Title: Ascent (01)
Author name: Lunalelle
Author email: Category: Drama
Sub Category: Romance
Keywords: Hermione Medicus Voldemort
Rating: R
Spoilers: SS/PS, CoS, PoA, GoF, FB, QTTA, OoTP
Summary: Sequel to Abyss: Eight years later... Hermione's new profession leads her to take an anonymous client, and she finds herself face to face with the situation of her seventh-year, but now the tables have turned. She is no longer the powerless little girl-pet of Lord Voldemort. She is Hermione Granger of the Medicus Order, and she has a job to do. Hermione/Voldemort
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. Abyss/Ascent originate from Maid of Many Names' "Nonpartisan" and "Degree." Here is where the beginning of "Nonpartisan" comes into play. But as usual, I deviate, more so in Ascent than in Abyss.
Author notes: Hello, everyone. Yes, I have started Ascent. Isn't everyone happy? I know I am. My break was wonderful, by the way, and I needed it so badly. But now I'm back in the game. April may cause me to be a little sporadic in my updates, but other than that... Enjoy.

Chapter 1

She woke up before the early beams of sun hit her pillow, but her eyes remained closed for her morning meditation. Not all of the Medicus Order adhered to the older traditions such as meditation, cleansing, and chanting, but when Hermione lived at the abandoned, hidden cathedral with the other waiting healers, she took pride in maintaining the calming schedule that let her purge her mind of all the darker thoughts that descended upon her when she slept. She knew that no amount of meditation would take away her nightmares, but she could control her day time.

It remained. She felt it when she moved the cold washcloth over her lurid Dark Mark at night, when her mind brushed against familiarity or she saw something at the edge of her vision that looked like the sinuous movement of a cloak. But it was dormant, waiting at the end of her reason, waiting for one lapse, for one instance that reminded her of that time. She never let it awaken. It had taken her eight years, but now she was a fully trained Medicus. She had the peace, the mind, the life that she had wanted.

Hermione did not expect this utter peace, not in the midst of a war of which even the Medicus Order was a part. Like some other wizarding entities, they were neutral in the battle, but they still acted as they were meant to do. Nonpartisanship did not mean nonparticipation. Letters still came in to them, letters in the common form and plea for their services from both sides of the fold. They served as best as they could.

They certainly received more publicity than usual - they were called high-priced whores, dirty double-crossers, spies, and traitors. That is, when the Dark forces employed them. The Medicus Order did not hear complaints when the Minister of Magic requested assistance for his nerves or when an aging, retired Auror sent his letter to them. Despite the hypocrisy, the Medicus Order continued in their own way, as they always had.

Hermione's meager clientele thus far consisted of temporary contracts binging her to a young girl who was cursed into blindness, a single mother who needed help coping with the loss of a stillborn infant, and an older man who wanted his dying days to be as comfortable as possible - none of these people wanted to be alone, and Hermione was a good companion for them for their times. She was well chosen by the Oracle, a chalice-like object similar to the Goblet of Fire, except older, better protected, and more independent. It had never been wrong, which made its record far more trustworthy than the Goblet of Fire.

Hermione sighed as the light pierced her eyelids, signaling the advent of morning. She opened her eyes and sat up, putting on her slippers and her thin robe. Humming one of the chants to herself, she walked to her open window, breathing in the young air. She always kept her window open, even during the frigid winter. Charms brought the freshness into the room while warding against the extremes of the elements.

She stared out at the steel gray sky and smiled. Somehow, a thunderstorm managed to brighten her day as much as sunshine. Today, she supposed she would go through her initial cleansing ritual and her chanting in the empty sanctuary before retiring to the library. Like at Hogwarts, she was known for her book-reading among the Medicus Order. If anyone wanted to find her, they would wait in the library until she came in a little past noon with her lunch in hand, like clockwork. She did not mind reverting to her old persona. While the Medicus library was not extensive, it provided her with enough books to satisfy her insatiable curiosity and fill her days with a quiet pastime. This freedom in her new life when she did not have a client gave her an opportunity for contemplation and discussion which she never had in her past.

It was in the library that Marilyn Savage, the head Elder of the Order, found her, curled like a child next to the hearth, eyes half-glazed as they moved slowly over the small letters, taking a patient joy in them. Marilyn waited until Hermione noticed her before approaching. With a sheepish grin, Hermione untucked her legs from under her and sat up straight, setting the book aside.

Marilyn stayed silent as she joined Hermione before the hearth. They stared at the fire as Hermione waited for Marilyn to speak. She knew Marilyn would tell her what was on her mind eventually - Marilyn liked mystery and suspense. She knew how to milk a significant silence. She loved the power she had as the head Elder, and she playfully flaunted it when she could.

"We received a request," Marilyn said, breaking the silence. "A request for a permanent contract. This person is high profile in the media and, for both reasons, must remain anonymous to the Medicus Order until his or her request is rejected or accepted."

Marilyn turned her gray eyes to Hermione's interested face.

"We fed the request to the Oracle. Against my better judgment, it selected you as the most compatible Medicus for this person's needs. However, the contract requested is permanent, so you can decide whether to reject or accept his request now. After your decision, you cannot withdraw."

Hermione inhaled deeply before letting the air out in a rush. A permanent contract. Unlike temporary contracts, which were largely informal and protected only by the smallest series of spells that prevented only eternal harm to the Medicus and her relationship with her client, permanent contracts delved into the ancient magics. The bond between the Medicus and the client became closer than family, even closer than marriage. The Medicus felt every nuance of the client's health, the swell of emotion, the pulse of thoughts. The magical contract forced the Medicus and the client to keep themselves from harming the other in a malicious manner. In such close quarters, tensions ran high, opinions differed, and tempers exploded - after all, a Medicus was only human. The contract prevented any sort of violence from occurring during the moments when such occasions presented themselves.

But what concerned Hermione the most, and what concerned Marilyn as well, was that a permanent contract was just that: permanent until the Medicus or the client died. Hermione had only experienced three contracts, all temporary. She was, in comparison to the rest of the Medicus Order, extremely unqualified for such a responsibility and honor. The Oracle often gave the rare requests for permanent contracts to the older, veteran healers. Hermione was only twenty six years old, practically a child to the Elders although she had achieved full Medicus recognition three years ago. She was respected for her unusual intelligence and her experience in... other things, but to have a permanent contract so early in her Medicus career and life meant being bound to one client for a very long time.

Hermione knew the other reason why Marilyn was worried: the high profile aspect of the client meant that Hermione would be back in the spotlight again. Her past would inevitably find its way into the media, and both she and her client would have to endure the consequences. Also, due to the Medicus Order's nonpartisanship, the client's high profile could, in fact, be a result of the client's Death Eater status or some other known supporter of Voldemort.

There was that name, the name Hermione had tried to leave behind her when she burned the cloak in the fireplace six years ago - the name that went with her Dark Mark, the name that echoed in her hidden memories, that hissed within the war-ridden wizarding community. Marilyn knew how fragile Hermione's hold on her serenity was and how difficult it had been to move beyond that past into a more neutral state. If the potential client brought her close to the past, Hermione might lose her capability to act fully as a proper Medicus. Marilyn was too fond of Hermione to watch her fall apart, and she was too professional to leave a client with a useless Medicus.

Either way, a high profile client posed a difficult choice for Hermione. Marilyn did not know why the Oracle chose Hermione for this particular assignment, but she was willing to pledge her faith on its accuracy. Now would not be a good time for it to be wrong.

Hermione's mind was reeling from the news. Hiring a Medicus was not cheap, and hiring a Medicus for a permanent contract required an even higher fee. She wondered who had enough money to even consider a Medicus rather than an ordinary Healer. Not only did the Medicus require the usual salary of over one hundred Galleons for a single week, the client provided room and board and anything else that the Medicus needed and that she could not acquire on her own. Whoever this potential client was, he or she was desperate and perfectly willing to pay the exorbitant price. The curiosity alone was enough to weigh her decision, but her darker doubts lingered.

"I don't suppose you'll tell me which side this client is on," Hermione sighed, curling in the chair again.

Marilyn smiled. "A true Medicus would not care."

"An ideal Medicus, you mean," Hermione retorted good-naturedly. They had debated this issue before. "An ideal Medicus does not exist."

"It is a difficult endeavor, Hermione, but one for which you should always strive. However, I do acknowledge that your situation is... exceptional and unusual. This is why I stress your need to consider all possible results of accepting or rejecting this proposal."

"If you were to become a Medicus and were given a client - I don't know how the Medicus is chosen for each client, but it is supposed to be objective and final - you would have to serve that client, be he a member of the Order of the Phoenix or a Death Eater. Nonpartisan, Miss Granger. And there are instances when life-long bonds are requested. Imagine being bound to Lucius Malfoy for the rest of his days, healing his every malady, if he were willing to pay the price for a Medicus."

Severus had not known the complexity of the Medicus Order, but his words returned to her full force, and she realized more fully the risk she might be taking if she accepted the request. Her fingers slid under her left sleeve, resuming the habit that Hermione thought she had broken years ago. Her Dark Mark seemed to hum as she stroked it. She thought nothing of the feeling. It had happened so often since her release from... she would not remind herself of it. It was simply a common occurrence that was probably comparable to Harry's scar.

"Do you want the night to think over it?" Marilyn murmured, seeing the conflict in Hermione's darkening eyes.

"Yes, please," Hermione replied, settling back in her chair and wrapping her arms around her.

"Very well." Marilyn touched Hermione's arm lightly before leaving her to the empty library.

Rather than going to sleep at her normal time, she returned to the sanctuary. The mustiness about her held memories, and if she closed her eyes, she could almost hear them and see them. The smell of incense and the dimness of the stained glass after the sun set usually cleared her head, but not even her favorite mantras and meditations could stop the whirling of time in her head. She tried to set the past aside. Marilyn was right - her past clouded her judgment as a Medicus. In such a decision, she had to be rational and objective. Her quivering was nothing, merely the coldness of the storm outside seeping into the open sanctuary. The fear coursing through her veins was due to the permanence of the contract, not the possibilities.

A memory of her own surfaced, her trial period in an extension of St. Mungo's. Her mentor, Shannon Langley, stood behind her as one of the Healers brought a young man half-seared with dragon burns into the room.

"Is this injury cured with a simple spell like with ordinary fire?" Shannon asked Hermione in her ear.

"No," Hermione replied. "As a magically-produced fire, this burn must be immediately treated with a potion salve, preferably one applied by hand directly to the skin. Pyrus's Elixir, I would suggest."

The Healer handed her the salve that he had hidden behind him

"Very good," Shannon said. "Now apply the salve evenly over the burned flesh."

Hermione froze with the vial held tight in her fingers. The Healer, unaware of Hermione's reaction, pulled away the sheet over the lower half of the man's body, leaving him naked. The burn extended down the side of his right leg and over his hip.

The salve slipped from her fingers. Shannon, anticipating Hermione's response to such an order, caught the vial before it hit the ground. With one hand, she opened Hermione's hands and poured the salve into them. Gently, she led Hermione to the man and helped her apply the salve. The man was healed by the end of the lesson, but Hermione did not leave her room for days. Shannon knew to wait.

Hermione reacquainted herself with the simple touch of a healer, the whispered words in her ear, the comfort of an embrace. She avoided them when she could, but she had learned to put her duties before her past; she no longer flinched when someone reached out to her. All three of her clients had needed companionship that required contact, and by the time she was a full Medicus, she willingly gave what was needed. She saw death and its residue again, but it was not the death that the Dark powers dealt. She saw pain, but it was pain that could be healed. In healing others, she began to mend.

She pulled the blanket around her as the doves in the rafters cooed and fluttered their wings at a particularly insistent howl from the wind. It reminded her that she needed to brew Wolfsbane again for Remus and a few of his friends that were shut in his flat after being newly introduced to lycanthropy by the werewolves on Voldemort's side. It was a favor for a friend, not the product of a surreptitious political agenda, so she was allowed to provide them with the potion when Severus was unable to brew himself at the moment due to his part in the war. Medicus were permitted friends, one allowance that made Hermione weep when first she was able to leave her training to live for a little while in Remus's flat. Harry came to visit her then as a break from his training as well, and for a few hours, she took comfort in the idle chatter, the cheap but appreciated tea, and the smiles and support. She would have liked Ron to be there, but he still had not forgiven her.

Eight years later, their conflict had not resolved. Harry wrote to her, saying that Ron was beginning to believe her now that Ginny was working on him. But Ron was afraid of her, afraid of admitting that he was wrong, afraid of what happened to her, afraid of what she might have become and what she might do to him, and afraid of the Medicus Order, as any pureblood wizard was. Hermione wanted to go to him. But when she saw Ginny at her new flat that she shared with Ron and Harry and Luna, Ron and Hermione did not talk or look at each other. Hermione took the slight in stride - it was easier with time - and she was glad that she was no longer under the scrutiny of Mrs. Weasley at the Burrow now that all the children were out of the home.

She enjoyed the quiet times with Ginny when they delved into the Muggle world for their mindless entertainment that helped them forget when simply seeing each other brought the memories forward. She loved that Ginny, who had denounced her so completely when she lost all hope, believed her now. Sometimes Luna came for a girls' night out, but often, there was just the two of them. They were growing up into women, but it was nice to be girls for a time. They never spoke of their futures or their pasts. The present was where their life had to be. After the long talk that they had a year after Hermione left Hogwarts, they felt the connection of that thread of darkness that had held them, a connection Hermione appreciated when there was no one else who could truly understand.

Even with Ginny, Ron, Harry, Remus, and Severus occasionally, her memories were there, but they never ventured past the carefully constructed wall that Hermione built around them. They hovered along the wall like gargoyles now. She could see them waiting, crimson eyes intelligent and knowing. Hermione was scared. The anguished eyes of the crucified Christ at the front of this sanctuary intensified her fear.

The question really came down to whether she could trust herself to remain nonpartisan and detached from the war with a person right in the middle of it. It was a challenge, and that alone piqued her interest; however, it was her desire for a challenge that started her on the path to the Dark Arts in the first place, that haunted her with black stone statues and claws dripping with blood and violent hisses and burning flesh and sweat and skin. It was her desire for a challenge that brought her into darkness. She would not choose to accept the request for a challenge.

Hermione realized that she already thought of the request as something to accept rather than reject. This new understanding sank deep in her stomach, and her vision blurred for a moment. She was going to accept it. She had accepted it when it was presented to her.

She was an awful, awful, awful, weak person. Hermione leaned her forehead against her hands. She knew what she might end up having to do; she knew that all the awful things from before could happen again when she was brought back into the spotlight, but she still wanted to do it.

It was not the challenge that a permanent contract offered. It was that she was challenged. Many of the other healers of the Medicus Order did not really see her as one of them, not when she came to the Medicus Order for different reasons than they did. They felt for her after reading the newspapers and then hearing her own testimony. They helped her, and they were always willing to train her when one of the elders asked for their assistance. Hermione was likable, and they believed her to be an asset to the establishment, a perfect example of the benefits of nonpartisanship and a good catch because of her quick mind. The Medicus Order was proud of her growth and accomplishments.

But she was still closely tied to the war, so closely tied that Hermione found herself in conflict with many of the healers regarding her allegiances. They could not tell her to stop meeting with her friends, no matter how close they were to a particular side, any more than any of them wanted to stop seeing their own friends and family. They could not tell her to stop hating Voldemort and the Death Eaters. Hermione had crossed the fine line from partisanship to personal vendetta. The elders all knew that it had not been her fault entirely that she found herself in the very midst of the war simply by those she hated and loved.

However, the impossibility of her full nonpartisanship was the cause of a great deal of strife among the healers that were bound to people who Hermione knew supported Voldemort or the corrupted side of the Ministry. These healers who were devoted to their cause, even if they did not agree with the crimes their patients committed, hated that Hermione could not be so objective with her patients. They challenged her to set aside her allegiances as she set aside her past. Hermione knew better than to believe that they knew best - there were some scars even a Medicus could not completely heal - but their rejection of her with this one issue stabbed her straight in the heart of her desire to be a part of them as she vowed to be eight years ago.

Her pride surfaced like a drowned flower, and she knew that she accepted the request. She would bind herself to an Order member or a Death Eater or a Ministry member, and she would do so without a complaint. Hermione would be torn to shreds on any side she aided. Her black gargoyles took wing with the memories that confronted her, and she shivered at the howl of the wind and quake of thunder. Wrapping the blanket about her and singing a serenity chant softly, she left the sanctuary. Marilyn was outside the door, waiting for her. Hermione's stomach and her original, shadowed understanding plummeted even further when Marilyn handed her the request letter, her eyes downcast and her mouth in a tight line.

"I still do not know why the Oracle chose you," Marilyn said before the seal was broken. "But, as ever, I trust its judgment and can only hope that you will trust it as well. I do not know what else to say."

Hermione opened the request letter. The structure and language was traditional form for a reques, with a few modifications for a permanent contract and personal touch. Hermione read the clean script with slowly whitening cheeks and darkening eyes. When she finished, she rolled the parchment and magically sealed it with the blue seal of the Medicus Order, turning the letter into the signed contract.

Cold, precise, and dispassionate, Hermione turned to Marilyn and said, "I accept his request and will be escorted to his fortress three days from now at his proposed time and place. Tell Lord Voldemort that I am pleased to be his Medicus."

Read? Review!

Author notes: Unlike the Abyss discussion forums, for Ascent, I'll do discussion forums for individual chapters.

My Abyss/Ascent livejournal community that holds all of my forums can be foundhttp: Feel free to come by every once in a while and contribute. (Note: It's not a review forum, but a discussion forum)

Thank you for waiting so long for this, and I hope you enjoyed it. Resentment? Reservations? Rave? Review.