A Different Kind of Gravity
Summary: When Hermione is killed during torture at Malfoy Manor, she becomes a ghost, invisible to all but her killer. In order to pass on herself, she is set with an impossible task: she must first make him experience love. HG/LV Sequel to "Just Let Me Wake Up Already."
Rating: T for strong language, violence, etc.
A/N: Hello, everybody! I'm back! Welcome to my first HG/LV story, a sequel to my finished HG/TR work Just Let Me Wake Up Already. Please don't be worried if you haven't read the original; while I would recommend it coming into this, they are designed to be somewhat self-sufficient. Yes, this is also a major AU, making this fic non-DH compliant.
Disclaimer: Never have, never will own HP.
I have kindly asked my sister Sakura Takanouchi to beta for me for this story. Thank you.
And now, enjoy.
Send a heartbeat to
The void that cries through you
Relive the pictures that have come to pass
For now we stand alone
The world is lost and blown
And we are flesh and blood disintegrate
With no more to hate
Time has stopped before us
The sky cannot ignore us
No one can separate us
For we are all that is left
The echo bounces off me
The shadow lost beside me
There's no more need to pretend
Cause now I can begin again.
--Smashing Pumpkins, "The Beginning is the End is the Beginning"
Chapter One: Fatal First Encounters
If you would have asked her twenty-four hours ago what she thought she'd be doing twenty-four hours later, Hermione would have responded by saying that they would have been celebrating Ron's return, and the increased morale brought by destroying one more of Voldemort's horcruxes would make them happy; they wouldn't have the weight of the depression by wearing the locket any longer.
If you would have asked her two hours ago what she thought she'd be doing two hours later, she would say that Ron should never be given cooking duty again.
If you had asked her two minute ago what she thought she'd be doing two minutes later, she would grit her teeth, her eyes blazing with courage as she suffered the curse, resolved not to say a word to her captors.
Bellatrix Lestrange was not the most powerful witch in Britain for nothing. Her madness made the power behind the Unforgivable all the stronger, and Hermione could not help her involuntary screams as the pain assaulted her body, digging deeper as the magic penetrated through to her mind, like a thousand tiny knives digging through her skin from the inside, everywhere; shockingly cold and scorching hot all at the same time.
The word was whispered softly, but was there any doubt what spell would be used? Hermione wouldn't break, she couldn't, she could take it; she had to!
It was amazing that all the pain was purely psychological, that what felt like her skin melting away was in fact nothing at all while it felt like so much more. It corrupted, clouding the mind with its pain-induced haze, all survival senses screaming at her to do anything to make the pain stop, but that was truly all it was.
Pain. The word does not imply a physical injury, simply the feelings and inner ache accompanying it. She would really give up everything they'd worked so hard for on a simple mental weakness? Does pain really mean that much?
She considered it worthless; someone like Bellatrix Lestrange or any of the Death Eaters could deliver pain so quickly and easily, without even a second thought. Why, then, was it so hard to fight against the pain, to convince her mind that what felt like ice flooding her veins as her bones broke repeatedly time after time, the pain seemingly everywhere and nowhere at once.
Nowhere! It's NOT REAL!
She screamed again, nearly biting her lip through in an attempt to stop the sound from escaping her mouth. It only seemed to egg Bellatrix on as she continued the curse.
Seconds minutes hours lifetimes…
Hermione had no idea how long she'd been under the curse, unforgivable as it was, the curse that only leaves scars inside the mind while not harming the body at all.
She collapsed, shuddering on the cold floor as she felt the feeling immediately return to her arms and legs; they felt fine, like she had imagined the whole process. Like it had never happened.
She was tugged from the floor, her hair grasped roughly by someone as she was made to stand. Bellatrix's face was livid, but in Hermione's returned clarity she was able to recognize another emotion: fear.
Bellatrix is afraid of something? What? Why?
"How did you get the sword?" Bellatrix shrieked, her lips pulled back grotesquely from her teeth as she awaited Hermione's response. Hermione noted how her fingers curled around her wand, almost pantomiming the action of choking her victim.
She nervously glanced around the room, every pore on her skin filling with a cold, clammy dread. Fenrir Greyback's expression disgusted her; reminding her what her fate should be if Bellatrix or someone else did not kill her presently, which she was starting to think was a pretty likely option. Lucius Malfoy stood regally on the opposite side of the room with his son, still pretending the guise of the previous status quo, although Hermione had surmised by now that his favor was anything like he pretended it was.
She wondered if this was what the losers feel like; so self-righteous and spirited until they were facing death directly. The vanquished; the winners always tell the stories, after all. They write history.
Hermione wasn't sure if she could depend on Harry to save the day this time. She was outnumbered and cornered, her wand in the clutches of another, her outcome all that stood between them and the current safety of Harry and Ron. They weren't safe by any means, but for now they were unharmed.
She hoped they hadn't heard her screams. She wanted to reach out to them, save yourselves if you can, tell them it was going to be ok, even if she had to lie.
She kept her face strong. She knew Voldemort had been called, she knew what was going to happen. No more school-time delusions, she knew exactly what was in store for her.
"Well, mudblood?" Bellatrix growled, her curly hair springing out around her face like snakes, uncontrolled and feral just like their mistress.
Hermione gathered her courage; she would never give up, she would never go down without a fight.
"I wouldn't tell you anything!" She screamed right back, tears still leaking at the corners of her eyes from the previous torture sessions. "I don't know whatever you think I do! Nothing!"
Bellatrix's eerie smile unnerved Hermione but she stood her ground, fighting the conflicting desires to stubbornly glare right back and collapse into a mass of tears. Her mind wanted to fight back, but her body just felt so exhausted. The shell of her body welcomed death, a permanent rest, a slumber in cold ice where she would never have to feel or care, or love or hate again.
"Well, if she knows nothing," Bellatrix's nasally cackle made the hairs on the back of Hermione's neck stand on end. "Then I guess we don't need to keep you around any more." She recognized that tone; something incredibly bad was about to happen.
The snakes stared down their prey, a lion-turned-mouse, and Hermione only jutted out her chin, daring them into completing this dangerous game they had been playing.
Hermione figured implying that she knew nothing probably wasn't the best choice of 'last words' she could've thought up, but optimism at this point would just be literal blindness. She tried to brace herself.
Time seemed to slow down for Hermione as the last minute of her life ticked down. The countdown was almost out; the sun was sinking into the horizon of darkness as the last grains of sand trickled through the narrow pinch of the hourglass, with no one to turn it once more. She was running out of time, and she could not keep running from it. It was catching up. It would win their death race.
She didn't need to see him to know that Voldemort had finally arrived. She could almost feel it in the air. His satisfaction at having finally caught Harry was palpable, the sensation pressing into Hermione from all sides, the pressure almost unbearable, yet distinctly his.
She spun, not prepared at all to look upon his face for the first time.
Whatever color left in her own face drained out of it when she saw him. There were no appropriate words to describe it.
Hermione was surprised her knees had not given out on her, for she had never been more afraid in all her life.
It was not just his physical appearance—and Hermione had to admit that nothing could quite prepare her for that—it was more that he was the most horrifying, intimidating man she had ever seen.
It felt much the same as the tangible pressure his presence created on the atmosphere of a room; what kind of person commands that kind of attention out of fear? There is no respect out of fear, only dissent and disguise; forced appreciation on the surface, fear and worry and constant anxiety below. And to lead that, to control that—how could any such person even be human? What had they intentionally given up?
She could almost pity him, this twisted man-who-was-not-a-man, for what could possibly make a person turn into this in the pursuit of power? Did he even know what he was doing to himself, or was it like a drug addiction, and the taker keeps imbibing their obsession, wanting more and more until it completely overtook them?
To have no control, a slave to their fixation. To never know emotions like love or compassion. She did pity him.
She felt the pressure of the room change, and their eyes met.
She gasped, it was as though her mind was being torn open; she fell to her knees, clutching at her head as her vision changed—she saw memories and thoughts swirling together over her current vision, unable to close her eyes until he removed his presence from her mind, lips curling in distaste at whatever he saw.
Hermione struggled to breathe, eyes widening further as her two best friends and a familiar house-elf burst into the room, the apparition noise shocking the silence of the room as they bore witness to the scene in front of them, Harry immediately taking action against the others in the room in an attempt to free Hermione, trying his best to contain his own fear upon realizing who else had so recently joined them.
No! Run! She tried to scream to Harry but her throat was too dry, she could not make a sound but only watch, tear-stricken, as Voldemort's wand slowly spun his arm in an arc downward to point directly at her.
Each second ticked slowly down as Hermione blinked, staring back at him as Draco was thrown back with an Expelliarmus spell and a flung knife hit Dobby; none of it registered as Hermione locked gazes with the Dark Lord, wondering why his supremely satisfied expression was turned towards her as the jet of green light left his wand and the whispered words echoed loudly in the chambers of her mind.
Hermione saw it coming, inching closer and closer towards her as she exhaled her last breath; sounds and colors magnified beyond belief, and the most intense one of all was the bright green of the spell hurtling towards her.
I still pity you, she thought. If only you could—
Spell impacted; the sound of apparition jolted the room out of its perennial orbit as Hermione sailed away, all thoughts and feelings focused yet blank, a stab of worry in the back of her mind as she rode the currents of transience.
Three seconds, four seconds, five seconds…
She felt heavy; she felt weightless—confused, yet free from all limitations in a way that she'd never quite felt before. Everything around her was hazy, and Hermione could barely see or make out anything around her. She thought she was dead.
She assumed she was dead.
She was wrong.
The clock restarted; counting back from a different number. Hermione could hear words being spoken, sense the uncertainty and confusion around her, but could make no sense of it herself.
Is this…what death feels like?
It felt…peaceful, she decided, that dark empty blankness that accompanied her expedition, but she still felt that something was oddly, horribly wrong. Not just that her perception of death wasn't what she'd thought it would be, but that her sneaking suspicion was growing that she was not actually dead.
It was a green light; she heard the words. Why then was she now hearing his voice, telling someone to 'track down that damned boy while you contemplate your miserably short life for letting him escape.'
Hermione breathed a sigh of relief. Harry was safe.
She started. Confusion knit at her brow. She…she could feel the sensation of breathing. Somewhere, somehow, she could feel her lungs expanding and contracting, drawing in air—was there air here?—from the surrounding expanse.
That was when she realized that her eyes were closed, and figured opening them would probably be a pretty good idea.
Innumerable, seemingly unbearable shock.
If she hadn't been dead, Hermione figured that she would have just suffered a heart attack.
She could see, and she most definitely had not left that same room in Malfoy Manor. She looked around; she could not see her own body, but she realized with cold dread what she had become, wrapping her transparent arms around her for warmth.
It's…it's not possible!
She had never thought about death, not even when it was staring her right in the face. She had always thought that she would die in her bed at the old age of ninety-four, accomplished and respected.
Instead she floated below the ceiling, staring at the scene below her in a mockery out-of-body experience, wondering why she was so attached to this earthly world below her, and what possibly could bind her when she knew she was ready for death. She did not fear it.
She was still taking in the scene, playing catch-up to the odd series of events that had led to her sudden transformation into a ghost. She felt completely normal on the inside, but her entire body was transparent.
Something was odd about the scene unfolding below her. Draco had gotten up and was attempting to escort Fenrir Greyback off of the property while the werewolf demanded payment for his captures, insisting that their escape had nothing to do with him. She could hear the combined voices of Lucius, Bellatrix, and Voldemort in the next room, divided by only a wooden door, the screams from the first far outweighing the stringent rebukes and curses of the latter.
For the first time, Hermione was filled with a sense of curiosity about her predicament. Draco had succeeded in persuading Fenrir to leave, and now was casting worried glances towards the room occupied by his father.
Haven't they noticed me yet?
It was peculiar, and even though Hermione was secretly glad that no one had decided to look up yet—the situation was bad enough, but it would be infinitely more awkward if Draco was the first to acknowledge her predicament—she wondered just why no one had noticed her.
She was hardly one to blend in to crowds, but this blatant disregard irritated her. She was dead, she deserved some pity!
The thought struck a strange chord somewhere in Hermione's chest, but the momentary twinge was soon over as she remembered with sudden rapidity the events leading up to her death.
Harry, and Ron! And the sword, and oh, they're gone!
Her heart soared at the thought that she had been able to buy them enough time to escape, no matter what it had cost her. She could find them; maybe even find some way of still helping them. I mean, a ghost must be useful, right? I can…I can do this.
She was saddened at the thought that they, like Draco, possibly wouldn't be able to see her because she was dead—and now she was starting to believe that this was her perfectly torturous version of hell, being forced to watch everyone around her live and mourn her while she was unable to do anything to stop it. She felt perfectly alive; it was only her appearance that made her believe she had become a ghost.
She was still floating up near the ceiling, and attempted the ghost version of tiptoeing. She needn't have worried about making any noise, because her body seemed unusually responsive to her movements, and it took her only a few seconds to master moving through the air. She was glad no one seemed to be paying her any attention, because her movements looked as though she was swimming.
She made it to the wall closest to the main door, taking in a deep breath and closing her eyes before plunging through, pausing to open her eyes again upon making it out at the other side. She had to laugh internally at her momentary anxiety; really, what was I expecting?
She still had to solve the problem of being a good nine feet in the air, and looked at the air beneath her feet with trepidation. She began to move her arms and legs, concentrating on somehow lowering herself to the ground. It was harder than she'd thought it'd be—she remembered reading about a zero-gravity simulator in a muggle magazine, and figured moving around in there would be somewhat similar to this—but she eventually made it to the ground, toes touching the stone of the massive walkway to Malfoy Manor.
She took off running. Hermione was glad to be on the ground; there was no reason to try to fly, she knew how to walk perfectly well, and she could not wait to be as far away from Malfoy Manor as she possibly could get.
She was still running, she wasn't getting tired, she was almost at the gate!
She was almost there!
The wrought-iron gate was looming in front of her, and if she took maybe ten steps she would reach it. The more Hermione ran, the more she realized that she was hardly going anywhere.
Hermione took a step forward, finding that her foot barely moved past a seemingly invisible barrier, unable to move any farther ahead.
That's…odd, she acknowledged, looking around the front lawn of Malfoy Manor. Nothing looked out of order, so why then was she running in place when she so clearly wanted to leave that horrible incident behind?
Hermione tried again, throwing her shoulders forward as she concentrated on moving her body through the air like she had so improperly done earlier.
Or more correctly, something happened, but she still did not move. She could feel it this time, however, like a weight pushing down on her from the other side; something heavy yet imperceptible to her eye keeping her—from doing what?
Something was keeping her from leaving. Some kind of magic, she deduced.
She tried moving again; it was the same as before, she could not move forward. It was as though she was struck with a strange desire to go backwards; a ludicrous notion that she would be safer closer to whatever was holding her here than if she could somehow run from it.
A stroke of inspiration hit her with dread. What if…is it the house? Is that why I can't leave?
What-if questions were dangerous things in the mind of Hermione Granger, but the thought of going back in there sent anything but relief coursing through her body. She didn't want to return back there, she wanted to leave—to go anywhere, from Hogwarts to the Burrow, anywhere where she could find somebody she knew, to gain back some information and semblance of her previous life, even if she was no longer in it.
Hermione had no idea where exactly her body was, but figured the house behind her would be a good place to start for answers, and she steeled herself to return to the place of her death.
She took her time walking up the thick steps leading to the front door, taking them one-at-a-time as she craned her neck to look at the imposing building before her.
Well, here we go.
Once more she surged through the wooden door, tears pricking at her eyes. The floor was just as empty as before.
Hermione circled the entry hall, fingers clenched into fists by her side until she stood right at the same spot she had been standing when Voldemort had sent the curse at her. She remembered seeing the green light, but the rest was such a blur...
Nothing. There were clear signs of the short fight in the room, but her body was nowhere to be found. Honestly, what was I expecting? She thought. Quickly, Hermione brought her hand back up to her own neck, feeling for a pulse.
She cried, sobbing loudly as she knelt on the floor, wrapping her arms around herself to try to ease the grief. She didn't have to worry about being quiet; no one would hear her anyway. I don't want to be a ghost! What is keeping me here?
"Why me!" She cried out brokenly, her voice breaking on the first word. "Why can't I leave?" She addressed the world, wishing for someone to answer her questions, tell her just why she could not pass on. She certainly wanted to move on! She didn't want to stay here and watch the world around her continue as if nothing had happened.
"What is that noise?"
Hermione heard the words, instantly ceasing her sobs as she glanced nervously at the door.
…what? W-who said that?
She refused to believe that the speaker had been referring to her. That someone could hear her, see her. But isn't that what ghosts do?
She glanced at the door to her left, waiting.
And then it opened.
A/N: Another big thank-you to everyone who read JLMWUA and is continuing with me on this! I do apologize for the cliffhanger, but Hermione and LV will "officially" meet in the next chapter, I didn't want to rush things. Chapters will also get much longer after this.
Title Significance: It took me forever to decide on a title! I can't just keep referring to this as "the sequel" from now on, can I? Gravity is defined as the force of attraction between two objects, so 'a different kind of gravity' would take that to a more literal meaning. Also, both titles are octosyllabic, and 8 happens to be my favorite number—also why I updated on 10/8. So, for anyone thinking the title was random, it's not!
I do hope to hear from you all who are reading this! Send me a review if you liked it and make my day!