Disclaimer: I own no part of the Harry Potter franchise and make no profit from this fiction; all characters and ideas belong to J.K. Rowling. Nor do I own the works of Robert Frost.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
-Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken
Hermione struggled under his grip briefly, too afraid of what he might do to her if she actually protested to fight him off. He smiled at her, his teeth bright white in the darkness of her cell as he felt her still in his grasp.
"Good girl. You're learning."
She turned her head away, allowing herself a small respite from his stare. She hated these nights. The way his eyes undressed her, the way he didn't even bother to pretend anymore. Instead of talking, or trying to sweeten the moment somehow, all she felt was his hands on her, lifting her shift, pulling her legs apart, feeling at her most intimate place.
She shivered. She couldn't help herself. She heard him chuckle softly at her reaction and felt him lean forward over her. His mouth was near her ear, his breath caressing her neck.
"Like that? Want more, little one?"
She shivered again and squirmed beneath his hands, shaking her head.
"Oh, now…you have to tell me what you want. I don't understand when you shake your head that way…" he whispered, still teasing her with his fingers. They prodded at her, spreading her folds, slipping between them and dipping into her.
She let out a small moan of frustration and terror. Why did he do this? Why insist on torturing her with his words and actions? He could have her at any moment, rough and hard and never bother to ask her anything at all- she was his slave, to do with what he wished.
He growled at her silence and suddenly gripped her throat beneath one hand, bringing the other from under her shift to reach for his wand. With a sharp jab at her inner thigh, he muttered a lubricating spell and Hermione felt a familiar moist, warming sensation between her legs. The heat sent a jolt of feeling up her body from her groin and she let out a small cry.
No matter how often it happened, or how much he taught her, she could never help the begging. It always rose to her lips, unbidden and humiliating.
"No…please, no…" she tossed her head back and forth, even as he tightened his grip on her neck.
"What was that?" he hissed, his tongue flicking out of his mouth and tracing her earlobe.
"No-ooo…" she choked out one last time, feeling his hand begin to crush her windpipe. She opened her mouth wide, desperate for air, and clawed at his back with her hands. The chains holding her in place clanked with each movement and tears rose to her eyes.
Then, at the last second, as darkness began to swim in her vision, he released her throat and she gulped in a large breath just before he covered her mouth with his. It happened the same way every night. He choked her until she couldn't breathe, forcing her to open her mouth, and then he invaded her with his tongue. It was sick and gross and she hated every minute of it, but some small part of her body betrayed her every night.
He would take the lubrication he'd conjured and, with his other hand, scoop it from her warmth and cover her folds with it, rubbing it across her clit until she felt her hips jerking to attention. He liked to humiliate her in more ways than the one- by forcing her body to betray her, forcing her to feel some physical pleasure from his disgusting caresses.
And, then, like always, he was pressing into her, covering her body with his, keeping her mouth captive beneath his. Assaulting her even as her hips bucked under the gentle touch he reserved for one part of her body. Raping her with her body's permission.
She hated herself.
He pushed in and out slowly, cruelly, knowing that despite the lubrication and his caress he was still hurting her. He smiled into the kiss and lifted his hand from her neck, holding her jaw open as he came up for air and another round of verbal insults.
"You're just a mud blood whore, aren't you? Not a real witch at all, no…you like it when I touch you like this, don't you? You can't wait until I come back and open you up for another round…"
She let out a muffled cry as his lips covered hers once again and felt the tears running out the corners of her eyes. She came as he did, as he always made sure she would, and pulled herself away as soon as he released her. The chains clanked as she tugged her shift back down over her knees and crawled into a corner.
Blaise looked down at her and smiled again, his teeth a beacon of light in the dungeons.
"That's my little Gryffindor. I'll see you again soon."
She merely trembled at his voice and looked away as he exited her cell and padlocked it once again. She could hear his footsteps receding and voices filtered down the hall to her cage as he met with a fellow Eater.
"Zabini. Been using again, have you?"
"Don't sneer at me, Malfoy. You're no less a user than I am."
"The only reason I follow you in here every night is to clean up your messes. How'd you leave her this time?"
"Wet and begging for more, as usual."
"You're disgusting," the other man hissed and Hermione tried to pull herself further into the shadows of her cell as she heard him approach. The sound stopped right outside her door and she began to tremble again, more violently.
"No, please!" she cried out as the door opened.
"Merlin, Granger! Zabini is gone. It's only me. Now open your legs."
"No! No, I won't! You can't- it's inhuman!" she shrieked, trying to slap at his hands, but the chains weighed down her arms.
Draco was a healer for the Eaters, which in any other circumstance would have made her wildly happy…but his only job now was to heal the women after the men were done with them so that they would be fresh and ready for more abuse the next night. It was intolerably cruel. Hermione would rather gain scar tissue and calluses to protect her against further abuse than be healed to virginal status only to survive rape again, night after long, dreadful night.
And she knew he hated his job, which only made it worse to endure. To know he was pitying her, but would not, or could not do anything to help…it was torture.
Draco was quiet and didn't make another move towards her. Hesitantly, Hermione lifted her eyes to his face, peering at him from between the locks of hair that hung in her eyes. He was watching her, a serious look upon his face, as if he was thinking very hard about something. She wondered what it was- what he could possibly be feeling that would make him leave her a few seconds' peace. Finally, after what seemed a lifetime of internal deliberation, he knelt to her level. She shied away from his touch again, only to watch him lift his hands towards her, palms raised in a gesture of trust.
"I don't like this either, Granger," he murmured.
She turned her face away and curled back from him again. "Shut up," she whispered.
"Look, and if I said I wanted to help you, how would you react?"
"I said shut it!" she hissed, striking his hand away again as she felt him try to brush her hair from her face. "You hate me! I know you do- you and everyone else here. Even the other prisoners hate me, for letting myself be captured. They all know Harry and Ron don't stand a chance without me- they're probably dead already!"
Draco sat back on his heels and gave a wry laugh. "Is that what you really think? You have so little faith in your best friends?"
"Why shouldn't I?" she whispered, miserable again. "Everyone else does. Besides, that they'd let me rot in here- it would make Ron crazy. They're already gone, I know it. It's just that letting us hope makes us more sport for your lot, doesn't it?"
She turned her face towards him again, this time tossing her hair from her face, and the look upon her face made his heart sink. She looked so proud, yet so completely defeated. He managed to lift the corner of his mouth in a sneer.
"Fine. Think what you want, Granger. Like you didn't tell them not to risk coming after you repeatedly. What's the matter? Don't feel like sacrificing for the greater good any longer?"
She spat in his direction and tried to stand, only to collapse to the ground again, dragged down by the weight of her chains. "No. I don't. I'd rather be dead than wallowing here in Death Eater seminal fluid every night. I've already sacrificed everything else- my mind, my optimism, my virginity, my dignity- may as well add the will to live on that pile."
Draco was not at all surprised by her answer, despite himself. Despite his belief in her unbreakable spirit. He wondered briefly if, had he been the one to take her, she would have fared better.
He squashed the thought just as quickly as it came.
"Just let me heal you, Granger. If you've lost the will to live, why can't you lose the will to fight me, too?"
"Because I hate you as much as you hate me. I still have some pride left, you maggoty scum of a wizard. How the hell did you get to this point, anyway? Healing the whores? Cleaning up after purebloods with less loyalty to…to blood purity than the Malfoys' virtue?"
"Still can't say his name?"
"It's forbidden. I finally figured it out after Blaise…" she suddenly went very quiet and still and Draco hunched back over onto his knees, leaning towards her.
"Blaise what?" he asked, suddenly nervous. "I've healed you for the same injuries every night the last four months. Nothing's changed."
She remained quiet and Draco grabbed her arm, spinning her around to face him. She let out a small cry and tried to hit him, but he caught her other wrist and held it firmly. "Blaise did what?" he repeated, his voice low.
Hermione shook her head and spat at him again, but her mouth was so dry she couldn't muster the saliva to do it. After several seconds she finally gave a rasping laugh and pulled away from him. He let her go, but stayed close.
"I used his name for the last time several weeks ago. I lost track of time about two months in, so I have no idea when it was. Maybe…maybe in the third month?" Draco nodded encouragingly and Hermione took a shaky breath, eying him, looking to him for…support? She shook her head again. "He…tortured me."
"Don't make me say those things out loud, Draco. Please. Let it go. I'm sorry I said anything, I'm sorry…I'm so, so sorry…" she continued to mumble, lifting her chained hands to her eyes, trying to keep tears from falling. Draco took her shoulders again and began to run one hand over her ratty, knotted nest of hair.
"No, you don't have to apologize. Stop saying that, it's not your fault, it's not your fault…shh. Cry if you need to, but don't blame yourself…"
To Hermione's horror and, she had to admit, small comfort, she found her hands gripping his robe; found her body curling into the protective embrace he'd created. Found herself turning to Draco Malfoy, of all god forsaken people, for solace…and she told him the truth. Rather than react with disgust and push her away, however, he continued to hold her and whisper kind words in her ear.
After several minutes of silent tears, she finally pulled away. With a quick glance at him, she scooted backwards from him and spread her legs for him. She couldn't bear to look at him as he worked. Draco pulled out his wand again and cast the appropriate spells quickly as he could before he gently turned her about to take a look at the scars on her back…and lower.
"How long did you bleed?" he asked quietly. Hermione responded with a mumbled number and felt his hands shudder over her scar tissue. "And from…below, as well?"
Another small nod of the head, another shiver up the spine. Draco felt his gooseflesh rising and held back the bile he felt at Blaise's blatant disregard for the rules and Hermione's well being. Then again, he'd known of her presence here for months already and hadn't done anything to stop the abuse.
Soon, he told himself. Not that she'll ever forgive me when she discovers the truth, but it took forever to track Potter. And what was I supposed to do in the meantime? Coddle her and let the sons of bitches know I had every intention of turning coat? Besides, there were others I had to help escape- others who'd been here longer.
He gave a long, low sigh and did his best to patch up the damage Blaise's curse had done. Who am I kidding? She'll never forgive me, even if she finds out the truth. Which she won't. I won't forgive myself. Merlin, if only I'd known sooner…
Rationally, Draco knew that previous knowledge wouldn't have done them any good at all. His hands were tied by two different parties, no one on either side trusted him, and if he let people go too soon then he would be found out. And if he was found out, he'd either be killed or have to leave the school immediately, meaning he would no longer have a place in the Dark Lord's ranks in which he could do good.
For several months now, he'd been helping prisoners- those connected to the Order, or simply innocent bystanders and muggles- escape. It wasn't something the purist side of himself was proud of, but it was an accomplishment the arrogant bastard side of himself actually seemed to enjoy. After all, the Dark Lord and his fellow Death Eaters had pretty much ostracized his family- punished them for being realists- screwed them over so completely…
Yes, Draco took pleasure in thwarting his Lord's plans these days. And a small part of him hated the violence and sadism that went on in their ranks every hour of every day. Okay, a large part of himself hated it. The bottom line was that he'd had enough of sitting back and taking it. The unfortunate side was that it had taken him forever to convince the Order to go along with his plans. It wasn't until several members had been released at his hands had they finally stepped up to his demands. Still, the first several legs of the journey from Hogwarts back to Order headquarters were done via the original network of farm houses and villages Draco had set up when he'd first started his plotting.
But Hermione's escape would be different. He wouldn't be able to send her along the exact same route- she was too recognizable. Too well known. Besides, he seriously doubted now whether he would be able to get her to leave the castle. It was a shame, really, that Voldemort had taken Hogwarts in that battle- had it really only been a year ago? The battle everyone had hoped would be the final one. But even though Potter had found all the horcruxes Dumbledore had described to him, Voldemort hadn't died when he was supposed to and the trio and their allies had all fled. It wasn't that they were feeling cowardly, it was just that they knew that without finding and destroying whatever horcruxes had been missed, they couldn't truly defeat the monster. So the Death Eaters and their allies had decided to set up Hogwarts as their new headquarters. And now Draco was back in his service, stuck in school forever. Merlin, he couldn't think of a worse punishment for his sins. The really sick part of it was that, while torture, chaos and mayhem was happening in the dungeons and other areas of the school, classes were still open to children of pureblood and Death Eater parents. Voldemort had allowed the place to continue to function as an active place of learning.
It was revolting. He hated to think about what they were teaching the poor things. It would be like his own childhood, only ten times worse…because all the horrors he didn't experience until he took the mark would be shown to these children, day after wretched day. They would grow up, ready to take their places at their parents' sides without batting an eyelash. If they made it that far.
"Draco?" came a whisper from in front of him. "Malfoy? Stop- you can…stop now."
Draco came out of his thoughts with a start and realized he still had one hand sitting on the now relatively smooth skin of her back. He ran the hand over the length of it without thinking and heard her gasp. With another start, he lifted his hand and made to stand up.
"I'm sorry. That should work for now. If I had access to some salves it would help the scarring more, but as it is-"
"I know," she interrupted him. Then she tugged her shift down again and turned around, curling into the far corner once more. "Thank you," she whispered.
He shrugged and stood up. He had to figure out how he was going to get her out of here. Tomorrow. Maybe even tonight. There was no way, after hearing her story, that he was going to let her stay in this dump one more night- let her face Zabini again. It would not happen again on his watch. He'd helped the last names on his list escape and now there was just her left- she was the last one who had any life left in her at all. The others were on death's door already.
He even thought she was near it, herself, but he couldn't let himself think that way. The only reason Potter hadn't been able to defeat Voldemort was because he needed Hermione's brains, after all.
She had to leave Hogwarts immediately. He looked her over intently, one hand on the door of her cell, the other holding his wand resolutely. She looked as defeated and broken as she had when he'd gotten there. Even the fight displayed in her eyes was fading faster with every night that passed. Her outbursts of anger were getting shorter.
She needed hope. She needed a life. She needed to recover.
But if anything, he couldn't let her know what was happening. The others he had been able to warn- but not her. She was bound to argue with him, fight him. Distrust him.
He cleared his throat. "I'll see you again soon, Granger," he murmured. Then he closed the cell door and walked away.
Hermione watched him go, watched the light in her cell dim to darkness and frowned. Let him look at her like she was broken- like she was jaded, cynical, completely fatalistic. But for the first time since her capture, the sound of crying did not follow him down the corridor.
His final words to her every night had always been, "I'll see you tomorrow." And now he would see her soon. Something was happening. It might be her release for nefarious purposes. It might be her death. Either would be fine with her at this point, though she secretly yearned for death.
She felt something strange blossom in her chest. Whether it was the black lung or not had yet to be discovered.