Author's Note: Oh, friends, I'm so sorry it took so long to get this out! I'll be truthful: I'm losing my muse for this story. I lost it, and I just...oh...

Sweet Dreams

Chapter five of Underneath the Skin

by thegoatromantic

Hermione had been sleeping somewhat peacefully when the horrid, screeching voice whispered from outside her cage and roused her from her sleep. She groaned and rubbed her arms to chase the chill from her flesh, then slowly turned over to discover where the voice had come from. A tall, scraggly-woman in black was watching her from between the bars with a large, malicious grin pasted on her face. Hermione instantly backed toward the wall in an effort to get away from the woman and her actions seemed to serve as a signal for the woman to enter her cell, because as Hermione's back pressed against the cold, damp wall the woman lifted her free hand and opened the door to the cell and stepped inside. The light flickered as she entered and Hermione had to struggle to keep her breathing even in the presence of the psychotic woman.

"Good evening, dear," she hissed as she set the silver tray on a small table. It clattered quietly, though the sound echoed noisily due to the overall emptiness of the rooms, and it thundered through Hermione's pounding ears. Her head hurt terribly, like a storm was whipping its way through the inside of her head, and the noise from the tray did not help, and neither did the sound of the woman's approaching footsteps. Before Hermione could get a grasp as to what was going on, the woman had her chin firmly in her grip and she was twisted her head viciously from side to side as she inspected her. She made quiet clicking noises every once in a while before she finally released her grip and walked away.

"You're not a very pretty one, are you, you little mudblood tramp?" As if Hermione was unable to tell that this woman was not friendly before, her statement solidified the fact for her and all but stamped it out in bright letters for her to see. "You've got some nice features, but overall you're worthless." She tossed her hair over her shoulder and then stooped down to stare eye-level with Hermione. "I really don't see why Lucius feels the need to keep a disgusting mudblood like you around, but I'm not exactly in a position where I can disobey him, now am I?" She stood up without waiting for a response from Hermione and went straight toward the metal tray she had just set down. Hermione stretched to see what was on the tray and the woman looked over at her, now holding a small knife. She twisted it between her hands like it was nothing more than a toy.

"Is this what you wanted? To see what was on my tray?" She took a step toward Hermione and the girl unconsciously moved backward. Her action elicited another grin from the horrific woman and she moved the knife in a way that the small, flickering light glinted off of it. Hermione lost control on her calm and was sent into a panic. There was no way she was going to be able to keep her calm in this situation anymore. It was obvious that the woman had an intense bloodlust and that she had every intention of taking it out on Hermione's soft, unscarred body. The thought scared her and she could feel sweat beginning to form on her forehead.

"I've got lots of nice little things like this on my tray, and we can play all night long with them if you'd like." She poked the tip of the knife with her finger and a small, crimson drop of blood appeared at the wound. She licked the drop away and gave Hermione a serious look. "They're very sharp, aren't they? Can you imagine how badly this would hurt?" She looked Hermione up and down and scoffed. "Your body is still so virgin." She touched Hermione's arm lightly with her fingertips, just getting a feel for how soft they were. "Untouched. Pure. These knives would slice right through you." Hermione shivered and nodded, unable to resist the urge to do so. The woman nodded at her, as if her reaction pleased her.

"My name is Bellatrix Lestrange, and I've been sent here to make a deal with you." She glared at Hermione and then paced around the room while she spoke. "For some reason, Lucius wants to keep you here, and he needs you work with him." She glanced over her shoulder at Hermione and rolled her eyes. "I'm here to...convince you to agree to the change of sides." She wiggled her knife back and forth while she spoke. "What do you say, Mudblood?"

Hermione shook her head. "I would never help the Dark Lord, even if you tortured me." She crossed her arms, feeling bravery come back to her as she spoke. "Nothing you can do will make me surrender myself to your evil purposes."

Bellatrix shrugged and then stopped walking so that she could watch Hermione. Her eyes travelled up and down her body and then rested on her face. Hermione squirmed to avoid the intense stare, but nothing she could do stopped the awful feeling from pervading her body. She did not like the way the woman was staring at her, though she knew that no way the woman could stare at her would be good. Bellatrix took another step toward Hermione, and then another and another, and soon she was standing directly in front of the girl. She towered over her and began to talk.

"Let it be known that I offered you terms and that you denied them." Fear coursed through Hermione as the tiny knife came back into view and then descended toward her face. A sharp pain shot through her face as blood began to drip from the newly-made wound on her face, and tears welled up in her eyes as another cut was made near the original one. The pain began to get worse and Hermione jerked away from Bellatrix in an effort to escape, but the woman reached out and clamped her hand down around her wrist. More pain shot through her body as the woman's sharp nails dug into her skin and caused marks to appear on her arms. Hermione still struggled and finally the woman released her arm. However, she released it only long enough to grab her wand and shout a spell toward Hermione. She felt her feet stop dead in their tracks and she slowly tipped over as they slipped out from under her. Bellatrix chuckled, amused with the attempts Hermione made to escape, and then she brought her body over to the bed she had been sleeping on only a short time before.

The light in Hermione's world was blocked out as Bellatrix leaned over her body, the awful grin on her face again. Strands of messy black hair fell in front of her face and she let them fall, seemingly unaware that they had escaped the confines of the tie. She sighed at Hermione with a mix of disappointment and impatience, then pursed her lips.

"You didn't really think you'd be able to escape from me, did you? I offered you your terms, and now it's your turn to accept what you agreed upon. It's not very sportsmanlike to run away from the things you agreed to." She picked up the tiny blade again then looked back at Hermione. "Or is that some kind of muggle trait that you carry in your veins?" Bellatrix lightly pressed the knife down on Hermione's arm and then met her eyes. "Let's find out, shall we?"

Hermione screamed as the knife pressed into her arm and the blood slowly dripped out of it. Tears streamed down her face as she realized that this was only the beginning, and Bellatrix smiled as she watched the tears fall.

It was much, much later when Hermione received another visitor. By the time Bellatrix had finished with her, she had been too worn and in too much pain to do anything but remain where she had been put and wallow in the blood-soaked sheets. The same still held true as her new visitor entered her cell quietly and set things up around the room. She opened her mouth and felt her lips crack as she did so.

"Please, no more." She couldn't stand the fact that she had been reduced to begging, but she was too tired to do anything else and much too tired to care; her body was on fire, plain and simple. Every time she inhaled she felt as if her lungs would explode, and every time she exhaled she felt as if her rib cage would collapse and crush the rest of the organs inside her chest. Whenever she twitched it sent searing pain throughout her body and then when it seemed like she was numb to the pain, it would course back through her body again with renewed vigor. She shut her eyes, deciding that she didn't care what they did to her anymore tonight.

"On the contrary, Miss Granger." Hermione's eyes shot open, which caused an intense pain to flare up in her head, and she looked over at the semi-hunched body of Severus Snape. He was standing over the same table that Bellatrix had been, and he appeared to be mixing potions of some sort. Hermione felt bile rising up in her throat against and she fought the urge to release the contents of her stomach all over the floor. It had been bad enough being tortured by someone she had never met before, but being tortured by someone she had once counted on to protect and teach her was something else entirely. She felt her world flipping and she no longer knew what to believe and trust. If she could not trust those who were trusted to teach her, then there was no one else for her to trust.

Hermione cringed when droplets of water hit her burning forehead unexpectedly. She had not expected that the stoic man would offer her comfort of any sort, and she was even more surprised when he gently wiped it across her brow. She opened her eyes slowly and found him staring down at her from above. His face was as blank as ever, and Hermione knew that her condition did not faze him in the least, though she was surprised that he was so uncaring. She licked her lips, attempting to moisten them, but groaned quietly when she realized that her tongue was dry and only spread the droplets of salty blood across her lips. She hissed as the salt made contact with her wounds, then stilled herself and waited out the pain. When it finally stopped she attempted to speak again.

"Why?" Severus looked down at her.

"Why what, Miss Granger?" Hermione tried to glare at him but the result was nothing more than a half-lidded gaze that held no power or emotion other than pain and fatigue. Her eyelids fluttered as he brushed his hand over a bruise near her eye and she hissed again.

She found herself without the energy to speak again and so she was forced to lay still while he checked over her body in silence. She had decided that he was calculating the amount of damage done to her body, but for what reason she could not tell. She assumed it was so that he knew what had been left for him to do, but she could not be certain. She would not put such a devilish act past him. At this point, Hermione expected everything and nothing from everyone. In this world, she was helpless, and everyone around her was a devil waiting to pounce.

Severus ghosted his hands lightly over Hermione's bruised and bleeding body while he checked for damage. He had to know what was damaged so that he could fix it for her; his potions would fix the body, but they had to have target areas to fix. As his hand ran over a particularly large bruise, the girl on the bed hissed in pain and he continued to search, but moved his hands elsewhere on her body to avoid bringing more pain to the damaged area.

Bellatrix had done her job well, as had been expected of her; it was her job to torture, harm, and cause pain in any and all ways possible to the now-bloodied woman laying on the table in order to '"encourage" her to side with Lucius and the Dark Lord. Bellatrix was the best for the job; it was well-known that she harbored an insuperable bloodlust, and she demonstrated only some of it on the young woman's body. Severus was glad that he had not been chosen for that role, but he was surprised that the woman's body was not worse than it was; Bellatrix never did things half-way, but from what he could tell it appeared that she had held back during her session.

Hermione winced again and Severus looked down into her tearing eyes. For a slight moment he felt pity for her, as he would for any human, but it instantly disappeared again and he treated her with distance once again. She finally shut her eyes and Severus gazed down at her pain-stricken face without fear; Hermione was a good student and woman, always had been, and it was a pity that she had been targeted by Lucius and his minions. Severus was also sure that if she did not have connections with the-boy-who-lived then she would have been less likely to be kidnapped and controlled by a band of Death Eaters.

Severus dipped his hand into the tub of hot water that was position near him, and then pulled a washcloth back out of it and rung it out, the sound tinkling in the cell. Though he was not supposed to show mercy to the prisoner, he could not help but offer her a slight reprieve from her pain when he blessed her with hot water rather than cold. Should anyone ask, he would tell them that he used hot water for the simple fact that it cleaned blood easier than frigid water did. He lightly tapped the cloth on the woman's forehead again and then finally dropped the damp cloth back into the bloodied water. Tiny droplets of water splashed out of the bowl and landed on the table beneath it.

"Your body has suffered multiple blows to the abdomen region, most likely by hand and foot." He moved some hair away from her eyes and looked at the swollen, bleeding marks on her forehead. "It appears that you also have minor scratches covering a large area of your body, but it is nothing this point anyway." He drew his hand away from her forehead and reached into his cape. Moments later, his hand appeared again, this time holding a small vial of a brown, mucky liquid, and Hermione forced her eyes open to stare at him.

"What're you going to do to me now? Poison me?" she hissed, wincing with pain as she spoke each word. Severus ignored her and continued to dig around in his cape for various roots and herbs to crumble and toss into the vial, which was now gurgling noxiously. Hermione shook her head slightly as he walked toward her; it was her only way of protest. She knew that no matter what she said, each word would be diluted with pain and be made meaningless and pitiful, which was in no way what she needed to be. She tried to struggle away from his grasp when he took hold of her chin tightly with his hand, but her body burned with pain as she tossed her neck back and forth, and Severus forced her mouth open so that he could pour the liquid into her mouth.

"Swallow it," he commanded, staring at her with steely eyes.

Hermione could not help but reflexively swallow as the liquid poured into her mouth, not desiring to drown in it. When the vial was empty Severus let her go and walked away from her, his posture as sure as it ever was.

"It will burn a little, but the flesh wounds are gone."

Severus could hear Hermione's whimpers as he left the cell and walked down the hallway. The girl was lucky that she was allowed to be healed after a session with Bellatrix; most people were not given the luxury and were forced to deal with the pain of a fresh wound being attacked again. For some reason, it seemed that Lucius had deemed it appropriate to allow the half-blooded girl to be healed. He figured it would have been opposite, and that she would be forced to deal with the pain. Apparently, they had higher hopes for her than he had previously assumed, but only the future would tell how true his assumptions were or were not.