A/N: Love to all reviewers.
A few things:
The inspiration for this chapter is Euripides' "The Trojan Women", which details the fates of the women of Troy after the Greeks use the Trojan Horse to win the war. Each chapter heading is taken directly from the play, and each vignette owes a great debt to Euripides. Any derogatory remarks are original to the text.
Small rant: I'm sick and tired of what I consider to be unrealistic depictions of sex in fictional media. Sex can be like it is in movies, but it can also be awkward and painful, like it is here, or funny, or as many other things as there are humans.
Therefore, BE ADVISED: The sex here is not pleasant or fluffy or fun. Also, there is ATTEMPTED RAPE and other STRONG ADULT CONTENT.
Finally, a challenge: Ten house points and a chocolate frog to whomever can identify which character each speaker is supposed to be.
They were met at the Floo. The elves took their wraps and led them, bowing, up the stairs to Madam's private sitting room. A spread had been set and the elves fell to serving. The women said little. Finally, the repast was done and the business at hand was addressed.
"Hermione, darling, such an awful thing. We so wanted to come and give you our condolences personally." The voice was cooing, the speaker attired in a robe of deep forest green. She wore a huge and perfect pearl about her neck.
"Thank you, Pansy. I appreciate it." Hermione Malfoy was pale. She wore only her wedding band for jewelry, as befitted a dutiful child in mourning. She clutched a tea cup in white knuckled hands.
"Such a wonderful woman, Bella. So full of righteous fire, zeal for our Cause. She will be sorely missed, indeed. The Supreme Wizard himself was telling Harry and I just the other day that—what's the matter with her?"
Luna Nott was rocking back and forth in her chair. She was humming to herself, snatches of folk songs and nursery rhymes. Her eyes were unfocused, her hands picked at her sleeves in an absent way.
Ginevra Goyle spoke up. "This is what the war did to her." Her face was smooth, her hair the only bright note in the room. She put a hand out and gently patted Luna's knee. Luna smiled emptily at her.
Pansy wrinkled her nose. "They used to call her 'Loony', didn't they? Loony Lovegood."
Ginny's voice was strangled. "Her name is Luna."
" It's not like it matters. I mean, look at her. They shouldn't let people like that out, if you ask me."
Luna stopped rocking. She turned her huge eyes at Pansy and said in a calm, clear voice " I can hear you, you know."
Pansy sneered. "What if you can?"
"No one calls me Loony anymore. Except you just now. I don't mind so much."
"And why, pray tell, would that be?"
Luna smiled. Hermione fought a bubble of mirth that rose from her stomach to her brain, not real laughter but hysteria. This could only end badly but it was not in her to stop it.
"They call you worse."
Pansy's face froze. " How dare you, you half-witted cow? I shall have my husband speak to his Lordship about this straight away!" Her voice rose to a shrill whine at then end. Luna turned to Hermione and gently took her hand.
"Theo and I were so sorry when we heard, Hermione."
"She insulted me! Don't you intend on addressing that?"
Ginny gave her a look that was beyond hatred. "Why don't you shut up, Parkinson? You began it."
Pansy sniffed theatrically and took a lawn hanky from her sleeve. "I can't believe how ill bred you all are. I tried to do a kind thing and this is how I'm repaid."
"You gave offense to a guest under my roof, Pansy. I can hardly fault her for doing the same."
Ginny took a swallow of tea and set down her cup. "She was hurt in the war your sort started, Parkinson. You can dish it out, but can't take it. Typical."
Pansy rounded on her. "The war! The war! You lot carry on about the war so much, you'd think you were the only ones who suffered!"
"My brother spent nearly a year in Azkaban! Do you have an idea what that was like?"
Ginny's voice was quiet. "McNair killed my brothers, and then I had to live with him."
"That's hardly my fault." Pansy picked up a tea sandwich and nibbled daintily.
The room was pregnant with resentment. Hermione was desperate to find a quick diversion, mind casting about for a socially approved topic, but Luna saved her.
"What splendid biscuits. Is that mint I taste?"
"Yes, it is. Our Tinky makes them." The silence crept back, full of accusations and bitter denials none of them would ever utter. The tea spoons sounded very loud as they stirred the hot, strong tea.
Finally Pansy could take no more. She burst into ladylike tears, holding the lawn hankie to her eyes as she sobbed. "Oh, you awful, awful women! I begged him not to make me go, I begged him!"
None of them said anything, but the looks they gave spoke volumes. Finally, Pansy's squall came to an end, and she stared at the mudblood, the halfblood and the blood traitor as imperiously as she could. "Well, isn't someone going to say something?"
The pregnant pause again. And then Ginevra Weasley Goyle began to speak:
Ginny: There Comes Worse
Ginny is bent over the chaise longue again. She grips the oyster brocade hard, digging her nails in as she feels Acantha sidling into position behind her. She taps her twice to establish her aim and then draws the cane back. Ginny tenses, reminds herself not to flinch or straighten or they will be extras.
"Count them, Ginevra."
The cane hisses through the air and makes a sharp snap as it lands. For a half second Ginny feels nothing, only a dull percussive thud. The pain always takes her by surprise. She sees it as a large red flower slowly unfurling, crimson petals spreading to cover the place she was hit. Then the tidal wave engulfs her backside and she moans through her teeth, a half mewled sound as much rage as agony.
SWISH! "Two, Madam."
So it goes until the full twelve have been given. Acantha is panting at the end. Tram lines have begun to appear on her ward's thin bum and thighs, bright red against the startling whiteness of her flesh.
Acantha tucks the cane back into the wardrobe. This is likely the last thrashing the girl will ever take at her hands. Not that she believes Ginevra is in the clear; the Goyles strike her as the sort that will keep the girl in line, with fists if need be. She shrugs a bit to herself; it's not her problem. Walden managed to palm inferior goods off on them, which works to Acantha's benefit no matter what.
"You may rise, Ginevra." The girl immediately stands and pulls her nightdress down. She turns, wipes her eyes and face dry of tears. Of defiance, not contrition. She could at least pretend, Acantha thinks, then grabs the girl's chin in her hand.
"What do you say to me?"
"To whom are you speaking? And what are you thanking me for?"
"Thank you for punishing me' the girl swallows hard and her eyes glow with anger even as she takes a breath and adds 'Mother."
Acantha nods. "See you remember this. Now, tell your father good night and go to bed."
Ginny is past open defiance but not glaring hatefully at the old bitch as she hobbles the corridor to the stairs and then down to the study. Walden McNair is thumbing the Prophet, bored, when the knock comes. He bids his ward to enter. She is clad in her thin white nightdress, without a wrapper.
"Ahh, Ginevra. Did you have a good talk with Mother?" He smiles at her, amused when her jaw tightens. She says nothing. Walden shifts a little in his chair. The firelight is catching her hair so prettily, what a shame such a comely little morsel is Gregory Goyle's to devour…
"I said, did you have a good talk with Mother?"
"Yes, sir." That heart shaped face, with it's big eyes and expressive mouth. Exquisite mouth, dreadful that a brute like Goyle should savor it first. A grunting animal, incapable of appreciating the nuances of such a mouth.
"Why so formal, Ginevra? Haven't we talked about this?"
He grins, the grin that has loosened the thighs of many a pretty little Halfblood, desperate for the Galleons in his hands…
"Come here, my child. Don't be shy now, come here and let Papa see you."
Ginny's skin is prickling. She knows he'll hex her into obedience if she does not go. She comes round the desk and stands before him, crossing her arms across her chest. He reaches up and tugs them down to her sides.
"Stand up nice and straight now. Let Papa see what a pretty young lady you've become."
Her scalp is tingling wildly. Swallowing hard, she obeys him, mind screaming wildly at her to run. Her fight or flight reflexes kicked in, her pupils dilating. Her legs begin to shake slightly and Walden seizes his chance.
"What's wrong, dear child? Are you faint?"
"N-no. I feel fine, just fine. Perhaps I ought to go to bed."
"Come here, and let me feel your forehead."
She bends down. He can almost see, in his mind's eye, the flesh beneath the cloth, the soft hollow of her throat and down, down…
Quick as a wink, he puts both hands to her waist and pulls her down into his lap, holds her against him. "Now, Ginevra, calm down. It's perfectly natural for a father to hold his little girl in his lap. Hold still, hold still."
Ginny is paralyzed. Her stripes are shrieking with pain at bearing her weight, her heart a hammer, eyes darting like trapped animals around the room, praying for an elf, a fire call, Death himself, anything but this. McNair's hand goes slowly up and feels her forehead, her cheeks, her neck. Lingering on her neck. He clicks his tongue very near her ear.
"You're warm. I shall call for a potion."
When the elf brings it, he uncorks the phial and holds it to her lips. She tries to pull away but he has her trapped …
"It's all right. Open your mouth for Papa."
She shakes her head. Her pupils are black wells. McNair breathes her fear and his desire in the same heady draught. How excellent, when the prey knows it is being stalked.
"Be a good girl, Ginevra, and open your mouth."
She opens her mouth just a tiny bit, that wonderful mouth, and Walden indulges in the sight of the thick liquid dribbling sluggishly over her teeth, her little pink tongue. He carefully adjusts her, feeling the heat of her striped and welted arse even through his linen trousers, and it pushes him to even greater ecstasy.
"You want to please Papa, don't you?" His voice is a ragged, throaty whisper. Ginny is beyond fear, beyond horror. Her mouth tastes of potion and the hard metallic tang of fear. Her skin is stone, her bones burning pitch in her ice cold blood.
"I shan't make it hurt." His hand was pawing her hair, her face, and then moving to go lower…
The door flew open and hit the wall so hard a vase was knocked from the bookshelf and shattered on the floor. Walden goes slack and Ginny grabs her opportunity, jumps up, tries to put as much distance between them as possible. Acantha has seen everything.
"Go upstairs, Ginevra, until I tell you otherwise." As she runs for the stairs, she hears Acantha say "Merlin, you disgust me."
For a moment, she feels almost touched until her foster mother finishes icily "They won't take used goods, idiot."
When her marriage is announced to her the next day, Ginny says nothing. Walden leers across the table. Alone, she murmurs a prayer of thanks and gratitude. Marriage to Gregory Goyle, once a fate worse than death, has become a glimmer of hope, a lighthouse on the rocky shores of fate.
The women sighed, almost as one. Pansy said nothing, looked at her nails. She gave a sniff and then, defiantly "It all worked out in the end, Madam Goyle. I fail to see what this has to do--"
Hermione set down the cup with a determined clink. She sat very straight, cleared her throat and said coolly "If you don't mind, Pansy, I should like to add something."
Hermione: A Greek's Bed in the Dark
While she waits for Draco to deflower her, Hermione counts the tiles on the ceiling. There are 214. She feels very naked. There is a phial of potion for her to swallow when the time is right. She is all cried out, which is a relief. She doesn't want to be weak tonight.
The door opens. Her new husband walks in. He stares at her as though he has no idea who she is or where she came from. She watches his Adam's apple bob as he swallows. He takes off his robes and lays them over a chair, then goes into the WC. She hears the water running, shuts her eyes.
The covers are suddenly pulled off. Her eyes fly open and she sits, gasping, trying to cover her nakedness. He slides in without a word. His eyes are roving her, and after a moment Draco says, annoyed "Do stop. We're married, remember?"
She nods and drops her hands. He takes inventory with no pleasure on his face. Hermione feels bought, like a sheep or an antique vase. He hands her the phial and produces one of his own. "Ready?"
The potion makes her feel wonderfully disconnected. The room is bathed in gentle gray shadow. Draco pulls the covers over both of them and, grimacing determinedly, touches her breast.
She stiffens but suddenly it seems unimportant that he's fondling her. Her body relaxes. Above her, her husband is trying to maneuver himself into what he's been assured is the correct position. He awkwardly pushes her thighs until she parts them. Hs potion was no calming draught but a stimulant. He is eighteen and lying atop a naked woman, her warm flesh rubbing his. Nature is preparing to take her course.
Draco tries to hold onto his hatred, his revulsion. He has married her to save his life and that of his beloved parents, for whose sake he would literally kill. He is married to this filthy mudblood and must copulate with her, but he will feel no pleasure. He sternly lectures himself as he carefully follows Snape's instructions. Inducing a finger makes her gasp with pain. A vicious part of him revels in it, and he wonders how far he can go.
There are moments in life where, all unknowing, we stand on a precipice and choose whether to fall. This was just such a moment, and had Draco been a little less cowardly, many things would have been utterly different. He chooses right; self preservation wins. He does the bare minimum to 'prepare her' as Snape called it. Then, steeling himself, he thrusts.
A terrible burning pain makes her open her mouth to scream. The potion rises with the huge influx of adrenaline, and her mouth snaps shut at once as she goes boneless. The pain is replaced by a sweet nothingness and then, when that clears, gentle acceptance.
Draco has made a great discovery, but fails to note it, being rather occupied. He has discovered that pleasure is not a thing to be controlled. Like love, it flits where it will. Right now, for example, it's concentrated deep in his belly. His hands are on the mu-his wife's shoulders and he's pushing her down, down, and the world
and he feels
then he's ready and when the moment
And maybe he can learn to like her if
Hermione is in herself and out of herself. She is aware of what's he's doing. It gives her no pleasure but the potion has blocked her pain receptors, so no pain either. She feels the strangest sense of fullness, of being two for a few moments. Draco is panting and grunting in her ear, nonsense words and gasps. She tries to ignore it. His thrusts pick up speed and intensity and suddenly he freezes, groans, rolls off. His sweat, she notices, is drying on her skin.
For a terrible moment, Draco thinks she's dead. Then she blinks slowly and he lets out his breath in a hiss of relief. Deciding she was fine, he walks naked to the bathroom and showers, calmly redresses. She says nothing.
"I'm going out with friends. I trust you have no objections. Whoops, almost forgot."
He reaches into his jacket pocket and pulls out a clean white handkerchief.
"Spread your legs." He cleans the mess from her thighs and then carefully seals the hankie in a magic dome on a table by the fireplace.
"Proof we consummated it. Be dressed in a nightgown by eight thirty. Tibby will be up to do your hair, she's your maid now. Understand?"
She still says nothing. Draco hopes she hasn't lost her mind. "Are you all right?"
"Fine, thank you. Yourself?"
Draco smirks. "Never better."
He leans over and for a revolting second she's afraid he'll try to kiss her. Instead, he gives her a grin. "I doubt the Weasel could have done half so well, wouldn't you agree?"
Hermione is too stunned to talk. The mean spirited, petty little bastard.
"Sweet dreams, Madam Malfoy."
This time Pansy looked away. Her color was high. Hermione smiled sadly. "Of course, it did get better. We've both—all—changed. He's really very kind now. Affectionate, even."
"Have you anything stronger than tea, Hermione? Like sherry?"
Hermione blinked. "Why, yes, of course, but---" She cuts herself off and calls Minky to bring the decanter and four glasses. Pansy holds the glass in her hand and takes a large sip and then, still not making contact, began.
Pansy: It was Well for Hellas
Pansy is a happy girl. More than that, she's loved. Adored. Her brother is fourteen years older than she is, and spoils her as much as her parents do. She's the axis on which the little family turns. She's especially close to her Daddy.
Pansy's Daddy always tells her she's a princess. She sees no reason to disbelieve him, really. She's Pureblooded, rich, popular, and betrothed to the most desirable boy in her year. Best of all, she likes Draco. He only tolerates her, but Mother says boys are that way.
So when the world collapses around her, she has no idea what to do. Her fiancé is to marry a filthy mudblood; her father received a package from Lucius Malfoy containing an apologetic note and a sizable addition to her already enormous dowry. She cries for a week.
Then announcement is made that she'll marry Potter, and she cries for a month. She hates Potter, who was a Halfblood anyway, and not fit for a Parkinson to wipe her boots on. There is no choice.
Luckily, he hates her too. Maybe more than she hates him. It might have been awkward if he had liked her. When the Supreme Wizard invites the Parkinsons to come and meet the bridegroom, Pansy anticipates being miserable the whole time. And she is, until the Supreme Wizard invites her to view her new quarters.
Opulent, of course. Spacious and graceful and feminine. What really catches her attention is the enormous cask of jewels that sit on the vanity. She opens it and gasps. The biggest, most wonderful gems she's ever seen, and all for her! The Supreme Wizard shows her the bolts of cloth for her to make into robes and dresses and other things. He tells the awe struck girl she can have a lap dog or a kitten or any creature she'd like. He's handsome and charming and urbane; the glamour helps with that. Even Potter is sort of cute, and not bossy like Draco. She thinks, perhaps, she can do this.
And she does. They live together quite amicably in their mutual hatred and the love they ( well, mainly he) bear their children. Harry drinks a lot, but Pansy doesn't care. Every time ho does something stupid or thoughtless, he buys her a necklace or a pair of earrings.
Until the day he comes home, dropping his robe at the door, and then asks her to come to the library with him. He's sober in every sense of the word. He sends the children to their uncle's house and then invites her to sit.
"It's your father, Pansy."
"Daddy? What about him?"
"He's been accused of smuggling things to the rebels in Munich. Potions ingredient, mainly. Some documents."
Pansy laughs and shakes her head. "Don't be absurd. Daddy isn't a rebel."
"No, but he isn't a Death Eater, either. The Ministry needs a scapegoat and they chose him."
The room is spinning slightly but Pansy ignores it. She looks at her husband, waiting for him to laugh and call an end to his cruel joke. He doesn't.
"W-what will happen?"
"He's to be executed next Sunday. His Lordship has requested our presence especially."
She's frozen. Harry reaches out and tries to embrace her but she shoves him away. Goes and holds one of her sons for a long while, thinking of what would happen should she refuse.
That Sunday, attired in grey silk, she goes. Her father is led, bound, to the stake to await his death at Greyback's hand. His eyes catch her and he pleads for his life with a look.
Pansy turns away.
The sherry bottle is noticeably emptier. Hermione pours more for all of them. They sit silently, digesting what they've heard. Luna abruptly sits up, eyes focusing. She almost remembers—thinks she can express…
Luna: As the dancing stars
It's dark. And cold. And it smells bad. She's alone. Mr. Ollivander was here but he's gone and has been gone for some time. Days? Weeks? She gets fed once a day by a very nice elf named Lemmy.
Strangely, she isn't always here when she wakes. Sometimes she's other places. Usually at home, but she's been having excellent conversations with Professor Flitwick about books they've both read. He's just recommended a Muggle author he thinks she'd liked, a man called…Donne? Munne?
Suddenly light is streaming in from above her. "Cover your eyes, Miss Lovegood, it will be very bright." That sounds an excellent plan, so she does it while hard hands grab her about the waist and haul her up out of the little room. She's been in darkness so long that the torches are like sunlight. She stares at the ground and waits for the dancing spots to vanish, wishing she could recall the name in question. She's mainly sure it's Donne.
"Merlin, she smells atrocious. Can't you do something, Malfoy?"
Luna recognizes Lucius Malfoy's cultured drawl when he answers. "What would you have me do, Avery? Am I to bathe every prisoner we keep here? She's one of how many?"
Avery grunts and casts a scourgify that stings but strips all the dirt from her skin. At least she looks and smells better. He locks a big hand on her arm and drags her up the stairs and down a series of corridors.
She's not really here, either. She's home. Daddy is making supper, and she's helping. "So you see, darling, you must be brave even when people laugh at you, just like Aethelflaed of Wessex. People refused to believe a woman could have done all that work on kelpie social structure, and now look. Everyone knows her theories were true."
Luna thinks this very wise advice. They are at the very cusp of the ballroom. Luna throws back her head and squares her shoulders. Malfoy leads her to the platform.
The Death Eaters are reveling. Someone has cast the Mark and it shimmers above them all like a cloud of plague. Luna sees the werewolves salted among the crowd and her stomach drops, though she can't say why. She wishes she could remember what happened to Mr. Ollivander. Then her eyes go left and all is lost.
This is the last truly lucid moment of Luna's life. Brave though she is, the sight of her friends, herded into long lines in Malfoy manor confirms the very worst. It is a blow she cannot take. As gently and easily as a last breath, Luna's mind fragments into a thousand tiny pieces.
It was then Hermione saw her. Luna saw Hermione, for that matter. She smiled at her, thinking it nice that Hermione would come to the Ravenclaw common room to study, not questioning why that would be, not seeing the throng of faces. She is at school, she is safe, the outside world will never be invited in again.
Nott sr. takes her home. His elves bathe her and dress her and tuck her into the first bed she's slept in for weeks. The next day Adelbert gives his son permission to take his new ward for a walk at dusk, as long as an elf accompanies them. Blippy keeps a discrete distance, and Theodore tries to work up the courage to take Luna's hand. He talks steadily, quite against his nature. Luna makes only the most basic replies. Theo worries that she doesn't like him. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
She simply prefers the stars, watching them as they danced, as remote as she is. Her mind is mercifully blank.
Chorus: A Funeral Dirge, in Strains Unheard
The women sit in silence. Far away, people are laughing and singing. Children play, lovers write sonnets and old people potter in gardens, glad of the sun. Not here. Here is grief both old and new, a wound that will endure. Here is sorrow that must never be named.
The women will go about their lives, and for the many, many years they each have left, they will never speak of this Pansy keeps silence. In later hours of reflection she will wonder what led her to open her heart to them and silence will be her answer. She is not an introspective sort by nature; she comes to tell herself it was all a dream, knowing the lie and believing it just the same.
Hermione will go to her husband and they will make love. He will give her as much pleasure as his nature allows him to, and then they will twine naked under the damp sheets and he will hold her, perhaps murmur a bit of poetry learned for just such moments in her ears. He does his best for her, and sometimes that must be enough for us.
Ginny will come home to find Greg holding a newborn Kneazle, so tiny it's eyes aren't open yet, his big hands gentle as snow. She'll almost tell him about the night in the study and then change her mind. The past is dead, and so is Walden. Instead, she'll go and visit Acantha tomorrow, and seeing that the woman's squalid cruelties have condemned her to a life devoid of others will not move he to pity. She will cuddle a baby Kneazle instead, and Greg will join her. She has learned to find contentment, and she applies that skill now. The memory fades in time, like an old track mark, and soon it has sunk back into the bitter well of her memory, rarely called forth. The well is Lethe, and she drinks deep of it.
Luna, having remembered her own draught of Lethe water, will sink back in. There will no discernable change in her, except perhaps a slight lifting of the spirits. Only Theo will notice, but he will be pleased all the same. They will walk in the shadows at dusk, and this time he will not scruple to keep silent or hold her hand. Small, cold hand. He will bring it to her lips and kiss the tiny knuckle, sighing. She will not react, for all her skin goosebumps and her hair blows about her head in a corona of light; she is too busy looking up at the stars.