by patronsaintof

Disclaimer: I do not own anything Harry Potter. If I did, do you really think I'd be doing fan fiction? ...well maybe I would.

Author's Note: This story is in response to a challenge. Love it, hate it. Review it, don't review it. Either way, this is getting written. Hopefully, you'll enjoy.

Chapter One

The silence in the room was deafening. Harry Potter's face was white, his breathing shallow and his hands shook as he tried desperately to hold onto the back of a chair for support. Standing before him, somberly, was Molly Weasley, her face distraught and streaked with tears. Her daughter, Ginny, sat crumpled on a worn couch, her brother Ron sitting beside her, his face blank with shock. The silence was broken, quite suddenly, by a sob that tore from Ginny's throat violently. Harry closed his eyes briefly before opening them and made his way to his girlfriend's trembling self. He sat beside her heavily, his arm snaking it's way around her back. She sank into him, sobbing into her hands.

"But how could they have gotten her?" Ron's voice was soft, filled with sorrow. Harry had to strain to hear him properly, even though they were sitting close. No one spoke in response for several minutes. It was Molly that broke the quiet.

"I suspect her family has been notified?" Her question was directed to the hallway, where in the shadows Minerva McGonagall stood. McGonagall nodded slowly, her mouth unable to form the proper words to reply. One of her hands clutched at the fabric covering her chest, as if to heal a pain that emanated from her heart. "Come on, Ron, let's get you something to eat, dear." Molly said suddenly, reaching a hand out to her son. Ron stared at her blankly for several moments before grasping his mother's hand and allowing her to help him rise to his feet. They moved past McGonagall, mother embracing her son tightly, and disappeared from view.

"Do you know who took her?" Harry asked, his voice choked with emotion. McGonagall's gaze was steady and focused on Ginny. She shook her head, eyes never leaving the sobbing girl.

"Perhaps we should have Miss Weasley join her brother and mother before we continue speaking, Mr. Potter." McGonagall's voice was curt. Harry frowned at her, but gently turned to Ginny. He touched her chin, lifting her face to his. Wiping the tears from her cheeks, he leaned forward, whispering something into her ear. The girl nodded in acquiescence. She sniffed, kissed Harry sweetly on the cheek and then rose to her feet. She stayed where she was for a mere moment, shooting McGonagall a harsh glare, and then strode from the room purposefully.

"Now, what do you know?" Harry asked, once Ginny was safely out of earshot. McGonagall made her way to a seat opposite him, sat and looked at her hands while she decided what to say.

"We don't know who took her, only that her house has been destroyed, there are several bodies that have yet to be identified, though hers was not among them, and quite clearly there is a dark mark hanging above her home. It was evident there was quite a struggle that occurred." McGonagall's strong voice wavered, and it was plain that though she was deeply troubled by this information she wished to appear strong in the face of such a disaster. "Hermione Granger is a strong girl. She may have been able to get away." McGonagall said, but Harry could hear in her voice that even she didn't believe it.

"Yeah, maybe." Harry said dully. He watched McGonagall as she looked again at her hands. Her eyes lifted to meet his, and he saw the pain within them. Hermione Granger had been her best student at Hogwarts. The professor had an admiration and pride in the girl that was apparent in the tear wet eyes that stared at Harry. "We'll find her." Harry said, staring back at McGonagall. He clenched his fists and whispered, "We'll find her."

Many miles away Hermione Granger was in a place that over time would prove difficult to find. She knew nothing of her location and nothing of her captor. The men had come during the night wearing dark robes and masks. Her visiting family, three cousins, had been killed almost instantly and though Hermione had put up a heroic fight, it had proved futile. She was disarmed and viciously attacked with the Cruciatus. Already having suffered this pain, Hermione was able clench her teeth against the scream that threatened to rip free of her throat. She breathed deeply and shallowly through her nose, falling to her knees. The pain was lifted almost the instant she hit the ground and they circled her.

They laughed at her. One of them touched her hair, kneeling beside her, only to grasp her curls tightly, pulling her roughly to her knees, holding her head back. Tears streamed down her face from the pain of the curse, but she still hadn't screamed. Behind their masks their voices came, muffled. She couldn't tell if she recognized them, and in any case the lingering pain that coursed through her body would have prevented recognition. The man who held her hair tightly released it and she fell forward, trying to even her breathing. She failed miserably.

What happened next is somewhat of a mystery, for Hermione Granger's mind went black. Her eyes closed, and the last image she saw was the face of her beautiful cousin Katherine. The beautiful face she had known since childhood with wonderful blue eyes that reminded Hermione of the sky on a cloudless day. Those eyes would stay with Hermione in the blackness, those sightless eyes that seemed to stare right into her soul. The eyes stared at her, the eyes that she had failed to save. When Hermione woke, the eyes became a distant memory, but not so distant that they didn't lurk at the corners of her mind.

She blinked groggily, taking in the darkness around her. A single candle lit the room dimly. The walls were made of stone, and seemed to glisten with wetness. It smelled rankly of decay and stagnant water, causing Hermione's stomach to churn. She tried to lift herself, but her body screamed in protest, still aching from her previous battle. Instead, she merely turned her face to the side, noting the wooden door. It would be locked, certainly, though she had a compelling urge to check. Her body prevented her from doing so, when again she tried to rise and her arm buckled beneath her weight as she tried to lift herself to a seated position. With a sigh of resignation, Hermione lay still, breathing deeply, trying to calm the erratic breathing of her heart.

How long she stayed that way is uncertain, but eventually she fell into a troubled sleep, plagued by Death Eater's and dead eyes. She woke with a start, sweating profusely and a tortured cry dying on her lips. Shivering in the sudden cold, despite the heat that had disturbed her in her slumber, Hermione quickly pushed herself up. Her body still protested against such movement, but she quelled it, lifting her knees and pressed them against her chest. She wrapped her arms around them to conserve warmth. She buried her face, hoping her breath against her skin would warm her. It didn't.

Hours passed, or perhaps days, before Hermione was greeted with the presence of another. She heard the footsteps first. Distinctly she heard several pairs of boots hitting the stone floor. Then came the voices. They were distant and muffled. She couldn't make out any words that were being said but one voice rose among them. She knew that voice and it sent a chill down her spine to hear it. As they neared the room she occupied, the voices stopped. Hermione waited with bated breath as the door scraped open.

She lifted her eyes and stared into the face of her captor. In the dim light, the man's sallow skin seemed to glow evilly, and his black eyes glittered. He smiled maliciously at Hermione, stepping into the room. She could see behind him two hulking shadows, but her gaze remained on them only briefly. It was the man before her that concerned her most. A man she had known for seven years of her life. A man she detested. Hermione thought her heart would break through her chest at how hard it was beating. Severus Snape laughed, and stepped further into the room, shutting the door behind him.

Hermione sucked in a deep breath, trying to remain as calm as possible. Snape knelt before her, his eyes searching her face for a moment before he smiled at her again. One hand lifted to push the hair away from her face and Hermione moved away from him so quickly, and with such force, that her head hit the wall behind her with a resounding thud. She winced at the pain. Snape pursed his lips, chuckling softly.

"Now, now Miss Granger, we wouldn't want to hurt you any more than you already are. Yes, we've got big plans for you. Very big plans indeed." Snape whispered, rising to his feet. He watched her as she watched him. There was a fierce look in her eyes, like that of a caged animal. There was something dangerous beneath the fear in her eyes. The smile widened on his face as he slowly drew his wand out from within his robes. He pointed it at Hermione lazily, noting the way her jaw clenched tightly. "But really, we only need you alive." He murmured. Hermione couldn't hear what he said next, it was so softly spoken but the pain that tore her from her seat spoke clearly enough. She rose to her feet only slightly before slamming down onto her knees. Groaning with the pain that coursed through her veins, that shot from her kneecaps that she swore were shattered now, Hermione struggled to lift her face, to keep her eyes open so that she could stare at her former professor. The pain lifted and Hermione gasped for breath.

"You coward." Hermione spat out between gulps of air. She supported herself with her arms, looking up at him with hatred etched in the lines of her face. "You filthy coward!" Hermione was unable to say anything more. Rage distorted Snape's face and his boot connected with her jaw, wrenching her head to the side. Her neck burned in pain, and she was sure that her jaw had been dislocated. She could taste blood, the metallic tang, and whimpered softly. Rough hands grabbed her shoulders, pulling her up. She could feel Snape's warm breath, could smell the sourness on it. He glared at her, eyes blazing, mouth twisted angrily.

"Do not ever call me a coward." He hissed, shoving her away from him. She hit the wall, once again connecting her head with stone. Her eyes closed tightly against the pain. She could hear his footsteps walking away from her, heard the scrape of the door open, heard it slam shut. After the sound of them walking dissipated, she opened her eyes and stared into the darkness. The candle had gone out. Whether he had put it out or it had merely burned out, she didn't know, but she was trapped in darkness now. Trapped in pain and darkness.