A/N: I've been playing with this plunnie for a while and after some urging I've decided to share it. Hopefully it receives a warm welcome. Canon up to the Battle in the Department of Mysteries in OotP, majorly AU afterwards.
Reviews are most graciously appreciated and they are the fuel that drives most fan fiction authors. To my regular readers, I will have new chapters for What Worth A Life & Foolish Girl after New Years. Much love & Happy Holidays to all of you.
Usual disclaimers of course apply, sadly I am not JKR and she of course owns the Harry Potter Universe.
Rodolphus ran through the department of Mysteries, searching relentlessly for his wife. The Dark Lord had been clear, the boy was not to be harmed, but Bella was in one of her moods. He could not risk her killing the boy, the consequences would be dire and doubtlessly not visited on his wife. When he spotted her taking aim at the Potter boy's back, his heart fell down to his knees and his breath caught in his throat.
'Damnit Bella,' he thought hopelessly, he wasn't in a good position to shield the boy or even get a clean shot at the crazed witch. Everything seemed to slow down as he watched a girl shove Potter to the side, and hit his wife with a close-range Reducto. Watching in horror, Bella fell backwards, the force of the spell knocking her off her feet and hurling her through the air. Her once beautiful face reduced to unrecognizable hunks of meat, bone, and blood.
Dragging his eyes back to the girl, Rodolphus could see the shock and disbelief flash across her face. She'd clearly never killed before. Time seemed to finally stop as her eyes were locked onto Bellatrix's fallen body, the Potter boy trying to drag her away by her arm.
"Come on Hermione, we have to go!" Harry shouted, and it seemed to jar her out of her trance. Together the two teens fled deeper into the Department of Mysteries.
Pausing over Bella's body, Rodolphus felt something akin to relief. Making quick use of a disillusionment charm, he continued to follow the young witch that had gotten the better of his now very dead wife. Just as he entered the next room, he saw her cast a powerful silencing spell on Antonin, a clever tactic…but not against that particular wizard. He saw the rage in Dolohov's eyes and he cast a silent protego-maxima in front of her. He knew it wouldn't completely stop the purple fire that came racing at her, but it would dampened it.
Dolohov's personal curse struck the girl and she fell hard, hitting her head off the polished black tile that covered the floors here. Potter and Dolohov traded curses through the room, leaving the girl behind. He watched as Severus melted out of the shadows and rushed to her side, and he let out a sigh of relief. Snape would ensure that the girl survived her wounds. Moving quickly on silent feet, Rodolphus slipped out of the area and disapparated back to his home. Going directly to his study, he poured himself a large tumbler of scotch.
"What happened?" Rabastan asked from his place in front of the fire.
"Bella is dead," he said.
"Why are you drinking scotch then? Shouldn't we break out the champagne?" Rab laughed and stood. "You're finally free brother, seems like something worth celebrating." He summoned a house elf and ordered just that, champagne and two glasses.
"Potter's mudblood killed her," he said quietly, eyes pensive.
Rabastan's eyebrows rose. "The little girl Malfoy's boy loves to rant about?"
"She's not a little girl," Rodolphus said and sat down, face pensive. No, the witch he'd seen had left childhood behind. She was a young woman, a powerful one at that.
"I could invoke an honour debt." The words held weight in the air, dangling between them with all the nuanced meanings and consequences associated with it.
"She's a mudbood Rod, you can't be serious!" Rabastan looked scandalized.
"I need to think on it, but I need an heir, Rabastan. Neither of us are getting any younger, and being fugitives sorely limits our options," he snapped. "It would have the advantage of her not being able to say no," he added and scrubbed a hand over his face.
"You think Potter will win." Rabastan's eyes narrowed speculatively, head tilting to the side slightly as he studied his older brother.
"I believe it is possible…the child has a preternatural kind of luck, and it's without contestation that he has bested our Lord more than once. It's a reality we need to be cognisant of as we move forward. I need to ensure the survival of our line, before any other consideration. A mudblood she might be, but with the right marriages our grandchildren would be pure-bloods. It will take some coercion I'm sure, but I will find a way." Rod said. "If I choose that path."
"You know I will follow your lead anywhere, I always have." Rabastan said softly.
"I know." Rod met his brother's eyes, feeling the responsibility for him all the more intensely. "I imagine the Dark Lord will summon us soon to inform us of Bellatrix's death." He had not been part of the raiding party, instructed explicitly against going in fact. He lifted the tumbler to his lips and let the liquor linger on the back of his tongue.
The thought of replacing his dead wife so quickly should have been more unsettling, but she'd never really been his wife in anything more than name. The marriage had been arranged by their parents, and both of them sought their pleasures elsewhere. He with any witch that caught his eye on a given night, and she with their Lord. It was something neither man had ever discussed, but he knew that the Dark Lord was grateful that he never made issue of it. There was little point, after all if he had protested, he'd have been killed. Rodolphus had no illusions about that fact, not a single one. That very silence now left him an opening to request something from his 'master', something most would not dare. Sitting in silence, if felt like hours before his mark began to burn. He tossed back the remnants of his drink. "Don't wait up for me," he said quietly.
"Be careful, Rod," Rabastan said.
"I always am," he replied and headed out of the study, and disapparated.
Rodolphus appeared in front of Malfoy Manor, and he schooled his features as he headed up the walkway. Entering the house, he spotted a bloodied Lucius Malfoy exiting the drawing room. He inclined his head to the man, who was walking very gingerly. As soon as he entered the drawing room, he gave a slight bow. "You summoned me, my Lord?"
"I have, with…grievous news," the creature that had once been his Lord answered. "Your wife was killed tonight, slain in battle."
Rod's jaw tightened as if hearing the news for the first time. "Who?" he demanded.
"Potter's pet mudblood, Hermione Granger," the Dark Lord said without hesitation. "I swear she will suffer unending agonies for this."
"I have a request, my Lord," Rodolphus said after a moment.
"Of course, Rodolphus. Speak it, and if it is within my power to grant…I will." Voldemort's voice wrapped around them in the silent room.
"I never spoke a word against the arrangement you had with my wife. It was an honour that she was the one you chose to take to your bed, but she was *my* wife. I ask that the Granger girl be mine alone to punish, at my complete discretion and in my own way," Rodolphus said. "I ask that no hand touch her, save mine." His face was closed off, but he allowed true fury to show in his pale hazel eyes.
The Dark Lord was pensive for a long moment. "Done. The girl is yours. I will inform the others of the restriction. You may go," he dismissed the man.
Rodolphus nodded and turned on his heel stalking out of the room. He saw Narcissa and went over. "I am sorry," he said quietly. His sister-in-law was one of the few good things to come out of the Black family in recent generations. A more elegant, composed witch he had never known.
"I lost her a long time ago." Narcissa reached up and touched his face, her hand soft against the stubble of his cheek. "I am sorry for you loss as well."
"I thank you for you kindness, but I should go. I'm not fit for company tonight." He took her hand and gave it a polite kiss. "Give your husband my regards." With her gracious nod he left the house, his shoulders slumping a little. He spotted Snape coming up the path. "Snape." He said, stepping into the man's way.
Severus raised an eyebrow. "Lestrange?"
"Will the girl live?" he asked.
Surprise flitted across his face before being shut down hard. "She will. It appears something softened the impact of Dolohov's curse. She'll need potions for some time to ensure the curse remains dormant, but she will live," he said.
"Good," he said simply and walked away, passing through the gate and apparating home. He headed upstairs, feeling every single one of his 37 years. He undressed once he was in his private rooms and padded into the bathroom, turning on the shower and letting the hot water pound down onto his back. He had to be bloody certifiable to be considering this course of action. The girl was a teenager for Circe's sake, and a mudblood to boot. His father would be turning over in his grave.
Shortly after they were married, he and Bellatrix had tried to get pregnant. The results had been a still-born baby girl. He had grieved the loss of the child alone, his wife seeking solace in the arms of their Lord. He had not touched his wife once since that day, by mutual agreement. The fate of the family rested squarely on his shoulders, as much as he liked to tease Rab about finding a wife of his own. Regardless of who he chose, they would not be able to marry openly. It was shameful to have to proceed in the shadows as they were. He turned his head up, letting the spray hit him full in the face.
During his confinement in Azkaban, being clean was the luxury he had missed the most. There had never been enough food, and the cold of the North Sea seeped into every fiber of your being. He would die before going back there. His manor was unplottable, and if he had to…he could retreat here. He and the others had been so high on Dark Magic the night of their arrest, they'd been caught off guard. They'd been young, idealistic fools. The shiny appeal of world domination had worn off during his long years in prison. Now he merely wanted to be free, to have a family and watch his children grow. It was not such a terrible thing to want, not after all he had seen and done.
'You'll need to force the girl's hand, and it will not be easy.' He thought to himself. Rodolphus never shied away from bloodshed or death. They were essential parts of what he'd become, but the thought of blackmailing a young witch into marriage, into his bed…was uncomfortable. By the old laws he had every right to her; she had killed his wife and denied him the chance for an heir. However theoretical that heir might have been, she was bound to take Bellatrix's place at his side and in his bed. It was a simple thing, not unlike the magic surrounding life debts. All he had to do was voice the debt, and she would be his whether she willed it or not. He rather imagined that in her case it would be 'not'.
He needed information about the girl, from a more unbiased source than Lucius' boy. He mentally ran through the teenagers that he knew of at the school and settled on young Theodore Nott. He'd met old Thedric's boy twice since his release, and the teen struck him as incredibly observant. He saw everything, but spoke little. Deciding to write to him, and he would see what could be learned about the Granger girl. If he did it under the guise of plotting his revenge, no one would be the wiser to his plans.
Hermione woke in the Hospital Wing two days after the battle, light stabbing into her eyes. She squeezed her eyelids shut, making a sound of protest. Everything ached, from her toes all the way up to the tips of her ears. All she could remember was a moment of panic as purple flames rushed towards her…and then there had been nothing. She felt the intense light dim and realized that someone had kindly moved a screen to block the sunshine. "Thanks," she said and opened her eyes slowly, blinking to adjust her eyes to the light of the room.
"How are you feeling, Miss Granger?" Professor Snape asked, a concerned expression on his normally stoic face.
"Like I was run over by a Hippogriff," she said and carefully sat up, hissing with discomfort as the movement pulled painfully across her entire midsection. It took a second for it to pass and she took a few careful breaths to wrestle the burning sensation down. "What happened, Professor?"
"You were nearly cut in half by a curse Antonin Dolohov threw at you. You are very lucky to be alive, Miss Granger," he said seriously. "You'll need to take several potions each day for the next two weeks to ensure the curse remains dormant, but you're past the worst of it now."
"Is everyone else ok? Did they all make it back?" She asked, dread gripping her heart as she thought of everyone else.
"Everyone else is just fine Miss Granger, a few minor injuries that were sorted out quickly. You were by far the worst of the battle wounds," he reassured her. "The Aurors would like to interview you about the death of Bellatrix Lestrange."
Hermione paled dramatically, the Professor's words reminding her that she had killed a woman.
"You're not in any trouble, given who she was, you were perfectly justified in defending yourself with lethal force. They simply need an official statement for the record. Professor McGonagall or the Headmaster can stay with you during your interview, if it will make you feel more comfortable," he offered.
"I'll be fine," she said softly. "I didn't mean to kill her."
"She would have killed you, don't ever be ashamed of doing what is necessary to stay alive." Severus leaned forward, an intense look in his black eyes. She was in so much danger, and he needed her to understand that she was not only justified but advised to use lethal force to defend herself. "Be very careful this summer, Miss Granger. Rodolphus Lestrange has vowed revenge for his wife's death, and he knows you were the one to kill her. Don't ever be caught without your wand, and do not hesitate even a single moment if he approaches you." His tone was deadly serious. "You do not want to be taken alive by that man."
Hermione nodded, understanding the warning.
"Now, you need to drink these and then I believe Madame Pomphrey will bring you something to eat. I must tell the Headmaster you've woken." He stood, straightening his robes.
"Thank you, Professor." She obediently drank the three potions down, grimacing at the taste. They were truly vile. He merely nodded and left in a flurry of black robes. Hermione leaned back against the pillows as Madam Pomfrey bustled over, running basic diagnostic scans and clucking her tongue unhappily at the results.
"Well…it's an improvement at least. I'll get you some food." She smiled kindly at her.
A tray with some chicken soup, buttered rolls, and tea appeared promptly and Madam Pomfrey left her to eat in peace. The food sat like sawdust in her stomach, but she knew that she to try and eat something. She'd killed Bellatrix Lestrange; she could protest that she hadn't meant to do it…but deep down she knew that was a lie. In that split second she'd known that they'd all be safer if that woman was just dead. At that distance, there was no way that the other witch would have survived it. Hermione had known that, remembered the lecture from Moody in defence last year about seemingly innocuous curses that could be fatal under the right circumstances. Well…Crouch masquerading as Moody.
"Hermione?" A voice called from the edge of the curtains, startling her from her darkening thoughts.
"Hey Harry, I'm awake," she called, and saw the curtains part to admit an invisible body and then close again.
Harry slipped off the cloak and sat down on the edge of the bed. "They wouldn't let anyone in to see you," he said quietly.
"I only just woke up a bit ago," Hermione said. "They told me everyone was ok, were they?"
"Yeah, after you went down things got really crazy. The Order showed up and started dueling the Deatheaters, then Voldemort appeared and Dumbledore dueled with him through the whole Ministry while Sirius and Remus got all of us back here to the school. Snape must've been there too, he'd brought you back earlier. He and Madam Pomfrey were working behind the curtains on you for hours." Worry was plain on his face.
"Professor Snape, Harry…" she corrected automatically. "He saved my life. Without him, I would have died." She met his eyes, needing him to understand that Professor Snape was not their enemy.
Harry paled realizing just how close he'd come to losing his best friend. "I'm sorry, Hermione." He meant it. "I should have listened to you."
"Don't be sorry Harry, you wanted to save Sirius…but next time, please listen to me. This isn't a game anymore. People are going to die if you don't start using your head and start thinking," she said. "You're my best friend, and I don't want you to get killed because you ran off half-cocked. Promise me you'll start thinking."
"I promise," he whispered.
She slipped her hand into his and squeezed it hard. "As for making it up to me….think you could sneak my book bag in here?" She winked.
"That I can do." He gave her a small smile. "Sirius also may have mentioned that anything you want from the Black Library…name it and it's yours."
Her eyes lit up at the mere thought of it. "Tell him to expect an owl." She grinned. "Now go, before you get caught," Hermione said.
"I'll be back later with your bag," he promised and stood, throwing the cloak over himself and sneaking out.