Hermione lay on her back staring up at the ceiling. A crack seemed to sway to and fro, but she knew it was her that was moving, not the ceiling. Her body was shaking in rhythm to the blond man that was pounding away on top of her. The Battle of Hogwarts had been over a year ago; she had come to call the Malfoy Manor home.
Home is where the heart is – her mother used to say. Her real mother. She would never see her real mother again. Her parents hadn't perished in the war, but they now lived in Australia under different names. She too bore a different name, though not in the same sense. Home is where the heart is, and Hermione's heart was apparently at Malfoy Manor.
Her parents had lived when so many had died. Tonks, Fred, Lupin and ... and Harry. Their deaths had truly been pointless.
She could see it again, as clearly as if it had happened yesterday – the final Battle. She was helping to move the bodies of the fallen when she spied Harry coming from the direction of the headmaster's office. He had stopped briefly to speak to Neville.
She had started over to him, but then he was walking away – away from the castle towards the forest. She broke into a run – what was he doing? Was he going to give himself up? She called after him, she had to stop him – but he disappeared under his invisibility cloak before she'd ever gotten close. Why had he done that? What had he seen in the Headmaster's office? Was it something in Severus' memories? She had to find out.
The next time she saw Harry he was dead.
The Death Eaters had dragged him, limp and lifeless, back to the castle and had thrown his body onto the floor of the Great Hall. His broken glasses had been jammed onto his face; his robes were torn, his corpse had been defiled. She kept waiting – waiting for movement, for a sign of life – waiting for Harry to get up.
But she knew that Harry would never move again. Dumbledore was having his final laugh. She knew for sure that they had been hoodwinked, bamboozled, taken for a ride.
How could she not have seen it coming?
Draco grunted. Fitting; the way he was ravishing her like a wild animal. She knew why – he hadn't had her in a while. She had been locked away in the laboratory for weeks trying to uncover the secrets of the elixir. She hadn't yet told anyone that she'd found it. Could she tell him? Could she really trust the secrets of the Elixir of Life to the Overlord? Was she truly loyal to this new regime?
But where else would her loyalties be?
The war was over, they had lost. When Harry died the spirit of the Order seemed to die with him. The house elves were slaughtered and many of the parents and villagers that had joined the fray took to their heels and fled.
Hermione was standing, chained and defeated, next to Neville and Cho and a few others that had managed to be captured alive. Luna was standing nearby humming and swaying – the Death Eaters hadn't bothered to chain her up.
Lucius and Draco Malfoy, decked out in full Death Eater regalia walked amongst the prisoners, inspecting them. The Dark Lord himself stood at the front of the classroom where they were being held.
A golden phoenix perched on the Dark Lord's arm. It looked like Fawkes, but as Hermione hadn't seen that many phoenixes in her lifetime, she couldn't be sure. The bird had a thin golden band on one of his legs; a golden cage sat nearby on a desk. Voldemort was stroking the bird absently.
Draco paused right in front of Hermione, a sneer on his face as he looked straight into her eyes.
"I want this one." He demanded.
"As you wish" Voldemort answered, his attention still on the bird.
Ron struggled in his chains – he was the only one; the last one left with any fight.
"Give up Weasel" Draco said with a hint of mocking. "Why don't you join us, like your brother Percy?"
"I'll NEVER join you." Ron spat.
"Pity" Draco replied.
Voldemort had now turned his back to the group of prisoners and was forcing the bird into the cage. It seemed reluctant to go in.
Hermione's attention was on the Dark Lord and the phoenix. Part of her thought she knew the truth, but part of her was refusing to believe it.
"You're going to go the way of your brother Fred if you aren't careful." Lucius spoke in a low voice. "Fighting and dying for something he didn't understand. Dumbledore had you all fooled. You're too stupid and brainwashed to see your way out of the intricate web of lies he fed you."
"Don't speak about my brother. Fred died a noble death. He died trying to put a stop to you and your evil. He fought for what was good and right and so do I. And I will fight until there's no more breath in my body ..."
"You, poor, poor naive child." Voldemort spoke calmly as he fastened the cage door. He seemed to be addressing the phoenix rather than Ron. "Dumbledore fought for the same thing I fight for – power. Isn't that right Dumby? Right and wrong? That's just a myth told to children to keep them in line – to keep them obedient. You're a little old to still believe in things like tooth fairies and Santa Claus and good and evil."
"You're crazy. Dumbledore was trying to stop you, trying to show you the truth..."
"It's you who doesn't understand the truth!" Voldemort snapped; turning so fiercely that both Hermione and Neville took an involuntary step back. "Dumbledore was trying to overpower me – double cross me like he did Grindelwald – trying to seize power for himself. He got you bunch of gullible twits to run around doing his bidding. The Order of the Phoenix! Ha! You're just a bunch of Death Eaters by another name."
"I am nothing like a Death Eater." Ron retorted.
"Really?" Voldemort took a step towards Ron.
"Tell me boy, have you never attended a secret meeting?" Another step.
"Never taken instructions from a leader? Never followed them like a good little soldier?" Another step and another.
"Never found yourself on the wrong side of the law? Never believed in your orders so strongly that you were willing to die for them? Kill for them?" Three steps closer.
Voldemort now stood so close to Ron that his breath was making a few strands of hair on redhead quiver. "Tell me boy, are your hands clean?"
A sinister smile curled the Dark Lord's lips as he slowly retreated towards the caged bird.
Ron was finally silent.
Voldemort turned back to the bird in the cage and looked it in the eye.
"But I got you Dumbledore, didn't I?" Voldemort hissed to the phoenix, wagging a finger between the cage bars. "I got you good." Voldemort pulled his hand back swiftly as the phoenix snapped suddenly at his finger.
Voldemort was still smiling at the phoenix. "He who laughs last...Dumby" he chuckled "he who laughs last, laughs best."
Hermione cringed internally as she thought about what a fool she'd been. The evidence had always been there, she just refused to ever see it. Who kept a secret library of books on the dark arts? –Dumbledore. Who knew so much about horcruxes? – Dumbledore. Who was it that had sent Harry marching out to his death? – Dumbledore.
Dumbledore. Dumbledore. Dumbledore.
Harry Potter was dead and the world had gone to hell. What did it all matter now?
'The last enemy that shall be destroyed is Death.'
Harry had thought it sounded a bit Death Eater-ish. Harry had been right.
Hermione entered the Headmaster's office, determined to find out what had just made Harry run out of the castle. Severus' memories were still swirling in the pensieve. She dived in. When she emerged her head was spinning, her breath catching in her throat.
It couldn't be true, it couldn't. Dumbledore had been raising Harry like a pig for the slaughter.
And Harry had gone willingly.
Hermione felt her eyes stinging and soon the tears were flowing unabashedly down her face.
There had to be some mistake.
Hermione looked around the Headmaster's office. She didn't know what she was looking for, but there had to be something, anything, some clue that would tell her that this was just all some big mistake.
Then she found it – a cupboard full of phials each containing the silvery substance that Hermione knew to be memories. She grabbed one of the phials and emptied it into the pensieve.
Soon she was walking along a pathway – one she'd walked less than six months ago. A cloaked, hooded figure was walking along the path in front of her towards the house. Hermione followed. She was in Godric's Hollow, and this was the memory of the cloaked figure.
The figure knocked on the door.
Through the large window, Hermione could see James and Lily Potter playing with baby Harry in their living room. Lily held Harry on her lap, one arm wrapped around him, the other clutching her wand. James too had his wand drawn. He approached the door cautiously.
The door swung open and James Potter stood in full view. The figure that Hermione had been following lowered his hood. James breathed a sigh of relief and lowered his wand.
"Good afternoon Professor Dumbledore. Please come in. We are having tea in the living room. Would you like a cup?"
"No, no thank-you James. I'm not much of a tea drinker, though I am willing if you have, to take a large glass of brandy."
James smiled and escorted his old headmaster into the living room. James then went into the kitchen to pour the brandy. Hermione was standing next to Dumbledore in the living room. From where they stood, they could see James rest his wand on the counter as he uncapped the brandy bottle.
Lily was sitting in the living room, her wand now forgotten on the chair as she played with the baby Harry.
"To what do we owe the pleasure of your visit?" James called from the kitchen.
"Just returning a certain cloak that I borrowed." Dumbledore's voice called back.
James also poured himself a glass of brandy and then, glass in either hand, returned to the living room. Dumbledore had pulled the out the invisibility cloak and was now teasing baby Harry with it.
"Where's my hand gone? Oh look! There it is!" Dumbledore chuckled. "Look I have no head!"
Lily and James laughed along with their son Harry as Dumbledore made parts of his body disappear.
Another knock on the door.
"Do you want to see all of Uncle Albus disappear? All right then."
"That'll be Sirius." Dumbledore's voice called from under the invisibility cloak. "There is a certain matter I'd like to discuss with you all; I asked him to meet us here."
James set down the glasses of brandy on the small table as he couldn't see where Dumbledore had gotten to under the cloak. He then went to answer the door ... his wand where he left it on the kitchen counter.
There was a shout from the hallway. James had told Lily to run; to hide. Lily was feeling around the chair for her wand – Hermione was sure that it had been there a minute ago.
"Dumbledore?" Lily whispered frantically.
Where had he got to?
Lily got up out of her chair. Clutching baby Harry in one hand, she worriedly felt around the chair with her other hand. Where had her wand gotten to?
"Dumbledore" she whispered again, a hint of desperation in her voice.
A green flash.
The unmistakeable sound of a body hitting the floor.
Wand forgotten, Lily ran upstairs and Hermione followed. Lily hurried into a room and put Harry in his crib. She seemed to be looking for something to fight with.
Hermione fidgeted. How had she managed to follow Lily Potter upstairs if this was Dumbledore's memory? Unless...
"Dumbledore are you up here?" Lily called a twinge of hope in her voice.
A broken vase? A children's broom? There was nothing she could use as a weapon.
Lily turned as the door creaked open – her arms wide to block the monster from her innocent son's view.
Where was Dumbledore? Why didn't he answer Lily? Why didn't he help the Potters? Why had he chosen that exact moment to disappear under an invisibility cloak?
Lily's eyes widened.
A green flash.
The unmistakable sound of a body hitting the floor.
The monster glided over to where the baby lay in the crib.
A green flash.
A baby cries.
A monster disappears.
Another monster reappears.
Dumbledore had been standing unseen in a corner. He removed the invisibility cloak and surveyed the room. Young Harry was crying uncontrollably in his crib. Lily's body lay lifeless on the floor. A huge hole had been blasted in the roof. There was no sign of Voldemort.
"Well that was unexpected!" Dumbledore chuckled as he tucked the two wands that he was holding into his robe pocket. One was the elder wand; the other wand had once belonged to Lily Potter.
He glided over to the baby Harry and lifted him out of the crib. A cut in the shape of a lightning bolt adorned his forehead. The child seemed otherwise unharmed. "Now, what am I going to do with you?"
Hermione groaned as she thought about how naive she'd been in the past. Draco stopped moving, concern etched on his face.
"You all right? Am I hurting you?"
"I'm fine" Hermione responded, stroking his arm lightly. "Please, don't stop."
He actually was hurting her, but right now she wanted to – no – needed to feel the pain. She needed to feel something. She deserved this. She was glad now that he'd come for her – forced her out of the lab and into his bed.
Draco was pumping her again though not as roughly as before. He leaned his face down to hers. Lips to lips; tongue to tongue.
"I love you Granger."
She turned her face away. She knew that he loved her. He told her everyday. She had never once repeated those three little words to him, though perhaps ... She closed her eyes.
Six months ago Lucius and Narcissa had left the Manor to go live in their new home in the north. They took their slave Ronald Weasley with them. Voldemort had turned his war against the muggles and everywhere muggle cities were crumbling. Lucius Malfoy, now Lord Lucius Malfoy, had been given rule over what was formerly known as Scotland.
She had been standing next to Draco in the hallway by the bottom of the staircase; waiting to bid Lord and Lady Malfoy good-bye. Narcissa had given her a farewell peck on the cheek. "We'll be back for the wedding."
Lucius gave her a hug, pressing a large envelope into her hands as he pulled away.
"Everything is in order" he said.
Hermione turned the large envelope over and over in her hands. She already knew what it contained. She opened it slowly, carefully. There'd be no going back.
There was a wand in the envelope – twelve inches, vinewood, dragon heartstring, 'supple'. It was her wand; the one she'd purchased from Ollivander's at the tender age of eleven.
There were many pieces of pieces of parchment in the envelope, and a sheet of what appeared to be a page from a newspaper.
Hermione removed the newspaper sheet from the package and looked at it. It was the front page of the day's Daily Prophet. There was a picture of a young wizard sitting in front of a computer. The caption read: Wizard Net Fully Functional. There was an official notice on the left from the Department of Security and Defence – something about compulsory wand acquisition. It was the small article at the bottom of the page however, that Hermione paused to read.
"Thank-you." Hermione said to Lucius and Narcissa who had been waiting for her to finish reading it. They smiled at her and then they left. "Thank-you."
Ron spit on her as he stormed past. "You're no family of mine."
"I'm coming; I'm coming"
Draco's body trembled uncontrollably for a moment then he went limp, his weight pressing Hermione deep into the mattress. There were no contraceptive charms on her – she didn't need them, not now.
The blond man rolled off of her, panting and covered in sweat. He was beautiful.
Hermione rested her head against his shoulder and he wrapped an arm around her. She'd heard stories about how much Draco hated to cuddle after sex. Those girls he'd fucked at Hogwarts. She was different. He loved her and perhaps – just perhaps – she was beginning to love him too.
She stared at the crack in the ceiling. It wasn't moving anymore. There had been another crack once ... a different kind of rift.
Hermione had been brought to Malfoy Manor along with Ginny and Ron. Those ignorant few who'd survived the war had been distributed to the Death Eaters as slaves. Most of the house elves had been killed.
They had been chained and crammed into an uncomfortable carriage and taken half-way across the country. Her wand had been taken from her and she was forced to wash, press, scrub, cook and serve. It was so much work to do without a wand.
She shared a very small room with Ginny. Ron was housed elsewhere. She had her own bed and shared a shower. They had good food to eat and clean robes to wear. Horror stories filtered through the grapevine about conditions elsewhere. She was glad then that she'd been taken by the Malfoys.
She was slaving over a large pot full of chicken stock and potato skins; yesterday's dinner would be today's chicken soup. Ron was nearby scrubbing the kitchen floor. His hands were rough and calloused and he had a black eye.
"I've been thinking." Ron started. "What you were saying yesterday – I think you were right." I think that phoenix that You-Know-Who had is a horcrux. I think Dumbledore really did make a horcrux and put it in Fawkes."
"Ron lets not go down this road again." Hermione said wearily.
"Where else would a genius like Dumbledore put a horcrux but into a bird that couldn't die?"
"Please Ron, don't"
"You said it yourself, Hermione. Dumbledore knew that he was going to die right? And all those books he had on horcruxes ... he would have known how to do it. I flipped through one of those books 'Mione. There's no time limit on when you have to make a horcrux once you've killed someone. My father told me that Dumbledore had once killed a Death Eater – in the first war. He could have...."
"I didn't say that it wasn't possible that Fawkes was a horcrux, Ron."
"I bet You-Know-Who put a spell on Fawkes so that the horcrux is somehow trapped and Dumbledore can't take form. Or maybe...no...But if we got our hands on Fawkes, I bet we could ..."
"I cannot believe that you are still holding on to some pipe dream." Hermione snapped.
Ron lay down his scrubbing brush and sat on the floor. "Do you like being here Hermione? You like washing floors and scrubbing clothes and taking orders from that git Draco while he sips his champagne? You like the way Draco leers at you? We could bring Dumbledore back, I know it. The Malfoy library is full of all sorts of books on dark magic. If we could just get that bird away from You-Know-Who, we could start a rebellion ..."
"Haven't you been listening Ron? Haven't you figured it out yet?" Hermione dropped the spoon she'd been stirring with a clank. "Dumbledore was never fighting for us – never fighting to keep Harry alive. He used us Ron, simple as that." Hermione could feel the tears welling up in her eyes. "Don't you see? Dumbledore wanted the same thing that Grindelwald wanted, that Voldemort wanted."
Ron cringed when Hermione called Voldemort's name. "Can't you please just say You-Know-Who?"
"Dumbledore pretended to be a champion of muggle rights. All the while he had Grindelwald out doing his dirty work. Once Grindelwald had found the Elder wand, Dumbledore overpowered him and took the wand from him. He did the same with You-Know-Who. When he found out that Tom Riddle was a descendant of the Gaunts, Dumbledore sweet talked him, manipulated him. Poor orphan Tom Riddle, saw Dumbledore as a father figure and did everything that the old man wanted. Just like Harry did. Dumbledore was only using Tom to get to the Gaunt ring. Don't you see Ron? Even if he came back, he wouldn't be the same Dumbledore that we thought we knew."
"And what was Harry then?"
"Harry was just a stepping stone; something that had to be eliminated before Voldemo...You-Know could be killed. Harry was dispensable."
"I don't believe that."
"Well you should. Dumbledore was always the one calling the shots. He is the one that ordered the hit on James and Lily Potter. You-Know-Who was just following orders, like a good little soldier. Dumbledore wanted the Potters dead so he could lay claim to the third hallow – the cloak."
"That's not true Hermione." Ron got to his feet, picking up the dropped spoon. He wrapped an arm around Hermione's shoulder. "You-Know-Who went after Harry because of the prophecy..."
"Bullshit Ron. Open your eyes. The prophecy was a load of crap – Dumbledore probably invented it himself to give You-Know-Who a reason to go after the Potters. Harry never saw his true prophecy– that broke in the Department of Mysteries. All it might have said was something trite, like he'd have poor eyesight or something."
Ron withdrew his hand from Hermione's shoulders. "If that's true why didn't Dumbledore take over then? He would have had the three hallows. I'm telling you Hermione, Dumbledore's not like that."
"Dumbledore didn't have the ring." Hermione resumed stirring the pot without bothering to wash off the spoon that had fallen on the floor. "Volde...You-Know ...I'm just going to call him Tom. Tom always wore the Gaunt ring. He had it on the night he went to kill the Potters. Dumbledore was waiting for Tom in the bedroom. I saw it Ron. He was going to kill Tom once the Potters were dead. Kill him and take the ring. It would have been perfect. Dumbledore would have had the wand, the cloak and the ring and You-Know-Who would have been blamed for the Potters' deaths. Dumbledore would have had the favour of the people for getting rid of the Dark Lord – hell, they'd beg him to be Minister of Magic – and he would have had the power of all three deathly hallows. By the time the fools of the public realised what Dumbledore was truly about it would have been to late."
"Fools of the public?" Ron repeated Hermione's words slowly as he backed away from her.
"But Harry Potter vanquished You-Know-Who. He disappeared – ring and all. When You-Know-Who came back, he hid the ring and cursed it so that Dumbledore couldn't get it. Now if you don't mind, I need to finish this soup."
"So you're saying you don't want to fight then? You're happy to be a scullery maid for the rest of your life? What are you going to do when the Malfoys want more from you than just cooking and cleaning?"
"Malfoy won't touch me."
"Oh yeah? He touched Ginny. Did she tell you that? I saw Lucius groping her arse yesterday when she was scrubbing his bathroom."
"Is that how you got that black eye?"
"What are you going to do when Draco starts sticking his hand up your skirt? You're just going to lie down and take it? I've seen the way he looks at you."
Hermione turned around, spoon waving dangerously in the air. "You and Ginny don't have to be here. Any day you choose, you can pledge you support to You-Know-Who and pack your bag and leave. Look at Xenophilius Lovegood; look at your own brother, Percy. I don't have that option now do I? Compared to what's out there, I have it damn good here Ron. The Malfoys feed us and clothe us and give us beds to sleep in and time off. Remember Cho? Remember how she looked? Remember what she said about life with MacNair?"
"So what are you saying?"
"What I am saying Ron, is that I'm not going to jeopardise my position here. The war is over – we lost. I can accept that. So if I have to spread my legs for a few minutes every now and again to enjoy the good life, dammit Ronald Weasley I will."
She and Ron stared at each other for a full minute before Ron sank to his knees.
"I don't want to talk anymore." Ron mumbled and resumed his scrubbing. Hermione returned to stirring the soup.
"Ready for round two?" Draco whispered into her hair.
Round two was going to happen whether she was ready for it or not.
Draco was nuzzling her earlobe; nibbling her neck. His rock hard body pressed up against hers. His surprisingly soft hands were on an adventure on her body – touching, teasing.
He was rolling onto her, slowly. She touched him. Trailed her fingers along his back, his torso, his tight arse. Ran her fingers through that platinum hair. Rubbed her leg against his leg.
Lips to lips, tongue to tongue. He was on top of her again. She wrapped her arms around him and spread her legs.
There was a time for fighting and a time for giving in.
Hermione didn't think that giving in and giving up were quite the same thing.
Percy gave in.
Ginny gave up.
"Can I get you something Miss Lovegood?" Hermione had just dumped a whole chicken into a pot of boiling water.
The Malfoys had been bestowed their Lordship earlier that day and were having a small celebratory dinner. For Hermione, Ginny and Ron it meant service for twelve instead of the usual three.
"I came to see if you needed any help." Luna said dreamily.
"I don't think you should be in the kitchens Miss Lovegood. I don't think that's proper."
"No, No" Ron interjected. "We could use all the help we can get. Besides, you have your wand right?"
"No." Luna was staring into the trash can. "The Commission doesn't let me carry one."
"What commission?" Ginny raised her head from the oven door. She had been trying to determine if the first shepherd's pie was ready.
"The Commission on Wand Integrity or something like that. You really shouldn't throw away the potato skins you know." Luna was fishing the skins out of the garbage pail and was creating a pile of them on the kitchen counter.
Hermione was about to say something to Luna about hygiene, when the door swung open and a Death Eater pushed a frightened, dark-haired girl into the kitchen.
"Stay in there" he barked. "I'll be back for you later."
MacNair was turning to leave when he spotted Luna. His voice mellowed dramatically. "Miss Luna, I do believe that your father has been looking for you. Why don't you come with me back up to the drawing room?"
"O.K. I just thought I'd look for some plimpies while I was here."
"I don't think they have the kind of plimpies you want." MacNair said patronisingly.
Luna waved goodbye as if they were all just parting for summer holidays. She followed MacNair out the door. Hermione was relieved to see her go.
The dark haired girl had stood with her face in her hands sobbing softly. She was obviously MacNair's slave, though she looked more house elf than human. She was thin; painfully thin. So thin in fact, it made her head seem excessively large. Her hair was matted into clumps and she wore a brown burlap sack – the large ones that potatoes come in – as a short dress. There had been holes roughly cut in it for her head and arms to fit through. Her skin was raw and tender where the rough material continuously rubbed against it. The bruises on her inner thigh led Hermione to believe that she had been used like a blow-up doll.
There were scars and bruises all over her body. Her left leg wasn't straight. It had clearly been broken and never fixed properly. She only had nine fingers.
"Hey there, you o.k.?" Ginny touched the girl lightly on the arm. "We have plenty to eat and drink here. I have an extra robe; do you want to have it? Would you like to sit? Ron, get the stool."
The girl sniffed twice and stopped sobbing, but kept her face buried in her hands.
Ginny, Ron and Hermione looked from one to the other, not quite knowing what to do.
"My name is Ginevra Weasley; this is my brother Ro..."
"I know who you are." The girl said brusquely.
She lifted her face from her hands. There was an angry red bruise on the cheek and she had two black eyes, one was swollen shut. She was almost unrecognisable.
"Merlin! Cho! What happened to you?"
"I was going to say the same thing that happened to you" Cho's eye was moving rapidly around the room "but obviously not."
Cho had the expression of a child at Disney World for the first time and Hermione wondered how bad things were at the MacNair residence.
Ron brought the stool out of the corner and Cho sat on it. "I can't believe they let you in the kitchen – and they let you eat the food too?"
"They make us eat it," Ron said with a little smile, "to ensure it's not poisoned."
Hermione could tell that Ron and Ginny were as anxious as she was to ask Cho if she'd heard from anyone else; heard something about their family. They were all a bit apprehensive about deluging her with too many question. She looked so frail.
Cho, however, began talking away about life with MacNair and how badly she was treated. MacNair, it seemed, like to entertain – Cho usually being the entertainment. But it had allowed Cho to gather bits and pieces of information which she readily shared.
Pureblood students – now defined as four or more generations of pureblood – would be allowed to return to Hogwarts and would automatically be put into Slytherin house. Half-bloods who had two wizarding parents would be allowed into Ravenclaw and those who had one muggle parent would be allowed into Gryfindor if they were willing to disown their muggle parent. There would be no more Hufflepuff House.
She told Ron and Hermione and Ginny about the new Wand Distribution and Registration Department in the Ministry of Magic. Wands were no longer sold in stores, but had to be purchased directly from the Ministry of Magic. In order to purchase a registered wand, one had to now obtain a Certificate of Competence from the Department of Security and Defence which required an interview with the Commission for Wand Integrity. It sounded complicated, but it was easy enough if you were pureblood – or if you knew the right people. It was illegal to use an unregistered wand or to use a wand registered to another person.
The three (they insisted that Cho remain seated) worked in the kitchen as Cho recounted everything that she'd learned at the MacNairs. Ron and Ginny left intermittently to serve the guests. Hermione and Cho remained in the kitchen for the entire night. The Malfoys did not mind Hermione serving them, but they would never let her serve their guests. It was not so much that muggle-borns were considered filthy, but that they were considered muggle; and muggle slaves were a dime a dozen those days. Pureblood slaves, however, were a symbol of status.
There wasn't much to do in the kitchen after Ron and Ginny started serving. The three had been very efficient and had all four courses for all twelve guests plated and ready to go before the party had started in earnest. They had even done extra – in case someone showed up unannounced.
While Ron and Ginny were out serving, Hermione pulled up a stool next to Cho. She cut herself and Cho a generous helping of shepherd's pie and poured them both large glasses of pumpkin juice.
Cho didn't eat very much, her stomach no longer able to hold large quantities of food.
"I didn't want to say anything when Ginny and Ron were here, but I have heard a bit about the Weasleys."
Hermione's ears perked up.
"Percy is working in the Ministry of Magic; he pledged allegiance to You-Know-Who. Mrs. Weasley was tortured and killed by the Dark Lord. I heard it was retribution for killing his Bella. Mr. Weasley died too. Apparently he was killed at the Battle of Hogwarts; we'd already been captured, but he had kept on fighting.
Bill and Fleur Weasley were given to Fenrir Greyback as a boon for his good service during the war. Greyback and MacNair like to watch me and Fleur...well...you know. Greyback was always so rough...well...anyway....Fleur tried to escape one night last month and Greyback ripped her throat out.
I heard that he recently purchased Charlie Weasley to replace Bill, because he likes having a pureblood slave. He's one of the few non-purebloods allowed to have one."
Hermione gulped. She knew she'd be crying all night. How could she tell Ron and Ginny? And Fleur...she had been pregnant... "What happened to Fleur's child?"
"Fleur had Bill's baby – a little girl, Victoire. She was born shortly after they went to live with Greyback. He's raising the girl as his own, her and Teddy Tonks."
"I thought Andromeda was raising Teddy?"
"Andromeda Tonks has started using her maiden name again – Andromeda Black. She looks so much like Bellatrix these days; she's started hanging around with You-Know-Who. Personally, I think he has her under an Imperius curse. She gave her grandson to Fenrir."
There was a short pause before Cho started speaking again. "Ernie MacMillan pledged the Death Eaters. The Bulstrodes got on the wrong side of the Dark Lord – I don't know how. Millicent and her mother were sold as slaves. Her father was killed.
That's all I know. You heard anything else?"
Hermione shook her head. She hadn't heard anything new.
Ron returned to the kitchen with an armful of empty glasses. Cho changed the subject.
"Did you give any more thought to the horcrux thing you'd talked about the night of the war, when we were chained up in that carriage?" Cho asked in a whisper.
Both Ron and Hermione shook their heads, but gathered near to Cho. It seemed she had more to tell.
"I think Dumbledore faked his death – in a manner of speaking. I agree with what you said" Cho looked at Hermione "about Dumbledore being the true mastermind. I think that You-Know-Who probably resurrected him and he's out there giving orders from behind the scenes. I haven't seen the Dark Lord with the phoenix recently, have you?"
Hermione hadn't seen him recently at all. "No I have not. But what if he had no intentions of bringing Dumbledore back? What if You-Know-Who double crossed Dumbledore?"
"Or" Ron added as he picked up a tray of hors-d'oeuvres "there is no horcrux. Dumbledore didn't do dark magic."
"Are you daft Ron?" Cho started "did you not read The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore?"
Hermione quelled Cho, "Let him go, Cho. Let him go."
The party wound up early –many Death Eaters were not pleased that the Malfoys retained such high favour with the Dark Lord. Cho and Luna left. Hermione wasn't sure how to break the news to Ron and Ginny about their family, but Lucius spared her the trouble.
Ron seemed to take the news in stride, but Ginny had been devastated. She cried constantly, ate very little and hardly ever got out of bed after that. She was such a pitiful sight that even Narcissa seemed to commiserate with her; allowing Ginny to water the flowers in the garden instead of doing any real work. Ron and Hermione had to take up the slack in the housework. Neither minded, as Ginny seemed to find some comfort among the rose bushes.
One morning, Hermione woke to find Ginny hanging from the ceiling by her robes. Hermione didn't even know what to feel. She held onto her friend's body until the skin went cold and the limbs went stiff. Lucius came to their room in a rage, wondering where his breakfast was. It happened before Hermione knew what she was doing. A bolt of purple light seemed to materialise out of thin air and struck Lucius right in his chest.
It wasn't the first time she had unwittingly hexed the elder Malfoy, but she didn't care if this time was the last. She felt numb.
She didn't care when Lucius pressed his wand under her chin after he recovered. She didn't care when he grabbed a fistful of her hair and half-dragged her along behind him. "I don't know what Draco sees in you." he muttered as he pulled her along "but I'm taking you to see the Overlord right now."
Ginny was buried in the back garden the next day.
Round two was very different to round one. Draco wasn't pounding her, wasn't merely fucking her. He was making love to her. Slow and sensual.
He was on top of her; his chest pressing against her breasts; his head nestled next to hers. His strong arms holding her tight to him.
She wrapped her legs around him, pulling him deeper into her. She wrapped her arms around him, pulling him closer to her. Her eyes fluttered; her toes curled.
A small moan escaped her lips.
She trembled beneath him. He trembled on top of her. Round two was over.
She felt strangely content lying there in his arms. Contentment, when she should be feeling guilt.
"Granger" he whispered in her ear.
Hermione couldn't help but smile.
He'd called her Granger again. He so rarely did that.
She knew how much he hated to call her Granger. He knew how much she liked to be called by that name. It had been hers for eighteen years after all. It was her one last connection to the world she'd once lived in – to a life that once was.
She would never see her best friends again. Harry was dead. Ginny was dead. Ron despised her. Her parents didn't remember her. And legally, she was no longer Hermione Granger. Dammit. Granger was her name....her name.
Hermione Weasley: Pureblood
By Rita Skeeter
Late yesterday, the Muggle-Born Registration Committee officially concluded its investigation into the heritage of Hermione Granger. Dolores Umbridge,head of the committee and SeniorUndersecretary to the Minister of Magic, confirmed that Hermione is in fact of pureblood parentage. "There is unequivocal proof that Hermione is the daughter of the late Bilius Weasley and the late Amanda MacMillan-Weasley. Hermione was born in a muggle hospital during the first war and was subsequently adopted by a muggle family." Hermione has been reregistered as Hermione Jean Weasley; her records were updated to reflect her new status. "It was obvious that she came from decent stock" Lord Lucius Malfoy said, when asked why he'd brought the girl to the committee to be reviewed. Miss Weasley currently resides at the Malfoy Manor in Wiltshire and is rumoured to be dating Wizarding England's favourite son and heir to the Malfoy fortune, Draco Malfoy.
Hermione folded the newspaper page and rested it on the small corner table. She turned her attention back to the large envelope that was in her hands. From it she withdrew three more pieces of paper.
The first sheet was an original-looking birth certificate from St. Thomas' Hospital. It named Bilius and Amanda Weasley as the parents of baby girl Hermione Jean, born 19th September.
The second sheet of paper had been artificially aged like the first sheet she had handled. This one was an adoption certificate supposedly from eighteen years ago. It indicated that one Hermione Jean Weasley had been adopted by Mr. William Granger and his wife Mrs. Melissa Granger; both muggles.
The third sheet was actually a piece of parchment, rather than paper. It bore the official seal of the Ministry of Magic and was signed and dated by both Dolores Umbridge and Pius Thicknese – Minister of Magic. It was a Certificate of Competence for Hermione Jean Weasley. She had been deemed suitable to carry a wand.
Twelve inches, vinewood, dragon heartstring, supple – Hermione removed the last item from the package.
Purebloodism. What a load of bullshit.
"I'll put them away safely." Draco gently pried the three papers out of Hermione's hand and went off to put then in the safe. Hermione scarcely noticed Draco leave, her attention was elsewhere. She was staring at the scruffy-looking redhead boy that had just come lumbering down the stairs. He was holding a large, overstuffed suitcase in one hand and a copy of the Daily Prophet in the other.
He glared at her when he noticed her standing at the bottom of the stairs. His expression hardened. "So, who'd you spread your legs for? Draco or the old man?"
Hermione shook her head slowly from side to side. She wanted to cry, to scream, to punch him in the nose. Why couldn't he understand?
"I'll look out for you, cousin." She whispered.
Ron spat in her face.
"You sure you're all right Hermione?" You seem awfully distant.
Draco traced small circles on her bare stomach. She watched the gold rings on his fingers go round and round. The wedding band was nice and simple. Hermione had picked it out herself. The heirloom ring that wasn't much to her taste.
"I shouldn't have pulled you away from your work then?"
"No it's fine. I'm glad you did actually. I'd been locked up in there for so long – this break is exactly what I needed. I just have a lot of thoughts spinning around in my head right now, that's all. Sorry that I'm so distracted."
"Remind me to teach you how to relax some time. It's easy."
"Easy like that stupid code you tried to teach me?" Hermione giggled. "The only thing I remember is crumple-horned snorkack."
She had gone with Draco into the back garden to wish Ginny a happy birthday. They were walking between the rose bushes when she joked that she'd seen a crumple-horned snorkack.
"A crumpled horned snorkack! Where?"
She wasn't sure if Draco was joking around with her – he looked so nervous.
"Please don't tell me you believe in crumple horned snorkacks!"
Draco stared at her for a moment. "For the smartest witch of our age you really are remarkably obtuse."
"I am not!"
"But yet, you never managed to figure out that The Quibbler was code."
"Xen isn't a recent addition to the Death Eater movement – he'd just never been caught. Smart as a tack, that Xenophilius Lovegood. Killed his wife and didn't so much as go to trial."
"But Luna said her mother died in an....oh Merlin!"
Draco chuckled. "See what I mean."
Hermione punched Draco playfully on the arm. "Did she see it? Did she witness her father murder her mother? But Xen ... he always wrote such positive things about Harry when we were on the run."
"His wife had cracked the code of The Quibbler. She was going to go to Dumbledore; Xen had to stop her. Made it look like an accident. Luna saw, but Xen didn't have the heart to kill his own daughter. He tried to obliviate her, but she was young and traumatised – it scrambled her brains a bit.
The Quibbler kept Death Eaters up to date on what was going on in the world – if you knew the code. Because most of the Order trusted Xen, they fed him information on your whereabouts and what you were up to. He published it all in code in the Quibbler, so that the we could keep track of you all. When he stopped getting information, he just started printing Undesirable Number One."
"But Luna – she was locked up in your basement. She'd been taken off the train –"
"She was fishing for plimpies – that's information by the way. I figured that Ollivander would trust her if he thought that she too was a captive. That's how I got so much information about the Elder wand and how it worked. She had to be taken off the train – make it look like a real kidnapping so Xen's cover wouldn't be blown. She'd told me about your D.A. meetings when we were in fifth year, did you know that?"
"I didn't know that."
"Yeh. That's how I learned to use enchanted coins. I pretended I didn't know; led Umbridge on a lot of wild goose chases."
"Why did you do that?"
"Isn't it obvious, Miss Weasley?"
There was a long, somewhat uncomfortable pause.
"A horn is a tradable material by the way. Broken means its Class A, crumpled means Class B and distended is Class C."
"What's a snorkack?"
"So a crumple-horned snorkack is a Class B Tradable explosive?"
"Like a Erumpent horn." Hermione mumbled.
Draco had been stroking her stomach for a while with his long, pale fingers. Now his hand lay limp upon her. She could tell by his regular breathing that he'd gone to sleep.
She stared at her husband. He was so beautiful. So sexy. His skin was pale and smooth like white chocolate; his muscles so toned they could have been chiselled. And with the way the moonlight reflected off of his white-blond hair he looked almost angelic.
She snuggled close to his warm body. She had made the right decision.
"I've had enough of this one." Lucius pushed Hermione roughly into the room. "I think it's time we either trained her or got rid of her. She just hexed me again – a killer of a revulsion jinx if I dare say so myself."
Hermione had never been in the upper sitting room before. It was lavishly furnished and three men were sitting in cushy armchairs, slightly facing each other.
"You should see her with a wand." A familiar voice chuckled.
Hermione's heart skipped a beat. He was sitting there, just sitting there looking right at her – fully formed, fully alive and kicking – Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore.
Lord Voldemort was slowly, gently, stroking the head of the golden phoenix with his long, slender fingers. Silently making faces at the bird while Lucius and Dumbledore had a heated debate concerning Hermione. Lord Voldemort may very well not have been in the room.
Hermione cautiously watched the exchange, a bit unsure about what was happening. At first she thought that her theory had been right; but then...then...there was another ... unexpected ...
Her eyes drifted over to the phoenix perched on the arm of the chair. There was a thin gold band around the bird's leg. A golden cage sat on a small table next to the chair and a gold chain connected the two. The bird seemed agitated and for some reason, Hermione got the feeling that it did not want to be there. Why would Dumbledore want to be chained?
The Dark Lord, Voldemort, continued to play with Fawkes while, the true Overlord was stroking something else. The Deathstick.
He'd given himself away.
Hermione saw the sly smile creep over his face as he followed Hermione's gaze to his lap where he was slowly, tantalisingly stroking a pale finger along the length of the wood.
"Like it?" he asked casually.
Lucius and Dumbledore had stopped arguing and simply stared at Hermione.
Hermione stared at him in wonder.
"Why don't we play a game? How about... Simon Says?" he continued in his mocking tone.
His fingers curled around the wand and immediately Voldemort stood and carefully placed Fawkes into the golden cage.
"Simon says jump."
A flick of the wand and Voldemort was jumping up and down like a bunny rabbit. The Overlord laughed heartily.
"Simon says stick your tongue out."
Another swish of the wand and again Voldemort obeyed. He was laughing even harder.
"Simon says flap your arms like a bird"
Hermione watched in a sort of horrified amusement as the snake-like man, who was jumping up and down with his forked tongue hanging out of his mouth began to flap his arms like a bird; The Overlord roared with laughter.
"I think she gets the point." Lucius' serious tone cut through the merriment.
"Yes, quite." The Overlord was trying to regain his composure. "As you were" he ordered and Voldemort returned to his seat.
So it was true...Lord Voldemort had no control at all. It was ingenious. She had to give credit to him. Who'd suspect that he was the real Overlord?
"Come forward Miss Granger."
Hermione stumbled forward.
"Kneel before me. Pledge your allegiance to me."
"And if I don't?"
Hermione already knew the answer to that question. Her eyes hadn't strayed from the object he was twirling between his fingers. He'd revealed himself to her. She knew she only had two options now.
"Pledge your allegiance to me Granger and I can make you rich beyond your wildest dreams. You can have more power than you ever thought possible. You can rule over towns, cities, provinces. You can have servants to do your every bidding. You can command the respect that you've always deserved. Pledge yourself to my side, Granger, and you will bow before no one but me."
So many thoughts were swirling in her head.
Could she grovel on her knees for her life while poor, sweet Ginny lay dead by her own hand? Was she, Hermione Granger, that sort of person?
Was she Hermione Granger the sort of person who could attend secret meetings? Who could take instructions from a leader? Who could follow orders like a good little soldier, even if it meant to die; even if it meant to kill?
Hadn't she been ready to die once? Hadn't she killed for a cause once? Hadn't she felt justified in taking the life of a Death Eater? Hadn't she thought Harry a fool, because he had refused to do it?
Ginny had been to young to fight, too young to kill. And where was Ginny now? Dead. Where were all those who'd rallied behind a Dumbledore that they knew not? Dead. All those brave souls who fought for a non-existent cause. Dead. All tossing and turning in their shallow graves.
Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead.
And she had seen death. Yes. She still had the stench of death on her hands and there was nothing glorious or glamorous about it.
She was prostrate on the ground before she even remembered willing one knee to bend. "I pledge my allegiance to you My Lord."
"Good girl." The Overlord chuckled and then addressed Lucius. "How soon can you have the paperwork done?"
Lucius wore a broad smile "I can have everything done before Cissy and I leave for Scotland tomorrow."
Lucius turned and walked out of the room, closing the door behind him.
"Dismissed." The other two made their obeisance before quickly leaving the room.
Hermione had questions. So many questions. But even as the questions flitted through her head, she was putting the puzzle together. The phoenix...the wand...Voldemort...Dumbledore. In all her years, she would have never thought him capable of such a feat.
"You understand?" he seemed to read her mind as he extended his hand in her direction – the gold, Gaunt ring displayed prominently on his forefinger.
Hermione crawled towards him, not even bothering to fain any sort of dignity, and kissed the ring.
He then tucked the Elder wand into his inside robe pocket, rolled his robes up to his waist and unzipped his pants revealing another type of wand. He stroked it as tenderly as he had the first. He looked down at her, kneeling between his legs; then, twining his fingers into her hair, he pulled her mouth onto him. "I am the only one you will kneel to."
After that day, Hermione found herself on her knees quite a lot.
There was a chill in the air and Hermione wished she had a blanket. She feared that getting under the covers would disturb the sleeping beauty next to her. She did not want to do that.
She could conjure a blanket, but she would have to get out of bed to get a wand. Draco's wand was on the nightstand, but she dared not touch it.
She finally settled on being cold. Her fidgeting, however, had been enough to wake the blond man.
"Sorry, didn't mean to wake you."
"It's o.k. What's wrong?"
"I was just a bit cold. I didn't want to wake you by trying to get under the covers."
"Why didn't you just conjure a blanket?"
"My wand is in my robes; my robes are on the chair in the corner."
"My wand is right there on the nightstand. Why didn't you use that?"
"I can't use you wand!"
"Because...well because...because it's yours."
Draco reached over to the nightstand for his wand, then making himself comfortable on the bed once again, he pressed the wand into Hermione's hand.
"This is illegal you know" Hermione giggled. "Accio blanket."
"Illegal doesn't apply to you and me, now does it? We're above the law." Draco whispered.
A thick green blanket made its way out of the closet and towards the bed. Another flick of the wand and both she and Draco were as snug as bugs.
Hermione returned the wand to the nightstand and lay on her husband's chest. He had drifted off again, but she was still thinking.
Above the law. Yes, she, Mrs. Hermione Malfoy nee Weasley was above the law.
Hermione exhaled. She was tired. She'd had a long day. Her eyes fluttered. Could she love him? He'd let her use his wand.
Hermione opened her eyes. She didn't remember falling asleep but she must have as the sun was already beginning to peek above the horizon. She disentangled herself from the angel sleeping next to her and got out of bed.
On the chair she found her robe. Underneath it was the invisibility cloak – Draco had used it the day before to sneak into the lab where she was working. If he had knocked on the door, she would have told him that she was too busy.
Hermione stroked the cloak tenderly. It had once belonged to Harry Potter. She remembered fondly all those times at school when she and Harry and Ron had snuck around under its protection. It seemed like such a distant memory. Harry would never return. She would never be that girl she once was. She would make new memories with that cloak. In time, she would make new memories.
Hermione slipped out of the room and onto the balcony. She looked out onto the fields and hills, lakes and servant huts that were all hers. She no longer felt pity for the poor or the wandless, for the beggars or the slaves. She was above pity. She was above the law.
"Good morning Hermione. I was just looking for you."
Hermione looked over her shoulder. The Overlord had just stepped through the door that led onto the balcony. He was tucking one of his wands inside his robe. The golden phoenix looked defeated, but nevertheless was content to sit on his arm. It was no longer chained.
"I'm letting Fawkes out for a little fly."
He thrust the phoenix into the air. The bird spread its wings and soared high into the sky.
The Overlord stood behind Hermione and put his arms around her waist, rubbing her stomach tenderly with his long, slender fingers. Hermione relaxed into his embrace.
Dumbledore had a master plan; probably had it sketched out before the day he turned seventeen. Then he planned and waited; manipulated and murdered and lied. And oh, how Dumbledore had lied – right down to the philosopher stone that he claimed to have destroyed.
And now he had gotten what he wanted – immortality. He would live in Fawkes forever. Hermione chuckled.
In all the years Dumbledore made but one mistake, and that seemingly minor misjudgement had proved to be his undoing
"What are you laughing at?" The Overlord asked Hermione.
"I'm laughing because I'm happy, my Lord. I finished the potion. I've made the Elixir of Life."
That night on the Lightning Struck Tower
"I knew you would." The Overlord pulled her into a tight embrace. "I love you so much."
True Master of the Elder wand
"I love you too."
There was a moment of silence. The Overlord lowered his lips to Hermione's ear and whispered "Did you just say you loved me, Granger?"
In the distance she could make out Fawkes almost blending into the pinks and reds and oranges and gold of the sunrise that marked the new day.
"Yes. I love you, I love you, I love you."
Who would have guessed?
No one could resurrect Dumbledore from the horcrux, because he had already been restored. If anyone suspected that Voldemort was taking orders from elsewhere, they'd find Dumbledore. Who'd suspect that both Dumbledore and Voldemort had a single master?
Who'd have guessed he had learned all the secrets of wand lore from Ollivander through Luna? Who'd have guessed that he'd snuck into the tomb and pried his wand from Dumbledore's cold, dead fingers, replacing it with a fake, long before Voldemort even knew where to look?
He possessed the Deathly Hallows; she possessed his heart.
He who laughs last laughs best.
Hermione looked into the Overlord's eyes.
"Oh, by the way Draco...please don't call me Granger anymore."