Summary: The one and only time Draco Malfoy ever stood up for Hermione Granger he paid a high price. DMHG. Set during DH. AU.
"Filthy little Mudblood!"
Thundering down the stairs he held his wand aloof and straightened himself to his full height. The few Death Eaters in the Manor swarmed in the Main Hall like insects. The furious glee in the air was palpable. His aunt was cackling somewhere below and someone - a female - was screaming. It didn't bother him as much as it might have. Robed figures had formed a half-circle around the two figures - one dark clothed, face masked by a thatch of thick, dark hair, the other writhing on the floor with her back to him - and laughed amongst themselves. Most appeared eager to join, but it was unclear what held them back.
The wild atmosphere and selfish need to prove himself to the others made him remorseless. He shoved and elbowed his way into the centre without facing retaliation and stared down at the small form. Muscle spasms rocked her body as her screams and choked sobs echoed in the large room. Vaguely, he thought that it was good they had moved the massive rug - it would have been unfortunate for it to gain blood stains when it was so valuable.
Perhaps he might have commented on that fact (to a roar of approval, of course) had the almost feral shouts around him made it possible for his words to be made out. In his mind the girl was faceless, inhuman. A thing to be jeered at, mocked, but otherwise ignored. She wasn't the first to be brought in since power had been transferred to the people it truly belonged to: himself and his family being the front-runners. She certainly wouldn't be the last.
Maybe, if she was lucky, they would even let her live.
Her identity didn't register at all (and he certainly didn't give more than a fleeting thought to it) until she lifted her head and locked eyes with him. It felt like a punch in the gut.
"Don't -" she croaked.
Without even thinking, he flicked his wand to divert the curse, which rebounded off the marble floor and shattered one of the massive vases that flanked the gilded door leading to the Front Room. Silence spread through the room like smoke. Beneath the matted curtain of her hair, Bellatrix fixed her wild eyes on his form. She bared her teeth and struck like a snake, slithering and darting towards him with a lethal intent. The next thing Malfoy felt were the shards of pottery digging into his back, and his mother had surged forward to restrain her sister.
A curse blackened the floor a few feet from him as he realised the enormity of what he had done.
"Filthy. Blood. Traitor."
Each word was like a nail in his proverbial coffin. Scrambling back frantically, Malfoy groped for his wand amongst the scattered shards, though defending himself now was probably tantamount to a death sentence.
Seconds later, countless hands dug into his hair and robes and dragged him roughly to his feet. The horde had descended upon him. Lesser Purebloods, and the odd Half; they had no right to treat him this way. The sounds of his mother and aunt arguing were the only things he could distinguish, aside from the heated breathing of his nameless assailants. Masks stared down at him coolly. Their grip was tight enough to leave bruises and numerous wands were jammed into his skin.
He dared not say a word about his father, and what he would do to them. Malfoy's legs gave way as they half-dragged him down a set of stairs he knew all too well. It seemed almost impossible for that many bodies to force themselves down the narrow steps. The thoughts of the girl and what was happening to her had long since fled his mind. Someone sneered words at him which he didn't grasp, but the poisonous tone was crystal-clear.
His stomach dropped as they thrust him into the dungeons. His dungeons. By some small mercy one of them decided that knocking him out was the best course of action. It made sure that he did not have time to dwell on actions that would have been nothing short of heroic, had he been someone, and somewhere, else. Part of him wondered why they hadn't killed him already, just before one slammed their fist into the back of his skull.
Hermione Granger was forced into the room shortly afterwards, already unconscious.
The first thing she did was catalogue everything.
It made her feel in control. It distracted her from the knowledge, the absolute certainty… of knowing that she wasn't.
Hermione forced her eyes open and hissed quietly. One felt bruised and aching - the other caked up with sleep and itchy clumps of dried blood. Automatically, she went to raise her hand and wipe away the offending particles. Her hands were, unfortunately, tied. The irritating, itching burn was possibly what had awoken her, but now that she was she couldn't do anything about it so she diverted her thoughts to more pressing matters.
Her wand was obviously missing - it would be far too much to ask for her to still have it. Her head thundered as though it had been trampled over by dozens of Hippogriffs, but from what she remembered, it was actually from cracking her head against the previously pristine marble floor. It was possible that she could have a concussion; her head throbbed and she felt a wet patch that might have been blood, though she couldn't lift her hand to check. Brilliant.
No, bloody brilliant, Hermione thought, with a vitriol that Ron Weasley himself would have been proud of.
She neatly catalogued the fact that she didn't feel dizzy, or nauseous, and her vision seemed fine. She did, however, feel tired, more than a little confused and there was a blank in her memory that stopped her from completely grasping just why she was here. She continued to delve into her memories; only to be met with slippery blackness and white spots in her vision. A tiny part of her was also afraid - though she would never admit it. She was a Gryffindor for a reason.
A concussion was a possibility given the signs she was displaying, but if there was one it did not seem serious. She mentally noted every tiny cut and bruise - along with some of the not so tiny ones - right down to the slight rope burn on her wrists.
Her brown eyes flickered absently across the room.
The floor here was made of some dark stone peppered with green moss and dirt and a tiny, grimy window cast a sickly, yellow light through the sturdy, iron bars that would prevent any escape. At the opposite end of the small chamber there was a large, also iron door. Even with the bad lighting she could easily see how strong it was - the bolts were at least the size of galleons.
If she managed to get untied without a wand, or any sharp implement, there was no way she could get through that door. That thought made her groan loudly. Or, at least, she tried to groan. Her throat felt as though it had been rubbed with sandpaper and the resulting sound that forced its way out of her trachea sounded more like the rattling breath of a Dementor than anything else.
The fact that it was light outside meant that it was day, but considering the way the light seemed to be angled it was nearing the end of the day. Which meant that the direction the window was pointing in was… west? Not that her bearings would help her all that much when she was tied to a bloody chair.
She twitched her cold hands again hoping to regain some circulation and hopefully postpone her fingers dropping off from the lack of oxygen. The coarse rope contrasted sharply with something quite smooth and slightly warm that was pressed to the back of her hands. Too soft to be stone, and too smooth and yielding to be wood. She tried to twist her fingers round to touch said mystery object and try to figure out exactly what it was.
Turning her body was impossible; ropes were bound tightly around her bare ankles, her arms, hands and there was even one twisted around her torso. Hermione moved her head as much as she could to one side, then the other. This exploration showed only a greater expanse of stone wall and a flimsy door that might once have been white, but had now achieved a dull grey-green hue. She laid her head back then to try and see more of the door - the possible escape route.
What she didn't expect was to end up leaning on an unexpected object. A shoulder. She wondered how she hadn't noticed the sounds of another person breathing. It wasn't Harry or Ron - that shade of blond was tied to only a few people she knew. The events of the night before swamped her in a nauseating swarm of colours, sounds and images.
She had been caught trying to impersonate Penelope Clearwater. Harry and Ron had only just managed to get away when she created a diversion - they would be furious at her. She had been taken to Malfoy Manor, tortured by Bellatrix...
The hands tied to hers twitched.
And then… saved… by Draco Malfoy.
He groaned as he woke up, and the sound shot straight down to her abdomen for reasons she could not identify, but certainly did not dwell on. Sitting stock-still, she had no idea what to do, or say. An angry, scathing Malfoy was one she could deal with. One that had tried to save her was not.
"Granger..." he muttered, loathing rolling off him in waves.
She was almost relieved.
"Malfoy, why did you...?" The question forced its way out before she could stop it.
The silence stretched as his hands curled into fists against hers. It didn't occur to her to ask the question again. Her arms and legs felt numb - she began wiggling her fingers and toes in an attempt to increase the blood flow to them. Malfoy whipped his hand around as far as he could and dug his nails into the flesh of her hand. Hermione let out a pained gasp and struggled against her bonds.
He clenched his teeth and increased his grip until she squirmed even more. Anger had been boiling beneath the surface since he woke and she deserved everything she got. This was all her fault. He twisted harder until his nails almost broke the skin. Hermione squirmed before bringing forward her head until it almost touched her chest and swinging it backwards until her head hit his.
The resounding crack was worrying and both saw sparkling stars swimming in front of their eyes. Nausea pounded through her system again as she gulped in air. Malfoy let go of her hand and slumped in his bonds. He let out a pitiful whine. Angry tears pricked at the corner of her eyes.
"What the bloody hell was that for?!" she asked, fury thick in her voice.
"You deserved it," he muttered through clenched teeth.
All the gratitude she had been feeling for him melted away in an instant. He would never let go of his deeply rooted prejudices, she knew that. It still made her furious. Remembering the satisfying feeling of punching him she longed to turn and do the same again. Perhaps that was a show of her Muggle upbringing. A person with a magical background would always go for a hex first, but when faced with that thought-consuming, simmering rage, a physical reaction was the first thing that came to mind.
With that she sat up straighter and stared a burning hole in the wall in front of her. He wasn't worth any more words. Putting her well-known intelligence to good use; Hermione began to think of a way - no matter how far-fetched or unlikely - to escape her indefinite imprisonment.
It was to be expected that her plans did not once include the person strapped to her.
A few hours had passed before her stomach began to complain loudly. Before her capture they had been living sparsely off of mushrooms, the odd egg and anything else they could get a hold of. Naturally those pitiful meals did not bode well for such a long time without anything to eat. Malfoy didn't appear to be in any discomfort. The three course feasts she was sure he was accustomed to probably prepared him better for this.
The lack of water worried her more though; dehydration was not something that would augur favourably for keeping her strength up.
"Granger," he muttered finally, as though giving away words was an agony of the soul, "Shut the hell up."
"I apologise for being susceptible to such a disgusting, lower-class feeling as hunger," she said, crisply.
"Think you're so smart, don't you Mudblood?" he sneered, before adding, "Though... on second thought, you missing a meal or two wouldn't hurt."
She made an indignant noise at the predictable - but still stinging - insult. The wood behind her flexed slightly as he turned - she caught a glimpse of the expression he usually used when talking to her. The one that looked as though he had just stepped in something unpleasant. It made her itch to get rid of it. Whenever she did better in a test than him she saw a different expression replace it; loathing.
That was marginally better. At least he saw her as an equal - someone worth his attention. Not that she wanted his attention. At all. Shaking her head, she stared harder at the door. A faint noise was cutting through the silence that had cloaked the room for hours before they spoke.
The door creaked open to reveal a man swathed in black cloth. The edge of one gold tooth peeked out from beneath his top lip. When he smiled she saw that the one next to it had a diamond sparkling in it. Little else about him was memorable; brown eyes, medium length brown hair, average build. Hermione had made it her business one summer day in Grimmauld Place to learn the faces and names of every Death Eater the Order knew of.
Mad Eye had a special book just for that purpose. It was a bulging leather bound notebook; stuffed with newspaper clippings, folded up "Wanted" signs, lists of known places of residency, ages, favoured curses, closest relatives, OWL and NEWT marks, distinctive markings or scars, lists of people killed (Muggle and magical separated), estimated joining date... even small mug-shots drawn roughly, but accurately, by Moody himself if a photograph wasn't available.
This one wasn't in there. Probably part of the new wave of lower Death Eaters.
Hermione met his roving gaze steadily, swallowing the fear that coiled in the pit of her stomach and weighed her down like a lead weight.
"You'll be in my charge for a little while; we'll get to know each other so well... before... ah, I shouldn't spoil our precious time together mentioning that, now should I?"
His voice was startlingly normal - not at all slick and slimy, like she had been lead to expect from the few fiction books she read. He slid a rough finger across her cheek and smiled in a way that didn't reach his eyes. Out of the corner of her eyes she could see that his nails were surprisingly long and sharp looking. He pulled his hand back as though he had read her thoughts and felt her sudden urge to spit, or bite him - anything to rid herself of his skin on hers.
Her anger boiled as she watched him wipe that hand on his robe as though he had just touched something filthy.
"Such a shame - you'll be a pretty thing one day. What a waste... But I suppose that's all your dirty blood is good for... being spilled, don't you think?" he jeered, smile twisting as he raised a hand to his mouth, "But I've said too much, haven't I?
The bonds around her loosened enough for her to be pulled to her feet. Pins and needles jolted through her limbs as the blood flowed more freely. Hermione concealed a gasp with difficulty. The rough fibres of the ropes re-arranged themselves around her - sliding across her skin and clothes like snakes - before clasping her arms tightly to her sides. The new Death Eater half-dragged her along the corridor to another empty room without any windows.
"Bit drab, wouldn't you say?" He picked at his nails and brushed a piece of non-existent dirt from his cloak.
"Though, I have to admit... the presence of a model... I have to say - that brightens the place up a bit. Aren't you just a ray of sunshine?"
"I won't tell you anything," she spat, with more ferocity that she felt.
The ropes shot up at lightning speed to gag her mouth, bind her ankles, and send her tumbling to the floor in a crumpled heap. He made a soft tut tut sound and waved his finger at her.
"But a picture's worth a thousand words, that's the saying, right?"
Pressing her ear up against the cold metal Hermione listened as the footsteps faded away. No other sounds could be heard. She sighed heavily and leaned her forehead against the frigid door that separated her from any hope of escape. Guilt, anger and confusion churned scalding and caustic in the pit of her empty stomach and made her feel even worse. She had no idea why they had taken photographs of her, but every particle of her being screamed that it was for a reason she might not care to learn about, but was probably very bad news.
Malfoy gave a frustrated hissing sound behind her. Hermione squeezed her eyes tighter shut as the guilt writhed in her stomach, demanding her attention. He had tried to protect her. He had defied his family for a mere second on her behalf.
Something within her niggled at the fact that she owed him something.
Gritting her teeth, she whipped around to face him. His shoulders tensed as she reached out and placed her hand on his upper arm. The bicep spasmed beneath her touch. The words rose up like bile as she tried to force them past her lips. Part of her felt that he deserved them, part of her didn't. Either way she felt obliged.
He whipped his arm away from her as though he had been burned. Some guilty little part of him felt relieved at her words.
The rest of the day passed both achingly slowly and quickly. They each sat at opposite sides of the room, propped up against the wall, not meeting each other's eyes. No food had been brought and no water. The prospect of dehydration still worried her greatly - that would most certainly sap her strength.
A few hours after darkness fell, they were strapped to the chairs again with little ceremony and by this time Hermione's throat was burning. She wondered how Malfoy was coping for a split-second before shaking her head.
Hermione tried to resist the pain of the uncomfortable position her body had been contorted into. A part of her wanted to stretch her aching neck muscles and lie her head backwards… but that would mean it was resting on Malfoy's shoulder. And Hermione's pride and what was left of her dignity would not allow it. So she suffered in silence, until eventually, her eyes could no longer stay open and she drifted into an aching sleep.
Draco glared at the wall, just as he had been for the past… however long. He had no concept of time in this damned place. His eyes widened as he suddenly felt a warm weight on his shoulder, and instinctively jumped.
"What the hell?" he whispered furiously.
There was no answer, and Draco turned his head to the side as far as he could. He caught sight of the bushy brown hair. Granger. Her eyes were closed. She was clearly completely unaware of what she was doing.
Draco silently debated whether or not to jerk his shoulder, shaking her awake and consequently getting her off of his shoulder. But he couldn't bring himself to. He clearly mentally told himself; Shake your shoulder. Get the Mudblood off you.
He did think it.
But his shoulder did not comply.
Draco yawned, though no sound emerged from his mouth other than the sound of his torn exhale. He waited for a few more minutes - listening to her heavy breathing - before he too succumbed to a light doze.
During the night, quite unexpectedly, Hermione felt a slight weight on her shoulder. But she thought nothing of it, still being mostly asleep, and so resumed her fitful, draining slumber.
The next day followed a similar pattern, except that a tray containing two bowls watered down gruel and a pair of bruised apples was brought back with her after her "photoshoot" and what came before it.
The next day after that Malfoy rubbed his wrists and stretched - they released him after she was taken - before grimacing at the closed door.
There wasn't much that got to him, but the screaming did. Granger wasn't a girly girl; she didn't parade around in the tiny skirts that Pansy was fond of, or wear any make-up, or even attempt to tame that thing she called hair. Though, one thing about her that was undoubtedly female was the way that she screamed.
It was high pitched, raw, and set his teeth on edge.
A Death Eater – clearly a new recruit, Draco had never heard his voice before - always strode into the room without knocking. He always flicked his wand at her bindings, sneered that he was pleased to see her again and called her pretty, though she was no such thing. Draco just stared at the blank wall ahead of him and said nothing. He was in enough trouble as it was. As far as he could gather Voldemort had been informed of his stupidity, and that would mean one of two things; death (which he did not even consider, let alone dwell on... he was a Malfoy, after all), or... the Program.
Granger would have no idea what was going on, but he felt no need to inform her of the finer details. In fact, it would be easier to leave her in the dark. Maybe he could get her quickly before she even felt any real pain. Maybe that was more than she deserved.
And deep down, very deep down, some small part of him admired her for being so calm about the whole thing, even if she didn't really know what was happening. Perhaps in this case ignorance was not necessarily bliss. The not-knowing was probably eating her up inside. Not that he cared.
But, had he been in her situation he would have begged and pleaded and threatened them with everything he had. She just took it all in her stride and screamed until her throat was hoarse. Another - much larger - part mocked her for her stubbornness as she was thrust back into the room onto her knees, with bruises and scabs covering almost all of her skin, without a sign of remorse.
The visits were sporadic - but always late in the early afternoon. It was difficult to tell what time it was down here. Granger waited for them quietly. All she seemed to do was wait while they were tied up. He could practically feel the nerves rolling off her in waves. She never gave any outward sign apart from tensing when the soft clicking of footsteps reached them. Today their "visitor" had been earlier.
Her fingers had curled into a fist as the door opened and he had felt the slightest bit of concern for her. It didn't take much to twist his wrist slightly and press his palm to the back of her hand in the most comforting gesture he could ever, would ever, offer. In the back of his mind he had half wondered how she would have reacted to that gesture had she known what was coming. As it was her hands had simply shook slightly.
"Miss me, pretty?"
Something like anger pushed its way forward. Draco did nothing, the other Death Eater continued.
"You always look forward to our quality time, don't you?" he had crooned, simultaneously yanking her up. Actions at odds with his words.
The sounds of her being dragged across the floor were followed shortly by a door slamming. Then the screaming started, and the soft hisses and clicks of cameras followed. The latter assured him that his hunch was right. Draco's eyes narrowed at the wall; of course he had been right. Now they would be gathering images to use for advertising. His family name would be sure to bring in a large crowd no matter what filth was facing him. Images of Goody-Two-Shoes Granger would practically send them into a frenzy.
As the screaming started again, all thoughts of the future melted away as though they were ice left under the blazing summer sun. Not for the first time he wished his hands were untied so that he could cover his ears and block out the sound. His mind worked quickly; throwing up images and memories to distract him from something he was sure would haunt his weakest moments for the rest of his days - not that anyone would ever know.
Again he asked himself: why?!
Why help her? She was filth - Mudblood scum. Little-Miss-Know-It-All. Treasured member of the Golden Trio, for fuck's sake. And here he was, tied up in his own basement, thrown from grace and potentially going to die for his mistake. For what? Her. She wasn't worth that by any measure. The more he thought about it the more it frustrated, and angered, him.
He imagined himself in the new Death Eater's place sometimes; grabbing at her pale skin with greedy hands and twisting it until she was black, blue and red like some exotic fruit, burning her with the tip of his wand and wrenching out clumps of her bushy hair with his own fingers until she screamed and cried. The images did not repulse him, as perhaps they should in some people's opinion. Nor did they attract him, as perhaps they should according to his upbringing.
They were just there.
The sound of footsteps reached him just as the screaming drew to a close. He kept his head down while she was thrown to the ground and the simple spell that bound him was terminated. He flexed his arms and cold fingers as he stood. He could hurt her too. Malfoy knew that he could - and would probably be rewarded for it as well. As long as he didn't damage her too much. As long as she could still clutch her wand in her dirty, little fingers.
"You deserve everything you get." The words were a caustic contrast with his actions before she was taken away. They burned in the air between them.
"For what," she hissed, ever-indignant, "Existing?"
Malfoy said nothing, in the back of his mind his upbringing answered; yes.
The fourth day was the same, but the atmosphere was far more tense. Time was running out before
"Why are we even here?" Hermione said quietly, almost to herself.
"The Program," he grunted, not looking up from his apple.
"But what is that."
He raised a pale eyebrow, ever mocking. "What is this, I know something you don't, Granger?"
Walking towards her, he noted how she tensed with some amusement, before he dumped his apple core onto the tray. She stood up and opened her mouth as if to say something - he could almost see the wheels in her head turning, thinking. A smirk tugged at the corners of his mouth.
"Shove it, Malfoy," she spat, turning away.
His arm shot out and he grabbed her upper arm in a firm, but not bruising, grip.
"You want to know," his eyes narrowed to venomous slits, "You always have to know."
His smirk grew, the corners of his lips twisting like a serpent's head.
"But I won't tell you. I want to watch you suffer."
He let her go, and she stalked over to the corner that she usually sat in and deliberately didn't look at him.
"It's basically a contest of strength and ability." He slouched in the chair in front of her with a smug look on his face.
She knew he was enjoying being more knowledgeable than she was, it hadn't taken him long to tell her after he had sworn he wouldn't. The boredom had to be eating him up inside, as it was her, and getting to act superior to her was one of his favourite pastimes.
"We'll duel; in front of an audience. Winner takes all. Loser... that's you. Won't make it out of the arena. It's a sport - you know - one that's growing in popularity. Your pictures... they're advertising, you might say."
"So you're saying that one of us has to kill the other?" Hermione said, voice oddly calm.
She noticed how he didn't mention the torture, the beatings. They must be making her weaker on purpose - so that he would definitely win. Having them in confined quarters like this would also serve to build up the antagonism between them.
"That's exactly what I said, Mudblood."
He was pacing and the slight crease of his brow told her that he was agitated. That was a thing she wouldn't have noticed a few days ago. She let the comment slip; the frequency of its use took away most of the sting. It seemed like more of a habit for him than anything else - like he was clinging to some sense of normality. Her thoughts became ugly and twisted as she contemplated all that he had just told her.
Only under Voldemort's regime would this have been allowed.
"I'm surprised you're not jumping for joy." Her ironic comment caught him by surprise; he stilled and started slightly at the mocking curve of her mouth.
Without warning he turned and lashed out, kicking the open door soundly with his face twisted into a mixture of emotions. Hermione jumped back, startled, by the confusion, and flickers of worry, warring on his features. It wasn't the action that surprised her - she had half been expecting him to try and hit her; when he got angry and frustrated he lashed out. Much like his father in that respect.
The supposed "higher classes" always stilted their offspring's emotional development somewhat.
It was the confusion and uncertainty that startled her. As though sensing her change in attitude towards him he threw a malicious remark at her.
"You have no fucking idea, Granger. I'm going to enjoy every second proving that I'm better than you."
The battered, mould-splattered door had a fresh splintered hole in the bottom left-hand corner of it as testament to their earlier argument. She rapped her unhurt hand against the paper thin wood once, but received no reply. Several more knocks proved futile, so she simply pushed open the door a little ready to squabble for her turn at the cracked, yellowing sink which was simultaneously their only source of water and their only way of keeping themselves semi-clean.
This was just hormones.
This was just hormones.
This was just bloody hormones.
"See something you like, Granger?" His snide voice cut through her inner conversation.
He mopped his soaking face with one of the once green towels she had found in the old, cobweb filled airing cupboard. His hair seemed longer than she ever thought it was; it almost brushed his shoulders where it hung - in a pale blond curtain - around his pointed face.
She would have answered with a suitable cutting and clever retort - really, she wanted to - but her eyes were too busy following the path of a single droplet of water as it trailed from his wet hair down his chiselled chest. It was difficult not to feel envious of the tiny bead of moisture as she watched it slide beneath the thin band of what might have been a green dragon-hide necklace with a single lump of onyx clasped loosely at the hollow of his neck. She watched it move into the dip beneath his collarbone and trail slowly, but surely, down his smooth firm skin into the small indents the indicated defined muscles.
Only when it disappeared into the expensive black material of the trousers that hung loosely, attractively, at his slim hips did she realise that she had been blatantly staring. A moment longer was occupied by the thought that the only thing holding said trousers in place was a thick leather belt with a slim, silver buckle that took the shape of an undulating serpent. She swallowed heavily.
So, apparently, she was human after all. Human, and weak to the work of raging hormones every once and a while. Nothing to be worried about, she assured herself, just a natural reaction to a half-naked male without an ounce of fat on him.
Oh, if only Ron could see her now; his ears would be as red as she was sure her face was.
"You wish, Malfoy. You definitely get the biggest portion if they ever deem it necessary to feed us again - you're just plain scrawny."
He snorted and moved past her - deliberately knocking her back a step. She flicked a few insults at him before slamming the door with unnecessary force and leaning back against the cool wood. Her reflection stared back at her with a red face and heaving chest. Hermione shook her head before turning the hot tap on and filling the sink to the brim. Her thoughts calmed a little as she worked the old bar of soap between her hands.
It was uncomfortable to lean forward and submerge her hair completely in the water. The matted strands almost resembled thick clumps of felt. Scrubbing her fingers against her scalp she worked the clumps of soap into a thick lather. It made her hair brittle and bushier than usual, but at least she felt a little cleaner. Staring at her reflection in the mirror she saw a kind of calm in her own eyes.
Dunking her hair beneath the water again she began to wash out the soap. A faint pink-red colour lined a few of the bubbles. Blood. Hermione pulled the plug and watched them drain away. Reminders of her situation were everywhere. From the bruises on her skin, to the blood she often found in her tangled hair. Running the cold tap she took several long gulps of the clean water.
Washing was always a faintly embarrassing procedure. The door had no lock. Pulling off each piece of clothing she washed the exposed skin before putting it back on and moving to the next part of her body. Malfoy's shirt hung on a small hook attached to the wall. It dripped onto the floor. She touched it gently and felt silk against her fingers. Moving closer she could still smell his cologne on the material before she caught herself and backed away like she had been burned.
Wiping her hands briskly, she looked guiltily at the door, though she knew he hadn't been watching her.
Malfoy was scratching another line on the wall when she moved back into the room they shared. The stark white lines stood to attention on the black slate and she watched his back for a moment. Absently she named the muscles contracting and relaxing. He was, perhaps, a little too thin. She always felt self-conscious of her slightly-too-rounded stomach and slightly-too-wide thighs.
A wry smirk tugged at the corners of her mouth as she looked down at the clothes that hung a little looser on her frame. The way her ribs protruded more than they should now held her attention as she cleaned herself and looked critically at her body. Parts of the fabrics that covered her were sticky and dirty - she dearly wished she could wash them. Walking around half-nude was something she could not bring herself to do. Not with him there.
It would make her feel even more vulnerable.
Wearing damp clothing would also give her a chill that she wanted to avoid as much as possible. In a few more days perhaps she would bring herself to do it. Sitting in the chair deemed as hers she stared hard at the iron door. Hermione thought of lists of runes to pass the time; dwelling on other things was not advisable.
Her eyes flickered unbidden over to where he still stood and lingered on the muscles and pale skin that stretched across the expanse of his back. Definitely not advisable.
The only reason she slept that night was because she was too tired to keep her eyes open.
It was the day before the Program. They had been informed early in the morning that it would take place the next day. Her stomach was tight with nerves - her entire body as tense as a pulled bowstring, the taut thread waiting, nervously expectant.
"I can get us out of here."
His voice broke the usual silence between them after her usual afternoon "trip" was over. The logical part of her mind that was almost never still noted the slightly metallic rasp in his voice from disuse, or fatigue - or both.
"There was never an us, Malfoy."
She watched his expression twist with some amusement. As if she would trust anything he said.
His eyes narrowed, "What was that stupid club you formed Granger? SPUD? PHEW?"
"What if I said you had actually inspired me, Mudblood?"
"I'd say you were too inbred to function properly," she sniffed, taking an almost unholy delight in his anger. They had kept her here too long.
Malfoy's teeth clenched at her words, but a single hand movement knocked her breath out of her more surely than a stunning spell. Grasped in his long, pale fingers was a letter with Harry and Ron's respective untidy scrawls on it in black ink. He waved it tauntingly at her eye level. It was all she could do not to wrench it from his grip.
Her self-restraint lasted all of two seconds. Malfoy caught her hand as she attempted to reach up and grab it. For a second he held her in place and she barely noticed his proximity as she tried to elbow him in his bony ribs.
Then... cold lips pressed against the hot skin of her neck while a hand wormed its way down the front of her shirt and slid along skin that was usually hidden from sight. She hissed at the contact, fighting the angry (and terrified) tears the brimmed instantly in the corners of her eyes, as she kicked out at him. He was everywhere and his heated breath coated every part of her neck that his lips didn't reach in a choking caress.
A hand squeezed her thigh tightly.
"I'll... show you if you give me something, Granger... Come on. I'm not half-bad you know. Probably the best you'll ever have." He murmured, coaxed, against her skin, other hand gripping the fist she had thrown out to hit him with.
His tongue snaked out to touch behind the shell of her ear. She gasped a squirmed away from him, biting back the tears and fear that threatened to consume her. The beatings, she could take - she was strong. Just not this... Not this. Please not -
The next thing she knew he had thrust her away from him onto the floor and her tailbone ached from the impact. Startled, she scrambled back and roughly pulled her shirt back into place. He lifted a hand and slowly, deliberately, wiped his mouth with his sleeve.
His face was flushed, expression elated, smirk firmly in place. Instinctively she knew it was his way of getting back at her for her inbreeding comment. One of the fat, angry tears that had threatened to spill rolled down her stinging cheek.
She hated him.
He threw the letter down on the ground in front of her rather than hand it over - the infuriating smug look plastered across his features.
"You're welcome, Granger."
He turned away from her slightly before looking back with an almost thoughtful expression.
"Crying? You thought I actually would?" He smiled for the first time she had ever seen - it lit up his entire face.
"Filthy, stupid and ugly isn't my type, Mudblood, we're not all desperate like Weasley. You're perfectly safe."
She sobbed in the bathroom rather than give him the satisfaction of seeing her like that, the letter clutched tightly between her hands. The filth that had built up on her skin despite her careful washing was nothing compared to how the skin she had touched felt. It was as though she would never be clean again.
Keep yourself safe.
The letter said at the bottom before the both signed their names. She rubbed her thumb over their names again and again; feeling the familiar, warm, all-encompassing feelings that surrounded her thoughts of them.
The earliest we can be there is tomorrow at noon.
It began late, around nine o'clock. If they could make it, and Malfoy could get them out of here in time... they would have a few hours to spare before the searching began. Time enough to get far, far away.
Malfoy knows where the meeting point is.
This all depended on him. Hermione cast a surreptitious in his direction and frowned down at the piece of parchment that had previously given her so much hope.
Keep yourself safe.
Easier said than done.
"Don't say anything."
He moved in front of her, crouching. The hazy light filtering through the bars only really highlighted the pale strands of his hair, flashes of his gleaming teeth and his ashen, grey eyes. They were piercing in a way. He shuffled closer to her after a moment and she had to fight with herself not to shrink back. Showing any weakness would mean that he would mock it later. He pressed his back to the wall beside her and extended his longer legs with a barely stifled groan.
Hermione was beyond surprised when he lightly pulled her into him until he supported her weight. Her head lay in the dip of his throat and his arm held her shoulders securely, though his hands only touched her lightly, gingerly, as though she had some contagious disease. She wanted to scream at him for daring to do this again. She couldn't take this kind of sick joke more than once. The first time had hurt more than she would ever admit.
Her body tensed to punch him and kick him and hurt him in any way she could.
"I told you that you were safe," he said, voice low.
Her stupid, traitorous body relaxed marginally at his words, but she stayed alert enough to jolt away should he try anything untoward.
But it was so much easier on her agonised muscles this way; she didn't have to hold herself so tense and stiff. Malfoy was warmer than her and helped fight the chill of the night and the cold concrete floor beneath her. The flimsy clothes she wore provided very little protection. Still, she wondered if this was some kind of test. Would Bellatrix, or Lucius, burst in at any moment and find them huddled together?
They were never untied at night and there had to be a reason for this.
Did they intend for Malfoy to...? The cover of darkness and freedom of movement made him bolder than she ever would have expected in this respect. Perhaps they had expected something different to happen, something less wholesome... They had no idea really. He would never try that with her.
She didn't trust him with much, but on this she knew he wouldn't. The only reason he had touched her that time was to humiliate her - that was what he did. His goal had been accomplished. Just this one time... she could trust him enough.
Her body was too tired to resist much longer. Each muscle relaxed against her will and her eyelids began to slowly drop further and further down. He was warm and much more yielding than a hard, wooden chair, or the cold, stone walls. In her sleep-hazed mind she recognised the fact that his natural scent was far more pleasing than the thick, cloying cologne that he was so fond of.
It was the first time in her life she had ever doubted Harry and Ron. The realisation - the revelation - attacked her system like poison.
One of them would (might) die tomorrow. Perhaps that thought lowered her guard somewhat. She didn't want to die with the loneliness that had crept up on her the last few days, choking her last thoughts. He was a warm body, a person - hated, but company none the less. He... This... was enough.
Hermione woke to find herself curled on the cold floor; a situation which did not surprise her. Stretching her stiff limbs, she rubbed the sore spots she had been lying on absently. Dismayed by the bruises that had appeared on her hips and shoulders from sleeping on the hard surface. Malfoy sat against the wall across from her with a pensive expression on what little of his face she could see.
No one would have picked up on the fact that only a few hours previously he had been cuddling up to her. Hermione wrinkled her nose at the thought while, simultaneously, the urge to laugh bubbled up inside of her. It felt like she was going mad, but - really - thinking that Malfoy was even capable of such an act, never mind being on the receiving end, was simply absurd.
He was already awake and pacing when she sat up and rubbed her eyes. Hermione stumbled to the bathroom - deliberately not looking at her bruised reflection - and drank her fill of water. The cold liquid made her stomach ache with hunger a little less. She touched her cracked lips gingerly, pleased that they didn't start bleeding again. Her eyes caught a movement in the mirror.
Malfoy was standing behind her.
"Time to go."
She looked at him - fingers clutching air in the absence of her wand. It wasn't time yet. Surely she hadn't slept that long... Fear gripped her tight and squeezed her heart until it fluttered like a bird trapped in a cage.
He must have seen the shock on her face because he reached out and grabbed her sleeve. It was irrational after all this time spent in such close quarters, but he still didn't like to touch her if he could help it. Behind him stood a small creature with large bat-like ears that couldn't have stood higher than her hip.
A house elf.
She felt some fleeting amusement in the midst of her terror, but didn't take a stab at his weakness as she might have days, hours, earlier.
The tiny creature reached out and grasped his hand firmly in its own bony one. Malfoy kept a hold of her sleeve.
There was no ambush waiting at the other end - all was silent around them. They stood close to each other, as they had when she had stumbled into him upon their landing.
"You... you got us out."
For once there was no cutting retort. Hermione stared at him like she had never seen him before.
She had never realised just how much taller than her he was. Not much broader - he still had a few growth spurts to go before he reached his peak - but he gave the impression of being much larger. Days of virtual starvation had carved deep hollows in his cheeks, leaving his high cheekbones in full focus and highlighting the stiff point of his jaw. There was nothing of a child left in his face, or his turbulent, quicksilver eyes.
He leaned over her now, eyes flickering across her filth-streaked features. The atmosphere was thick and heavy and boiling with tension. He lifted his other hand to where his ring - silver, heavy and adorned with a single, crude, unshaped emerald - had become tangled in her thick matted curls. She half expected him to wrench his hand free and just rip out a clump of hair from her head, sneering and uncaring.
Hermione wasn't sure she would notice the additional pain.
It was then that he did something wholly unexpected, bordering on tender. He turned the hand ensnared in her wild mane until his palm rested against her cheek. Her eyes slid closed, grateful for the contact, too tired to fight against it. Her lips parted slightly to let out the breath she had been unaware she had been holding in. His skin smelled like the strong cheap soap they had been forced to use, but it was still cool and unexpectedly soft against her worn, heated skin.
She was glad that she managed to force down the urge to sigh when her got his fingers free and moved his hand away from her a little. The tips of his fingers remained at her jaw line, an insistent caress, but still barely there. The Gryffindor within her wanted to smack his hands away and scold him for daring to touch her like this - it was so far from platonic she wanted to cry.
They were polar opposites. And while that simple fact had brought them together, it would also tear them apart.
His eyes were closed and the dim light threw deep shadows beneath them - making his features appear sunken and harsh. His fingers moved across her skin; down her neck to slide across her collarbone and slip into the hollow in her neck before trailing back up to run across her nose and eyelids. Like a blind mad reading Braille he seemed to be committing each one of her features to memory - because he would surely never touch her like this again.
Goosebumps were left in the wake of his touches; icy shivers in the wake of vicious heat. The smooth exploration drew to a halt at her cracked lips. Her body seemed to have frozen then, for she felt like a statue when he opened his bloodshot eyes to peer down at her like he too had never seen her before. She stared back and the silence stretched.
It wasn't apparent who moved first; to her dying day she would blame him. To his, her. The next thing either of them knew they were so tightly wound around each other that it could not be seen who's robes began or ended where. Teeth clashed, hands grabbed, nails scraped. Nothing was gentle or tentative. Hermione tasted the salty bitter tang of blood when her teeth clamped down in an instinctive reaction, but nothing could repulse her now, not when she felt so alive.
Tears streamed down her face as he yanked her hair to pull her closer than she thought it would ever be possible. She retaliated by raking her nails down the exposed flesh of his forearms and winding her leg around his waist with a bruising force. His hair was stiff and brittle beneath her clawing fingers from the days upon days of cold water rinses and strong soap that left residue no matter how many times they tried to scrub it out.
Life roared in her ears like molten lava. Her skin felt like fire where he touched her and ice where he did not. She couldn't get enough of him; the feeling of comfort he gave her, the haven of another's arms, even if they were a hated enemy on the other side, could not be matched. What felt like days were only minutes, seconds. Humans need to breathe. They separated to pant and seek desperately needed oxygen.
"I have to go."
"Harry and Ron... they need to know I'm alive."
"Potty and the Weasel," he sneered, "They'll get over it I'm sure."
"What were you expecting me to say? Oh Draco, please don't leave me!" Hermione hissed back.
The look on his face told her that he had.
"Get over yourself, Mudblood."
"Welcome to the club, filthy blood traitor."
He looked away from her, running his hand over her hair and picking bits of debris from it. She really hated his vanity and need to be presentable. It looked like he was trying to give her his usual cocky smirk. It slid off his face.
"They'll pretend it never happened, you know," he said, finally, quietly.
"And so will you?" It was meant to be a statement, but it became a question.
"And so will you," he replied.
With her gone, his family would call off the match. No one would fight that judgement. For a time they would probably assume that she had been killed before it could take place. He would be punished though, she was sure of it, but it was unlikely that they would really harm him. The intention had been for him to win the match. She had been beaten and broken down for that very reason - to make it easier for him.
This was a war, not a holiday. The reality was that they were both tied, inextricably, to opposite sides of the war. Draco's loyalty had to lie with his father and with the Death Eaters, while Hermione's lay with Harry, and Ron, and everything and everyone who defied Voldemort.
There was a high, thin crack sound and he was gone with the House Elf that had gotten them out, but who had studiously ignored their prior exchange. Hermione refused to acknowledge her tears and walked away from the scene. In the distance she could see several tiny specks of people on broomsticks headed towards her.
That was how these things played out. Hermione didn't know what she was expecting. Some sort of passionate, whirlwind romance? Draco Malfoy to pick her up bridal-style and whisk her away to some far-away country and make her his bride? Hermione nearly snorted at the mere notion.
She sat down on the sodden grass and sobbed - groping in her pockets for something to wipe away the offending tears.
She didn't want them to see her like this.
When she retracted her hand there was something heavy and smooth clenched in her fist. The raw emerald in his ring sparkled in the high, cold light of the sun and splayed streaks of green across her grubby skin. With one shaking hand she slid it onto the ring finger of her left hand and sobbed even harder at her own stupidity.
It didn't fit.
Of course it didn't fit.
This is a (early!) birthday gift for the lovely HarlequinRaven, who adores Dramione. (And who could blame her?!) Who was also my beta person for this. I heart her for her efforts.
Sorry you had to wait so long for it - I'm such a terrible procrastinator.
The whole idea was hers to begin with, but since she spews new stories out at a mind-boggling rate she was unable to give this plot bunny the TLC that it deserves. That's where I came in. Saying that, she did write the bit about Hermione falling asleep on Malfoy's shoulder. Can you see the different styles? For those who might recognise it this was partially inspired by Battle Royale.
(Read it if you get the chance. I love it.)
Thanks for reading!