Story Summary:
Lucius abducts Hermione. Slytherin versus Gryffindor - Pureblood versus Muggleborn - the old order versus the new. Two opposites, one room, no way out... no holds barred.

Chapter 15 - Knowledge

Chapter Summary:
Lucius abducts Hermione.
Author's Note:
Welcome to new readers who have found this since the last update, and thank you to everyone who has kept my mind - if not my fingers - on

Author's Notes: Welcome to new readers who have found this since the last update, and thank you to everyone who has kept my mind – if not my fingers – on Invictus over the last few months, and especially to Hijja for your invaluable beta-reading services – I promise to return the favour soon.


~ Invictus ~
by Chthonia

Part 15: Knowledge

I jerk awake, my eyes frantically trying to adjust to the non-existent light.

Stupid. I know I can't see anything down here! It's my ears I need to rely on now.

I hold my breath. The room is breathing.

He's here. And it's still dark.

The last time he came in the dark...

No. Not again.

I slowly shift my head and lie still, breathing steadily, pretending to be asleep like I used to do when Mum tried to catch me staying up to read. Pretending that he might leave me alone if I ignore him.

Because if he doesn't...

He can make me do anything he likes, he proved that with his bloody Imperius demonstration. He can make me want to do anything he likes.

And it's still dark.

But it doesn't necessarily mean he hasn't brought Malfoy. There are spells that need to be done in the dark...

There's a creak. The mattress dips.

Go away!

But he's sitting on the bed.

Go away go away goaway

He puts his hand on my back.

I roll away, wide-eyed, and scramble to the head of the bed. I sit with my back against the wall and my knees drawn up to my chest.

He chuckles. "Oh, so you are awake, then. Please don't insult me again by presuming I can't tell the difference."

The bed creaks again.

Don't. Don't come near me.

"Come here, Hermione. I have something to show you."


"Perhaps you should put on the light, then," I say.

"Don't be like that. You'll enjoy it."

Or you'll make me enjoy it, I suppose.

Because if he can make me want to cut my arm open, I suppose he can make me want any-


"Don't try my patience, Mudblood. I have a task for you. You'll find it interesting. You should be grateful."

Keep talking.

"You're... so you're going to teach Malfoy – I mean Draco-"

I can hear the smirk in his voice as he cuts in. "Master Draco to you."

No. Sodding. Way.

And what can I say, anyhow? Are you really depraved enough to teach your son... He probably wouldn't even see that as an insult.

"And since you're not asking: No. He's too... young."

"And I'm not?"

"Not any more." His tone sharpens. "Now get up."

I slide quickly across the bed, half expecting him to... but he doesn't.

I stand up. The bed creaks again as he stands up behind me. His fingers brush the back of my neck, and curl over my shoulder.

Don't touch me!

But he's not moving his hand. He pushes me forwards and guides me across the room.

What the hell is he playing at?

At least he seems to be wearing gloves this time.

There's a scrape of wood against stone. "Do sit down," he says.

I lower myself onto the chair, bumping my leg against the desk in the dark.

Now what?

And now he does move his hand. It slides from my shoulder down along my arm. It takes hold of my wrist. I dig the nails of my other hand into my leg.

Leave me alone!

He pulls my hand forwards, and places it on... Something flat. Leather.

There's a rustle as he bends down behind me. I can feel his breath on my ear.

I tilt my head away.

He speaks, one word: "Lumos."

I flinch.

"Now, read," he says.

I look at the book under my hand. I look at him.

He raises an eyebrow. "Well, what did you think I wanted?"

I turn look down, hoping to God that my embarrassment doesn't show on my face. Bastard.

But at least he didn't want...

My robe is gaping open where Malfoy made me cut it yesterday. Entirely too open, especially given where he's standing. I hold it closed with my left hand, and turn my attention to the book.

It's a slim volume, with black covers embossed with colourless letters:

The Black Book of Binding

As I look at them, there's a prickle up my spine.

"Open it." His fingers tighten on my shoulder.

I try to ignore them.

The first page of the book is blank.

On the second page, the title is inscribed in ornate lettering. Beneath that is a quilled dedication:

For Valerius

In the unwarranted hope that you decide to
make proper use of that brain one day.

P. N.

Another heirloom, by the looks of it – handing down books like this must save them a fortune on school textbooks. Though I suspect this particular book has never been anywhere near a Hogwarts' booklist.

I finger the edge of the page. Something in me doesn't want to turn it.

"You have a question, Mudblood? Or is 'Read' not a clear enough instruction for you?"

I don't want to turn the page.

"Who's Valerius?"

Well, he did ask if I had a question...

"My grandfather. One of the sharpest intellects ever to have left Hogwarts unsullied. The Blacks don't pass on their family secrets to just anyone, you know."

The Blacks?

Oh... the title of the book.

"They wrote it?" I ask, to put off reading it.

"Actually, it was primarily the work of Phineas himself, so I'm told, not that he ever admitted as much in public. Very prudent of him, given that he was manoeuvring to become Headmaster at the time."

I'm not sure if he's expecting me to ask about Phineas Nigellus so he can taunt me for my ignorance, or if he's just assuming I'll know. And I do know, of course – I didn't spend hours poring over Hogwarts: A History for nothing, and Sirius filled me in on the rest of the story. House-elves aren't the only things sanitised out of official records.

I rub my left wrist. That's sanitised too, the smooth skin hiding what happened yesterday, leaving only the memory hidden beneath the surface. There should be something more tangible...

He even made me clean the blood off the floor. Erasing the evidence... God. This room is so stark, so cold. What else has it witnessed and forgotten?

That's not a good thing to think about.

It looks as if I got all the blood, anyhow, so at least he can't have a go at me for that. As if he couldn't have just made it vanish with a wandflick.

The Black book lies in front of me as if it has a presence of its own, waiting...

Lucius Malfoy's hand is still on my shoulder.

What's he playing at now? Is he setting up another twisted lesson for the ferret? But what?

If you want to know that, you'd better look at the book, hadn't you?

I glance over at the bathroom. The door is open. I half expected Malfoy to be hiding there, listening, but it looks as if we really are alone. I'm not sure if that's a good sign or a bad one.

Unless they've got an Invisibility Cloak. Which isn't all that unlikely, considering.

But he never put his hand on me like this in front of Malfoy.

Still... it's not a comfortable thought. I look around the room more carefully. As if I'd be able to tell. Stupid.

"Missing something?" he asks.

I look up at him, but his expression tells me nothing. "No. Should I be?"

"Or someone, perhaps?"

I say nothing. His eyes narrow.

"Answer me, Hermione. Would you have preferred me to bring my son with me today?"

I shrug. "I thought it didn't matter what I think."

"It matters whether you answer my questions. You should know that by now."

"Yes and no, then." I wouldn't care if I never saw that pasty-faced coward again. And I certainly don't want to be his lab rabbit. But when he's around, his father is... different. Less focused on me, I suppose.

"Ah. Well, I'm sorry to say that he's rather less equivocal than you about the matter. But perhaps I'll bring him back to practise the third Unforgivable, hmm?"

I look down. He slides his hand from my shoulder to catch my chin and tilt it towards him. I clamp down on the urge to pull away.

"Would you like that?" he murmurs.

"Would you?"

He frowns, and then he laughs. "Ah, Hermione. Draco really isn't ready to appreciate you."

He lets go. There's something in his smile that I really don't want to see, but it's a challenge I refuse to look away from.

His mouth turns down. "But you're wasting my time, little one. I've told you about that before."

I look away, the cold clammy hand of fear fingering my spine. The warm unyielding hand that is the cause of it returns to my shoulder.

I turn the next page of the book. Blank. And then a contents page, written in a sinuous script with flourishes that dangle like tendrils of Devils' Snare.

It would help if I knew what I'm supposed to be looking for.

"Why do you want me to read this?" I ask.

"Why do you ask stupid questions when I've told you to read?"

God, he's infuriating. I turn to the first chapter.

And freeze as his hand moves closer to my neck

What the hell is he playing at?

Trying to distract me, that's what. So he can taunt me for not paying attention.

How can I pay attention when he's...

I shove those words out of my mind and concentrate on the words on the page.

It's actually... surprisingly interesting. I was expecting gruesome descriptions like the pictures in Moste Potente Potions, but the first page wouldn't look out of place in any standard Defence Against the Dark Arts textbook – well, any DADA textbook set by a teacher actually capable of teaching the subject. It's just an overview of different types of Binding magic: simple rope-conjuring spells; the Permanent Sticking Charm that keeps Sirius' Mum in her screeching spot at Grimmauld Place; the Leg-Locker Curse and the variants of Petrificus; Love Potions and other uses of dragon's blood...

His hand shifts to where my shoulder meets my neck. It's irritating. I try to brush it away, almost before I realise what I'm doing.

"Don't mind me, little one," he drawls. "Concentrate on what you're doing."

That's exactly what I was trying to do before he distracted me! Honestly – can't he see I'm trying to read?

The page pulls me back. There's a complicated passage about shifting the body's energy fields – I suppose that's what he used to stick me to the wall – and... And something about emotions, which reminds me of what he made me read about manipulating Hagalaz Vectors.

I wonder if there's anything in here about that potion? Anything that could be used to counter its effects?

Not that I'd be able to do anything about it, locked away down here.

Still... if only I could work it out!

But the next page starts off with the principles behind the Protean Charm. Well, this chapter is only an overview, after all. There's a whole book here waiting to be discovered.

His fingers are warm on my neck now.

Sod him. Let him play his stupid games. I've got better things to think about.

I turn back to the book.

It's describing the Protean Charm's theoretical application to Binding spells.

Theoretical? Well, it is an old book. Or was Phineas Nigellus hiding something?

And there's more of a link than I thought, then. I thought it was just... coincidence, when I was working on the coins for the DA. That's actually a bit creepy.

I turn another page.


"Mmm?" I scan down the page. Part of me doesn't want to read any more, but I have to know.

One of his fingers strokes my throat, leaving my skin tingling in its wake.

I wish he'd leave me alone!

The next page is illustrated with diagrams and writhing pictures. I look at them closely. Part of me feels that I shouldn't be so... interested in how Marking techniques progressed from a raw brand to a crude implant to the magical bonding of servants, but it's fascinating.

There's something missing though. I can't quite see what it is, but there's something about this account that feels... incomplete. I wish I could figure out what it was. I want to know. I need to know.

I flip back to the contents page. It's further back than I thought. I haven't really read twenty pages of this already, have I?

Marking is covered in Chapter Thirteen, just after the chapter on House-Elf Enslavement – it looks like the author was more honest about that issue than any wizard I've ever met. Chapter Thirteen first, though...


His hand pushes up under my chin, forcing my head back. My fingers cling to the page, but all I can see is him, the frown on his lips, the crease on his forehead, his granite eyes boring down into mine.

I turn the pages of the book. Why won't he let me look at it?

"Do you mind?" I say, in my best shush-we're-in-the-library voice. "I'm trying to read!"

"Close the book."

"But... I thought you said you wanted me to-"

"I said, close the book!"

I do, my hand jumping to obey almost of its own accord.

I'm... shaking. I'm not sure why.

Did I really tell him not to bother me? What came over me?

"Stand up."

He releases my head and steps back. I look down at the book, my fingers still trailing over the cover.

Why did he stop me? I want to read Chapter Thirteen!

But I don't. Not really.

I shudder. And I tear my hand from the book and shove back the chair and I stand and take four determined steps away from the desk.

I can't believe I let myself get trapped like that, and in front of him, too. I know what magical books can do. If he hadn't been there, if he hadn't been touching me...


And now he's right behind me. I hold my robe closed with both hands.

His hand hovers over my shoulder – I see it from the corner of my eye. He lets it drop to his side.

"I hope," he says, "that you have no further objections to the precautions I chose to take, especially as you took none yourself. Foolish child! What did you expect from a Book of Binding?"

That's not fair. He told me to read it!

And how dare he call me a child?

"So what was it, Hermione? Curiosity? Vengeance? Determination to right wrongs?"

"I... I just wanted to know what it said! Can't I just-"

I bite my lip.

"Curiosity, then. Interesting... But then, it was curiosity that brought you to me, wasn't it?"

Two fingers brush the side of my neck. I glare at the wall.

All right, so he touched me before to stop the book sucking me in completely. But he's got no reason to touch me now.

"And has your curiosity been satisfied, little one?"

I don't know what to say. I'm... I'm not entirely sure whether he's referring to the book or to... to something else. His words are a web tightening around me.

"Tell me," he says.

I say nothing.

He sighs.

"Why are you making this so complicated?" he says. "You're a natural student, Hermione. You want to learn. And I believe we established yesterday how very much you want to please me."


"You already know the Protean Charm," he continues. "And you've made a very... interesting start on the application of Hagalaz vectors, primitive as your understanding of Thanatonic theory is."

Flattery will get you absolutely bloody nowhere.

I grit my teeth at the feel of his fingers on my hair. He pulls the brown curls back from my face.

"Talk to me, Hermione."




"I don't know what you want."

"I want to know what you think, little one. And you will tell me. You've nothing else to do down here except mull over whatever little problem I leave you to consider. And we both know how very responsive you are to Veritaserum, even if you had no other incentive to be... co-operative."

I don't believe this.

"You want my help with a Dark spell?"

"No," he snaps. "I don't need your help with anything, Mudblood. Let's just say that I'm curious about your... unique perspective on a few matters of minor interest."

And his gloved finger traces a line from my right temple down to my neck.

It feels like a filthy, slimy, slug trail. I squeeze the folds of fabric in my hands.

He's just trying to freak you out.

Yeah, and he's doing a damn good job of it!

"I don't have a perspective on Dark Magic," I say. "I don't understand it."

"Ah, but you will." His fingers curl onto my throat. "You wouldn't turn your back on an opportunity to further your knowledge. You know that as well as I do."


But if I want to fight it, surely it would be better to learn-


Dark magic is evil, it feeds on you, it twists you. Casting Cruciatus at him taught me more about that than I ever wanted to know.

"No, Mr Malfoy," I say, holding myself rigid, upright, ignoring the warmth of his hand, the warmth of his body not-quite-touching mine. "I couldn't learn about that. My mind doesn't work that way."

He snorts. "Your mind isn't working at all. Every time you open your mouth you make it abundantly obvious that you don't think like a proper wizard. And that, Hermione, is precisely the point."

So... what? He wants to change the way I think? To corrupt me, to make me work for him, then parade me in front of Professor Dumbledore and all my friends?

No way.

But didn't he establish yesterday how very much he can make you want to please him?


"You're just afraid, aren't you?" he says. "I'm surprised to see a Gryffindor stopped by such a little thing as fear."

Of course I'm afraid! You're not going to manipulate me that way.

"There's no shame in being afraid of things that are dangerous," I say.

He laughs. "Very sensible, Hermione. Such an attitude is almost worthy of Slytherin. But you're wrong, you know. It's not Dark magic that's dangerous."

One of his fingers strokes my throat.

Don't touch me!

"Of course it's dangerous! It's evil and I want nothing to do with it!"

He sucks in his breath and pulls his hand away. He takes two steps away, turns, and then his boots click back and forth behind me.

"And you, Mudblood, are an arrogant, ignorant, hypocritical little fool! You think you're so virtuous – but really you're afraid of having your virtue tested! That's why you pretend to treat the Dark Arts with contempt!"

Stupid, Hermione! Why did you provoke him like that?

Because he was provoking me! Because of the way his fingers-

Don't think about that!

He stops pacing. I stand very still.

"So, Hermione," he says softly. "Let's discuss that, shall we? What would you do if I taught you how to cast Avada Kedavra?"

I'd cast it on you, you evil piece of scum...

He runs his right thumb slowly along my jawbone.

Don't touch me!

"Would you want to kill me, Hermione?"

As if I'm stupid enough to answer that!

He laughs. "You're not denying it, little one – would you really risk a lifetime in Azkaban for my sake? I'm touched."

They only send you to Azkaban for using it on human beings...

"So you don't want to talk about it?" he says. "Very well... Let's assume you would. And you would think yourself justified, wouldn't you? You would tell yourself that I deserved it, that you were putting the world to rights..."

No. I am not going to get drawn into this.

"But that would only be the start, wouldn't it? So many wrongs that could be righted with the simple application of a little magic... And you're so very sure about the difference between right and wrong, aren't you?"

I'm shaking my head, I realise. He's still talking, relentless. I don't want to listen. He's evil. He twists everything. Nothing he says means anything.

"No, Hermione? Well, it's fortunate that you've never learned how, isn't it? It's so much easier to remain in ignorance, so much easier to convince yourself of your own integrity when you've never given yourself the opportunity to find out the truth."

No. You're wrong, you're wrong.

He trails a finger down my right cheek. "You're not afraid of the Dark Arts. You're afraid of your own weakness. Your own power. That's what Dumbledore really wants to teach: not to rise above the mediocrity he so prizes."


He laughs again, a quiet laugh that surrounds me like a blanket of cold black fog. "You're not denying it, Hermione." I jerk my head away as he touches my ear. "But you are listening, aren't you? Wouldn't you like to prove me wrong?"

You ARE wrong. I don't need to prove anything!

His finger moves very lightly over my skin, from my ear around the back of my jaw, and down and to the right.

I shiver despite myself.

Make him stop!


"But you're afraid to try, aren't you?" he goes on. "It's so much easier to label me 'evil' than to acknowledge that I've chosen to take a risk that you're too cowardly to face, that I've had the courage to challenge myself in a way that you'll never dare to do."

And his hand is resting on my shoulder now, his thumb is stroking over my collarbone and I can't stand it. It's all lies, lies and I don't want to hear any more. He's a coward, a hypocrite, and there are other fears to face besides the one he's talking about.

Like him. Like the way he keeps touching me. Like his right hand, heavy on my right shoulder.

So I touch it. I grab for his wrist with my left hand, just above his glove.

He flinches, I feel it. As if he's been hit by an electric shock.

He lets go. I don't. He pulls his hand back and I twirl round to follow it.

He's staring at me, nostrils flared. His lip curls.

"What do you think you're doing?"

I swallow. "Why are you afraid to be touched?"

There's a long second of icy silence. Then it shatters as he twists his wrist from my grasp and pushes me back against the wall.

"And what," he snarls, "makes you think I'm afraid?"

I look away from him, my right cheek pressed against the stone.

What have I done?

It had to be said.

No it bloody well didn't!

He turns my head back towards him with two unrelenting fingers hooked under my chin.

"I want an answer to that, Hermione." His voice is very quiet, like a sharp knife sliding into a rabbit's throat.


"Hmm?" He tilts my chin up further, pushing my head back against the wall.

I can't think of anything to say but the truth.

"If I touch you, you... you're angry." I look past him, avoiding his gaze. "And you don't touch me, not unless you're wearing gloves, or it's dark, or, or..."

Or you're behind me. Where you don't have to look...

There's a long pause. His lips twitch. He raises an eyebrow.

"Well, well, well. What an interesting hypothesis. Shall we put it to the test?"

I feel sick.

Why couldn't you keep your mouth shut?

But the way he was touching me!

And this is better?

He releases my chin and closes his hand over my right hand, which is still holding my robe where the randy little ferret made me cut it.

He smiles at me, sickeningly. "So. I think we can dispense with the false modesty, don't you?"

I don't resist as he plucks my hand away. I don't resist as he lifts it above my head and holds it against the stone. I don't resist as he lifts up my other hand to join it and holds both of them there in his left hand. I feel numb.

"So, Hermione," he says. "Do you prefer it like this?"

I... I can't speak. I shake my head a fraction.

"No," he drawls, "I can't say I do, either. But you did insist, you see."

He traces the scar on the left side of my face, one finger sliding lightly over my skin. My cheeks are burning. I look away, to the right. I look down.

The fabric on one side of the tear has slid down a little, folding in on itself. But the other flap is hanging, leaving the top of my left breast horribly visible.

Well, what does it matter? It's not like he hasn't already seen me naked.

But... but...

And I watch black fingers push the fabric to the side, pulling the robe to my left so that the whole of my breast is exposed. And I squirm, but there's nothing I can do about it.

"Keep still," he says. "This is distasteful enough, without you making it worse."

I look away, to the left where my arm is stretched up above my head.

And I feel the smooth warm leather of his glove under my chin, below my collarbone, towards...

I look down. His hand is spread across my breast like some grotesque black five-legged spider.


I stare past those fingers, look down at the stone floor.

This isn't happening. It isn't.

At least it's not Cruciatus.

His fingers tighten on my breast. I bite my lip and breathe, trying to ignore it.

But of course, he doesn't like being ignored.

"Now, Hermione," he murmurs. "How am I supposed to look at you, when you won't look at me?"

I wish he wouldn't call me 'Hermione'.

I lift my head, slowly. He lets go of my breast to push my chin up higher, so I can't avoid looking at his face, half-hidden in shadow.

My gaze meets his.

There's no colour at all in his eyes.

"That's better," he says. "I want you to keep your head just like that. You are not to look down. Is that clear?"

I nod. My lower lip trembles.

"Good." He sweeps his gaze down to my feet, lip curling disdainfully. It's all I can do not to squirm. Not to look.

Then he reaches out, one finger brushing... and I do squirm, I can't help it.

He lifts his finger away. "Ah, but." He smiles. "That isn't quite what you wanted, is it?"

There's nothing I can say to that.

He lifts his right hand to his mouth, and unfastens the button at the wrist of his black glove with his white teeth. His gaze never wavers.

I don't want him to touch me.

"Hmm." He glances at his glove, at me, at his other hand imprisoning mine.

"Now," he says. "I am going to let go of your hands, and you are not going to move a muscle. Can you do that for me?"

I nod. As if I could do anything else.

"I didn't hear that."

"Yes." I can barely hear myself speak.

"Yes, what?"

Oh, for God's sake. The bastard, the complete and utter bastard...

"Yes... Mr Malfoy."

I want to shrivel up and die.

"There's no need to look at me like that. I'm only doing this because you asked me to."

I meet his gaze head-on, with as much challenge as I dare. But my humiliation is painfully visible, written across my face in red. He's won this one, and he knows it.

Isn't there anything I can do?

He lets go of my hands and steps back. He peels off his right glove, his eyes never leaving mine as I stand there with my arms stretched upwards and my head tilted up so I can see more of the ceiling than the room.

"I'm sixteen, Mr Malfoy."

He pauses, glove in hand. "And?"

"Doesn't that mean anything to you? I'm the same age as your son, for God's sake! How can you-"

I bite off the flow of words. I'm getting hysterical, and this is horrible and I wish he'd leave me alone, but it's not going to help.

He frowns. "Ah, yes, sixteen. Let's see..." He touches my forehead with his left, gloved, thumb. "Old enough to carry around some very interesting information in that head of yours..." He reaches up and strokes a finger across my wrist. "Old enough to execute a passable Cruciatus Curse, not to mention several other interesting little spells. In other words, old enough to be dangerous." He smiles. "And old enough to catch the eye of an international Quidditch star, and old enough to grace the gossip columns of Witch Weekly, so I'm told; and-" he flicks his gaze down, "old enough, Hermione. Just on the threshold of adulthood. A most interesting age, wouldn't you say?"

His pupils are large in the dim light, deep dark pools reflecting my own.

"Stay there," he says.

As if I have a choice.

He turns, and walks towards the desk. I risk a momentary glance at his hands.

He's unfastening his left glove.

I wish Malfoy were here. He wouldn't be doing this if Malfoy were here, I know he wouldn't.

And he returns and stands an arm's-length away from me, sweeping his gaze over every part of me he's forbidden me to look at.

My arms are aching. And suddenly I feel really stupid just standing here, letting him play his sick little game of pretending I want him to do this. I should have moved while he was over at the table, just to stretch my arms, just to show him that no, I don't want him to touch me at all-

And he steps in and catches my wrists in his left hand. His warm, gloveless left hand.

His grip is stronger than before. He's leaning in.

And... it's different, with his bare skin against mine.

I want to look away, to look anywhere but at the harsh lines of his face, but there's something in his gaze that locks mine to it.

"That was very good, Hermione," he says. His voice has a new edge, rougher. "Soon we'll have you as obedient as a house-elf, hmm?"

Bastard! I want to kick him. Except that standing in front of him, pinned to the wall by his hand and his gaze, I... couldn't.

He smiles. I shudder. He reaches out to tuck my hair behind my ears.

"Now, I think that such a very good girl deserves a reward, don't you?"

Great. You can let go of me then.

Fat chance.

And his fingers are trailing over my breast, just as they did when he was holding me against the bathroom door in the dark, except that then there was my robe in the way, and the fabric may have been thin but it was still there.

Now, though...

He's still watching my face. I'm still watching his, for any sign of... I don't know what. I don't want to know. It's as if there's nothing in the world except his narrowed eyes and his finely arched brows and that little twist at the corner of his mouth. Those warm fingers against my skin are a different thing entirely.

There's a fleeting, feather-light touch across the very tip of my nipple and I... I... I'm glad he's forbidden me to look.

His lips twitch.

And there's pressure there now, a sharpening not-pain, and I can feel my muscles tense and it's all I can do not to try to pull away because I know he would only make it worse.

His left eyebrow lifts a millimetre. His eyes hold me fast.

And his fingers twist, and a sweet-sharp pulse quivers through every nerve and I gasp and my shoulders scrape against the wall.

Not that it... hurt. It would almost be better if it had.

His lips curve into a smile.

"You know, Hermione," he says, "I think you were right. This is far more interesting when I can watch you react."

Oh, so it's a reaction you want, is it?

I glare at him.

"Oh." He raises both eyebrows in mock inquiry. "Didn't you like it?"

I don't respond. Any response would lead straight into a trap.

"Pity." He smirks. "I confess I am starting to find this rather entertaining."

What the hell does he mean, 'starting to'? How can someone be so patronising, intimidating and downright slimy all at once?

I turn my head away. I can't stand it, can't look at him, him and that ugly light in his eyes. But I can still smell him, I can't get away from that – not the dusty-robe-and-rotting-roses smell but the him smell, the smell of his skin that somehow seems sharper and stronger than it's been before.

"Look at me."

And I have to obey. I'm shaking now, he must be able to see.

"Ah, little one," he murmurs. "You really are exquisite."

His fingers slither towards my belly.

Don't. Don't.

He smiles. "Do you remember that day I met you in the bookshop?"

How could I forget my worst nightmare coming to life?

What I thought was my worst nightmare...

"Yes," he continues, "you really made quite an impression, trembling and blushing and hating me and telling me everything you never wanted me to know. I'm so glad we could deepen our acquaintance. Aren't you?"

How does he expect me to respond to that?

And his hand slides across my belly and down, and he's still looking at me and how can he- I blink back tears.

His lip curls.

"Well, I'm sorry if I'm not living up to your expectations," he says. "Because you're certainly living up to mine."

He lifts his hand up to twists his fingers into my hair, pulling my head back so all I can see is the ceiling and... and his face, leaning down towards mine.

I try to look away, but his hand in my hair holds me fast.

"So, little one," he says softly. "What can we do to make this more... interesting for you?"

Oh God.

"Don't. Please."

"Oh? And what, exactly, don't you want me to do?"


Raised eyebrow, inches from mine. I can feel his breath on my cheek. I can hear him breathe. Too harsh. Too fast.

No. Oh God, no...

I wrench my head to the right. He jerks it back. A tear rolls down my cheek. That hurt.

He releases my hair. The tips of his fingers brush my cheek and then one comes to rest at the corner of my mouth.

Which is open, I realise, from trying to breathe with my head pushed back. And from the pain...

I clamp my lips together. He laughs.

"Ah, Hermione, you do like your little games of resistance, don't you?" His voice drops, almost as if he's talking to himself. "And this would be so much less sweet if you didn't..."

He draws his thumb across my lips and lets it rest there. His face is far too close to mine.

"So," he murmurs, "shall we explore how ineffective your resistance really is?"

I twist my head away, away from him, but he hooks his thumb around my chin and brings me back to the reality of him leaning over me, to that cruel and eager spark in his eyes, to his harsh mouth, to his tongue flicking over his lips...

But he wouldn't. Not to a Mudblood.

He lowers his head towards mine. My eyes meet his, as if I could keep him away from me by the force of wanting to.

He smiles.

I close my eyes.

And... nothing.

I can feel myself quivering but I try to hold still.

And nothing.

And something slams against my cheek, sending sharp shards of pure-white agony bursting through my head.

I stumble sideways, blinking up at him.


"So!" he snarls. "You think you can get round me that way, you Mudblood slut?"

He's gone mad!

He steps towards me, hand raised for another blow. I scramble backwards, away. He's gone mad, I don't know why but I do know I have to keep out of his reach until he calms down.

But he has a wand. And that is everything.

"Locomotor Mortis!"

For a moment I sway, scrabbling at the wall. If I can only stay upright... at least I could hop out of his reach!

But then I overbalance and my fingers can't hold their grip on the cracks in the stone and the floor rushes up to meet me. I fling out my hands to break the impact but my hipbone bangs painfully on the stone and my right wrist twists beneath me.

I blink away tears. I push myself over with my left hand, roll once across the floor.

"Don't run away from me, you little bitch! You weren't running away a minute ago!"

The spittle flies from his mouth. His face is twisted, raging.

"No... No, I didn't mean..."

"Shut up!"

He slashes the air with his wand, and the Flagellus Hex lashes hard across my breast. I scream, my hand clasped over the pain that burns just where his fingers were groping mere minutes ago.

"Shut up, I said!"

He stalks towards me, wand raised...

I frantically push myself over again. Need to roll under the desk-

And my stomach lurches and the world's upside down with nothing to hold onto.

Slam Stone painpainpain

I slide down the wall.

"You arrogant, pathetic, Mudblood bitch!"

And he hurls me against the wall again and I scream for him to stop, stop and he laughs with pure malice and says "oh, so now you want to stop" and stone meets bone with blood-chilling crack as pain explodes and arms around head and stop stop stop stop stop

And he has.

I'm curled on the floor. Moving hurts. Breathing hurts. Treacherous tears squeeze out from under my eyelids, salt-trails betraying my weakness. I can't move.

His boot thuds on the stone beside my ear.

Flinching hurts.

His hand in my hair as I lie limp as a rag-doll. Even motionlessness hurts too much.

He raises my head a little and pulls up one eyelid. I blink away the blurry tears and...

I shudder and close my eyes. I can't look at him.

"Damn," he mutters. "Damn."

He lowers my head to the floor and steps away.

There's a crack that's mercifully free of pain.

When I twitch my eyes open, he's gone.

But I can't move, can't do anything except wait for him to come back, and hope to die before he does.

Like when I had to wait Petrified and petrified in the dark, wondering if that snake was going to come back to life before I did.

I wish it had. But he killed it, in the end.

I thought he was going to kill me, a moment ago. I wish he had. flinging me against the walls of his dungeon. Just like he did with the snake.

Even his expression was the same then – twisted completely out of control, as if it wasn't the snake he wanted to kill at all. And his expression before that, as well... that smug observation, the roughness in his voice...

I... I don't like that thought at all. I bury it deep beneath my awareness of pain.

Focus on light. He left the light on. He left the book, I can see it on the edge of the desk, not that I'd have a hope of reaching it. Not that I'd want to.

Did he mean to?

It doesn't matter.

It does. If he didn't mean to leave the light on, he didn't mean to... that means he lost it just now.

Of course he lost it! You know him well enough by now to tell the difference!


Oh God.

I close my eyes, and wait.

Wait in a haze of pain.

And wait.

And wait.

Until I don't know whether it's really his hand on my neck or just another variation on the pain that's shredding my nerves and scraping my bones. And I don't know whether the addition of an agonised moan to the symphony of suffering in my head is because my leg was moved or just... because. Just as I don't know whether that enveloping warmth is a bath of sunlight or of acid until it dissolves away all the pain.

To be free of it is sweet agony. I'm shaking, sobbing with relief.

I can't look at him.

But I need to look at him. Need to thank him for taking away the pain. Perhaps I shouldn't feel grateful, but I do.

It doesn't hurt any more. That's all that matters.

Not true.

Easy to say now.

But I say nothing. And he says nothing, though I can feel the warmth of him crouching beside me until my sobbing subsides.

And then I do look at him, and he's not smiling – I don't know why I thought he might be – and he's not smirking, either. He looks... closed. Whiter than usual.

He removes his hand from my shoulder. He stands crisply and beckons me to do the same.

I move my hand to hold my robe closed. He stops me with a look.

"Don't bother, Mudblood," he says harshly. "I'm not interested."

But he does look, though with none of the mockery he showed before. As if he's just doing it to challenge himself.

A muscle twitches in his cheek.

And then he touches me, one naked hand on my bare shoulder, but there's a stiffness to it and when I look up at his eyes they're as expressionless as his face, as if he's purged whatever was raging there before. But I know now, I know about that untamed snake lurking in the depths and I feel a hundred years older for knowing it, and I hope to God that he never questions me with Veritaserum again because I can't imagine what he'd do if he knew that I know.

But I search for its absence anyway, wanting to believe I'm wrong. And then he smiles, and even that manages to be devoid of any meaning at all.

"Well, well," he says in a voice that tries to match but is overlain by the faintest echo of his usual superior amusement, "do you have no limits, little one?"

Do you?

I hold his gaze.

He returns a chilly little smile. "Oh, I'm sure you do, Hermione. And we will find them together, you and I."

The warmth drains out of me, leaving me ice-still, as if his words carried a Petrifying Curse in their wake. I'm still staring at his empty eyes, trying to pretend that it's choice rather than fear that stops me looking away.

His lips curve in that familiar arrogant smirk.

"So. I think it's time for you to go back to bed."

And I turn and do as he says, in a pool of dead silence disturbed only by the jumpy rhythm of my heart. I half expect him to tell me to lie on top of the blankets, but he lets me get beneath them and pull them up to my chin.

As if that's any real shelter.

He leans over the bed. I watch his every move, like paralysed prey waiting for its predator to strike, waiting for a chance to run when there's nowhere to run to.

He reaches towards my forehead. Every muscle in my body stiffens.

He chuckles quietly. "You're not afraid to be touched, are you?"

I stare back.

His hand brushes my temple as he pushes my hair back from my face. He stands up.

And takes out his wand. And smiles.

He wants to see my fear, and I offer it to him. If I don't, he'll only make things worse so he can take it anyway.

He lifts up his wand.


I shouldn't be afraid of the dark. I shouldn't. I shouldn't. The room is not closing in on me...

But the room with him in it is a completely different matter...

I hold myself very still. I can't hear a thing.

Not even his breathing.

Then out of nowhere his wand presses hard against my throat. I twist and gulp for breath.

"Keep still!"

I obey. I find I can breathe, just about.

It hurts.

"Are you afraid, little one?" he murmurs.

"Yes," I whisper.

"Good. You should be. And you know why, don't you?"

Of course I know why! You've bloody well shown me, over and over and over!

"Because," he continues, "I can do anything I choose with you. To you. You do understand this?"


But there are things you'd never choose to do. I know that now.

"And you will do everything I tell you do, won't you?"

"Yes." Until I get the chance to do otherwise...

"You see, Hermione? You do belong to me."

I... say nothing.

His wand grinds against my throat. I suck in a breath.

But I say nothing.

"You're not denying it, Hermione."


I need to answer him – what's the point of making it worse for myself? But I can't bring myself to-

"Well," he says with an edge of irritation, "evidently we'll have to work on that one. Let me put it another way, then. I am in complete control here. Do you understand?"

My voice comes out in a strangled wheeze. "Yes."

I understand, all right. More than you'd ever want me to.

He lifts his wand away. Air fills my grateful lungs.

"Good," he says. "Obliviate."

I jerk up from the pillow, my eyes frantically trying to adjust to the non-existent light.

Stupid. I know I can't see anything down here! It's my ears I need to rely on now.

I hold my breath. The room is breathing.

He's here. And it's still dark.

The last time he came in the dark...

No. Not again.

There's a sudden crack. When I hold my breath again I hear nothing at all.

What was he doing here?

Trying to freak you out. Settle down and go back to sleep.

But... if he only went away because I woke up...

It's a long time before I can stop shuddering and give myself to the soft silent darkness of sleep.