Title: Triumph out of the Bitter Taste of Ashes
Author: Kiristeen ke Alaya
Series: nope
Pairing: HG/SS, DM/HP
Codes: Adult sexual situations, violence, sexual trauma, minor character deaths
Rating: R
Warnings: Story deals with the aftermath of rape, torture, and the violence of war. The rape itself is *not* graphically described, nor is this story intended to, by word or implication, glorify it. (The act itself is covered in one single sentence after it's over) For Lucius lovers, this story will not portray him in a good light. Some characters die.

Setting: Takes place 7th year.

Summary: Hermione is captured just prior to the final battle. Dumbledore and company, ready for the confrontation, arrive in time to destroy Voldemort, only to find Hermione is no longer there. No one seems to know where she went, or even if she's still alive. Her return brings surprises and troubles, changing everything.

Disclaimer: I own nothing. JK Rowling, her publishers, and heirs do. I intend no disrespect nor copyright infringement with this story. It is purely a work of fanfiction.


Hermione whimpered as Malfoy pulled away, the glare of the September mid-day sun shining through her tightly clenched eyelids. Curling into a ball the moment he released her, his taunting, laughing voice and the stray wisps of white-blond hair she could see were the only clues to her rapist. For all that, she knew who he was, couldn't mistake him for anyone else. I will not let him break me. I will not let him break me. It was her mantra. It had become so hours ago, when the only thing she'd had to fight against was pain beyond imagining.

At first, they'd asked questions, demanding she tell them everything she knew about Hogwart's security and Dumbledore's plans. I don't know anything. I won't let him break me. soon replaced the first mantra; she'd believe it if she said it enough, she was sure . . . sometime . . . Let me believe it! she'd thought. I don't know anything. I won't let him break me! He cannot break me!

She'd held out as long as she could against their torture, saying nothing they wanted to hear, the pain steadily growing until she'd thought dying would be better than living. An hour, two, with her telling herself, I'll tell them something in a minute. I'll just hold out one more minute. She'd read once that was how addicts got through the cravings for drugs. And, right now, she was an addict, she craved surcease with every fiber of her being. Yes, she would have been grateful for the release of death, then.

Three hours and her screams were incoherent. She'd begun speaking, her voice coarse and screeching. She'd started with the 'wrongs' she'd done before learning she was a witch, every little thing, real or imagined had come pouring out of her. She spoke as fast as she could, leaving no space for breath or betraying truths.

It wasn't what they wanted, of course, her words doing nothing but angering her tormentors. She kept up the torrent of words, one after another, letting them all spill out, hoping against hope that they would create a wall between her, the pain, and what little she did know. When she began to run out of wrongs to confess, she began making them up. She didn't dare stop. If she did, she was lost and she knew she would tell them what they wanted to know -- she would tell them anything to simply make it stop.

Then they'd stopped, she wasn't sure why; maybe they'd decided she didn't know anything. Even so, the healing had come as a shock, the lessening of her agony a pain all its own. It hadn't been until the masked, hooded death-eater had kneeled between her legs that she'd realized why, and that contrary to her child-like whispered prayers, her torment was far from over.

Her silent, useless tears had dried long ago; she had none left to cry.

"Next," Malfoy called out tauntingly, several male voices responding, ringing out in laughter.

NO! Hermione screamed silently. Aloud, she whimpered, curling tighter. Go away! Go away! Let . Me . Die!

A shout. Voices cursing. Hermione ignored it all, withdrawing into herself as much as she could, willing it all away. People running, their footfalls fading quickly. Wait! Fading? They're leaving?

A choked sob escaped her as she tensed, waiting for the trick behind the trap to spring. They hadn't left. They were waiting for her to believe they had, then it would start all over again. Seconds ticked by, draining into minutes that passed like eternal hours.

When the dreaded touch never came, when no one grabbed her, forcing her out of her ball, no one forced her legs apart, Hermione opened her tightly clenched eyelids, finally beginning to hope they were really gone. She squashed it down ruthlessly; hope was a weakness, a vulnerability she couldn't afford right now. To have it back and lose it again would be as effective as a dementor's kiss.

Gone! They're gone!

An explosion startled a screech out of her. It ripped open her raw throat, but this time the pain served to clear just the smallest portion of her mind and she forced her eyes to focus in the direction of the sound. Vivid flashes of colored light showed through the trees. A fight, she thought. There's fighting. Slowly, what was happening filtered through her disorientation and terror. Someone's attacking the death-eaters. She'd been left behind and forgotten in the clamor. She could get away.

"Yes," she croaked hoarsely. "Away. Get away."

She rolled onto her hands and knees, her body aching with pain beyond agony. Muscles she hadn't been aware of until today violently protested every inch she gained toward the freedom she could almost taste. It tasted of the bitterness of bile, but it was freedom. She didn't try to rise to her feet. In truth, she didn't even think of trying; that was far too complicated. Crawl. She could crawl. She remembered crawling. She'd been able to do it for years.

So, why is it so hard, now?

Rocks, sticks, hard clumps of dirt: they all dug into her knees and palms. She didn't notice. They were simply more random shots of pain among many. Her breathing harsh and strained, she couldn't seem to draw in enough air. Panic radiated through her in nauseating waves. The world around her spun, her vision blurring briefly.

She wasn't going to make it. She moved forward again. There wouldn't be enough time. And again. Surely the fighting was over by now. They'd be back any second and find her. She wasn't far enough away. She was still out in the open . . . exposed.

She raised her head, staring straight ahead. The barely discernable tree line away from the fighting seem so far away, as far as the horizon, and just as unreachable. Her head dropped and she doggedly continued forward. She had to get away. She just had to. It would be bad if she didn't. They would make her be bad.

She didn't know how long she'd crawled before her arms buckled, tumbling her forward, but she lay there, breathing heavily. She had to get up. She had to move. She knew that. If she didn't, she would die. They would get her. She forced her eyes open, only to watch the patches of visible sky above her grey and brighten several times before she could make herself move.

Hissing at the stinging pain beneath her palms, she moved again, even more slowly this time. One hand, then the other; one leg, then the other, over and over again. Focusing on nothing more than that, she forced herself to continue.

Her arms buckled again, sending her hard to the ground just as the daylight around her was beginning to fade, but even that last little bit of light was lost to her as her head hit the ground and blessed unawareness rushed over her.

Feedback, the food of the gods and muses alike. It's craved and treasured.