Disclaimer: Everything you recognize belongs to J.K. Rowling (as you probably would know if you haven't been living in a different planet in the last ten years). No profit is being made from this.
A/N: Eh ... so yes, I did sign up for two different 100 prompts challenge over at LJ. It's not that I'm a masochist or something (/promptly ignores the sounds of people sniggering/), but as far as I know, the communities that hosted the challenges I previously signed up for seemed to be dead. So now, I've taken up the challenge at Quill It Or Die Trying and fanfic100. Yup, 200 fics/chapters dedicated to Tom/LV and Hermione.
For those of you concerned about Prisms of Darkness and Somewhere In Time, I am working on it, details can be found on my profile around 10 minutes after I post this.
In regards to this fic, I figured that I can take some liberties in regards to how long it takes for a person to go insane under the Cruciatus and the symptoms/stages that takes place during the process since it was not exactly outlined in canon.
Lastly, this may or may not turn into a multi-chaptered fic, but no promises, and it would most likely happen only after I finished at least three of the five (or more) ongoing fics I have.
Huge thanks to LSMerlot, my wonderful beta!
Prompt: #97. Shelter
Death would be preferable to this.
She had no idea who was standing in front of her. Was it the same person from the night before? Or the guard from the night before that? She did not know.
Nor did she care.
The pain was ripping away her thoughts, her knowledge, her emotions. Yet, the person in front of her had no mercy, their lives much more important to them than the girl clawing at her own skin to lessen the pain inflicted on her.
Even if they had wanted to stop, they could not. They would end up in her place if they showed the least bit of compassion towards the filthy little Mudblood in front of them.
But they did not need to worry since they had never thought about showing sympathy towards her. It was evident from their laughter and expressions of joy in the brief moments her gazes of agony caught sight of them.
No, they were enjoying her punishment as much as she was suffering from it.
After what seemed like an eternity, the person stopped, and she was left panting on the floor.
"Where is Harry Potter?" the man asked, his voice cold and arrogant.
Harry ... Potter ... the name triggered a faraway memory. She recalled someone with that name. Where had she met him again?
"Where. Is. Harry. Potter?" the man repeated, impatience apparent from his tone of voice.
"I don't know," she whispered truthfully.
Yet, it was not the answer he was looking for, nor did he believe her.
"Crucio!" the man growled, plunging her deep into the realms of hell again.
Her screams bounced off the walls, resounding in her ears as her fingers dug into her arms again, drawing lines of blood down them.
When torture stopped once more, she found herself cuddled against the corner of the prison cell. During her agony, she had been searching for some kind of support.
And the cold, hard prison wall was her only option.
Her torturer and a figure who had just entered the dungeon were speaking, but she did not hear what they were saying. Her ears were still ringing from her screams, and the pain from the Cruciatus Curse was still tingling her skin.
She placed her hand on the wall, hoping that it would somehow open up so that she could escape or maybe wishing it would suddenly turn into the warm embrace of a caring person.
But she knew it would never happen. It was impossible.
Finally, when her breathing slowed down to its regular rate, her eyes flicked towards the duo standing in the middle of the room. The newcomer's face was hidden by the shadows, which was not all that strange. It was nighttime after all, and the only source of light in the room was the moonlight that shone through the window.
She did not care about that anyway. She was more concerned about if he were here to torture her, too.
Like a frightened cat, she kept her eyes glued to the pair of them, bracing herself for the next round of hexes. With a wave of his hand, the second man sent away the first man before he slowly sauntered up to her into the moonlight.
Dark hair, dark eyes, perfect lips curved in an amiable smile, high cheekbones, flawless skin ... in the days before she was thrown into this hell on Earth, she knew she would have considered him handsome. His features reminded her of another person, someone she knew ... or at least thought she knew ...
No ... the young man she had known had green eyes ... and glasses ... and he never had such a charming smile on his face ...
Where did she know that bespectacled young man?
She did not remember. She slightly shivered. She hardly remembered things these days. She did not even remember the faces of the people who tortured her anymore.
All she wanted was the pain to stop.
The man crouched down in front of her, the smile never leaving his face, and reached towards her. She unconsciously flinched, afraid that she would have to suffer through more pain. However, he simply placed his hand on hers, the gentleness in his motions warming her and bringing her the sense of security she so much needed.
How long had it been since someone had touched her like this?
So, she did not move away. She did not want to move away. What if moving away brought the other people back? She did not want that.
However, she kept her eyes trained on him, waiting with fear that the tenderness was simply an illusion, a tactic to lure the victim into the lair of the waiting predator.
With a slow but graceful movement, he moved his hand upwards and cupped her cheek, tilting her head so that he was staring straight into her eyes, and suddenly, she was reliving the torture sessions again.
She saw those faceless people throwing different hexes at her, throwing her across the dungeon floor, kicking and punching her, aiming to hurt her as much as they could without killing her ... and then, it was blank.
With a start, although she had no idea why, she could not think of anything anymore. The only things she remembered were those horrifying days in the dungeon. What happened to her before? Who was she? Where did she come from?
Scattered pieces of memories made it back into her mind if she tried hard enough, but they were meaningless. A freckled young man with a lopsided smile ... a tiny redhead with intelligent eyes, far wiser than her age ... a kindly old man with twinkling blue eyes ... Who were they? She did not know.
And then she was back into this dark prison, her body shaking like a fragile leaf in the clutches of the bitter winds of winter.
The man's hand was the only thing that was supporting her, or else she would have slumped onto the floor. Her whole body was shaking, and cold sweat had broken out across her skin.
Those things no longer worried her because what frightened her more was the fact that the smile had disappeared from the man's face. A cold, furious expression had taken its place, and his eyes were narrowed in displeasure. It made her want to move away from him, but she could not. She could not leave the small bit of warmth that was granted to her after such a long period of time.
He continued staring at her, studying her features. His lips curled into a cruel, calculating smirk that thoroughly alarmed her, and she nearly thought that he was going to raise his wand at her. But as fast as the sneer had appeared, it was gone. In its place was that entrancing smile once more, and she found herself being reassured by it and quickly forgetting her worries.
"Hermione," he spoke, his voice sliding across her skin like the finest satin. It held no warmth, but it was not unpleasant, very much unlike those men before.
She decided that she liked his voice.
"Granger," he said.
Who was Hermione Granger? The name seemed so very familiar ... so very, very familiar ...
Her expression must have shown how confused she was because he chuckled and explained, "That's your name."
Oh. So that was why she felt a strange connection to it.
"Do you remember anything?" he asked, his eyes flickering over her face with such intensity that she would have blushed if she were not busy analyzing what he was asking her.
Remember about what? The last time they let her eat? Tortured her? Allowed her outside of the dungeons? Gave her a chance to bathe properly?
She had no recollection. So instead, another question left her lips.
"Who ... am I?"
He merely looked at her without replying.
But either her question or the way she was looking at him must have made him happy because his smile deepened a brief moment later.
"Come with me," he said, standing up and holding his hand out to her.
She glanced at it hesitantly, wondering if he would be harmed, too, for trying to save her.
If he were trying to save her.
"Come," he ordered.
She did not need to be told a third time. Something from his voice told her that it would be detrimental to do so. As quickly as she could force her feeble body to, she stood up, and he caught her before she could fall down.
Her eyes locked with his again as he half-carried her out of the darkness and into a dimly lit hallway, and she could only express her gratitude with a weak smile. His magic was too strong, too intoxicating, and she nearly suffocated from it, so much that she did not trust herself to speak. She clung onto him as if he were her only shelter from madness and she would lose herself completely if she let go.
She closed her eyes, leaned a bit closer to him, and inhaled in such a way that it seemed like she was trying to absorb his energy into her to treasure forever.
A tiny smile appeared on her face when he did not push her away. After all, she smelled similar to, if not worse than, the dirtiest gutter in the world.
Her eyelids fluttered open again just as they entered a room on one of the upper floors. When she found him glancing at her, she pleaded with him with her gaze.
"Who am I?" she asked again.
Again, he did not answer her. With a snap of his fingers, two house-elves appeared. A couple of quick commands later, he turned towards her while the house-elves went to prepare a bath and a meal for her.
"Four months under the Cruciatus, and you still retain some sanity," he murmured more to himself than to her as he circled around her slowly, examining her from every angle.
She remained silent and tilted her head slightly, waiting for him to tell her more. Was she supposed to be insane? But he did say "some." So did that mean that she was already in some ways insane?
She did not like that feeling at all, and she was about to tell him that she was not insane when he opened his mouth again.
"Perhaps that peculiar mind of yours could still be trained?" he continued.
She blinked, his question baffling her. Her mind was working far too slow for her tastes, and before she could fully understand what his question meant, he changed the subject of their conversation.
"Who are you ... now that's complicated," he commented.
A smile appeared on his face again, but somehow it looked more like a sneer to her. She quickly shook that thought away, a frown slightly creasing her forehead. He had already been very kind to her, taking her out of the dungeons and ordering a bath and meal for her. She should not think ill of him.
"We shall see, shan't we, Hermione?" he asked, running a single finger down the length of his yew wand as he examined it.
She watched him questioningly, confusion due to his words no longer surprising her.
"But for the time being ..."
His eyes met with hers again, and she felt her breath hitch. For some reason, although being close to him gave her comfort and warmth, a part of her was dreadfully frightened of him, especially when he had his emotions hidden behind that impassive mask he was wearing right now.
"Hermione Granger," he finally spoke after a moment of pause.
The demand for obedience in his voice caused another tremor to go through her body, and with fear and anticipation, she could only choose to accept his command.
"You belong to me."