Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. 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's note: This story starts at the end of Hermione's fifth year. Up until book 5, it is canon compliant with a few additions Jo "forgot" to tell us about. After that … I make no promises. XD
Warnings: story contains; pairing LV - HG, coarse language, violence (torture and kills), mild smut (extensive lemons can be found on AFFnet; I'll write it in the A/N of a chapter on this site if it has more elaborate scenes there).
For Serpie's birthday
You might wonder what a still wounded and feeble appearing Hermione Jean Granger was doing in the middle of the night, sitting on a swing in an abandoned muggle park. You might even question her sanity, and she would agree with you. It was embarrassing enough Dolohov had cursed her into oblivion almost immediately at the ministry - so she had been no help to Harry at all; but now, instead of laying in a comfortable bed being nursed back to health by Poppy Pomfrey, she was out … on her own, in the dead of night, in a small town's park.
The entire endeavour of sitting here so carelessly reeked of the prospect of death, torture, rape, and other delightful pastime experiences which would ensure she'd never reach the milestone age of seventeen. Hermione felt she might as well attach a bull's eye to her back, summon the Death Eaters and get her demise over and done with. This was all the fault of bloody Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore. Yes, she wouldn't have been a sitting duck right now had he not shown her that blasted scroll, but he had … and the rest was history.
It had started that morning at twelve Grimmauld Place almost a year ago. She was sitting at the breakfast table bandaging her arms and hands, while watching Ron being pecked to death by Hedwig too. The owl, determined to get them to write back to Harry, had given up on "swaying" Hermione and was busy "convincing" Ron, who was flailing his arms through the air in an attempt to evade the rather sharp beak. He failed miserably and made quite a scene while doing so.
In the hullabaloo that followed Dumbledore took Hermione apart from the others and handed her a scroll to read. He told her not to tell a soul about it and to follow the instructions if she was interested. How could someone not be? You don't often get a list of famous wizarding names throughout history without any explanation whatsoever.
Hermione rolled her eyes to the dark sky. Helga Hufflepuff, Merlin, Isis, Morgana, Nicolas Flamel, Ignotus Peverell, and those were just a few of the names on the list that struck her fancy. She should have tossed that darn list into the nearest bin possible; but nooooo, she had to be curious. HA! Now she knew her Animagus form would have a set of whiskers for sure. Stupid Dumbledore and his ridiculous list.
The list was titled Keepers of…, and then, there was a huge smutch on the parchment. Hermione had tried a thousand cleansing, highlighting, and Merlin knows what kind of charms to bring out the name underneath the black stain. In the end she had a parchment without any trace of a smutch. Unfortunately, it also gained a huge hole instead of that. She had turned quite red when Dumbledore requested it back in front of a group of twelve other people who stood unidentifiable in a blurred mist.
However, her headmaster merely chuckled and when he moved back to his spot in the group, he shoved the parchment in one of the other's hands with a broad grin, pointing to the hole. Hermione was certain his eyes were twinkling even more so as they normally did. He was definitely enjoying himself for some inexplicable reason.
To this day Hermione felt it had been surreal. She was standing in some damp, obscure place in the heart of London being questioned by people she didn't know, who told her she apparently wanted to become something she had no idea what it entailed; an apprentice? Apprentice to whom and to what end?
They didn't supply her with the answer.
After being drilled for hours, they made her wait in a cold chamber; but in the end the happy news was they had accepted her as a possible candidate for the open Keeper position. Keeper of who, what, where, why?
Yeah, you guessed right, they didn't say.
Still, she trusted Dumbledore, then. So she continued, certain the answer would be supplied some day. It was the start of a series of annoying tests she sailed through without effort and just before the end of her fifth year at Hogwarts, Hermione heard she was one of the three remaining candidates to go through to the final stages of enlightenment. Yeah, she felt really enlightened already – so much knowledge about nothing at all did that to a human being.
She snorted and glanced at her watch. It was past three a.m. already. Hermione was supposed to secretly meet the person she would become an apprentice to, but her "guide", as they had strangely called it, was late for their appointment.
However, that didn't matter; she had nothing better to do than sit on a swing in the middle of the night, unprotected, anyway. It was not like she was hurt and in need of medical attention or whatever. And everybody knew how much Lord Voldemort and his cronies loved Muggle-borns who allied themselves with Harry Potter, so she was perfectly safe.
Yeah, she had only jumped up with her wand raised a zillion times now; her other hand clutching to her aging chest. Constant vigilance became her motto too. Thus far she had hexed two crows, a stray pigeon, a dribbling mouse, and a hooting owl; all very dangerous, life-threatening animals. Hermione was beginning to understand the origin of Moody's paranoia – total darkness in combination with being struck down in combat in the past had that effect on you. A scratching noise sounded behind her, and without thinking, Hermione swirled her wand in that direction.
A cat yowled loudly and rushed away limping. Hermione sighed and shook her head. Five more minutes, that was how long she would wait and not a second more. If he or she wasn't here by then, Dumbledore could stuff his Keeper thing in a very dark place. She wasn't about to turn suicidal; not even to show everyone she was the best, at everything. There had been fourteen candidates at the start, and now, there were only two more to beat. She just had to win; she couldn't fail. If only to show Professor Dumbledore he had been right in picking her. It had nothing to do with the fact she had identified Draco Malfoy as one of the other remaining candidates and couldn't stand the thought of him beating her to something. No, it definitely had not something to do with that.
Crack. A whirl of black robes apparated before her.
Yeah, as she said before, she was perfectly safe indeed.
Because, to Hermione's horror, her paranoia had turned reality. Just a few steps away from her, Lord Voldemort had appeared. She cast a curse, flung to her feet and almost blacked out completely from the lack of oxygen due to her malfunctioning ribcage. Blasted Dolohov. While she searched the grounds for her Portkey with her eyes, she kept casting curse after curse in vain. She could hear the gong-like sounds of the impacts on his shield. Where was that damned Portkey?
'Reducto!' Hermione cast, and she saw the utter bored look in Lord Voldemort's eyes as he diverted her curse lazily.
Panicking, she stumbled backwards while tossing anything that came to mind at him; another volley of spells struck his silvery shield, but he was merely looking at her silently. Why wasn't he cursing her? Not that she was complaining… But it was unusual at least.
'Accio Portkey!' Hermione tried.
Nothing came. It was when she saw he was holding it. Lord Voldemort whipped his wand around.
'Protego!' Hermione yelled, frightened; and she closed her eyes praying her shield would hold as she saw the jet of light speed towards her.
Her wand flew from her hand and Hermione crashed to the ground unable to move. As she impacted with the wet pavement, she felt her ribs were in firm disagreement with this harsh treatment so shortly after being crushed in the Department of Mysteries. Her chest cracked, and this time, she tasted blood in her mouth. Dying didn't feel too bad, Hermione decided, while her lungs failed to take in any air; it was just the view that needed some improvement – for she was now looking straight at the tall figure of the Dark Lord. He was twirling her wand around in his long slender fingers, while smirking down at her condescendingly.
'If you really want to duel me, little girl, you need to improve your skills so astronomically that I feel confident in stating you are reaching for an impossible goal. However, since I am…,' he turned silent and narrowed his eyes at her. 'Oh, for Salazar's sake,' he grumbled.
The last things Hermione noticed, before the world turned black around her, were a pair of arms that lifted her and a sensation of being crushed together to fit through a tiny keyhole.
When she woke, her first thoughts were that it all had been a bad dream; a nightmare. She could feel the soft sheets of the bed in the infirmary that embraced her fully healed body and she never felt better in her life, until she sat up … and stared straight into the face nobody wants to see after a good night's rest. Hermione blinked, but that didn't make the Dark Lord go away.
Interesting infirmary, it has the most caring staff in Britain, entered her mind.
'Good, you are finally awake. I really don't have time to waste on feeble, incompetent Mudbloods; here is your assignment.' He tossed her an envelope.
Dumbfounded, Hermione stared at the envelope and then back up at Lord Voldemort. 'I am not one of your servants,' she hissed back without thinking – after which she wanted to bite her tongue and make the bed swallow her and her blabbermouth whole.
An exasperated sigh, however, was the only response. 'Do I have to paint it all out for you, Granger, or are you capable of coming up with an intelligent thought of your own instead of paraphrasing everything from the books you read?'
She had no idea what he was talking about.
'That is your assignment, apprentice,' the Dark Lord said sweetly, 'and supposedly I am to function as your guide. Feel free NOT to bother me with your insipid questions.'
Hermione merely gaped at him. He was her guide; he? The Dark Lord was one of the Keepers of whatever? And they chose him to help her? Which idiot had thought that was a good idea? Now, she had to figure out everything on her own, and he was sure to make it even harder for her to succeed.
'Your Portkey is over there.' Lord Voldemort pointed to the dresser. 'I have sent an owl to the old coot, so he is aware you will return later than expected. I'm sure he will have made up a perfectly fine excuse for your absence. Remember, you are not permitted to convey any secrets of the Keepers to the outside world. Adios.'
The walls trembled when the door flew shut behind him. Stunned, Hermione looked at the door. This wasn't happening. Fate couldn't possibly be this cruel.
Slowly, she moved to the edge of the bed, folded the envelope to fit into her skirt's pocket and put on her shoes. She was still dressed in the clothes she had on yesterday; but they were perfectly clean and appeared pressed, while she had slept in them. Her coat was hanging over a comfortable chair beside the dresser. She pulled it on and felt her wand in its right-hand pocket with a sting of relief. She was so out of here.
Her hand moved to the Portkey when she saw the book that lay beside it on the dresser, "The Reality of Magic". It was an impossibly rare book and priceless. She had seen many references to it in other books and had been dying to read it. Alas, the Hogwarts library had no copy; Flourish & Blotts had been unable to obtain one for her, and she was not a thief. Her eyes darted to the door, while her hand kept hovering indecisively between the two items. Perhaps … she could lend it? It wasn't stealing if she planned to give it back, was it? Oh what the hell, he was hardly in a position to send the Aurors after her. Hermione grabbed the book, tucked it in her skirt and pulled her shirt over it. Swiftly, she grabbed the Portkey and felt the familiar tuck at her navel.
'Oophftt,' she cried, as she smashed over an armchair and tumbled to the floor of the Head's Office.
'Oh dear,' Professor Dumbledore said; he rushed toward her and helped her up. 'I trust you are fine, Miss Granger?'
'Fine, fine?' Hermione repeated. 'You are asking if I am fine? My guide is…'
A spell flew around them and Hermione just barely noticed Professor Dumbledore pocketing his wand again.
'The walls have ears in my office, Miss Granger,' Dumbledore said. 'I believe you are still aware of your magical confidentiality agreement.'
Hermione's mouth opened and closed like a fish on land. Magical confidentiality agreement? When the Dark Lord was her guide? Dumbledore was going to hold her to that? He had to be kidding.
'Good, you are aware of the delicacy of your situation.'
No, that she failed to notice. It had never crossed her mind once that Lord Voldemort could use her to get to Harry. Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes.
'For now, we can talk briefly, because I muffled our speech. Naturally, I know who your guide is,' Dumbledore added calmly. 'It is regrettable but not unexpected. I was afraid it would turn out to be him beforehand, but there is nothing we can do to alter that. You'll just have to make the best of this situation.'
'The best of this situation?' Hermione repeated, outraged. 'The best!'
'Yes,' Dumbledore said, unruffled. 'Tom is one of the best Keepers there is. His knowledge of our uhm… "order" is vast. Many would die to be his apprentice.'
Hermione thought that was not such a hypothetical scenario at all.
Dumbledore smiled at her. 'A Keeper is not allowed to kill his apprentice, Hermione. The penalty that would be bestowed upon him should you die in his care is so severe he'll avoid it at any cost. Why else do you think he saved your life tonight? As long as you are his apprentice you will be the safest individual during this war, and he has to guide you. It's not optional.'
'He isn't going to guide me anywhere but to failure,' Hermione resigned. 'I am a Muggle-born witch and we all know how he feels about that.'
'Oh well, I am sure you can convince him,' Dumbledore said with infuriating twinkling eyes.
'That'll be the day,' Hermione muttered softly. She pulled the unopened envelope with her assignment from her pocket and showed it to Dumbledore. 'He said, "Feel free not to bother me with your insipid questions".'
'Did he now?' Dumbledore chuckled.
'Yes,' Hermione said, somewhat irritated. 'Does that sound like he is going to help me succeed?'
Dumbledore shrugged his shoulders. 'The assignments are for the apprentices to work out, not the Keepers. The troubles you find on your path to the knowledge are for you to solve.'
Hermione bit her lip. She had hoped Dumbledore would help her get another "guide", but it was obviously not going to happen. She was screwed.
'I trust Tom healed your wounds fully?' Dumbledore inquired.
Hermione nodded silently.
'I thought he might. I told the others you went to a foreign Healer who had to remain anonymous for security reasons.'
'In the middle of the night, Sir?'
'It wasn't in the middle of the night where he lived,' Dumbledore explained, amused. 'If anybody asks, keep your explanations short and simple. You are far less likely to contradict yourself if you don't tell too much and keep it boring.'
'So, others will not drill me for more information,' Hermione said knowingly.
'Indeed,' Dumbledore replied. 'Now, you'd best start with your assignment, Hermione, you have till September to find the answers.'
'I know, thank you Sir.' For nothing, she added in her mind, while she moved to the door.
'Don't forget your book,' Dumbledore said.
Hermione froze on the spot. Oh darn, Merlin's pants, why did she never have any luck? Totally red in the face, she turned around and walked to Professor Dumbledore who held out "The Reality of Magic".
'The Reality of Magic is a very intriguing theory, especially to those who can grasp the finer details of its inner workings,' Professor Dumbledore commented, as she accepted it.
'I am just borrowing it,' Hermione whispered apologetically.
'I did not doubt it for a second, Miss Granger.'
Embarrassed, Hermione rushed out of the office quickly. Fortunately, everyone else was already in class or still in the infirmary like Ron and the others, so Hermione managed to get into her dormitory undisturbed. She placed the nicked book in her warded nightstand and sat down on the bed as she opened the envelope. She would do this on her own. She was not the smartest witch of her age for nothing; she didn't require any help from anyone.
You have till October seventeenth to learn all the methods of Magical Cast Control. A thorough essay (length is at your discretion) on the matter is required to be handed in a month before that date. Said essay will have to show your opinion as well as be an evidence based study on Controlled Casting. An oral interview will be conducted in which you are to validate your opinions. At the practical you will show your personal capability to bring theory to practise by showing us how to undo an already cast spell or charm before it comes to completion.
But that was impossible! Once a spell was cast, it was out there, moving forward on its own momentum. Hermione stared at the last sentence over and over again in bafflement. Why would they give an impossible task? It was impossible, wasn't it? She had never heard of anyone undoing a spell after it was cast before.
One thing, however, was certain. She didn't need any help at all. With a defeated sigh, Hermione slumped down on the bed. A miracle had happened; Hermione Jean Granger didn't feel like going to class.