Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. Depressing, but true.
I'm back! I wrote this in a fairly different style / feel than The Boy in the Hammock, so don't be too surprised at the change in tone. This is an angsty one. However, it's still me, and I can promise that it'll be a good read. I'm thinking of updating every three days or so. As I did last time, if you guys review like crazy, I'll update every day. I'll leave that part in your capable hands. So far I'm 14 chapters in and nearing the end... I think? We'll see. Could be longer. There's lots going on. Actually, I take it back. It's definitely going to be longer.
It was like waking up in the middle of a nightmare.
Consciousness came to Draco Malfoy like a hammer to the head, and he gasped himself awake. Almost immediately, he wished he was unconscious again. He was in a world of pain he never knew existed. Excruciating agony ate at his skin, as though he had been doused in accelerant and lit up. He could almost feel the flames licking their way up his body, but he couldn't smell any fire. It was all he could do not to move, not to scream. He felt the panic rise in his throat. The air was stale and damp, heavy with fear. Disjointed memories came back to him, but he didn't want to believe they were real. They were too hard to accept.
How could they leave us here to die? After all we've done?
He registered the fact that he was lying on the ground until another wave of pain hit and cleared his mind of anything rational. Heartbeat after heartbeat pulsed against his tender skin, making him almost wish his heart would stop altogether. No more heartbeat, no more pain. It sounded so bloody tempting. A small groan escaped his lips. Even the inside of his mouth burned - had the Dark Lord's spell reached him there too?
He could feel his anger simmering underneath the injury, fury speeding up his masochistic heart.
Betrayed, taunted the voice inside of him. We've been betrayed by our own side.
He didn't want to believe it.
There were shouts and explosions, but he couldn't summon the energy to open his eyes. He knew with sick certainty that he was still in that godforsaken basement, tortured and thrown down there because the Dark Lord no longer favoured his family. After all they had sacrificed.
He still didn't want to believe it. Denial seemed easier, somehow. Easier than the terrifying truth.
In exchange for power, the Malfoy family paid with everything they had: their wealth, their home, years of service. In return, the Dark Lord kept them in his inner circle, favouring them and keeping them close to his operations. They were revered and feared as Malfoys should be. Years dragged on and the war continued, each side vying for control. Things were comfortable. Predictable. As much as can be during a war at any rate, working as a Dark soldier, trying to stay alive.
But then something changed. The Malfoys started slipping down in the ranks, barely noticeable at first, but impossible to miss near the end. It culminated in the worst way possible: the Dark Lord murdered the matriarch in a violent rage and left the father and son to die a painful, shameful death. It was a drastic and humiliating fall from grace. Malfoys belonged at the top, or so Draco had always believed. Right now, the only remaining Malfoys were drowning in their own blood, forgotten in some Death Eater hideout. Even in his pain-induced stupor, Draco could see how hopeless the situation was.
Nobody will ever find us here. If they do, we're as good as dead. Nobody wants us alive.
The situation made him furious, his anger burning as intensely as the spell that was eating him alive. They belonged in Voldemort's inner circle. They believed in everything he stood for. They were fucking loyal. Those opportunistic, sniveling rats didn't deserve the goddamn glory. Why were they tossed out while others got to stay?
There was a scream from somewhere in the darkness. It was familiar. With some difficulty, Draco focused his thoughts. Father? Is he still alive? He knew he'd never hear his mother scream again. He'd never hear her do anything again. He saw her struck down, horror frozen on her face in a flash of green light. He pushed the image away - it was too much to handle. She can't be dead.
But there was no mistaking it... That was his father's voice. Draco had a flickering memory of Nagini slithering towards Lucius, his father's eyes lit up with fear. Nagini must have succeeded in reaching him, or at least partially, if those screams were any indication. Somehow, his father hadn't succumbed to the blood loss or the poison. It would take him soon, but he was fighting it.
He could fight all he wanted. There was no hope for them.
Draco heard more shouting, voices he couldn't identify. Surely the Death Eaters weren't coming back for them. It wasn't their style. Their style was to turn on their own kind. Perhaps they came back to finish the job? One could only hope.
He was hit with another wave and he heard himself whimper. Oh God, the pain. When the Dark Lord had turned his wand on him, Draco knew it would be bad... But this was unspeakably painful. A Killing Curse would have been quicker, but perhaps that was the point.
More yelling. What the fuck was going on?
He heard a far away scuffle that must have been his father.
"Information for rescue!" Lucius yelled, hoarsely, in between tortured sobs. "Please! Please help us!"
Draco felt his consciousness waver. Who on earth are you begging for rescue? Nobody wants two Death Eaters who have outlived their usefulness.
Feet hammered along the dirt floor, sending small rumbles in the earth towards where Draco lay. Every little movement hurt, every ripple in the air stung his skin. His eyes remained closed - for all he knew, they had been burned shut. He didn't care who was there, not anymore. He was waiting to die. It wasn't happening quickly enough.
"Holy shit," said a voice near his head. "We need to get them out of here, and fast." The voice sounded like it had been slowed down and replayed under water.
Strange, Draco thought.
A pair of hands touched his shoulders and he screamed bloody murder.
"Knock him out and bring him," said a harsher voice. "If he dies in transit, so be it."
Draco didn't remember anything after that.
He was being carried, that much he could tell. His ears picked up snippets of frantic whispers as he drifted along death's divide.
"... Lucius is missing a leg. A fucking leg, Remus. It's been bitten off, and you get just bloody bet it was that snake..."
"We're trying to stop the bleeding - it was torn off at the knee, and you know we're trying Tonks, but we've got no real Healers..."
"He said he would give us information! We need to do more! We haven't ever been this close to getting solid leads in years! Just think of what we could learn..."
"Merlin Tonks, don't you think I understand that? I know how important this is."
"I think you both know what we have to do," said a third voice, scratchy and tired. "I'll ask Harry and Ron to talk to her. They won't survive without her help."
"She'll never agree," hissed the female voice. "She doesn't even speak to anyone these days, let alone leave the house. She's completely unhinged. And asking her to keep them alive? That's a blind shot in the dark."
"She'll have to. There is no other choice. Lucius we can subdue for now, but the younger Malfoy is as good as dead if he doesn't get some help. They knew each other in school... Maybe there's a chance that -"
"So let him die! It's Lucius we need, and as I understand it, their relationship at school left much to be desired - "
"Do you really think he'll talk to us if we let his son die, Tonks? Word is that Narcissa was killed earlier tonight..."
There was a low whistle. "You-Know-Who sure isn't happy with the Malfoys. How the mighty have fallen. I wonder what happened?"
Draco had been trying to follow the conversation, straining his ears to operate through the waves of pain that were rolling over him. Denial hit him again as a sheer defence mechanism. He wanted to scream at the voices that they had it wrong - the Dark Lord appreciated his family, he understood how dedicated they were. This was just a mistake. His mother couldn't possibly be dead. His father couldn't possibly have lost a leg. And as for himself... All he remembered was the feeling of being set on fire, and the Dark Lord's maniacal laugh. As he was hit with another wave of pain, his thoughts blurred.
I don't want to believe it.
"I'm going to talk to the boys," said a voice. "We don't have much time, and if she agrees, she will want to get this done as quickly as possible so she can get back home."
"I'm telling you Moody... She'll never agree."
"It's all we can do. She's the only one with enough training. Anthony is dead. We have to try."
The next time he woke up, he felt completely numb. There was no more pain, but there was no more anything either.
He cracked open his eyes and looked blankly at the unfamiliar face staring down at him.
"Pain cancellation spell," said the person by way of explanation. "Had to do it. Your system was shutting down. She'll help you in a minute."
Draco let his eyes slide sideways in the direction of the stranger's jumpy glances.
His father lay a few metres from him on a low table, pale as bone. Drenched in sweat and blood, his long hair stringy and knotted, Lucius looked like a corpse. His right leg was severed at the knee, just like the voices had said. The part of him that was clinging to denial scoffed, assuming he was hallucinating. Your father can't be missing a leg. The other part of him wanted to scream. It was a scene from his most horrific nightmares. Lucius Malfoy, broken, dying, at the hands of his Lord. No, no, no.
Anger started to simmer within him as he saw who was kneeling beside him - that fucking Mudblood. Goddamn it. They had been rescued by the Order. Of all the self-righteous, useless, powerless bunch of halfwits...
I would have preferred to die.
"My name is Hermione," said the Mudblood to his father, her voice monotone. "I'm going to seal your wound now."
She began, and Draco watched as if it were a strange dream. Granger. Hermione Granger. The war had not been kind to her; she was a rake, her hair limp, her skin pallid. But there was something niggling at his thoughts... What was it? He tried to puzzle it out through the fog in his brain.
There's something wrong, Draco realized suddenly. Something other than the obvious. Granger, the Gryffindor Princess, was working on his father like a robot. Cauterize, mend, seal, repeat. Wipe the blood on a cotton sheet. Not a single expression crossed her features. She might as well have been sewing on a button.
Granger's eyes, normally so full of pride, misguided courage and fire, were completely dead.
Lucius must have been given something for the pain as well, because he was able to keep his eyes open while she healed him. He observed her drawn face with something like angry curiosity, his breaths laboured.
"Aren't you the Mudblood?" he rasped.
"One and the same," she responded, not moving her eyes from his massacred leg. "And if you tell me not to touch you, I will leave you here to die. I owe you no favours." She delivered the words as though she was reading the weather. Still not a flicker of emotion.
Draco continued to study her, oddly shocked at the change in her demeanor since school. They were much older now - the war had been going on for years, and Draco was twenty five going on fifty. But to have changed that much? To behave like the walking dead?
Lucius didn't speak after her blunt statement, staring at the ceiling in defeat. She bandaged his stump and said a few more spells over the damaged area.
"You need to rest now. When you have healed enough, we'll find you a prosthetic." It wasn't a sympathetic comment; it was factual and cold.
Abruptly, she stood up and grabbed a leather satchel from the floor. Bottles clinked around inside. In three steps, she had reached Draco's side.
Dropping to her knees, she met his eyes. Draco found nothing familiar there.
"Fuck off, Mudblood. I'd rather die than have your filthy hands on me." He barely even knew he was going to say the words until they were already out of his mouth, but damnit, he was just so fucking angry about everything. Why him? Why her?
She regarded him with that same, expressionless gaze, her eyes empty of anything distinctly Granger.
"No problem," she responded, calmly. With a tap of her wand, an ocean of pain rushed into him. He had thought earlier that the pain couldn't possibly get worse, but he was wrong. It was like being set aflame all over again. Draco's screams pierced through the air as Hermione calmly stood up, cleaned her hands, and walked out of the room.
Someone was howling.
It was him, Draco realized.
"You fucking moron!" hissed a familiar voice. "Do you know how hard it was to get her here?"
Draco heard a door slam and someone ran into the room.
"She's having tea, mate. She's not talking again. I swear to Merlin, she's cracked. Looking off into the distance with no bloody feeling..."
"We know she's cracked, Ron! She's broken. She's broken and this idiot thought it would be smart to rile her up..."
Draco heard himself scream again. Oh Gods, this needed to stop. He was going to lose his mind. Pain pulsed through him like a battering ram. Light exploded behind his eyelids. He thought he meant what he had said to Granger, but he also didn't really expect her to leave him here either. It went against everything he knew about her. Granger didn't leave people to die. She just didn't.
His voice was going hoarse. He screamed anyway.
"Please..." he heard himself say. "Please..."
"Don't beg to me, arsehole," said the voice he now recognized as Potter's. "You told our only Healer that you'd rather die than have her touch you, and she obliged. We had to beg her ourselves to get her to come. She didn't exactly relish the idea of saving your life. You gave her the perfect excuse to leave."
"Granger!" Draco screamed, ignoring Potter, hoping she would hear from wherever she was. He was delirious now - he knew he was going to die if this pain didn't stop. It felt like a permanent Cruciatus. Pride be damned, he was going to beg until he passed out. "Granger, please!"
They all waited in the room while Draco screamed her name until he was reduced to quiet sobs. Ron and Harry looked sadly at the ground. They didn't really know if she would come back either. She wasn't the same now. Everything was different.
Draco's voice was nearly completely gone. Death it was, then. She wasn't coming. He had fucked up. He felt a flicker of regret that he hadn't just kept his mouth shut. He hated her, hated every inch of her, but he wanted to stay alive too.
Suddenly, the door creaked open. A few soft steps and a small, whispered spell, and the pain vanished. Draco opened his eyes, sweaty and shaking. He whimpered.
Granger stood above him, calmly unfolding a sheet and throwing it over his body. She vanished his clothes underneath. A small cauldron sat beside her, filled with something that smelled like eucalyptus.
Her dead eyes met his.
"Don't push me again," she said, her expression still blank. "I'm going to heal you now. Go to sleep."
With a shudder of relief, he did.