A/N: This is my effort to prove some canon-compliant closure to the relationship between Draco and Hermione. I ship Dramione, but this is not a Dramione story.
There's quite a bit of my personal magical headcanon, so hold on tight. I hope you enjoy!
No one thinks of how much blood costs. –Dante Alighieri
It isn't until Hermione Granger is tossed to the floor of the Malfoy Manor drawing room that Draco Malfoy realizes what he is.
Bellatrix fists her hand in the girl's brown curls and yanks her head back until Granger cries out and Draco can see her pulse fluttering in her neck. Her hair is a wild mess and her clothes look grimy, but it's her. Bellatrix shoves her back and laughs when the girl's head hits the marble floor. She steps back to stand next to Draco.
His wand hangs loosely between his fingers as he stares down at her, but it's only an illusion of power. With Aunt Bellatrix breathing heavily in his ear and Voldemort always burning on his forearm and the lives of his parents weighing heavily on his shoulders, he knows he cannot do anything. Not even if he wanted to.
"Well?" Bellatrix hisses in his ear. "Is it her?"
"I...maybe…yeah." His voice sounds empty. Seeing her quiver on the floor at his feet does not give him the satisfaction he once dreamed of. Bellatrix brushes past him gleefully, sliding her wand from her sleeve, and he does not know what to feel.
"You're going to sing for us, Mudblood," Bellatrix croons. "So many pretty songs..." She draws back her booted foot and kicks hard into Granger's ribs. His fingers clench reflexively around his wand as Granger curls in on herself, keening horribly. Then the questions begin.
He knows she will not begin with the Cruciatus, though to the Mudblood, it will feel like the curse is tearing away her toenails and needling at her eyeballs, peeling skin from muscle and splashing acid inside her organs until her own fingernails claw at her flesh to rip the burning away. Draco has seen the Cruciatus done before. He has done it himself.
But first comes what the Death Eaters call the Muggle way. Bellatrix thuds the toe of her boot into Granger's stomach again and again. Once, she kicks with the slender heel, and Granger's shriek makes his blood run cold. He doesn't realize he is clenching his wand in a white-knuckled grip until his mother touches the back of his hand gently.
The shriek breaks into a sob, and Bellatrix resumes kicking. But no blood. Not yet.
Next, Bellatrix grabs Granger's wrist and stretches it out, pinning it to the floor with a word. Then she stands back. She raises her wand and cries out another curse. Draco recognizes it and turns away with bile in his throat. There is the whistle of wood through hair, and then the impact. Granger's wail is unearthly. He looks at his father, haggard and exhausted, and his mother, serene, but paler than he has ever seen her, and then he stares hard at a corner of the fireplace.
Four more, he thinks, and hears another whistle and thud and throat-shredding cries and Granger's feet drumming on the floor. Suddenly the cries break off. Draco realizes that Granger has passed out.
"Enervate," his aunt says, breathing heavily. Nothing from Granger. "ENERVATE!" she screams. Muttering a curse, she stalks past Draco toward the sideboard, presumably for more brandy.
There's a scraping sound behind him that doesn't sound like the clinking of a brandy snifter, and he turns to see Bellatrix brandishing a black metal knife. His stomach twists. Moonlight glints off the hilt, and his aunt smiles and drags a fingernail up the blade. Draco has seen this knife before, in the Malfoy collection of Dark artifacts.
Bellatrix brushes past him, and Draco realizes how fiercely his heart is beating.
The weapon is Muggle in form but magical in function. Wizards have survived wounds from this knife, but no potion in existence can heal them. The scars may one day become less painful, but they will never fade.
Bellatrix raises her wand and hisses "Enervate!" and Draco thinks Come on, Granger, you stupid cow, don't you dare wake up but the bint never would have listened to him, anyway. She jolts awake with a choked moan.
"Welcome back, Mudblood," sings Bellatrix, kicking at Hermione's wrist so that her arm is fully extended (she sobs with pain at this, what with two broken fingers and all), then kneeling to push the girl's robes up above her elbow.
He does not have to think about what his aunt plans to carve into Hermione's skin. She will brand the girl's forearm with the irreversible, damning symbol of all that she is.
Fitting, Draco thinks, and looks down at his own arm.
Bellatrix brings the tip of the knife down and immediately Hermione's spine arches up as if she's been struck by lightning. Draco jolts. Stinging Hexes, forged into the blade. Laughing, Bellatrix presses one knee into the girl's inner elbow to hold her arm still, resolutely drawing the knife down as Hermione's head bangs over and over again on the stone floor.
Draco must not, cannot look away. In some strange way, he feels this is another competition with Granger—she must endure the pain, and he must watch her endure it. He scarcely notices the sharp pain in his mouth or the taste of blood. Instead, he watches the huddled shoulders of Bellatrix as she crouches over Hermione, laughing, never halting the stroke of the knife.
When it is done, Hermione's throat is too hoarse for shrieking; she lets out little keening sobs that sound so incredibly wrong coming from her. Bellatrix steps back and Draco reads the word carved crudely into Granger's arm:
The letters are weeping blood. A single drop trickles from the final d, but it's too dark in the Malfoy drawing room, and Draco takes a step forward, wanting to get closer, wanting to see—
He catches himself. Clenches his fists. Steps back.
His aunt is muttering harshly down at Hermione. At first he can't make out the words, but they grow louder until Bellatrix is fairly screaming, "NEVER, do you hear me, you filthy, disgusting Mudblood!" She whirls and shoves past Draco's shoulder, and he flinches at the clatter of steel on stone when she casts the knife aside. It spins twice and comes to rest at his feet. He ought to pick it up.
He raises his eyes and looks back at the crumpled body on the floor. Hermione Granger.
What is she to him?
He swallows and watches the blood drip.
In that moment, she looks at him. He inhales sharply. It's too dark to see the brown of her eyes, but he sees that they are puffy and shining with tears. With a shuddering moan, she closes her eyes and turns her face away, and the moment is over.
What happens next is a painful blur of activity, ending with Potter and Weasley escaping with Hermione, leaving Draco kneeling on the floor, right hand clasped tightly to the gash running down his face. The blood stings when it runs into his eye. Bellatrix is screaming with rage and throwing curses at any pieces of furniture that aren't splintered wreckage yet, and he thinks he hears his mother begging her to calm down. Moonlight floods into the drawing room when the drapes are Reducto'd into oblivion.
Draco peels open one eye, wincing at the sting, and sees the knife—still lying right where Bellatrix dropped it, a few feet from him. He leans forward, reaching out with his left hand, and draws two fingers down the blade.
In a cold wash of moonlight, Draco brings his hand close to his face and rubs Hermione Granger's blood between his thumb and forefinger. It stains his fingers red.
A/N: Reviews are greatly appreciated!