1) There are some AU elements leading up to the events of this story, despite that it mostly follows canon up to the Battle of Hogwarts: 1) Ron died as a result of injuries received fleeing the Ministry during the Horcrux Hunt, 2) Antonin Dolohov is younger than his canon portrayal (34 yrs. old, to be exact [making him 17 during the First Wizarding War & certainly old enough to have still become a Death Eater, then]).
2) There will be some deviation from HP canon werewolves. There is a valid, in-story reason for this.
3) Harry's soul dying rather than the sliver of Voldemort's is a popular fanon 'what if?' scenario, but if anyone is aware of who actually started this idea, please let me know so that I may credit them, accordingly.
4) Those re-reading this since the previous update may notice a change in the way Thorfinn addresses Hermione (switching it from 'Princess' to 'Sunshine'). I'd initially borrowed elements Canimal had created for his character (with her knowledge and permission), but she has been hurt several times by fellow writers who borrowed without asking or giving credit, and so she has stopped granting permission. I realized part of the issue might be the more places other writers see these elements, the less likely they are to think they're not just common fanon. While she allowed me to continue borrowing those elements, myself, I felt it was a greater sign of respect for her efforts were I to go through any WiPs where these elements appear, and weed them out in place of my own take on the characters and their dynamics.
FANCASTS: Ian Somerholder as Antonin Dolohov (thank Kittenshift17 for that); Chris Hemsworth as Thorfinn Rowle; Jason Momoa as Fenrir Greyback
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Harry Potter and make no profit from this story.
As a child in the Muggle world, Hermione Granger was taught that good always triumphed over evil, because that's just the way things were. As an adult in the Wizarding world, she had learned that was a lie.
And possibly the most wretched lie a person could ever put their faith in.
Opening her eyes in the darkened chamber, the stone walls dabbled here and there with weak and fading sunlight, dim recollections played through her mind, but the thoughts were scattered, making the flashes of memory difficult to understand. She climbed to her feet on aching limbs and tried to explore her surroundings only to find her wand gone and a shackle around one ankle that would likely prevent her from walking very far, at all.
As she wrapped cold and stinging fingers around the thick chain and pulled, testing just how sturdy the bolt securing it into the chamber wall was, she tried to think back over how she'd gotten here.
She recalled following Harry into the Dark Forest, despite his urging not to. He should've known better than to expect her to listen. He'd only been trying to protect her, she knew . . . but who was going to protect him?
Hermione shook her head, wishing she could stop the rush of memories, now, as she poured what little strength she currently had into pulling on the chain.
He'd faced off against Voldemort and fallen. She let out an anguished cry and released the cold iron links, falling to floor on her knees.
She'd felt it! She'd felt Harry die. Keeping her pain in check, she'd followed the Death Eaters back to Hogwarts; the cries of their friends and loved ones rang in her ears, still, at the sight of Hagrid carrying Harry like that. At Voldemort's announcement that Harry Potter was dead.
Hermione buried her face in her hands, trying to staunch the flow of miserable tears.
When Harry had tumbled from Hagrid's arms and launched himself at Voldemort, once more, she'd known one very simple truth that no one else had. Everyone else had jumped right back into the fray, but she was frozen where she stood, because she knew . . . .
The wizard battling Voldemort was not Harry Potter.
She tried to catch her breath. Pressing a shaky hand to her heart, she tipped her head back, dragging huge, hiccupping gulps of air into her lungs.
Voldemort had fallen . . . . And as the battle continued raging around them, Harry simply reached down and extracted the Elder Wand from the former Dark Lord's fingers.
His grip on the Hallow was possessive. He turned his head, looking about the battlefield. She'd watched as his gaze swept over Fenrir Greyback, gravely wounded on the ground, not far from her . . . .
Then he'd met her gaze. Those once familiar green eyes glowed with the energy of Dark magic. As he reached up and removed his glasses, Hermione regained control of her body.
She'd turned and bolted into the Forest, as fast as her battered and exhausted limbs would carry her.
A chill dashed up her spine at the memory of his voice, so icy, so unlike her best friend's—her bloody soulmate! And she'd watched him die!
"Fetch me the Mudblood," he'd said, his tone cold and commanding.
Some signal must've passed through the Death Eaters, because his order was not questioned. There was no confusion in following his words. Feet pounded the ground behind her and she couldn't help but glance back.
Antonin Dolohov and Rabastan Lestrange were on her trail and gaining. Under Harry's direction, Thorfinn Rowle was hoisting up a half-dead Fenrir from the ground.
All the while, the battle carried on . . . . But she could hear pockets of sudden confusion popping up in the distance.
She tried to force her legs to move faster, but the information meeting her ears did not bode well. The Death Eaters were disappearing from the battlefield, one-by-one.
In a last ditch effort to escape, she cast hexes at her pursuers with blind, wild waves of her wand over her shoulder.
And then . . . .
Hermione swallowed hard, her bottom lip shivering as she wiped at her cheeks with the sleeve of her tatty, bedraggled jumper.
And then there was nothing. She'd opened her eyes here and had no idea where she was, or what might've been done to her in the time between losing consciousness and waking here. She didn't even know how much time had passed.
With a steadying breath, she forced herself to calm and started a cursory examination of her own body.
No bones seemed broken, no severe sprains, either . . . . Her hair was a tangled mess, but what was new, there? She inhaled sharp and deep as she stood, again.
She dreaded having to wonder this, but these were Death Eaters she was dealing with. Closing her eyes, she ran trembling fingers over her clothes. Across her breasts, down along her hips and abdomen, between the insides of her thighs . . . . Over the fly of her jeans and across her bum.
There were no tears in the fabric she did not recall receiving in the battle; no button, or zipper, undone. She had no mysterious aches, tenderness, or throbbing anywhere of consequence.
Her breath rushed from her lips in a shuddering exhale and she folded forward. Her relief was so strong, it dizzied her for a moment. "Thank God," she said, her voice no more than a whispered tumble of sound.
Aware she likely had little time to waste with feelings as currently useless as relief or thankfulness, Hermione returned to her inspection of her surroundings. She'd been too distracted with her painful recollections and her pointless struggle with her chain to pay attention, otherwise.
Now, as she looked about in the barely-present illumination, she became aware of vague shapes. She didn't want to think what this space resembled, now that she could recognize things.
That was when she heard it. Holding her breath, she strained to listen in the darkness.
Shallow inhalations drifted to her from somewhere nearby. She wasn't alone.
Closing her eyes, she tried to get a sudden, icy roiling of fear in the pit of her stomach under control. What if that was another prisoner? They certainly sounded weak . . . . They'd not stirred at her outburst a few moments earlier
Whoever that was, they were likely injured.
Cursing herself, Hermione gathered the length of her chain in her hand, once more, her other out beside her for guidance in the abysmal lighting as she crept toward the breathing on silent footfalls. Might as well use the opportunity to see just how much movement her confines allowed, while she was at it.
Along a cold stone wall, rough and pocked with age, she went, the sound getting steadily closer. She could pick up the scents of herbal healing concoctions and medicinal potions, not terribly dissimilar from the way the hospital wing of Hogwarts had smelled.
Hogwarts . . . .
Forcing away another bout of sadness that threatened to crash over her, she shook her head and continued on.
The fingers of her free hand trembled as they edged around a bend in the wall. She followed the curve of the stone around a corner to see the shape of a person, lying on a table or a gurney, perhaps?
Light flooded the chamber and the shock to her senses caused her to backpedal a step as she shielded her eyes with her arm. A pained, raspy chuckle met her ears from the other prisoner.
"Mudblood," he said. "Thought that was you from the scent."
Swallowing hard, Hermione lowered her arm, blinking rapidly a few times as her eyes adjusted. "Greyback?"
"Nice to be remembered, I suppose." His voice was no more than a low, dull growl of words.
As the scene before her finally swam into focus, Hermione was horrified. Even knowing who he was, even knowing what he was capable of and what he'd wanted to do to her, had fate granted him the chance, her heart constricted sharply at the state he was in.
Tethered to the hospital bed beneath him, Fenrir Greyback was bare from the waist up. The naked muscles punctured and torn with so many wounds she didn't think she could stomach an attempt to count them all.
He was gritting his teeth continually, sweat beading his skin and his amber eyes seemed scrunched in a permanent squint.
Hermione found herself asking the question before she could stop herself. "What happened to you?"
"Ask your friend Potter," he said in a hissing whisper.
So Harry was responsible for her predicament—not that she'd thought otherwise for even a second since opening her eyes—but she forced aside a wash of anguish and betrayal as she shook her head. "That . . . that man is not my friend. My friend died."
"At least you're up to speed." His words were followed by an exhausted chuckle.
"Did they leave you down here to die?"
"The opposite. Just my luck, right?" He struggled weakly against his restraints as he spoke. "I was put down here to be kept alive. What is it the Muggles call that? Karma?"
Footfalls echoed through the chamber, giving her a start. It was not lost on her the way Fenrir gave up his fight, seeming to recoil into his bed from the sound.
Whether that was due to fear of what whoever was coming down here might do to him, or some werewolf instinct she couldn't understand, his response put Hermione on alert. She spun on her heel, looking toward the sound.
She was ignoring that she'd deliberately placed herself between the visitor and the immobilized werewolf. Stupid Gryffindor courage, she thought with a sad little laugh at herself.
At the end of the chamber, she saw someone descending a half-hidden staircase. The chamber, itself, now that she had time to look was wide and long, the ancient brown stone of the walls reminded her of catacombs, or some archaic temple's antechamber.
Hermione also ignored the needling, curious voice telling her to take this opportunity to poke about, further. There was just enough give on her chain, still, that she was able to wrap the thick links around her hand once. Clenching her fingers into a fist, she put her arm behind her, hiding the sad, makeshift weapon from view.
Clearing the wall that blocked much of the staircase, Antonin Dolohov stepped into her line of sight.
Of all the Death Eaters for Harry to send down here . . . .
Her heart hammered against her rib cage and she had to remind herself to breathe as he made his way toward her. She knew the werewolf behind her must've sensed her reaction, because he muttered something about her at least having some sense.
"I'm not here to hurt Fenrir," Antonin said as he stopped before the portion of the chamber she'd awoken in, his hands spread wide. He narrowed his pale-blue eyes at her, the delicate skin beneath them crinkling. "Not here to hurt you, either."
She ignored that he seemed to spend a little more time than strictly necessary thinking over the scene he'd come upon. "Then why are you here?"
"Our new Lord sent me to examine you and assess your injuries."
"Like you assessed Greyback's?"
Antonin visibly forced a gulp down his throat before darting his gaze about the chamber. "I have nothing to do with that. Now, if you'd like to get this over with quickly, I suggest you come here."
Hermione dug her heel in, though she understood it was a losing fight. "And if I don't?"
He shook his head, raking his fingers through his longish black hair in an exasperated gesture. "You're chained and unarmed and I have a wand. I've got a job to do. Now come here, or I'll make you."
Surprising her, she heard Fenrir Greyback whisper, "Go." There was a note of warning in that single word that prompted her into motion.
She moved on reluctant footsteps to stand before the Death Eater. Never had she been this close to him, and she didn't want to be, now. The memories of his attempt to end her life sent little, flitting sparks across her chest and stomach, running along the path his curse had taken when he'd struck her with it in the Department of Mysteries.
For a few, strained and uneasy heartbeats, he only stood before her, holding her gaze.
Clearing his throat, he gestured into the area where she'd woken, once more. "Go on."
Hermione didn't want to turn and look. She didn't want to see the things she'd thought were scattered around that portion of the chamber.
Steeling her nerves, she pivoted on a heel. There was an ancient-looking bed, some equally antiquated bedroom furniture, a short stack of shelves stuffed with books. She felt her gut churning. She'd known she was a prisoner . . . but the clear evidence that Harry meant her to live here for who knew how long turned her stomach inside out.
Yet, none of that was as terrible as the other side of her room. Before her was an apothecary station, exam table, and crates filled with all manner of potions ingredients stacked neatly by a cauldron.
"Why you?" she asked as she moved to the exam table.
Hermione turned back to face him as she lifted herself up to sit. The expression pinching his features was strangely thoughtful as he frowned, his head tipping side-to-side as he followed her.
As he extracted his wand from the inside pocket of his robes, he shrugged. "If I had to guess, I'd say it's probably the medical knowledge I've acquired through my work with information extraction."
She recoiled on the table. "I think you meant to say torture."
Again, he shrugged after another moment's thought. "Potato, potah-to."
He stepped closer and she recoiled, further. "I . . . you're not going to make me undress or anything, are you?"
Antonin eyed her for several seconds. "That won't be necessary, unless you feel it would make the examination more thorough, somehow."
He actually smirked. The predicament she'd woken to, and he was laughing at her.
She tried to keep her words to herself as he closed the distance between them to start scanning her limbs and torso with his wand. She didn't like that he was so close his hip occasionally bumped her knee. She didn't like that even though she wasn't looking at him, she could feel the weight of his gaze on her face.
He was trying to unnerve her, and she knew it.
His hand brushed her throat as he swept her hair back to examine her neck and shoulders. She tried not to shiver as he reached around her to cup the back of her head, his fingertips sinking into the wild, golden-brown tangle to rub her scalp in search of any bumps or gashes.
Having his hands on her as he stood so near that she could feel his breath on her made her want to jump out of her skin.
As he finished the examination, she hissed out the words, "God, I hate you."
He backpedaled half a step and then braced his palms on either side of her upon the table. Holding her gaze with narrowed eyes, he asked, "Do you really?"
Forcing a gulp down her throat, she nodded.
"Good." His lips twisted up at one corner as he flicked over her with his eyes before returning them to hers. "Keep that fire. You'll live longer."
He moved back from her then, and she felt the oddest sense of cold in his absence. Ignoring it, she watched him walk away.
At the entry to her spacious stone alcove—she couldn't try to trick herself into thinking of this as a room—he glanced back at her over his shoulder. Nodding toward the bed, he said, "You should get some rest. Someone will be down to bring you something to eat and take you to wash yourself up, soon enough."
"Wait." The word was out before she could stop it. But he was still looking at her, so she pushed herself to ask, "What is it Harry wants with me?"
"I'm not permitted to say." After a moment—and with a bizarre sense of what she thought might be sympathy—he tacked on, "But I can tell you you're going to need your strength. So, do as I say and rest up."
And then he was gone.
Several pained and quiet heartbeats passed before she managed to pull herself down from the exam table. She could hear Fenrir's pained and shallow breathing in the distance, though it sounded a bit slower, a little less labored. He'd probably managed to fall asleep, somehow.
Glancing out the high, narrow window, the setting of night peeked through the bars. She should rest, too, she supposed. There was nothing else to do, after all. They weren't likely to have her stashed away any place where unwanted parties might be able to hear her scream.
And she'd woken with a deep sense of exhaustion she simply could not shake.
Making her way to the bed, the events that ended the Battle of Hogwarts played through her head, again. She pulled back the covers and shook them out, relieving them of a covering of dust—the pillowcase and sheets shockingly pristine, in comparison.
Crawling beneath the blankets, she pressed her cheek into the pillow and closed her eyes. Though, it wasn't long before the wretched memory of watching her best friend die saw to Hermione Granger crying herself to sleep.