life in days, weeks, years even, she ran.

There was no ground, no sky, no boundaries of life to keep her restricted. Who was to say she couldn't fly? Who was to say she couldn't swim through the air?

Ah, but she was not strong enough for this. She was too weak to swim back into her own dreams, pleasant but unpredictable. The voices haunted her with nostalgic memories, and no matter how hard she tried, she was too weak, always too weak, to push them away.

She caught her breath, for just a moment, a gasp of recognition that there was no mist, no lovely flowers, nor a haven from the hell she had been living. Now it was her body that was weak, and not her mind, so she was safer than she had been. If she had her logic, she had everything. And everything was all she needed.

She was pinned, she slowly realized, and her breathing was labored and slow, as if she were fighting death. Pressure, random, stronger than she, was forcing her down, dragging her into this dizzy, weary state. She was too groggy to acknowledge what was happening, so when the shock of comprehension flashed through her, it sent her mind reeling.

She squirmed, struggling to breathe, trying to move around to find a more comfortable spot. She turned her head, just slightly, trying to find the air that could be inhaled—pain struck, fingers stabbing into her jaw, carving into her bone.

Her eyes were open now, wider than ever, and it took her a moment to understand what the blonde hair (so close, too close) meant. And suddenly, she realized, Malfoy had her arms pinned, his legs crushing hers into the lump of the bed, his fingers prying at her jaw, and his mouth devouring hers.

She screamed, or at least, tried to. The horror of what was happening to Hermione sent a tremor through her body, awakening a fresh spurt of energy that she had thought long gone. In a swift move, both smart and strong, she bit his tongue, wrenched away from his snarling, bleeding mouth, kneed his surprised body and slipped away from him.

She did not get too far, however, because one moment she was crawling away, spittle dripping from her mouth, and the next, Malfoy's fingers were prying into her calf, grabbing at the waist of her skirt, and hauling her back to him.

Her voice was high, loud, frantic, and unheard by anyone that could've cared. Malfoy dragged her back, and she could hear his vicious laughter above her own terrified voice. She fought, however weakly, and Malfoy did not like the effort she put up. He dug his nails into her forearm, shoving her arm behind her back and pinning her down again.

She refused to be silenced, to go unheard, and she yelled louder. With a snarl, he grabbed her and shoved her down, back first, and she was shrieking up at his angry, twisted face. The next moment she wasn't, because with all his anger, his bitter jealousy, he struck her across the face.

Pain bloomed rapidly, and it was only seconds before she was choking on her on blood, fighting the loose tooth in her mouth. She gurgled, coughing, her vision swimming, before she cried out again at Malfoy's invading hands. His fingers, nimble and quick, were pulling apart the buttons of her already ratty shirt.

"No," she croaked, her voice quiet and slowly dimming. The pain was numbing her senses, tricking her, and she couldn't fight it. "No," she said again, stronger this time, but still, feeble. The blood trickled down her throat, seeping into the airway, and she coughed, and suddenly was pulling away from him.

He snarled at her sudden resistance, and she shielded away from him as best she could, but he ripped her arm away and struck her again. The pain was dizzying, and she could not fight it; drowning in the unconsciousness that she had come to know so well, she allowed herself to fall.

"NO!" Malfoy exploded, his voice riddled with anger. "You are not falling asleep on me again, you weak little creature!" He groped for his wand, and in blind fury slammed it between her ribs, the point breaking through her skin.

Her body arched with audible pain, her gasping cry weak and forced, her lungs unable to catch enough air to support her. Her eyelids fluttered, her body falling limp again, but Malfoy would not allow this; he struck her, and suddenly she retched.

She groaned in agony, pain of more than one kind embedded into her body, and Malfoy snapped at her.

"Stay awake, you dirty Mudblood!"

She replied the only way she could: heaving. Blood rose in her throat, hot and gushing, disgusting, and she coughed, heavy and deliberate, and blood splattered his face.

Dirty blood, she thought darkly to herself as she stared up at him, relishing the stunned look on his face.

For a moment, he was caught off guard, surprised, and he touched the blood dripping down his cheeks. He studied his fingertip, engrossed in the substance, before he realized abruptly what it was. He glared back down at Hermione, his face twisting up in a sneer, before Hermione hawked back all the blood and mucus she could muster, and spat in his face.

She had never been more disgusted with herself in her life, really, but this was necessary. He was horrified at the sick dribbling down his face, and jumped away from her, desperately trying to scrape it off his skin. She scrambled, tried to run for the door, anywhere she could that was away from him.

She had nowhere to go, and as she tugged incessantly at the door, panic rising up in her chest, the iota of energy spent, she accepted that she would have to face Malfoy.

Trembling, she turned away from the door and looked at him, attempting to summon all the courage she had. It didn't work; one look from the dangerous boy, whose fury seem to run deeper than blood and bones, whose wrath could be as vindictive as the Devil's, was enough to freeze Hermione on the spot.

He was not glaring, but he needn't be doing so; his eyes were hooded, glowing, so fierce they trapped her against the wall. Her hands shook, and she was groping around for some means of protection as he stalked closer to her. She mewed, cowering, and he snatched at her head and slammed her skull into the wall.

Her body fell limp, her eyes rolling, but Malfoy wasn't done with her yet. After smirking at the pained groan that escaped her mouth, he lifted her off of her buckling knees and twisted her neck around. His fingers were twined through her hair, tight and vicious.

He was close to her face, and she let out a sob, blood seeping from the corners of her cut lips. He focused everything he had to her closed eyes, and despite her natural urge to keep her sanity from being taken by him, she opened her heavy lids slowly.

The fear was visible, and that pleased Malfoy immensely. He knew he looked intimidating to her at this point, after hurting her so, and it would only get worse. She looked like a lamb that knew it was to shortly be slaughtered, and he grinned suddenly, darker than his own father, for just a moment; fleetingly he seemed as if he could be Voldemort himself.

But the moment passed, and when Hermione recognized that Voldemort was the worst she could ever, ever face, Malfoy didn't seem so scary anymore.

He was just another Death Eater.

She narrowed her eyes at him, and Malfoy, sensing the sudden change in her, was livid. He then acted on a whim, pushing all of his raging emotions into the task he had been given, and had thought that he would look forward too.

Hermione's eyes widened as Malfoy shoved her against the wall, savagely attacking her mouth. She protested, but like before, he pinned her down, his tongue dominating her mouth.

She was disgusted, quite frankly, but she was too weak to do anything but make noise. She fought vainly when he grabbed at her wrists and pinned them above her head; she would fight for that, but she couldn't win, no matter how hard she tried.

It was unfortunate for her, because now he had two wrists held down with only one of his hands, while the other was free to do as it wished.

Muffled cried rose in her throat as his hand ripped her ragged shirt off of her shoulder, pulling along with it the strap of her bra. Malfoy fought her harder, biting down on her lip so the stinging pain distracted her. It did, truly, but the newfound cold on her body brought her back to his actions; he was fiddling with the clip of her bra.

It was a step too far for her, and she fought now with her legs. A lucky aim landed her knee between his own two legs, and immediately, he was off of her, doubled over in pain, literally falling over.

"You disgusting beast!" she screamed at him, and in her own rage bellowed in fury and kicked him with the energy she had left. She was surprised at how much strength was packed into her action, but she was stunned when Malfoy forgot his pain so quickly and attacked her.

She never saw his reflex, nor heard the malevolent threat streaming from his lips. She only felt her own fear ripping out of her throat as Malfoy tore at the remainder of her clothes.

But before long, everything was gone, and Hermione was unconscious again.

-x-x-x-

Hermione woke up to screaming; surprisingly, it was not her own. The aching tremors awoke her body, though, and she was snatched out of her unconsciousness. Staying quiet, trying to ignore her obvious wounds, she listened.

"No, you have to understand me—"

"I don't give a flying fuck, Troy! You have no say in what I do!" Hermione immediately identified this voice as Draco Malfoy's; with the bitter, cold anger his tone held, it was always easy to tell him apart.

"She's too weak!"

"What do you think I should do about it, huh? I don't have the means to make her stronger, and quite frankly I think it's ridiculous that I have to!"

"You have to feed her, you idiot."

"No; I refuse to do anything for her benefit. She can rot in her, starve to death and I'd laugh at her for it. If she needs to be fed, you feed her, you pushover."

The snarl in Malfoy's voice was cruel, but in a moment it was gone. She heard footsteps, loud and heavy, storm out of the room. The door slammed with a crack, and it left an unpleasant ringing in her ears.

"I know you're awake, Granger," Troy's voice said softly, breaking the heavy silence.

"Congratulations," she whispered weakly. There was a horrible pain in her mouth, like a spike being drilled slowly into her jaw. It hurt to talk, but then again, it hurt to do anything.

Troy moved, and he knelt down beside her. She heard a distinct clinking sound, before he had his hand gently on her jaw and was instructing her to open her mouth.

"Drink," he directed. She did so without question, knowing this was foolish, but she felt as if there were more important things to save her energy for.

Sweet numbness swept through her body, and she was aware of the emptiness that her body seemed to hold now that the pain was dimmed considerably. A few ragged breaths proceeded before she opened her eyes, slowly, and looked up graciously at Troy.

She had meant to say thank you, but instead; "Why?"

He smiled, rather crookedly, and she noticed the distance in his eyes. "You're asking about Draco, not the potion, aren't you?"

She was, and she nodded. "He hates me," Hermione croaked, her eyes heavy with drunken drowsiness. "Why would he do such a thing to me?"

Troy hesitated for only a moment, before answering. "There is more than one way to reap revenge on another person, Granger. Especially when the other is a girl, and so much weaker than the first."

"It's disgusting," she said at once, her face twisting at the horrible memory of Malfoy's hands all over her and his tongue forced into her mouth. "And it should be disgusting for him, too; I'm Muggle-born."

Troy sighed and dropped his face into his hands; Hermione noted this unusually weak for a Malfoy. She knew Troy was different though, but still she found this suspicious.

"Draco is…" Troy looked back up at her, and tried to find the right words to describe his cousin. "…suppressed. Bitter. He's very resentful towards a lot of things, and he's very angry. Unfortunately for you, you're the only person he can take it out on, and not get into trouble for doing it."

"So why did you stop him, then?" she asked at once, not at all surprised by Troy's reply.

"He didn't realize what he could've done. He's stronger than he thinks," Troy said quietly.

"I can match him," Hermione murmured, his eyes closing. She was drifting off to sleep, but she refused Troy to have the last known word to this dissection of his cousin.

"Only in wit, Granger. You're far weaker than him when it comes to everything else."

"I'm not," she argued feebly, now fighting to keep her eyes open.

Troy smiled sadly at her, and nodded. "You always will be."

She wanted to reply, to protest to this rather truthful statement, but suddenly the world came crashing down upon her brain again, and she was gone, back into her own secluded world of sleep.

Troy stared down at her, examining her weak, exposed body, and admitted to himself that he needed to be watching Draco whenever he was alone with Hermione Granger. There was so much to take from the girl, and Draco wanted it all.

Troy shook his head and withdrew his wand; things were going to be far worse soon enough.

-
-x-x-x-
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Author's Notes: weeeell that chapter is done. It was meant to go on for much longer, much like all of my other chapters, but it would end up being wicked long, like 20 pages. I want to do that, really, but I realize what I need to do for this story.

As the story progresses and the plot deepens, the chapters are going to be really long, because I'm aiming for only fourteen chapters, which means one chapter per story day (dates at the top). I don't know if this will happen, but I would like it too!

I hope you enjoyed the chapter! Thank you to my awesome friend Weirdly for betaing this for me! ILY!

Please review!