Author's Note: Welcome to a brand new story! This is a Veela/creature fic. I will be aiming to update this story approximately once a week. I hope you enjoy, and if you do, let me know what you think. :)
Thanks to Kyonomiko for being absolute alpha royalty on this fic. And a shout-out to the ladies at the Dramione Fanfiction Forum for the countless word sprints from which this was born.
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Prologue - June 14, 2000
It had been a year. A year, and Hermione Granger was emotionally, physically and mentally exhausted.
There was no way, the Australian healers at the magical hospital in Brisbane had told her. Upon hearing of the situation, the healers of St. Mungo's had agreed. The damage was irreparable.
If she had perhaps cast the spell differently, or not at all, or – why had she cast the spell anyway? Hermione was tired of hearing it. Tired of hearing that her parents would never again acknowledge themselves as Patrick and Jean Granger; that they would never again acknowledge her as their daughter.
Monica and Wendell Wilkins, it seemed, were to be their permanent identities and altered reality.
"There has to be a way," she had pleaded with the healers, the aides, whomever would be willing to listen. Which, after a year and some less than tactful attempts on Hermione's part, had dwindled to a mere few.
"I'm sorry, Miss Granger, I am," Healer Carlson, one of the lead healers on her parents' file, had said. "There is simply nothing we can do. Their minds have accepted the change. Even if we could reverse the spell, it would be too much."
"Thank you, Healer Carlson," Hermione had sighed, even as the hot sting of tears threatened her eyes. "I appreciate your efforts."
She had walked away, slumped with defeat, fingers pressed to her temples in an attempt to delay the migraine brewing.
"Try the Witch Doctor," someone had hissed from a supply closet. A pair of dark eyes widened as she walked closer. It was a member of the magical maintenance department, if the orange robes were anything to go by.
"The Witch Doctor?" Hermione had inquired. But the door slammed before her.
She had heard the name before. Spoken in whispers tossed on the wind, the possessors of those voices hidden, as if this Witch Doctor could hear them. As if the very consideration of such a character was bone-chilling.
And when she'd tried to learn more, she had become familiar with doors closing in her face, backs turning, hissed warnings. No one, it seemed, was prepared to talk in depth on the subject.
But she hadn't been able to let it go.
She had asked Healer Carlson about it, who had visibly recoiled with wide eyes and a furrowed brow. He was not a doctor at all, she learned, but a wrathful sorcerer, adept in healing magic and traditional medicines. Hidden deep in the Australian wilderness.
"But can he help?" Hermione had pleaded.
"I don't know," Carlson had clipped, shaking his head. "But you really ought to ask yourself whether it's worth it. Those who even return from a consult with the Witch Doctor… they're never the same."
But Hermione was out of ideas and utterly drained, bone-weary and ready to return home. With her parents in tow. She was willing to try anything, and how could this Witch Doctor possibly be worse than facing Voldemort?
So she had hunted for information and it was another month before she found a remotely credible source. The Witch Doctor lived in a hut deep in the outback – a hut that couldn't be found by just anyone.
So she had hired a guide, spending the last Galleons of her Ministry-gifted cash award for her services during the war, on this final effort.
The guide – who spoke only minimal English – gave her a list of items she would need. It seemed they could only Apparate so far, and then the remainder of the trek would be on foot.
She ignored the ominous voice in the back of her mind suggesting this was as bad an idea as everyone had warned.
So armed with a pack of supplies – food, water, medicine and survival gear – to combat the blazing heat and the foreboding wilderness, Hermione and her guide set out from the outskirts of Brisbane, Apparating into the interior as close as possible and then carrying on.
By the middle of the afternoon, the sun was scorching, Hermione was drenched with sweat and the guide was unwilling to provide any information with regards to their progress.
When they halted for a brief meal of dried meats and some sort of local bread, Hermione suggested they should perhaps make camp for the night but the guide merely shot her a look, packed his bag and set off again, even as the sun crept closer to the horizon.
As it grew darker, and the light from Hermione's wand did little to reveal the numerous roots and obstacles along the meagre trail, they finally came upon a dimly lit hut and Hermione wasn't sure whether to sag with relief or to turn and run. The very energy emanating from the hut caused her core magic to recoil viciously.
The guide stayed a safe distance away and simply gestured to the hut, his eyes wide. Clearly he would not be venturing inside.
Steeling herself for the encounter, Hermione rapped sharply on the wooden door. The hut itself looked as if it were about to fall apart, and if not for the premonitory feeling chilling her bones, it might have reminded Hermione of The Burrow.
After a tremendously tense pause, the door swung inwards. A mere few torches flickered in the otherwise dark interior of the hut; a cloaked and hooded figure stood just beyond the threshold. Hermione couldn't see the face.
"Are you the Witch Doctor?" she asked, her voice scarcely more than a whisper.
"Yes," the figure replied, its voice hoarse and weak.
"I seek your guidance," Hermione swallowed heavily, "and if you will it, your assistance. You see, my parents –"
"Your parents have had their memories altered," the Witch Doctor croaked. "You are responsible. You will come inside."
With a nervous glance back to her guide, who nodded eagerly but with terrified eyes, Hermione followed the Witch Doctor into the dark hut, trying not to wince when the door closed behind her, the sound echoing harshly across the tight space.
"You know about my parents?" Hermione asked, hesitantly taking a seat on a low chair before a carved wooden table.
"Yes," the Witch Doctor said simply. "Tea?"
"Please," Hermione said, surprised at the banal courtesy. The Witch Doctor swept near, a strangely decorated teapot suddenly in his hands. She bit her lip on the wretched scent that assaulted her. He poured a glass of tea for her, and none for himself, and then sat on the other side of the table.
Hermione still could not see his face; she was almost relieved.
She took a sip of the tea, and it tasted foreign and otherworldly on her tongue. She suddenly wondered if it was poisoned or otherwise imbued.
"Hermione Granger," the Witch Doctor said, "you have travelled far for nothing. I will not fix the condition in which you have placed your parents."
"You won't?" she asked, surprised they had jumped into the matter so quickly and irate that he had not even heard her out. "Or you can't?"
"I will not," the Witch Doctor said, his voice clearer than it had been. "The fate of your parents was altered the day you lifted your wand. You have once upset the natural balance, and I shall not do it again."
"But their lives were at risk!" Hermione insisted, attempting and failing to keep her voice level. She was so tired of hearing there was no answer. "If I hadn't done anything they might have died!"
"Then they would have died," the Witch Doctor said calmly, "and the magic of the world would have remained in balance. Your actions that day did more than you intended."
"Please," she begged, not concerned with how she appeared. "I have tried everything! This is my last hope!"
"Your efforts are admirable," the Witch Doctor said, with a tilt of that hooded face. "But they are, I am afraid, for naught. I will allow you to leave now. Consider it a mercy."
"You must help me," Hermione murmured, beseeching the Witch Doctor to reconsider. "I know you can help them – please, just this once."
"Hermione Granger," the Witch Doctor chuckled and it was bone chilling. "I have given you an opportunity to leave. You would do well to learn some humility and respect. I will not do this act and you will do well to leave."
Hermione stood abruptly, feeling her temper rise despite the deep-seated fear within her. She would take no more of this. She had to save her parents.
"I know you can fix this, and yet you speak in riddles!" she exclaimed, heart racing. "What is the cost? Please, just tell me!"
"The cost of this magic is far greater than I am willing to pay," the Witch Doctor said, rising as well; he towered over Hermione. "You are intelligent, Hermione Granger, but you show a decided lack of wisdom! I warn you – leave now."
"I don't care!" she snapped, teeth gritted. "What is the cost! You sit here in this stupid hut, alone, with magic beyond measure, yet you are unwilling to help!"
The lanterns in the hut flickered as the floor quaked. Hermione's eyes flew wide open as the Witch Doctor approached.
"You will learn, Hermione Granger!" the Witch Doctor declared, and the air in the hut began to swirl and gust about the small space. Hermione shuddered with a deep, unnatural fear as the cool night air encompassed her, a cold dread seizing her at the brash temper which she had shown. "I curse you! You will learn respect and humility and wisdom and you will be the one to speak in riddles! For one thousand days you will live a cursed existence, alone, and if you fail to learn, you shall be cursed for the remainder of your closed-minded life!"
Hermione gasped in a sudden terror, as she felt cold and vengeful magic twisting in the very air around her. What had she done? She choked on the words that she could not speak, to take back her harsh judgements, and tears came to her eyes as the Witch Doctor straightened to his full height, gathering the force of his power.
Hermione had made a terrible mistake in coming here.
She looked to the door in a panic, and it pulsed with a dark light, even as the Witch Doctor approached, and beneath the hood she could see his terrible, evil grin, his teeth crooked and stained.
"Please," she breathed, the air ripping from her lungs as raw, unfiltered magic overtook her.
Pain like she had only experienced once before tore through her bones, shredding her muscle, and Hermione cried out as the cold waves of power swept through her, one after another until she could take no more. The last vestiges of her consciousness slipped, even as she felt the magic begin to retreat, and her eyes fell shut as she collapsed to the ground and remembered no more.