No, no, no, no. Hermione couldn't believe what she just heard. Dolohov's cruel words echoed in her head, but she didn't know that she could really trust them. It was all wrong. Harry couldn't be dead. No, it simply wasn't possible. If he was dead, then everything had been for nothing. Every horrible thing that had happened in her life and his and Ron's for years would've meant absolutely nothing. They would be failures and the world would be utterly fucked. He was supposed to be the Chosen One. Everyone said so. If he couldn't defeat Voldemort, did that mean Voldemort couldn't be defeated?
She tried to shake those traitorous thoughts out of her head, refusing to believe them. Dumbledore's whole plan had been based on a prophecy given to him by a half-insane Sibyll Trewlawney. If Hermione hadn't given Divination much credence before that moment, she wasn't going to start in her moment of desperation. Divination was rubbish. She always thought so. Wasn't she nearly always correct?
Only for so long could she keep the horrible news Dolohov had gleefully given her out of her thoughts. Likely only mere seconds passed before her thoughts threatened to shatter her heart. She stopped herself on the verge of giving in to tap into her reserves of courage and strength. No, it would be just like the sick bastard to lie to her about something so dreadful. No doubt it was fun for him. Was he hoping to see her cry? Because she wouldn't give him the satisfaction. She wiped at her eyes to verify they were still dry.
"You're a liar."
The grin on Dolohov's face was unsettling. He wasn't a man who had cause to smile very often. Likely he only did when he was inflicting pain on some poor soul who didn't really deserve it. What sort of trauma made him into the monster he was? Had he been cruelly and viciously dropped on his head as a small child? She wouldn't have been surprised. There was nothing redeeming about him.
"I never lie. There's no reason to."
The last string of hope she clung to that Harry might still be alive began to fray at an alarming rate. She wasn't prepared to lose all hope. Moving on and staying alive would only get that much harder if she feared all was lost. If he was really dead, what was it all for? Why had she given up her own life? She should've taken Thorfinn's advice and run away with her parents. How much of a difference had her presence really made on the whole damned failed horcrux hunt?
Never in her entire existence had she hated anything more than Dolohov and his fucking smile. If she had her wand she would gladly attack him just to get him to stop. Even the thought of hurting him with her bare hands was tempting. Maybe she could gouge out an eye before he killed her with another one of his painful curses. She felt desperate enough to try even if she suspected she wouldn't even get far enough across the room to touch him before he defended himself against her weak attack.
Another explosion outside shook the entire building. For a moment she worried the shack would come crashing down and kill them both. She supposed there were worse fates than being crushed and if she could take Dolohov out with her, all the better. Even as she worried that the world around them was ending, the arsehole didn't seem concerned.
"What is that?"
Hermione gestured towards the boarded up windows when the shaking stopped. Expecting him to refuse to tell her again, she nearly lost her composure to finally burst into the tears she was holding back when he actually chose to be honest. Maybe it would've been better if he continued to refuse.
"The last bit of resistance to the Dark Lord. A few members of your Order are still alive, but likely not for much longer. We have them surrounded and no one can Disapparate in Hogsmeade."
A heavy exhaustion unlike anything she could recall ever experiencing fell on her shoulders. Ignoring Dolohov, not caring that he was still watching her and waiting for the breakdown he was certain was coming, she climbed back into the empty bed and pulled the blankets over her chilled body. She desired nothing more than for the horrible man to go away to leave her in peace. There was no hope. If all of her allies and friends were defeated, there would be no one to save her from the fate she was certain she would suffer.
Unfortunately, yet not surprisingly, Dolohov found taunting her to be much more fun than leaving her alone. He moved across the room to come around to her side of the bed. Leaning down so his face was only a few centimeters from hers, he continued in his torture. Why the need to kick her when she was down? Had he not done enough damage for one lifetime?
"The overgrown child was summoned away to deal with the last of your friends. Maybe we will both get lucky and a curse will get rid of him for us. Then you wouldn't have to pretend to enjoy the feel of his half-troll hands on your body."
Annoyed and not wanting to hear another syllable come out of his mouth, Hermione turned over to her other side. Leaving herself even more vulnerable to him wasn't the best decision, but she was too far gone to care. Let him do what he wished. He only laughed and lowered his head close enough to her ear to whisper his vile words.
"I have plans for you. Once he's out of the way and no longer a concern, I'll be free to do what I want."
Though she knew she should be afraid with his threats, she was only annoyed.
"Just go ahead and kill me, Dolohov. I don't care."
His chuckles sent a chill up her spine. It was a horrible sound she wanted to never hear again.
"My plans are a little more complicated than that. Death will surely come but not soon enough for your liking."
Satisfied that his taunts had hit their mark, Dolohov chose to leave her alone with her thoughts again. She didn't know what to think or do. Was there anything she could do? Other than just sit around and wait to die? The tiny part of her that was still naïve and trusting hoped that he only told her lies, but logically she knew he was truthful. He had nothing to lose. Just like he said, he had no reason to lie.
What happened to Kingsley? Even just thinking about him made her stomach twist into painful knots. All of her plans for escape were fixated on him being able to get her out of the Shrieking Shack. If he was amongst the dead, a very real possibility, she had no other hope. Snape might claim that he was on the right side, but she didn't trust him. Not really. He would leave her to her fate if he had no other choice. She couldn't even blame him for it really. In the hell that their world had become, saving one's one arse at the expense of others wasn't a sin.
Somehow she managed to fall asleep. Maybe it was just her body shutting itself down because she didn't know how to function. There were no more explosions to wake her up again. She descended into a deep, dark empty sleep where there were thankfully no problems to worry about. Was that what death was like? Perhaps she shouldn't fear it so much.
The sound of the door opening finally woke her up several hours later. Every cell in her body felt numb. Hermione wasn't sure if she should be afraid or just welcome the ending that was likely to come next. It would only be a matter of time before Dolohov returned to make good on his promises. She had no doubt he was telling the truth about that.
When she dared to look up, she watched Draco enter the bedroom with another basket. He seemed frightened of her presence, unable to meet her eyes or even glance in her direction. The very moment he set the basket down on the table, he started for the door.
Even though it was evident he didn't want to, he stopped. Hermione sat up in the bed. Of her three captives, Draco was the one who would be most likely to let her go on account of his conscience. How she figured out the cretin was in possession of one of those, she wasn't sure, but she knew he did. Desperate for forgiveness for the horrible actions he'd committed, he was the one she thought she could manipulate the fastest.
"Please don't leave me alone. I… I don't want to be alone."
The pleading note in her tone wasn't entirely for show. She really couldn't bear the thought of being by herself with her horrible thoughts any longer. It was too awful. Sleep had only been a temporary escape. At some point and likely quite soon, she would have to come to terms with the truth. Delaying it was her only option.
When he turned around, Draco still wouldn't look her in the eye. What was he afraid he would see there? Disgusted, she had to push all of her real feelings aside. If she frightened him away she wouldn't get the information she desired. He had his purposes even if she could barely stand to look at his face.
"Is it true then about Harry?"
Draco appeared as if he was on the verge of getting sick. It was no wonder he had been in such a rush to leave the room if he couldn't bear to face up to the questions she was going to ask. He nodded, taking with him the last shred of hope that it was just one of Dolohov's sick lies. Hermione knew it had been true, but having confirmation made it so much worse. A heavy pressure on her chest threatened the last of her resolve. She would not break down. Not yet. Not until she was alone. The pity in the horrible boy's eyes was too much.
"What about Ron?"
It should've been a simple question, one even that he expected. Why did he turn his head away and look at the floor? He didn't want to tell her the truth. It must have been worse than she realized. She expected Ron to be dead. There was no doubt in her mind that if Harry was dead, Ron would be too. Just like she would be dead if she was still there with them. Trying shake off that it was all her fault threatened to choke her breathe out of her lungs. They wasted too much time looking for her when they should've just moved on. As soon as she was captured by the three fucking Death Eaters, she knew her best friends weren't just going to let her disappearance go. No, they would try to be the heroes, try to find where she had gone to save the damsel in distress. Fucking Gryffindors. They had a mission and it wasn't to save her. She knew she would go mad if she didn't find out what happened. Draco had to answer.
"Draco, tell me what happened to Ron."
Again he looked as if he was in danger of vomiting all over the floor. She didn't care. A little bit of sick wasn't going to hurt either of them. It was nothing compared to what happened to Ron. Just as she was afraid she would have to claw the truth out of him at the same time as she clawed his eyes out, the wizard cleared his throat.
"The Dark Lord wanted to make an example out of him. He…"
When he paused again, Hermione got out of bed and moved towards him. She didn't care that she must have looked frightening and unhinged. The closer she got to him, the wider his eyes grew. There was real fear in him. It made her angry. How could he be afraid? He had no right. Nearly able to touch him, Draco took a step back. She was on the verge of losing her patience.
With a heavy, defeated sigh, Draco dropped his eyes back to the floor. Why couldn't he look at her? How horrible could it possibly be?
"The Dark Lord put an impediment jinx on him and then…"
Despite having gone many, many hours without eating, Hermione feared she was about to be the one sick. There was no reason to cast that jinx for an innocent reason. Impedimenta didn't prevent anyone from being able to feel what was done to them, only to keep them from running. If Voldemort used it on Ron, he wanted him to feel it all.
"He… his snake… ate him."
Nothing could've prepared Hermione for what she heard. No, it was too cruel, too sick. It wasn't real. It couldn't be. Everything was just one big horrible nightmare. A death like that was… No, she couldn't bear to contemplate what it must have been like. It was all her fault. All of it. They wouldn't be dead if she hadn't been foolish enough to get caught. And if those horrible men hadn't kidnapped her and hidden her away, they wouldn't have wasted so much time looking for her.
With a guttural scream that came out of nowhere, Hermione grabbed the basket of food left on the table and smashed it into Draco's face with all of her might. It was heavy, but she didn't have a problem using it as the only weapon she had. Draco's eyes had been so focused on the floor he didn't realize what she was doing until it was far too late. The force of the attack knocked him back into the door. Food and plates crashed all over the floor when she dropped the basket. Not that she cared.
When Draco was able to stand back up to his full height, she didn't miss the deep gash above his left eye. Blood poured out of the wound. Perhaps afraid she would attack him again, he ran out of the room. The door shut behind him with a heavy slam, reminding her how hopeless and trapped she was. A scream came bursting out of her louder and deeper than any she had ever had before. It seemed to take all of the energy she possessed out of her body. She collapsed onto the floor in front of the fireplace, numb once more.
Strong hands carefully lifted her off of the hard floor. Hermione hadn't been aware she had fallen asleep. Maybe she hadn't. She couldn't remember anything that happened once she screamed. Nor did she know how long she was stuck on the floor. Long enough that her entire body felt stiff and cold. She didn't care. What did it matter if she was uncomfortable? She was still alive.
Only when she was carefully placed on top of the bed did she fully register it was Thorfinn who held her. Of course it was. He was the only one who would show her any bit of tenderness and care. Heavy blankets were pulled up over her body. A pleasant warmth spread from her chest to the rest of her freezing limbs with the application of a simple warming charm. She knew she must have been on the floor for hours. One of the hands brushed her hair away from her face, a gesture that might have been appreciated any other time. All she felt was disgust, anger of an intensity she couldn't describe.
She opened her eyes to watch the blond wizard clean up the food mess she made with his wand. Seeing some of Draco's blood on the floor and smeared on the door should've made her feel slightly better, but it didn't. Thorfinn didn't ask questions about what happened. Either he already saw the damage to his comrade's face or he was intelligent enough to deduce what happened when it was clear she was unharmed. He looked exhausted in every part of his being, but unhurt. She supposed she should be thankful for that small mercy otherwise Dolohov would be there to make her wish she was dead.
"Why didn't you tell me?"
Her voice sounded hoarse and strange in her ears. The scream took a lot out of her, more than she realized. Thorfinn didn't know how to answer what should have been a simple question. He just sighed and continued to clean up the mess. It was maddening. Did he think he was protecting her? Or did he care about her so little?
No, she knew at once that wasn't the reason. The man's fatal flaw was that he cared too much. She wasn't sure when it happened, but she became his weakness. Maybe it was only mild concern that brought him to her parents' back garden that summer to warn her to run away, but sometime between his unexpected visits and that moment in the present, he grew to care about her far more than he should have considering they were on different sides of the same war. Was it any wonder she was able to draw promises out of him that he would do whatever was necessary to keep her out of Dolohov's clutches?
Still unwilling to speak, Thorfinn disappeared into the bathroom. As the door shut behind him, a rage that had been simmering underneath the surface of her skin began to heat up. He was a coward and she hated him. She wasn't sure that she could pretend to like him for another moment. A large part of her would rather scoop his eyes out with one of the spoons she'd knocked to the floor than let him touch her ever again.
Hiding in the toilet was only ever going to be a temporary solution to his predicament. Likely he just needed a few minutes to compose himself, maybe think up an answer to her question that wasn't complete rubbish. She didn't expect much out of him. When he stepped back out into the bedroom, a nearly overpowering sense of pure hatred fell all over her that she wasn't she would be able to effectively hide. Her charade might have to finally come to an end.
His odd behavior from the night before suddenly made perfect sense. Unsure how to tell her such devastating and horrific news, he had been tender. None of their previous kisses had been anything close to similar to the kiss he placed on her forehead. That felt far more intimate than anything else they had done since being reconnected in her personal prison. It told her that his feelings for her were real. He hadn't been playing a part to survive in their fucked up, dangerous world. Knowing that there was a part of him that possibly even believed he loved her only made her even more angry. How dare he? He had no right.
"You should've turned me over to your precious Dark Lord the night you found me."
Horrified by the thought she presented, Thorfinn couldn't hide the expression on his face. Or perhaps he was bothered by the fury in her voice when she spoke. She knew she didn't sound like herself. She didn't feel like herself. Damn him if he couldn't be strong enough to hear the truth. Every word she said, she meant.
"I'd probably be dead by now, not living in constant fear that Dolohov will finally get his wish."
His blue eyes flashed with his own terrifying anger. After relying on him to be the one to save her since her ordeal began and despite how intimate she had allowed their interactions to be, it had been easy to forget he was a monster in his own right. There was no question that if they were enemies, he wouldn't have a problem murdering her in a thousand different painful manners. Only her manipulation of his feelings and his animalistic primal urges had kept her alive so far.
"What did he say to you?"
"The same thing he always says. He's going to make me wish I was dead. Well, he's already gotten his wish. I do."
Nothing but raw honesty behind her words, she had never been so serious in her entire short life. Death had to be preferable to the deep hole she felt in her chest, to the fear she couldn't describe in adequate words, to the uncertainty of her next breath. Never one to give in to such dark thoughts before, she couldn't stop herself.
Thorfinn didn't want to imagine her dead. Just the way his anger melted away to be replaced with a sick sort of sadness further confirmed her suspicion that he believed he had fallen in love with her. He stepped closer to the bed. Close enough to touch her hair, she felt his fingertips on her curls. The thought of letting him touch her again threatened to make her violently ill. Maybe later she could entertain the thought, but right then she didn't care if he turned fully against her.
Her words were cut off with a deep cough she felt right down to her lungs. While they had been speaking, a thick black smoke had been filling up the room. She glanced at the door in the middle of her fit. It was coming from the keyhole. Was it Snape again? Or was Dolohov tired of waiting? She discovered she didn't care which option it was.
Although he was coughing just as much as she was, Thorfinn had his wand out of his pocket in seconds. He was prepared to do battle regardless of foe. Pushing through the black smoke, he was only a step or two from the door when it exploded into a shower of splinters. The force of the blast knocked the wizard's massive body backwards to the floor. A loud thunk where his head hit the hardwood floor sounded abnormally loud in the small room. Just to be safe that he was really down, a red stunner came flying from the doorway to strike him right in the chest.
Only then did Hermione look up to see Professor Snape standing in the doorway. A flicker of hope dared to enter her chest. Was she saved? She had been afraid to trust that her former professor would actually be able to follow through on some plan to save her from her captivity. Or was it all an elaborate plot for him to take her to the Dark Lord himself for his own reward? With Harry dead, he might have seen her as a chance to earn a little more power or safety from his master.
"Do not move, Miss Granger. Stay right where you are on the bed."
She didn't have time to even ask what was happening before the wizard shouted 'Now' down the corridor to someone she couldn't see. Afraid that she was about to be captured by a group of Death Eaters who weren't foolish enough to fall in love with her, she backed up on the bed with her back against the headboard in an instinctive move to seem as small as possible. An explosion ripped through the bedroom from the floor just in front of the fireplace. As splinters and dust fell over every surface, she summoned up enough courage to crawl to the end of the bed.
There was a massive hole in the floor large enough that she could see the room below on the ground floor. A familiar smile appeared in her vision leaving no question who was responsible for the destruction.
"Ready to go for a ride on my broomstick, Little Witch?"