A/N: This story takes place in an AU set 4 years after the Battle of Hogwarts. Voldemort has won, and Harry Potter is dead. As you may expect it will be dark, with episodes of violence and torture (both physical and psychological).
Though I have written these characters before, and elements of their characterisation will be similar to other stories and drabbles, the universe in which Orphea takes place is unique and is unrelated to any other of my works.
Disclaimer: The world and characters of Harry Potter belong to J K Rowling. This is a work of transformative fiction written for no profit. The line "You could not believe I was more than your echo" is taken from Margaret Atwood's poem 'Orpheus (1)'.
Chapter One: In their hearts the howling
Now - June 24th 2002
She wasn't sure how long it had been - hours, days, weeks. They were blurred into one by the screaming fire that lit her flesh, that scraped her throat raw and made her nerves spasm and twitch in a demented dance.
"Crucio," said a dispassionate voice - lightly accented, Dolohov - and she found herself blackly amused that she could still identify them, still differentiate between her torturers, even as her blood seemed to turn to mercury that boiled in her veins.
Hermione closed her eyes, barely conscious of her teeth grinding together to ride the unending wave of pain as she tried to dream of actual waves, smooth sand and soft sunlight.
She just had to -
"Last," Draco had said. "You just have to last long enough, and he'll want to get his own look at you."
He had smiled ruefully at her, the expression dragging his scarred face into more of a grimace.
"He likes a challenge, he likes spirit. Demonstrate that and he'll want to finish you off personally. Take it from me." He had gestured at the thin line that ran from temple to jaw, bisecting his ruined eye, and Hermione had recalled the look of shock on Harry's face, the way that blood had bubbled from his mouth to spill down his chin.
As though it was trying to find its way back to his heart.
The pain stopped, and she let her head loll onto her shoulder, hearing the scrape of the door opening, the whisper of robes on stone flags.
"Miss Granger." The voice was one that she had not heard in over four years, but it still retained its power to reach into her, to chill the places that no spell could touch with a single, icy word. "Hermione, if I might be so bold –"
You may not, she wanted to say, and her hands curled into fists where they were bound to the seat of the chair, her fingertips adhering to the half-dried blood where her nails had cut crescent moons into her palms.
"- I must admit," he continued, and his voice was saccharine with amusement, "I'm surprised you've lasted so long."
Finally, she opened her eyes, seeing the unnatural gleam of his irises in the half-dark, and forced herself to smile, knowing that her teeth would be red where she'd bitten her tongue. She cleared her throat and spat blood onto the floor at his feet.
"Riddle," she rasped, "So good of you to take the time."
He twitched slightly at the name, a barely perceptible flicker of movement in his serpentine face, but enough for her to count it as a triumph.
"I am…unused…to being addressed that way," he said eventually, his voice emerging from between clenched teeth. "There are very few who remember that name."
Hermione laughed, a dry croak of sound that quickly devolved into a racking cough. Dank cellars are murder on the lungs, she thought, even if it is the dank cellar of Malfoy Manor. "You think Harry and Dumbledore were the only ones who knew who you really are?"
The air of the room shifted, took on a thrumming note of tension as she felt his anger rise, magic tautening around her. Voldemort lifted one hand and Hermione caught the glimmer of light on the knife – the knife that had killed Harry, killed Neville, Lavender, Ernie, Padma; taken Draco's eye, Parvati's hand; shorn the bonds of sisters, of friends, of children and parents.
Had carved a word into the flesh of her forearm, into the substance of her soul.
"Mudblood filth," he hissed now, "You think a pathetic Muggle name is who I really am?" The blade flashed dangerously in the air, and Hermione held her breath. Just a little more, just a little closer.
"I was the one who figured it out, you know," she said, deliberately goading. "Your horcruxes, the Hallows, after Dumbledore died. You were in Harry's head, but I got inside yours."
Those scarlet eyes narrowed, his lipless mouth drawing itself into a derisive sneer. "You seem to think a great deal of yourself, Hermione Granger." He paused, tipping his head to one side, like a viper considering its prey. "But your cleverness was not enough to save your precious Harry Potter, and it will not be enough to save you."
It wasn't, Hermione silently agreed, and the grief that she carried in her heart twisted - an invisible scar, Harry etched indelibly upon her. But it was an old wound, an old pain, and she had learned to bear it.
"Won't it?" she asked, forcing mockery into her voice. Come on, she thought. Come on.
The sneer on his face deepened, and he leaned closer, staring into her eyes. "You think you are a match for me? You are an insect to be crushed, you and your pathetic rebellion, and I find that my patience wears thin."
Do it. Her heart leaped into her throat, breath ragged. Do it, come on, come on.
"Legilimens," Voldemort breathed, a silken whisper that belied the terrible violence of the intrusion as he crashed into her mind. Hermione couldn't help her gasp: he was so much more brutal, so much crueller than the worst that Draco had subjected her to in months of practice, and it was a struggle to focus, to draw the shattered pieces of herself together.
With an effort of will she ignored the claws of Voldemort's spell in her thoughts, and threw herself into the taste of copper blood on her tongue; on the burn of ropes on her wrists; imagining walls and doors and mirrors - reflecting - reflecting -
Surprise – and the girl's ashen face – and anger – and Hermione snatched at the anger and used it as a wedge to drive her way further in, further and further – fury – that she would dare – and she delved deeper, following the thread of disgust back, back and there – there –
The blunt wedge of a mountain like an axe blade, water a milky sky-blue, useless, useless, his wand rising, fury coursing through him, the curse forming on his lips – and she saw the page that he had torn from the book, read the words, and then he threw her out with such force that her head snapped back, cracking against the wall with a dizzying thud.
"You dare," Voldemort choked, both hands raised now, wand and knife ready, and behind him she saw Dolohov starting forward from where he had been leaning against the wall – too late, because Hermione had already felt with her tongue for the chunk of metal embedded in her back tooth, had already thought Portus.
"I dare," she smiled, blue light spilling from her mouth as she felt the familiar, sickening yank behind her navel and Voldemort's howl of rage was lost as she spun through space.
Then - 31st October 2001
Hermione woke with her heart in her mouth, gasping hot clouds of breath into the frigid air. The nightmares were back, just as she'd had in the first few months at the castle, and clearly she'd been sleepwalking again because one glimpse of her surroundings in the silvery moonlight told her that she was up in the top of the shattered eyrie that had formerly been Ravenclaw Tower; ruined stone and jagged timbers jutting toward the dark sky like a smoke-blackened finger.
Draco had made the case for their return not long after he and Daphne had found them, camped in the ruins of what had once been Ottery St Catchpole.
Ron had been all for killing the pair of them on sight, but Hermione had seen the desperation in Daphne's eyes, the way that Draco sagged against her, the left side of his face hidden behind hasty bandaging, and had stepped forward.
"If we can find you here then so can they," Draco had said flatly a month later, when the wound had closed and he could sit unaided. He had winced as he pushed himself upright, and Daphne gave the barest flinch beside him but did not move to help.
"And where the fuck do you think we should go?" Ron had challenged him, anger burning bright spots of colour into his cheeks.
"Hogwarts." Draco had said, "Too pitiful for the Death Eaters to even suspect that you would colonise a burnt-out ruin."
Daphne had sat beside him, quiet and pale, but her eyes had lifted once more to meet Hermione's, and she had seen nothing but truth in the other girl's deep blue stare. If it was a trap, then it was well-constructed.
That had been two years ago; two years since they had come creeping back to the burnt-out shell of the school that had been home to all of them at one time or another. Fiendfyre had torn through Hogwarts, rendering much of the structure unstable, but in the parts that were left they had built themselves a sanctuary of sorts - behind layers of notice-me-not and repelling charms specifically tailored to the mark that crawled its way across Draco's forearm.
"A mistake," he'd said as they'd sat, the pair of them on watch on one of the early nights when they had all camped together in the Great Hall, beneath the shelter of a warming charm. Hermione was there more to watch Draco, and they both knew it, but that didn't mean that she couldn't ask him the questions that had nagged at her since she'd first cut away his sweat-soaked shirt and seen the stark lines of the Mark against his flesh.
"He should have included a location spell, but I think he was arrogant enough to think that he wouldn't need to."
He ran a finger along the scar on his cheek, a gesture that would soon become a habit when he was thinking, and then looked up at her, one eye a crisp winter-grey, the other clouded with white.
"I'll know where he is though," he said softly, "when he calls."
Now, years later, she wrapped her arms tightly around herself, screwing her eyes shut as she leaned against the icy wall and attempted to hold onto the details of the dream that had brought her to the other side of the building from that in which they had built their haven. It was useless to try, she knew - the memories were like water cupped between her hands, running from her, as they always did, as he always had - purpose and prophecy leading her best friend where she could not follow.
Harry. She felt her lips move, forming his name, and knew that no matter what the details the broad strokes of the dream would be the same: the day that he'd died, the day that the world was lost to the thrust of a cursed blade, to the high, cruel laugh of Voldemort's triumph.
Hermione had followed him into the Forest, because of course she had. She'd told him before that she'd follow him to the ends of the earth, and he might have an invisibility cloak but she wasn't stupid, so as soon as she'd spotted the footprints in the morning dew she had known.
She had seen, from where she hid herself behind a tree at the edge of the clearing, how Voldemort had raised his wand and then paused, considering. "I think I'd like to be sure," he had said, voice soft with menace as he reached out a hand to Bellatrix, who drew the dagger from her belt to place it reverently on his palm.
The movement had been quick, and precise, Voldemort lunging forward to bury the knife to its hilt in Harry's chest. She had seen Harry look down, almost disbelieving, and then his eyes had raised, his green gaze turned to her as though he had known all along that she was there, and Hermione looked on in horror as blood bubbled from his mouth to run down his chin, waiting until Harry's eyes had rolled upwards and he started to fall before she had turned to run back to the castle, to tell them that it was over; that they'd lost; that they had to get out.
And then afterward the twist of the corridors, the castle that they had known as children slipping into ruin as she chased him through it, always just a few steps behind. The flick of his robes around the next corner; the bounce of cold light on his dark hair, on his bright, quick smile.
Nightmare or dream? Better the ghost of his smile, perhaps, than the clear memory of the final, agonised look that he had given her at the very end, when she had seen in his eyes the knowledge that he had failed.
But she was awake now, the fact of his death no nightmare, and Hermione heard herself give a sharp little sob, felt tears sting her frozen skin. Harry had been talking to her in the dream, words tossed gaily over his shoulder, but the echo of his voice was fading and she realised that she could no longer remember the sound of it, let alone the words that he had said to her.
She scrubbed her hand across her face, blinked her eyes open to look out over the rugged grounds. The moon's face was a bright, pure silver, and the overgrown lawns were bathed in the bright light. Full moon on Halloween, she recalled an old Astronomy lesson. Ascend and fall.
To dream of Harry on such a night, under such a light, sent a shiver crawling beneath her skin.
Thy dead men shall live, she remembered suddenly, the soft words of her Sunday School teacher echoing through fifteen years, startling in their clarity when she couldn't remember Harry's voice.
If only, she thought. If only the dead could rise. One night could be enough. Enough to -
She slid down against the wall, her hand lifting to cover her mouth, to stifle the cry that rose to her lips. Her feet shuffled on the icy floor, catching, as she dropped downwards, on a scrap of parchment.
Parchment still littered the ruin of the castle, and every highland storm seemed to disturb a new hiding place so that pieces of creamy paper would whirl in the wind, catching the brightness of lightning like strange birds.
But this night was still, the moon shining impassively, not a wisp of cloud to cover it, and Hermione reached out and snatched the scrap that fluttered as though caught in a breeze.
As though held out to her by ghostly fingers.
Full moon on Halloween, when the veil was at its thinnest, when the dead rose to walk among the living and -
She smoothed the parchment out under the moonlight, saw the dark scratch of ink upon it.
Two words, written in her own handwriting:
A/N: Another dreamscape mystery beckons, and I hope you'll be along for the ride. Endless thanks to my light and joy, best friend, muse, and alpha-reader Olivie Blake - the idea behind this came from her beautiful brain, but she was generous enough to let me run with it.
I won't be giving further trigger warnings but as I intimated at the beginning there will be violence, there will be trauma, there will be blood, and it won't be pretty.
To be updated weekly.