AN: There is a lot of headspace in this chapter. I think only one word of dialogue, and while this may seem like a filler chapter, it's not. There is very important information that will come into play later on in the story, so keep your eyes peeled for hidden meanings.

HUGE thanks to my awesome beta, river of the sand, for her amazing work. She made this all shiny and better. Also to JDA for alpha work and cheerleading me on the side. I couldn't do this without you two.

Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter or its characters. No copyright infringement is intended.


Chapter 4

Draco heard her screams, he always did. They were louder than his were, he was certain, yet, he never spoke of them.

They never spoke about anything; not about the weather, not if they thought Severus would ever come back, or if they ever thought they could leave this fucking cottage. Speaking was irrelevant. It wasn't going to change anything if they suddenly decided to be friendly and hold a conversation. It's not like either of them had much to say anyway, but he always heard her scream.

And he was pretty damn certain she heard him, too.

He thought about casting a Silencing Charm on his room the first time he woke up covered in sweat, his voice hoarse. He didn't like to appear weak, and hated that she could hear him, but after waking to Granger's own voice shattering the silence of the small cottage, he decided not to. It was oddly comforting to know he wasn't the only one who was living in this living hell, and considered it one extremely fucked up peace offering to his childhood nemesis.

Draco knew it made no sense, but he just didn't care. His life had turned upside down and inside out. He couldn't even pinpoint the moment it had happened. Calculating in his mind every move he or his family had made, every little decision, he concluded that his life had been heading down this path all along. Locked up with Granger, and ignoring each other only to wake to the other's shouts of terror was not what he had expected, but it was what he had gotten.

And he hated it.

A week of this isolation, this... forced imprisonment, for that's what it was, made him slightly stir crazy. He longed for some sort of interaction. The walls felt too closed in, the space too small. It didn't help that the rain never seemed to stop; only adding to his darkening mood. He often wondered where in the world he was, but nothing in the cottage gave away their location.

Thinking back on the last week, he couldn't decide if he felt grateful for the silence or wary of it. He was, however, tired of the monotony of it all.

The first few hours had been spent in excruciating pain, so he hadn't done much of anything but sit in the bay window that overlooked part of the grounds. His Dark Mark hadn't burned like that since he'd taken the damned thing. When the pain had ceased, and he could breathe properly once again, he finally took note of his surroundings.

Draco had been too exhausted to do much of anything, but he had noticed Granger's vacant expression as she stared at the old tapestry on the wall. She had obviously relapsed into whatever it was she was going through, and he didn't bother disturbing her. He had grudgingly acknowledged she had given him space when he needed it, and decided to return the favor.

Although, he admitted to himself, he didn't want to talk to her anyway. Why he was trying so hard to be civil to the Mudblood was beyond him, but he felt an impulse to not snarl and snap at her the way he normally did. He was pretty sure the spell had something to do with that, but it was still confusing.

Deciding to take a look around, he explored what he could of his personal prison. The main room was in the shape of a pentagon, which he thought was a rather bizarre layout for a home. This had been Dumbledore's place, after all, and that old man hadn't quite sat fully on his broom anyhow. Looking at it from that perspective he found the oddness of the room rather fitting.

There were five doors, one on each of the five walls; deciding to take a look behind each one, he was further perplexed when he opened the first door, which turned out to be a rather ostentatious bathroom, and noticed the room was in the shape of a triangle. He used the facilities, surprised that thus far, the urge to do so had escaped him, and went to see what the other doors held.

The next room, a nice sized kitchen, was also in the shape of a triangle. Looking through the cabinets, he quickly found a glass and filled it with water. The cool liquid eased his parched throat somewhat as he drank it all down, only to refill it and take smaller sips on the second helping. His stomach growled, and although he found himself rather famished, he wanted to see what other surprises this strange home held.

The third door, a bedroom, held a nice sized bed that looked rather inviting. He was not surprised to see it was also in the same shape as the first two rooms. He stared longingly at the bright purple comforter, wanting to crawl right under the ridiculous bed linens and have a proper sleep. He would come back to this room when he was done exploring. He didn't like not knowing what was behind these doors, and planned to check them all out before he did anything else.

When he had closed the door behind him, he glanced at Granger and noticed she hadn't moved. Her eyes were drooping, but still open, staring at the lady in the tapestry. He ignored her and continued his search.

He was glad to see another bedroom, exactly like the first, behind the fourth door. He didn't want to have to fight his annoying housemate for the only bed. Not that he thought he'd have to in the state she was in, but when she snapped out of whatever weird shit she was going through, he didn't want to worry about who got the comfortable space to sleep.

The last door he knew was the front door. He had stared at it, wondering if he should take a look around outside, but decided against it. Looking at the rest of the oddly shaped room, noticing how bare everything looked, he couldn't help but feel it was rather depressing - fitting for his current situation.

He had started for the bathroom, hoping for a quick shower, but decided against it. He was just too tired. Taking his leave to the first bedroom, he promptly undressed and fell into the mountain of pillows that adorned it.

Draco's sleep had been restless, plagued with nightmares, so he was rather surprised to wake and find he'd been out for nearly two days. He had hated the watch that was clasped to his pale wrist when his father gave it to him several months earlier. It had such a Muggle-like appearance, and he always felt uneasy wearing it, but he couldn't deny the usefulness of it now. If nothing else, the built-in calendar helped keep the days from blurring together.

His stomach was now aching; not having eaten for nearly three days, he knew food was in order, and quickly. Hoping that he'd find something edible, he got dressed and made his way out of the room.

He'd nearly forgotten about Granger, and stopped in his tracks as he exited the room. She was no longer staring at the wall, but standing in front of the tapestry. He had to catch himself from asking what was so fucking great that she felt the need to stare at it constantly. If that's what she wanted to do with her time, then that was her business. He had more important things to worry about, like food.

She turned to face him as he closed the door, and their eyes locked. He noticed she looked much better than she had the last time he'd seen her. The tangled mess she called hair was now clean and brushed. Her skin had some color back to it, and her eyes were brighter, more aware.

Her gaze unsettled him, so he broke eye contact and made his way towards the kitchen, hoping that he could find something light to calm his stomach, which was cramping painfully from hunger. He felt like he could eat a Hippogriff.

Granger must have also sought out food, evidenced by the clean dishes stacked on the counter where there weren't any before. It gave him hope that there was something edible in this hellhole after all. He had his fill of water before opening a small door at the end of a row of cabinets, and was pleased to see a full pantry; fruit, breads, several buckets of vegetables, all put under a seemingly powerful Stasis Charm. There were also a lot of packaged things on the shelves, but he wasn't sure what they were. He needed something light since it had been so long since he'd eaten and decided on an apple, a few slices of bread, and jam.

Draco sat at the small table and ate his meal quickly. It didn't take much to fill him up. He knew his appetite would be iffy for the next few days, but the small amount of nourishment had helped. He felt much better.

After cleaning up, he had made his way into the bathroom, longing for a nice long bath. The scalding water had also done wonders in helping to lift his spirits. His muscles had been wound tightly, cramping not only from hunger. The water had eased the aches that now rocketed through his body, although the soap wasn't something to jump for joy over.

Lemons... What else would the old man have lying around?

After his bath, which had taken the better part of two hours after he'd filled the tub twice, he had stood in front of the mirror staring at his reflection. So far, he had been able to clear his mind of the horrors he'd experienced the last several days, but it was all beginning to catch up with him.

His father's death was prominent in his thoughts; Lucius' defiant, final expression flashing before his eyes. He had to continuously shake his head to try to dispel the images, but so far that action had proven futile.

Staring at his gray eyes and blonde hair, he could see so much of his father in himself. Despite popular belief, he hated that he was so much like Lucius. At one point in his life he was proud to be his father's son, but somewhere along the way, Draco had realized his father wasn't Merlin Incarnate. He was a man with many flaws, but none so more than allowing the murder of his mother.

A pang of sorrow spread through his body. He could still hear her screams echoing through his mind. He had fought to get to her, but his father had pulled him out of the manor saying he wasn't to do anything foolish. At first, he'd been enraged that Lucius had left his mother to her fate, but he'd seen the look of pure anguish in his eyes. It wasn't until much later, when the rage cooled slightly, that he came to his senses. He wouldn't have been able to save his mother no matter how hard he'd tried, and if anything, Lucius had saved his life.

It was a bitter potion for him to swallow, knowing he had allowed his father to tuck tail and run with him in tow, even if it cost his mother her life. He had sworn that day that his Aunt Bella would die by his hand if at all possible; betraying her own sister to gain favor with the Dark Lord was unforgivable in his eyes. Malfoys believed that family always stuck together, not go against them.

Growling in frustration for letting his thoughts wander so far, he pushed himself away from the counter he'd been leaning on, and finished dressing. From the looks of the place, he'd have all the time in the world to think about how horribly wrong everything had gone.

Exiting the bathroom, Draco was relieved to see Granger was nowhere to be found. The door to the spare room was shut, so he assumed she was sleeping, or hiding. He didn't care. He was just happy to be rid of her presence for the time being.

He had retired to the window nook for some time, watching the each drop of rain as it slid its way down the window. The rain was soothing, and after a few hours he felt himself slowly start to nod off. He wasn't sure how much time had passed when he heard her screams. He had shot out of the nook, wand drawn and panting.

He listened closely, only to hear her whimpers and cries from behind the door. He had been worried at first that she was in trouble, and immediately reached for the door. It wasn't until he was standing over her bed, watching as the nightmare violently gripped her that he asked himself what he was doing.

"It must be the spell,"he thought as he backed quietly out of the room, leaving Granger to writhe in terror on her own.

He had soon retired to his own bed, thankful that he heard no more screams coming from her side of the cottage. Sleep didn't come easily after that as his mind wandered to what could be plaguing Granger so harshly that she'd suffer nightmares. He did eventually fall into a deep sleep, only to wake from his own nightmares much later on.

Somehow, this had quickly become their routine – avoiding each other at all costs, even as their screams echoed through the stillness of the air. It was driving Draco mad. He'd never gone so long without speaking before, and he was certain if he tried to, his voice would be hoarse from disuse.

He had hoped his Godfather would return quickly, but after several days he'd given up hope on that happening. He always tried to push away the lingering doubt that something had happened to him, but he knew how resourceful Severus could be, and that brought Draco hope that he was alright.

Eight days now he'd been a prisoner in Dumbledore's old cottage, nothing to do but watch the rain and avoid his only housemate. There weren't even any books to read in this ratty little cottage. All he could do was think… and thinking when one was in Draco's mindset was never a good thing.

The clacking sound of his boots echoed off the stone walls, his wand providing the only light. His shadow was the only thing to keep him company as he made his way further down into the snake's lair. He was unnerved, as he normally was when going before the Dark Lord, but also from the current climatic contradiction he had found himself in.

If there was one universal truth that Severus knew, it was that dwellings below the earth's surface were cold, dark places. Living in the dungeons of Hogwarts for most of his life, he was used to giant holes in the ground and what little heat they offered. He should not feel the sweat pouring from his brow, or the stickiness of his soaked robes as he traveled further below, yet, he did.

The heat was nearing unbearable; whether from his nervousness or his adaptation of the cold, he wasn't sure. Regardless, something didn't feel right. He had no idea what had happened at the end of the battle, but he knew that the Dark Lord still lived. The tumultuous heap of emotions that ran through his pounding veins was hard to decipher at that thought.

Everyone had thought that the battle that raged would have decided the fate of his world once and for all, but why, if Potter was dead, would the Dark Lord be hiding in this sweltering, guarded pit? It made no sense to Severus, no matter how he looked at it from his overly stimulated mind.

Did that mean Potter still lived? As much as he despised the boy, he knew if he fell then the rest of them would along with him. The only way for Severus to ever be free again was by his death or by the victory of his childhood nemesis' son. If Potter really was dead, then death would be a much welcome reprieve from this life of servitude.

He grimaced at the thought of taking his own life as he tried to avoid the rats that scuttled about below his feet. He would have never imagined the Dark Lord would reside in such filth, which made all the hope Severus felt at Potter's survival swell deep within him. Maybe the snake was hiding.

Besides, no matter how appealing the thought of suicide might be, he had two very important charges to look after; he was more than aware of Draco and Miss Granger's aversion to one another, or more like hatred he amended, but was certain that they could learn to get along. They had no choice in the matter now. Adding the effects of the cottage, along with those of the spell Lucius had so foolishly cast before his death, they would at least not kill each other. He hoped.

He wasn't quite sure why he had the impulse to take them to Albus' cottage, and he slightly regretted dropping the two headstrong teens on a doorstep he'd only visited a handful of times himself, but what was done was done. It had been an impulse decision, and one now he couldn't take back, but he knew if all else failed, they'd be safe. The cottage had protections on it much like a Fidelius Charm, and no amount of Cruciatus could pry their location from his lips or his mind.

They were safe, and that was more than he could have hoped for; why he cared about the fate of the two children was beyond his mental capacities at the moment, but sometimes he allowed himself to be led by instinct, and his instinct had told him to hide the pair. And hidden they would stay until he returned.

If he returned.

The heat was nearly crippling by the time he reached the metal doors to his destination. He took a moment to cast a Cooling Charm and wiped his brow of any lingering perspiration, before pushing his way through. He might be terrified, and usually was in his master's presence, but he would never show it.

His enhanced senses quickly surveyed the room, and instantly found the source of the scorching heat. A furnace larger than he'd ever seen stood blazing on the far side of the room. Watching the flames roar only made the squelching heat intensify, nearly knocking him to his knees from the uncomfortableness of it. He showed no sign of his discomfiture, however, as his eyes studied his master who stood before the furnace, a long table stretched before it.

He took several steps forward, but they faltered as he saw the bloodied heap that lay upon the wooden surface. It was obviously a body that was wrapped and bound in the sheet his master stared at thoughtfully. He couldn't be certain who lie beneath it, but he had to swallow the bile that rose in throat as his sharp mind formed assumptions.

"Severussss." The Dark Lord's voice was quivering with rage, snapping him back to attention.

Gathering himself rapidly, he hadn't taken more than two steps before the expected bout of Cruciatus hit him, knocking him on his back. He had to grit his teeth painfully to keep the scream lodged in his throat, but managed to hold on to his dignity while every nerve in his body set flame to one another.

He felt all the lingering hope leave him as the pain finally receded, his eyes focused on the bloodied sheet; body violently shaking. He didn't need to be told who lie dead before him. He now knew, and as the Dark Lord hit him with the spell again, always hating that he couldn't pull a more vocal reaction from his spy, he bit his tongue to keep from screaming. Severus never screamed.

End Note: I'll give house points to anyone who can CORRECTLY guess the shape of the cottage. (Hint: Think Celtic) It falls in the "Important Shit To Remember" category. You don't have to leave a review if you'd rather send your guess via PM. I'm not one of those people who beg for reviews and hold chapters until I hit a certain number. I'll post when I can regardless if I get any or not, so a PM is fine if you'd rather. I like playing games, though, so it'll be fun to see how many of you catch on to what I did here. (CACKLES)

Also, I do have a Livejournal account that I've started keeping track of all the stuff I have going on if anyone wants to go follow. Fests I'm participating in, story updates, any graphics I will eventually do, and... my more sinister stories. There is some really squicky shit over there, though, so if you go check it out, be warned. It's not stuff I'd normally write myself, but when you lose High Stakes Word Wars and get prompted weirdness, well, you end up with a LJ account like mine. There's a link on my profile page.

Thank you to everyone who is reading and of course to those of you who review. Your thoughts are amazing and very encouraging.