A/N: Love to my beta, Countess Black
For those who have never read my work, it's deconstructionist in nature, meaning I take cliched ideas and try to apply them in a way that reflects real life ramifications of those circumstances (whether I succeede depends on your point of view). It tends to be pretty adult stuff, and a lot of the content is offensive and disturbing. So be warned:
Much of what follows is potentially upsetting, and no advocacy is implied. Anything extreme will be marked in the A/N, but this is an adult work for an adult audience. Also, some chapters will contain parental type CP (ie spanking of a minor).
For those of you who read my other stuff, the veela thing is still alive and well. I just wanted a change of pace. Title is a reference to George Eliot.
The prisoner shrieked, stomach heaving. She rose on bony, dirt caked knees, then dropped forward onto her elbows, still screaming. She pushed, bearing down with all her weight, and a gush of red as dark as velvet poured out.
Kingsley Shacklebolt suppressed his gag reflex as the woman was racked with another contraction. The stench in the cell was a rank mixture of sweat and blood, even in the preternatural chill of Azkaban. Outside the human guards were stirring, holding off Dementors maddened by pain they couldn't touch.
She bore down a third time and a head appeared between her straining thighs. Shacklebolt reached down and guided it, slick and hot, and turned the shoulders as lightly as he could. The baby glided out, tiny, skin a sickly bluish grey, followed by a mass of tissue with thumped to the floor with meaty plop; the afterbirth.
The woman flopped down into her own fluids, laughing weakly. 'A boy?'
'No, a girl.'
'Oh. Oh, good.'
Shacklebolt rose, wrapping the child in a bit of old toweling provided for him by the warden, who was standing at the door. He turned. The woman clutched feebly at his hem with her claw like hands. 'Let me hold her.'
He hesitated a moment, and then, training his wand on her with his free hand, he gave the baby over. 'Only a second.'
The woman regarded the baby with mild wonder and then handed her back. 'Take her to hospital.'
Shacklebolt nodded silent and stepped into the corridor. The air smelt no better, and the broad, stupid face of the warden came into his view. 'Is it alive?'
'For the moment. I'll need to take her by broom.'
'She's so tiny. Hard to believe who the parents are, isn't it?'
Shacklebolt nodded curtly. 'Quite.' As he left, he heard the woman start to scream as the Dementors moved in.
Hours later, ensconced in Albus Dumbledore's office, the whole thing had taken on the sepia tone of nightmare. He could still smell Azkaban on himself, a taint as much mental as actual. The others were studying him with varying degrees of curiosity; none of them had ever seen a monster give birth before.
'You're sure this is the only way?'
Dumbledore shook his head. 'No, not the only, but the best. Lucius will make her a symbol. And giving her to a wizarding couple is to make them the targets of reprisals from her parents' victims.'
'But surely there's something?'
'This will also permit us to monitor the child for any signs of incipient violence without the interference of well meaning guardians.'
'The muggles will watch her.' Shacklebolt wasn't sure how he felt about all this, even as he understood the logic.
'Of course, but she'll be neither encouraged or persecuted because of her parentage.'
'And you're sure Lucius and Narcissa-'
'Yes. Once the baby is out of stasis, she'll go to the couple the healer found.'
'Lucky her squib cousin's got those friends.' Alastor Moody looked solemn, almost sad. He shook his head and took a sip from his flask before he held it in mute offering to the others.
'Yes. I do wonder, though, whether the growth potion will have any effect in such large quantities.'
'Nothing for it, Albus.' Moody had no such qualms as Shacklebolt about the whole idea.
Dumbledore nodded. 'Quite. Did it never occur to the Ministry, Kingsley, to test the mother beforehand?'
'In fairness, who might have thought...all that Dark magic. And both of them, yet.'
'True. Well, the die is cast. It will be most interesting to see how all this turns out.'
A month later, Emmeline Vance, dressed in clothes borrowed from her muggle mother, knocked up a door in a quiet neighbourhood in a small city in Northumberland. A woman with a small, fine boned face answered. Her husband was big and bluff, and looked as though he'd give excellent hugs. Emmeline had a good feeling about them.
'Mr. and Mrs. Granger?' She walked in, holding the baby girl tight. She was bright eyed, full of beans. The woman's face lit up. 'She's beautiful, isn't she?'
'She is.' Emmeline handed over the careful file of papers, lovingly forged to the effect that the baby in her arms was these muggles'. It also listed her birth year as 1979.
Nothing in her appearance belied it, either. The potions had done their job, and a few careful glamours. 'Ironic, isn't it' said Moody as they'd bundled the little girl into the enchanted car for her journey 'she'll go to school with the little Longbottom lad?'
'And Harry Potter.'
'Yes, but she'll surely be a Ravenclaw, since she won't be eligible for Slytherin,' She would always be petite, the nameless little girl, but she'd catch up with her peers, hopefully, and who knew? Perhaps the potions had effected her mind as well.
'And her name?'
'Hermione. Hermione Jane.'
'How lovely. There we are. And if you'd both look at me.' She drew and Obliviated them without another word.
Moody Apparated in. 'Is it done?'
'We'll get them in the car and be in Darlington for supper.'
The new house was on the outskirts of the city. A nice place for a child to live. A good place for a girl to grow. They bundled the muggles inside and helped implant the new memories.
It was all for the best. These muggles, both orphans, would believe the girl was theirs. The Order had done well by them; they had new jobs, plenty of cash, a beautiful little house, and a daughter. Their covers were tight and no one would look closely.
Emmeline stroked the child's cheek. 'Goodbye, Hermione Granger.'
They woke the muggles and then slipped away.
In Azkaban prison, the baby's mother forgot she'd even given birth. Her husband never knew.
Life went on for ten years, until a man called Quirinus Quirrel went on holiday...
How much of life is luck? All our planning, all our careful mechinations, and how much, in the end, comes down to simple chance? The Dark Lord suspected the answer might favour fortuna to a rather uncomfortable degree.
For example, had Quirrel's failing body not held out as long as it had. The strain of having another spirit locked into his was beginning to tell.
He'd almost been caught more than once, if nothing else than by the smell the man's organs made as they first failed and then necrotised. At the end, he'd been nearly a meat puppet, driven by the Dark Lord and his own fierce will.
Had the boy's little friends been there to help, to prevent his hands, slick with sweat, from slipping off the Stone, like the seeds of a pomegranate sliding wetly away.
Voldemort slipped from the castle, fighting the urge to explore the fresh miracle of tactile sensation, and crossed the wet grass, bare feet squeaking a bit. The sodden hem of his pyjama trousers drug. All the boy's clothes were like this, falling off him.
He hefted the wand as he stepped into the clearing. 'Malfoy?'
A shadow detached itself from the others and bowed. 'My Lord?'
'Lucius, how well you look.' He'd amused himself by neglecting to mention his new form. Malfoy's eyes bugged out with shock, utterly still in something like horror. 'M-my Lord?'
'What does your Mark tell you?'
The man stripped his sleeve and held up his wand in a weak lumos, then dropped to his knees, face waxen. 'My Lord, I am honoured, honoured that you called me first amongst your-'
The Dark Lord held up a hand. 'Enough. Where are the others? Have you assembled them?'
More shadows broke and drifted toward them, revealing themselves. 'Excellent, excellent. I am sure, friends, you've many questions. All shall be answered in time. But where are the Lestranges? I see so many familiar faces, but not Bellatrix or Rudolphus.'
The robed figures turned to Lucius, who was the nominal spokesman with the Lestrages gone. 'My Lord, your servant humbly craves to tell you that, regrettably, ah, the Lestranges are in prison.'
'In my service?'
'Yes, my Lord. Attempting to find yourself.'
' I see. I can't imagine why the rest of you did not join them, but as it is, perhaps it is better for now. It will make it easier when we pursue the obvious course.'
'Take me to Snape, and then you shall go and get them.'
Severus Snape was in his rooms, reading a Potions article. He heard a knock at the door and rose, scowling, to verbally eviscerate the idiot who'd disrupted him. To his surprise, it was Lucius Malfoy. 'Malfoy, if we need to discuss Draco, let us do it at a civilised hour.'
'Hello, Severus.' Snape took a step back. It was Potter and it was not. There was something indefinably familiar and yet alien, a quality that made him sure it wasn't Potter but something wearing his skin.
'No words for your master, Severus?'
'In the flesh. So to speak. Do move inside, would you? I wouldn't want to attract attention.'
They all moved inside, Snape's quarters crowded with robed and masked people. Snape knelt and kissed the hem of the sleep trousers, reeling mentally. The Dark Lord sat in the chair which Snape had just vacated and surveyed his minions.
'We must move before the Old Fool realises something is amiss. I've a plan. The first step is as follows...'
Having established a toehold in the school, in the form of Snape's rooms, the Death Eaters fanned out. Warding the dorms so the children couldn't escape, they systematically captured the teachers one by one.
The exception was Flitwick. He was an old man, and he'd seen much evil in his life, to his sorrow. He'd also been a champion dueller, so when he opened his door to see two masked and robed people, he hadn't hesitated. Snapping his wand up, he fired the first spell, aware the odds he'd come out of this alive were poor and not caring. He'd lived too long to be bullied by cowards in bed sheets.
The Death Eaters hadn't expected that resistance, let alone an actual fight. One of them was immobilised before he could move. The other found himself hanging upside down as Flitwick sprinted from the room and ran down the corridors, determined to protect the children and alert his fellow teachers.
It took him only minutes to realise that the others had been taken (or were turncoats?). He slid into an alcove and called an elf. 'Rinky, we've been attacked. Defend the children, and get the aurors here as fast as you can. Go, hurry.'
He could hear footsteps. Flitwick faced the prospect of his own death with a sort of calm acceptance-he'd lived long, his children were grown, and he'd done what he could to stop this madness.
Closer, now, and more of them. All those people, to kill an old man. He waited another second and then leapt from his hiding place, firing spells. He might be ready to die, but Filius Flitwick would be damned before he made it easy for them.
At the same time, Walden McNair was Apparating to a small collection of caves in Wales. He brought dripping meat and promises. He spoke at some length, having made a sort of offering, and when he was through, fifty men came with him. They were muscled, foul smelling, blood smeared.
Their leader was a man of no age, reeking of the charnel house. His name was Greyback, and the world burned in his eyes, and crumbled in his blood scabbed hands, and broke between his sharp, brown stained teeth. He sniffed the air, the rich mealy smell of children and the smells of animals in the forest. He called his boys and they spread out, prepared to fight for the things promised them. Victims. Plunder. All would be well.
Albus Dumbledore was in his chambers when his knock came. He rose, and on his perch, Fawkes, gave a single sad trill and settled back on his perch, dejected. What in the world could be the matter? Dumbledore wished he could offer his friend a ginger biscuit or a bit of cut fruit, but that would have to wait. He mentally promised Fawkes two biscuits and some freshly cut pineapple and walked to the door.
It was Snape, with a smug looking Lucius Malfoy beside him. 'Severus, Lucius. Something the matter?'
'Come along quietly, Albus, and no one will be hurt.'
'I see. You've taken the castle, then?'
'Of course.' Malfoy stepped forward and Dumbledore shook him off. 'I would thank you, Lucius, to keep your hands to yourself. I am still headmaster of this school.'
The Dark Lord awaited them on the dais. He raised a cup of pumpkin juice in sardonic salute as his two best men entered, Albus Dumbledore between them, looking remarkably calm.
'Might I ask?'
'It was simple, really. The boy's mind was unguarded, and I simply slipped in whilst he was occupied with something else.'
The Dark Lord shrugged. 'I neither know nor care.'
'Since the night when Quirrel died, of course. Much as I would love to converse, Albus, we've other things to do. We could duel, I suppose, but it would be tiresome.'
'That's right. So here's a proposition for you: Permit me to kill you and I shan't burn Gryffindor Tower to the ground. With the children in, naturally.'
'Don't bring the children into this, Tom. They're innocent of any wrongdoing.'
'How unfortunate for them. Thorfinn, kill the one with the ridiculous spectacles to prove I'm being serious.'
Sybil Trelawney opened her mouth to protest and then slumped over dead as the bolt hit her, eyes glazing. The Dark Lord turned to Dumbledore. 'Well, old man?'
'I've only one request.'
'Do it yourself, Tom. Kill me yourself.'
'Very well, then. Avada Kadavra!'
Nothing. Dumbledore looked quietly amused but said nothing. The others had grown silent, watching as the Dark Lord's tiny frame proved itself too small to work the curse properly.
Nothing. Greyback the werewolf moved forward, grinning. 'Give me the word, milord.'
'I think not. Severus, do the honours.'
Snape drew. Albus' eyes were mild. He smiled a little. 'Severus, please.'
The room flashed green a moment and the Headmaster fell bonelessly, that strange smile still on his face. Snape lowered his wand slowly, heart a great, empty mass in his chest.
'Well' said the Dark Lord, smiling himself 'onto part two, gentlemen.'
Azkaban prison kept a small squad of human guards, usually for administrative purposes. Two of these were standing on a battlement when they heard the distinctive crack from the Apparation point.
'Who do suppose that is?'
'We didn't get notified, did we, of a new prisoner?'
'Not that I know of, but maybe the warden's not told anyone.'
Three fellows in black cloaks approached, smiling. 'Wonder if you gents could tell us the way to Warden Fitzmorris's office?'
'Level four, third door on the right, but what's this about? You fellows from the Ministry?'
'Soon enough' agreed the man, and calmly killed them both. Tossing them over the side, the Death Eaters trooped up and down the prison, ignoring the screams and stenches.
'Hello. You boys aurors?'
'Something like that. Imperio.'
The man's eyes went dull. 'Now, Warden, where might I find the Death Eaters?'
'Corridor three, lower level.'
'Thanks.' The locked him in his office and while Galvin Goyle and Mamercus Jugson went for the Lestranges, Walden McNair descended, not without trepidation, on the most dangerous diplomatic mission of his life.
Goyle and Jugson made their way to the corridor and used the keys they'd nicked from Fitzgibbon to open the first cell. Rabastan Lestrange cringed back from then. 'Rab! Rabastan!'
'Come on! Hurry! We're taking you all home.'
'Home' said Rabastan, and rose shakily to his feet. The others were liberated as quickly. From the cells all round, a clamour went up. 'Oi, mate, what about us?'
'What about you?'
'We hate the Ministry as much as you! Maybe more.'
Goyle considered this a long moment, and then began to unlock doors. Within five minutes, trailed by prisoners, the Death Eaters began to Apparate everyone to a point in the Forbidden Forest. They snaked up the hill, the stronger helping the weak. It looked like a parade at Final Judgement.
The prisoners were divided into groups. The main of them were sent to the Slytherin locker room to shower as the elves scavenged clothing for them. The elite amongst them, the Marked, were ushered to the teacher's quarters and invited to avail themselves of what they found there.
Except for food: their shrunken stomachs wouldn't permit much, and Snape ordered the elves to remove everything but water so they couldn't eat themselves sick.
Clean and sweet, dressed in borrowed robes and full of broth and bread, the most faithful were brought before their Lord. Tears began to run down Bellatrix's shrunken cheeks as she knelt and kissed the hem of the pyjamas.
'Oh, my Lord! My Lord!'
'Rise, Bella. Truly, you are my most faithful.'
Bellatrix rose. 'How may I serve you, Master?'
'That remains to be seen, dear Bellatrix. For now, I imagine you might like some revenge?'
Her eyes took on a dangerous glitter. 'Oh, yes, my Lord.'
'Then you shall have it. Lucius, you are needed. Severus, all the Polyjuice you have, quickly.'
At dawn, a group of people slipped into the Ministry. One of them was Lucius Malfoy. He let in the others, and helped them past the security. When the Ministry opened at nine, they were ready.
The members of the Wizengamot took their seats with the usual harrumphing. Wandless, all of them and old, most of them, they settled back to debate giving a thousand galleons to children's programming on Radio Wizarding Britain.
At ten after nine, the doors flew open and a stream of people poured in. The members of the Wizengamot rose to protest this invasion, but by and large they were dead before they could speak.
In the centre of the room, Bellatrix jumped up on the desk and started to laugh. 'We told you! The Dark Lord triumphs once again!' The others joined in her laughter, and leaving the bodies of Wizarding Britain's most august legislators cooling behind them, went to do the rest of their chore.
At Hogwarts, the train was waiting at the station. In the Great Hall, the confused students were sat at their usual tables. Few of them had ever seen an actual Death Eater before, except for those whose fathers or brothers had taken the Mark.
Lucius Malfoy gave his son a wink and then addressed the children. 'Good morning, all of you. We've had some changes overnight, so we'll be doing things a bit differently today.'
' After breakfast, the first years will go and get their things, starting with the girls. Some of my friends will help them onto the train, then the second years, and so forth. Some of my friends are also on the train to make sure everyone is safe. Now, who here is muggleborn?' About a fifth of the students raised their hands.
'Excellent. All of you will stay in your dorm rooms. We've arranged special transportation for you.'
There was a worried buzz amongst the older students. This couldn't mean anything good. Malfoy smiled reassuringly. A girl stood, a petite child with a cloud of curly hair.
'What about our parents? They won't know to come and get us.'
'We've taken care of all that. Sit down, hmm?' The elves were bringing in steaming platters of eggs and kippers, and the usual tureen of porridge and so on. The girl seemed unconvinced.
'Where are all the teachers?'
'They've been called away and left me in charge. I'm a governor, you know. They want all of you to make them proud by showing how obedient and cheerful you can be.'
As the children ate, Lucius approached the Slytherin table and walked behind his son. 'Hello, Draco.'
'Hello, Father. Join us? We can slide down.' Draco was enormously proud of Father, and liked being seen with him very much. Draco's boon companions nodded, as they also like Draco's father.
'Thank you, boys, but I've an errand to run. I wanted to ask whom that girl was.'
'Oh, her? Granger. Potter's girlfriend.'
'Mudblood, is she?'
Draco nodded and swallowed some of his milk. 'Yes, Father, I think so. Is Mother at home?'
'Of course, and it shouldn't be long before I am, as well.'
'What about Tiggy? I saw my Da here earlier.' Goyle's brow knit worriedly. Ever since his own mother had abandoned him, he'd entertained a fear that his sister in law, his brother's wife, would as well.
'She's there, Gregory. All of you be good boys, hmm?' Lucius gave them a look that implied the consequences of anything less would be unpleasant, and all three squirmed a bit, nodding.
The children finished and a few Death Eaters appeared to guide them back. Alecto Carrow trotted up to Lucius. 'Shall I go with Gryffindor? I think the little one will be a problem.'
Lucius smiled gratefully. 'Would you, Alecto? That would be wonderful.'
The girls crowded into their dorm, shoving everything into their trunks, the elves flapping about to hurry the process, shrinking the trunks so the girls could tuck them into their pockets.
Hermione sat down on the bed, trunk neatly packed. She liked none of this. The tall man in the Hall had struck her as glib and not a bit condescending, which never failed to irk her; he'd done the verbal equivalent of squatting down to talk to the students.
Lavender Brown started to sob. 'I want my Mummy!'
Alecto spun and advanced on her, shaking her hard by the shoulders. 'Show some pride, girl! You're a Pureblood, act it!'
Hermione stood up. 'Stop it, you'll hurt her!'
'Oh, the mudblood wants some, does she?' Alecto left off with the bawling Lavender and went for Hermione, snaking a hand in her hair and using the other to cup her chin, meaning to get good and close to deliver a lesson about place.
Hermione twisted, hard, and when the woman's hand tightened in her hair she bit blindly. She felt something crunch and the woman staggered back, shrieking, holding her bitten finger.
'You little bitch, you bit me!' Alecto slapped her, hard, much too hard, and Hermione's nose began to gush blood. The child went for her wand and Alecto disarmed her, livid, called an elf, still angry, still bleeding. 'Take them to Crabbe at the bottom of the Tower, the mudblood and I are going to have a lesson.'
She grabbed Hermione by the arm and yanked her, hard, past her confused classmates and all the way to the Hall. She half threw the child onto the ground before the others. Snape's stomach tightened as he saw Granger flop onto the stones-had Alecto killed her in a rage?
'She bit me! Suppose she has some filthy mudblood disease.'
'I'll test you, Alecto. But do stop battering her, she's no good to us damaged.' Snape bent and picked the girl up, setting her on her feet. 'Stop it this second, Granger, do you hear me?'
Granger nodded. He released her just as Bellatrix came into the hall, hand dripping rubies on the stones. 'That damned half giant set his dog on me!' And then had run, was the worst part, before she could kill him. Well, the forest would take of him, anyway.
Snape mentally begged for a fatal heart attack, or a nice lightening bolt, so he wouldn't have to deal with two wounded Death Eaters. He handed Bellatrix his handkerchief. 'I'll heal you in a moment.'
Alecto was still angry. 'I'll have her guts, the little cow!'
'Now, really, Alecto, is that any way to react to a bit of naughtiness from a child? Our little friends will think we mean them harm.' The Dark Lord walked to the dais and sat down, dressed in robes of Dumbledore's that he'd had shrunk to fit his diminutive frame.
'No, my Lord. A million pardons, my Lord.' The Dark Lord waved a hand negligently. The Hall was very quiet. Hermione took a step closer. 'Harry?'
'Miss Granger, how lovely, though I expect you know you owe Madam Carrow an apology.'
'Harry, what's happened to you?'
'Not Harry, dear child. Not anymore. Now, that apology?'
'I don't understand.'
'In time, my dear. Alecto, Hermione will be telling you she's sorry the second she's over she shock. In the meantime-'
The Dark Lord broke off as the werewolf Greyback came in, trailing mud everywhere. 'We burnt the shack as you asked, milord, but we-' His brow furrowed.
'Whose little girl is that?'
'No one's. Why do you ask, Greyback?'
'Beggin milord's pardon, but I'd have to disagree. Her smells like someone I've smelt before.'
The Dark Lord's eyebrows quirked. 'Oh? Most interesting. Severus, you needed to test her anyhow. Perhaps she's some Halfblood by-blow. Have her put somewhere until you can make time.'
Snape reached for his wand and flicked. Hermione's nose stopped bleeding. 'Malfoy, your handkerchief.' Lucius grimaced but handed it over, disgusted at the idea of donating very nice Irish linen to a mudblood.
'Wipe your nose, Granger.' He didn't touch the results, lest he taint it. Instead, he levitated it until the elf brought a beaker for it. Shrinking the bloody handkerchief, he set it in the beaker and sent it to his lab, doing the same with a sample from Alecto's hand and his own blood soaked handkerchief.
The Dark Lord turned to Lucius. 'Take her somewhere and keep her there. Somewhere comfortable, Lucius. She might have worth to us after all.'
Lucius nodded and reached for his wand, then thought better of it. She wasn't his bastard, but she might well be one of his friend's. Wouldn't do to have it get about that Lucius had been rough with her. Instead, he reached a hand for her and took her wrist. 'Come along, my child.'
'No. I don't know you and I shan't go anywhere with a stranger.'
Snape leant over. 'That's ten points from Gryffindor, Miss Granger, now go at once before Mr. Malfoy is obliged to carry you like a toddler having a tantrum.'
Hermione was young enough for that to sting, and she followed Malfoy stiffly, keeping as much space between them as she could. She forced herself to sound brave.
'You're Draco's father?'
'I am. He's told me what a very clever little girl you are. So I expect when I tell you not to do a thing that like again, you'll understand me, hmm?'
'Just because someone is a bully and makes everyone afraid of them-'
'Is a good sign you ought to be as well. The Dark Lord might punish you if this stubbornness keeps up.'
'He's not lord of anything, not really.'
'On account of your age, I shall forget you said that, but just this once.'
'Are you scared of him, too?'
Malfoy led her to an empty classroom and opened the door for her, warding it with an age line. 'Remember what I told you, like a good girl. After all, the Dark Lord could always choose to make an example of your little friends, couldn't he?' He turned on his heel and left without another word.
In the laboratory, Snape added the costus root infusion to the vial with Granger's blood. He'd have to start getting samples from the others and testing them to see who had fathered her. How strange life is, he reflected. Presumably, the girl was the result of a raid, and a muggle woman who'd been permitted to live.
Or perhaps...this couldn't be right. The potion would glow in proximity to a magical signature of a close relative. The closer the relation, the brighter the glow.
The phial was glowing, which meant that the parent's magical signature was in the room. Since Granger couldn't possibly be his, that meant she was either Bellatrix's or Alecto's.