Dear (returning) reader(s),

It has been some time since I first started this FacFiction, back then I could not deliver frequent updates. At some point, I even had to put this on hiatus. However, my stories never leave my mind. I thought about it a lot and through the years, I was able to come up with a richer plot, and all the while I grew more comfortable with the English language (though I am far from perfect, unfortunately).

Warnings for: torture and both physical and mental abuse, dying (and dead) animals and characters, a wicked vocabulary, hetero- and homosexual feelings, sexual tension between people and actual sex (again both hetero- and homosexual).

Disclaimer: Alas, I do not gain any wealth, I am a poor student still. Every Harry Potter character belongs to J.K. Rowling.

Then there is another thing I do feel the need to mention. This is a story in which Bellatrix and Hermione are drawn to each other, but these two are not the only ones that feel (unwanted) sexual tension. Who will those others be? Well, there is only one way to find out, hm?

I hope you will enjoy my story and please consider to let me know what you think about it in the form of a review and personal message because that is how we FanFiction-writers get 'paid'. Your words of praise or constructive critique is our drive to continue writing and share our stories with you.

Yours Sincerely,

NightOfMine.


When one is bound back-to-back to their friends and shoved around like a ball being tossed between several people, it is very difficult to think if there could be a possible way to escape the threatening future. Yet, even if they were not being pushed around, Hermione knew there was no escaping this scene, not with their wands confiscated and so many Snatchers surrounding them. Harry's and her own wandless abilities were not good enough to fight them all. And, the last time she checked, Ron was still a novice with the skill and she did not have a clue about the other captives' abilities.

The Snatchers had taken them to an unfamiliar place, the Muggle-born did not know where they were until the men had mentioned it. Malfoy Manor. This was supposed to be one of Voldemort's hideouts, the Order had always suspected as much.

At the realization of their nearing doom, a shiver went through her body. One of fear.

As they reached the gates of Malfoy Manor, one of the Snatchers tried to open it without success. He grunted in frustration as he used all of his strength to try and pry it open, but the metal did not move even the slightest centimetre. Whilst he spun around with a questioning look on his face, the men were startled by a voice that erupted from the gate.

Hermione studied them in slight astonishment. Have they not been here before? Could that mean that this house is not the headquarters of Voldemort?

The metallic voice asked what they had come here for and Greyback had likely lost his patience - if he ever had any - for he triumphantly roared that they had captured 'Harry fucking Potter'.

The gates opened at once, without the usual creak or squeak which could normally be expected. One would almost question if there were any hinges involved.

Pushed towards the opening, the bound prisoners had little choice but to walk. Ron grumbled, wanted to be stubborn, but a smack on the back of his head kept him silent and obedient for the rest of the walk.

One could smell the dread in the air between the five captives, a scent of cold sweat mixed with angst. Greyback howled with laughter at the sight, soon followed by the other Snatchers. Hermione could imagine how the joyful adrenaline rushed at full speed through their veins. Her thoughts were bitter, from the dark she shot daggers with her eyes at these horrid men.

If only she had been able to protect them... It had all happened way too fast.

Harry, Ron and Hermione had finally been making some progress in finding the next Horcrux when Ron had discovered the fitting password for Potterwatch. All three of them had listened to every word coming from the radio; after all, they had not heard from any of the Weasleys for far too long. Not to forget Lupin, Kingsley and Lee Jordan. Their familiar voices and jokes had eased some of the tension which had seemingly settled permanently in the muscles of each of their shoulders.

For a moment Hermione had even closed her eyes and pretended that their friends had all been there with the Trio in the middle of the woods.

Hermione had not allowed herself to ponder over it, with everything else that was far more important during these dreadful times, but she had missed them dearly. Hearing them had created a painful reminder of their absence. Yet it was bittersweet still, for they lived, their friends would not die that easily.

Harry and Ron had practically glowed with happiness as they listened to the radio; their positivity had skyrocketed at that moment.

Only then had the Muggle-born realized how lonely they had truly been. Without any of their other friends and loved ones around them. Luckily Harry and Hermione had always had each other. Naturally, Ron had been with them as well, though with a period of time wherein he had been absent. And even before that something had not felt right between her and Ronald; and they both knew perfectly well why. Though, perhaps, Hermione was better aware of it than Ron.

If she had not had Harry with her all this time… She would certainly have gone mad from the isolation.

Before the podcast, it had felt as if they had been the only ones fighting against Voldemort, but after hearing from their friends, those illusions had faded.

The Trio had missed a good laugh, and as tension slipped from their minds whilst they listened their guards were let down. With as result that Harry, in all his excitement, had spoken out the name of You-Know-Who; the one name which held a Taboo on it. And in a split-second, before they had been able to evacuate to a different place, they had been surrounded by the Snatchers that now held them captive. Of course, the Trio had tried to fight and flee, but in the end, they had still been captured.

However, before the Snatcher had seen Harry, Hermione had Jinxed him so that his face was now deformed. He had a swollen face as if he was stung by a hundred bees. All in the hope that he would become unrecognizable. And it had worked for some time. Until those horrible men had started to prod them for information, inspecting them closely whilst they did. Alas, Fenrir Greyback had recognized Harry by the now outstretched lightning bolt on his forehead. And after all the other Snatchers had taken their time to see the 'weird shaped lightning bolt' for themselves (some still arguing if it really was Potter), they had brought all the prisoners to the hideout of Lord Voldemort, Malfoy Manor. For they would not bring this catch to any other camp, too suspicious of other Snatchers. Probably with good reasons.

As they walked over the path, they were engulfed by high hedges on either side. Hedges so high that they blocked Hermione's view of the moon, which had already passed the highest point it would reach that night.

The group made their way to the big, haughty house. Even in only the glow of the moon the house looked cold and distant, or did the moonlight merely accentuate these characteristics? Hermione was of the opinion that the house seemed to watch in a disagreeing silence, loathing the fact that 'filth' currently walked on the gravel path towards itself.

The door was opened and a warm light flooded into the darkness of the night. A woman appeared, her silhouette was all which they could see. Even so, her disgust was clearly evident in her posture. Whether the revulsion was for the prisoners or the Snatchers, or mayhap both, was a debatable part of the situation. The woman's whole being was one of haughtiness. Hermione wondered if this was the Lady of the house, Draco's mother.

When Fenrir and the woman started to argue about the bound people Hermione had her answer. This was Narcissa Malfoy and she wanted a confirmation that this really was Harry Potter who they had captured.

Thus, the boy was roughly seized, which caused all the captives to stumble after him, and was put into the stream of light. Lady Malfoy took her time. Minutes went by in which Hermione stood in a very uncomfortable position, with her bowed forwards as her hands were forced to stay high. The rope cut painfully into her wrists. After Narcissa's examination, she led the way into the hallway. Somehow the bound people could walk through the doorpost, with a bit of a difficulty. The door was magically closed after the last Snatcher had entered the hallway.

The portraits too made sure to look as stiff as possible, the disgust clear on their features. All that moved were their eyes. Though one could still see that these paintings were magical.

Hermione saw, as soon as her eyes had adjusted to the light surroundings, that the portraits were divided into two groups.

On the left wall were the deceased family members of the Black family. With an air around them that made it impossible to miss their lurking eyes. The lurking appeared to be coming with a combination of pride, haughtiness and the sickening stiffness. It looked like the family had wanted to live up to their surname because the backgrounds consisted of the most impressive blackish colours the Muggle-born had ever seen. There were actually different sorts of black used in the paintings.

On the opposite side of the hall, the right wall, was where the portraits of the deceased Malfoy family hung. It was obvious that the white-blonde hair Draco had proudly combed backwards all these years in Hogwarts had been in the family for generations. The black backgrounds of these portraits were less impressive than the ones of the Black family tree, but the details in the frames made up for that. From the most impressive woodcarvings to endlessly changing colours - though only colours that complimented the painted one's irises - adorned the frames.

The laughable aspect of these Malfoy paintings was the contrast between their hair and backgrounds. For the dark backgrounds made the hair of the painted persons look like weirdly shaped aureoles. Hermione would have laughed had they not been in their current situation.

The young woman took a deep breath and held it imprisoned in her lungs for a few seconds, then she let it escape slowly through her lips. She wanted to talk to Harry, to discuss possible tactics, but she knew it would not be wise. Instead, she clenched her jaws.

At the end of the hallway was a staircase and before that, on either side, were doors. Despite their current predicament, Hermione wondered where they would lead to.

Narcissa opened the double doors on the left side of the hall. And the prisoners were roughly pushed through them. Once everyone had entered the room the doors were slammed close. Something for which the man in question got a withering glare from both the lady and man of the house.

The captives were spun around, each and every one of them had to be faced and was made to bow their heads to a pair which looked much alike: Draco and Lucius Malfoy. The youngest could almost be described as a younger version of his father if only he had not inherited his mother's eyes and lips. No words were uttered - at least none Hermione could hear - between the Purebloods as Narcissa joined her small family by the fire. She sat down beside her son, but her posture never relaxed. Her body language spoke volumes, she would not allow a single hair on her son's body to be cursed by anyone.

Again, the group of captives was spun around, but this time Fenrir Greyback halted it halfway so that Harry stood with his deformed face directed at the three Malfoys.

While facing the left side of the room, the Muggle-born listened to the whole conversation. Only to be forcefully grasped herself moments later as if she were a trophy. No, not even that. It was as if she was an object, one that was worth nothing.

Her presence further proved Greyback's statement that the boy with the puffy, deformed face was, in fact, Harry Potter. Hermione kept her lips sealed, not a single sound left her throat. And she kept her features neutral as she came face to face with Draco, yet she could not suppress the feeling of surprise from flooding her body when she saw his scared expression. He avoided eye contact as if his life depended upon it. She felt weird as she realized that Draco was just as scared as they - the captives - were. Her suspicions that Voldemort was more than a mere 'bad man' was for the umpteenth time affirmed.

Lucius, on the other hand, was in a gleeful mood, his eyes roamed over all the prisoners. He obviously hoped to find even more evidence which would ensure them that it was indeed Harry Potter who stood in their midst, bound with his hands on his back and unable to escape. Vulnerable and weak.

"But then, that's the Weasley boy!" Lucius Malfoy sounded awfully happy in Hermione's ears. She let her gaze falter, her eyes locked on the dark polished wood underneath their feet.

One of the doors they had come through reopened, someone had been drawn in by the noise of excitement. The Muggle-born noticed it vaguely in the back of her mind. But she hardly cared at this point, for panic took its roots slowly but steadily in her system. Shivers made their way to her spine, they kept her body from regaining control.

Only when her surname was spoken out loud did Hermione realize that time still ticked on. She looked up. Ice shot through her veins and all colour was drained from her face. In front of her stood one of the most feared Muggle-haters alive. The corners of Bellatrix' lips curled upwards into a loathsome grin as she saw the effect her mere presence had on the girl. Her eyes seemed to blaze with all the anger and hate she carried within her.

Meanwhile, Hermione choked on her breath, for her throat felt as if hands had enclosed themselves around it. Hands which tightened with the passing of time ever so slightly. Then she felt a fleeting caress touch her fingers, two fingertips which tried to reach for hers. Their skin was rough and the nails were kept short: Harry. This act alone made the slightest sliver of hope bloom inside the Muggle-born. A whimper was the only sign she could give to her friend. Knowing that everyone else would believe it a sign of weakness, of fear for the Death Eater.

Does Harry know better? His fingertips squeezed hers gently. Yes, he does.

Bellatrix' eyes shone with glee, truly convinced to have the Mudblood scared shitless.

Lucius interjected the momentary bliss. His announcement about having Potter in their midst made Bellatrix back away in surprise so that she was no longer staring at the Muggle-born. What would happen now that this murderer knew that Harry Potter was standing amongst the captives?

The Death Eater only needed a second to drag her left sleeve upwards, to reveal the Dark Mark. She was about to touch the tattoo to summon Voldemort when, yet again, Lucius interjected the process.

His grip on Bellatrix' wrist looked painful. The two Death Eaters began to quarrel about who had the authority to call for their Master. If time had not made sure that these two figures were marked by the past, one would almost say that these were not adults but children fighting about who would get the biggest Chocolate Frog.

The bickering stopped just as suddenly as it had begun, for Bellatrix had seen something that made her stiffen at once.

A loud and distraught "STOP!" let everybody know there was something wrong, disastrously wrong. Even Lucius dared not to touch his own Dark Mark, even though his finger hovered barely a centimetre above it. Bellatrix had her eyes fixed upon something the Trio could not see.

Dread filled Hermione anew, her mind raced through all possible situations, tried to anticipate whatever could happen next.

The Death Eater made her way towards her culprit, whilst she asked them questions. Questions which escalated, all too quickly, in Curses. With a voice that screeched in the chilliest of tones.

Hermione refused to look anywhere near the dark witch; instead, she focused her eyes upon the fire, before which Narcissa and Draco now stood.

It was only when the Lady of the House halted her older sister that Hermione was drawn back to their current situation. The flames had been able to distract her, but only for a very short time.

To her horror, Bellatrix now held the Sword of Gryffindor in her left hand.

The Death Eater stood face to face with her younger sister, both women had angry expressions. A charged silence filled the room, corners and crannies included. Hermione swore that she felt the temperature drop. She glanced from one to the other, unable to look away. What is going on?

In the end, it was Narcissa who gave up on the silent battle with her sister, which did not surprise anyone in the room. Yet as the youngest sister told Greyback to take the prisoners to the cellar, there was bitterness in her voice. And her pride was even further wronged as Bellatrix overruled her once more, "All except... Except for the Mudblood."

A twisted grin found its way onto Bellatrix' lips. Hermione's sliver of hope was crushed by it, her bowels cramped in fear, her knees would have buckled and given away under her if she had not been bound to the others.

The werewolf approved, that much was obvious. Ron, on the other hand, protested loudly; he wanted to trade himself for Hermione. It was hopelessly heroic. For it was clear that the Death Eater had set her mind on the young woman. Bellatrix' disapproval of Ron's behaviour was expressed in the form of her fist. The smack echoed through the room and Ron stumbled backwards against another captive.

Then a silver glint caught Hermione's eyes. Bellatrix had grabbed a knife from somewhere underneath her garments, and she held it comfortably in her hand.

Hermione's brown curls were painfully grabbed the moment she was cut free from the others. She was thrown in the middle of the room and as her body hit the floor she caught her last glimpse of a struggling Harry and Ron before the door was closed. Their yelling became muffled at once.

The Muggle-born silently swore to herself that she would not give the damned woman what she wanted, whatever it was. She clenched her jaws, defiance glowed in her eyes; fear was still in her system, but momentarily overruled by stronger feelings of pride and foolish bravery.

You will never get the truth out of me, Hermione promised to herself again.

Bellatrix was frighteningly quiet. The only sound she made was the heels of her boots that met the stone floor. It did not surprise Hermione that the dark witch acted like this. It always gave the captor a feeling of power when they could tower above their victims and circle around them; it underlined the fact that it was their decision if the victim would live or die.

She tried to steady herself by slowly sitting up, but the Muggle-born stopped halfway. For she realized it was likely that any sign of an independent and defiant mind could trigger bloodlust inside the Death Eater facing her.

Bellatrix suddenly halted in her prowling and with her wand she pointed towards the sword, which now stood propped against the wall. The question was a whisper, one that did not reach Hermione's ears. But she did not need to hear the words spoken to know what was being asked. "How did you get this sword?"

The Muggle-born felt like a deer caught in the headlights of a truck, frozen in fear and basically waiting to be hit. Angst had gotten a steady grip on her, it showed in her features, yet her eyes still held a certain determination. Her jaws were tightly shut. She would not make this easy for her.

Hermione expected Curses to be fired towards her, had her body braced, but they did not come. Something which did not do any good to the Muggle-born's nerves. Since the upcoming doom and foreboding were all she could think of. Yet there came nothing...

Sure, an aura of furious danger oozed from the Death Eater in front of her, but no more than a hiss came from Bellatrix' bared teeth, broken and rotten in all their glory.

It was obvious that the dark witch held no fear of being overpowered by the Muggle-born sitting before her, for she came closer and asked the question again. This time it was no whisper, but no shout either. Just a normally voiced question. Though the only thing that manifested itself insides Hermione's head was her own question. What is going on in Bellatrix' mind?

The first Cruciatus Curse was shot and Hermione crumpled to the floor.

The loudest screams she had ever produced flowed steadily out of her, from the deepest parts of her body. They echoed everywhere. In the room, in her own head... It was as if she were being pierced by white-hot knives whilst every inch of her skin was set on fire. Her skull seemed to tighten around her brain. Or was it her brain which pressed against her skull, swelling up from the overdose of stimuli to her nerve system?

Every passing second grew for Hermione into miserable hours. Filled with a pain so great it should leave one numb, except it did not. It was one of the horrible aspects of the Curse; it disabled your body's automatic survive system, it kept one aware of everything that happened to their body.

Hermione grabbed her head, to try and keep it all together, whilst her body shook in its pain. Her screams never faltered.

Then the Curse was lifted. With a thud, the shivering figure of the Muggle-born slumped on the floor.

Of course, Bellatrix did not let the painless moment last for long. For Hermione's jaw was painfully grabbed, the dark witch's nails dug into her skin. With a damaged conscious Hermione looked the Death Eater in the eyes. She wanted to say something, to hurt Bellatrix as well, yet a mere inaudible mumble came from her lips.

"You don't deserve anything better," dark brown eyes were frighteningly wide, "Now tell me, filth, where did you find the sword?"

Hermione looked away, her body still limb. Her nerve system felt as if she had been electrocuted. The Muggle-born wanted to scream insults at the woman in front of her, to push her away, but the pain in her own body was narcotic. Instead, she kept on repeating to herself that she would never tell the truth. The lie was simplistic and came easily, "I don't know, we just found it."

All of a sudden Bellatrix let go of her face as if burned and turned her back towards the Muggle-born, only to put all her strength in the kick she delivered at Hermione's thigh as she twirled back around. Hermione yelped in pain. "Don't you dare lie to me! Where?!"

Hermione flinched away, a pitiful whimper escaped from between her lips as she wrapped her arms around her head, predicting that there was more pain to come. "Please, I don't know!"

The Unforgivable Curse hit her body again and the screams were ripped out of her lungs once more. It forced her vocal cords in tones they never before had to reach. Bellatrix cackled and screamed insults in a delighted voice.

Pain dragged time into a slow phase, it lasted endlessly and never did the intensity of the Curse lessen.

At some point, Hermione swore that this pain would last forever, that this pain would go on inevitable. That these would be the last breathes she took, the last screams she would vocalize.

Then the Cruciatus Curse was lifted. And she was still very much alive.

A spasm went through her body and her breathing was unstable and ragged. Cold sweat covered her whole body and her sight was blurred. Vaguely Hermione's mind registered an approaching figure. It took her mind a split-second to comprehend that it was Bellatrix who looked down at her.

Suddenly, a heel prodded painfully against Hermione's ribs, as it tried to force its way between her bones. Pleading was the only thing the Muggle-born could do. However, at some point, her voice cracked into sobbing murmurs.

"You filthy girl. Tell me where you found the sword! You are playing with my patience and I can tell you, there is not much left! Tell me!" The shrieks from the Death Eater seemed dangerously close and with every word, the heel was given more strength by its owner. With all her might, Hermione forced words over her lips, but after every plea for mercy Bellatrix' face constricted in even more disgust. "I am not going to ask again! Where did you get this sword? Where?!"

"We found it – we found it -" more pressure, her ribs were about to break, her eyes widened in panic, "PLEASE!"

CRACK!

Screams engulfed the whole room. The Muggle-born was on the verge of losing her conscious when another pain caused her body to twist in every direction. With every move, the burning in her torso got worse. Hermione had to try and stay as still as possible, which was no real option in her current predicament. Screams were supposed to come uncontrollably from her body, but they were cut short because of the piercing pain in her ribcage. Yet they still filled her mind.

Ebony mane swept across the room as the dark witch danced around in it, howling with laughter. The joy, however, was soon gone. Bellatrix stopped and lifted the Curse. And observed the twisting woman before her.

At once, Hermione stiffened, trying to hide her face behind her hands. They were shaking. Her whole body was shaking.

A soft voice spoke, frighteningly sweet and completely in contrast to the person in question. "Filthy, little thing. You are stupid for not telling me the truth... Where did you find the sword?!"

The only responses Bellatrix got from the Muggle-born were more shudders and soft 'I do not know's'.

The woman's patience was now in the minus. She raised her voice enough for it to rebound off the walls, "You are lying, filthy Mudblood, and I know it! You have been inside my vault at Gringotts! Tell the truth, tell the truth!"

Another Crucio was shot and more screams followed.

"What else did you take? What else have you got? Tell me the truth or, I swear, I shall run you through with my knife!" Only when the Curse was lifted did Hermione see the blade of the knife, which blinked dangerously in the light of the fire as it hovered above her face.

A hoarse sound was the first thing to come between the huffs. Breathing had become torture of itself. It was only after several tries that Hermione was able to get the words "found it" roll off her tongue.

A disbelieving sneer came on Bellatrix' lips. She raised her hand in the air and slapped Hermione across the face with such force that the Muggle-born's lower lip cracked. A metallic liquid slowly found its way to her tastebuds, blood.

The shrill voice of the woman above her pierced the silence in the room, "Cissy, would you like some slices of Mudblood, to feed to your poor excuse of a husband?" A low cackle erupted out of Bellatrix.

There was some noise in the back of the room, by the fire, but Hermione did not care to look around. She just laid there. The pain in her body occupied almost all her thoughts. She could barely keep her mind's thought patterns clear enough to complete a whole sentence inside her head.

The dark witch flicked her wand and suddenly, there was something that bound itself around Hermione's wrist. She looked and saw how a now living carpet tried to devour her right arm, beginning with her underarm. Yet another flick of Bellatrix' wand made the carpet stiffen. A nonverbal Stupefy, Hermione thought. More pressure followed, this time on her left wrist. It was Bellatrix who pressed the heel of her boot upon it, likely not caring if she also broke that part in Hermione's body.

Fresh panic engulfed the Muggle-born. The emotion almost felt alien-like to her battered mind and nerve system. The Curses had effectively shattered the natural communication between her brains and body. Her thoughts, on the other hand, where perfectly clear at this very moment. The rush of adrenaline clearly still had its effect.

In this moment of clear thoughts, Hermione tried to think of something to distract the dark witch with. Anything to escape whatever the Death Eater wanted her to be bound for. Yet everything which came to mind was something she was incapable of doing. She tried to wrestle against the things which held her in place but the burning pain directly beside her lungs stopped these feeble attempts at rebellion.

Never had the Muggle-born felt this pathetic. She could not do anything. Desperate wishes invaded her mind; about how she wanted to be with Harry. To be back in the tent, having an argument with Ron about what their next step should be to find the other Horcruxes. Unfortunately, her wishes did not make any difference; Hermione was still in the same room. Still unable to free herself. Still a pathetic Muggle-born. Mudblood.

"Oh, stop crying, filthy Mudblood! I am only going to make you prettier."

The dark witch watched Hermione as she laid beneath her, a shuddering form on the floor, with teary eyes.

A twisted smile settled on Bellatrix' lips, her eyes filled with a hunger for blood. A desire to carve something in her flesh, to see this woman's dirty blood pool out of deep cuts, came to life inside the dark witch.

The Death Eater crouched down. It was now her grip which forced Hermione's arm on the ground. Bellatrix' nails dug once more into flesh.

"How unfortunate," she said in a mocking voice. "It seems that I have to do the carving with my left hand... Not my best hand with a knife... Don't be saddened if I mess it up a little." The maddening cackle made Hermione grow paranoid. The situation made her feel like a puppet; she could not even struggle against Bellatrix painful grip. Not that it would have mattered, the damned Death Eater could end her life here and now. Any of these miserable moments could be Hermione's last.

When the blade made the first contact with Hermione's skin, she choked on the air she inhaled. Screams which should have been powerful and piercing through everyone's soul were now weak, barely loud enough to echo. Still, they engulfed the room in all its glory.

The knife created a different pain than that of the Cruciatus Curse. Hermione had been cut before, but those had only been tiny slices from the pages of a book, loose papers and parchments, whenever she was clumsy with a kitchen knife or when she had fallen.

This, however, was a pain that did not resemble any of those paper cuts or scratches. It were deliberate cuts, made to cause utmost destruction on one spot at a time; with each slice the blade made, it left a throbbing and bleeding wound behind. Her flesh was left open and unprotected. She tried to wrestle her arm out of Bellatrix' grip, but it was to no avail. One could not even call these attempts 'wrestling', for all the young woman did was tensing her muscles. Hermione had grown too weak.

The Death Eater did not even seem to notice; she was hypnotized by the white flesh that turned a red crimson before her very eyes. All because of the wounds she created. The haze in her mind was one of happiness, for she was in power, she had the control of whatever happened next.

Warm, red liquid found its way to the carpet, flowing in a steadily, yet slow way from the fresh cuts.

Pathetic and forlorn. Never had the Muggle-born felt this worthless. In her miserable state, the sobs were to no one's surprise and the tears were almost welcomed with a smile, for she could try and put all her hope in those hateful salty water drops. Perhaps these tears could make her hope to escape and survive disappear, then she could beg to be killed.

Yet Ron's cries kept her aware of the situation she was in; his loud voice came from downstairs, it was a hollowly, muffled sound. The floor and walls blocked his screams for the most part. Despite this, her mind could hold onto his screams, they forbid her to give up. For they made Harry's silence speak volumes to her; it meant he was working on something, he had a plan - or at least created one - to escape. What is Harry doing?

When Bellatrix was done, she sprung to her feet - a combination of panic and rage reared its horrible head again now that she had nothing to entertain herself with. The furniture became the dark witch's second culprit; she kicked and hurled everything within reach around the room. Hermione lay forgotten on the carpet, like a corpse waiting to be covered by a blanket. One could almost believe she was already dead, for her torso barely moved and her eyes stared listlessly at the ceiling.

The woman spun around, her chest heaved up and down as she breathed frantically, then Bellatrix demanded in desperation, "What else did you take, what else?! ANSWER ME! CRUCIO!" And back came the white-hot knives, piercing every centimetre of Hermione's body. Her bones began to protest as well, it felt as if the muscles were slowly ripped off from them.

When the Curse was lifted, silence fell over the room once more. Hermione's inhuman screams only echoed inside her own head. Her mind was total chaos, there was not anything sensible in her train of thoughts. She had completely lost reality. Yet she was able to register the sensation of liquid that flowed from her nostrils. Had her brains taken so much damage that she had a nosebleed?

On her right arm, the carpet had become alive again, with a newfound hunger for her arm. To Hermione's relief, her torturer interrupted, yet again, its proceedings. The Death Eater kicked its beak-shaped form away from the Muggle-born's arm - who embraced herself in a feeble attempt to protect herself from further harm - and produced a Counter Charm to end the carpet's artificial existence.

The tips of Bellatrix' shoes turned towards the shivering figure on the floor. The woman's shadow minimized as she crouched down. Words were whispered, in a voice soft and vacant of any hatred. Questions like 'Where did you find the sword?' or 'Did you take anything else from my vault?' were all that came from the woman's lips. The Muggle-born just laid on the floor, too lost in her pain to even care anymore. Slowly she turned her head to look the Death Eater straight in the eyes from between her arms, though Hermione kept her lips tightly shut. I will take the truth with me to my grave.

Whispers turned steadily into hissed words and Bellatrix took a handful of brown curls. Hermione's head was lifted from the floor, while the woman's other hand snaked around her throat. The Death Eater was on the verge of strangling the young woman.

"How did you get into my vault? Did that dirty little Goblin in the cellar help you?" For a moment, the fingers tightened dangerously around Hermione's throat, and her lungs begged for fresh air immediately, though Bellatrix granted the Muggle-born enough air to enable speech.

"We only met him tonight!"

I need an explanation; and as if she had been prepared all along, Hermione's brains began to plot a lie at once. Even through the disarray of her shattered mind, the Muggle-born could contemplate a fitting tale.

She inhaled as much air as possible to steady her mental state and forced her voice to stop quivering. She was exhausted but the lie came smoothly nonetheless. "We have never been inside your vault..." Panic rose when Bellatrix' fingers tightened again and made the Muggle-born scream the last part of her explanation. "It is not the real sword! It is just a copy, just a copy!"

Bellatrix eyes widened dangerously, "A copy? Oh, a likely story!"

Lucius did, as per usual, disagree with Bellatrix and shouted they should check first, before jumping to conclusions. They had the Goblin in the cellar to verify if the sword was indeed a replica. The man's voice was hopeful and determined. He demanded his son to go and fetch the creature from the cellar; not giving a rat's ass about Bellatrix' opinion.

The dark witch set her murderous eyes upon Lucius. Her control over the situation had been taken from her.

Hermione gasped for air as the Death Eater let go of her throat.

Bellatrix stood up, all the while she still held the Muggle-born's curls tightly in her grip. She even heaved the young woman higher from the ground than was necessary. This on itself was extremely painful for Hermione. Then the Death Eater hissed that there was more pain to come and after that, she threw Hermione onto the floor. Her head hit the carpet, but it did little to soften the fall. The smack was too hard; she was unconscious the moment she hit the ground.

But as if not a second had passed by, the Muggle-born awoke when a horrifying pain settled itself inside her body. It was accompanied by questions asked by Bellatrix, but they were not even directed at her. Why am I being punished?! She tried to voice this desperate question out in her hollow screams, but as her vocal cords had never been abused like this before, there came no question. Just her screams.

The white-hot knives were gone the moment the Death Eater flicked her wand and the Muggle-born was left stirring with spasms on the floor. Her erratic breathing made her feel light-headed, but inhaling too deeply would cause her rib chase to protest. She had no other choice. Broken bones are able to do a lot of damage to organs in general, but broken ribs were a lot more dangerous; one wrong move and she could tear her lung open. Obviously, she wanted to avoid a punctured lung at all costs. It was a miracle that it had not happened yet.

Time slipped through the invisible fingers of Hermione's mind and for the most part, she was not aware of what was happening around her, but at some point, she saw the silhouette of a small creature being questioned and tortured by Bellatrix as well: Griphook.

She did not want to, but yet again screams were dragged out from her lungs as the Cruciatus Curse hit her body. All she could do was twist because of the pain, trying her best to hold everything together. It was getting harder every time the Curse made contact with her body. Hermione was mostly unaware of it, but a trail of blood came from her nose and her left underarm, and her body was littered with bruises and cuts.

Griphook was the reason that the Curse was lifted this time. The Goblin's voice rasped through the room.

Some precious, Curse free minutes went by while Hermione laid on the floor. She tried to think about something happy; images from her past with Harry, Viktor, Luna, Ginny and Ron flew around inside her head. The mental images were vague and far away, her mind could not quite grasp them; yet she knew that she was thinking about them.

The Curse slashed through her mental peacefulness, it forced her to forget about them the very moment it hit her body, it was as if the images had never haunted her mind.

Not once this night had Hermione looked at Bellatrix while her body was in the all-consuming, horrifying pain of the Cruciatus Curse. In a moment of desperation, she opened her eyes whilst her body writhed. She found her torturer's eyes immediately and she made sure the connection never wavered. For she wanted Bellatrix to see the pain she was in, even though the Muggle-born knew that it would not make any difference. The dark witch savoured the moments she got to make others suffer. Even so, there had to be some part of her that was still able to empathise with others... right?

Hermione cursed her own naivety.

At first, Bellatrix' response was a low growl but it steadily grew into one of her maddening cackles. The woman still found pleasure in hurting her, Hermione's action even seemed to spur her on. The Muggle-born felt humiliated, but the twisting pain kept the emotions from truly getting to her, they could not settle within her. Pain which formed a barrier against feelings.

Hermione gave up, she closed her eyes and just gave up.

Bellatrix' interest in her loosened then and the Curse was lifted. She slumped to the ground, her body twitched and spasmed. It was one of the after-effects. Her sight was blurred; the flow of her bloodstream was all that she could hear in her ears. Though Bellatrix' insults and questions for Griphook still ringed in her mind vaguely, as if the dark witch were miles away. Together with the echoes of her own screams they filled and contorted her thoughts wholly.

It felt as if every millimetre of her skin was drawn taut over her bones, it caused a burning sensation. Every cell in her body throbbed in pain and it only grew worse.

Minutes ticked on in which the Death Eater tortured the Goblin mercilessly. And Bellatrix would continue until the creature would finally tell her what she longed to hear. Hermione was not aware of it, but Griphook affirmed her story. He said the sword to be a fake. A gasp was drawn from the Death Eaters in the room. And somehow they believed it. People could be blind and stupid when it meant they could believe something they wanted to.

The pain in her body worsened. Her breathing, shallow and fast, made black spots appear in her sight. The last Hermione was able to decipher from her blurred - and steadily darkening - vision was that Bellatrix touched her Dark Mark. And a looming figure was behind her, probably Lucius, whom she believed made gleeful comments. But her mind could not truly register it anymore.


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