Summary: Hermione is a sister to Harry, a mother to Rose and Hugo, a wife to Ron, and a Legilimens and Unspeakable...She is also very, very angry. A look at a Hermione who developed the instincts she evidenced with Marietta Egdecombe and Dolores Umbridge. AU, though canon compliant.
A/N: I'm not sure where this arrived from, but it hopped on my back and took up a very great deal of my time. Less a plot bunny and more a plot gorilla. Or, if you like, a plot walrus. Notes and acknowledgments below.
Disclaimer: As evidenced by the really frightening witch into whom I've twisted a sympathetic and beloved main character, you've probably guessed that I'm not JKR and am not making any money from this.
The ancient half-Kneazle blinks open a single eye, then both, as his mistress enters the bedroom and casts a warding and silencing charm on the door. He rises and stretches. His joints creak, but it's worth the movement from the window seat to her bed. He's seen her fling herself down on that window seat several times while she's pacing and speaking to her imaginary audience. And he's seen her fur crackle and fluff and spark like this only three times in the seventeen years he's owned her.
He listens to her highly organized rant. For years she raved to him in her anger. But since she'd begun at the Department of Mysteries 10 years ago, and especially since taking it over 2 years ago, her rants have become orations, declarations of intent in developed rhetoric. Such skill demands years of study—which she has had—and practice, which she conducts with him as audience.
His Kneazle side allows him to comprehend every word. He has understood her for years now. The half-giant is an expert, and the half-giant told her Kneazles were extremely intelligent. But there are things the half-giant didn't tell his mistress, because he didn't know them. Kneazles are rare and ancient, and much of what they are has been lost in the mists of time.
Like the fact that Kneazles can learn human languages. Like the fact that they can absorb some of the intelligence and knowledge and magical ability of their human familiars over a period of years. Given the levels of all three which his mistress possesses, he'd be able to Apparate by this time if he were a pureblood Kneazle. As it is, he knows far more magical theory than his mistress' mate. And he can feel and quantify the heaviness of the prickling magic in the air, the strange weight in her words.
But it is his cat side, with its fine instinct for controlled chaos, with its connoisseur's honed skill at malevolent play, that allows him to hold the contradictory emotions of alarm and satisfaction simultaneously.
There is a reason he chose his mistress. For all her distressing human tendency to hold her anger past the point of usefulness, she is no slouch at malevolent play.
...because I've found you. And what I find, I hold. Caveat inimici mea ira.
Tell me, have you seen Marietta Edgecombe's face lately? No?
No-one has, really. Not for years. She became an expert at Charms in her Seventh Year, because Glamours, especially lasting Glamours, are a very complex charm. You may not have heard, but she heads Charm Dismantling in the Misuse of Magic office now.
It's a bit of a stretch to say she owes her position to me, but she certainly wouldn't be there without me. There've been moments when I've considered sending her a note of congratulations which referred to that—but unlike Ron and Harry, I don't go in for reckless taunts. Marietta is a powerful witch, but she's already shown that fear can rule her. Therefore anger can as well.
Ingersoll was correct: Anger blows out the lamp of the mind. Her fear of me will restrain her only so far.
And make no mistake—Marietta does fear me.
She risked our lives and our freedom—all of ours, but especially Harry's, Harry who'd already suffered so much at the whims of evil. And I'd decided beforehand—yes, deliberately, knowingly—to deface anyone who could do that.
And without warning. Why warn someone capable of doing such a thing? She would simply do something worse later on, when she felt it safe.
She hasn't yet removed the curse. Either her Ravenclaw arrogance led her to believe she could find the countercurse on her own, or she believed I wouldn't give it to her.
She's wrong; I would have. But had she brought herself to ask me for it, she probably wouldn't have needed to. The countercurse is simple regret for her actions, and it still eludes her. She still doesn't regret turning over an innocent boy to a Ministry capable of handing him over to the Dementors.
So her disfigurement is permanent. Better that she remain marked for what she is.
We were both 16 years old when I marred her. She's right to think that now, 15 years later, I'd be far less forgiving of any kind of betrayal of, or injury to, my friends and family.
Marietta Edgecombe is right to fear me.
Do you know what the centaurs did to Dolores Umbridge? No?
Nor does anyone else.
No-one knows because even now, she can't talk about it. Even after plumbing the well of pure evil required for her to be capable of mounting Moody's eye on her door, she can't discuss her time with the centaurs. She becomes catatonic when they're mentioned, or when in the vicinity of anything even vaguely equine.
But she hasn't finished paying. My revenge on her was—is, thus far—small, in the larger scheme of her crimes. Far, far smaller than she deserves.
She came near to poisoning the minds of an entire generation with denial, thus ensuring the prolongation of the coming war. She stripped Harry of Quidditch, the only thing that's ever made him freely and unselfconsciously happy. She ensured that he'd have vast numbers of enemies, have to endure their taunting and harassment, and would have few friends and allies—this after Harry was viciously attacked and Cedric Diggory was murdered. She set Dementors after him—utter abominations used only against the worst and most depraved criminals in the wizarding world.
But worst of all, she tormented him with that filthy punishment quill.
With physical pain, which has little hold over Harry, but even more with a sense of helpless victimization. With the knowledge of his own helplessness in the face of her physical and psychological abuse. I'll never be convinced that she didn't know of Harry's background, of that harrowing little closet and the years of deprivation and capricious physical abuse. I'll never be convinced that she didn't choose deliberately the thing she knew would be the worst punishment possible for a boy who'd only barely escaped a lifetime of victimization.
She tried to strip Harry of his soul. Then she stripped him of his right to defend himself from anything she chose to do. And then she slowly, purposefully stripped him of his recreation, and then his allies, and then his dignity, and then his physical well-being.
Someone once wrote that knowledge of coming torment, coupled with the inability to avoid it, is the highest refinement of cruelty.
I agree. Umbridge did too.
But unlike Marietta—whose single crime was motivated by fear and immaturity and selfishness and self-serving blindness, and disappears against the scope of Umbridge's—she's not afraid me. This, although my first act against her deprived her, not of physical self-image, but of a large part of her mental stability.
She and Lucius Malfoy are both vicious, sadistic, malicious, petty, small-minded, grasping, cruel, and inhumane; and his crimes in the War were committed in the public eye, far more blatantly than were Umbridge's. Yet hard as we tried, his sentence and reparations were far less harsh than hers.
But then no-one's ever accused Malfoy Sr. of stupidity. Bad judgment, perhaps, but not a total lack of it. Umbridge, on the other hand—well, even if she hadn't left a record of ordering Dementors after a 15-year-old boy, she threatened an Unforgivable in front of a number of members of an illegal DADA group who were still in possession of our wands.
And after all of this, after all she did to torture and try to break Harry—even then my all-but-brother, and an innocent—and her crimes against so many other innocent muggleborn wizards and witches, she thinks she's finished paying.
Dolores Umbridge doesn't fear me.
She is a fool.
One who doesn't know enough to expect the horses which I'm giving her—delivering to the front yard of her little cottage—on Harry's 31st birthday. An acknowledgment of his victory, and the second-lifetime-plus-a-year he's lived past the age at which she tried to break him.
She'll have to keep them company for a week before she—or they—can leave the property.
Of course, I never told you, Ron or Harry about it. There's no need for that. It'll be a private commemoration. A small gift, from Hermione Jean to Dolores Jane.
It's the very least I can do.
And now—now you, Ginny. Little Ginevra.
Not Weasley, because you don't deserve to bear that name. And certainly not Potter. I'll make certain you're never addressed by that name again. So, Ginny.
You whom Harry's adored since he was 16 years old. You whom he dreamed of and worried for and missed desperately during those long, silent days and cold, hungry nights in that wretched tent. You who, even more than Ron, gave him what he'd always wanted-- a real family-- first by making him a Weasley under law, and then by giving him your three beautiful children during your 11 years of marriage.
You, Ginny, the lovely, fiery redhead whose spark and courage reminded Harry so much of the stories of his Mum, and so gave a part of her back to him as well.
You who from the time she was 11 years old never stopped trying to make The Boy Who Lived notice you. You whose adventures with various boys, designed to make Harry sit up and take notice of you, also made him even more insecure and lonely during a time in which he was drifting away from his friends but worrying constantly about attacks on us. You whose attack on me when I warned Harry about his Potions book opened the door for Harry to damage himself with corrosive guilt by using Sectumsempra on Malfoy, something for which he still blames himself.
You who turned twenty-nine and realized that you'd made a mistake, that you were trapped by a life as a part-time housewitch and hemmed in by being Mrs. Ginny Potter. That you threw away your dreams of Quidditch and the glamorous, fun-filled life you could've had because of your grief for Fred and your teenage dreams of being Mrs. The Boy Who Lived. That you needed, deserved, had to have, a life in which your beauty and spark and talent brought you the attention you deserved. Attention, and a wider recognition than enduring, devoted love.
You, Ginny, who left Harry yesterday.
The pieces of Harry Potter—he is not your husband, he will never again be your husband, you will never again be close enough to being his wife to touch even the idea's shadow—are sitting on mine and Ron's couch at this moment. I give no small credit to my husband for having grown up enough to realize that Harry being his brother and friend is every bit as important as you being his sister. Ron hasn't said a single word to defend or justify you. If he knows what's good for him—and 11 years of marriage have taught him a great deal—he'll never defend you.
Harry loves me, of course, and relies on me—and now, looking back, how you've had to repress your resentment of that—but Ron is and always has been his best mate, the one without whom Harry felt lost. Did you resent that too, Ginny? Or was your resentment reserved only for my role as Harry's sister?
Right now Ron is the reason that Harry isn't dead from alcohol poisoning—or from losing control of his magic and immolating himself.
Very, very powerful wizards can do that during times of terrible grief. Headmaster Dumbledore came close to it the day his sister Ariana died, and he saved Professor Snape from it the night Lily died. To give you what little credit you deserve, I wouldn't have expected you to know that. But then, the credit still registers in the minus column, because I sincerely doubt you'd have changed your actions even if you had.
Harry needs Ron desperately now, far more than in the Forest of Dean, and this time Ron won't leave. You—well, what you've done what someone with horcrux poisoning did. It took a piece of Voldemort's soul to make Ron capable of what you've done.
But I assure you, you won't have the chance to redeem yourself by coming back.
The children don't leave for school for another month, so James and Albus and Lily are here, with Rose and Hugo. James and Rose know something is wrong. Rose may know what—Ron's been declaring since she was 7 that she, like her mother, is "brilliant, but scary". Her mother agrees.
And Albus seems to have been cast in the same mold. Harry always joked that he gets it from his Aunt Hermione and from his namesakes, not necessarily in that order. Being acknowledged as Harry's true sister, and being likened to Severus Snape and Albus Dumbledore, are the greatest compliments I've ever been given.
And how you hated that. Even blind to your other resentments, I knew you hated it, but I thought it was only the natural jealousy of a mother for her son.
Thank Merlin he's nothing like you.
Albus Severus knows what's wrong, I'm sure of it. I'd be willing to wager that he even knows why. He was always a little distant with you, wasn't he? A little aloof, a little assessing. He was never excited by the whirl of your promotional schedule and your social life the way James and Lily were.
Lily and Hugo are too young to know anything but that you're gone and that Harry's upset. None of the children have seen him, and I'm not going to let them; not while he's in this state.
He's not The Boy Who Lived to them; he's Dad, he's Uncle Harry. But he's the laughing and exuberant, the affectionate, the endlessly patient Dad and Uncle Harry. The one they come to when Ron finally loses his hold on his formidable temper—though it does take longer now—and Hermione is late at the DoM or rushing like a mad thing to get thirty things done for all five of them and you're out at a friend's or shopping or with the Harpies for a promotional event. He's the one who's always overjoyed to see them, who's happier just because he's in the same room with them.
We all bask in the love that flows from Harry, but the children most of all. They cannot, cannot, see him like this. It would rock the foundations of their world.
Did you resent that too, Ginny? How could you? He loved—loves—you so much. So much. If the children are the sun to him, you're the moon and stars.
But that'll be the past tense. Soon.
Luna, dear Luna—whose love of and loyalty to Harry are unconditional, and first bestowed when Harry was The Boy Who Lied, not the Boy Who Lived—Luna who values her friends more than her own life—Luna, being a widow, will know how to help him grieve.
You, the Weasleys' only girl—you've always taken adoration, being special and treasured, for granted. Luna knows, has always known, how fleeting admiration and fame, and how very precious love and friendship. She knows how to bask in being the moon.
She'll comfort Harry when he's done grieving your loss. I'll make certain of it.
I have no words for what you've done, Ginny. No descriptor for the magnitude of the things you've destroyed. No expression for the raging injustice, the bounds of the callousness you've inflicted on Harry, the boy who suffered so much, the man with whom you built a life that redeemed his pain.
And then shattered it.
But having no words doesn't mean having no ideas. Having no plans.
I'm going to destroy you, Ginny. What I did, what I will do to Umbridge is nothing, nothing compared to what I'll do to you. Revenge for Harry, yes. And for your children. And for your whole family.
Did you ever really believe that I loved you, Ginny? I told you often enough. Told you that I loved you, that you were the only sister I'd ever had, that I'd always wanted one and I was so lucky to have you. I meant it, Ginny. I really meant it.
I'd always desperately wanted a sibling. I grew up an only child and a 'freak' because of my intelligence and my accidental magic. And then I started Hogwarts and was determined to fit in and be good at magic...and I was still a 'freak' because I was muggleborn and a swot. I spent first term all alone until that ridiculous troll. I cared for you as my friend—one of my few, precious friends—and I cherished you as my sister.
I hate you now, Ginny. Never doubt it.
I've heard your brothers joke when you or your mother is in a temper—Hell hath no fury, they say, quoting an old muggle play. But they've got only a fraction of it right. The full line is,
Heaven hath no rage like love to hatred turned, nor hell a fury like a woman scorned.
I have both, you see.
I spent last night crying—sometimes with Harry, so I couldn't sob, sometimes on the back porch, to let the sobs out. For the pieces of my brother sitting broken and staring on my sofa, for the loss of you, for the life we've built that you threw away like trash. I couldn't sleep.
So just before dawn, I stopped crying and began planning.
Removing you with as little pain as possible from his emotions as well as his life—it's a sticky problem, you know.
If I make Harry believe you were never what he thought—arrange some evidence that shows you for what you really are and perhaps a bit worse—he'll spend his life questioning the love of everyone but the children, his judgment of people's feelings, and whether or not someone he loves can love him back. Harry, who wasn't loved for 10 years of his life, will spend the next 15 years—at least—afraid that Ron or Luna or I will leave.
So besmirching your reputation and character is out of the question.
On the other hand, I could fake your disappearance and later your death—and if you doubt my ability to do that, remember, little Ginevra, that I head the Department of Mysteries. Not that I couldn't have done it when I was 18—I kept us hidden and fed in the Forest of Dean for months while we were the top 3 on the Undesirables list, all the while raiding the Ministry and Gringotts. The only reason we were ever caught was because Harry deliberately set off the Trace.
It would be child's play for me to have people find you, confine you, lay a trail for your 'disappearance', and arrange to have remains found and identified as yours months or years later. You'd be secure—and permanently confined—and Harry would have closure to his grieving.
But if I did that Harry would still grieve for you and hope for your return for months on end, and after that he'd grieve your death. It's too long for him to suffer—I want him to begin recovering as quickly as possible.
Furthermore, faking a corpse believably in order to find your 'remains' would require the death of another person or powerful Dark magic that would leave someone worse than dead. I'm not murdering anyone, or sundering or Darkening anyone's soul, for the likes of you.
And I find that the thought of him still thinking of you as his ideal, grieving you as some sort of mildly-tarnished saint, disgusts me.
I could find you, bring you back, alter your memories to the point that you'd no longer want to leave, and attribute your behavior to some form of curse—Imperius, probably.
That isn't something I could have done at 18. But I've been an Unspeakable for 10 years, and it's an occupation with considerable...scope.
Like the Fidelius, Legilimency—and Occlumency, which is a subdivision of it—was a DoM discovery. It was they who brought back a 2,000-year-old discipline after a 400-year lapse. I was desperate, in Fifth Year, to find anything that could help Harry. When he quit his Occlumency lessons with Professor Snape, I took the only book I could find on it from the Restricted Section and did my best to teach myself Occlumency so that I could teach Harry. It took me a long time to do it with no-one to teach me, and I wasn't fast enough to be able to start teaching Harry in time...and after the fight at the DoM, he didn't want to learn. But I kept practicing, especially in the forest, and by the time of the Final Battle I was a reasonably proficient Occlumens.
So when I went to the DoM and found out more about Occlumency, I was in a very good position to ask for training. The woman who taught me was the protegé of the first modern Legilimens—of the man who taught Albus Dumbledore, and wrote the only publicly available book on the subject—and I studied with her until she died earlier this year.
10 years of training,Ginny—far longer than Professor Snape was taught, and his Occlumency held against Voldemort for all his years as a spy. My teacher told me that I was the best pupil she'd ever taught, and that, judging by her Master's journals, I might, in another 10-15 years, come to rival Albus Dumbledore himself.
And I'm one of only three students my teacher ever took on: One died in the course of her duties as an Unspeakable, another retired to a temple somewhere in China after he left the DoM. And the third—well, she Heads the Department of Mysteries.
I'm the best, and possibly the only, Legilimens in the world, Ginny. If I were inside your mind when I did it, I'd need only the simplest Memory Charm to alter your memories and desires permanently. And Legilimency obscures other charms. Only a Legilimens can track Legilimency, and that includes charms or curses attached to it.
Altering memories and desires alters personality, of course, and intelligence, and emotional integrity—which is why I won't use it to convince Harry that you two were never compatible, and that he loved you far less than he actually did. If I could do that without hurting Harry, I would.
Please don't think that I care about hurting you, however. It's simply that, again, I find that the thought of him having to live with someone who's so unworthy—and of you, even an altered version of you, being rewarded for your contemptible character by having Harry lavish you with love—disgusts me.
The last option is a combination of the above, with an extra...let's call it a flourish. It's delicate, but it can be done, and it's the best possible compromise between the length and intensity of Harry's grief.
What I need is a way to make sure he develops an aversion to you without blaming you or himself, while at the same time not needing to mourn your death or disappearance or to feel guilty for your fate. A difficult balance to strike. But...
What if your mind had been tainted permanently by Voldemort?
From the time you were 11 years old, you understand. Far earlier than could be blamed on anything Harry did or didn't do—he and everyone else knows that he nearly died to rescue you. Your mind was checked while you were in the infirmary afterward, you know, by Dumbledore. You never manifested any obvious behavior over the years. You were never again possessed, the way Harry was. There was no way anyone could detect a lasting taint. No way that even Harry could find a way to blame himself for not knowing.
It's possible—several Charms and Runes texts speak of it—for possession to leave a seed in the mind. For it to blossom over a lifetime. A long period of dormancy, coupled with the most gradual germination possible, with shifts in personality and behavior that manifest only after a long latency.
What if that had happened with you, and you leaving was the beginning of a decline in your behavior? One that signalled a break that could be dangerous?
It's one of the things that you'd be checked for if you were in hospital for a behavioral disorder. A consulting Charms Mistress recognized signs of it in Pius Thicknesse when they treated him; even though he turned out not to have it, all the Healers check for it now—in cases of 'uncharacteristic behavior', for which read 'Imperius or psychotic breaks'.
And the taint is a permanent condition, you see. There is no cure—no Horcrux to destroy, no Dark Lord to kill. The only cure possible destroys not only those years of the germinating possession in the person's mind, but all the associated human connections and knowledge. You'd lose everything from the time you were 11 years old—family relationships, academic knowledge, knowledge of your children, and of Harry as anything other than The Boy Who Lived—if Harry insisted that they try.
The human mind is so fragile; memory is cross-connected in so many different ways. The only three times removal has been tried, it's left the subjects in a permanent state of catatonia.
He'd lose you either way.
And Voldemort was obsessed with Harry till the day he died. If your attraction to Harry, your involvement in his life, turned out to be a direct result of that, and your mentality was now growing to be ruled by him...
It's one of the only things that could separate him from you completely—the only other thing I could think of would be you deliberately harming one of the children, and I could never permit that. Harry's own conscience would be clear—because his subconscious revulsion at any connection to Voldemort would transfer to you.
There are disadvantages to seeing things like Good and Evil in terms of black and white, and that is how Harry sees them. How he's always seen them. Evil from Voldemort didn't taint you because he rescued you. But if the seeds of his madness—of Harry's idea of utter Evil—began to blossom again in your mind...Voldemort was Harry's nemesis. He took almost everything from Harry.
Harry could never bring himself to stay with you.
He'd be revolted at the thought of still being married to you, though he would make sure you were taken care of for you the rest of your life. But he could keep the memories of your marriage intact. Could still value them. He would grieve you the way spouses of those with a progressive disease—like cancer—grieve; the final loss is inevitable, but the memories you create with the person can be cherished.
It would intensify his anger, perhaps, but reduce his sense of loss—you would be another thing that Voldemort had taken. And acute anger is far easier for me to localize and blunt than pervasive grief.
And the lovely part of this is that most of Harry would grieve you, yes, but part of it would be grief for the victimization of the 11-year-old girl he knew. Grief for a victim of the War is grief that Harry has had a great deal of experience with. You'd be one more loss from the War—the last. And seen that way, Harry would work very, very hard to grieve and then recover. He'd see it as a challenge of survival, the same way he's seen the building of his family until now.
He will still suffer—but that is unavoidable now. Rather than raging against the unfairness of random accidents of life or questioning his own worthiness to be loved, the only person he'd blame would be Voldemort—and possibly Lucius Malfoy, by proxy, though his Veritaserum testimony indicated he didn't know the diary was a Horcrux. But blunting Harry's fury at Malfoy over this new loss would be simple, far simpler than rearranging his life history to rearrange his feelings for you. I've seen many far greater excisions heal perfectly.
And not-too-incidentally, for a man who's suffered as much because of public scrutiny as Harry—though that scrutiny wasn't enough for you, was it, Ginevra?—instead of the press and public reporting on The Boy Who Lived's wife having left, they'd report on your having fallen to a curse you received in the War. There'd be no question of blame, only sympathy for Harry and the children.
Harry's love for them would remain untainted. He'd never regret or question James, Albus, and Lily-- especially if, when I told him of your possible condition, I implanted forcibly the absolute knowledge that nothing about this could have tainted their genes or their magic. The knowledge that this illness is akin to a curse with pervasive mental effects, like insanity from the Cruciatus.
As I said, present-tense, single ideas are far simpler to deal with than interfering with a person's memories.
The children would never be told about the seeds of possession; I could and would ensure that that secret would be kept. They'd know only that you had a psychotic break, that you were cursed during the war, that you were totally nonfunctional, that you couldn't be a wife or a mother-- and that, if the treatment that carried a heavy risk of catatonia actually worked, you would be effectively an 11-year-old girl. They would still love you, though it would make their lives more complex and more painful.
But there is nothing that can shield them from that now. Either they have a mother to whom fame was more important than they, or they have a puppet whom their father spends a decade trying to trust again, or they lose large parts of Harry's loving and open personality, or they grieve the randomness of cruel fate and your death. They have lost much more than Harry; it is only Harry's past that leaves him more damaged than they.
This way, they grieve you, and war, and hatred. And they keep their wonderful father, whole and intact, because none of this could possibly be his fault; he's not unlovable or at fault for the breakup of your marriage or for you leaving but then coming back. He's lost his wife, and his children their mother, to Voldemort, but in a way that leaves them innocent of any deficiency, and allows the love you had for your children to remain untainted.
Which is, in fact, more than you deserve, but far less than they do. It is the most they can have from this, and I'll ensure that they get it.
Harry'd know—because I'd make him read the available accounts—that only the most adept Legilimens can discover the condition. And Dumbledore was the one that checked you. If Dumbledore couldn't find it, how could anyone else?
And I—I'm your sister-in-law, practically your sister, and Harry's sister by his declaration. The godmother to your children and to several of your nieces and nephews. The 'brightest witch of her age', Head of a Ministry Department, a war heroine, one-third of the Golden Trio. An irreproachable, model citizen, in other words. A witch whose credentials and integrity are unimpeachable.
When it came time to confirm the diagnosis, guess who St. Mungo's—and Harry—would ask to Legilimize you?
All of this would be, of course, contingent on you being admitted to St. Mungo's for evaluation.
Which you will be, in approximately fourteen days. Possibly less, in fact.
You'll be admitted by your family for irrational and destructive behavior—if any of them are speaking to you by then. If not, you'll be picked up and involuntarily committed by the Aurors when they're called to contain a disturbance in public.
You're going to have what's called a psychotic break, and for a very simple reason. What you're hearing now is a result of the Kol Shigaon charm, more generally called the Vox Demens. This message will repeat in an endless loop, 24 hours a day. No-one will be able to hear it but you, but it will vary in tone and volume in order to prevent you from adapting enough to focus on other things, or to sleep.
Sleep loss alone will cause psychosis. If you take Dreamless Sleep, you won't dream, but you'll hear and register this message nonetheless, and endless loops of threatening or destructive thoughts implanted deeply in the subconscious also cause psychosis. In fact, if you take Dreamless or use any other charm, drug or potion, you may break faster. And it will not make my voice stop.
Nor will Deafening Potion. This charm bypasses your eardrums and directly affects your neural processes. Shutting those down in any way—whether via potion, drug, or charm—will kill you or render you comatose, which is far more severe than the end result of this charm. And you will have to keep yourself comatose to avoid it; as soon as your nervous system begins functioning properly, you'll be able to hear these words again.
In short, there is no way to impede the progress of the Kol Shigaon. I designed it specifically for that purpose.
You can't come to Harry, or to Ron and I, and beg, either; there's nothing you can say to make me stop the charm. You'll get yourself admitted sooner, in fact, because you won't be able to ask us for help and you'll be evidencing psychosis—plenty of reason for me to convince Harry to take you in for evaluation.
However your psychosis is induced, once you're admitted, they'll call Harry, and I'll come in with him. My experience in Charms, my relation to you, and the fact that I'm the only known Legilimens in Britain—in addition to all the other reasons I listed before—will ensure that I'm involved in your treatment. You'll be diagnosed quickly, I will Fidelius your diagnosis—more on that in a moment—and Harry and the children will begin moving on.
And I'll make sure that Luna is with them from the very beginning.
I don't need any additional charms to keep you from telling of or implying to anyone the existence, operation, content, or origin of this charm, either. It's DoM property, you see. The charms that guard the Department of Mysteries and the knowledge there are ancient—amazingly, more ancient than Hogwarts. And they exclude and supersede any other charms the Ministry has cast—that's why neither the Minister nor the Aurory, nor anyone else, has ever been able to use the DoM for their own purposes. They cannot compel the release of, acquire through subterfuge, or reveal any information discovered, used, stored, researched, or developed by the Department of Mysteries.
The DoM wards are, to put it simply, an array of modified Fidelii, and they've been layered over the course of hundreds of years.
And of course that applies to you and this charm as well, Ginny. No-one who is not an authorized Unspeakable can speak of the charm's existence, operation, content or origin.
Elegant, yes? If I'd told you all of this in any other way, you might have found a way to write or orally relay it to someone. But because it's conveyed by this charm, you cannot reveal it in any way. It cannot even be Legilimized from you- the DoM Fidelii will simply act as an impenetrable Occlumentic block around the knowledge if someone attempts to extract it from you.
And in any case, I'm the only one who could try.
Before I explain the beginning of this message, Ginny—if you were hoping that the charm might not work because it's still in the testing stages, let me assure you that it does. Remember the capture of Kressov last year? One of the sanest Death Eaters at large, gone to ground and nearly impossible to find—until he suddenly turned up nonfunctional. Insane. Disorganized schizophrenia, as muggle medicine calls it. Not always dangerous, but always incoherent. He did some serious damage to himself before he was apprehended, but he is intact and in Azkaban.
He was the beta-test for the Kol Shigaon.
Which brings up another point, Ginny: You can't escape by killing yourself, either. Knowing you, I don't think you'll try for the first few days, but you must realize I'd never let you traumatize Harry and your children that way.
Since Kressov, I've linked one other protection into this charm, in the same way that well-cast Fidelii can be keyed to intent. If you form the intent to harm yourself, you'll immediately become catatonic. The charm will simply shut down your ability to move or respond to outside stimuli. You'll get yourself admitted to St. Mungo's all the more quickly.
And once you're admitted, once you're evaluated and diagnosed, you'll disappear into a private room in the Spell Damage ward. Private, strictly isolated, heavily warded, and monitored 24 hours a day, because with the threat of Voldemort looming in your brain no precaution will be too great. Whether or not Harry wishes the treatment tried on you, you'll be alone there for the rest of your life. Alone except for my voice, these words, ringing in your ears.
And away from the strains and dangers of the outside world, your life will be long, Ginny. Long and quiet and cold.
No glamour, no excitement, no adoration.
Nothing. Nothing but a small room and watchful Healers and the sound of my voice.
There's nothing you can do to stop or alter this, Ginny. You set it in motion when you built up and then broke Harry's heart, and his strength, and his courage, and his belief in his own worth. When you laid the groundwork for your children to question their value because you don't value them. When you held your need for glamour and self-gratification in one hand and the life you and Ron and Harry and I have built with our five children in the other...and then threw our lives away.
...One last thing, Ginny. Before you can fully understand what is happening, and why, I need to explain something about spell language, mottoes, and the words I used as part of the beginning of this message.
One of the reasons why Avada Kedavra is so difficult to cast is that the phrase is Aramaic, a rich and passionate language, full of inflection: the words themselves are rife with the desire for destruction. The caster must meet, match and exceed the spell. The incantation does not bend to the caster's intent; it bends the caster to its own intent, and responds only to the force with which that intent is cast. It is for that reason that I created the Kol Shigaon—the incantation, as well as the spell—in Aramaic. If one can meet the demand of the incantation, the force behind it will be overwhelming.
Latin is used for most spellwork because it is a cold language, formal and rigid and distant. The words themselves were deliberately constructed to specify ideas, not emotions. For that reason, the intent and intensity of emotion of the caster can be superimposed on the literal meaning of the incantation with little effort.
I prefer Aramaic, Anglo-Saxon, the Norse in which the Runes I love were created. The words of those languages ride blood and thunder, hate and honor and passion, like foam rides the power of the wave beneath it. And if there is anything central to the heart of a Gryffindor, it is passion. Courage springs from passion, whether it is the passion of pain or love or hate; just ask Severus Snape. His pain at the loss of Lily Evans, and his supreme courage, endured to the very last second of his life.
A DoM employee's mastery of spell language is not used solely to perform research or carry out missions; there are three types of motto which may be required of them by the Department of Mysteries.
The first type is the DoM emblem, a public motto listed after every employee's name on any research, publication, or patent they produce. It is expected that the emblem reflects the employee's desired public image. These mottoes are available to anyone viewing a DoM document.
The second type is the DoM alias, a motto embedded in the working alias of an Unspeakable. It is expected that the alias reflect the personality of the Unspeakable. Only partners, handlers, and the Head of the DoM are given these mottoes.
The third type is the DoM brand, the one which an Unspeakable bears on his or her skin. It is a magical tattoo, and it's invisible; the Glamour which conceals it is anchored to the Unspeakable's magic, and will fade only after he or she dies. The tattoo then surfaces on the skin, and if necessary is used to help identify the body. It is expected that the brand reflect the fundamental motivation of the Unspeakable. Most Unspeakables' brands, the brands of those who never go missing, are known only to the Head of the DoM.
Most DoM employees choose mottoes which reflect or complement each other, and mine do as well—though not in an easily discernible way. And because you can never speak of this, I can tell you what they are.
As I said, you need to know, in order to fully understand this message.
My love for Anglo-Saxon and Norse, and the power underlying them, is well-known, and so my emblem is Wittich e Visendi. Wit and Wisdom.
Because the passion underlying Aramaic reflects my passion for the mysteries I guard and seek, my alias is 'Macha Shaban'. Thought.
But my brand, that which became my fundamental motivation in the wizarding world, is spelled out in Latin. Cold, distant Latin.
Latin, because I am a witch, despite those who would kill to deny it, and I have made it my life's work to excel in witchcraft. I am a witch who has flung that Latin-incanted magic into the face of those who caused death and grief and pain to innocents, and conquered them with it. I have used Latin words to protect my friends. To defeat my enemies.
Latin, because my brand subverts the words with which I protected the three of us in the Forest of Dean, the words which held us safe from Voldemort and his minions.
Subverts them, because it is not only I who must beware now.
My motivation appears on the charmed silver bracelets which damp my residual tremors from Bellatrix's Cruciati—those bracelets whose pretty, undulating engraving looks to any casual observer like a twining vine. You liked them so much, Ginny.
You always thought the inscription was overlaid Runic, and the inscription on the copies I gave you for your 20th birthday is simple, unactivated Runic. Beorc, ingwaz, gebo, wunjo, fehu, othala: joyful family, celebrations, family responsibility, contentment, sisterly love, secure domesticity, family loyalty...How ironic.
But the pattern of my bracelets is not Runic. It is lettered in Latin, Otwoto, Ogham, and Insular script.
My brand is the power which holds back Bellatrix's lingering malice, woven together with the words which echo it in Aramaic, in Norse, in Anglo-Saxon: Oyev yare anichemah. Uvnir vara hvarfey. Gefah faer wrethes.
When I die, these are the words which will appear around the base of my neck: Caveat inimici mea ira.
Let my enemies beware my wrath.
Someone once said that knowledge of coming suffering, coupled with the inability to avoid it, is the highest refinement of cruelty.
Ginevra, little Ginny, fear me...
The ancient half-Kneazle blinks as his mistress stops speaking. For the last 5 minutes she has not been pacing. She has still been speaking to her imaginary audience, but she has stood rigid and erect, her eyes wide and her face drawn back over her teeth. Her fur crackles and fluffs and sparks more than ever. She should be hissing in warning.
But there is nothing here to warn. Nothing to strike.
The heaviness of the prickling magic, the strange weight in her words, have bound the controlled chaos in the air somehow. Have fixed the malevolent game in place. He does not understand it, and the contradictory emotions his cat side is maintaining simultaneously are now confusion and recognition.
He knows that his mistress is hunting, is playing, but instead of ending the play with a clean kill she has left it. She has used her magic to...store her prey. She is leaving, acting as though the game has ended, but the prey is not free.
He is confused. This is not cat- or Kneazle-thought. Games are played, yes, with prey, in malevolence or carelessness or anger. With allies or siblings or mates, in happiness or high-bloodedness or lethargy. But those things fade, and then the game is over.
Games are not meant to remain in play forever. Games cannot trap one player and release the other. If your prey is not dead, or free, your game is not over.
If the prey is not dead or free, you and it are bound to the game.
And then he understands. This is human-thought, and human games last longer. He has seen her play long, long games with her magic-- has seen her hunt the way a kitten hunts, trapping and freeing, trapping and freeing. Stalking. Practicing.
She must have been practicing for this. This is a long game; he can feel her magic, still riding on her anger. The malevolence has not ended. The game is not over.
She will come back for the prey later. It will have less energy; the game will be less entertaining, the kill less satisfying. If you would be a good hunter, if you would dine well, your prey must be fresh; but his mistress is a good huntress. She knows about fresh prey. She will not let her skill, the magic she uses as teeth and claws, dull.
Yes, there are reasons he chose her as his mistress. He understands some of those reasons better now. Her human tendency to hold her anger is useful, after all. It serves her talents as a huntress.
It sharpens her skills at malevolent play.
He rises and stretches as she opens the door and leaves her bedroom. His joints creak, but it's worth the movement from the bed back to the window. It is still bright outside, and there on the seat is a warm patch of sunlight.
A/N: Please do read the Notes (below); they have acknowledgments, thanks, language and story clarifications, and character explanations, as well as my thoughts on canon compatibility and an explanation on why I wrote this story and my goals in writing this Hermione. If you could take the time to read it, whether or not you choose to comment (though of course I'd love it if you would), I'd really appreciate your thoughts on canon, Hermione, my writing, and any insight you can provide.
I'd very much like to know what you think of this Hermione (and this story, though the two are very nearly synonymous). Of course, as a writer I'd be curious about readers' responses anyway, but this particular piece seems to have become the culmination of certain ideas that have been accumulating during my almost ten years in this fandom.
Hermione evidences some disturbingly amoral and vengeful instincts during all of her years at Hogwarts (and on the run with Harry); it is, I think, why the fandom pairs her with the opportunistic Slytherins, who can better understand such motives, more than three times as often as with anyone else. But those tendencies are very restrained in canon; her opportunistic vengefulness can go only so far...
I've read several stories in which Hermione has developed those instincts more fully, but most have her doing so in the absence or subversion of canon situations during or after the canon timeline: Hermione has extra powers, and/or something significant in canon history or setting has changed. The few I've read in which events take place entirely within canon (and usually within a definite canon timeline) have portrayed a devious Hermione, but these are of necessity 'outtakes', and the scope for her deviousness is severely limited by canon events.
I wanted something different, an epilogue- and canon-compliant Hermione who could be frightening and still have been the person she was at Hogwarts—still fit within the canon world and the limits of its magic. The motivations I postulated for her actions at Hogwarts are possible; certainly Hermione has never displayed a single ounce of regret for, nor any need to justify, her actions. The retributive aspect of her thinking could very well have been enacted in silence, or grown in retrospect.
Finally, I wanted a story in which Hermione's great strengths—her unshakeable loyalty and her intellect—were twisted awry by the War and the terrible trauma she, Harry, and Ron suffered. Her relationship with Harry, though I read (and have written) them in romantic pairings, is most remarkable for Hermione's selflessness. She takes care of Harry; in fact, she's much more of a mother-figure to him than Molly Weasley ever is. And she displays the same ferocious, self-sacrificing protectiveness that Harry's own mother did throughout all of the books.
In the same vein, her enemies, throughout the books, are almost always people attacking Harry, and the physical and psychological trauma Hermione endures at their hands is more than enough to crystallize an absolutism of 'black or white' in regards to people who hurt Harry, even—perhaps especially—after the War is over and the dead are buried. It is the same type of absolutism of which she accuses Harry, in fact—and which she displays when she traps Rita Skeeter in a jar for days in Book 4, and disfigures Marietta and traduces Umbridge in Book 5.
The single exception to this black-or-white mentality when it comes to people who hurt Harry is Ron, and even then he tread close to the line when he left she and Harry in the Forest. It is Ron's betrayal of Hermione with Lavender that Crookshanks is referencing when he talks about the three times he's seen Hermione's fur crackling—Marietta, Umbridge, and Ron—but if Crooks had seen her in the Forest of Dean just after Ron left, he would have had a fourth time to add to his list.
Hermione becoming an Unspeakable and a Legilimens while married to Ron is, I think, plausible. The Epilogue never specifies anything other than the fact that she and Ron are married; we know, because of people like Alice Longbottom and Nymphadora Tonks, that married women do indeed have professions in the wizarding world. Hermione's always had a need to know more than anyone else, and as an Unspeakable and Legilimens she could acquire knowledge which was rare or forbidden at a rate which would satisfy her. I've also never been convinced she wasn't slightly jealous of Harry's Occlumency lessons, as she more patently was of the Half-Blood Prince's potions book.
The spells I developed, specifically the Kol Shigaon—"Kol Shigaon" is Aramaic for "Voice of Madness", and "Vox Demens" is Latin for the same—and variants of Fidelius, are also all possible within canon magic. The Fidelius charm conceals a single secret within a human soul, but canon never specifies that it must conceal a specific type of secret, or that more than one secret about an object or person cannot be protected. Likewise, canon never specifies that one person may Keep only one Secret.
The Kol Shigaon can be looked upon as an evolution and combination of spells like the Summoning Charm, Point Me, and Imperius. Spells which create effects at a distance are common in the wizarding world; the Summoning Charm compels objects at a distance from the summoner, who need only know what he or she is summoning. The distance over which an object may be summoned is never specified; Harry Summoned his broom from an unspecified location in Book 4, but we know it was not allowed with him in the tent or in the arena. The same is true of Point Me—a spell Hermione created specifically for Harry; it gives information about a destination or object which the caster cannot locate.
Hermione created several other spells in canon—including the Cave Inimicum, 'beware the enemy'. Spell creation would be well within the bounds of her interests as an Unspeakable.
Hermione's description of Legilimency is also within the bounds of canon. We know it's very rare; in canon only 3 wizards—Voldemort, Snape, and Dumbledore—are Legilimens, and Occlumency seems to be a lesser discipline taught as part of it. Its origin is never discussed, nor is the source from which Voldemort learned it (I chose to ascribe his skills, obliquely, to the book produced by Hermione's teacher's mentor). It is eminently possible that an Unspeakable, particularly a woman such as Hermione, might have learnt to incorporate aspects of other spells into Legilimency—in this particular case, Memory Charms, which are common enough to be used constantly by the Accidental Magic Reversal squad.
Lastly, the behavior of Ginny Potter is plausible as well. Ginny Weasley was, as Hermione briefly observes, unique in her family, and spoiled rotten for it in a way that Molly Prewett was not. It is plausible that her beauty, popularity and athletic skill, not to mention her status as a war heroine in her own right, would cause her to have regrets about being married so young. Many woman have some sort of crisis as they near thirty, and witches may well be susceptible to this too, since despite their prolonged lifespans they mature sexually and mentally at the same rate as Muggle women.
Such crises in either partner don't always break up marriages. What Ginny did was cruel, yes, but it is also common, and regardless of how Hermione sees it, was in no way evil or maliciously intended. It need not have been a permanent rift; Harry's extreme response to Ginny's departure, and Ron's and Hermione's reactions to Harry's grief, spring from their childhood traumas. And Hermione's decisions, and subsequent actions, spring from the kind of absolutist thinking that would, in the end, make Hermione a very bad Slytherin—and an extraordinarily dangerous witch.
I've read stories in which Hermione turns Dark, through external agency or betrayal or in order to save her loved ones—some excellent, shiver-inducing horror fic has been written on the subject, as well as more subtle drama. But almost all the fic I've read has Hermione turning Dark in the sense of Blood magic, or Dark magic, or Death magic, or the sort of offensive hexes and curses the Trio needed in battle. These things weren't Hermione's forte in canon; she was proficient, but her predilection was always for research, for the underhanded yet non-confrontational solution.
There is more than one way to start down a path to the Dark. Hermione's creation of a spell like the Kol Shigaon—a spell cast at a distance and in private, and one which, unlike all other known curses, can cause enormous damage and a fate that may well be worse than death without causing any pain, coercing either passivity or action, or overtly triggering any trauma—is a uniquely Hermione-esque path to very Dark places indeed.
This has become rather more of an essay than a Note, but I wanted to explain the genesis of this piece as well as the reasoning behind it—neither of which, because of the narrative structure I chose, is immediately evident. I hope you enjoyed the story, and I hope to hear from those of you who have comments on, questions about, contradictions of, or further elaborations on the strength of my writing and the ideas expressed here and in the story.
My best to you-
The magnificent world of Harry Potter, and all its inhabitants, are from the mind of the maestra, JK Rowling.
The DoM emblem, alias, and brand, as well as Hermione's versions of each, are my own. So are the text of her bracelets and her theories on language in spellcasting, specifically Avada Kedavra.
Three quarks and a grin to anyone who picked up on the reason for the punctuation fore and aft.
The idea of damping bracelets is from Laurell K. Hamilton's Nightseer.
The ideas on cats and chaos are from Robin McKinley's luminous Spindle's End.
"Hell hath no fury..." &c. is from Congreve's "The Mourning Bride".
"...the highest refinement of cruelty." is from Barbara Michaels' utterly creepy The Dark on the Other Side.
The idea of the voice which whispers continuously is from the master's—Arthur C. Clarke's—Childhood's End.
The idea of time-release insanity was sparked by Talia's destruction on "Babylon 5".
Thanks go to:
Numerous fandom authors whose noms des plumes I can't recall for the idea of Crookshanks as commentator/observer.
The inimitable FlowersBecomeScreens and her exquisite "Hungry Thirsty Crazy", for the idea of a wizard out of control of his magic immolating himself.
The lovely Bambu and her wonderful "Guard...Check...Mate" for the idea of anchored Glamours that feed off a wizard's own magic.
The brilliant Hayseed and her overpowering "Dark Gods in the Blood" for ideas on Harry's character as a father.
The near-supernatural SGCBearcub and her astounding "Spellcaster" for her ideas on Fidelius charms keyed to intent.