A/N: Love to reviewers.
I've decided to alternate more serious chapters with vignettes because I didn't want to force CP into the timeline where it wasn't appropriate.
NOTE: The CP in this piece is VERY SEVERE. If that bothers you, skipping this won't affect the story arc at all.
I wrote this intending to clear up an inadvertant discrepancy in the last installment, ie the fact that Ron returns Hermione's letter despite having been killed shortly after the battle. The italics are a flashback, which is why it's in present tense.
For new readers: This is part of a series. Please see my profile for further information.
Mea Culpa: The date on " Some are Found and Some are Lost" ( the previous installment) is May 1,2008 ( Ten years post war).
October 15, 2008
Hermione moaned and strained to expel the burning stone in her midsection. She coiled her stomach muscles and gave a hard shove. Nothing. The mid-witch exhaled a sigh and said something to Bellatrix, who cursed at her and demanded she try again.
She knew she was dying. Hermione could feel her hold on things weakening, slipping. The strands that held her to the earth were one by one sliding off. She found she didn't mind very much. The mid-witch was ordering her to push again and she did, but the pain felt less demanding, less real. It would be so easy to let go…
A small, hot hand cracked across her face. Hermione's eyes flew open and stared at Bellatrix in shock. "Don't you dare give up, you little mud blood coward! Now push, damn you!"
Hermione felt anger bubbling in her chest. How dare she, how dare she? She gave a great push and felt something tear. A gush of blood, of fluid and it was leaving her. She felt the sadness and joy of it, knowing it was shut of her and she of it, and it's journey had begun in a gush of her life's blood, as salty as the sea. She gave a scream of agony and rapture and Bellatrix joined her, unhinged by the smells of blood and matrix and her own unacknowledged, nearly unconscious fear Hermione would die.
The mid-witch held up the baby, smeared with fluid, screaming. "A girl, madam, a fine girl." Hermione had time to smile once before the darkness she had fought for that bright second claimed her and she embraced oblivion.
She wakes in a place she recognized at once, having just left it. Her bedroom in Cardiff, pale yellow walls and bed hangings, with the mirrored vanity and the citrus wood
wardrobe and the window seat to read in. Rain is falling down the eaves, which doesn't surprise her a bit. Far away she hears the sea plashing gently at the rocks.
She feels a sense of upset, a sense of impending disaster. And then the door flies open.
Rudolphus charges through, followed by his wife, both clearly displeased. Hermione jerks back in shock and gets very still. They couldn't know, couldn't possibly…
"What's this?" He slaps something down on the desk in front of her. She feels the blood drain from her face in a single horrid second. She recognizes her own handwriting. A letter, a letter she paid a Death Eater who was going to stay at Mulciber's home in Berkshire that night. She'd given the idiot her mother's gold pendant to see that Ron Weasley got it.
"Well?" Bellatrix gets a hold on the girl's chin, her nails digging into her flesh. Hermione opens her mouth and tries to speak, finds she cannot. She gives a whine without meaning to and magically, the pressure on her face lifts a bit.
" It would seem to be a letter, written from yourself to Ronald Weasley. 'Dear Ron, I'm writing to tell you that Draco Malfoy and I are to be married. I will always love you but it's best that I marry Malfoy.'"
Through her fear she feels a sharp peak of rage. How dare they open her private correspondence? She opens to her mouth to say something about it but a small internal voice speaks clearly for the first time in her life. "Shut up' it said 'you'll only make it worse for yourself. Maybe for Ron as well."
She drops her eyes. "Yes sir, it is. A letter."
Rudolphus struggles to contain himself. His first impulse had been to hex the girl senseless for the sheer stupidity of what she'd done. He couldn't believe…well, yes he could. He could believe that absurd nobility would lead her to risk herself to tell the boy (with whom she no doubt believed she was in love ) that she had to put him aside and marry another, so on and so forth. It had been full of the nonsense he expected, hearts and flowers and such.
He inhales and concentrates on containing himself and his wife, who had vowed to skin the girl alive for this. He's ninety nine percent sure she meant it metaphorically. It was the one percent that bothers him.
" Do I need to tell you the amount of trouble you're in?" She blanches and shakes her head. "No sir." Her voice is a whisper. Bellatrix gets a death grip on her arm and drags her to the nearest corner, pushes her face in it none too gently. " You don't dare move, little girl, understand?" She nods. Bellatrix is certain she hears a sad little sniff but ignores it resolutely.
"Young lady, you'll stay there and think about your appalling behavior while your- while Bellatrix and I discuss your punishment. Do you need to use the rest room?"
Hermione shakes her head. "Then you've no reason to move until told."
They close the door and Hermione is torn between horror at having been caught and irritation at being made to stand in the corner like a three year old. She presses her head against the plaster walls and smells the good smell of paint and old wood. She breathes deeply and tries to push down her dread.
Down the hall the Lestranges ponder their naughty charge and debate her fate. They are both of the opinion that Hermione, despite her filthy blood, very much wants to be a good girl. She hasn't shared much with them about her birth parents, but from the small amount that has come out, it's obvious the dead muggles failed shamefully in disciplining their child. When asked how often she had been smacked and with what implement, she had replied that they never smacked her.
"Bellatrix was the first person who ever gave you a smacking?" Rudolphus asks her, incredulous. She nods. He wants to challenge this assertion, as it's too insane to be true but her eyes are moist and she's swallowing hard. He backs off.
Clearly a good smacking is in order here. That's not even up for debate. The larger question is what ancillary punishments are appropriate. This is not the first time this has happened. Did she learn nothing from her encounter with Greyback?
Bellatrix is seething. She might literally be angry enough to kill. Not Hermione of course, but later she'll likely go and hunt up some muggles and have a little fun with them. She can feel magic, fueled by her rage, pulsing below her skin. " Kippy!" The elf appears. Bella pulls her wand. " Crucio!" The elf writhes squeaking wildly, limbs flapping. Rudolphus allows Bellatrix to burn a little energy this way and finally calls it to an end.
" Enough, Bellatrix. Let's not make her wait so long she works herself up." That's happened before and Rudolphus had to cut the punishment short because she'd been half hysterical before they even started.
They opened the door and watched as Hermione jumps with fright. Bellatrix marches over and pulls her to stand before the little padded bench that sits at the end of the bed. She looks acceptably scared and penitent, though very calm. That's a good sign, Rudolphus thinks; she's knows she's going to get punished but doesn't fear serious injury. Nor should she; as their ward she's under their protection, and both have grown surprisingly fond of her in the past months.
" Well, young lady? What have you to say for yourself?"
Hermione shakes her head. " I wanted him to hear it from me. I couldn't stand it if he thought…" She blinks quickly and forces herself to calm down.
"Do you understand what you could have done? The Malfoys have every right to call off the match because of this. What would become of us then? We'd be penniless beggars. Is that what you want?"
She flushes. He makes her look him in the eye as he scolds her. It's a surprisingly effective technique with Hermione. Rudolphus rather suspects that's the punishment for his ward; the smacking is simply a formality. In some ways spanking her might be a mercy; otherwise she'd be full of guilt from being scolded, unable to absolve herself.
He puts a hand her to her shoulder. " Didn't you think about that, my child? It's unlike you to behave with such selfish carelessness."
She turns even pinker. " I didn't know they could….I never realized…I'm so sorry." They believe her. Even Bellatrix, who'd been absolutely livid, thinks she's telling the truth. Not that that changes anything.
" Not like you will be, princess. You won't sit down for a month when I'm done with you."
Rudolphus touches his wife's arm. "We feel you deserve a strong punishment. Not only did you nearly ruin your own future and ours, we've discussed unchaperoned contact with boys before, have we not?"
"Yes sir." She knows they won't seriously harm her because the Dark Lord would be furious if they did; but Hermione has an innate urge to please her elders, to gain their approval and the scolding brings tears to her eyes. Not, she quickly tells herself, because they made her feel bad about what she did, oh no; because she wanted to make sure Ron understood what had happened to her. A small disloyal corner of her mind isn't sure; it thinks maybe she feels worse than she'd like to admit for making the Lestranges so angry.
Bellatrix sits down on the bench and positions herself. Hermione's stomach falls. Rudolphus spanks harder but at least he'd methodical; she always knows exactly where the next spank would fall. Bellatrix simply flails away at wherever she thinks would hurt the most. Not to mention, she has this unspeakable technique where she times the swats, making sure each one lands just as the sting from the previous is reaching the maximum peak until Hermione is ready to crawl out of her skin from the hideous burning pain.
Resigned to her fate, Hermione removes her robes and lies over Bella's bony lap, folding her hands at the small of her back. Hermione is praying Rudolphus will leave the room before the next part but the Powers that Be don't hear her. Bellatrix gets a firm grip on the hem of Hermione's skirt and pulls it up well above where it needs to be, almost to her shoulders. There's no doubt in Hermione's mind that Bella knows what she'd doing is absolute torture for her ward.
She's correct. Bellatrix is perfectly aware that humiliation magnifies the punishment ten fold, and that the shame of being bared ( rather than baring herself) alone is enough to bring Hermione almost to tears. She hooks her fingers in the waistband of Hermione's panties and works them at a crawl down the girl's hips and all the way to her knees. Hermione gives a whimper of shame, tears filling her eyes.
Bellatrix seizes hold of her ward's wrists to keep her from covering. She raises her hand high and brings it down with a resounding 'smack!'
Hermione yelps. Her hand might be smaller than her husband's, but Bellatrix has enthusiasm and that counts for a lot. She also never uses her hand, which is the first time Hermione realizes something is amiss. She suddenly wonders whether the letter was a serious miscalculation.
Bellatrix smacks her a good long time, until she kicks helplessly with every swat. It's not that every swat hurts very much, because they don't; the cumulative effect, combined with Bellatrix's genius for causing pain, makes the whole thing hurt more than Hermione thinks it should.
Bellatrix stops, panting, frizzy hair in total disarray. Rudolphus is not sure his wife has ever looked more beautiful than she does at that moment, pink cheeked and eyes bright. He's gotten progressively fonder of their ward (years later, on his deathbed, she's the one he'll want to see. He'll kiss her cheek and tell her that no man could have had a better daughter than she, and she'll weep for him for a long, long time) but that doesn't mean that he can't take pleasure in the scene before him.
The sight of the girl writhing red arsed and sobbing over his wife's knee is unbearably erotic to him, to them both. Rudolphus decided he'll come to Bellatrix later that night, sensing from the look she gives him that she's receptive to his embrace.
" All right. Go get the brush from your dresser and bring it here."
Hermione gives a miserable whine of protest but a sharp smack to her bottom cures her of any nascent rebellion. She pushes herself up and, pulling her skirt down, minces over to the vanity and fetches the hated hairbrush. They insisted on keeping it in her room as a warning against naughtiness ( fat lot of good it did in the end), although lately Bellatrix comes to brush her hair before bed on good nights.
Giving it back to Bella, she suffers being turned up and bared again. Her cheeks are damp and she feels a dread in the pit of her stomach; if Bellatrix gave her a warm up it was going to be a hard spanking indeed. Bad enough being bared and spanked like she's five; worse to have to get the instrument of her doom herself. She chokes on her wounded pride, preferring it to a wounded backside in the end ( she doesn't have to sit for meals on her pride, after all).
Bellatrix murmurs a spell and Hermione is stuck to her lap, unable to move. Hermione hates being stuck in place; she deserves at least the comfort of kicking and squirming. Bellatrix's hot hand comes to rest on the back of her neck.
" I'm going to blister your arse and we'll see how much you feel like disobeying after that."
CRACK! Hermione would have jumped if she hadn't been stuck in place. Bellatrix wasn't kidding when she said she'd blister her! CRACK! On her thoroughly warmed skin it hurt even worse! CRACK!
" Please what, princess? We've only just begun." CRACK…CRACK… CRACK… CRACK…CRACK…CRACK…CRACK…CRACK…CRACK…CRACK…
It was horrible! Awful! She'd never sit again! Bellatrix was hitting every single place at least three times. Hermione couldn't hold back the tears; they poured down her cheeks as she lay helpless, unable to do anything.
More than anything she wanted to be unstuck. She knew the spanking would never end; all she wanted was to be able to kick and squirm a little bit. It never fixed anything but the chance that it might was strangely comforting.
Bellatrix pauses for a moment and Hermione feels her heft her wand. Suddenly she can move her lower body again. Bellatrix hauls her up slightly and then she is restuck. This prompts another burst of sobbing and the Lestranges pause to roll their eyes at one another. Teenage hysterics! Rudolphus chuckles and Bellatrix nods and then lifts her left leg a little higher.
CRACK! " OOOOOOWWWWWWWWWWWWW!" It burns! Bellatrix is paddling her sit spots hard. She gives one side a solid twelve and then moved on the other, feeling the girl trying to twist against her thighs. Bella is smiling; this is fun!
Bellatrix moves to her thighs and the wailing rachets up a notch. She isn't even using words anymore; her cry is a continual despairing howl that would makes the elves in the kitchen shudder. They're utterly convinced that the wallopings Madam deals out to the girl are a specialized form of the cruciatus curse.
" All right, princess, what have we learned?"
It looks as though it does, too. The girl's bottom is a bright, hot pink with areas that are nearly purple from repeated blows. It looks like it hurts and doubtless feels a hundred times worse than it looks.
Bellatrix pretends she didn't hear. " Will you ever do it again?"
"What happens if you do?"
" OWWWW! SPANKMEWITHTHEBRUSHNOMORE!"
"That's right, little princess. You're finally learning." She brings her hand back and finishes with a series of horrific swats right where bottom meets thigh. Hermione keens and then goes limp. It stops at once.
Bellatrix takes a second to catch her breath. Parenting, it seems, is hard work. She puts a hand to the small of the girl's back and instinctively pats. The girl doesn't respond. She rubs a circle and says softly ( for Bellatrix, quite a feat) "All done. All done, pretty little princess. All done."
She still doesn't respond. Hermione is sobbing too hard to answer, nearly choking on the force of her sobs. Much of it—most of it—is the sheer agony of the smacking. It really does burn and sting intolerably. That same disloyal piece of mind that suggests she feels guilty for disobeying her guardians is actually relieved that they smacked her—the guilt is gone and in its place is a traitorous voice whispering that she's paid the price and can feel better about almost ruining their future. She tries to make it shut up and finds she can't.
Moreover, the emotional hurt and frustration of being cut off from everyone and everything familiar is taking its toll. She misses her friends, her home, and her family. She misses Crookshanks. She misses Hogwarts and going to her Nan's house in August and visits to the British Museum with her parents.
Most of all she misses Ron. She loves him terribly, and knowing that they'll never be able to marry—never have the home they planned, never visit Molly and Arthur with the kids on Sunday afternoons, hits home. She's utterly alone in the world. The woman whose lap she's lying on once tortured her with the cruciatus until she feared she'd go mad like the Longbottoms.
Bellatrix pulls Hermione's panties back into position and flips her skirt down to cover them. She yelps,the soft cotton feels like steel wool. Rudolphus stands beside his wife and, as she unsticks Hermione, he lifts her up and off of Bellatrix's lap.
Hermione can't help it; she bounces up and down on her toes, yelping, and tries to give her backside a good rub. She pulls her hands away almost as fast as she put them back; her bottom simply burns too much to be touched. She sniffles piteously, unable to believe just how much a spanking can hurt.
Rudolphus pulls her hands away and swats her wrists like a small child. " No rubbing, Hermione. It's supposed to hurt." He guides her back to her corner and firmly puts her hands on her head to make sure she isn't tempted.
As the minutes tick by she gets more and more tired. She feels as though her body weighs a million stone. Her backside is still burning like the flames of hell but she resists her urge to rub, knowing the consequences, if caught, would be terrible.
The door opens and Bellatrix enters, sans husband. She looks uncertain, almost uncomfortable; she's good at giving pain but comfort quite alludes her. Finally she sits on the bed and gestures Hermione over. Hermione face loses it color in a trice. She can't, can't possibly mean to…
" No, you silly girl. I want to do whatever it is that Rudolphus does to help you feel better."
Hermione climbs up and lies down on her side. She's almost as uncertain as Bellatrix. Bellatrix begins to awkwardly pat her back, and to Hermione's shock it's actually sort of soothing. She closes her eyes and breathes deeply. Her exhaustion is winning the day when Bellatrix's voice cuts through.
" For a smart girl you're awfully stupid about your friends. Did you not think Mallow would betray you?"
" I gave him something." Bellatrix freezes. If this foolish little chit let Mallow touch her…
" My Mum's gold pendant. He promised." Hermione lay very still, realizing she has once again miscalculated badly. Bellatrix begins to pat, deep in thought. She waits until Hermione is asleep and tucks a blanket over her after transfiguring her skirt and jumper into a nightdress. She seizes the letter off the desk before she goes.
Time passes. The whole episode is forgotten ( though Hermione is less than delighted to discover the rest of her punishment involves sitting in one of the very hard parlour chairs to write 'I will obey my guardians in all things' five hundred times). The wedding looms near and then takes place.
Hermione take up residence at Malfoy manor with her husband. Bellatrix and Rudolphus are frequent guests. One morning she wakes alone, which is not unusual; Draco often goes to visit friends or for an early morning flight. She rises, gets her wrapper. A strange letter is sitting on the desk, addressed to her in a hand she can't immediately place. She opens the envelope and sees a transparent piece of paper, very thin, badly ink splotched. She slides it out and looks at it. Her eyes sting. Ron.
"I love you. It will all be alright." Unsigned, unaddressed, but to Hermione it's manna from Heaven. He somehow found out and understands. She feels a strange weight in the envelope and rolls it over. Something falls out. She gasps.
A yellow gold pendant. She would know this pendant anywhere. Made of yellow gold from Jaipur, from her parent's honeymoon to India, crafted in a stylized rose. She never saw her mother without it. A fine chain has been attached, clearly goblin made. She puts it over her head and never takes it again.
After she dies, her daughter Pyxis, going through her jewelery box, will find the strange note and slip it into Hermione's cold hand. Whoever that person was to Mother, she decides quietly, she'll give the last bit of him ( she knows in her heart it's a man) to Mother to take with her, and says a prayer that Mother meet whoever he was in the Hall of Ancestors. He's not a Malfoy but perhaps, just perhaps, he can make Mother smile.
"Hermione! Wake up, damn you! Wake up!" Someone shook Hermione's shoulder hard. Her eyes open. Bellatrix, half demented, is standing over her.
" I'm awake."
Bellatrix, temporarily freed from all inhibitions, throws her arms around Hermione and squeezes her like a small child holds a kitten. She was convinced the girl was dead, and seeing her alive is one of the happiest moments she'll ever have.
"Madam is fragile, you must let her rest." Bellatrix gives the mid-witch such a horrid glare the poor thing nearly runs from the room to check on the baby.
Hermione smiled up at her foster mother. "I'm all right."
"You'd best be. I would have denied you a funeral, had you left us with all those children." Her eyes glow and Hermione is convinced that she means it. To deny a child a funeral is the ultimate parental sanction for a Pureblood family; the child has proven him or herself so unworthy that they cannot enter the Hall of Ancestors.
Hermione tried to sit and failed. " I'm sorry I scared you."
" I was never scared. I knew we'd raised you better than that." An outrageous lie; she'd been worse than terrfied.
Hermione reached out and took Bella's bony claw in hers. Bellatrix is shocked—Hermione isn't an affectionate sort. She doesn't pull away and after a moment her distaff child says softly " Do you remember when I tried to send that letter to—when I tried to send that letter right after we came to Cardiff?"
Bella nodded. " Tanned you right and proper, didn't I?" She doesn't mention the other part of the story and never will. She prefers to forget the act of kindness she did the girl for the sake of her own hopeless love. Not that she regrets the smacking she gave the girl; she'd do the same today if faced with the same circumstances.
Hermione pulled the pendant from under the neck of her nightdress and showed her. "Thank you. I never told you--"
Bellatrix hushes her. " You go to sleep, little princess. Rudolphus and I will be here when you wake."
Hermione closes her eyes and lets herself be lulled by the rhythmic stroking of Bellatrix's hand in her hair. She feels grief and happiness in equal measure, both for the lost and the found.
When Bellatrix is sure she's asleep she carefully checks the room to make sure no one, even an elf, is there. Then she bends and gives Hermione's damp forehead a kiss.
"That's my girl." She turns and sweeps out to tell her son-in-law he had another daughter.