A/N: Love to my reviewers
This is the end of part one. Part two will consist of a series of one shots like this one, detailing the eventual fates of the characters.
Don't anticipate sunlight and roses.
Mea Culpa: I should have noted in the last installment that "Things Fall Apart" is a reference to Yeats poem "The Falcon".
This installment is dedicated to all fathers who have ever tried to comfort a teenage daughter and failed like Rudolphus does.
Draco Malfoy was not the only person to feel his life over. He was a lucky one, really; plenty of people found their lives over entirely. The Death Eaters swept like disease into every corner of Britain, rooting out undesirables, malcontents and potential problems.
There were whispers of resistance in corners of Europe, in Africa, in South America, but to the captives, ensconced as they were in dragon's lair, it may as well have been the moon. Harry became used to being trotted out at rallies, paraded as a means of smashing morale. With the Boy who Lived effectively removed from the conflict, it was a matter of time. Britain fell, and the Death Eaters were given at last the means to shape the world in their own image.
All Purebloods were required to join up, send a child to take the Mark. Training camps sprung up all over Britain, the most elite being the scorched bit of Earth that had been Hogwarts once upon a time. Even Half bloods were encouraged to join as a kind of auxiliary force, a way for an enterprising Half blood to raise his lot a bit. The camps exploded overnight.
Voldemort controlled the Floo, the Owl Post, Portkeys. Spies were everywhere. He developed a fondness for public executions, mass torture that took on the aspect of a Sunday show. It was a sign of loyalty to bring one's children, a mark of prestige to be invited into a box seat. Harry was always beside him, dressed in simple charcoal grey, rarely speaking. Voldemort was often seen to speak to him, to smile, to pat him affectionately on the shoulder.
Minister Malfoy and his son, the new Grand Inquisitor controlled the Ministry with an iron hand. Draco gave vent to his sadism and Lucius to his avarice. They were, save Voldemort, the richest men in England. In the first five years they crushed no less than eight revolts, attempted revolts or plots against the Dark Lord. With each revolt they grew more feared, more hated, more powerful. In time the name Malfoy was almost as taboo as the Dark Lord's true name.
Others rose as well. Rudolphus Lestrange was rewarded for their great devotion by being given the leadership of the Secret police. They were shadows, wraiths, monsters in the night. Bellatrix struggled sometimes, wishing to be allowed to fight again. Voldemort wouldn't hear of it; she was too valuable to risk so needlessly. Besides, a new era had dawned, and it was Bellatrix's job to uphold it by acting the part of model wife.
They were rewarded in other ways as well. The marriage of their ward netted them 100,000 galleons and a nice little manor near Cardiff. They gained prestige from having made such a good match for her, and the latest theories in blood purity, formulated to cover the harsh necessities of post war Britain, held that pure blood, as long as at least six generations were present, could cleanse mud blood.
New laws were passed as well. It was the duty of every Pure blood and carefully selected Half bloods to breed for the future of wizarding kind. It was suddenly chic to have four, five, six children. Contraception was strictly banned; terminating a pregnancy, unless a medi-wizard deemed it an absolutely imperative, carried a automatic death penalty for both partners; she for drinking the potion and he for allowing it.
The real master stroke, of course, was the Mud Blood act of 2000. Mud bloods were not to be killed out of hand; rather, those with special abilities would be given a chance to 'redeem' themselves in marriage to a person chose by their guardian. The less fortunate would do unskilled work. It would be a plodding, miserable life, but almost anything was preferable to most of the alternatives.
The werewolves rose as well. Greyback worked directly under Rudolphus. He was a frequent visitor in Cardiff, along with a few of his higher lieutenants. They added to their numbers with carefully selected children, even whelped their own for the first time in generations. Greyback became a kind of prophet, promising them that someday, when the Dark Lord ruled all Europe, the werewolves would return to their Carpathian homeland and live like kings.
Hermione and Draco were duly married almost a year after the battle. Both had resigned themselves to it. Snape had cautiously ceased to dose her with sedative after six months; she showed no change. Bellatrix and Narcissa worked with her extensively, preparing her.
She had been less than accommodating when told of her fate by her guardians.
"Sit up, girl, sit up. News, great news!"
Rudolphus smiled. " Pet, you are to be congratulated. I have accepted an offer on your behalf."
"An offer? Like a proposal?"
"Exactly that. You're to marry Draco Malfoy. Congratulations, Hermione!"
He expected trouble. He expected fits, shrieking, tears, tantrums. Those things could be dealt with. What he didn't expect was an outright refusal. "No."
"I can't. I'm sorry, I just can't."
She was so calm, so collected. He sat beside her on the bed and took her hand. "You haven't a choice, poppet. You can't refuse."
She shook her head. " You don't understand. I can't be engaged to Draco. I'm engaged to someone else."
"Ron Weasley. He asked me a few weeks ago and I said yes."
Rudolphus laughed with relief. "Pet, don't be absurd. You aren't engaged to the Weasley boy any more than I am."
" I am, though. He asked me--"
Rudolphus shook his head. "No, pet. Neither family agreed, no exchange of bride price took place. Ergo, there was no engagement."
She looked ready to protest. "Shhh. You will marry Draco because the Dark Lord wishes it. That will happen. Weasley's future is not so assured. I would think carefully about that before you antagonize anyone. Do you understand?"
Her face lost it's color. To save Ron she had to abandon him. Tears formed in her eyes. " He'll never forgive me for it, never." Rudolphus was surprised to feel a little pang of—regret?—in his chest. Hermione had brought them great good fortune—he wished she were less unhappy about this.
" I know it's hard, darling. This sort of thing is—is—well, its life."
Hermione was in no urge to hear a sermon about life. She turned away, trying to keep her chin from trembling. Bellatrix felt a spike of irritation with her husband's fumbling.
Shoving him aside, she climbed onto the bed and sat next to Hermione. She vaguely recalled a similar scene when she was betrothed.
Rudolphus felt a distinct sense of failure. He grasped for something to salve the wound a little bit. "Hush, darling heart. I'll give you the prettiest wedding you've ever seen, I promise. Shhh, now, don't cry." Hermione tried to ignore him, biting her lip.
Bellatrix huffed. "Oh, get out Rudolphus! Can't you see you're making it worse?"
Stung, Rudolphus went back to their bedroom, determined to pretend the female nonsense in the next room wasn't happening.
Bellatrix put her hand to Hermione's shoulder and pushed. The girl slid bonelessly. Bella guided her head until it rested in the lap of Bellatrix's robes. "It's all right, pretty little princess. Marriage isn't so bad. Most people don't get to marry the ones they really love."
Bella spoke from bitter experience, having long loved one who was so far above humans he hardly knew what marriage was. She loved him in silence, in inhuman coldness, in fervid longing and frigid rejection. "Mustn't cry; we're to have treacle tarts for pudding this evening."
Hermione was startled out of her grief. " What?"
" Treacle tarts."
"No, the other thing. What's good about marrying someone you don't love?"
"Nothing. What's good is if you're indifferent to one another than you can do whatever you please after the children are born."
"Have an affair?"
Bellatrix shrugged. "Why not? Men have mistresses." She began carding her hands through Hermione's sleep tangled hair. "You can go where you like with whomever you wish. You can eat anything you like. You can sleep late." She left out the fact that Draco would largely determine Hermione's freedom. Her nephew struck her as ungenerous with such things; she would do her best to make sure Hermione got a little respite.
Bellatrix nodded. "I suppose, if you're in to that sort of thing. Never was, myself, but it all worked out in the end, didn't it?"
Hermione didn't answer. She let herself relax and concentrate on the sensation of Bellatrix's hand in her hair. That felt nice. Comforting. Her Mum's face rose in her mind and she quietly pushed it aside. When the tears came, Bella held her and then gave her a handkerchief dipped in cologne to wipe her eyes. It smelled of roses.
Rudolphus was right; it was a beautiful wedding. As a mark of esteem, the Ministry paid for everything and Narcissa, having likewise resigned herself, arranged it all. There were rare flowers, fine music, vintage champagne. The bride's robes were cream satin, her ring a family heirloom.
Hermione looked calm and if not happy, then not miserable. The groom looked reasonably content too, but certain onlookers suspected a massive hangover might have contributed. Snape refused to cure him before the ceremony, citing Draco's good behavior as ransom.
As Rudolphus prepared to give her away, Hermione felt a moment of terrible sadness that her parents, her real parents, couldn't be there. She missed them so much.
Tears rose in her eyes and threatened to fall. Rudolphus, wishing to see Hermione happy on her wedding day, gave her hand a comforting squeeze. "We're so proud of you, pet. You're like our own daughter." She swallowed hard and squeezed back, and then the processional had begun.
When Harry's engagement was announced six months later, no one was shocked. Pansy Parkinson needed a man and he needed a Pure blooded wife. Harry himself seemed diffident about the whole thing. Voldemort was pleased; the boy was learning his lessons well. He'd even get his wand back someday, if this kept up.
Likewise the rest of them. Nott the elder applied for a 'ward stipend' upon the engagement of his son Theodore to the Half blood Lovegood and received six thousand galleons. Ginny Weasley was betrothed to Gregory Goyle two years later. Walden and Acantha McNair received five thousand galleons and considered themselves well rid of a ward that no amount of threats and smacking seemed to cow into a properly obedient mind frame.
Of Ron nothing was heard by Hermione or Harry. Neville too seemed to have vanished from the face of the earth. Hermione once asked Draco and got, in reply, a raised eyebrow and a sneer. "Why would I tell you? Your old boyfriend is of no concern to you now, madam Malfoy."
As far as the muggles knew, little had changed. The government became stricter, more oppressive, less open to change. Random attacks continued and were blamed on 'radicals'. Who these radicals were and why they attacked seemingly unconnected targets was never discussed. Anyone who tried, or who saw anything untoward, died a grizzly and mysterious death in short order. People got the hint.
The Dursleys were found in their home, apparently killed by thieves. Thieves wielding machetes, if the state of the bodies was taken into accounts. It was ruled an accident. Greyback was seen later that night, grinning. He liked that he could transform at will now; it made life much more interesting.
Hogwarts was being rebuilt in a sleek building, reminiscent of Azkaban, outside of Birmingham. Snape was headmaster and taught DADA. Umbridge, having decided that teaching was her calling after all, was deputy head mistress.
To Hermione, the whole post war era could be summed up in a single powerful image. Though rarely allowed to leave Malfoy manor, Draco consented to allow her to come into London one afternoon with Narcissa to do a little shopping. Her mother in law cum adoptive aunt was not, Hermione decided, a truly bad person. They had grown to respect and appreciate, even care about, one another. Narcissa was happily prating about that season's colors ( magenta and orange, of all things) when they received an owl from Lucius, inviting them to lunch. Of course they accepted, and within minutes were sitting in the atrium of Lucius' private office with the Malfoys and Lestranges, eating canard a l'orange and making polite small talk.
Upon seeing Hermione, both Rudolphus and Bellatrix scolded her. She looked peaky, they said, wan. Had she been eating well? Sleeping? Taking the vitamin potions Snape still made for her and Harry? It was a comfortable, affectionate kind of moment.
Hermione smiled and demurred. She had not been sure until the day before. Snape had confirmed it. She'd have to tell them soon. They would all be so pleased. She wished she had never been born.
Draco came at a run, robes disarrayed, hair standing at a funny angle. "Father, Uncle, it's finally happened, they caught---good day, Mother. Hermione. Aunt Bellatrix." He bowed to the ladies and then ignored them. " --the man at the Leaky Cauldron. They found fifty brooms tucked beneath the floorboards, waiting for the rebels in Spain. There was quite a battle." He sat down, breathing hard.
Lucius smiled at his son. "Excellent work, Draco. What a coup for our Master this is. Shall we go and see?"
They followed him out of the building and down the street to the smaoking creator that used to be the Leaky Cauldron. Aurors were taking the bodies away. Onlookers shuffled past, heads down, fearful. Draco was whispering with his father about some spy they had caught.
Suddenly her husband laughed. " How silly of me. I forgot. Would you care to, Father?"
Lucius shook his head. "No, Draco, you've earned it."
Draco raised his wand. "Morsmordre." The Dark Mark lit the grey sky above them green. Bellatrix laughed and said something, but all Hermione could see was the Mark brooding over them all, like a harbinger of doom.