Chapter: (01) - An Elegant Summons
Spoilers: SS/PS, CoS, PoA, GoF
Summary: In a world where Voldemort triumphed, Hermione Granger and Charlie Weasley, the sole survivors of Dumbledore's legacy, face the greatest of all crises that threatens the very core of their self-identities. Both find that they must struggle to maintain the hunger that motivates all that they fight for...even it if means joining their enemies.
DISCLAIMER: This is a piece of fiction based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling and her various publishers. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author notes: Harry Potter, to me, is a story of a very troubled world, and the journey of a special boy through this world. He encounters people whom are good, are bad, and are in between. And though she wrote of a culture filled with magic and with many mythical creatures, her fictitious culture is essentially about human culture. How often, when things do not go in our favor, do we say, "I wish I could do magic and fix that"? In the world of Harry Potter, they do have magic, and yet the world they live in is still imperfect. There is poverty, there is hatred, there is racism, and there is corruption – on both sides. Characters such as Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger have such long and complicated histories, that for them to get together is a painful and complex process. Glossing it over or idealizing it (i.e. when Draco decides that being Muggleborn is okay, or that he never supported his father, etc.) does not do it justice.
So I set a task for myself: in the real world, how would two such people unite? And I decided that their story was not just a story of romance – there were many other issues I wanted to address and many assumptions I wanted to challenge. The resultant story, Nest of Vipers, has become a story of horrific despair and conversely, of unforeseen hope. The people in it live in a world that is on the verge of collapse, and both sides need to make compromises in order to live peacefully.
But whether they are capable of that compromise remains to be seen.
------At the Battle of Hogwarts, as that fateful day is now called, the Order of the Phoenix was dealt a massive, debilitating defeat. In retrospect, however, it was the political landscape of Britain that caused such a battle to happen.
The Order's ultimate goal of removing Lord Voldemort from power was unlikely, and their raids of Death Eater meetings was a bad tactical move on their part. Albus Dumbledore, though wise and determined to see justice done, was weakened from years of fighting not only on the battlefield but also in politics. His heir, albeit unofficially, was a man still trapped in boyhood at the age of eighteen. Harry Potter was young, untested, and filled with a desire for vengeance.
At the time, the Death Eaters were being arrested by the dozens, their safe houses infiltrated, and their main leader in Azkaban Prison. It seemed a ripe time to deal the Dark Side a crippling blow.
However, Lord Voldemort, though plagued by bouts of insanity, was foresighted enough to anticipate such a tactic, and after breaking Lucius Malfoy out of prison and collaborating with his spy, Severus Snape, he turned the Order's surprise attack into an ambush by meeting them on the grounds of Hogwarts.
The crippling blow had become a crippling defeat. Surprise, the Order's strongest weapon, was lost, and the anticipated chaos of the Death Eaters was prevented from happening.
It began when Severus Snape turned his wand upon Rubeus Hagrid. The half-giant often acted as Dumbledore's bodyguard, so the need to eliminate him was paramount. It was why Snape had lured Hagrid away from the other witches and wizards before the surprise attack. With him out of the way, Snape was free to get rid of other obstacles, such as Professors Flitwick and Sprout. McGonagall was the only real threat, but she could not be killed immediately. She had information, which Lucius Malfoy would extract from her.
Dumbledore had been summoned to the courtyard, where Voldemort had been waiting for him. Though the years had been unkind to both of them, Voldemort had the edge. Dumbledore could not withstand the onslaught for long, and without the other members of his order to help him, he eventually faltered.
Harry Potter, for once not at the scene of action, appeared too late from where he had been fighting off dementors intent on preying on the younger students. Harry Potter, the hope of Dumbledore, should have stood back and considered his options. There were many more days left in which he could have fought. And perhaps, if Ronald Weasley had not been fighting Death Eaters inside the castle, he could have pulled Harry away. Perhaps if Hermione Granger had been with Harry instead of with Professor Sinistra, her reasoning could have penetrated the cloud of anger in his mind.
"Perhaps" is the saddest of all words of tongue or pen.
Harry did not stop and think but followed Dumbledore to his doom.
Voldemort had won. The Order was now scattered throughout Britain. They lacked a leader, and most importantly, they lacked a cause. In the first true act of his reign, Voldemort ordered the surviving members of the Order be hunted down.
Everyone who opposed Voldemort was to be executed…except for two.
Thus did Voldemort end the war he had first propagated so many years ago.
--- The New History of Britain, Book I, faithfully transcribed by Parvati Patil.
"I don't think it's a good idea." Charlie Weasley wrapped strong hands around his mug of tea. "It's too dangerous."
Hermione Granger looked inside her mug, as if hoping the tea would give her answers. "I don't think we have a choice, Charlie."
Both fell silent again.
Silence. Something almost unheard of in the Burrow. But then again, the Burrow was always filled with the Weasleys. Arthur, Molly, Bill, Charlie, Percy, Fred, George, Ron, and Ginny. During summers and winter holidays, Hermione and Harry Potter would also be found here as well.
Of whom only two had survived.
It had been too fast, too sudden. Voldemort had attacked more quickly than expected. Only a month after Harry, Ron, and Hermione's graduation. Even Dumbledore had been unprepared. And now he was dead too – killed by the Dark Lord in a showdown. Harry, too shocked to be able to process the fact that the Greatest Wizard in the World was dead, had unthinkingly charged after him. And Ron, the ever-faithful sidekick, had accompanied Harry to his doom.
Soon after, Arthur Weasley was executed for high treason. Treason. In whose eyes? Molly and her children had tried to resist, but one by one they had been hunted down and killed. All except Charlie, who for some unknown reason had been allowed to live. Charlie and Hermione.
Pushing back the sobs that were threatening to overtake her, she looked up at Charlie again. "After all, there must be a reason why we are still sitting here and not with them." She didn't need to explain who "them" was. Her eyes fell to the letter that lay innocently between them. It had been delivered early this morning by an eagle owl. The Malfoy owl. It was a polite letter written in the elegant script one would expect from Lucius Malfoy – but the unmistakable threat that the words couched was palpable.
Mr. Charles Weasley:
It is my regret to inform you of the deaths of Minerva McGonagall and Remus Lupin. They died valiantly, and I am sure that their memories will remain with you. But you must also realize that with the deaths of your former professors, you are now without any living allies. We know that both you and Miss Granger are still in hiding near Ottery St. Catchpole, and though it would be easy for us to come and forcibly retrieve you, I hope that a more pleasant agreement can be made between the two of us.
The world is changing, Mr. Weasley, and it would be foolish if two such bright minds did not change with it. If you wish it, places can be found for the both of you in this new world. If you are interested, come to Malfoy Manor tomorrow evening at five, and please bring Miss Granger with you. For your convenience, I have enclosed a portkey.
And do rest assured. No harm shall come to you tomorrow.
"But we are out of our league here, Hermione. Won't He-Who-," at Hermione's glare, he amended, "won't Voldemort see through us?"
"Our first priority isn't to convince Voldemort. It's to convince his right-hand people, like Malfoy and Snape." The pair shared pained glances at this. Snape had somehow managed to remain alive – perhaps because Voldemort wasn't aware that he didn't have Snape's loyalty, or worse yet, because Voldemort had never lost it.
Charlie stood and walked over to the sink and washed his mug. Although tall, Bill, Percy, and Ron had been slightly taller. But Charlie was stronger – and thanks to the many years he had spent under the sun, he was tan and freckled. "Malfoy and his ilk are not to be trusted."
"Of course not," snapped Hermione. "Have you forgotten that Malfoy Jr. was my classmate and eternal nemesis?" Hurt swiftly passed over Charlie's features. "I'm sorry, Charlie," sighed Hermione.
He returned to his seat. "Hermione, I miss everyone just as you do. And I want just as much revenge. But walking into Malfoy's home – and offering our allegiance! Even if I could lie convincingly, I don't know if I could stomach it. To work with people who are responsible…" his sentence drifted off as he glanced around the kitchen again, undoubtedly remembering happier mornings in the burrow. Shifting his gaze back to Hermione, he attempted a half-hearted smile. "Now that we know that we're going to be left alone until tomorrow, what do you say we venture outside for a walk? We've been inside this house far too long." Where there are too many memories, was the unspoken thought.
She nodded. "You're right. Fresh air will clear our minds. Besides, we don't have to reply immediately."
An hour later, Charlie and Hermione were wandering the small village that was Ottery St. Catchpole. In her previous visits, the small village had been bursting with life. Friendly neighbors would converse with them, and depending on the weather, welcome them inside either for a glass of lemonade or hot tea. But now the village was silent and destroyed. No noise could be heard for miles, for even the birds seemed to have fled.
The pair finally reached the summit of a hill over looking the village, a place that Charlie and Bill had often come to. Memories assaulted him now.
"Come on, Charlie!" laughed Bill. "For someone who's so fast on a broom, you're really slow on the ground!" Bill kept running faster, his sixteen year-old frame already tall and lanky.
Charlie followed, a scowl marring his handsome features. "I'll get you!"
A twenty-six year-old Bill. "Don't worry," he gasped, blood oozing from the crude knife injury in his stomach. "I'll be okay."
"No, you won't," wept Charlie as he cradled his dying brother closer. "You won't."
A seven year-old Bill. "You stole my favorite socks, didn't you? Mum, Charlie took my socks!"
"What socks?" asked Charlie innocently…too innocently.
"I'll avenge you," promised Charlie to the dying Bill.
Bill weakly shook his head. "You're the last remaining Weasley. You have to survive."
"Not without you!"
Bill looked wonderful in his graduation robes – to Charlie, Bill was the most perfect person in the whole world. "I'll miss you, Bill. I've always had you looking after me at Hogwarts."
Suddenly his brother embraced him, and Charlie was greatly comforted by the reassuring sound of his brother's heartbeat. "Only one more year, and then you can be anywhere you want to be...even with me, if you wish it."
"Be my legacy…" Bill's heart stopped beating.
Charlie was roused by a sharp sting of pain on his cheek. He opened his eyes to see a frightened Hermione, her hand trembling in the air. "Charlie, you were in a trance, and you were screaming." She gestured helplessly. "I didn't know what else to do."
He forced his memories to the hidden part of his brain. "I'm sorry, Hermione." He sat down at the base of a tree, and opening his arms, he beckoned Hermione into them. She sat down next to him and allowed him to wrap his arms around her. His eyes pricked with tears again – how many times had he held Ginny like this? His eyes softened as he examined the petite figure in his arms. He was used to the defiant, vibrant Hermione Granger. Not this defeated shell of a girl. He reached over and clasped her hand. "I'll do it. As long as we live, we'll fight. We'll get our vengeance. The Malfoys, Snapes, everyone else…they will pay. Even if we have to join them."
She raised her head to look at him, a look of incredulity plastered on her weary features. There was no need for her to ask what it was. "Okay," she murmured before leaning into his embrace again.
------Mr. Lucius Malfoy:
We accept your invitation to Malfoy Manor. Miss Granger and I will arrive at the specified time.
Sincerely yours,C. Weasley