Chapter 6. Explanations and Excuses.
"Hermione Granger and Lucius Malfoy. Well that's an odd pair if I say so myself. I remember, about six years ago I saw the two of them at Flourish and Blotts. Of course Miss Granger wasn't with him, but it was an interesting conversation. It was when that Gilderoy Lockhart fellow had a book-signing. Lucius was being his usual arrogant self, and him and Harry Potter had a little bickering back and forth. Miss Granger stepped in and looked him straight in the eye and defended herself and back-talked to him. It was quite incredible to see a twelve year old girl stand up to a fully grown man, especially Lucius Malfoy. Hopefully she used that courage during the war as well."
"Can't tell the reasons, I did it for you. When lies turn into truth, I sacrificed for you. You say that I'm frozen, but what can I do?" - 'Frozen' Within Temptation.
'My parents are dead? What, no. That can't be. I erased their memories, they were supposed to move and be safe.' Pain rose in Hermione's chest and she let it all out. She started to cry, not caring if Lucius was there watching her. Let him watch for all she cared. He did this. He had to be the one to kill them, then why else would he be here gloating about it?
Anger filled Hermione and she felt the urge to get up and just hurt him. Hurt him like he hurt her, and her parents. She could feel adrenaline pumping through her veins as she got to her feet, despite the growing pain she felt in her bones. She took a small step towards Lucius. 'That bastard. He will pay.' "Tell...me...you, killed them...right?" Hermione could barely get the words out.
She looked at Lucius who was simply standing there, unmoving. She looked him straight in his stone-cold eyes. She held his stare for about three seconds before he looked away. "Yes, I did." Lucius said as he looked around the room, not daring to look at Hermione. 'Look at me you bastard. You killed my parents, be a man. Live up to it.'
Hermione took a few steps and got over to where Lucius was standing. She was so close to him, she could reach out and touch him if she wanted too.
"You...you...feel...nothing...at all," She panted. She lifted her arm as best she could and tried to slap his face. It only ended up only feeling like a light tap.
Tears were still running down her face as she tried to push him and started to punch his chest. It was all a wasted effort, because of her current condition, she knew it wouldn't hurt him. But she thought maybe him seeing her like this, would do something; trigger a response. She knew it probably wouldn't, not to the man who could randomly go killing on a whim. But she just wanted to try. She kept hitting and slapping him, until she started to feel extremely dizzy and light-headed. Before she knew it she collapsed on the floor and hit her head on the hard surface, blacking out.
Lucius stared down at the passed out girl before him. He deserved the so-called beating he'd gotten from her. He wasn't sure if it was the whiskey catching up to him, the pathetic beating attempt he got, or if he really cared about the girl, but he felt like he wanted to break down and cry. 'You feel nothing.'
Her hitting him, hurt more than anything, but he found he couldn't stop her. He stood there and took it. He turned around to leave. He couldn't take the sight much longer.
If only she knew what had really happened, and how it was destroying him. He walked as fast as he could down the hallways so he could get out of the house. He hoped he wouldn't run into Bella because he figured he probably looked like a wreck.
Rodolphus stepped out of one of the rooms as Lucius rushed passed. "Lucius? You're still here?"
"I was just leaving." Lucius said, still not bothering to look back.
"Good. So how's the girl? Is she taking the death of her parents well? Or does she need some...company?" Rodolphus said the last sentence in such a way, it made Lucius turn around in shock.
"And what do you mean by company?" he spat.
"Oh well you know. Someone there as a shoulder to cry on, make her feel better, if you catch my drift." Rodolphus raised an eyebrow a disturbing smirk on his face. Lucius felt a sudden pang of anger.
"Rodolphus, honestly, you aren't planning on doing anything to her are you? You're married for goodness sakes!"
"So? That hasn't stopped you." Rodolphus shot back defensively.
"What is that supposed to mean? I haven't touched that Mudblood!" Lucius was getting furious. Why was Rodolphus suspecting him of doing anything to that creature? But at the same time, why would he care what Rodolphus did to her? It wasn't his business, yet he couldn't keep his mouth shut.
"Oh save it. We all know there is something going on. I've seen the way you look at her. Take the example of when she first got here and Bella was torturing her. You stepped in and defended her."
"I wasn't defending her. Bella was going over-board. I had to stop the girl from dying. We needed her."
"No we didn't need her. You need her, and you know it. Why did you want to talk to her alone today hmm? Bella would have gladly stayed there and heard the news. She would have loved to see the girl's reaction. But instead you made her leave. It's so obvious Lucius. Stop lying to yourself and everyone around you." Rodolphus turned around and started to walk towards the prison cell.
"And why are you going to see her then? You know what the Dark Lord does to Death Eaters who touch Mudbloods and blood-traitors. You will be dead by the end of the week." Lucius didn't know why he was trying to get him to stop. He didn't particularly like Rodolphus, and he certainly didn't think of him as family. So he didn't care what happened to him.
He knew he was defending the Mudblood once again. He remembered looking in her eyes, and seeing something so innocent in them. He liked that. He didn't want that to disappear. At least not yet. He admitted all of this to himself, and strangely it felt like a weight was lifted from his shoulders.
He knew he wasn't in love with the girl, and he knew he didn't even like her. But there was something invisible there, almost like an obsession. He couldn't control how he felt. He just gave in.
"Well say what you like. I'm going to see my prisoner, and I can do what I like to her." Rodolphus said triumphantly. He walked away and turned a corner, leaving Lucius alone in the hallway.
Lucius debated on going to warn Bella, but this whole nuisance seemed to be beneath him. It also would confirm her suspicions about him and the girl. So despite his mind, and his heart, he kept walking and didn't look back.
Hermione slowly opened her eyes and blinked in the darkness. Her head was pounding and her vision was blurry. With a start she realized she wasn't alone. She could dimly make out the hulking shadowy figure of someone standing in the corner of the room.
She lifted herself up slowly and leaned against the wall nearest to her. "Is...some..one...there?" She said slowly. She couldn't quite tell if it was someone, or if her eyes were playing tricks on her. She saw the shadow move, not much, but she was positive it moved. "Who's there?" She repeated. It seemed stupid to her to ask, since it was only Bellatrix and her husband in the house.
Still, it seemed odd to her. If it were Bellatrix she would have said something, and she wouldn't have stood in the corner for who knows how long.
"So you're awake." Rodolphus, How long had he been standing there? "You looked so peaceful deary. I couldn't wake you up even if I wanted to."
'What is he saying? He was watching me sleep, oh lord, that's repulsive!' Hermione could tell he was getting closer, by the clacking noise his shoes made against the hard concrete ground. She barely saw the shadow kneel down in front of her. She could smell smoke and alcohol on his breath and clothing and it made her want to gag. "Wha...what do you...want?" Hermione asked as he got closer. She had an idea, but she was praying to whatever deity looking down on her that she was wrong.
"Well, I thought you would just love some company, right now. And after hearing about your parents, you must be pretty upset, and vulnerable." Rodolphus said, still inching closer. Hermione could tell he was no more than a few inches away from her now.
"What? No, get away from me..." Hermione tried to sound angry, and serious, but failed. She then tried to lift her arms up and stop him, but she felt too weak. It was a wasted effort on her part, and she knew it.
Rodolphus grabbed Hermione by the shoulders and lowered her to the cold, stony floor. 'No, this can't be happening. Someone, help...' She felt Rodolphus' hands run down her arms and squeezed her eyes shut tight. A single tear streaked unheeded down her cheek.
Rodolphus' hands now were at the base of her shirt and he slid them underneath it. 'This isn't how this is supposed to happen...' More tears came to her eyes as she tried to squirm from under his touch. Obviously Rodolphus noticed this, "Come on deary. There's no need to cry. Just let it happen, you will enjoy it."
She could fell his breath on her, getting closer and closer. His hand was moving up farther. 'No!' Rodolphus paused for a moment and took his hand out from her shirt. A rush of relief rolled through Hermione until she realized he hadn't moved or gotten up.
At first she thought he decided against what he was doing, but she didn't know how wrong she was.
He lifted her up and started to pull her shirt off, exposing her stomach, and then her bra, then he pulled it over her head.
At this point she was struggling frantically and was on the verge of a serious meltdown. He pinned her hands above her head with one hand and put the other on her stomach. She cringed beneath his touch. "Get...off..." She panted, as she twisted in his grasp. She tried to scream but the sound died in her throat. His hands felt like sandpaper on her smooth silky skin.
He lowered himself onto her and started kissing her neck and made his way down to her shoulder.
'This can't be happening like this...this isn't how it's supposed to be, and most certainly not with him! Just stop...please...' Just as his mouth reached the top of her bra a burst of light came flooding into the room. Hermione jerked her head over to see two figures standing in the doorway.
She could have wept with joy, not caring who the figures were at the moment, as long as they helped her. They would stop him wouldn't they? Rodolphus jerked his head up and blinked stupidly in the bright light.
"What the hell is this?" Bellatrix's shrill scream echoed deafeningly within the room. Hermione immediately knew she was done for. She was dead. She hadn't done anything wrong, but she knew she was going to take the blame for this. Here she was lying on the floor, not struggling, and Rodolphus was all over her.
Bellatrix ran into the room and shoved Rodolphus off of Hermione. She grabbed Hermione by the neck and jerked her up. Hermione tried to take in a breath, but Bellatrix's hand crushed her windpipe. Bellatrix was really planning on strangling her. She strained to look over at the other figure in the doorway. She could see the glow of white-blonde hair around their head. Lucius stood in the doorway and said nothing. It seemed as if he was merely a bystander, as if he couldn't stop it. 'So you're just going to stand there? Bloody coward.'
Hermione could feel her lungs begging for air. The pain got worse by the second. She reached up and tried to scratch Bellatrix's face, arms, anything. No matter how hard she struggled, Bellatrix's grip only got stronger. The room around her started to fade away.
All of a sudden she felt a rush of oxygen surge into her lungs, then she hit the floor; hard. Bellatrix She started coughing as she rubbed her throat. Each cough made her feel as if she was going to pass out right then and there. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Rodolphus get up and go over to Lucius.
"You bitch! So you think stealing peoples husbands is alright you Mudblood? Who do you think you are?" Bellatrix yelled at the top of her lungs. Hermione thought she has seen Bellatrix at her angriest, but she was wrong. She had never seen someone so furious.
Bellatrix's face contorted and the vein in her neck looked like it was going to explode. "Crucio Crucio, Crucio!" She yelled over and over again, pointing her wand at Hermione. Hermione screamed out in pain. She just wanted to die. She couldn't handle it anymore and she knew it. She opened her eyes for a split second and saw her world start to fade away. "You two! Out! Now!" Bellatrix whirled around and yelled at the two men standing in the doorway.
Rodolphus nodded and left but Lucius hesitated for a second. After a few seconds he turned around to leave with Rodolphus, leaving Bellatrix alone with Hermione.
Lucius walked along-side Rodolphus down the hallway, but found himself speeding up. He wanted, no – needed – to get himself out of there. As they neared the stairs Rodolphus grabbed Lucius by the arm and spun him around.
"Don't. You. Ever. Touch. Me." Lucius ripped his arm away from Rodolphus' grip and started to turn around again.
"Look mate, all I want to know is why you and Bella showed up?" Rodolphus replied in a condescending manner.
Lucius took a few steps outside the house and got ready to apparate back to the Manor. He hesitated for a few seconds; he couldn't leave. Not without...He turned back towards the house and stared at it.
'It wouldn't be fair to Bella if he did anything to that Mudblood...I should warn her. For her sake...Narcissa would be angry if she found out I knew and didn't tell her sister.'
Lucius stood there for a few more seconds trying to reason exactly why he was going back inside.
'Was it because of her?'No of course not.'But...' He shook the thought from his head. He turned around and made his way back up the stone steps. The door opened right before he reached it.
"Oh, Lucius, I thought you were leaving." Bella stood in the doorway blocking his entrance back inside.
"Yes, but Bella, I wanted to ask you. Where is Rodolphus right now?" Lucius took another step. He carefully examined Bella's change in attitude.
"Why do you ask?" She said back as she narrowed her eyes. Why was she being suspicious of him? He was trying to help her after all. He took a deep breath. At times he seriously hated being connected to this woman in any way.
"Well do you know where he is? I wanted to speak to him about a pressing matter before I left. I was about to apparate then I remembered a message the Dark Lord wanted me to relay to him."Every fibre of his being wanted to simply turn around and leave, and act like nothing was wrong. But could he really sit around knowing what was happening at the moment?
Honestly, he probably could. Right now he would be sitting in his chair, maybe reading. But no, he was standing in front of this woman trying to save her marriage (or possibly ruin it). He couldn't believe he was trying to get Bella to go in and find Rodolphus with his hands on that Mudblood.
"Well I don't know." Bella responded, "He might be near the prison cell. I saw him walk that way a few moments ago. I needed to take a break from that filthy girl. I've never had this much trouble with someone before. It simply infuriates me!"Lucius stood there pretending to listen to Bella's rant on the Mudblood, but really he could care less.
Pushing Bella aside he started walking towards the prison cells.
"Lucius," Bella exclaimed. "How rude, where are you going?" She scurried after him, a determined expression on her face. Lucius ignored her questions and kept walking. He was silently hoping not to see what he knew was happening.
After what seemed like hours to Lucius they reached the wooden door that lead into the prison cell. He stopped and heard nothing. Maybe nothing was happening at all. Wouldn't she be screaming if something was happening? Or would she be enjoying it? Was Rodolphus right?
Anger flared up within him just thinking about it. Suddenly he didn't want to open that door. He regretted ever coming back. Why hadn't he apparated when he was outside? He was so angry he could have kicked himself.
"And why are we here? Don't tell me you want to see that Mudblood again. I will tell Narcissa-,"
Lucius took a deep breath and pushed open the door. If Rodolphus wasn't in there, it would calm his nerves and he could leave. Bella immediately shut her mouth and Lucius could feel the tension build in the air. He looked down and saw the one thing he didn't want to see. He saw Rodolphus with his filthy hands on her. Rodolphus looked up suddenly and Lucius could see the lust in his eyes. It was disgusting. But what bothered him the most was that she laying on the floor, just laying there, not struggling, not screaming; not doing anything.
He knew she was stronger than that.
She wouldn't give in.
She must have been enjoying it.
That filthy Mudblood...
'Why did I bother to come back?'
To think, he had even looked at her in any other then pure disgust? He had been fighting these emotions ever since he first laid his eyes on her just a week ago, but now he couldn't believe he had wasted his time thinking she was anything more than the filth she was.
Before he knew it Bella had stormed into the room and grabbed her by the throat. Lucius stood there watching; he had no intent on stopping Bella from killing her. She could suffocate for all he cared.
He was so fixated on watching her skin turn all colors. It went from being pale, to a slight pink, then red, then almost purple. He never killed anyone by suffocating them, so this was new to him. It was always a simple Avada Kedavra and they were dead.
He couldn't pull his eyes away from her. The expressions on her face, the color change, everything seemed to slow down. He noticed she was looking at him. He looked into her eyes and he could see them slowly start to fade. To him, it was almost beautiful. It sounded demented, and he knew that, but he couldn't stop watching. He just looked at her as everything about her started to break down, and fade away. Beautiful~
-End of flashback-
Lucius stopped but didn't turn around. "I wanted Bella to know the type of scum she married."
"Lucius, I've known you for years, and you've never once cared about Bella? You care about her as much as I do." Rodolphus replied. He was right; but Lucius would never admit that. He was already having a hard time figuring out just why he'd gone back in the first place.
"Well I don't know then. Let's just hope that the Dark Lord doesn't find out about this." Lucius said as he walked away. He thought Rodolphus would stop him again, but he didn't. There was just silence as he turned the corner and left the house.
Her back hit the wall with incredible force. "For the-," she took a deep breath, "last...time, it was...him."
"Liar!" Bellatrix screamed. She kicked Hermione's leg, and she went down with a thump. She cast a spell at Hermione's head and Hermione felt her vision starting to fade away. She blinked once, twice, but by then she couldn't see a thing. Pain came rushing to her eyes and forehead.
She reached up and grabbed her head. Warm liquid was steadily dripping from her eyes and forehead, which she figured to be her blood. Her heart began to palpitate, while gruesome thoughts raced across her mind; nineteen to the dozen. She was panicking, groping the air in hopes of finding something to help herself with, though she knew it was a hopeless cause.
Bellatrix let out a bark of a laugh. "Not so tough and brave are you now Mudblood? Take away a person's sight and they are so defenceless. I love it!" Bellatrix laughed harder. Tears began to mix with the blood already dripping from her eyes as Hermione gave in to her emotions. "Now you know, I'm really in the mood to get information from you. If you don't cooperate, I'll just have to torture you more, and if you actually give in, I'll get what I really wanted. I win either way."
"Stop it! Just make this stop! Please..."
"So you have resorted to begging? HA! How pathetic. I quite like seeing you like this. You always thought you were so superior to me, when really it's the other way around, and now here you are, begging!" Bellatrix yelled. Hermione could feel blood rush up to her head and it felt like her head was about to explode. "So first question, who are some more of Harry Potter's friends?"
'Ugh, not this question again. I can't tell her. But if I don't, I'll lose my sight...but I just can't.' Hermione thought. She knew she couldn't sell out her friends. She couldn't put anyone else through this torture. She couldn't say anything or else she would be the cause of their death. The same reason why Ginny died...she had to keep her mouth shut this time.
"So, you're not going to talk? I thought you being blind would really help you speak, but I guess not. I guess I should start taking away another sense..." Bellatrix said. She cast another spell, directing her wand at Hermione ear.
Hermione felt it hit her ear and then all she could hear was a loud ringing. She screamed but it sounded like a whisper to her. She could hear Bellatrix laugh faintly and then pain hit her. Hermione cried out as she was hit with Crucio again and again.
Acid burning her skin
Knives stabbing into her flesh
Needles pricking into her eyeballs
Whips lashing across her back
Gun shots blasting through her body
Every pain imaginable seemed to hit her all at once. Before she knew it her mouth moved and she was talking. "Luna Lovegood! Dean Thomas! Seamus Finnegan! and Neville Longbottom! Those were the only ones who came close to being close to him like Ron and I are!" Oh shit...her breath hitched in her throat as she realized the magnitude of her previous words. She sold her friends out; offered them up liked lambs to the slaughterer.
She felt a curse hit her ears again and she could almost hear the silence in the room then. The ringing wasn't there anymore so she figured she had her hearing back; but at what cost? She had told Bellatrix what she wanted to know.
It was a harsh reality and she began to cry, letting out loud heaving sobs; that it made her whole body shake. She had done the one thing she said she wouldn't do. She'd given in; cracked under pressure. She couldn't believe where she was now; her whole mental state was wrecked, and so was her physical being. She sold out her friends all because of pain. Why hadn't she died for them? She didn't feel human anymore.
Other people would have to suffer now that she finally broken. Why did she just give up? She lasted this long, why did she crack now? She just couldn't take any more pain. Bellatrix knew more dark magic than Hermione could have ever dreamed of. 'Well of course, she was trained by Voldemort.'
Who could do such things to a human being though? How could they have the audacity to think they are better than someone else because of their heritage?
"Wow Mudblood! You finally did it! Don't you feel proud? You sold out your friends, your only chance of survival. How does it feel hmm?" Bellatrix asked. She was beaming. Hermione could tell from the sound of her voice that she was having a hard time trying not to just start laughing like she always did.
She was right though...
If she ever did get out of there, how could she face any of them? If they were still alive..."Well Mudblood it seems that you will cooperate now, will you not?" Hermione didn't answer. "Well?" Bellatrix shrieked. "If I ask you something, I expect an answer! Crucio!" Hermione screamed only for a moment, before Bellatrix lifted the curse.
"Yes yes okay!" Hermione cried out. She was done with the pain. She didn't want anymore. She could only take so much. A huge maniacal smile spread across Bellatrix's face. "Good. So Mudblood, tell me, where is Harry Potter staying?"
"The Burrow with Ron's family..." Hermione's eyes started to water.
"Good. It looks like we are finally making progress. Who knows, maybe within the next hour you will be rid of all this pain hmm? Let's see if we can make that happen." Bellatrix said as she started to pace back and forth, tapping her makeshift wand against her crossed arms.
Hermione soul was screaming, berating her for what she had done 'Please forgive me.'
When Lucius arrived in front of the Manor he merely stood and stared at it; a million thoughts running through his mind. What was he doing? He was helping a Mudblood that he claimed he didn't care about. Even if there was an attraction, or an obsession there, it would never work. He was a pure-blood and she's a Mudblood. He was a Death Eater, she was Harry Potter's best friend. He thinks about her all the time, she would rather have Rodolphus. He would be killed if he ever touched her, she would be killed within the days either way.
He needed to forget about her. She was nothing at all. How many times did he need to tell himself that? He walked up the steps and entered the foyer. Narcissa was standing there, a bag resting by her feet.
"Lucius," She said with a nod. It was the first time in three days that he had seen her. She hadn't come to bed the past two nights, and he hadn't run into her in the many hallways of the Manor. She looked beautiful; he noted. Her long black robes hugged her small frame perfectly. She was wearing a little make-up, but she didn't need it, and she was staring at him with a mixture of emotions.
He quickly walked towards her but said nothing. She just stared at him as he approached. He put his hand on the back of her head and pulled her face towards his. Their lips met forcefully and he immediately deepened the kiss.
At first he could feel her hesitation but only a few seconds after he kissed her, she started to return it. He wrapped his other hand around her waist and pulled her closer so that their bodies met.
He thought back to a week ago when that Mudblood was disguised as her, and he wanted to just hold her forever. He pulled away suddenly and almost expected to see two brown eyes look back at him, but instead he was shocked to see Narcissa's blue eyes. Of course it would be her eyes, why would he think any differently?
He looked into her eyes for a few seconds then crushed his lips against hers once again. They made their way into the room just off the foyer and he pushed her onto the black rug on the floor. He lowered himself on to her as he pushed his cloaks off. Kissing her hungrily he grappled with her clothes as the heat started to rise.
They lay on the rug panting, as he looked up at the ceiling. Why did he think about the stupid Mudblood so much when he has Narcissa, his beautiful wife...He looked over at her and tenderly brushed stray hairs off her cheek; returning the smile she had on her face as she turned towards him.
"What's with you being so spontaneous all of a sudden?" She let out a little laugh. They had never been the romantic type of couple, and this was probably the first time in twenty years that they just went for it. It surprised Lucius just as much as it surprised Narcissa.
"I've been a complete fool, and I've missed you." Narcissa smiled even more, like it was the one thing she wanted to hear. Lucius continued, "And I've needed to get out all this pent up frustration I've had. Ever since that Mudblood came here, I've just been so angry and...well, scared."
Narcissa's attitude took a sudden shift. "Is that all you care about now?"
"What do you mean?" Lucius looked at her in confusion.
"That Mudblood, she's all I hear about from you now, and that's all you talk and think about. So this, just now, was all because of her?" Narcissa sat up and pulled on her shirt.
"What? No, of course not. That's not what I meant..." Lucius said as he sat up as well. Narcissa stopped.
"Lucius, we have been together for over twenty years. I know when you are lying." She stood up and got dressed.
"Narcissa wait," Lucius stood up and hastily began dragging his clothes on.
"No, I'm done. Just the other day you were so furious at me for defending her, and now look at you! You can't take her off your mind for one second!" She almost shouted, her words laced with disbelief. "I've seen you sitting around drinking, and mumbling things about her."
"That's not true. Narcissa you know I love you. That Mudblood is just a prisoner and there's nothing going on. There is a lot going on right now with the war and being in hiding, and I'm concerned that she will ruin our plans. That's it." Lucius said.
Narcissa was silent for a minute. "I can't believe you." She said as she left the room. Lucius sighed, rubbed his forehead, and shook his head. Was he really that easy to read now? He fastened the clip on his cloak and strode out of the room. As he walked, not really caring where he went but he just kept walking, he felt a sharp pain in his left arm. He pulled up his sleeve and saw his Dark Mark elevated and he knew that the Dark Lord was on his way.
Lucius stopped for a second to regain his composure, and to think where exactly he was in the Manor. He shook his head and turned around. After about a minute he reached the foyer and opened the doors. There stood Voldemort, in all his terrifying glory.
"Lucius, we have matters to discuss." He said. Lucius tensed up but managed to keep his voice steady and strong.
"Yes my Lord, come in." he said stepping out of the way. Silently, they made their way into a room with a small round table and about five chairs spread around it. Lucius pulled out one chair for Voldemort and went around to the other side, waiting for him to sit down. Voldemort sat down and motioned for Lucius to sit as well. Lucius barely hit the seat before Voldemort started talking again.
"Lucius, how are you?" He asked amiably enough. Lucius's heart raced. Every time Voldemort asked a personal question such as that, it usually was followed by a change of plan that, most of the time, wasn't pleasant.
"I'm good my Lord, thank you. And may I ask how you are doing?" Lucius replied calmly.
"Good, thank you. I came here to talk to you about something that has been brought to my attention." Lucius felt his mind go fuzzy and found he couldn't control his thoughts no matter how hard he tried. He figured Voldemort was using Legilimency. It always took Lucius by surprise and it wasn't the most comfortable feeling, but he had suffered through worse before, so he could handle it.
He thought about walking in on Rodolphus with the Mudblood. Then he felt his mind stop racing through thoughts and he had control again. At that moment he knew what Voldemort had come to discuss. He knew it wasn't going to end well, but he was happy that Voldemort was here for that, and not something else. At first he thought Voldemort had the same suspicions as Bella and Narcissa, but he was wrong. 'Thank God...' He thought. "Yes my Lord, that-," Lucius started before the Dark Lord interrupted.
"Would you care to explain that?" Voldemort said as he narrowed his eyes.
"With all due respect, there isn't much to explain. As I was leaving that day from telling the Mudblood about her parents, I ran into Rodolphus. He was making hints at making a move on the Mudblood so I went back and caught him in the act."
"Pity," Voldemort murmured. "There have been few cases where someone has fallen for their prisoner. It's not a surprise when it does happen. It's disgraceful, yes, but not surprising. It's too bad that it was Rodolphus. He would be the last person I would think would do such a disgraceful thing such as touching a Mudblood". Voldemort trailed off, apparently lost in thought. He was quiet for so long, Lucius almost feel into a stupor. He wished Voldemort would just get to the point but he couldn't rush him. Oh no, that would never do.
Ages later when Lucius was about to fall asleep, Voldemort finally spoke. "Anyways Lucius, I went to go have a little talk with the Mudblood and found she was barely alive. Bella, it seems, has gone too over-board as expected." He paused for emphasis, waiting for Lucius's reply.
"As usual," Lucius finally said. Voldemort leaned forward slightly. If Lucius hadn't been staring at him and examining all his movements, he probably wouldn't have seen that.
"Well, I think it is best if the Mudblood is put under your care until Potter decides to show up. In the mean time I would suggest getting as much information from her as possible. Anything would be good, such as her life at Hogwarts, friends, Potter's interests, et cetera. It would only help us in the end." He stood up as soon he finished giving Lucius his orders.
Lucius was stunned. Why him of all people? He already tried this, and failed honestly. Why did he have to take her in his house again? He knew he couldn't refuse the offer and he had to say something.
"Very well my Lord." Lucius said as he quickly nodded at his master. Voldemort nodded back and disappeared. Lucius flopped back down into his seat and leaned back in his chair.
'Take in the Mudblood...' He stood up again and kicked his chair, causing it to fly back to the wall.
He picked up the table and flipped it over. He took a few other chairs and either kicked them or threw them across the room. His face contorted as his anger turned into pure fury. His hair was flying everywhere as he threw things against the wall. Eventually he calmed down and took a breath.
He stood up straight, placed his hands on his hips and looked around the room at the broken table and chairs. He realized having her here was going to drive him mad.
Lucius lay and watched the way the moonlight outlined the furniture in his room; imagining that they were hunting beasts and he was the prey. That's exactly how he felt inside. His conflicting emotions driving him mad, to the point where being ripped to shreds by wild animals sounded pleasurable.
The raw pain in Narcissa's eyes from earlier still haunted him. The emotions in her eyes were unbearable. Pain, sorrow, anger, and regret...Lucius frowned. His marriage was going to hell if he didn't make up his mind soon.
Choosing the correct side was impossible though,-because when to him-there was no correct side. He had feelings for the Mudblood. He wasn't going to deny that fact anymore. What he couldn't understand was why? Why would he notice someone as insignificant as her, when for years, he'd never noticed his wife; beautiful as she may be. How on earth was he supposed to choose? Lucius mused upon that for a moment. If he wasn't mistaken, the logic in his current thought patterns was horribly flawed. It shouldn't have to be a choice. Of course he should want Narcissa, and put her above everyone and everything else. She ought to be his priority. 'Too bad things never go the way we want them to' Lucius thought bitterly. 'Looks like chivalry's dead'.
Thinking about chivalry made him think of his father. Lucius shuddered. Abraxas Malfoy was not a memory he was fond of. His eyelids started to flutter, and he welcomed the sleepy feeling with open arms. At least when he was asleep he was neither here nor there. He was simply in a place where emotions and other human qualities, didn't exist. 'In fact' Lucius thought numbly before he slipped away into dreamland. 'When we fall asleep, do we cease to exist too?'
"No Abraxas, I will not!" I hide under the blankets as Mother's shrill voice echoes through the house. Father must be drunk again; and asking her to do all sorts of outlandish things. The sound of breaking glass scares me. It seems as if this row will be worse than the last one. The prospect is terrifying, because during the last row my parents had, my father ended up knocking my Mother silly. She had to get eight stitches across her forehead, and five more under her jaw.
I hear the sound of another glass breaking and quietly slip from under the covers. I tread carefully across the cold marble floors and pause at my bedroom door. Should I go out? Should I try to break up the fight? I'm only eight years old; will I get hurt like last time if I do? Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely helpless or pathetic. I'm the top in my pre-school class, and I can recite the Herbology elements table with ease – not to brag or anything. I'm just smart enough to know that if I go outside, it might not end too well. I hear my Mother scream and make my decision. Pulling the door open as fast as I can (it's really heavy), I fly down the hallway and stop at the staircase. I stand on tip-toe to try and see over the banister, but that fails, so I squat and peer through the poles instead.
Father has Mother by the throat, and he's squeezing so hard his eyeballs are popping. I gasp involuntarily, but they don't hear, because Mother manages to draw in a shaky breath right then, which she releases into a bloodcurdling scream seconds later.
The scream makes my toes curl and my hair stand on end. I brush my long pale locks out of my face and scream too. "Father stop, you're hurting Mother!" He pauses and looks up at me. I can see the sneer that's twisted on his face clearly. There's a huge red mark on his neck and I wonder if my Mother gave it to him.
"Get your ass back to bed," he growls at me. "If you're not gone in five seconds I swear to Merlin I'm going to come up there and-," I never get to hear what he has left to say, because Mother manages to twist free. She slaps him hard across the face and he staggers back in shock. She uses that time to turn and run madly for the stairs.
"Lucius," she screams, "Run sweetheart! Go to your room and lock yourself in!" I stand up terrified. I want to obey but my legs feel frozen. Mother looks crazy, deranged. Her normally neat hair is flying all over the place, her cheeks are flushed, and he eyes are as wide as saucers. "Baby, go!" she cries. She's now racing up the second flight of stairs and I still have not budged. Only when I notice my father hauling ass after her, do I run.
I pelt down the corridor, my heart beating so fast I'm prepared to take off any minute. My feet make a loud slapping noise against the marble and I wish I'd worn my house shoes. The floor is hard, and not at all gentle on the feet.
My mother screeches, and I look over my shoulder. What I see makes me stop in absolute shock and Horror. Father has his custom made dagger in his hand; and he's stabbing Mother repeatedly in the stomach. My blood runs cold as I watch. Her eyes are rolling and she's still kicking and screaming. Father pulls the dagger back and drives it home into her chest.
My scream equals that of a Banshee. "MOTHER!" I feel so helpless, so vulnerable, as my Mother collapses to the ground wheezing horribly. I continue to shriek, not even noticing my father coming at me. All I see is my mother.
In a pool of blood
Nothing more than a crumpled heap
Bleeding to death
Staring straight at me
Something grasps my hair and in the next second I'm airborne. I scream and start thrashing in a complete panic. My scalp is starting to hurt, and my eyes water from the pain. "Put me down," I scream, "You're hurting me, put me down!" By now, I've realized that it's my father holding me like this. "Father," I wail, "Please...put me down." He ignores my cries and swats my, hard, across the face. I feel my nose break and it hurts; Badly...
I kick out in retaliation hoping to strike him somewhere where he'll feel true pain. I hear him cry out and I fall to the floor with a thud. Bingo, apparently I've kicking him in the nuts. I turn and hightail it down the hallway once again. I reach my room and slam the door behind me, panting heavily. On a scale of one to ten, this night has turned out to be a negative one thousand.
I reach up to touch my nose and feel wetness. I'm crying, and I didn't even realize it. I also feel something warm. I glance at my hand to confirm my suspicions. Yes, I'm bleeding, and yes, my nose is most definitely broken. The throbbing pain seemingly running up and down the middle of my face is proof of that.
I'm so preoccupied with my nose; that I practically jump out of my skin when my door goes flying off its hinges. It crashes into the opposite wall and I freeze in terror. Father sways in the doorway, a looming, hulking figure, his silhouette even more frightening in the dark. I sink back against the wall with a whimper. I just want this night to be over, I want this nightmare to go away.
With an almighty, inhumane roar, Father stomps across the room at me; fire in his eyes. I scream and make a flying leap for my bed. He lurches forward and nabs me mid-air; slamming me down to the floor, hard. A jolt of pain surges up my back as it connects with the ground. I'm screaming incoherently now, striking out with my tiny fists hoping to fend him off.
His heavy boot stamps down right over my stomach, and I sit up with a choked gasp. Something sharp is sticking me and I fall back down with a cry. It's one of my left ribs. It's broken and poking into my stomach. "F-Father, please," I stare up at him. "Why are you doing this? It's me father, Lucius! Why are you hurting me?"
He stamps again and this time I start coughing up blood. My stomach is on fire, my head is pounding, my eyes are so full of tears everything seems blurry, and he's still beating me to a bloody pulp. I weakly try to defend myself, but it's of no use. He easily knocks down the barrier I've created with my arms and drags me to my feet. I waver on the spot, ready to fall at any given moment. He slaps me across my face and I reel back, smacking the ground once again. My head hits it hard this time, and suddenly my vision is seriously blurry, my ears are ringing, and my head feels fuzzy.
That coupled with the pain I'm already feeling from my broken rib, and the knowledge that my Mother is probably dead; makes me fall apart. I let it all out, screaming for all the gods in heaven to hear.
"Shut up you little bastard!" I barely hear my father through my own wails. He's coming at me again, and I see the moonlight glint off something shiny in his hand from my position on the ground. My screams stop immediately. I can't even breathe. All my focus is trained on that shiny dagger.
Father grabs me by my hair again and jerks me to my feet. My scalp protests violently and I get a splitting headache. That's the least of my worries though. The way Father is looking at me...I shiver. No, this is not my papa, this is not the man who used to tuck me in and sing me lullabies. This is NOT my FATHER.
Before another coherent thought can run through my mind, that dagger is at my throat. It's sharp, lurking presence scares me so bad I almost pass out right then and there. I feel a warm wetness spreading in my PJ's, I've peed myself. Any other time I would have wanted to die of shame, right now however, I'm too terrified to even move a finger. "You're worthless," Father's breath is warm on my ear. "Just like your Mother, you're worthless. I'm ashamed to call you my son". Those words hurt they really do. I sniffle pathetically and his grip on my hair tightens. He pulls my head back, leaving my neck vulnerable to the dagger. "Your skin is so pale," Father murmurs a moment later. My eyes widen in confusion. What was he on about? "I wonder...how you taste..." I feel something wet lick my neck and freak out. It's his tongue. I struggle to get free but he yanks harshly on my hair, bringing my neck back to breaking point, and growls. "Don't move". I stand in absolute horror as he sucks on my pulse point.
What is he doing, and more importantly why, is he doing this! That dagger is still lightly tracing patterns on my skin and I'm sweating bullets now. Just how much did Father drink? I know he's a lush, it's no secret. But to be molesting me like this...I close my eyes, feigning unconsciousness. Surely he'll put me down once he realizes I'm not longer responsive. It's my only hope of escape.
Sure enough I feel myself gently being lowered to the ground moments later. I peek through my eyelids and see father keel down beside me. Suddenly one of his hands is sliding up under my shirt and the other is going places I definitely DO NOT want it going. My plan has backfired stupendously, if I say so myself.
I'm not about to just lay there and let Father molest me though. He may be drunk and disoriented, but that's no excuse. Ignoring the screaming pain in my abdomen and stomach, I sit up as fast as I can and dig my nails into Father's cheek. They break through the skin, and warm liquid runs over my palm. He falls back with a howl and I scramble to my feet.
I rush for the door and I'm almost there when once again, he grabs me by the hair and pulls. I fly backwards and this time my back connects with the wall. I slump down unable to bear the pain. I couldn't move another muscle even if I tried my hardest. I know I'm done for, Father's going to kill me; if the way he's racing at me is anything to go by. He raises the dagger and I flinch. I'm only eight, and I'm going to die. My life hasn't even begun yet. Why is this happening?
"You," Father snarls, he's inches away from me now "When I get my hands on you, I'll-," BAP, something hits him from behind. I see a shimmer of green light and stare, astounded, as Father's face seems to freeze. His eyes widen, and the dagger drops from his hands. I watch it fall, it's twirling slowly, twisting and turning in the air, before it hits the ground, the dagger pointing towards to door as if it's trying to tell me something.
I look up and see Mother in the doorway. She's gasping, her chest heaving from the effort, and the dagger is still wedged in her chest. Blood coats her robes, steadily dripping to the ground; creating a puddle at her feet.
Father falls then, and he too seems to drop in slow motion. His eyes slant towards me right before he hits the ground and his lips form a word that I could read from a million miles away. "Lu...ci..us..." His hand twitches, then he is still. My world shatters.
Lucius surged upright gasping harshly. He stared at the cover of the four poster bed he was lying on and blinked rapidly. What a dream...his heart was beating madly and sweat had broken out across his forehead. He hadn't had that dream in a long time. He started blinking again as the memories of that faithful night came flooding back. Gritting his teeth, he tried to fight the onslaught but it was no use. His eyelids started fluttering and darkness crept up on him. "No," Lucius whimpered. He had tried so hard to forget; to erase those memories. Using Occulemency he'd barricaded them behind a closed door in his mind; not even Voldemort could have cracked his shield. So what was making them come back now? Unable to fight anymore, Lucius gave up and allowed his screaming soul to be swallowed by his past once again.
I could see Mother limping towards me, but I barely acknowledged her presence. My eyes were stuck on my Father's face, as if he was the positive side of a magnet, and I, the negative. Was he...dead? Why weren't his eyes moving? Why was he so still? What had Mother done? I jumped when something cold touched my face and realized it was my Mother. She was crouched down in front of me, her face contorted in pain.
"Lucius," her voice was soft and tender despite the pain she most have been feeling. "Baby I'm so sorry". She gently touched my nose and I emitted a soft cry, unable to help myself. Sorrow seemed to fill her eyes and I watched, hypnotized, as she reached into her robes for something. She drew out what looked like a piece of chalk and I stared at it in bewilderment. What was that for?
I sat perfectly still as she drew an assortment of shapes on my arms, and forehead; muttering under her breath the whole time. After what seemed like forever she dropped the chalk and leaned towards me. Her eyes were intense and filled with an emotion I couldn't decipher. "Baby, Lucius, my son," she breathed. "I love you, you know that?" I nodded; she tells me that she loves me all the time.
"I love you too, mommy," she smiled and I knew it was because it was one of those rare occasions when I actually called her mommy.
"I'll always be watching over you," she whispered. I blinked and shook my head. Why did she sound like she was saying goodbye?
"Mommy-," I began, I was really starting to freak out. She placed her index finger over my lips cooing softly.
"It's alright sweetheart, I'll always be by your side". I'm super scared now, really I am. Mother places her hands on my shoulders and leans in to connect our foreheads. A warm sensation starts working its way down my body. My head and vision become clearer. My headache is gone and I feel as if that warm feeling is spreading across all my wounds. My ribs seem to straighten themselves and the pain slowly ebbs away. What's going on? I look up through my eyelashes at my Mother. I'm so close to her I can see the beauty spot on her cheek.
Suddenly she starts to slip. The world seems to stop spinning then. Her forehead is gently sliding down mine, and her hands are slipping off my arms. She lightly flutters her eyelashes, giving me plenty of butterfly kisses; then the contact is gone.
Her head bows and rests on my chest. Instinctively I place my hand over her left breast, feeling her heart beat beneath my touch. She's slowly sliding down now, and when her head finally comes to rest in my lap, her heart has stopped beating altogether.
I don't speak, I don't cry. I don't think and I don't move. I just sit there with my hand still lying on her chest, waiting for a heartbeat that will never come. I sit there with my dead parents, and finally, as reality begins to trickle in, the damn breaks. My emotions erode, my world unhinges and plummets through space and I hit the floor. From this angle I can see the back of Mother's hair. It's held back with the butterfly clip I got her last spring...Last spring...she was alive then...I begin singing softly, unaware of it at first. As I realize what I'm doing, my voice becomes stronger and I reach out to curl my fingers in Mother's golden locks.
~I once had a rowboat that would take me anywhere I wanted to go~
~And I'd travelled the seas, following where the winds blow~
~I once had a kite that would sail to great heights~
~And when it came back down it would tell me of all the magnificent sights~
~I once a teddy bear that would chase away all my nightly fears~
~And it would sing me songs while it cried cotton tears~
I break off mid-song unable to continue. It's the lullaby Mother used to sing to me. Back then it could calm me, back then I never had nightmares after hearing it. Unfortunately, that was back then, and right now, I'm drowning. No one's here, I'm all alone, and the screaming silence is tearing me apart.
Lucius blinked blearily as his room once more came into focus. The memories had left him with a tidal wave of emotions. He'd kept those memories locked up for so long. Why had his shields broken? It had been six years since his last dream about those events. What changed?
Lucius suddenly stiffened as he realized that he wasn't alone. He reluctantly turned his head, and sat up, not knowing what to expect. To his surprise, Draco was standing in the middle of the room looking decidedly embarrassed as he shuffled his feet.
"Father," he peeked tentatively up at him. "Are you alright? I came in wanting to ask you something but you seemed-," he broke off, turned beet red, and looked back down. Lucius suddenly felt a strong sensation of Déjàvu. Wasn't this the way he had acted around his father too? Trying too hard to please him? Tip-toeing around him, as if the slightest noise or wrong question would set him off?
He didn't want Draco's childhood to be like that at all. Had he truly been acting like his father this entire time? Disgust welled up in his chest. He was nothing like his father, and he'd be damned if Draco ever had to go through what he did. He glanced at the bottle of firewisky he'd taken into the room with him and felt ashamed. Looking back at Draco he noted that his son seemed extremely nervous. Did he truly intimidate him that much? "Draco," Lucius slowly extended a hand towards his son. "Come here".
Draco looked stunned by the invitation, but he came quickly after a moment of hesitation. Lucius gently grabbed his arm and pulled him down beside him. "Father-,"
"Shhh," Lucius rested Draco's head on his shoulder. "You don't have to say anything Draco. I'm here". All the tension seemed to leak out of his son's body at those words. His limbs went lax and he leaned his full weight against Lucius.
Whether it was Draco's eager acceptance of his fatherly gesture, or the vivid memories he'd just dreamed about; Lucius made up his mind in that moment. He knew what he was going to do. He knew who he was going to choose and why. He knew the sacrifice he was going to have to make, if only to bring peace to his aching soul. He'd been lost and wandering for far too long. Now he was going to reclaim what was his. He was choosing, himself.
She lay in complete darkness, staring at nothing in particular. She had gotten so used to being in complete darkness that it didn't scare her anymore. If she heard a rattle in the corner of the room, or if she heard a whisper coming from behind her, she usually welcomed the noise. It proved that she still existed, even in all this blackness.
She often thought about how long someone could stay in utter darkness without going completely mental. She wasn't sure how long she'd been locked up, nor did she know when it was day or night. Every few hours, Bellatrix would come in, torture her some more, and leave.
She wasn't asking information anymore, but she hadn't killed her yet either. It was odd, but Hermione would welcome death at the moment. This isn't living. It was the definition of Hell. If she ever got out of this mess she knew she wouldn't have a place to go. She'd sold out all her friends, and probably killed most of them because of it. Her parents were dead-thanks to Lucius-and she couldn't bear going back to her old house. Not with that knowledge.
Numb, that's how she felt. She closed her eyes, even though it was just as dark as when they were open. She drifted off into a dream-less sleep for what seemed like ten minutes before the door swung open. Light flooded the room and she groaned at the sudden change. It was probably Bellatrix. After the incident with Rodolphus-that happened who knows how long ago-he hadn't been back. She was thankful for that at least. The door swung shut after that and the darkness set in again.
Hermione's heart began to race. Bellatrix never shut the door when she came in. That could only mean...fear seized her, making her breathing more ragged and spasmodic. Rodolphus had come back for seconds. Why else would the door be closed?
She felt something prick her arm, and gasped. What was going on? What was he doing to her? Was he trying to drug her? The needle sunk deep and Hermione had to work hard not to cry out. Finally if withdrew and she relax considerably. Hands gripped her arms after that, and dragged her into a sitting position.
"Drink this," Hermione recognized the curt voice. It was Lucius. A cup was nudged into her hands. Hermione suspected it was water. She complied only because she was seriously dehydrated. Once she was finished she dropped the cup, since she couldn't see Lucius in the dark. An odd tingling sensation seemed to work its way through her body but she ignored it. She was too tired to worry over trifles. She heard the rustle of clothing as Lucius stood and waited for him to leave, but he didn't.
"Get up Mudblood." He said instead, with no emotion whatsoever.
"Why should I?" Hermione asked very softly as she breathed out.
"You ignorant, insufferable, Mudblood! Just do as I say. I'm now in charge of you. Now get up, we are leaving." Hermione rolled her eyes. She attempted to get to her feet while every cell in her body screamed in protest. She got to the point where she was on her knees and needed the wall to help her up. She stood on her for the first time in what felt like weeks. She leaned against the wall for support until she could find the energy to walk. She took one step and stumbled a bit.
Lucius didn't say anything, but he let out an irritated growling noise and walked over to her. He picked her up and carried her bridal style. Hermione immediately started to kick and wave her arms as best she could but it didn't seem to affect him.
The nerve! She couldn't believe he thought he could just pick her up and carry her. She was perfectly capable of walking on her own. "I'm not a patient man. I hate the fact I have to carry you too, so don't get any ideas Mudblood. But you were taking too long and I just want to leave here."
Hermione figured it wasn't going to do any good trying to break free from his arms so she just went along with it. She hated it, but she dealt with it. She looked up at his face and he just looked straight ahead, almost as if she wasn't there. She looked back down and scowled. She felt so small compared to him and it irritated her. His strong arms carried her effortlessly one and his steady pace never faltered.
She inhaled deeply and a musky scent filled her nose. It strangely comforted her. She relaxed a tiny bit, but not enough for him to notice. They made their way through the maze of a house and finally reached the doors leading outside. They didn't pass Bellatrix or Rodolphus on their way out and because of that Hermione silently rejoiced.
Lucius set her down on her feet. "I trust you have enough brains in your head to walk a few feet." He said, still not looking at her. Hermione ignored the comment and focused on staying upright. Her legs felt like jell-O, like they would give in at any time. She mustered enough energy to walk out the door and onto the cool wet grass. 'It must have rained.'
She couldn't see anything except for what the moonlight highlighted for her. She looked up at the night sky and saw the bright full moon. Everything seemed hazy, but she was happy to know she could still see somewhat. Even though she knew she was going back to yet another prison cell, a spark of happiness came to her.
She thought she would never see the moon or feel the grass beneath her feet again. But here she was, doing that exactly that. She was surprised Lucius just stood there watching her. He didn't say a word. He just stood there. Not that she was complaining but she did think it odd. Despite everything, she closed her eyes and embraced the time she had outside. She took in a deep breath of the air surrounding them. A cool breeze caught her curly hair and brushed it from her face. It felt good against her various cuts.
She was so engulfed in her own world; she almost forgot Lucius was still standing there waiting for her.
"Take my arm." He said as he turned around.
"Why?" Hermione was taken aback by the sudden demand.
"Please tell me you aren't that simple-minded." Lucius replied. Hermione remained quiet because she knew if she dared to open her mouth, she would say something that would lead her into more trouble.
"We are apparating back to the Manor obviously." Lucius said annoyed. "Now come on." He held out his arm again. Hermione looked back up at the full moon and the stars. It was beautiful. She savoured the sight before she took his arm and they apparated.
She was positive she would never be able to see the moon and stars again after this night.
A/N I want to thank my lovely lovely beta Ali (either Aaliyanna's-SeventhHeaven or Kirachetess, depending on what her username is at the moment. She likes to switch it up...) She created the dream sequence with Lucius (and of course beta'd this to make it all purdy :P). Much appriciation to her (: Anyhoo I hope you enjoyed it!
Update as of May 9th, 2011.
I'm still writing this story and I will keep updating. My beta and I are really discussing where this story is going and more and more plot bunnies have been coming to mind that I need to fit in. Also -so unprofessional of me- I decided I want this to make this into a 1st person story instead of 3rd, so we are going through basically rewriting it so it fits 1st and I want to add a bit more detail that I couldn't before. So the seventh chapter should be out soon, but so everyone knows, I haven't give up on this story. (: