Important: This is a mature story written for adults. Not going to lie. It's a little messed up. Also, 'a little' is kind of an under-exaggeration. This story will have a lot of dark elements, potentially including the following: heaps of violence, very unhealthy, toxic relationships, stalking, sexual activity that may or may not (definitely not) be healthy, murder, definite mental health issues, and other potentially nasty subjects.
***If you're looking for Perfect Hermione who makes no mistakes, you should leave this story and read another one. Likewise, if you're looking for redeemable The Dark Mage's Captive Antonin, leave this story and go read that story. You won't find either of those characters in this story. Both characters will be like their Book-canon characterizations in the worst possible ways.
This story isn't for the faint of heart. I make no apologies. For those who have been begging for a story with an "Obsessive Antonin", be careful what you wish for! Enjoy!
"Every night I see your face in my dreams. I long for the moment I can feel the delicate bones in your neck crack beneath my hands."
An amused snort exploded out of Hermione as she read the latest in a long line of missives straight from the stone cells of Azkaban positively dripping with insanity. She knew the handwriting very well. Not a day had gone by for over four years where she hadn't received at least one of the letters. She wadded up the parchment and tossed it into her rubbish bin. He'd grown more eloquent in his last several messages. Someone must've let him borrow a thesaurus. She could imagine spending every hour of the day but one stuck in a stone cell would get tiresome. At least he seemed to be trying to improve himself. That was generally a positive quality in most people.
With her daily letter from inmate Antonin Dolohov disposed of, Hermione reached for the rest of her stack of post. She was sure that no matter what she would find left on her desk, nothing would be as interesting as her love note from her admirer. Perhaps it was strange to find the correspondence amusing when anyone else in her similar position would be horrified and rightly so. Most would've immediately reported the letters to the proper authorities and done whatever was necessary to keep the clearly deranged inmate from sending any others in the future. She wouldn't say that she looked forward to them each day, but they were nearly always a delightful break from the usual monotony of her day.
It had all been a part of her usual routine since the reforms were made in the prison allowing prisoners the opportunity to start sending and receiving letters in their cells. An extremely unpopular reform, for weeks she read in the newspapers fears that the new Azkaban post system would be abused by its inmates to unleash chaos on the unsuspecting population outside the tiny island in the North Sea. Kingsley argued that it was simply one more humane step the Ministry must take to treat its prisoners fairly. After the dementors were proven to be untrustworthy in the last war, dozens of reforms were made to the fortress responsible for holding the dregs of their society.
Post seemed like a simple reform. Muggle prisoners were allowed it and had been for as long as anyone could remember. It was time the wizarding world took further steps to be at least as modern as the Muggle world. That observation had not been received well by those who liked to believe Muggles were little more than animals. Unfortunately, even ten years after the war ended there were still those who held those disgusting views. No matter how many steps forward the wizarding world took, there were still those willing to drag them all backwards to the worst parts of the past.
Only the engraved invitation at the bottom of the stack caught Hermione's interest. Everything else was either not worth a response or could wait until the next full workday. She generally left her post to the end of the day. If something was truly important, there were better ways to get it to her attention than attaching it to the leg of an owl.
The invitation was a reminder of the social event she'd been dreading for weeks ever since she opened the envelope. For a reason no one could remember, the Ministry of Magic insisted on throwing a lavish New Years Eve celebration every single December 31st open to all of its officials, their dates, and honored guests. Wars sometimes halted the festivities for a year or too, but never for very long. Though it was undoubtedly a grand affair, it was nearly always dreadfully boring. She supposed most New Years Eve celebrations were. Was there another date of the calendar that held more events full of anticipation and excitement that rarely failed to fall flat? What were they celebrating? What was so special about the date changing? Or the clock striking midnight? It did the same every single day. She only found the party worth going to because of the free alcohol. There was never a limit to how much the guests could drink. She loved watching her colleagues make fools of themselves and those events often led to fun fumbling in the dark with handsome wizards or beautiful witches if she'd had enough to drink.
Closer to thirty than she wanted to think about, Hermione wasn't one of those witches who was in a rush to find a wizard willing to meet her at the end of an aisle. She supposed marriage and families were fine for some, but she had yet to find anyone she was interested in taking that drastic and final step with. It had been a long time since she'd been in any sort of relationship that outlasted the sunrise. She found the thought to be tedious and tiresome. Somehow she doubted she would change her mind any time soon. What once seemed so important when she was young and idealistic no longer mattered.
Surviving the war changed a lot of things, changed a lot of people. It was easier to not dwell on what couldn't be controlled. Once the relief of Lord Voldemort being dead and the war truly being over became real, the task of moving on to assemble some sort of existence out of the wreckage was all that mattered. Sharing trauma often brought people together, but more often, though no one wanted to admit it, it pulled people apart. She couldn't remember how long it had been since she could consider Harry or Ron one of her friends. Years had passed where their paths diverged too drastically to ever find their way back.
It was a loss to no longer have them for friends, but it wasn't a surprise. The heightened emotions of fighting for their lives made it difficult to remain friends when the dust settled. Part of their lost friendships had to do with the natural progression of life and growing older. Most people didn't remain close friends with their school friends. Not even the shared experiences of war kept them close. At some point, she wasn't sure when, Hermione began resenting Harry for all of the negative a friendship with him brought into her life. She no longer had her parents. Unable to correct their memories, it was kinder to leave them blissfully ignorant of her existence no matter how painful it was to be alone. How could a person remain friends with someone directly responsible for the loss of both of their parents? Harry tried to 'save' her time and time again in the years since due to his paralyzing feelings of guilt. It grew tiresome. Being his friend grew tiresome. She often wondered how much more peaceful her life would've been if a teacher found her in the girls' lavatory with a mountain troll instead of them. School might've been lonely, but it probably would've been less stressful.
The romance she had with Ron was painfully cut short. It was over almost as soon as it began. Much like New Years, their relationship was a great deal of anticipation and expectation that ultimately led to disappointment. They tried to remain friends, but that was always a tricky prospect with exes. It didn't help when he took Harry's side. Not that she expected him to do anything else. She knew where she stood from the very beginning. She'd always just been the backup friend.
A second envelope with the familiar handwriting she'd grown accustomed to peeked out from underneath one of the reports she was in the middle of completing. How did it arrive without her even realizing it? Sometimes she swore her assistant was the dumbest person alive. Receiving two letters in one day was fairly unusual. He must be bored. With an inexhaustible line of credit at the Azkaban canteen thanks to his mother's vast fortune, he could afford to send out as many letters as he wished.
"The guards gave me an old Daily Prophet last week and there was a picture of you in it. I ripped it out so I can look at it any time I wish. You have such pretty eyes. I'm going to stick a sharp knife in the left one and slowly carve it out of your skull. Do you know what the inside of a human eyeball smells like? It's a very distinctive smell. Once you smell it the first time, you never forget it. You'll discover what I mean. When I have your left eye out, then I'm going to…"
All further graphic descriptions of what he was going to do with her bloody eyeballs and the hollow holes in her skull only made her laugh. Maybe she was just as deranged as her one-sided penpal. There was no reason to worry. He would spend the rest of his miserable life locked up in a tiny cell in Azkaban. No one had escaped from the prison since the war ended. Kingsley never wanted to proclaim it impossible, but he felt confident enough that escapes were so unlikely in the future that they could all sleep soundly at night. She wadded up the second letter to rest alongside the other in her bin. If he'd only used his creativity for good instead of evil, he might've been a successful novelist or even an esteemed journalist with the Daily Prophet. Half of the stories they printed were fiction anyway.
Slipping the invitation to the Ministry gala in her pocket, Hermione made her exit. She had just enough time to take a short nap at home before she had to start getting dressed for the wretched affair. Very few other Ministry officials were in the building. Some seemed to think that the week between Christmas and New Years Day didn't actually exist. It frustrated her that for the last several days of the year each year, very little work was ever done. The only part she enjoyed was she was rarely interrupted by some idiot with an asinine problem they needed her to correct. Most years she'd been able to get to the very bottom of her stack of work with no one to bother her.
Long before she was mentally prepared for the evening ahead, Hermione stepped outside of her front door in her most elegant gown. Was it not bad enough that they were expected to attend the party? Who decided that guests had to wear dress robes and their finest finery? It was exhausting and she hadn't even stepped onto the pavement. Heavy clouds in the distance promised a heavy downpour when the new year arrived. She sighed. Though she was familiar with it for the entirety of her life, the weather in her native country often made her depressed. Each time she visited a warmer locale abroad she wondered why she ever bothered to return.
The Ministry of Magic's Atrium was just as she expected it to be when she returned. A great deal of decorating and preparation for the building's largest annual party took place in the hours after she left. It never ceased to amaze her how magic could make tasks that would take hours or days in the Muggle world possible to complete in only seconds. The sheer convenience of magic was the main reason she hadn't chosen to leave behind the wizarding world after the war ended no matter how many times she thought she would be better off. Magic made her lazy just as safety in their world after the fall of Voldemort made her complacent. Maybe she would've taken the deranged writings of the inmate in Azkaban seriously in another life.
She was likely one of the last to arrive. Punctuality was vitally important to her most of the time. Not so much when she was faced with the unpleasant task of attending a social event she had no desire to be a part of. Maybe it would've been a more palatable task with a date. It hardly seemed worth the effort to find someone else to torture. Besides, everyone she knew was already there.
Wizarding society truly was a small world. Everyone was connected in some way. She could understand why there were so many Purebloods and Halfbloods who sought out potential love interests amongst the Muggles. There were too many overlapping family tree limbs, too many lifelong acquaintances to make falling in love easy. At least she had the benefit of being something of an outsider. Never once did she have to compare lists of relatives on a first date to prevent any possible birth defects in future children.
Every person she saw had a pleased grin stretched across their faces. How many of them were genuine? Essentially a work function, she rarely felt at ease until her bloodstream was more alcohol than anything else. She felt she was under constant evaluation. If she didn't approach the Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot to wish him a happy new year and compliment his dowdy's wife hideous gown, the slight would be remembered for the rest of the year. Likewise she had to make certain the Head of the Department of Magical Law Enforcement noticed her arrival and good spirits all evening lest she be accused of negatively affecting workplace morale. At least half a dozen other officials with titles fancier and longer than hers would need to be placated before the laborious event was complete.
Only the most important and influential official of them all didn't need to be approached. Ordinary Ministry workers still felt the obligation of seeking out the Minister for Magic to compliment him personally on the event he wasn't really responsible for. Hermione was exempt from the task because of the Christmas party three years earlier. Someone thought leaving enchanted mistletoe in the stairwell would make for a fine joke. After an evening imbibing very strong elf-made wine and flirting far more than was seemly, she was trapped under the mistletoe with the country's most eligible bachelor. A swift peck on the lips would've satisfied the spell, but once their lips touched, they didn't stop until their lips were bruised, her knickers were torn, and three poor souls from the Ludicrous Patents Office had to be obliviated to banish the memory out of their heads of accidentally walking up on the Minister with his trousers around his ankles and Hermione pressed up against the wall with her eyes rolling in the back of her head. Once they sobered up, they'd been awkward around each other ever since.
It was a damn shame too. Hermione watched the handsome wizard move around the Atrium from guest to guest welcoming them all. His royal blue dress robes were perfectly tailored to fit his firmly toned physique. She knew what he had underneath the fine fabrics and wouldn't have minded seeing more of it for longer and longer periods of time. A perfect gentleman under usual circumstances, his lack of self-control embarrassed Kingsley. She wasn't sure how else she could convince him that she had no complaints about his behavior without resorting to stripping all of her clothes off and laying her naked body on top of his desk while he tried to read his morning diplomatic reports.
Imagining his face at that sort of show of brazen wantonness made her chuckle. If the others around her learned a fraction of the devious and delicious thoughts she carried around in her head at all times, they would be horrified. Perhaps she should be ashamed, but she wasn't. Just because the world at-large had one idea about who Hermione Granger really was didn't mean they were correct. She could surprise them all.
"Care to share what you find so amusing?"
Hermione's thoughts had been so focused across the room that she didn't even see the wizard move to stand next to her. She was glad he wasn't the sort of psychopath to enjoy mailing descriptive, violent letters to practical strangers. If he was, her inattention could've cost her her life. Unafraid of the newcomer, she turned in his direction to give him a warm smile. Part of her had been hoping he would seek her out before the night was over.
"Good evening, Oliver. I'm afraid that thought is most assuredly not fit for polite conversation."
"All the more reason you should share it with me. I'd love to know what goes on inside your head. Must be fascinating."
"Be careful what you wish for. You won't always like what you end up with."
For weeks she had been engaged in frequent shameless flirtation with Oliver Wood. Since he started working at the Ministry six months earlier, she'd been intrigued by the former professional Quidditch player. He certainly was the type of wizard she was usually interested in. Much more laidback than when they'd been at school together, he had a calming energy about him that she found addictive.
"You've been promising me for months that you would find a few minutes in your hectic schedule to have a drink with me."
"Well, I am very busy."
"Yes, yes, we all know how important Hermione Granger is."
There was nothing but playful teasing in Oliver's words. She'd been nervous he was going to say something sarcastic that would hurt her feelings even if she was well-practiced at how to pretend otherwise. Knowing he wasn't the sort to be cruel, she was able to relax slightly. Her guard was usually up at all times.
"Have a drink with me now? I promise I won't keep bothering you."
"And what if I want you to keep bothering me?"
He had a quick, easy grin she wanted to see more of. When she left for the horrible party, she was sure she was going to have a miserable time. Each second that ticked by in his presence gave her hope she would be wrong. Oliver placed a gentle hand in the small of her back to lead her to the bar. An overly familiar touch when anyone else did it, Hermione was surprised to feel a shiver go up her spine. What would it feel like if there wasn't pesky fabric between his hand and her bare skin? Better yet, how would his lips feel gliding up and down her soft skin?
There was no hesitation in her voice when she requested a glass of a rich red wine. Hoping elf-made wine might help history repeat itself with a slight change in the cast of characters, she suggested Oliver try one as well. The one drink turned into a second and then a third and then Hermione stopped counting. Oliver didn't stray far from her side the entire evening nor did she even want him to. He was a delightful drinking companion who was quite funny and amusing with just the right amount of naughty cheek sprinkled in. Why had she been turning down his invitations?
"Have I told you how beautiful you look in your dress tonight?"
Oliver had a slight slur to his words that only made him appear more adorable. She wasn't sure if she could attribute the blush in her cheeks to the wine or his compliment.
"If you have, I don't mind hearing it again. Thank you."
"I like you in purple even if you look a bit like a supporter of Pride of Portree."
His nose wrinkled in mild disgust was too adorable not to laugh at. Maybe she would find his tendency to talk more about Quidditch the more he drank annoying in the future, but that night she loved it. His arm slid around her waist, pulling her tight against his chest. Neither of them cared if there was an audience. They were hardly the only two who had a lot to drink.
"I would've thought you'd wear a red dress like a proper Gryffindor lassie."
"So because the Sorting Hat put me in Gryffindor when I was eleven years old I can never wear anything that isn't scarlet or gold?"
"I don't make the rules."
Oliver's grip tightened again. She could feel her heart racing. When was the last time she'd felt that excited about a potential lover?
"There's only one thing I don't like about your dress."
As she started to ask him what that was, her words were cut off by his lips resting just against the shell of her ear. She couldn't be expected to form a coherent statement under those circumstances.
"The zipper looks too delicate. I'm concerned I'll break it trying to get you naked."
"You're awfully self-confident, aren't you?"
His response was to move his head back enough for her to see his cheeky grin. The temptation to take him by the hand and drag him out of the crowded Atrium was strong. She'd wanted him long before the first sip of wine touched her tongue. Three weeks earlier they'd been alone in a lift. He'd been a gentleman, but in her mind he had the emergency stop lever pulled and her slammed against the wall with her skirt bunched up around her waist.
"Ten… nine… eight…"
Midnight was only seconds away. She had no idea she'd enjoyed the evening so much that time passed quickly. Their discussion about her zipper temporarily tabled, they happily joined in the countdown to the start of another year.
"… three… two… one…"
Oliver's lips covered Hermione's before she could join in the excited shouts of 'Happy New Year' that echoed around the Atrium. Literal fireworks exploded above their heads as they shared a memorable, passionate first kiss. If he was that skilled with just a kiss, what else was his lips capable of? She couldn't wait to find out. Reluctantly, Oliver was the one to pull away from the kiss.
"Happy New Year, Hermione."
"Happy New Year, Oliver."
"I'd say this year is already starting off better than last."
He plucked the empty wine glass out of her hand. Some of the other party guests were preparing to return home. They'd fulfilled their obligation of remaining until midnight, but Hermione was glad to see he wasn't in a rush to leave. She was enjoying herself.
While she waited for Oliver to return from the bar with another drink, she looked around the room. Something was wrong. She wasn't sure what it was and the signs were subtle, but she knew that the easygoing, carefree party was about to end. Officials were moving around the room calmly whispering in the ears of their colleagues who would then calmly leave. No one approached her to offer any explanation. A closer look seemed to indicate that only the aurors and the senior officials in the Department of Magical Law Enforcement were privy to the secret. She looked for Kingsley. As much as he tried to keep his facial expressions as passive and blank as possible, she could see that he was upset. What was happening?
"They've stopped serving at the bar. That's strange, isn't it? I didn't think the party was ending at midnight."
She reached for Oliver's hand. A fluttering in her chest set her on edge. It felt like the war all over again. There had been years of whispered conversations while those in charge pretended like nothing was wrong. What could be happening? She wished she was close friends with Harry. He would tell her if she asked.
"Oliver, I think something's wrong. Look."
His gaze followed where her finger pointed. A small group formed around an increasingly worried Kingsley. Even he was struggling to keep his face under control. Oliver squeezed her hand, offering her reassurance she wasn't aware she needed. A twisting in her stomach grew almost painful when she saw the Minister point his wand at his throat to amplify his voice.
"Excuse me. If I could please have everyone's attention, I'm afraid I must be the bearer of bad news. A situation has come to light that the Ministry is handling. I'm afraid that is all I can say at this time. However, it would be best for everyone if you were to leave immediately and go straight home. Pubs and taverns across the country are being given the same instructions. Please go straight to your locked and warded homes. As soon as it is safe to leave, the Ministry of Magic will be issuing you a notification through both the Floo network and the owl post system. I'm terribly sorry that such a lovely evening has to be marred. Have a very happy and safe New Year."
The moment Kingsley made his announcement the exits began to fill up with panicked and worried guests. Hermione fought the childish urge to roll her eyes. What had they done during the war? Hidden in their homes and prayed for it to all be over? She was disgusted by the cowards who expected everyone else to fight their battles for them.
"That was all very vague. Wonder what's going on."
"I'm sure it's nothing. Maybe a dementor has been spotted again. Remember last year when Mundungus Fletcher was in his cups and claimed he saw one in Diagon Alley? Someone's drunk too much and filed a false report."
She hoped that her attempt at an explanation offered Oliver some hope because all she felt was a gnawing worry that there really was something to be afraid of outside. Would Kingsley divulge the secret if she asked him nicely? They'd been friends once upon a time before they couldn't keep their drunk hands off of each other. He knew she could be trusted.
"I'm not ready to leave. I was enjoying myself."
Not wanting to be alone, Hermione turned her own cheeky grin on the wizard. Maybe there was a way they could make the best of the hours of lockdown.
"You know, my house is very safe and secure."
Oliver smirked. How was it possible for him to be more attractive from one second to the next?
"Oh, is it?"
"Yes, it is. Very secure. We could have another drink. Toast the new year again."
Never had a wizard needed less convincing than Oliver Wood. The words were hardly out of her mouth before he was pushing through the crowd with one hand while keeping a tight grip on hers with the other. All of the fireplaces were full with long queues that would take far too long. She was glad he insisted she Side-Along Apparate him to her home.
Just as she suspected when she was leaving her house hours earlier, the heavens opened. Heavy rain soaked them both until Oliver was quick with a shield charm. She was grateful. Her mind was too preoccupied with the nagging worry she should be afraid. The copious amounts of alcohol didn't help matters.
Unlocking her front door seemed to take an eternity. She nearly dropped her wand at least twice because her guest had a pleasant way of distracting her by gently pulling on her ear with his teeth. He whispered delightfully naughty promises of what he was going to do to her body when they were inside. Any mention of another drink was forgotten. They had already gotten drunk on wine. This time they would get drunk on each other.
With her front door shut and locked behind her, there was no longer any reason to keep their hands to themselves. Their kiss at midnight had only been a hint of what was possible. She anticipated a fun night ahead, glad that she'd been bold enough to invite him over. Oliver took a look around her lounge while they tried to catch their breath. There was no reason for them to hurry. They had all night and possibly all the next day too if the Ministry didn't lift the lockdown order.
"You know, a proper Gryffindor would only decorate their home in red and gold. Why would you use something other than your House colors, Hermione? Is that green I see? Oh no, no, no. This is terrible."
She lightly slapped his arm with the back of her hand. When was the last time she'd been teased by a man and actually enjoyed it? Too damn long. They were still laughing when their lips touched again. She was ready to see Oliver struggle with the zipper on her dress. Somehow she got the feeling that would be just another joke they could share. He made her laugh. That wasn't easy. The older she grew, the harder it became.
A light breeze blew across her bare arm causing the skin to erupt into goosebumps. Suddenly unnerved, she gently pushed Oliver away. There was something very strange about her home. Never, not even the first day she moved in, had she felt so unwelcome. She felt the air again. It was as chilly as the rainy, night air outside.
"Excuse me a moment, Oliver. I'll be right back."
She wasn't sure why she didn't insist that he follow her to the bedroom. Maybe she didn't want him to think she was being overly paranoid. Like she assured him at the Ministry, it was probably a false report that had the Ministry in an unnecessary panic. Each step she made towards the room in the back of her house only made her more nervous.
The source of the cold air was a broken window. Curtains flapped in the breeze. A puddle of water had already formed on the floor. An overpowering smell of salt water filled the room. How was that possible? She wasn't anywhere near the ocean. Her shoes squelched in the carpet the closer she got to the glass. Even in the dim light she could make out the wet footprints leading from the window to the rest of her house.
From the lounge she heard a deep grunt, a loud thump, and then nothing but silence.