This work is finished in rough draft. I am still working on editing, but the story is complete and approximately 50,000 words long (give or take a few hundred with editing). Thank you to my beta reader, thepurplewombat, who has been extraordinarily helpful with the editing process.
FYI, this is not a sequel to or even in the same universe as my previous SSHG work, Forged in Flames. It is canon-divergent, occurring after the Golden Trio have left Hogwarts.
I will be posting on a regular schedule of at least once per week; more frequently if my schedule allows.
Hermione was dizzy, and her head hurt. She was having trouble making out anything around her, and gradually realized that she could not see, that everything was black. Was she blind, or was something covering her eyes? She shook her head to clear it, trying to remember where she was and what she'd been doing.
She'd been Apparating. The memories came back to her all at once, tumbling slipshod into her mind. She'd made a clandestine visit to Hogwarts-dangerous and risky in these days of war, but the library held the only existing copies of the scrolls she needed. So she'd left the hiding place she'd shared with Harry and Ron for these long months, covered herself with a gray cloak that shadowed her face, and Apparated to Hogsmeade. She'd crept to the castle through the hidden underground tunnels. Some had been discovered by the Carrows, now in charge of Hogwarts under Professor Snape's command. (She could not think of him as Headmaster, though it had been nearly a year.) But some had not, and it was one of these that she scurried through, pulling her cloak around her tightly and keeping her wand at the ready.
Seeing the Hogwarts Library again gave her a pang of sorrowful nostalgia. It had been her favorite place as a student, and she'd spent so many afternoons here absorbed in some book or another. She shook it off. Focus, Hermione. She made her way to the Restricted Section, which of course is where she'd find the scrolls she required. She had to perform a stunning charm on one of them in order to open it without being bitten. The text was complicated, written in an ancient dialect that she could just barely make out, but one word was clear as water:
This scroll purported to explain how to locate a Horcrux with a very specialized type of summoning spell. It was Dark magic, and dangerous to cast; Hermione had no idea if it would even work. But they were desperate, and they were losing the war. She'd run across a mention of this spell some months previously, and after much heated discussion with Ron and Harry-Ron had begged her not to go-she'd left them to go and find the spell.
And now she had it. She memorized the instructions; it was too risky to either steal the scroll itself or to copy it down and carry it on her person. Her mind was the only safe place to store it. She'd always been a quick study, and it took her less than half an hour to commit the entire thing to memory. The only thing left to do was return to her friends and pass the information to the Order.
She waited until dead of night and then crept silently out of the library, an invisibility charm aiding her as she made her way back to the tunnels. She encountered no resistance. No Filch, no Carrows, no Slytherin students pressed into guard duty. Unusual, she thought with some alarm. She'd expected to see someone. But the halls, so familiar to her from her years there as a student, were empty and barren.
She made her way back into the tunnels and then hurried as quickly as she dared to the edge of the anti-Apparition wards. That was the last thing she remembered. She'd meant to Apparate back to London, to Ron and Harry, but instead…she was here. Wherever here was.
Hermione tried to touch her face to see if something was covering it, but she found that her hands were bound together behind her back. Whether by magic or by more mundane means, she could not tell. Whatever it was, it was tight and unforgiving. She opened her mouth to ask who's there, but no sound emerged. A silencing spell had been cast on her as well, it seemed. With effort, she quelled the panic fluttering in her belly. No sense panicking now, she told herself. Keep calm. Wait for an opening.
But no opening came. The room still felt as though it were spinning when she was grabbed roughly by the elbows and hoisted to her feet; only then did she realized she'd been sitting on the floor. Her captors moved silently, neither speaking amongst themselves or to her, as they propelled her forward. Hermione's heart pounded, beating painfully fast. She desperately wanted to cry out, to ask them who they were, what they were doing, where they were taking her, but she could not make even the slightest sound. She was carried along in utter silence.
After she'd been half-pulled, half-dragged for what felt like at least ten minutes, they finally stopped. Hermione heard the sound of a key turning in a lock, and then the sullen creak of a badly-oiled door hinge. Daggers of light pierced at her eyes, and just as she realized that a hood had been pulled from her head, she was shoved roughly into the room and the door locked behind her. Unable to balance herself with her hands tied, she fell to the floor, striking her knees on the splintered old wood.
Eyes watering from the sudden light, and head pounding with throbbing pain, she heard a voice, a very familiar voice.
"Miss Granger," her former Potions professor said, "what a surprise."