A Reunion of the Worst Kind
Hermione felt Ron's hand swaying beside her own and it was unnerving to realize that any one of the three of them could die at any moment. They were just captured by the Snatchers and in front of them was a madwoman, Bellatrix Lestrange, waiting for her nephew to come and confirm their identities. Harry was disfigured, and she silently thanks herself as she scans his unmoving face.
As the trio waited on Draco Malfoy to arrive Hermione couldn't resist conjuring up her fondest memories of the pureblooded, Slytherin charmer. They had exchanged anonymous letters over Muggle Literature in her fifth year. A smile tries to creep up over her lips but she denies it. Even though they had pretended that it had never happened, the pair of them always ended up in the same place studying at the same time, sharing glances across tables and classrooms that were charged with regret and desire. But Hermione let go a long time ago and felt her chin tilt towards Ron.
She had feelings for him now, too, although never quite as strong as the ones towards Malfoy. The young woman always, even now, reminded herself that it was a far more feasible relationship. Besides, things would never be dull with a Weasley in her life. Ron must be feeling the same, longing and fearful, because he reaches for her hand outright just as she started to make the same move. They share a brief moment of silent appreciation for one another before a door can be heard opening in a nearby hallway.
That's when Hermione begins to panic inside. Of course, she had been worried before and completely aware that the war was riding on their shoulders – her shoulders, since Harry and Ron were very dependent on her wit to find the answers. The sound of familiar shoes is sounding in her ears finally makes it impossible for her to think about anything logically beyond the fact that she is going to see him for the first time since they left Hogwarts at the end of their sixth year. Her priorities were definitely out of order and she couldn't bring herself to sort them properly.
Draco can be seen stiffening the second he catches sight of Hermione, but she doubts that it has anything to do with her presence as it does with the closeness to Ron. Neither of them really dated anyone but after the letters stopped. Draco removed himself from everyone around him. Hermione regrets not expressing concern for him because when he is close enough to examine she sees the sorrow worn into the bags under his eyes, the blood vessels bursting in his eyes, and the faintest stubble fogging up his cheeks. It is obvious immediately that he is not taking very good care of himself and it enrages Hermione.
"What have you called me away from the study for?" Draco asks dismissively, pretending he doesn't recognize any reason for him to present. Hermione is thankful for it immediately and relaxes somewhat. Ron lets go of her hand to wipe his palm against his jeans but she declines to lace her fingers when he presses out against her again. It is difficult to focus on anything but Draco's lips responding to the questions and statements being made.
"Auntie Bella needs a favor from the failure!" Bellatrix shrills so loudly that the entire mansion must have heard. Draco doesn't flinch which Hermione personally sees as brave and saddening. No person in the world should have to be so used to shrieked insults that they simply accept it as the norm. And she is especially sure that Draco Malfoy doesn't deserve it either.
Then Hermione is perfectly aware of the reason why Bellatrix Lestrange is calling her nephew a failure. Harry informed her that at the end of their sixth year he'd been given the task of killing Albus Dumbledore. In the end he simply could not do it, according to Harry's story. She knew that he never would have done it and she knew looking at him now that he wouldn't be able to turn his back on them. On her…
"Who do they claim to be?" Draco is approaching them and taking extra care to examine Harry. Hermione draws a breath of the cold, tainted air in Malfoy Manor. She can almost taste the evil seething itself in, out, and around of every twist, turn, and edge of the luxurious home. Once he is done glancing over Harry he moves to Ron, where he sneers and scoffs per the pattern. Draco never liked Ron, and clearly still doesn't. Hermione is sure that he senses the developing relationship and if he still has strong feelings, then his dislike is likely enhanced with jealousy.
"Vernon Dudley." Greyback points to Harry, "Barny Weasley," he shifts his finger towards Ron, "And this beautiful prey…." He approaches Hermione while licking his lips. She is so disgusted that she steps away from him when he gets too close for comfort, glaring at him as he continues, "…she claims to be called Penelope Clearwater."
Draco finally steps in front of Hermione and shares a very long and uncomfortable gaze. Each of them sees that these lies will not last, especially if someone can identify Hermione from the posters and the Daily Prophet. She is sure it is only a matter of time. Then before anyone notices their still very present attraction to each other, Hermione nervously looks away from both Draco and Greyback.
"He…" The young man gets her hint, and starts walking away, pointing his own finger at Ron, “He is obviously telling the truth. He looks like a Weasley. He couldn't lie his way out of that one."
"He tried." Greyback growls simply. Hermione wants to attack him even though she isn't very violent by nature. There is just this hatred that brews inside of her when she sees Greyback's eyes and the way he does not see people. He sees food. She gains even more respect each passing second for Remus Lupin who obviously handles his condition with control and dignity.
"As for the other two, I cannot say for sure. It is very possible they are telling the truth. Vernon Dudley and Penelope Clearwater were several years ahead of me when I arrived at Hogwarts so I wouldn't be able to identify either of them after all this time." Draco defends his inability to match names to faces with clear affirmation. Bellatrix casts a hex at him, which Draco's mother dispels immediately from the background. The sisters share angry glances but eventually back off of one another, and it makes Hermione somewhat grateful to have been an only child.
"Then I will get the answers myself!" Bellatrix exclaims.
That's when the undesired and expected happens, very much to Hermione's dismay. One of the Snatchers smacks his hands together several times, although he does it slowly as if to commend something brilliant. Hermione knows before he cackles and explains himself that he has recognized her from the media. She frowns and casts her eyes downward – this was going to happen at some point during the stay.
"This one 'ere is the Mudblood! That Mudblood witch that travels with Harry Potter! This 'as to be 'em." He is very proud of himself. As soon as Draco widens his eyes and takes a step forward his family tries escorting him in the opposite direction. They do end up more dragging him than anything. Hermione barely hears Belltrix's order to remove Harry and Ron from the room.
"No. No!" Ron shouts as Hermione feels herself jerking forward and losing her footing. Her eyes can't even twist back to her friends because now that Bellatrix knows who she is there is no telling what damage she has planned. Just as Ron's voice seems to disappear, he can be heard calling out one last plea, "Take me instead!"
Bellatrix laughs after several doors shut and windows are charmed shut, whispering as she drags her heels across the floor. "Only if she dies, Weasley."
Hermione feels Greyback's kick to her side, muscles tensing immediately upon contact. Vomit tries to work through her esophagus but she refuses. A hard swallow gives her only a second to compose herself. Now on her knees she tries to scoot away from her abuser but she doesn't make it far because only a second later the other Snatchers take turns casting horrible spells at her. Pains in her eyes, burning insides, blood trickling out of her ears and nose; the smallest things that bring the greatest pain.
But those are nothing compared to when Bellatrix flips her onto her back and sits down heavily upon her hips. The weight against her bones is crushing and she wriggles around in an attempt to do something, although she isn't sure what. There really is no reason for her struggle except that Hermione is refusing to be tortured without fighting back.