A/N: This was written, ladies and gentlemen, for a few things.
This is my entry for Rhythmic Gymnastics in the Hogwarts Games, using Rae Morris' Don't Go.
It was also written for HedwigBlack's Slash/Femslash Boot Camp Challenge with prompt 38. Speechless.
But mostly this was written for the lovely han8661 as a birthday gift. Hannah, I don't know you, but if your friend, Laux14, loves you enough to run a competition like this for you, then you must be one awesome girl. Happy birthday, and I hope that you like this! It's the longest thing I've ever written and it's all for you.
And, finally, thank you to owluvr for betaing - she's amazing. Go check her out!
Don't feel like you have to.
You watch it happen without a word.
One minute Potter is standing there, defiant as always, fire burning in his green eyes and his wand raised high, and then the next minute...he's not.
The crowd gasps. Weasley drops to his knees. Granger screams.
The Dark Lord chuckles.
They keep Weasley in the dungeon of the Manor.
They strip him down to nothing but his underwear and throw him on the ground. You watch the dirt blacken his pale skin as he scrambles to stand, but they are too strong, too powerful. They point their wands at him and they laugh.
"Crucio," they say, and Weasley drops to the ground and writhes and screams. While he is down, you see one of them flick his wand lazily and thick metal chains sprout from the wall, slithering along the floor like cold, steel snakes, and wrap themselves tightly around Weasley's ankles before clicking into place. You watch another snap Weasley's wand with a laugh and throw the splintered pieces at his twitching feet.
"Draco," your father says, "I believe your mother is waiting for you upstairs."
It's his way of offering you an escape from what they are about to do, and you know that he wants you to turn him down, to stay by his side and watch Weasley try to tear his own skin off to stop the pain.
As soon as you leave, the screaming starts.
Weasley is his usual pig-headed self, saying too much at all the wrong times. He's worse than any prisoners you've had before, but, in a sick sort of way, he's everyone's favourite.
The Dark Lord's favourite because that means he gets to taunt him, gets to break him over Potter's death and Granger's whereabouts and the fact that they've lost.
Bellatrix's because she's the one who administers torture after torture and watches his eyes roll back in his head and his limbs go limp and his tongue become too weak to retort.
And yours because he screams everything you're too afraid to.
He starts with insults. You hear his calls echo up the stairway, and you wonder if he wants you to know how much he hates you, if he cannot control himself anymore, or if he's just trying to get himself killed.
But when the questions follow soon after ("What have you done with her?" and "Where is she?" and "Why?"), you wonder if he thinks he'll get answers, if he thinks he really wants to know what has become of Granger.
And when these turn into desperate the screams of "Hermione!" that wake you up in the dead of night, you know he just wants to be heard.
They don't tell you where they take Granger at first, and you don't bother asking.
There's precious little you want them to tell you. The answers are never worth satisfying your curiosity.
(Granger is safe, you lie to yourself.
It almost works.)
But then your father calls you to him one evening.
"Tell him the girl is dead," he says nonchalantly, thumbing through a tome worthy of only Granger herself.
"I - what?"
He looks up at you, over the rim of his reading glasses, and you watch the glass catch the light so that, for the briefest moment, it looks as if his eyes are a pure white nothingness.
"Tell him. Now."
Weasley grows worse after that.
He screams day and night, caught between sobs, sometimes running out of words and merely making noises, screeching, crying, anything to stop the silence. When you bring him his meals, he looks you straight in your pathetic little face and calls you a traitor, a monster, a Death Eater.
You drop your gaze to the floor and walk away.
On the fourth day, you are ordered to silence him.
You mutter the words and wave your wand, and when his voice cuts off, he shoots you a look filled with such livid fury that your heart beats erratically.
"I'm sorry," you mumble, and, just before you leave, you see that he is still screaming defiantly. He struggles against the chains that bind him, pushing and kicking and swiping the air in front of him as if, by some miracle, he can hurt you from afar.
"I'm sorry," you say again.
The metal door clangs behind you.
They cut his tongue out for treason.
You aren't told about it.
When you go to throw his food at his feet, you find him whimpering and mewling with blood dripping down his chin. His hands tremble with the pain, and as you walk towards him, he huddles up, drawing his knees to his chin and shaking violently. You see the trails of blood that run down his chin, across his pale chest, leaving tracks of scarlet in the dirt caked there.
He looks at you with hollow blue eyes. Pure hatred is furrowed in his brows.
Your stomach is sick.
It feels as if your blood has frozen in your veins and your heart has turned to ice. They threatened this, always threatened, but you never thought they'd actually do it.
You thought it was beneath them, too common, too Muggle.
Granger's face flashes before your eyes and you swallow the guilt that rises in you, turning it to anger and frustration.
You toss him a wet rag and hear the splat as it lands at his dirty feet.
"Wipe your face," you hiss, too afraid of what your voice would sound like if you tried to actually speak.
Your father is in his study with a glass of firewhiskey and scrolls of fading parchment when you barge in unceremoniously.
"What did you do to him?" you growl.
"I did what needed to be done," he says calmly.
"Please tell me that you didn't," you beg.
"Well of course I didn't. MacNair did."
You've never hated him more than in this moment. You find it odd that, after everything he's done, it is Weasley that drives you to hate your own father.
Your fingers quiver as you curl them into unsteady fists.
Turning angrily on your heel, you stalk from the room and head to your bedroom. When you get there, you seal the door, cast a silencing charm, and punch the wall, screaming, until your knuckles are bruised and bloody.
You return the next day and you know that they've been to see him again.
The right side of his face is in bloom with red and purple bruises. There is mottled blood across his forehead and a nasty split in his lip. You see one long slash down his forearm and shiver.
"I'm sorry," you say quietly.
He starts, looks at you with eyes like saucers. These are almost the only words you've said to him, and you've never known how much weight those two words could bear.
He nods slowly.
You swallow thickly and retreat once more.
Only if you want to,
Fill my world with hope again, hope again
He takes a turn for the worst.
You notice when you arrive the next day with his breakfast in your hand, and he is pale and shining with sweat. His skin is tinged an odd colour, almost a pale green, and his eyes can't focus on you long enough for you to be sure he can hear you.
The cuts on his arm are red and inflamed, almost waxy, shining horribly in the candlelight, reminding you of scars and burns and searing pain.
Your throat feels as if you are coughing up daggers as you scream for your father.
They move him to one of the spare rooms at the back of the Manor, where the air is thick with dust and disuse, and spider webs hang like silk netting from the high ceiling.
They cannot risk him dying because there is more they need to know, they say, more things they need to find out. Things they can't tell you about.
"Potter did more damage than we thought he did," your father whispers, "And Weasley is the only one who knows just how much."
"You cut out his tongue. He's useless to you now, just-"
"Let him go, Draco? It's gone too far now. Weasley gives us what we need and then he is disposed of. Such is the nature of war."
You spend all day in his room.
Your father won't call in a Healer and no one quite knows what to do, but you've had enough Herbology accidents to know that if essence of dittany can't cure it, no other home treatment can.
You spend hours each day gently dabbing at his infected cuts, counting the freckles on his shoulders and wondering how you never noticed there were quite so many. The numbers change each time you count. You wonder if you just keep missing the tiny ones or if more are starting to stand out as he grows paler.
Your father suggests that you leave, let the house elves care for him.
But you glare at him through lowered lashes.
"You did this. I'll fix it."
He leaves without another word.
Weasley starts to get better after five days of wiping the sheen of sweat from his brow and dripping water down his throat (and praying and hoping and wishing).
His colour starts coming back, though you think you're imagining it at first. His eyelids flutter every now and then. He hums in his sleep.
(His hand starts squeezing yours back.)
He wakes at five forty-three in the morning the next day.
His eyes are still bleary, still a little lost, but he's awake.
Mere hours after he has woken, Weasley uses his hands to scribble in the air, his palm acting as a writing surface.
It's the most movement he's made in days, and you twitch with excitement at the idea of what he might tell you, what he might say (or what he might plan, you think, though you shouldn't).
You fetch him a quill and some ink. You find old parchment rolled up in your bedroom, Transfiguration essays that may as well have been from another life.
You offer him the back of the slightly yellowed essay, ignoring the ink splotches that have leaked through the parchment like navy freckles and spread like watery stars across the blankness.
With his weak and shaky arms, he scrawls across the paper, letters that look like a child's, and throws the parchment towards you.
Why haven't you killed me yet?
You read it and look him in the eye.
"I can't," you say, and you leave before any more questions light up his groggy mind.
"No one wants you dead," you say as you feed him his dinner, a weak, watered down soup. His arms are still weak and his fingers clumsy, so you sit at the edge of his bed and you raise the spoon to his lips for him to somehow force the soup down his throat.
He glares at you.
You know that he hates that he has been reduced to this. He is a feeble mess of a boy, his friends are dead, his family is missing and you are his only link with the outside world.
You. The boy he hates.
"I don't want you dead," you say as honestly as you can.
Weasley is the only thing that takes your mind of things, the only one who you know would understand.
"I- I'm sorry about Granger. And Potter. And everyone else."
He looks at you, his eyes sad and glassy. He nods towards you, and you know that he is returning the gesture.
Your side has lost just as many.
"I wanted him to win, you know. I did," you say quietly.
Weasley watches you calmly.
His blue eyes are bloodshot and red rimmed, but his bruises are healing and his cuts are closing over. He looks less beaten, less wronged.
He offers you a weak smile and a slow nod.
It either means me too or we still can.
You look away.
His hope is sickening.
When Weasley's arms are strong enough, he curls his fingers around the quill you gave him when he first woke, and he writes.
He writes and writes and writes, tiny scribbled messages curving around each other, each with a different name and a different promise, and you watch as the list grows and grows and grows and you think of how very much he has lost.
On his last day in the guest room, when you come to tell him that the dungeons are waiting like a cold embrace, ready to envelop him completely, he hands you that piece of parchment.
The lump in your throat is thick and painful, and you're not sure you can speak around it. You nod, turn, and lead him to his new (old) home.
He follows quietly.
That night, you lie in bed with the thin, folded parchment in your hands. You're afraid to open it and afraid not to, so you slip it open at the sides and peek.
You find words like Voldemort and joke shop and baby and Hermione, and you think that there has to be a reason he gave you this.
So you unfold it carefully, as if you are opening his damaged mind in your rough palms.
Harry, he has scrawled across the top, his handwriting stronger than before. My best friend. My brother. The days are longer and the nights are darker without you. The future is not quite as hopeful, but I'm trying, Harry, I'm trying to find a way out and when I find it, I'll finish what you started. Your life was short but your memory won't be. Promise me you'll look after her and I'll promise you the same.
Your eyes are misty and you blink furiously, scanning the notes that surround Potter's and seeing names like Ginny, Mum, Percy, Tonks, Lavender, Colin. Anyone and everyone.
You stop when you see the name Hermione, curled up in the bottom left hand corner, his writing cramped and stuck in the spaces between what he had already written, with her message rising gently as it goes.
I've left this one too long, Hermione. I always did leave everything 'til the last minute, eh? But I just can't find the words to tell you what you mean to me. On the days when I thought Harry might lose, there was always you by my side, always you, and if Harry were to fail, I would have you to help me through. But now I have neither of you and that's the hardest part. Because now that you're gone, I don't want to keep going. I don't want to carry on. I want to curl in on myself and refuse food until I am only ribs and pointy elbows and death brings you back to me. But I know you wouldn't want that. Would you? So I do this for you, Hermione. I fight for you, and I will win for you, because I never got the chance to tell you I love you. And I do. I love you. Present tense.
It's too much. You are choking on the sobs that you can't let out, your chest stuttering, your breathing ragged, and you go to scrunch it up, this damned parchment, you almost tear at it with pinched fingers and let the words turn to nothing once more, but you don't.
You don't because you see your name.
Draco, he's written, right in the middle of the page. You are my last hope. I'm sorry.
And so are you. So are you.
When your father summons you in the middle of the night almost a week later, you walk with wooden legs to the dining room. The table is already full with the others; the Carrows, MacNair, Snape...
You stand in the cavernous doorway.
"Take a seat, Draco," the Dark Lord says. He speaks quietly, but his voice carries over the chatter, high and cold.
You take a seat next to your mother at the table's edge. Underneath the polished wood, she grabs your hand. You are not sure which of you is the one trembling, but the smooth circles that her thumb traces on the back of your hand make your breath come a little easier. You squeeze her hand. She squeezes back. From the corner of your eyes you see a sad smile tug at her thin lips.
"Silence," the Dark Lord commands.
The noise in the room dies instantly at his words.
"Good," the he says, his voice no more than a whisper, "Ladies and gentlemen. Tonight, we have a guest."
There is a cruel twist to his mouth as he swishes his wand through the air and you see cloths explode from its tip, covering the table with their dark, dense material. As they flutter to a stop, you realise they are covering something, something that wasn't there before.
Someone that wasn't there before.
"It turns out our little blood traitor is reluctant to speak," the Dark Lord says with a glint in his eye. His followers chuckle obediently, "He thinks he has lost everything, you see. He sees no reason to help us when there is no one left to save."
He walks forward slowly, his robes trailing along the ground. He reaches out and, with a flourish, curls his long, thin fingers around the black cloth.
"So it us up to us, is it not, to give the boy something back. To give him hope again."
He pulls. The fabric flows out behind him like a cape, and he extends his arm as if he were a magician at a children's party. You can almost hear the Tada! in his voice.
"And when he sees her, he will tell us what we need to know. Because if he doesn't...the pretty, little Mudblood dies," he says with malice in his grin.
"And if he does, my Lord?" asks Bellatrix, glee in her voice.
"Well. Then the pretty little Mudblood dies."
You sit in stony silence as the Death Eaters around you collapse into laughter. You cannot tear your eyes from the sleeping face on the table before you.
Granger's hair is matted with a sickly, dark liquid. Her lips are swollen and stained with blood, cracked as if from the cold. Her skin is dull and grey, the skin of a girl who hasn't seen the sun in weeks.
It is the look of a girl close to death.
Sometimes people make the wrong moves,
Walking in the wrong shoes
They bring Granger to one of the back rooms. She shuffles in like a zombie, feet dragging, eyes searching dimly. She does not react in any way except to look at you with a question in her eyes, as if she is trying to recall who you are.
You wonder if she can speak, but decide you'd rather not know.
"Feed her. Clean her. Make her look healthy. It will only break him more," Bellatrix whispers to the back of your neck, her hands firm on your shoulders, her talon-nails pressing hard into your skin.
You suppress a shudder.
"Quickly, Draco. We will be back in half an hour. Have her ready," she orders.
The door slams shut behind you.
When you move towards her, Granger whimpers, pulling away, flinching before you have even reached out to touch her.
"Shhh," you reassure her, "It's okay."
Granger freezes like a deer in headlights.
"Malfoy?" she croaks, her eyes momentarily unclouded, her face clear and focussed. Her voice sounds rusted, broken.
"Where is he?" she chokes out. Her eyes are alight with an intensity that burns into you, a desperation you wish so much to put out, to banish from her mind.
"Safe," is all you can promise, "He's safe. Now stay still."
And you peel her worn, faded pink t-shirt from her skeletal body, you pull her jeans from her stick-thin legs, you watch her shiver on the cold floor and you see that she is nothing more than sharp angles and pale skin.
She is painfully thin, all rutting hip bones and jutting ribs, bony wristed and (almost) flat chested and she's never looked so defeated.
"Can I- can I see him?" she asks. Her voice is thick with tears, and you watch them slide down her gaunt cheeks.
"Soon," you say, though it is a promise you do not wish to keep.
He might be the last thing she ever sees.
You wash her with an old, brown rag dipped in lukewarm water that you keep in a bucket by her legs. You grasp her skinny wrists in your hands and run the rag along her arms, washing away the weeks of grime and filth that coat her skin. The water lingers in tiny beads, glinting in the dim light of the room.
She shuffles awkwardly, exposing her back to you, and you suck in your breath at what you see.
Angry red slashes, cutting her in half like an open book, straight up and down her spine. She cries quietly as you begin to lightly dab at her cuts. Whip marks, you think, something you've not seen before. You wonder who had her. And where. Though you don't let yourself wonder why.
"Have they- is he okay?" she asks quietly.
"He's alive," you say, "And alive is good."
"Alive is good," she murmurs.
Alive is good.
You wash her down carefully, very carefully, glossing over the bruises and cuts and what might be burns on her thighs.
When you are done, you hand her the rag and stand.
"I'll let you..." you mumble, motioning towards the underwear that hangs from her narrow hips, the bra that she no longer fills.
"Right," she says, a shadow of a smile across her lips. In another reality, she would beam with her teeth on show and her face alive, but you find that, right now, just the ghost of a smile is warming your heart.
You walk to the corner of the room and face the wall. If you stare for long enough, you can convince yourself that you are in a tiny box, trapped.
But then you imagine you are in a coffin, and it's somehow harder to breathe when you're staring at something so solid and immoveable.
Instead, you close your eyes and listen to the gentle slosh of the water behind you, the pained hisses that slip through Granger's teeth, the sounds of water droplets hitting the floor.
"I love him, you know," she says, "Please tell him. If I can't."
"He loves you, too."
"How do you know?" she asks, sounding breathless and hopeful and alive.
"He – he told me once," you mumble, "Are you ready?"
You walk to the trunk in the corner of the room, the one that holds your mother's old clothes, still not looking directly at Granger. You can feel her eyes on you.
The trunk is heavy and covered in a fine dust, but the clothes inside are impeccable. Bright and white and clean, thick, rich velvets and finest silks, a thousand colours and million patterns.
You pull out a pair of deep red dress robes, a crimson you don't recall ever seeing on your mother, and find it is suddenly very apt. If Granger is to do this, she will do it like a true Gryffindor.
"Here," you say, "Put these on."
And when she does, you ignore how it sags a bit at the bust, how it hangs loosely from her hips, how it is a few inches too long and a few shades too deep for her pale face.
"You look beautiful," you say.
"Thank you," she says, and you think that maybe she knows that, tonight, she will die.
They come back in exactly one hour and smile at you.
"Very good. She looks almost healthy," Bella sneers, "Have you fed her?"
"No," you reply.
"She will join us for dinner then, seeing as you've dressed her for the occasion. One last meal, mudblood?" Bella taunts.
Granger nods solemnly.
Twenty minutes before dinner, your mother rushes into your room, slamming the door behind her and breathing heavily.
"Draco," she pants, "Draco. He's given the boy one last chance. You. He needs you, wants you to question him. Draco, please. You are his last hope."
His last hope. You don't ask who he refers to.
"What have I to ask him?"
When you walk into the dungeon, Weasley sits facing the doorway. His back is straight and his hands are still.
"Okay," you begin, walking towards him, "Here."
You shove a fresh roll of parchment, a quill and a bottle of dark ink into his hands.
"Weasley, I need you to listen to me. Potter- Potter is gone, okay? You need to tell me what you've done with the Horcruxes and then I can help you. You can join us, Weasley, we can keep you safe. We can-"
He spits at your feet.
"Look. You- you don't realise what's at stake here. You think you have nothing left to lose but you don't, you don't."
You can't tell him about Granger, you can't tell him, you can't. But you want to. You need to.
You nod towards his quill.
"Say something. Anything," you plead.
He lifts the quill deliberately, his eyes boring into yours, and begins to scrawl without even a downwards glance.
That information dies with me.
But it doesn't, does it? Granger. Granger must know. But she's stronger than Weasley, more tied up in logic and sense than burning emotion and so he's easier to break.
You see that now.
"Just tell me, Weasley. Ron. Tell me."
He raises an eyebrow at you and, ever so slowly, shakes his head.
"What have you done with them?" you ask.
He ignores you. Instead, he throws his things to the ground and lies down, flat on his back. The ink bottle smashes at your feet, the liquid running through the grooves in the stone floor, pooling under your shoes.
"Answer me," you growl at his prone form spread before you.
He does not move an inch, bright eyes trained on the dark ceiling.
His silence, this self-imposed speechlessness, this lack of communication, it makes you snap. He doesn't realise that if he doesn't answer, they will bring Granger down here and they will kill her, they will torture her and make her scream before his very eyes and they will murder her for this information.
You are not going to let her die if you have a chance to save her. No one else needs to die unnecessarily. Nobody ever did, you think, but it's too late for that.
"Answer me. Answer me," you demand, your voice growing. You kick his quill towards him.
"ANSWER ME," you roar, all remnants of patience flying away. You see Weasley start slightly, his chin lowering a fraction, but he doesn't fucking look at you, and that makes your blood boil.
"Answer me," you shout, kicking sharply at his thigh. Your foot connects with his skin with a soft thump and you hear him snarl in pain.
He still avoids your gaze.
And the next thing you know, you are kicking and screaming and punching and dropping to the floor and scraping and thumping and hurting him in every way you can, until he is scraped and cut and bleeding and his pale skin bears the evidence of your temper.
He squeezes his eyes shut.
"Answer me," you pant. There is a note of begging in your voice now, a desperation that wasn't there before, "Just...answer, please."
You rest your hand lightly on his chest. He twitches away from you.
"Please," you choke out, and then you are crying, your lip trembling and the sobs ripping from your throat against your will, painful and harsh.
"Ans-answer me," you cry, breath catching on the words.
Weasley opens an eye.
And you fall apart.
Between your chest heaving and fighting for breath and the screams that sound all too hysteric, you feel Weasley's strong arms wrap around you and his hands run along your spine. You imagine he's saying there there or it's okay and you can hear anything other than the lonely sound of your own sobs.
And when you squeeze your eyes shut, you can imagine that you are a million miles away, that you are free. If you rock back and forth in Weasley's arms, then you can imagine that you're flying, soaring through the air, caught up in the wings of freedom and not trapped by your name and your family and beliefs that you don't even hold.
"Answer me," you whimper.
He squeezes his arms tighter for a brief second and nods.
And that's when you hear the echo of footsteps from the stairwell.
You are out of time.
Make me feel like hope again, hope again.
"Tell me, boy... How many did you find?"
The Dark Lord's voice is silky smooth, but you know that he's teetering on the edge of rage, ready to lash out at any moment.
Weasley does nothing but stare insolently, his arms crossed and his face calm.
There is a moment of silence. You know what is happening; the Dark Lord is searching Weasley's head, overturning his lies and seeking secrets deep within his mind.
After innumerable slow, agonising seconds have passed, the Dark Lord turns to you.
He knows, you think. He knows the things you have told Weasley and that you have cried in his arms and you brace yourself, tense your muscles, ready for the blow. You see now that even those who cannot speak cannot truly keep your secrets, much less their own.
There are no more last chances left. It's over.
But then -
"Did you ever learn the art of Occlumency at Hogwarts, Draco?"
"N-no," you reply, surprised and confused.
"I didn't think so," he replies swiftly, turning once more back to Weasley, "Who taught you, boy? Dumbledore? Potter?"
You see Weasley straighten up, as if he has been stung, His shoulders stiffen, but his face does not betray any emotion.
"No? Very well then... Draco, bring in the girl."
You look around the room. Every eye is on you, everyone has turned to glare at you, jealous of this honour, this privilege you have been offered.
You do not look at Weasley.
Granger waits for you under Alecto's watchful eyes, her wrists bound together and her face pale and drawn.
"He wants her," you tell her, and untie Granger's wrists with a wave of your wand, ignoring Alecto's mutter of surprise.
Somewhere in the back of your mind you are thinking that if she has to do this, she is going to walk into that room a free woman. She deserves it, one last time. And Weasley, oh Wealsey. He deserves to see the girl he loves look beautiful, free, just once more.
There is a strange sickliness in your stomach.
"Come," you say, and motion with her to follow you to the stairway.
As soon as you are out of Alecto's earshot, Granger grabs you by the shoulder and hisses in your ear.
"We need a way to escape, Malfoy. Come with us."
You pause, and it feels as if the world has paused with you. You hear your own breath echo around you, you feel her warm hand on your shoulder, you feel her eyes on your face. Nothing else moves.
And yet that is the moment everything changes.
"Okay," you whisper, "How?"
"You need to keep us alive tonight. That's all I ask you."
You look her directly in the eye, surprised by how her eyes are still so full of colour when the rest of her is fading away.
"Do you trust me?" you ask.
She gives you a wry smile.
"You're my last hope, Malfoy, whether either of us likes it or not."
You nod. By now, the words last hope should have lost all meaning. But you look at the wisp of life that used to be Granger and you believe that those words have never meant more.
And, more than ever, you hope you can save them.
You make Granger walk in first.
"Look him in the eyes as you walk in," you tell her, though neither of you are sure whether it's Weasley or the Dark Lord that she should look at.
She chooses Weasley.
You watch carefully as his whole face comes alive, his eyes lighting up like fireworks and his mouth dropping open and you suppose he's trying to croak out her name but all that he can manage is a low sort of sigh, and his eyes are filling with tears as he looks at her, reaching out, trying to touch her.
Granger's shoulder's shake from where you stand behind her, and you think she might be crying already. You hear a soft, "Ron," and a muffled sob and your heart breaks a little more each second you see them like this.
Something hot and rough burns in your stomach, a boiling anger, rage, at what these two have become. Pawns. Puppets. Games.
"Yes, yes, Weasley. Your beautiful little mudblood, all safe and clean and happy to see you. But you must think this through, boy," the Dark Lord says, advancing on Granger. He brings his slender hand to her neck, running his finger across her throat, "If you don't cooperate...she dies."
There is a fire in Weasley's eyes. He is furious. He growls, tearing frantically at the metal around his ankles with his fingernails. You've never seen him so desperate to escape.
"My dear?" the Dark Lord says to Granger, forced sweetness and false honesty in his voice.
"Yes, my Lord," he scolds mockingly.
"Yes...my Lord?" she asks quietly, and you can tell that she has already accepted her fate.
You face the wall once again.
This time, it is not the sloshing water and hisses of pain you hear, it is shrieks and screams and limbs hitting cold stone and Weasley's croaks and his shackles rattling, and you close your eyes and try to remember that you need to save them.
You need a plan.
"My – my Lord?" you say suddenly, and then every eye in the room is on you once again.
There is silence.
Granger is limp when you turn around, and your mother has her hands to her face in shock. Weasley stares at you, wide-eyed, numb.
"Draco?" the Dark Lord says, and there is a dangerous silkiness to his voice.
"I think per-perhaps we should l-leave them for the night. Give the mudblood a chance to c-convince Weasley to tell," you stutter.
His face splits into a smile.
"You are learning, Draco," he says softly, almost fondly, "It will hurt more to tear them apart later. Very wise."
Bellatrix cackles behind you.
"I knew you had it in you, Draco!" she says.
You ignore her.
You watch as the Dark Lord leers at Granger's wilted body, as the shackles that bind Weasley slither slowly towards her ankles and bind her, too.
"Consider yourself lucky, you fool," the Dark Lord says, his red eyes trained on Weasley's blue ones. Fire and ice and right and wrong and a thousand other opposites, and you regret not choosing the right side in the beginning, "Draco has given you one more night with your mudblood. I would spend it memorising her pretty face if I were you. You have twelve hours."
He turns on the spot and is gone before you blink.
At midnight, the Manor is still but your heart is not. It pounds in your ears as you creep along the corridor, your feet heavy and your fingers shaking.
No one can find you, no one can know.
You manage to sneak to the dungeons and you throw open the metal door, cushioning its blow against the wall with a charm.
"Ready?" you whisper, and throw Weasley a pair of your old robes. You wave your wand and their shackles disappear.
Weasley jumps to his feet swiftly and extends a hand to Granger, helping her up. Then he pulls your robes over his head, sighing as they stop mid-calf, but shrugging with a smile.
He turns to you, radiating hope and relief and excitement, and you feel sick to your stomach.
"Come on," you say, "We need to get far enough past the wards that I can Apparate."
They waste no time in following you.
The Manor grounds are eerily still and oh so dark. You walk carefully but quickly, your wand raised high to cast its light on the path before you, whispering to Weasley and Granger as you walk.
"Watch the step," you mutter, "Careful, there's a hole there. Try not to wander into the tall grass. Gnomes."
They are as silent as the world around you, and you feel very alone. You know that, behind you, they are clutching each other close, drinking in the feel of each others' warm skin and holding tightly to hands they never thought they'd feel again.
You keep your eyes ahead.
And then you hear it pierce the air.
A high pitched shriek, a scream so loud it tears through your skull and you turn on your heel as fast as you can, the shocked Granger! already on your lips, but Granger isn't screaming.
Granger is deathly pale, painfully white, her eyes staring straight ahead.
You and Weasley see it at the same time.
You watch in muted horror as Granger clutches at her stomach, her hands becoming dark and slick with her own blood as it spreads from her middle, slowly turning her dress a darker red, a deep, sickly colour that makes your stomach lurch. Blood red, you think, dead red.
Weasley reaches for her, grasping at her hands and staring into her eyes and stuttering noises of disbelief and shock and words you're sure should be no, no, not Hermione, no.
"R-Ron," she chokes out, "R-Ron, I-I-"
Her knees collapse.
And you see two things.
One; Weasley dropping to Granger's side and roaring, a mangled cry of grief tearing from his throat as he presses on her stomach frantically, trying to staunch the flow, trying to stop it, trying to save her.
Two; Bellatrix. She stands not twenty feet away with her back as straight as a flagpole and her eyes as dark as her past. She fingers her wand lovingly and stares at you, amusement in her smile.
It happens in a split second.
Bellatrix raises her wand and the scream of Avada Kedavra echoes through the night; everything flashes sickly green (Potter green) and you leap to the ground, grabbing Grangers arm and Weasley's neck and just hoping that you can get out, that it works, that you can save them, and Bella raises her wand again but-
There's a familiar pull, the sensation of your insides being squeezed and kneaded roughly, and you feel Weasley's skin hot against your hand and Granger's arm is scarily limp and someone is screaming, someone is shouting your name.
And then all is silent. The smell of pine trees and forest air fills your nose and you are free.
You pant and gasp, your breath sticking in your throat, and when you open your eyes it is so very clear that you have failed.
Granger's eyes are open and staring, her mouth fallen slack into a surprised little o. Weasley sobs silently, his shoulders jerking and twitching uncontrollably and you can see that he's fighting for breath. His face is contorted with pain, grief, and you watch as he puts his hands to Granger's face, his rough palms caressing her cheeks. He lowers himself to her face, his tears falling onto her skin. You listen to his desperate whimpers and sad cries as he runs his thumbs across her cheekbones, whispering words that he cannot form.
You watch as he kisses her, pressing his lips to hers deliberately. It's a tender kiss, and this is a side of Weasley you've never seen. He touches Granger gently, with reverence and love in his caresses, and kisses along her jawline, catching his fingers in her tangled hair.
There is a pain in your chest, as if your heart is burning, and you are lost. You don't know what to do. You've never lost a lover and you've never had to say goodbye to anyone who meant as much to you as Granger did to Weasley.
You want to speak for him. You want to rip out your tongue and offer it to him in your cupped hands because you want him to honour her, to rain his words down on her skin, in between his final kisses. You want him to give her the goodbye she deserves, the farewell she is worthy of.
But all you can do is pull that old parchment from the hollow of your robes, the one with the words Weasley never quite got to tell her, and lean forward. Weasley watches you with pensive eyes, his face still inches from Granger's. You tuck the parchment into her hand and bend her fingers shut around it.
"She knows," you say, "She loves you, too."
And you see the present tense cut deep into his soul as the tears fall once more.
He thumps his clumsy hand onto your shoulder and nods.
It's a thank you and an I trust you all in one, and you smile weakly and nod in return.
"What now?" you ask.
He shakes his head.
You look down at Granger, her body thin and rail-like, her skin pale and growing colder in the night air.
"We should bury her," you say quietly.
Weasley nods, but you can see the reluctance in his eyes, the need to keep her close in the set of his jaw.
But you spend the night by his side, using branches transfigured into shovels to dig Granger a final resting place; one last home among the trees.
When you are done and the ground before you is open and empty, the smell of fresh soil and blood lingering in the night air, you both stand beside Granger and you wait.
What you wait for, you aren't sure. You want Weasley to eulogise her because you can't, because you don't deserve to.
But he can't.
So you say, "Hermione Granger. You were brave and you were strong. Your memory will live on. You were a Gryffindor until the end and you were a hero."
Your voice shakes and your throat is dry and scratchy as the words claw their way out, and you know they are not nearly enough, they are nothing compared to what Granger is or was or ever will be, but you see Weasley's sad smile. His face is numb and distant. He is the last standing pillar of their triangle and he knows it.
You take your wand from your pocket and let it dance through the air, watching as delicate white lilies blossom from its tip, falling to rest on Granger's head as if she were a princess, a tiara of life.
"Rest in peace," you whisper, lifting her body with a graceful flick of your wand and lowering her carefully into the cold earth. Her body descends and she is beautiful, still and pale like an angel, with her tiara of lilies and the parchment tucked in her hands, and you think, with a sickening sense of relief, that, at least now, she is safe.
Another wave of your hand and the soil rises to fall on her gently. Weasley shakes beside you, his hands restless and his face vacant and hopeless.
But, no, you can't let him feel this way. Not now.
You reach for him, stilling his trembling hands with yours, and the warmth of his skin sends shivers up your arm.
"She has Potter," you say, and Weasley nods.
His fingers squeeze your hand firmly. You squeeze back.
"We need to move," you say.
He nods once more, but drops to his knees. He flattens the earth of Granger's grave with his palms, and then with one shaky, ungainly finger, he writes.
Hermione Granger. The brightest witch of her age. Forever loved.
And he stands up quickly, his back straight, and walks blindly into the forest.
You cast Granger's grave one last glance before you follow.
You walk through those unknown trees until the sky has begun to lighten, until the clouds are pink and the birds sing their welcome to the sun.
"We need somewhere safer," you say, looking to where Weasley walks ahead of you, his gait awkward and stiff from weeks holed up in the dungeon.
He stops and holds out his hand to you. You stop walking.
"What?" you ask, confused.
He points to your hip.
"You want...my wand?"
He does not move, just stares at your hip with his hand outstretched and his eyes dull.
You pull your wand from your robes and place it in his hands.
And, for one horrible moment, you think he might kill you. You see that glint flash in his eyes, old Weasley, and your heart pounds a thousand times a second because he has the power and you were stupid enough to give it to him.
He raises your wand with something that could almost be delight in his eyes.
And he grabs your wrist forcefully, turns on the spot, and the smell of forest air fades to nothing.
You land on a beach and feel icy water pool in your shoes, hear the crashing of waves, taste the salt on your tongue, the salt that reminds you of bitter tears.
Weasley's hand is still firm on you and he pulls you forward, towards the shore, dragging you through thick, wet sand.
There is a little house in the distance, its light butter-yellow in the small square windows, a house that looks more like a home than any building you have ever seen.
"Where are we?" you ask.
He drops to his knees and writes in the sand, and you feel a pang of anger and sadness as you realise you might never find Granger's grave again.
Shell Cottage, he's written.
You drop to your knees beside him because you are tired, weary, and because, as homely as that house looks, you are certain you are not welcome there.
"Who lives here?" you say, and watch the steady movement of his hand.
"Family? I don't think I should- I mean, I don't think they would-" you try, but Weasley stops you.
With his lips.
His mouth is warm and soft on yours, and his kiss is softer than you imagined it would be – not that you imagined, no, no. His hands clutch at your robes and you know that his lips moving against yours in this sweet, indefinable rhythm is his way of telling you that you are welcome. You are safe here.
You are wanted.
"Thank you," you whisper into his mouth.
And when you rest, forehead to forehead, you see the pain and confusion and anguish in his eyes.
So you kiss him again and listen to the waves crash behind you, feel the grains of sand that trap themselves between Weasley's skin and yours, and you mutter It's okay, it's okay into his kisses and hope that he will believe you.
You hope that he will understand.
You hope that you are safe.
Sun shines slowly and falls from your mind
(Falls from your mind)
Hope dies slowly, and falls from your eyes
(Falls from your eyes)