With the large, leather-bound book in her arms, Hermione walked briskly across the damp grass. Willing her legs to move faster, and willing her arms to stop aching with the weight of the tome, she hoped that she could make it out of the wards and disapparate before they found her.
Dumbledore had been very specific, she was to retrieve the book from the cathedral and bring it back to headquarters. If she was captured then her life was forfeit and she must destroy the book rather then hand it over even at the risk of death. Her virginity was an important factor as only a virgin woman could touch the book until a certain spell found within was read aloud. It also put the power in her hands as far as the book was concerned, because the chance of a virgin Death Eater was minimal.
That must have been why Dumbledore had thought it wise to send her alone, after all, if they were surrounded there would be nothing they could do, at least alone the Death Eaters could not use one of her friends as leverage and she would have no qualms about destroying the book before having time to take her own life.
It wouldn't come to that. Hermione was already three quarters of the way to the end of the wards that prevented dissaparation and could see no one as yet. She was going to make it, once out of the boundaries it would be only a second before she found herself returned to the Order of the Phoenix headquarters.
She took a deep calming breath and sped up her steps.
Almost there. Five more minutes at the most and this would all be over. She would be back with her friends and scoffing when they gushed about how scared she must have been. "What, me? Scared? Don't be silly, Harry. It was a piece of cake," she spoke in her head, feeling her spirits lift as she felt the boundary of the wards getting closer.
She was going to make it. Almost there...
Hermione's heart stopped at the ear-shattering sound. Hoping against hope that it was simply one of the order come to meet her, Hermione strained her eyes to see into the darkness. Nothing, more black, endless darkness, stars and moon overhead. Alone, she was alone. Was she hearing things?
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The sound came again and again, filling the wide open space with thunderous noise. Like a wave crashing, it was all she could do to stand and let it flow over her. She fought the urge to scream and cover her ears. The deafening cracks of sound seemed to come from all around her.
She succumbed with a scream. Dropping to her knees, the book hit the ground with a thud, she covered her ears.
But her scream echoed around her in the now deathly silence. She felt her tears wet on her cheeks but didn't think to wipe them. Looking around her she still saw only blackness and shadow, heard only her own gasping breaths and sobs.
Hermione grasped the book and pulled it protectively against her chest. She was about to climb to her feet when an emerald green mask seemed to float into view. Her fist pressed painfully against her lips, muffling a scream as the mask was joined by another and another. Some white, some red and three green. Death Eaters.
She was surrounded and insanely outnumbered. Dumbledore's words rang through her mind as she watched in growing horror. "This book must not fall into the hands of Voldemort. If you are caught you must destroy it, any way you can, destroy the book then consider taking your own life. His army will not be merciful, Miss Granger."
The masks seemed to float closer, closing in around her, their black robes billowing in the night breeze. She knew what she had to do but her hand froze on her wand. Fear pulsed through her trembling body in time with her heartbeat; fast, hot, almost painful.
All at once it was too late. The circle of black robes and anonymous masks left no gaps and nowhere to run. Still on her knees, Hermione looked around at the masked figures, hating the silence, tears blurring her vision. The fear was all encompassing, filling her mind and clouding her of everything else but its tingling numbness, shooting up her spine.
At length, the taller Death Eater in an emerald green mask stepped closer and as one the surrounding men pulled their wands. Her breath hitched when the taller did the same and with a flick his mask was pulled from his head like a silk scarf. Long white hair fell over his shoulders and a pair of cold, silver eyes mocked her as she tried to scramble back only to hit another pair of legs behind her.
"Well, well, well, if it isn't the mouthy mudblood," Lucius Malfoy drawled, a wide sneer spreading over his thin lips. "You've finally taken your proper place; on your knees."
Hermione swallowed hard and squared her shoulders as best she could from her kneeling position. She forced a breathless laugh and smirked up at him, hoping he couldn't see the fear sweat pricking around her eyes. "Just like your whiny son. What-- can't face me without your cronies?" she leaned closer. "Scared of something?"
He returned her smirk, an evil glint in his eyes. "Oh, Miss Granger, I am not the one who needs to be afraid."
His words were simple but the inclination made her shiver and she gripped the book closer, keeping her gaze locked on his. "I won't hand over the book." she said. "You'll have to find another virgin to pry it from my cold dead fingers." But even as the words left her lips, the look in Lucius' eyes made her regret them.
"Book?" He raised an inquiring brow. "We do not care about your little book, keep it."
Her eyes went wide and she heard her pulse explode in her ears. "But... It's what you came here to get. Voldemort sent you to..." But she was cut off by the surrounding Death Eaters hissing. Two came behind her and yanked Hermione to her feet, their grips like vices, holding her in place.
All she could do was watch, fearfully, as Lucius covered the space between them in three long strides. He waged one long gloved finger from side to side making a tut-tut sound.
"Stupid girl, we have been away for several weeks and have not had contact with the Dark Lord in as long." He cupped her chin, seeming to enjoy the terror now filling her eyes. "We were simply scrying for a little post mission fun and what should we find but the Mudblood friend of Saint Potter." He turned her face roughly to the side and hissed into her ear. "Since I get first fuck, I will consider your virginity an exciting plus."
She wretched, sure she would be sick. "I'll bite off my own tongue before I allow that."
He chuckled, the sound seeming to rumble through her. "Easily said yet not so easily done, my dear. Do not fool yourself into thinking that you will die from such an act unless I wish it."
The sound of guffawing laughter coming from the surrounding men made her blood boil. "Then get on with it, Malfoy," she spat. "From what I've heard, it won't take long."
His eyes glittered dangerously at the single bark of laughter that sounded behind her. With a growl, Lucius raised his hand and slapped her hard with the back of his hand. Her face flew to the side, the force of the blow making her head spin and she tasted blood.
Before she had time to catch her breath he gripped her chin again and forced her to look at him. His lips curled as his free hand covered her breast and squeezed it roughly enough to make her cry out.
"Trust me, my filthy Mudblood whore; I can make even a few short minutes seem like hours." He released her breast and reached into his robes, pulling out a long, jagged looking knife.
Just looking at the blade made Hermione tremble.
It looked sharp and thick and curved upwards like a fish-gutting knife, but it was the wicked looking jags that made her cringe. There was no doubt this knife was created to kill in the most painful way possible.
"I see you like my knife," Lucius sneered. "I would usually not lower myself to touching something made by those filthy Muggles, but this..." He held it higher in the moonlight so it glinted in the silvery rays then brought it to her cheek letting her feel the cold metal, grinning at the way she moaned her terror as he let her feel every curve.
He slid the blade softly down her cheek and she gasped at the sharp sting, tears falling freely as the pain and fear throbbed in her veins. Her blood spilled and ran in a long rivulet down around her jaw and under her chin.
He leaned closer, his breath hot in her face. As much as she wanted to keep her eyes on his, her gaze continued to flick to the knife. "P – Please..." Was all she could manage.
His hand covered her breast again, the knife resting against her bloodied cheek. "Your half-blood friend is the reason I was sent to Azkaban, a deed that can not go unthanked," he drawled. "After these good men and I have violated you to our satisfaction, and that includes my little toy." He slid the knife down her body till it was pressed against her core, eliciting another sharp cry from her. "I plan to send a few of the more intimate parts of you to your beloved Potter so he may enjoy them as well."
What happened next happened so fast that at first she was unsure if she had passed out and was simply dreaming. A purple curse seemed to come from nowhere and Lucius was thrown back. Two thumps and her captors were also on the ground and a single muscular arm wound around her middle and lifted her onto what felt like a broom. Hermione's mind seemed to have shut off to all but the hard broom below her bottom and the strong arm holding her against a broad, warm chest.
She gripped onto his black robe and buried her face in the crook of his shoulder and throat. He smelt musky and his long hair tickled her nose. She gripped the stranger, pressed her body harder against his and felt his arm tighten, a movement that she was sure was meant to give comfort. His breath was hot on her shoulder in contrast to the cold air rushing by as they flew.
And she gripped him, gripped as though she would never let go. "I'm afraid of flying," she whispered against his neck and felt him laugh. A rumbling shudder that made her snuggle closer.
The man felt the woman's heartbeat calm as they flew beneath the stars towards Malfoy Manor. She was so delicate, her body so much smaller then his own and so light. He was sure he could snap her in two with one hand. Her breath was soft against his throat even as her hands continued to hold his robe in a death grip.
He grinned at the way she had stood up to Malfoy, even though she had been obviously afraid the small woman had held her ground, meeting the pureblood's eyes stubbornly and saying things that, to his memory, no one had dared say in Malfoy's whole pampered life. The mudblood was either stupid or she was hiding a pair of brass balls and after the stories he had heard about her, the Death Eater had the feeling that it was the latter.
Looking down at her, he took in her long, unruly curls. Her face was pretty, not beautiful, but there was something striking about it that he couldn't quite put his finger on; a small pert nose, lips pink and plump but not pouty, soft creamy skin with a slight flush staining her cheeks.
It was a shame that she had nothing but a pathetic Muggle bloodline. Maybe he could ask for her as boon. He had been loyal all his life after all and had never asked for anything before. Those around him often requested the body of a captive after Voldemort had done with them, why not him?
The thought sent a rush of heat down to his lower belly and wrapped tightly around his cock. It had been four years at least since he had felt anything close to the burning lust that raged through his veins and made his cock press painfully against his leather pants. The fact that this slip of a woman could cause such a strong reaction in him was reason enough to press forward. He shut his eyes and stifled a groan as his mind filled with the vision of the Mudblood on her knees, his fingers tangled in her curls as she swallowed his seed.
Hermione gripped tighter and buried her face in the stranger's hair as she felt him aim the broom downwards. They were going to land and from what she saw when she snuck a peek, they were at Malfoy Manor. The stranger was taking her to see Voldemort. She wasn't sure how she felt about this, she was numb. So much fear had built within her while facing Lucius that now she was drained. She should be afraid, she needed to scream, to fight, to punch and kick out at her new captor. But as she clung to his robes and felt and smelt his masculine warmth, she felt calm; Safe.
As long as I stay with him I'll be safe, she thought and loosened one hand from his robe to wrap over his shoulder and around the back of his neck. His hair felt silky over her fingers.
The stranger pulled her closer against him and placed the softest kiss, barely there, on her forehead. His lips lingered longer then they should. "I won't let them hurt you," he murmured, echoing her thoughts. "Just watch that smart mouth and do as you are told, I will protect you."
She nodded and they landed. He helped her to stand and held her steady while her legs grew accustomed to the hard ground. Hermione was surprised to how attune he was to her, seeming to almost know what she was thinking, or maybe her mind was still swirling. She felt strange, kind of weightless and she was finding it hard to think straight or at all.
They stood together in the grounds of Malfoy Manor, in the dim light, but Hermione couldn't find the light source so assumed that it was a spell of some kind. At length she raised her eyes to finally look at her saviour; no that was wrong, not saviour, captor. She licked her lips and forced herself to look at him.
Her heart stopped.
For the first time she had no words, right or wrong, there was no way to describe how her mind saw him. The stranger stood a good six foot and then some, with hair the colour of deep red wine that fell in waves just past his shoulders. A lock of hair at the front had been braided with emerald beads at three junctions and what looked like a wolf fang attached and hanging at the bottom.
He was clad in black, a vest barely covered an impressively wide chest and parted to show that he was all hard muscle and tanned flesh; a pair of leather pants stretched over his long, muscular legs and leading her eyes down to a pair of heavy boots. His arms were thick and strong looking and his long fingered hands seemed poised and ready to grab her should she try to run.
Finally meeting his gaze she realized that he had been studying her in the same way. She expected him to make some stupid joke, like the twins or Bill had on the few occasions that she had been caught checking them out. He didn't but the knowing grin and predatory darkness in his eyes was somehow worse and all too disturbing.
"Wha – What is your name?" She asked her voice soft and breathless.
He bowed, eyes never leaving her face, mocking, before raising himself again to his full height. "I, Miss Granger, am Rodolphus Lestrange."
She gasped and clapped her hand over her mouth as her mind seemed to explode with all the terrifying stories about this man. Murders, Crucios, and reports of attacks on muggles and wizards alike. He and his wife Bellatrix were two of the most notorious Death Eaters under Voldemort's rule.
Rodolphus laughed and his hand struck with the speed of a cobra, fingers encircling her wrist and squeezing enough to make her wince. "I see you've heard of me."
"Why did you save me?" she breathed, her hand shifting from her mouth to her throat.
His fingers tightened briefly on her wrist and his jaw tightened as he looked down at her."Come on, we're expected," he said, his voice gruff and pulled her along as he headed towards the front door.
His strides were long and fast so Hermione had to almost run to keep up as he lead her through the huge foyer. They passed under a garishly carved archway and into what looked like a dining room. Painting spotted the walls, portraits, landscapes, strange looking swirls that Hermione was too distracted to give more attention. Other then the paintings the room was sparingly decorated, white and grays the prominent colors, silver and glass abundant.
She took a deep breath, ordering her mind to relax. Her options were few and the chance of escape was going to be slim. She had a theory or two of why Rodolphus would want to protect her and didn't like the sound of either of them but he made a good point. Keep your smart mouth shut and do as you're told. There was no forgetting that they were stronger both physically and magically so she was going to have to find another way to escape.
She looked down at the book and frowned. Lucius had said that they weren't interested in the book, so then why was she given such strict instructions? What was all that, 'If you are caught your life is forfeit'. 'Destroy the book then consider taking your own life'. Was it a mistake? If so it was a pretty bloody major one!
With a flick of his wand Rodolphus opened two large doors and pulled her inside. At least ten Death Eaters stood in a line against the far wall. They stood completely still, for a moment Hermione thought that maybe they were simply the robes hanging, but the slight movement of one showed them to be real.
The room suddenly filled with whispers as she was led further into the room but was silenced by a deep hiss. Hermione's attention was drawn to the figure standing by the window. He stood tall, his pale flesh bathed in the moonlight, seeming to glow. Looking at him she felt as though all the warmth was being sucked from her body. He turned and Hermione nearly screamed when his hot red eyed gaze fell on her, piercing her soul and probing her mind.
Remembering her seventh year teachings, she shut her eyes tight, imagining two large iron doors between them and quickly slamming them shut.
She could feel his mind beating against the doors of hers, throwing wave after wave of power against her barrier. She heard him roar in her head.
A deep, amused chuckle made her open her eyes to see Voldemort walking slowly towards her.
"I see Severus has taught you well, Miss Granger," he barely whispered, his voice more of a hiss with a coolness that made chills run down her spine.
"Not Severus," she answered her voice sounding stronger then she felt. "He could barely manage to put up with Harry in our fifth year, why would he put time into a Mudblood?"
She felt him probe at her mind again and this time she looked back into his eyes, more confident in her barrier. Voldemort grinned as he drew closer; reaching out to cup her jaw with his long, pale fingers. He was more snake then human, thin lips curled inwards over tiny pointed teeth, his nose gone leaving two grotesque holes.
The moment the dark wizard reached for her she felt Rodolphus' hand tighten on her wrist and she knew that to cringe away or show any sign of the disgust she felt would be a bad idea. Instead she swallowed hard and kept her eyes on his even as his cold fingers slid over her cheek and down her throat. His red eyes grew large as he touched her hair and cupped the back of her throat and Hermione had to clench her teeth to hold in the scream that welled up inside as he brought his face closer. His head tipped first to one side then the other, and by the sound of him pulling air through his two open nostrils she knew that he was sniffing her.
Rodolphus still gripped her wrist and without thinking she wrapped her fingers around his. He pulled her closer, a movement so subtle that she wondered if he knew that he'd done it. But there was no time to dwell.
Without warning Voldemort cupped her face in both his cold hands, long fingers stretching over the whole length, almost unnaturally. His narrow red eyes glared into hers again but this time she wasn't ready.
They filled her mind. She could feel them just behind her eyes, coiling, slithering; slick and wet and terrifyingly fast.
Her mind flashed, and she watched as Voldemort reviewed her thoughts, her life, her essence.
The strange woman who came to her house to tell her parents that she was a witch, meeting Harry on the train, her first kiss with Victor Krum, yelling at Sirius for almost getting Harry killed again, her parents forcing her to choose between her world or theirs, her disastrous relationship with Ron, and finally Dumbledore's last instructions.
At length she felt the slithery hold loosen and finally release her. It took her a moment to realize that Rodolphus was holding her up with one strong arm around her waist and that she was gripping him tight enough to make him grimace.
"I see Albus is up to his old tricks again," Voldemort hissed.
Hermione pulled the book closer against her chest and felt a wave of fear at the amusement in his inhuman eyes.
"Tell me, Miss Granger, have you taken a look at the book for which you have chosen to give your life?"
She looked at the book then back at him. "Well no," she muttered amazed that she still had a voice. "But I trust Albus, he gave me this mission and I plan to see it through." She took a shuddering breath. "To the end."
He laughed. A loud, shuddering, gasping sound that made her blood run cold.
"Wh – What's so funny?"
"I have heard this joke before, Miss Granger, only from a different teller and may I say it took a slightly different turn in the version shared with me." He plucked the book from her fingers, grinning grotesquely as her shocked cry.
He opened the book and fluttered the pages till he found the one he sort and started to read. "Oh Rapunzel, Rapunzel, let down your long hair so that I may climb," the handsome prince called up to the girl in the high tower."