His heart stopped beating for a second when he saw her. He didn’t think they would meet again, not after he ran off from Hogwarts after Dumbledore had died. He was sure Potter would have told her all about his cowardice, and how he was the one responsible, more or less, for their headmaster’s death and the invasion of Hogwarts by death-eaters. No, he didn’t think he would see her ever again.
“What do we have here?” Bellatrix asked gleefully. “Draco! Come here.”
Keeping his eyes on Hermione who was glaring at him, he walked over to Bellatrix, his aunt, who was looking at him with her manic eyes. She held a fistful of hair of someone who looked to be his age, although, the boy’s face was so disfigured that he had no way of knowing who he was, if not for the fact that two-thirds of the golden trio was here with him.
When he hadn’t spoken for a couple of minutes, Bellatrix prompted him, “Well?”
He swallowed nervously, and grabbing hold of his fleeting courage, replied in a hoarse voice, “I can’t be sure.”
Bellatrix’s demented smile fell a little, as she glared at him.
He felt a hand clamp around his neck from behind, and flinched. He could feel his father’s ragged breath on his neck, as he whispered, “Look closely, son.”
“If we…are the ones to hand Potter over to the dark lord, everything would be forgiven…all would be as it was, understand?” his father said, as he looked into his eyes.
Even as he nodded in understanding, he could feel his hatred for his father growing, for landing them in this situation. If not for Lucius’s pureblood ideals, their family would not have been in the position where their own house, a place where one was supposed to feel safe and protected, was taken over by a hypocritical asshole with a propoganda.
Before he could get in trouble for letting the venom running through him spew in the form of words, he was saved by one of the snatches who was idiotic enough to speak up to his father.
“Now, we won’t be forgetting who, actually, caught him, I hope, Mr. Malfoy,” he said, sarcastically.
“You dare to talk to me like that in my own house!?” his father screamed, his voice becoming more shrill as the sentence ended.
“Lucius,” his mother whispered as she pulled him away, as always, making sure his father didn’t do something stupid and get himself hurt.
Bellatrix, who hadn’t been paying any attention to anything other than identifying the boy in her hold, came over to him and took his hands. He concealed the instinctive flinch at being grabbed by the deranged woman, and went along with her.
Leading him closer to the disfigured boy, she made him kneel in front of him, speaking in her child-like voice, “Don’t be shy, sweetie. Come over.”
Her voice changed as she threatened him, “Now…if this isn’t who we think it is, Draco, and we call him, you’ll kill us all. We need to be absolutely sure.”
Staring into the stranger’s face was disconcerting. His eyes were swollen, and red. The skin around them bloated as a result of whatever curse had hit him. He must be in pain from the looks of it, but the steady gaze focused on him, judging him, unnerved him.
“What is wrong with his face?” he asked, stalling for time.
He knew that this was Potter. In addition to being found with the other two-thirds of the Golden Trio, the gaze that was unflinchingly directed at him was all too familiar to him. How many times had they stared-off at each other because of their school rivalry? Which, in retrospect, seemed silly to him. What were they fighting about? Status? Blood-purity? He couldn’t give a fuck about any of them today.
“What is wrong with his face?” Bellatrix echoed his question, turning to the snatchers accusingly, for making her job more difficult than need be. If not for the boy’s disfiguration, The Dark Lord would have been summoned already.
“He came to us like that,” the snatched hastily explained. “Something he picked up in the forest, I reckon.”
“Or perhaps he ran into a stinging jinx?” Bellatrix wondered out loud. “Was it you, dear?” she asked, pointing her wand at Hermione, the endearment sounding like a threat in her voice.
Draco felt his mother’s hand touching his back, breaking his trance. He hastily stepped away from the boy and went to stand next to his parents.
“Give me her wand!” she commanded. “Let’s see what he last spell was.”
Laughing maniacally, she pointed at Hermione and whispered, “Got you!”
His heart dropped into his stomach at hearing Bellatrix’s words. His aunt was well trained in the arts of torture. In fact, Voldemort was more merciful to his victims than she was. She enjoyed watching people writing in pain as she used her favorite curse on them. She liked to see her victims humiliated and begging for death before she finished them off.
That stupid girl couldn’t leave it well alone, could she? Always the brave one, always sticking her neck out for her beloved friends. Her stupidity might just get her killed today, and he didn’t know how to stop it.
Something caught Bellatrix’s attention on her way to acquire Hermione’s wand, and she stopped in her tracks and gasped.
“What is that?” she whispered, horrified. “How did you get that?”
The snatcher, the indifferent one, looked at her with bored eyes as he replied, “Found it in her bag,” he said, pointing at Hermione. “Reckon it’s ours now.”
Before he could so much as blink, Bellatrix was choking him with her whip. Pointing her wand at him, she cursed him as she used her whip to pull the sword towards herself.
The other snatchers didn’t stand a chance against her either.
“Go!” she screamed. “Get out of here!”
If Draco thought she looked demented before, she truly looked every bit the psychopath she was at that moment.
Walking over to Hermione and Ron, she grabbed Ron and pushed him towards her sister. “Lock the boys up in the cellar!” she commanded.
Draco watched, horrified, as she turned towards Hermione and gleefully whispered, “I need to have a conversation with this one…girl to girl.”
He could see Hermione standing her ground, trying her hardest not to show the fear she felt.
“Where did you get the sword?” Bellatrix asked, twisting Hermione’s arm painfully behind her back.
“I don’t know,” Hermione choked out, gasping in pain.
“Maybe this will help,” Bellatrix smirked, as she let go of Hermione’s arm. “Crucio!”
Draco made a move to step to move forward, to do what, he didn’t know. Was he naive enough to think that he could take on his aunt? Not to mention, his father?
His mother placed a hand on his shoulder to stay him.
Hermione tumbled to the ground, writhing in pain, as she gasped for breaths.
Bellatrix lifted the curse as she walked over to her, “Did that awaken your memory?”
“I don’t…” Hermione cried. “I don’t know.”
“Crucio!” Bellatrix repeated the curse, more viciously this time around.
Hermione rolled on the ground, sobbing, curing into herself to stop the pain in it’s tracks.
The hand on his shoulder clenched, as if his mother knew that he was about to do something stupid, putting them all in danger.
Bellatrix circled Hermione before stopping next to her, and lifting the curse. She straddled Hermione, moving her face close to the girl’s as she whispered, “That sword is meant to be at my vault at Gringotts. How did you get it?”
Hermione’s sobs subsided, but she continued to weep and twitch with the after-effects of the curse as she repeated over and over again, “I don’t know.”
Holding her down, Bellatrix went on, “What else…,” she asked, menacingly, “…did you and your friends take from my vault!?”
“Nothing…I didn’t take anything,” Hermione choked out through her sobs.
“I don’t believe it,” Bellatrix whispered, and grabbing a hold of Hermione’s hand, started carving something into it.
Draco’s stomach turned as he heard the heart-wrenching screams of the girl who had once stood bravely in front of him, and punched him right in the face, not because she couldn’t have jinxed him seven ways to sunday, but because she was telling him, with her actions, that she didn’t have to be better than him to give him his what for, that the muggle in her was enough to take him down.
Blood oozed out of the cuts his aunt was carving into the girl’s arm, blood as red as his, as every other person’s in the room. At the end of the day, weren’t they all the same? Did they all not have the same crimson blood running through them? In fact, hadn’t the girl in front of him proved to him, many times over, that if there was anyone who was superior here, it was her?
With that realization, the haze he had been living in for the past seventeen years of his life was lifted. With that same realization came the awareness that, for the first time in his life, he could let himself feel, let himself be aware of, and act on the attraction that he had always felt for her.
He stared at the burning mark on his arm for a second before he made his decision. Voldemort had taken a lot from him: his parents, his morale and his life, he would be damned if he took her too.
Pushing away his mother’s arm from his shoulder, he lifted his wand hand, and yelled.