The Prisoner

BY : Nerys
Category: Harry Potter > Het - Male/Female > Hermione/Voldemort
Dragon prints: 58047
Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter, nor any of the characters from the books or movies. I do not make any money from the writing of this story.


 



Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.



A/N: I’d like to thank everyone who read, rated, and most of all, reviewed the first chapter: Serpent In Red, Lady Miya, MarksPet, Roo, QueenRuby, scarletwitchextreme, signy33, Dark Lady Snape, and Aviendha.



Review replies can be found at: http://www2.adult-fanfiction.org/forum/index.php/topic/19576-the-prisoner-by-nerys



xxx



Special thanks to my betas Serpent In Red and Cosettex.



xxx



The Prisoner



Chapter 2: The Prisoner’s Captive



Hermione groaned, tossing and turning under the thin bed coverings, which smelled incredibly desirable to her. She didn’t want to wake up. She’d had a terrible, ridiculous nightmare, and she just wanted to fall asleep again, so she could replace it with a sane dream.



As if dreams were ever sane.



Sighing, her fingers gripped her sheets along with the blanket and pulled them over her nose. Merlin, that scent was to die for. Had Ron got a new cologne? If so, she’d make sure he’d never buy another brand again. Delicious.



Eyes still closed, Hermione swung her arm behind her, searching for her husband but hitting her knuckles on a wall instead. Swearing loudly, her eyes flashed open only to be closed and immediately covered by the sheets. What was with that blinding light?



‘Hit those damn lights will you?’ she grumbled, rolling to her belly and burying her head in the mattress. ‘My head is killing me.’



She let out another groan at the end of the sentence and wrapped her arms over her head as if that would stop the invisible man from swinging his hammer at her skull every other second.



‘I’d loved to,’ a smooth male baritone replied, ‘but they are beyond my control, Granger.’



She froze in her ridiculous pose. No, no, no, no, no! Impossible. It couldn’t be. She’d been dreaming. Perhaps she still was?



She knew that it would be desirable to the alternative because she knew that voice – knew it better than most, having heard it in her head for months as she’d worn the locket. Her mind’s eye returned to the last thing she remembered of her “dream”: the smoothness and coldness of the door instead of rough wood, the ease with which it had opened instead of clenching to the frame, and the warning that had flashed through her mind as she’d fallen into that brightly lit environment.



Ooooooh, crap.



Quickly, she flipped over to her side and moved to a seated position. Then, just as abruptly, she crashed down on the bed again. The world was dancing, spinning, twisting and turning; her arms flailed around for something to hold onto as stars in all kinds of colours erupted in her vision. Apparently, the invisible hammer had been replaced by an invisible sledgehammer now, and it was trying to split open her skull with its wedge-shaped head forcefully.



‘I wouldn’t recommend moving too much or abruptly for the time being,’ that same sneaky voice said, sounding clearly amused. ‘It tends to enhance the adverse effects the wards have on your body.’



From her knowledge of the wards, his suggestion sounded logical enough, so she dropped her arms on the thin mattress in resignation and lay utterly still.



‘Thanks for the advanced warning,’ she sneered, pressing her eyelids firmly together and hoping it would help to clear at least the dizziness she was experiencing. The pain was so strong that she had no high hopes of it vanishing any time soon. This wasn’t happening. Fate couldn’t possibly be this cruel. She’d done nothing to deserve this. She should not, would not, could not be inside Lord Voldemort’s cell.



However, his soft chuckle to her sneer told her otherwise.



I’d stay out of his cell though. He’s a lot taller than you, and the wards are so heavy we can’t observe through them.



The guard’s warning words echoed through her pounding brain as she was lying in what had to be Riddle’s bed. Oh, she so needed to shower if she got out of here alive. To think that she’d considered that scent, his scent, lovely. Ugh … her head must have hit the ground real hard.



The ground! Why wasn’t she on the ground? How had she got in this bed?



Oh.



The earth stopped rotating for a second as she realised he had to have carried her.



Eww … She shook her limbs as if to shake off the remnants of his disgusting touch. Now she really needed that shower. Yuck, yuck, yuck.



However, her movements hadn’t made her headache worse or caused her nausea and dizziness to return. Carefully, she opened her eyes in order for them to adjust to the lighting in a timely fashion. It was still harsh and blazing white but a lot more bearable this time.



‘Can you sit?’ Riddle asked quietly.



Mmm … could she? She wasn’t sure. Her eyes flickered to her right where he sat. Her pupils dilated and she held her breath.



Looks can be deceiving.



Hermione doubted the truth of that phrase could meet its match anywhere better on the planet for Tom Riddle surely was a sight to behold. He sat on the white table with his long, black-clad legs spread out wide to accommodate for what little space there was between the table and the bed. His white, button down shirt fell loosely over his shoulders, supplying him with an air of nonchalance and accessibility. Since his shirt wasn’t buttoned up all the way to the top, Hermione found it hard to draw her eyes away from the glimpse she got of his sinewy chest. His tall frame was inclined towards her, and he’d casually rested his elbows on his knees, making his hands join together to hold a glass filled with a clear liquid. Occasionally, he rolled the glass between his long slender fingers, making the fluid swirl.



As if his body wasn’t attractive enough on its own, she hadn’t even begun to comment on his perfectly sculpted face. It was as if God, or perhaps more suiting, Satan had taken extra care the day he’d created Tom Riddle, since Riddle had the most symmetric face she’d ever seen. A straight, perfectly centred nose rested above a set of full, luscious lips. His chin was clean shaven, yet she could see the first signs of stubbles planning to return by the slight darkening of the skin across his square jaw. Black eyebrows formed a perfect arc. And those eyes underneath … the intensity … the darkness … it was entrancing. Captivating. Enthralling.



Slowly, he tilted his head, making his black locks fall playfully across his face. The corner of his mouth twitched up and a devious glint passed through his eyes.



‘Anybody home, Granger?’ he asked mockingly.



That snapped her out of it. Her cheeks burned almost painfully in embarrassment as she was caught staring at – at … well … him.



Ugh.



She scowled when she witnessed the delight in his expression.



‘Don’t worry,’ he said. His mouth formed a smug smirk as he leaned closer to her and whispered huskily, ‘you’re not the first woman to be entranced by me. I’m quite used to it.’



Mortified, Hermione felt her entire face flush red, while he leaned back utterly composed and at ease, rolling the glass sensually between his fingers again. And she didn’t just attribute that word to something he did. Merlin, why couldn’t this bed just swallow her whole?



‘So, can you sit?’ he continued relentlessly. ‘Or do you prefer to stare a bit longer?’ He gestured at his body teasingly.



Her eyes narrowed, causing him to chuckle lightly. With an irritated growl, Hermione turned her head away from him and placed her hands on the mattress.



‘Not too fast,’ Riddle ordered seriously.



She froze, gritting her teeth. Then, she turned her head and icily hissed, ‘Don’t you tell me what to do, Riddle.’



He shrugged. ‘It’s not my head that’s hurting. By all means, jump up and see how you like it.’



Her fingers curled into fists in the sheets as her temper rose. He was pushing her buttons and she knew it. Yet, it was so damn hard to ignore his manipulations. Cautiously, she pushed herself to a seated position, holding still when white circles blurred her vision. It was over soon, and she was glad she’d risen carefully; though that was not something she was going to share with her current company. Placing the pillow against the wall, she rested her back against it and sighed.



The glass with the clear liquid in it was held out towards her. Turning her head, she arched an eyebrow.



‘It’s water.’



‘Yeah, right,’ she said suspiciously.



‘With a bit of saline,’ he admitted, an amused glint flickering through his gaze. ‘It helps surprisingly well against that headache and the visual impairments you’re experiencing.’



Realising that an isotonic fluid was indeed something that logically would be of assistance, she reluctantly accepted the glass and just held it in her hand, not feeling like taking a sip since she somehow distrusted the contents now even more than before he’d admitted to adding something to the water.



‘Afraid I poisoned it with my huge supply of ingredients?’ he asked, waving his hand around his empty cell mockingly.



She knew she was being silly, but it was so ingrained in her mind. Constant vigilance!



‘Perhaps you spit in it. Your saliva should be poisonous enough,’ she sneered, right before taking a sip.



His sniggering accompanied her screwed up expression since salt water isn’t the most pleasant of substances to drink.



‘Eww … yuck.’



She shivered in disgust. However, she did notice some improvement, so she brought the glass to her lips again, only to stop when she realised he was observing her a tad too keenly.



‘What?’



‘Just waiting for the first symptoms of my lethal venom to show,’ he joked.



‘Comedian.’



This time, she didn’t sip at the water but quickly downed the entire glass. It was still disgusting, and she shook her whole body in reaction, while her facial muscles contracted all at once. But when she took a deep breath and settled down, her headache was slowly disappearing into the background. She felt a hell of a lot better, a lot better than just a bit of isotonic fluid should’ve made her feel.



Now that she could think straight again, the whole direness of her situation became abundantly clear to her. She was sitting on Lord Voldemort’s bed in Lord Voldemort’s cell, and said Lord was positioned conveniently between her and the only exit out of this room. Her eyes flickered around nervously. She doubted she could even make it to a standing position before he would act. He had her cornered pretty damn good. She had to somehow distract him. She recalled how much he loved to chat on and on and on during the final battle, so … conversation it was.



‘How come just a bit of salt water is so helpful? My headache is almost completely gone.’



He considered her briefly before taking the glass from her hand and placing it beside him on the table.



‘Why do you think it helps?’



‘Well, I vomited, so … But it’s just one glass.’ She frowned in doubt.



‘You’re thinking biologically when you should be thinking magically.’



Her brow furrowed further. Magically? But this cell was created to stop magic.



‘Oh!’ Her face lit up at finding the solution, and she jumped to the edge of the bed, flinging her legs over the side besides his. Excited, she looked sideways. ‘This chamber has to have healing properties; otherwise, you’d be sick all day long. And water is one of the four elements of the Quintessence of Matter and together with salt it combines with the other elements faster, so it would enhance the healing by functioning as a catalyst.’



‘Exactly,’ Riddle said, sounding satisfied.



Her eyes darted briefly to the door. She had to run around the table still, but if she was fast enough and he was suitably distracted, she might make it.



‘Those wards are supposed to only react to you,’ she said darkly, slightly peeved at its creator.



A snort left his sinuous lips.



‘Yes, that’s the general misconception.’ He sniggered. ‘They react to the amount of magical power present. The more they perceive, the harder and more immediate the wards strike. But in essence, everyone who enters that corridor is subjugated to them, and eventually, everyone’ –for a moment a satisfied, devilish expression flashed over his face at what she assumed was a memory– ‘will feel their effects.’ His eyes flickered over Hermione’s body. ‘I was wondering how long it would take you to get ill,’ he said, tilting his head contemplatively at her. ‘Faster than expected.’



Riddle smirked and bowed his head, observing absentmindedly how his fingertips pressed against each other.



Abruptly, Hermione flew to her feet and ran. From the corner of her eye, she saw his head swivel up in surprise. Yet, he wasn’t moving, wasn’t coming after her. She had the doorknob in her hand and pulled it open when he quietly said, ‘Granger.’



It was the utter calmness in his voice that made her do it. With one hand on the door and the other on the doorframe, she stopped and turned her head towards Tom Riddle questioningly.



His upper body was angled to face her, as he leaned with one hand on the table for support and gestured to her left with his other arm. He clearly had no intention to try and stop her.



‘Your jacket.’



Hermione blinked, taking in the blank expression on his face, his immobile stance, and the distance between them, before she checked on her left. There, on a hanger on the wall, hung her jacket. With a rapid arm movement, she snatched it and ran, not looking back when she heard the door of Voldemort’s cell slam shut behind her as she yanked open the hardwood door to get away from those Magical Impairment Wards fast.



xxx





Tom Riddle rose from the table and settled himself on the bed lazily. With a broad, smug smile on his face, he glanced at his hand. In between his fingers, he twirled her ballpoint around and around and around.



‘I’ll be seeing you again soon, Hermione Granger. Real soon.’



xxx





Hermione kicked off her shoes and dumped her jacket on the nearest hanger when she arrived home. Their little, one bedroom flat was cosy, though as Molly reminded them all the time not really suitable for starting a family. Well, she’d deal with that when it became necessary, not sooner. She and Ron had been trying for a while now, but so far nothing. And she liked the flat; it was close to her and Ron’s place of employment, and it didn’t need a lot of work to keep clean. As long as she wasn’t pregnant, she didn’t see the point in looking for a bigger house. It wouldn’t pop out immediately anyway. She’d have nine months to find something else. It was more than enough time.



With a sigh, she plumped into the easy chair. What a completely waste of time had this day turned out to be. She combed through her hair with her fingers and stared ahead. She could’ve been halfway through her experiment with the veil now. But noooo, Lord Voldemort had once again interrupted her schedule, as he’d done throughout all of her school years.



And for what?



Not a thing.



Even incarcerated that damn wizard remained a huge pain in the arse. Ugh.



She’d tell Katie tomorrow it had been a useless trip. Or perhaps she could take tomorrow off since her experiment needed two consecutive days to gain completion? Mmm … if she really wanted a free day, she supposed she had to write her report now and owl it to Katie. My, she was so going to need coffee if she were to write it all down.



Somewhat reluctantly, she rose from the chair and flicked her wand at her kitchen. Coffee beans flew from the pot and clattered into the coffeemaker. It began grinding the beans immediately and the water inside started to heat up as she walked back to her jacket. Ruffling through its pocket, she pulled out her notebook and a pen and dumped them on their tiny kitchen table. Pouring her coffee with extra cream in a large mug, she seated herself with her hands wrapped around the steaming mug.



There was nothing good coffee couldn’t cure, she thought, sipping satisfied.



Placing the mug on the table and grabbing her pen instead, she considered what she was going to write as she flipped open the notebook: the supposedly empty notebook since she hadn’t used it yet. Her eyes widened when an unfamiliar, neatly cursive script occupied the pages. Lowering her pen, she quickly flipped through the pages. He’d filled more than one. She counted eleven pages. Stunned, she went to page one and started reading. By the time she reached the last of his notes, her coffee had turned cold. Hermione flew to her feet, grabbed everything she needed and rushed to the door. It was already opening when her husband came in, surprised to see her already.



‘Hermione, you’re home ear–’



Her lips pecked his cheek in passing.



‘Don’t wait up for me,’ she said hurriedly, quickly followed by her Apparition crack.



xxx





‘This is incomplete,’ Katie McGregor said, watching Hermione over her glasses.



‘Yeah, yeah, but don’t you see it?’ Hermione replied, waving away the objections in excitement. ‘It’s a whole new way of looking at logograms. They’ve always been sort of the stepchild of Ancient Runes. All we ever normally do is translate them to know the right quantity, structure, space, and changes that are required to activate the main rune. But according to Riddle, the logograms are an integral part of the rune. Nobody has ever considered this even once.’



Hermione practically bounced on her feet in enthusiasm, not understanding why her boss wasn’t more excited. This was a huge breakthrough. If used properly, it could greatly enhance the outcome of a rune’s activation and that meant …



Oh my, she had to use this theory on her experiment with the veil.



That stone archway was littered with runes. Maybe that’s been why nobody had been able to activate those runes before. They’d just translated the logograms and kept it at that instead of activating the logograms as well. Oh, she couldn’t wait for her next opportunity. Too bad she had to wait two whole, bleeding years. Perhaps she could figure out some method of getting an earlier opportunity – pull the best friend of Harry Potter card?



Mmm … unlike Ron, she’d never done that before, and she wasn’t particularly keen on using their friendship in such a manner. Still, if it could make her waiting period less long, then, perhaps, it was worth a try? Just this once.



‘There is no direct application possible with this,’ McGregor said, leaning back in her seat disappointed. ‘Here at the end,’ she pointed to the notebook, ‘this part on Shield Charms and their effectiveness is interesting; but it’s unfinished, and therefore, rendered useless to us.’



The part on Shield Charms was interesting? All it entailed was some gadget to make even the most incompetent of wizardkind capable of casting a full shield. That was something so basic and mundane, unlike the logograms theory. Now that was overhauling Ancient Runes theories all over the world.



‘You need to go back,’ Katie said, shutting Hermione’s notebook and handing it back, ‘and this time get him to finish the things we can actually use.’



Hermione gaped at her boss. ‘Ancient Runes has practical usage,’ she objected, placing her hands in her sides.



‘Yes, but this is not what we need from him. If I want a theoretical, philosophical essay, I’ll go to Avalon Academy and speak with its professors. You make sure he understands that there is no deal if he’s trying to weasel out of it by handing me rubbish.’



‘Deal? What deal?’ Hermione asked sharply.



‘The Ministry is willing to remove the last part of the Wizengamot’s life-sentence for his cooperation.’



‘What! That means he’ll be eligible for parole!’ Hermione shrieked aghast.



‘Eligible doesn’t necessitate getting it,’ Katie replied calmly.



Oh no … when would people stop underestimating his manipulative skills? Hermione felt like banging her head on her boss’s desk.



‘The no parole part was added to make sure his life-sentence would be a full life-sentence and not some mockery of fifteen to thirty years.’



‘No parole board will set Lord Voldemort free, Hermione. The people would rise up against them if they tried it.’



‘You think?’ Hermione sneered, shaking her head over so much stupidity. ‘Give it a decade and we’ll talk again. I’ll put serious money on him walking out. If there is one thing history has shown us, it’s that people forget atrocities and only see the present. If the present is the charming, handsome Mr. Riddle handing them all kinds of useful, wonderful things, then they won’t even want to make the connection to “snake-face” and his actions anymore.’



‘I’ve got it covered, Hermione. It won’t take much for my office to make sure “the people” recall exactly what it was like when he was in charge. Steering public opinion in the right direction isn’t that hard from this seat. Now, go,’ she waved to the door, ‘and make sure to get something that’s practically applicable immediately.’



As the door slammed shut behind a disgruntled Hermione, Katie McGregor leaned back in her seat. She never liked it when she had to lie so explicitly to one of her operatives, but Lord Voldemort had always been excellent at spotting liars around him. The unconscious, tiny, nonverbal, bodily signals humans sent out when they lie … well, she was pretty sure he could recognise those, too.



No, his inability to use Legilimency now wasn’t enough of a reassurance for her to allow Hermione to know the truth, which was that she had no intention whatsoever of keeping her end of the bargain with Lord Voldemort. No, she’d drain him dry and toss away the key afterward.



Parole … McGregor snorted. Over my dead Mudblood body.



xxx





‘Back so soon?’ Riddle questioned, quirking an eyebrow in amusement at the little, bushy-haired witch who’d run into his cell in a hurry to get out of that corridor. ‘I admit I’d anticipated your return, just not on the same day.’



‘What do you get out of this?’ Hermione asked sharply.



His expression went blank in an instant, which was telling enough on its own. She paced to the table and tossed the notebook on it.



‘You don’t do things without an objective, Riddle. Lord Voldemort does not share,’ she sneered, placing her hands in her sides. ‘Especially not something as innovating and far reaching as that Ancient Runes theory.’



A smug smile erupted on his face, and he cocked his head. ‘Enjoyed reading it?’



Enjoyed reading it? How could she not? She’d not read anything this innovative, interesting and stimulating in a long time. Of course she’d enjoyed reading it. What a stupid question.



‘Yes, yes, I did,’ she said hurriedly, wanting to share her thoughts as fast as possible, while  gesturing excitedly with her hands to underline her words. ‘The opportunities it presents are multitude.’ She shook her head lightly in amazement. ‘Using logograms like this will undoubtedly give different results from all the translations done before, not to mention the outcome of rune spell-casting …’



She halted her compliments abruptly when he eyed her utterly pleased.



‘Yes,’ she sneered, crossing her arms. ‘It’s brilliant. You’re brilliant. What do you want? Applause and a deep bow to cheer on your tremendous greatness, your highness?’ she questioned mockingly.



His light chuckle filled the cell.



‘Well then, what’s keeping you?’ he teased as he gestured with his hand for her to do just that.



Ignoring his comment, she said sarcastically, ‘Why are you … “sharing”’ –she made quotation marks in the air to indicate her high level of disbelief– ‘your infinite knowledge?’



He stretched out his arms above his head, entwining his fingers between each other as he moved his hands behind the back of his head and leaned against them lazily.



‘Your superior didn’t inform you about our deal?’ he asked smoothly.



An askew smile erupted on Hermione’s face; her brown eyes stared at him with a peculiar, slightly murderous glint; sarcasm dripped from every inch of her expression as she softly spoke: ‘Again … what do you get out of this?’



It annoyed Hermione to tears how his expression turned to one of utmost innocence and surprise, as if he had no idea what she was talking about.



‘I think a chance of parole is–’



Furious, she slammed her hands on the tabletop, interrupting him. She’d heard enough bullshit for one day in McGregor’s office. She didn’t need Riddle’s additions to it.



‘I’d appreciate it if you didn’t take me for a simpleton,’ she hissed. ‘What. Do. You. Think. You. Can. Get. Out. Of. This?’



Their eye contact intensified: dark against brown. It was silent in the cell now, a tense silence. A battle was raging. Keeping eye contact with Riddle’s dark gaze wasn’t exactly comfortable. It still felt like he could see straight through her, like he’d know every single dark secret of her past merely by focusing those intense eyes of his on her. But so help her Godric, she wasn’t backing down now. She’d walk out of that door with no intention of ever coming back if she didn’t get a satisfying answer to this.



Contemplatively, Riddle tilted his head: observing, monitoring, and scrutinising her. One of his hands gestured welcomingly to his bed without him breaking eye contact.



‘Have a seat, Ms Granger,’ he said knowingly.



‘I asked you a question,’ she said coolly.



‘And I answered it,’ he replied in a similar tone of voice.



Hermione felt the blood drain from her face as his reply registered fully. Me? But …



‘Sit down.’ The order left his mouth as if he’d cracked a whip, and she flinched.



Pissed about her flinching, she moved her hands from the tabletop and straightened out, crossing her arms in front of her chest defensively and staring at him haughtily. He was on his feet so fast she staggered back in shock. Before she even realised what the hell was happening, he’d pushed her harshly into the wall. Hermione struggled as hard as she could, but he had a stronghold on her arms and pressed his much taller body into hers, causing them to be so close that kicking him turned out to be very ineffective. She doubted he’d even have a bruise tomorrow. She hit him with her head, but it bumped off his sinewy chest like a bouncy ball and struck the metal wall behind her, causing her eyes to water in pain.



When he roughly yanked her arms above her head to catch her wrists in a single-handed, vicelike grip and his free hand’s fingers curled around her neck and squeezed, she was certain she was done for. Struggling ferociously, she tried everything she could to regain her freedom, but he wasn’t giving her an inch. His lower body was moulded firmly against hers, making it impossible for her to wriggle out of his grasp – though that didn’t stop her from trying, for she was choking.



Her life flashed by before her eyes. Merlin, she was only twenty-two. She didn’t want to die already. Her watery eyes met his cold, calculating gaze, beseechingly.



His grip on her throat loosened a little in response, causing her to blink in confusion. A bit of air rattled past her half-closed windpipe. It wasn’t nearly enough to sustain her. Yet, his calculating expression was replaced for an expectant one as if waiting for something more. Realising what he wanted from her, Hermione stopped struggling: surrendering, submitting to him.



‘Please,’ she tried to say, but the word wouldn’t quite form correctly in her throat due to his chokehold.   



Trembling, she waited fearfully. She’d just placed her life into the hands of a mass murderer. Not that she’d had much of a choice, but still, it wouldn’t be construed as the sanest decision she’d ever made: not trying to fight back and let it be his call whether she lived or died.



Just when she thought the world would turn black around her and it would be all over, he released his grip on her neck. Her lungs desperately pulled in all the air they could get. It rattled down in short bursts, as she gasped again and again and again, her upper body bucking against him.



Finally, after quite some time, her breathing turned back to normal – though, her throat still hurt, and tears streamed down her face. She was avoiding his eyes now. Hermione had never felt this powerless and weak in her life. And he hadn’t let go! His fingers still stroked over her neck, tracking the contours of what would be a visible bruise later. Her body was quivering continuously, relentlessly expressing her fear, while she felt the calmness in his muscles against her. He’d perfectly positioned himself in this stance. The ease with which he held her under control was all the more humiliating. She could damn near taste his dominion in the air, and it made her heart race oh so fast.



‘Look at me, girl,’ he hissed quietly.



Biting her lower lip, she swallowed a couple of times to gather the courage to meet his eyes. Yet, she couldn’t find it. She felt utterly humiliated and stupid. She couldn’t bear the thought of him looking down his nose at her right now.



Fear, however, gripped her heart when she felt his fingers coil around her throat again, and she met his eyes in a flash.



His face was blank, serious. There wasn’t a sign of condemnation or condescension towards her in his eyes. Strangely enough that made her feel relieved.



‘Now,’ he breathed barely above a whisper, cupping her cheek to stroke the tears from her face with his thumb. ‘Let’s not do this again, shall we? It is most unpleasant for both of us if you disobey me, and I’d rather spend our time together NOT having to hurt you. So …’ he paused, considering her briefly, ‘since you cleverly realised I am not such an idiot to believe your boss’s promises, I suppose that means we should open negotiations. I believe you already know what I have to offer, so I’ll cut to the chase. You will be here every day for a minimum of one hour, during which time you can ask me whatever you want about magic-related topics and I will reply to the best of my abilities.’



Hermione’s mind reeled at the opportunities and the dangers of this arrangement.



‘No touching,’ she said hoarsely.



‘Fair enough,’ Voldemort acknowledged, continuing to stroke the side of her face and neck gently. ‘In return for this no touching rule, you will not share the information I give you with anyone, unless they are topics I approve of. That way your boss remains happy and allows you to continue coming here.’



‘No.’



He quirked an eyebrow at her daring.



But she shook her head to underline her disagreement. ‘No, I want a say in what I am or am not allowed to share. This way you can’t stop me from helping people I care about.’



‘You can share the Cruciatus cure with the Longbottoms,’ he said tiresomely. ‘Happy now?’



‘No, I can’t foresee everything I can learn from you in advance. If you can stop me from using what you teach me, then what good will it do me?’ she replied solidly.



Thoughtfully, she bit her lip. Her eyes cast downward as she considered possible solutions.



‘What if … what if I won’t share the information that you don’t want me to, unless I have a pressing reason to do so?’



Her suggestion was met with laughter, outright boisterous laughter.



‘Cunning, Granger,’ he hiccoughed briefly as he suppressed his laughter to be able to speak normally, ‘but not cunning enough. Without a clear stipulation, everything can be a pressing reason for you.’



‘Ermm … not if I have to weight your interest against mine fairly and reach a decision based on that.’



Her face brightened at what she honestly thought was a fair solution. However, he merely closed his eyes and leaned in towards the wall, softly hitting his forehead against it with a deep groan before mumbling something that sounded suspiciously like “Gryffindors” in her ears, as if that were a bad thing. His hair tickled her cheek with his movements; it felt nice and soft, unlike the bruising grip he still had on her wrists. He leaned back. Now he was looking down at her condescendingly. It really annoyed her since she’d meant what she’d said. She’d always been good at taking a step back and weighing every choice rationally without letting her emotions cloud her judgement. Many times in the past it had led to a decision which wasn’t always in her immediate best interest, but had benefited others.   



‘I wouldn’t let my own interest weigh harder just because it’s mine,’ she added seriously.



‘Mmm …’ His expression turned thoughtful, as his fingers played with a stray curl of her hair. ‘I truly think you believe that. How–’



He placed two fingers on her mouth when she was about to object and interrupt him.



She heeded his warning and waited for his continuation silently. His fingertips drifted down, caressing the sensitive skin of her neck where he’d only minutes ago almost squeezed the life out of her. Only now his touch was titillating and gentle. It made her feel even more vulnerable than when he’d nearly choked her, because the feeling was so nice that she almost leaned into his touch and closed her eyes at the sensation.



Almost.



‘However,’ Voldemort continued, ‘I think my scale would be … balanced differently from yours with respects to what is deemed more valuable. Nevertheless, I do believe you’re sincere in your belief that you can reach a fair decision, and as such, I suggest a compromise.’



He checked to see if he had her full attention, which was the case so he continued.



‘I’ll allow you the liberty to do as you’ve suggested. However, afterwards, you will inform me fully – which means, without withholding any information whatsoever – and should I reach a different outcome from yours …’ he trailed off threateningly. His eyes darkened, making her swallow reflexively. And he leaned in until his lips brushed her earlobe, while his hand caressed the other side of her face. His voice turned even softer as he slowly added, ‘then, in that hour, you will make it up to me in whatever way I desire.’



For a moment, he pressed the side of her head against his, and she couldn’t help it, she closed her eyes and let that feeling of being held oh so tightly by him wash over her. He was the prisoner but he definitely held her captive now. Strangely, she’d never felt more relaxed, more herself as in that moment.



Then, he moved back. Hermione opened her eyes and met his deep dark gaze in tranquillity. She nodded silently.



Their deal was sealed.



xxx



 




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