Spoilers: SS/PS, CoS, PoA, GoF, FB, QTTA, OoTP
Summary: Hermione has been rejected by the Order and begins to sneak around. She acquires an odd familiar that becomes a man by night. Kidnapping, betrayal, and unsaid words. Based on Maid of Many Names' never-finished 'Degree' and 'Nonpartisan. Eventually Hermione/Voldemort. Very dark.
DISCLAIMER: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author notes: For all those people who wanted to see Maid of Many Names' fic completed, here is the fic. But it's mine, too. Since she only did first chapters for each, I think it was okay to write it. I tried to contact her and ask whether I could harvest, but she never replied to all seven of my attempts. Therefore, I simply credit her for the idea and ride with it.
Author's Notes extended: It has been years since I began this story, and I've edited the entire thing about two years later. Not much has changed – plot points have stayed the same. However, I've cut and/or changed several things.
And what's the point of a revolution without general copulation? Weiss' Marat/SadePrologue
The Forbidden Forest had an almost funereal quality of tall gravestones, eerily silent, save for the rustling of the leaves. Now and then the rustling was lower to the ground and the pelt or tail or abdomen of some dangerous creature would pass by the trails and clearings. The air itself was luminescent. Eyes glittered like jewels. Even in the stillness of early spring, sounds muffled in the denseness of the forest echoed and threw themselves like hallucinations away from their source. It was so easy to get lost. Every tree looked the same; any call was like a reflection, and help was hard to find. Beasts killed their own in mad rages like they killed their prey. Sentient plants stretched and waved their tendrils and exotic flowers enticingly. They knew to avoid the paths by now, fearing the heavy tread of disregarding feet or hooves of the creatures who wished to avoid animal entanglements.
Hermione was religiously following the path, like Harry had told her a year ago. Of course, Harry did not know she was here. No one did. She had been denied access to Order activities this summer, the members saying it was far too dangerous.
"Sirius is dead, Hermione," Lupin said. "This is not something to take lightly."
"Do I take anything lightly? I don't even want to go into espionage or battle, I can just do research—"
"I'm sorry, Hermione, it's just not possible—"
"You think Lord Voldemort makes the distinction between adult and child?"
Lupin had to think for a minute. Then, in a low, measured voice, he replied, "I know it's difficult to explain to someone with such a hunger for knowledge and understanding, but even the research could be dangerous. You would not only have to study remedies, counterhexes, countercurses, and other wholesome defensive areas of magic, but you would also have to research Dark Curses, dangerous potions, dangerous creatures, and criminal psychology. The studying of those subjects can be detrimental. You are not one who could escape these studies unscathed."
"But someone needs to—"
"We have someone who studies. He has paid for it every day of his life. Professor Snape thought he was immune, too. Believe it or not, Hermione, Snape has not always been like this. Professor Dumbledore and I have discussed this issue extensively already, and we're not willing to make that sacrifice."
"What if I am?"
"You'd better hope to the gods we don't find out," Lupin said mildly. "Don't be a fool, Hermione. Respect our reasons. You have your duties here."
Hermione's eyes rolled skyward now at the memory. They were foolish to think that she would just sit around doing nothing while Harry was in danger. When had she ever, when she knew without a doubt that she could make a significant contribution? And in this war, they needed all the significant contributions they could get. Dumbledore's Army had now extended to almost the entire school, save a few Slytherins, Ravenclaws, and Gryffindors, and the management had become too much for just her and Harry. Sure, she worked with the older kids and the occasional magic-stubborn younger-years, but it wasn't enough. It wasn't really a challenge. Looking up obscure spells, casting week-long incantations and violent spells, playing with fire, that was a challenge. Ordinary hexes anyone could research, but no one wanted to go through all the work and discipline to do so, that was nothing.
So she began sneaking around, invoking spells that allowed her into the Restricted Section, perusing confiscated books and book orders in Filch's office, occasionally invading Snape's private laboratory for the shelf of musty, ancient tomes of dark and dangerous potions. She had started these escapades with Harry and Ron's help, and they had been quite proud of her, though a little stunned at what a bad influence they were. But then she stopped informing them, and they thought it had just been a phase. After a while, they stopped asking her to join them on their own adventures, and Hermione realized that Harry and Ron were part of the Order without her. That hurt most of all, that she had completely been bypassed as vulnerable. So she endeavored to prove to herself that she was not.
And she was never caught.
Now, she was slinking like a criminal through the Forbidden Forest after midnight during a full moon with a thin wreath of wolfsbane round her neck, an amulus of collected stones forming a bracelet on her wrist, and a lycanthe drawn on her sinister palm. Silver rings boiled at the previous full moon to incantations of protection graced the fore and fourth finger of the same hand. In a small sheath on a silver girdle was a small silver dagger. Hermione was nothing if not prepared.
An old stab of conscience pricked at her eyes as she continued on her way to the liliaths, a poisonous flower that was deceptively beautiful as described by the legend that they originated from Aphrodite's kisses with Ares. Their petals were often used in the most dangerous of both potions and incantations. Enchantresses and guards of Chrestomanci carried the dust of the flower in small bags at their side. A similar bag hung on her girdle near her silver dagger. In her hands was a pair of dragon-hide gloves and a mortar and pestle to grind the flowers. An overwhelming sense of paranoia and wrongness tightened against her heart, and she stood stock still, listening. When she did not hear anything, she started on her way again, dismissing her intuition as faulty.
The sound of hoof beats froze her in her tracks. Ever since fifth-year, the centaurs had been positively malicious and violently defensive. There had been a thirty five percent increase in hospitalization due to centaur attacks. The rims of their hooves secreted a fluid that did not react well to ordinary medicine, so St. Mungo's consistently received a virtual cornucopia of information about centaurs, but the Enforcement Squads still could not keep them in check, especially in the Forbidden Forest. Hermione was hesitant to unsheathe her wand, aware of the threatening picture she would make, indicative that the centaurs' hatred was not baseless. She could only hope the centaur either would pass her or deem her unworthy of his attention.
She was unlucky in both respects.
The creature was not Bane, fortunately—the most vocal against centaur inequality amongst the magical community—but he was aged and held old-fashioned views of wizardkind. And it was a double blow that this was Firenze's grandfather, who had fought tooth and nail to keep his grandson from joining the human side to teach. Though unsuccessful, the old stallion continued to hold a grudge on the entire wizarding race for the decision his grandson had made.
"What goes there?" he called, coming up behind her on the trail.
Hermione fell to her knees in respectful deference. Better let him think she was submissive in his presence.
"A human? Here? Have we not made it clear to the wizards and witches of Hogwarts they are no longer welcome in this forest?" The centaur reared up on his graying hind legs, his hooves dulled but still invested with terrific power. Hermione ducked, cried out as the edge of the hoof struck her hair, grazing her cranium. She fell to her side in surprise.
"You are never content with your own world, but find it necessary to invade ours. Never any respect for the half-breeds. Substandard, are we? I'll show you substandard!"
He galloped to the side and started stomping to her sides, purposefully missing and frightening her by pressing his hooves near her head.
"Please, I came for magical supplies! That's all!" she yelled while dodging.
"Bah! Hang your excuses!"
"I don't want to defend myself, sir. Let me continue in peace."
But the old centaur's eyes had taken on a manic glint of a mind set in its ways, and her pleas fell upon deaf ears. Hermione took out her wand. A simple spell would not affect him, but a few of the more harmful ones would.
"Serato amule!" she yelled regretfully. A metal circle edged with serrated teeth whirled from her wand and began attacking the centaur. It sliced the horse belly and flank before the centaur had galloped back to the trees to more easily play the magical game. It took him seconds to cause the blade to embed itself in a sturdy trunk from which it was unable to withdraw.
The centaur leered at her. "Tried to kill me, eh?" he hissed, panting for breath.
"Only because you tried to kill me when I made it clear I didn't want to fight," Hermione said, face red and hair disheveled and escaping from its knot on the top of her head. She put her wand back in her sleeve as a sign of peace.
"Impudent human, you enter our lands and expect to be protected by your quaint sticks of wood? Take care. We centaurs have other magical designs." He began stepping toward her slowly. "What would happen if I took his horn," he patted his waist where a ram's horn was featured, "and called my brethren? You would not be so brave, I wager."
"I could Mute it," Hermione replied evenly.
Unease gave him pause. He fidgeted restlessly, nonplussed.
A rock flew over Hermione's head at the centaur. He stumbled back, startled. The girl had not thrown it.
"How dare you, you cowardly worm hole!" the centaur cried melodramatically as he galloped off to find his new offender.
Hermione shook her head, wishing she could have talked longer with him. It would have done well for him to see she truly was not there for seizure. And who or what had thrown that rock? That was the wrong thing to do to a centaur activist, as their demonstrations in Kent had shown. The night had rained with Obliviate. Hermione searched through the haze of the trees, but she could see no one. Anyway, the damage was done, and Hermione continued on her journey through the wood, avidly searching for the liliath patches.
It was another fifteen minutes of following the disappearing path, as she was beginning to lose all hope, that the moon shone through in a small clearing just off the path where the liliaths relished in the lunar power on which they lived. Their purple petals shimmered in dew drops and scented juices, cloyingly sweet to the nose—still, it invoked a powerful taste memory of honey in tea, and it called to her like a Venus Fly Trap. Hermione shook her head to clear her thoughts of all emotions. Liliaths were known to provoke passionate responses, whether in anger, lust, sorrow, happiness, or sympathy. It dripped lethal feelings.
Though she was wary of the traditional Forbidden Forest illusions, Hermione's insides quivered with excitement. To be sure, she picked up a stick from the path and chucked it at the clearing. It fell cleanly into the flower patch.
Slowly, cautiously, she approached the poisonous flowers, donning her dragon hide gloves and readying her mortar and pestle.
Some of the older liliaths were sentient to an extent and would react violently to a near presence. Hermione wished she was wearing complete dragon hide costume, but the expenses had been astronomical and she had declined the "bargain offer." All that was between her and the poison was her clothing, which was not comforting.
Hermione hummed a soothing tune to appease the ancient ones. She was not sure how on tune she was, but the large blossoms only trembled harmlessly in the cold wind.
"I'm sure they prefer other genres. Your choice is far too modern," a voice said behind her.
Hermione resisted the urge to whirl around, cautious of the liliaths' sensitive nature. Instead, she decided to analyze the voice. It was a half whisper consisting of a little malice and breathlessness, a touch of sarcasm, and more than a hint of the dialect of intelligence. A cool tenor underlaid with a frigid metal, accentuated with a rasping that was familiar to Hermione, but she could not place it.
"I would doubt it, sir," Hermione murmured, taking her chance for sound. "And I have to ask you to keep your voice low."
"It seems as if we are on the same errand. I know how to act around liliaths." The voice became shape as a form with the shoulders of a man slid past her, his cloak trailing in the fallen leaves to the patch. The fabric of the cloak was aptly of dragon hide, the hood large and draped so that shadow obscured his face. "It is simple when one is prepared, as you are not." He clipped seven liliaths from their now writhing stems, caring not for their spitting venom. He flaunted the limp flowers at her.
"Some can't afford such preparation," Hermione shot back.
"Then some should not attempt such a threat on their life," he replied.
"I didn't ask for your concern," she hissed, sneaking up on the liliaths again.
"And I wasn't giving any." There was a lull as Hermione reached for the liliaths, balancing herself by extending her arm and gripping the mortar. The man gave an almost inaudibly intake of breath.
"I seemed to have made a grave error," he said softly. "I need that mortar and pestle."
"Funny, I need it, too. Otherwise the liliaths' power will drain out." Hermione responded almost absentmindedly now, reaching out at the now-warned flowers to pluck seven of them as well.
"Allow me. Step back slowly. My services for your materials."
Hermione jerked in surprise, and the man had to pull her back quickly so that he received the brunt of the corrosive defense. Hermione choked back a scream as a great splatter landed on her corduroys and began eating through the fabric at an alarming pace.
"Take it off unless you'd like a hole through your leg," the man ordered, dragging her to the path while holding fourteen dead liliaths.
Without such modesty as an ordinary emergency would afford, Hermione removed the corduroys and tightened her cloak around herself before anything could properly be seen, but a few drops had reached the skin, and Hermione bit her lip until it bled as the corrosive poison began its burning trail through her skin. It took a minute before it had weakened enough for impotency, and she knew she would have to cleanse her bloodstream when she returned to the castle.
Taking her wand in hand, she took her corduroys, and with a muttered "Serato," she had cut a wide circle around the contaminated area, then Repaired the damage. She turned away from the man, who watching her work bemusedly according to the bend of his neck; she knew the precarious position she was in and continued to hold the wand.
Her manner was almost austerely quick, precise, and practical, with the swift finesse of habit and the love of accuracy. In his favorable position of strength unseen, the man admired her level-headedness and sensibility in the face of poisoning, and potential ravishment. But he did not move until she had faced him again, fully clothed, though with a slight limp and blood staining the seamless corduroy. In her hand, undamaged, were the mortar and pestle.
"Here," she said. "I'll grind them." She held out her hand.
The man hesitated; then deliberately, almost balefully, the man put the flowers into the hand. He was much taller than she, and he stood less then an arm's length away, yet she could still not discern the features of his face, despite the perfect angle.
Hermione closed her fingers over the flowers and sat on a jutting tree root to ply her duty. The man sat on the ground, head bowed.
"I've a conversation piece, if you'd like to discuss it," the man said lightly.
"Go on," Hermione said, pressing the pestle to the first seven liliaths.
"Why are you, a student of Hogwarts, in the Forbidden Forest, after curfew, picking Class A Non-Tradable plants? And a prefect, no less?"
Hermione flushed a brilliant red as she realized she had worn a cloak with the Hogwarts crest and had pinned her prefect badge next to it on accident.
"I could ask the same of you," Hermione replied slowly.
"I'm a fugitive of the law. I have an excuse. What's yours?"
Hermione resumed her task, deciding not to push the law issue with a criminal who could throw her to the liliaths if he chose. "I'm studying their properties," she said in her most aloof manner.
"They're only in poisons and dark incantations…"
"Then you're studying the Dark Arts," the man said levelly, but the triumph behind his voice could not hide so easily.
"So what if I am," Hermione muttered, finished grinding the first seven liliaths. She poured the powder into the bag on her girdle and began on the second set for the man.
"It's awfully dangerous, you know," the man said in a rather slippery fashion that Hermione noted immediately and readied herself for an onslaught of questioning. "As a prefect, is it not your duty to prevent this sort of activity? Or have the recent displays of the Dark Arts piqued your interest?"
Hermione remained silent, and the man, satisfied with her response, settled back, twirling his wand idly around his long fingers hidden by liliath juice-splattered gloves. The man was almost disconcertingly covered, and Hermione was torn between wanting to see his face and fearing the result. Yes, better to remain as anonymous as possible.
"Here," she said, holding out the mortar and pestle. "We have more in the supply closet. I don't need it anymore."
The man chuckled as he rose, acting as though he had no need to hurry. He took the proffered equipment, but the hood was cocked slightly in a curious air. "Ravenclaw or Gryffindor? I'd choose the latter. You're either very stupid or very brave for being here. Not going to tell me? Well then, as we have properly hidden our identities from each other to the best of our abilities, I will take my gracious leave of you." He bent in a comedic parody of respect, and the curve and shadows of his dragon hide cloak on his body gave an impression of thinness.
Hermione dared not ask him to follow her to Hogwarts so that she would not have to confront other temperamental centaurs or any other unwelcome beasts.
She waited until his cloak was no longer discernable from the night before she gave a tremendous sigh of relief with breath she had not even known she was holding. Then she headed back to Hogwarts.
Next time, she told herself, I'll buy the dragon hide cloak at least, and I won't wear anything that immediately identifies me with school. Too dangerous. And more weapons rather than defenses.
She reached the edge of the Forbidden Forest relatively unscathed, considering all factors involved. Her blood called to werewolves and acromantulas, and though she saw both, only a small acromantula bit her other leg and injected its weak venom into her body. It was small enough to kick it away, but its insides exploded like rock melon against a tree. Now she doubly limped, and as she passed into the kept lawn of Hogwarts, she felt the effects of the venom. It would knock her out for only a night, but she would have to get back to Gryffindor Tower without anyone seeing her.
"Will you make it or do you plan to fall unconscious to the ground as easy prey?" asked the man languidly, leaning as cool as anything against one of the trees on the dividing line.
Hermione now felt the freedom to jump.
"Invite me in, little student," the man mocked in a high voice.
"Were you following me?" Hermione slurred. Forming words was more difficult the later the hour and the more prolonged exposure to the acromantula venom.
"I knew you'd come this way, and it could not properly be called following."
"You can't come in," Hermione whispered, wavering where she stood. She began a drunken gait to the castle.
The man laughed while he almost lustily watched Hermione stumble, fall, and ultimately go unconscious. Then he whirled back into the forest, leaving Hermione in the moonlit night to the mercy of nature.
Hermione did not stir from where she lay, but nothing but nonmagical insects came near her so close to the castle. She woke early enough in the morning to creep away before anyone saw her, and she cloistered herself into a laboratory to tend her injuries and truly sleep.
These were some of the last healings she gave to herself that left scars.