Disclaimer: I own nothing recognizable.
A/N: A few notes before we get down to business:
This is a completed fic. It is approximately 150,000 words. It will not be left as a WIP. I plan to upload approximately once per week, perhaps more, depending on how quickly the editing goes. Each chapter averages about 6,000 words. Some chapters are shorter, many are longer. The prologue is more like a teaser than a proper chapter.
I'm American, but used to live in the UK, so have a decent working knowledge of British English. MS Word occasionally auto-corrects things back to American spelling, and I won't pretend that I caught all of them, so bear with me. If you see blatant American-isms that have no business being here, please give a shout-out.
This is an unbeta-ed fic. I have a degree in English Lit that I hope I learned a thing or two from, but I would appreciate errors being pointed out as you see them.
The Severus in my story is based in part on my husband, the most Slytherin man I've ever met, who also grew up during a war. All the post-war trauma I give the characters is based on what he and others he grew up with encountered.
Rated M for adult content (including allusions to violence and sexuality) and language, but this is a lemon-free story.
Reviews are appreciated but not expected.
Hermione jumped at the sound of the door slamming behind her and aimed her wand in defence. For a few seconds, she held her wand and narrowed her eyes, before remembering where she was and relaxing.
Six years had passed since the end of the war, and she still jumped and armed herself at any sudden noise. Residual trauma, the healers had said. Post traumatic stress, the Muggle doctors had said. Whatever they wanted to call it, it lingered. True, it was not nearly as bad as it had been in the first year or so after the war, when she awoke with nightmares each night and practically had to drown herself in dreamless sleep potions to get any rest at all. Every day, every month, every year, it got better. She had long since given up hope that it would go away completely.
"Right this way," the director, Miss Glastonbury, said. Hermione nodded and followed. It was one of her first assignments since she had transferred to the Department of Magical Law Enforcement. She was here to perform a basic review and audit of the Ministry Home for Children. The Wizarding orphanage. Where many of the war orphans had ended up.
"Of course since so much time has passed many of our original charges after the war have since been adopted or sent to live with family," Miss Glastonbury continued in a crisp voice not unlike Minerva McGonagall's but lacking the Scottish brogue. "And many have come of age or left for Hogwarts. But there are still some who return here in the summers, and we still do have some young ones who have been here since the war ended. And that's where I will be taking you now."
They walked down a narrow, dark set of stairs toward what looked like a large basement. Or a dungeon.
"They live down here?" Hermione asked.
Miss Glastonbury nodded.
Miss Glastonbury nodded again. "We tried keeping them upstairs with the other children, the ones who have lost their parents in the years since the war, the 'transitory' ones we call them because they are almost always adopted or sent to family right away. But these are our more…permanent residents. They don't remember their parents, thank God, and they have only known this place. They are scared around others. They…act out. So for their own safety and, in a way, comfort, and that of the other children, we thought it best to keep them down here. Together."
Hermione was too horrified to scribble this down on her clipboard. Not that she would need notes to remember it.
"How can you…I mean it just seems cruel. It's like a prison."
Miss Glastonbury stopped and turned to look down her pointed nose and through her cat-eye glasses at Hermione. "I assure you, Miss Granger, if I could find homes for them, I would. And if I could get them to interact with the outside world, I would. These children have problems. Anger problems. Nightmares. Uncontrolled magical outbursts. People have been hurt, Miss Granger, some of them very seriously." Hermione said nothing. "I resent your implication that we are in the business of cruelty here. We are not. I love every child in here like my own."
Miss Glastonbury's tone clearly indicated that she did not, in fact, love all the children in this home.
"Do they ever leave?"
"We try. They do not want to."
"What about their health? Education?"
"We have healers and tutors who come to them. Unfortunately, it's a bit of a revolving door. Most who come do not last very long. Many others only come for a short while under various agreements with the Ministry, usually community service as sentences for minor infractions."
"Criminals are teaching and taking care of them?" Hermione raised her eyebrows in incredulity. What other horrors will I discover here?
"We would never let anyone dangerous near the children, Miss Granger." Miss Glastonbury's voice became dangerously calm. Hermione nodded. "I have to take my volunteers where I can get them, since permanent staff have been difficult to retain. In fact, only in the past few years have I had a constant member of staff dedicated to this group."
"I'd like to interview whoever that is, if I may," Hermione said. "For the report."
"I may be able to arrange that. He may not agree."
"You cannot direct him?"
"This is not a man to be directed easily. He works quite independently. It was a condition of him coming here. I was not in a position to negotiate that."
"Interesting," Hermione mused. "Is there any evidence of war trauma among these children?"
Miss Glastonbury nodded gravely. "Some of the most severe I have seen."
"You, um, you said that they have no family. Were their entire families…?"
"No, just their parents."
"And they have no other relations?"
"None who are willing to take them in."
"And no one is willing to adopt them?"
"Not after they learn who these children are. I have come close, so close, so many times to finding them homes. I now believe it to be impossible."
"But…why?" Hermione could not understand how or why a group of children had been completely isolated after the war. All but swept under the rug and forgotten.
"Why?" Miss Glastonbury stopped before a large bookshelf and pulled a thick registry off the shelf. Opening it to the right page, she held it out to Hermione. "Read for yourself. This is as far as anyone really needs to look. This is as far as anyone has ever looked."
She read the parchment. It was a list of names. Rosier. Mulciber. Macnair. Avery. Lestrange.
Oh my God. Comprehension dawned. She looked up and met Miss Glastonbury's eyes. The older woman's eyes were filled with sadness and resignation, as was her voice when she finally spoke.
"You see now, Miss Granger, why no Wizarding family, relatives or otherwise, is willing to let these children into their homes. These are the children of the Death Eaters."