The pain was intense, excruciating, worse than anything he’d felt before. Worse than any pain he could imagine. It felt as though fire was slowly eating away at his flesh, like ice painfully encasing his limbs. He couldn’t stop the tears of agony sliding down his cheeks, burning a path down to his chin before falling to the hard stone floor on which he writhed. It went on for eternity, it seemed. Never ending, never abating, never giving even the slightest hint of relief. And while he felt at times like he would fall into darkness from the agony of it, he never did, though he wished for that peace with all of his being.
Though it lasted for seemingly forever, only a few moments went by. He found himself panting and weak on the floor of his home, curled protectively around his arm. As he looked at the darkened lines marring his alabaster skin, as he stared at the writhing form of the snake, whose movements called forth pain-filled memories of mere moments before, Draco Malfoy wondered when his life had broken into pieces, and if it would ever be whole again.
As her quill scratched against parchment in a soothing rhythm, she wondered briefly at the turn her life had taken. Not so long ago, she was a girl without friends, with nothing but her books to comfort her. Now, now she had two best friends she would do anything for, and who would do anything for her. Now, she had a world spread before her, full of wonder and magic. It was almost like a fairy tale, she mused, where the plain, lonely girl was swept away into a world full color and joy. A soft smile tipped the corners of her lips, and she laughed at her own imaginings. A fairy tale, indeed! Shaking her head in amusement, she focused back on her book and parchment, continuing her studies, just as she always did.
She was jarred from her focus as the front door was hurled open with a force that rattled the windows. Jumping to her feet, she joined the crush of people rushing into the foyer of the town-house. She skidded to a halt with a gasp of horror. On the doorstep stood her dark professor, but it was what he held in his arms which had her attention riveted. She moved to the side to allow her professor passage, her eyes never leaving the crumpled form in his arms. Yes, Hermione thought, staring at the pale and broken form of one Draco Malfoy, this was just like a fairy tale, if you were speaking of the Brothers Grimm.
It was dark when he woke. Or at least, he thought he was awake. He couldn’t be sure, as none of his limbs obeyed his commands to move. What had happened? He couldn’t seem to recall. He focused, trying desperately to deduce where he was and how he got there. Fear bolted through him when he realized that all was dark because he couldn’t see. Where was he? Was he a prisoner?
In his terror, a memory swam to the surface unbidden. As he recalled the events of the night, he shuddered in horror and disgust, suddenly wishing he had never woken in the first place. His mind revisited the horrors of the Dark Revel, the screams and the pleading. The eyes large with fear boring into his own, begging him to end it, to make it stop. And he remembered snapping, unable to handle the dark descent into torture that he was meant to take. He lifted his wand, and in a flash of green, those pleading eyes dulled. He felt nothing at the death he had caused. After all, it was so much better than what had been planned.
His actions were not received favorably, he remembered. No, not favorably at all. He’d refused to be cowed by the Dark Lord, regardless of the mark that had been burned into his flesh mere hours before and the pure, unadulterated terror that flooded his veins at the sight of his supposed master. His defiance had cost him, cost him dearly. The pain, his body shuddered again, oh the pain. Worse even than the marking, so much worse. He’d wanted to die, he realized. He’d craved it, wished for it with all his might.
So lost was he in his never-ending nightmare, that he didn’t note the soft creaking of a door opening. Nor did he hear the padding of footsteps coming ever closer. He didn’t note the presence of another, until a cool hand gently pushed the hair away from his feverish forehead. He didn’t realize that he was no longer alone until he heard the soft voice, begging him to wake up, to hear her, to respond. He twitched, trying to reach for the source of sudden comfort in the face of his demons. With a strength he didn’t know he still possessed, Draco cracked open his eyes, to meet the worried and frightened doe-brown gaze of Hermione Granger.
She’d finally fallen asleep, after hours of furious tossing and turning. Her mind hadn’t wanted to banish the terrible sight of a young man’s broken body. She fought to slip into the comfort of sleep, and, finally, she had won. Until a scream woke her again. She was up and moving before she even registered that she was awake. The pain in the sounds coming from across the hall tightened her stomach, made her cringe. She swiftly made for the door to her room, only pausing to grab her wand.
The sight that met her eyes as she entered the only other bedroom on her floor, made her want to weep. There in the bed, shaking and writhing as much as his injured body would allow, was Malfoy. Tears were trailing down his pale cheeks, and, without thinking, she moved towards him, longing to end the suffering he was clearly feeling. Gently, she stroked his forehead, noting with worry how hot he felt to her touch. It didn’t matter to her that this was the tormentor of her childhood, it didn’t matter what he’d done or called her in the past. No, now all that mattered, was that he was a young man forced into a world of pain. A world no one deserved.
She whispered to him, unable to stomach the sounds of his whimpers. She begged him to just open his eyes, to look at her and know he wasn’t alone. In those moments, it didn’t matter that he was Draco Malfoy or that she was Hermione Granger. All that mattered was that he was hurting, and she was there. With tenderness, she touched him, petting his face in an attempt to comfort him in his pain. Tears filled her eyes, making her vision blurry at the thought of the agony plaguing him. With quiet sobs she continued to plead with him to just wake up. And as the first light of dawn peaked through the window, haunted eyes of gray opened and met her pleading stare. In that moment of connection, Hermione knew that things would never be the same.