Warning: This one-shot in its full form contains a lemon, which is omitted on this site. You can read the complete version of it on GE and AFFnet (and archiveofourown soon). I left the parts out that I felt were inappropriate for this site.
A/N: This fic starts after DH at an undisclosed time. EWE. Ron and Hermione aren't married. Harry and Ginny are, but Harry never became an Auror in this future. None of them work at the Ministry of Magic.
This was written in response to the GE Samhain 2011 Challenge. I picked prompt 4: The gods have chosen Hermione Granger as the handmaiden to continue the most noble line of (Choose a deceased wizard of any era). When the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest, he will emerge from the mists and take the witch as his own. (Your choice whether he returns to the living permanently).
Rules of the challenge were:
· Fic must be in by November 1st at the latest
· Multi Chapters are encouraged but all chapters must be complete by November first to prevent abandonment of fic.
· Fic must be at least 3000 words.
· Any pairings/rating/Genre welcome
· Fics MUST centre around Samhain and not Halloween.
· No trick or treating allowed
· No Pumpkin carving unless it relates directly to Samhain or a ritual
· Happy endings please! :D
· No whining lol - my personal favourite rule
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by J.K. Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros. Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
I thank my betas: Serpent In Red, Cosettex and The Lady Miya.
And I thank Mistress Malfoy for inspiring this fic with that evil prompt bunny that wouldn't go away (no matter how hard I tried to obliviate it from my mind).
For Shan84 and our Gutter City Queen Dream
The Black Veil
'She's coming: The one who destroyed my cup. Tonight,' a female voice whispered happily whilst placing and lighting candles at the appropriate points of the pentagram.
It was a deserted wasteland they were in, dark and uninhabited. There was no sun, no moon and no stars—a weak, orange light shined around them while reddish clouds rolled by above their heads, occasionally producing a smash of thunder and a bright lightning strike. Large boulders in grey, purple and turquoise lay scattered around in the black sand. Amidst these dark, oddly coloured surroundings, the pentagram—drawn with crystal-clear, white sand—stood out.
In the centre of said pentagram, a curtain swayed, touched by an invisible wind. It hovered in midair, seemingly weightless, not being upheld by anything. When one looked at it to determine its shape and colour, the mind would draw a blank as if it were impossible to make a connection. And as one looked away, it was like it had never been there. One simply forgot.
But not these witches.
Helga Hufflepuff had worked hard to capture herself a veil, and now that she had one, it would not slip away from her carefully constructed prison. Not until it had done what she needed doing. Samhain was today, nearly reaching its peak at the stroke of midnight.
On the approach of Samhain, the veil gradually became thinner and more see-through, showing the scenes on the other side with increasing clarity as they passed by rapidly: An ocean, a forest, a busy street, a family dining together, children playing football on a field—it kept changing every other five seconds since this particular veil wasn't fixed in time and space like the one in the UK's Ministry of Magic.
'Helga, stop messing with the powers of Samhain. The goddess never does what you want or expect,' a fair witch said, shaking her head.
'After all those years, Rowena, I would've thought you'd learned how to have a bit of fun by now.'
'Connecting veils has never been done before. You're fooling around with powers far greater than your own; it's dangerous.'
'Oh, come on, you've seen her. She deserves better. The girl isn't happy. Look at her boring life: all work, work and more work.'
'And this is coming from the champion of hard work,' Rowena replied, her voice filled with irony.
'I never said to my students not to have a life,' Helga countered, waggling her finger at Rowena disapprovingly. 'Friendship, family, loyalty and fun is more important than building a career for oneself.'
'I don't see what's wrong with building a career,' Rowena replied in a clipped tone of voice, folding her arms in front of her chest. 'She's using her mind to its fullest potential at her job.'
'Of course you wouldn't see what's wrong with that,' Helga said, sighing. 'All work and no play make you lot dull girls. I am not going to sit by and watch her become the spitting image of you. Or do you want her to have a child with the wrong wizard, so she can be miserable for the rest of her life just like you?'
'There is no need to bring up Edward again.'
'Well, at least he got what was coming to him,' Helga said, sniggering vengefully. 'I'm sure Edward really enjoyed his "talk" with Godric. And then, he thought he got away relatively unscathed and ran into Salazar.' Helga roared with laughter. 'I seriously wished I'd been there to watch that interaction. I heard that vain idiot peed all over himself before Sal even launched his first curse.'
'Could we not talk about that anymore? It's getting old. Besides, I doubt the boys made his skin glitter and dumped him back through the veil after his death to be eternally stalked by crazy, middle-aged women and teenage fangirls,' Rowena said, staring at Helga pointedly.
Helga giggled softly and smirked unapologetically. 'Well, he thought he was soooo wonderful and one of a kind. Now he truly is. I sincerely hope he enjoys getting a taste of his own medicine, the disgusting, emo stalker that he is. There, done,' she said, slapping her hands against each other before stepping back and watching her handiwork in satisfaction. 'One veil at our command.'
'Your command,' Rowena corrected. 'I'm not on board for this one, Helga. You have no idea what will enter the passageway between those veils. It crosses the "in between" world and unspeakable things dwell there. Creatures that should not be woken or disturbed. Ever.'
'Phooey. You underestimate the power of love. I have all the ingredients here, and with the goddess of Samhain on our side, we will get Ms Granger her perfect mate. Tonight.'
This was not how she'd envisioned her life at all—Hermione Jean Granger, the brightest witch of her age, war heroine and breeding cow. Stoically, Hermione folded her arms over each other and watched the two excitedly babbling witches of the Wizarding Genealogy Department with disgust. She'd never considered it possible, but they were worse gossipers about 'hot blokes' than Lavender and Parvati. How could anyone be thrilled over this?
'And I heard he was positively delicious back in his days,' Ms Trinity Fudge said to her colleague.
Sure, that'll make all this alright. Just give me a hot bloke and I'll let him hump all over me.
'Oh yes, I remember him well with his pitch-black hair and those deep, dreamy, dark-blue eyes,' the grey-haired witch—Mrs Katherine Blishwick—said, swooning slightly.
'Tall, dark and handsome,' the younger witch giggled.
By Godric, I've landed in a stupid romance novel.
'Exactly. He was quite the heartbreaker, too,' Mrs Blishwick replied. 'He and his friend, Elphinstone Urquart, sure had their fair share of admirers; I recalled it being quite the scandal when Elphie married Minnie since everyone knew Alphie had a crush on her since day one. It's been said Alphie often stayed over at their mansion in Scotland, and one never knew what happened during those nights,' the woman added in a scandalous tone of voice.
Whoop! Two blokes. Go McGonagall!
'Oooh, really?' Trinity asked curiously. 'Did he do her behind his friend's back or were they all in it together?'
Such envy. Oh Godric, someone please save me from these jealous hags and their soap opera conversation.
'Well, one didn't speak of these things in those days,' Mrs Blishwick said, excited she could speak of it now. 'However, it's been rumoured Alphard also visited the mansion when Minerva was out, and all the servants always got the day off on those occasions.'
Trinity giggled. 'So you're saying …?'
'That he might have liked his friend a great deal more than Minerva. Alphard never married or saw any other women in his entire lifetime, so ... who knows?'
Inwardly, Hermione snorted, wondering if the poor wizard of the most honourable House of Black could even get it up for a woman after Mrs Blishwick's statement. If he were gay, he'd surely be in for the surprise of a lifetime tonight (or would that be the surprise of a deathtime?). Anyway, sexual preference clearly wasn't something the Ministry bothered to concern themselves with. They were desperate to prevent extinction of their precious UK Wizarding heritage.
'I would've died if they'd picked Alphard Black for me,' Trinity piped in, nudging Hermione in the side as if they were the best of friends.
That can still be arranged. Just stick around when I get my wand back.
'Instead, I got this Smith bloke,' she shivered. 'He had horrible pimples everywhere and didn't know how to use his equipment at all.'
Perhaps that was punishment enough? Then again, if Alphard Black is truly gay …
'Trinity Fudge,' Katherine Blishwick said in a reprimanding tone of voice. 'We're not here to speak ill of the dead or question the choices of the Ministry. They've been carefully made based on what scientifically would give the highest probability of success.'
'Yes, Ma'am,' Trinity said demurely, making a face in Hermione's direction.
After that, it turned silent in the Death Chamber. Nothing could be heard but the scuffling noises of the two witches preparing things for the ritual to open the veil. Hermione felt an inexplicably attraction towards that archway now, for the first time fully understanding Harry and Luna's actions back then. The voices whispering from behind the veil beckoned to her, drawing her in, and it took all her willpower to remain standing where she was. Her rapidly darkening mood accompanied the tenor of the voices, enhanced their possessive claim towards her and made it all the more difficult to withstand. She noticed how darkness swelled behind that veil. She noticed how it was attached to her mood, but she just could care less. She was stuck on All Hallow's Eve having to 'make love' to Alphard Black in order to bear his child. No matter that the choice in wizard could've been far, far worse, there was no way Hermione could bring up any enthusiasm about this at all.
Hermione's Muggle sister, Lavinia, had been so disappointed when she'd told her she couldn't make it tonight. Ella's first Halloween celebration, and she would miss it. No trick or treating, no pumpkin carvings, no celebrating the festivities with her new niece. Instead, 'Auntie Hermy' was stuck in the Department of Mysteries for what had to be the most horrible Halloween of her life. Sure, to some extent, she understood the direness of the Wizarding situation due to the Dark Lord's past actions. However, this wasn't the way to go about it: Get the genes from dead people in order to ensure the survival of Ancient Wizarding bloodlines, or rather, get the sperm from dead wizards in order to repopulate their kind. This was bordering on rape in Hermione's mind, rape with two victims of the Ministry. Sighing, she realised she should've kept her parents hidden in Australia. Then, her family wouldn't have been such convenient leverage for this Ministry.
Cowardly blackmailers. I'll get them for this, though. They better go to bed with one eye open for the rest of their pathetic, miserable lives.
Just when the older witch was about to cast on the veil, a door opened and an apprehensive, perspiring and heavily panting wizard ran in.
'Katherine, you need to come quickly. Some redheaded witch—I think it's Mrs Potter—is blowing up our archives with the Reductor Curse.'
Hermione smirked. That surely sounded like Ginny. Despite that Ginny herself wasn't a target of this Ministry's new practise (being married and with child from Harry), it hadn't made her even remotely more agreeable to the new order. It was like she took it all the more personally that her friends were harassed, and the redhead's temper was far worse with the pregnancy hormones running through her body. Hermione felt sorry for whoever got in her way.
Well, not really.
'I wasn't able to stop her. When I tried, she just banished me out of the office as if I were some thing! I can't get back in and I don't know what to do!' he squeaked, looking helplessly at Katherine Blishwick.
Hermione was wondering where Harry was. If Ginny were here, he was bound to be near, too. She really hoped they weren't trying to do something incredibly stupid like save her.
Oh Godric, they probably are.
She dropped her head and rubbed her face with her hand. She'd forbidden them to do this. Not even Harry's stature of being the vanquisher of Lord Voldemort would be enough to keep him out of jail if they tried to prevent this.
'I'll be right there,' Mrs Blishwick said, sighing. She turned to the younger witch, scrutinising her seriously. 'You can handle this, Trinity?' she asked questionably.
'Of course, Ma'am. The pentagram is active; the candles are lit to guide the spirit here; the blood sacrifice has been made; the sand—'
Hermione zoned out for the rest of the summation. If Harry succeeded in breaking in here and getting her out, they'd be on the run again, which would mean …
Oh bugger, more forests.
No, no, no, no, no!
No more trees. No more tents. No more camping and eating shit cooked above a campfire, Hermione thought, groaning on the inside.
'—and these are the wand movements accompanying the Combinare Curse, Ma'am,' Trinity Fudge ended with a flourish of her wand.
Apparently, the explanation and moves had been satisfactory because Mrs Blishwick turned on her heels and paced towards the jumpy wizard.
'I'll ward this area just in case this is a diversion,' Katherine Blishwick said, staring pensively at Hermione who blankly stared back. 'Make sure you get them inside the Uniseal Chamber at once when Black arrives,' Mrs Blishwick ordered over her shoulder before they left the Death Chamber.
The door slammed to with an audible click, and a bright red sheen burned through the rim of the door, sealing it shut.
'Splendid!' Trinity exclaimed, jumping up and down in excitement. 'I've wanted to do this ever since we started this program. She's never let me.'
With an exuberant swirl, she moved her wand over her head before whipping it towards the veil to summon the spirit back to the land of the living. Bright, white light coming from her wand collided with the stone archway, blinding them and blowing the black, tattered curtain inwards to the land of the death. The white sand—forming a pentagram on the floor—swirled up in the air, completely sandblasting the curtain with the figure before scattering back to the floor and forming another perfect pentagram at its original place.
Next, Ms Fudge wrote the name 'Alphard Black' in the air in fiery letters. Her wand flashed to Hermione. When the spell impacted on Hermione's chest, it knocked the air out of her lungs and she doubled over, gasping. Keeping her head up, she saw a beam of light erupt from within her, exiting her chest before enveloping the fiery letters of the name fully. The letters burned higher and higher with such passion that it made Trinity stagger backwards, wide-eyed.
'Er …' the young witch muttered, her eyes flickering between the veil and the now raging fire that obscured the name's letters fully.
'Is everything all right?' Hermione asked, looking at the apprehensive witch concerned. This was her hide on the line after all. Well, and Mr Black's, but since he was already dead, he'd just have to excuse her for thinking of herself first and foremost.
Then, the fire flashed outward, moving to the veil with a vengeance. It smashed into the curtain with a howl. Dark, excited voices echoed through the noise, whispering incomprehensible words as the pentagram burned away in the blackness of the now even more tattered-looking veil. Wind—source unknown—destroyed the mirror pentagram shape on the floor, blowing the sand high up into the air and far over the stone benches. Hermione averted her face, covering it with her arm while closing her eyes to protect them from the sand. When the tiny sandstorm was over, she looked back, witnessing how the candles at the former pentagram's points flickered as if they were lacking oxygen and how Ms Fudge seemed to get more and more uneasy.
'Is everything all right?' Hermione repeated through clenched teeth.
'Yeah, yes, sure,' Trinity said rapidly, looking over the attributes on the ground with a confused expression. It was not reassuring Hermione one bit. 'I … It must be because you're so powerful. I never saw it react so violently before.'
Now the candles on the ground burned, faster and faster, their light growing and slowly changing, shifting in colour.
'I—I … er,' Trinity stuttered, scratching the back of her head whilst her eyes flashed nervously to the dark, pitch-black flames the candles on the ground were producing.
Hermione crossed her arms in front of her chest and watched the witch in exasperation. Did she even know what she was doing?
'Don't worry,' Trinity said, unconsciously taking a step back, 'all is going as planned.'
Before Hermione had the chance to snort at that obviously untruthful statement, the veil blew outwards. The curtain had turned so black that the archway lit up with darkness. It literally lit up with darkness. Hermione had never seen anything quite like it. How could darkness be so bright? She wanted to touch it. She had the inexplicable need to touch it. Fascinated, she moved towards the glowing darkness as if in a trance, reaching out with her hand. Nothing else mattered anymore but to get where she was needed. The voices turned louder and louder upon her approach, ringing in her ears and deafening her to the outside world. She suddenly understood them.
Come to us. Come, Hermione, you know you want to. Come.
'Don't touch the veil!' Trinity shouted, panicking. 'You'll die!'
The Ministry witch tried to reach Hermione to stop her, but no matter how many steps she took, she didn't seem to get any closer to the bushy-haired witch.
Come to me.
For a second, Hermione froze on the spot, her left foot already on the raised stone dais. The other voices had silenced, drowned out by that deep, male baritone.
Come to me, Hermione.
She shook her head, feeling dizzy and sluggish. His voice sounded so pleasant and vaguely familiar, like an old friend's or a lover's.
His chuckle rang through her mind as she rose on the dais, standing in front of the blowing curtain.
'Hermione, nooo!' Trinity yelled, watching frustrated as all the spells she sent towards Hermione extinguished in whatever power was produced by the veil.
Hermione turned her head sideways. Did she hear something? What was that? Lightning? Thunder? The wind perhaps? But she was indoors. No, it couldn't be the wind. But there had been wind before. Why was there wind? Her robes were billowing, and she reached up with her hand, grabbing a lock of her hair that was blowing across her face. Apprehension fell over her. The hairs at the back of her neck stood up straight in attention. Something was wrong, very wrong.
She blinked, her vision cleared, and then, she realised she was inches away from the veil. Gasping, she staggered back. What the hell was she doing up here? She didn't want to die.
Such power, that charming, enchanting voice hissed in her mind, sounding impressed.
Unable to witness the dark smoke swirling around her and connecting her to something behind the veil, she stopped in her tracks, no longer moving away. It was nice to be praised, especially by him. They shared a connection. She could feel it inside, thrumming in sync with her, an almost overwhelming lust for knowledge and power.
Very well, if you won't bring yourself to me, Hermione Jean Granger; then, bring forth me.
The imperiously spoken order danced in her mind, causing her eyes to glaze over and making her sway on her feet.
It's Samhain. Free me from Hades's bounds. Unchain my soul and you will be heavily rewarded.
The smoke suddenly solidified, turning into a dark beam that smashed into her chest. She doubled over whilst the archway rumbled and roared. Cracks appeared in the stone. All light ceased to exist. The entire dais shook. Terrified, Ms Fudge screamed and crashed to the floor while Hermione rose, standing steady on both feet. She was the focus, the eye of the storm, and nothing seemed to faze her.
However, when everything suddenly turned back to normal and all was silent, bright and still again, Hermione lost her balance. Pale, long fingers curled around her arm, preventing her from falling and pulling her up.
'Thanks, uh?' Hermione said, steadying herself with one hand against a sinewy chest as she looked around the Death Chamber, confused.
It was so peaceful now.
'What happened?' she asked, lifting her chin and staring into what had to be the handsomest face she'd ever seen.
'I have no idea,' the handsome bloke's smooth voice said silkily, lifting his free hand and pushing her jaw back up to close her mouth.
Hermione's cheeks burned, and she looked away, wanting the floor to swallow her whole. She seriously did not just let her jaw drop like that. By Godric, this had to be more embarrassing than her teenage crush on Lockhart. Fortunately, there were not too many witnesses this time around. Ron would've never let her hear the end of this one had he seen it.
'Mr Black, Alphard Black?' Trinity Fudge asked, scrambling to her feet and approaching them tentatively.
Oh yes, my studhorse; how could I have forgotten?
'I beg your pardon, Miss …?'
'Oh, I am so sorry, Mr Black. I don't know what went wrong, but this is the first time I did this, and well, Miss Granger here is so powerful, and then she nearly walked into the veil, which the spell isn't supposed to do. It's supposed to bring you out as you were at her age, and the candles—' she rattled on and on and on, until finally: '—and everything turned black, and I couldn't move, but you're here now, and you're both safe,' she ended, taking a very deep breath.
Hermione hadn't focused on the rambling of the woman. From the corner of her eye, she'd stolen several furtive glances at his face as inconspicuously as possible during the babbling.
Fortunately, his attention was fully on the Ministry employee, and she took in his flawless features without being spotted. His eyes were the most beautiful shade of dark-blue she'd ever seen. Just then, Trinity called him by his name and something flickered through his gaze. He seemed … amused? Hermione didn't understand why. She found the rambling highly annoying, no matter how useful it was at the moment in scrutinising her future fuck buddy secretly.
He had a perfectly straight nose, full kissable lips and flawless skin that was somewhat too pale, but she supposed it was unfair to hold that against him—there was no sunlight after all from where he came. Mr Black's hair certainly fitted with his name. It had to be even darker than Harry's and was by far superior in style. Not that he deserved any credit for that—everyone's hair was neater than Harry's.
Well, maybe not hers.
But the rest of the world's then.
She wouldn't mind running her fingers through those silky, black locks. Not that she was in any way okay with this entire situation because she most certainly wasn't. Nope, definitely not. She was just curious if it felt as soft and smooth as it looked. Nothing more.
By Godric, he is gorgeous.
She was glad he still had such a tight grip on her arm because she wasn't sure her knees would hold.
Okay, that might be a bit of an overstatement, but still … nobody should be allowed to be that attractive. Her eyes flickered over his tall and lean body. Proud and graceful, he held himself in a way that was in complete contradiction to the tattered, filthy, black shroud that he wore. It was one long tent that undoubtedly used to cover him from head to toe. However, time had eroded the cloth, exposing patches of his skin underneath the numerous, tiny holes. The sleeves had completely rotted away, showing his thin, strong arms fully. At the round top of the Wizarding burial garment, there used to be a hood attached, which was now gone. The five black buttons that were supposed to keep the garment closed to his throat were reduced to two. She could tell those lower two buttons were barely holding onto their thread's last breath. However, wishing they'd buckle, too, didn't do the trick, and she had to do with what little view of his lean chest she already had, which was hard to tear her eyes away from.
However, it helped that the bottom of the black shroud was heavily torn. Most tears were short, just a couple of inches long, but there was one longer tear that reached all the way up to his knee. Whenever he shifted a bit, she caught a teasing glimpse of his bare leg, though never long enough to get a good impression. It did make her wonder whether Wizarding shrouds came with underwear at all since he didn't have any footwear either. She had to admit that even in those rags he drew her full attention, exuding a certain elegance, power and confidence that made her envious. He was simply put: just perfect, and she felt that was incredibly unfair.
Yes, definitely nobody should be allowed to not have a single flaw.
It made her feel quite self-conscious, standing next to Mr Perfect with her hair looking like an exploded rat's nest because of the usual British high humidity and for being oh so completely average and ordinary in the rest of her appearance—not the type of witch that would attract someone like him at all.
He'd need a supermodel, so they could look all marvellous, superior and arrogant on the cover of Witch Weekly together, she snarked snidely.
Then, she chided herself for her nasty thoughts. A little bit. Not too much because she was pretty sure she was sniffing 'Eau de Arrogance' all over him.
Well, all Blacks had that nasty trait, she reckoned.
He doesn't look anything like Sirius, was the next thought that crossed her mind. That was a huge relief. Not that she considered Sirius unattractive, it was just … weird, thinking of them together in that way. He'd been Harry's Godfather. Harry was like a brother to her, which would make Sirius ...
Eww … yes, too freaking weird.
Not that this wasn't weird. No, this entire situation was definitely award-winning weirdness, too.
'I'm afraid I still didn't quite catch your name, Miss …?' Mr Black asked, frowning questioningly.
Merlin, even his voice was swoon-worthy and that frown didn't distort his handsome face. Hermione decided there and then to seriously hate Mr Alphard Black.
Perhaps he's an idiot, she thought, boosting her spirits.
'I'm sorry. I'm Trinity Fudge,' the Ministry worker answered, holding out her hand to Alphard.
Hermione groaned inwardly about her thoughts on Alphard, ignoring the conversation going on around her. She really didn't just hope that the future father, er, gene donor of her daughter would be mentally challenged in order to spot a flaw in him and feel better about herself.
Although she didn't think it was too much to ask for just a teensy-weensy, itty-bitty, non-hereditary imperfection, was it?
'Alphard Black, at your service, darling,' he replied, taking the offered hand, but instead of shaking, he kissed it, causing Trinity to giggle and turn a deep shade of crimson. Then, he turned to Hermione and said, 'And this lovely lady must then be the Hermione Granger my nephew wouldn't stop talking about, Harry Potter's best friend and the brightest witch of her age. He kept singing your praises, my dear. However, clearly, he left out a vital component: Your absolute, radiant beauty that would overwhelm any man. It's nice to finally make your acquaintance, Miss Granger,' he paused, his mouth curving upwards slightly. 'I'd say it's been long overdue, sweetheart.'
Hermione scowled as he bent over to kiss her hand, too. She looked up at the gods and cursed them for not always having fulfilled her prayers that quickly in the past.
One seriously obnoxious flaw, check.
'Mrs Katherine Blishwick already said you were a player,' Trinity said.
Alphard rose abruptly. 'The Lovely Lady Kathy is here somewhere?' he asked, his eyes sweeping over the place quickly.
Trinity sniggered. 'She said you'd say something that corny.'
Alphard clutched to his chest in mock shock.
'However, she got called away.'
Alphard's face saddened.
'But she could be back any minute,' Trinity added reassuringly.
'Really?' Alphard said, smiling, though for some reason, Hermione had the impression it was a strained, forced smile. 'Well, I, for one, can't wait to see her face when she spots me. Last time we spoke, she tried to curse me for sneaking off with Mildred, you know.'
Ah, that was why.
'Well, Mildred was her girlfriend,' Trinity reprimanded. 'And as I understood it, you—'
'Not that these trips down memory lane aren't mighty interesting,' Hermione interrupted bluntly, 'but I actually have to work in the morning, so could we get back to business, Ms Fudge?'
Hermione could just see the word swimming through Trinity's expression. It didn't bother her one bit. Whenever she laid down the law at her job, the other workers would have that same look. Well, as long as being a bitch got her what she needed and they listened to her orders, they could call her that behind her back as much as they liked. She really didn't have time for idle conversations and silly social chats. There was far too much unknown in magic to research and clarify.
'I think what Miss Granger is trying to say—'
'Don't talk for me or lighten my words,' Hermione snapped, her eyes flashing to him in irritation. 'I'm perfectly capable of expressing myself. I don't need some man to do that for me, thank you very much.'
He positively stilled on the spot; she felt the tension in his stance through the tightening of his fingers around her arm, which reminded her:
'And could you let go of my arm now,' she ordered darkly, immediately attempting to yank her arm away and failing. She was about to open her mouth and give him a piece of her mind for still holding onto her when he let go.
'I'm sorry,' he said apologetically, taking a step back and looking at his suddenly trembling hands. 'I don't know why I did that. I suppose …' Quickly holding his hands behind his back as if he were embarrassed, he looked away from them. For some time, he stared off into thin air and then swallowed. 'I suppose it feels strange to have a body again.' He turned and stared straight into Hermione's eyes. 'Touching you helped to anchor me; it made all this feel less like some weird hoax of a dream.'
Now it was her turn to swallow. His gaze was positively intense and sincere with those dark-blue eyes burning into her very soul. It made her feel like rubbish for being so snappish to him. This hadn't been his idea either. She shifted uncomfortably on her feet. She hadn't really thought about what this situation would feel like and mean to him.
Oh great, guilt trip galore!
Well, it wasn't her fault. She wasn't the elected official who'd chosen to pull wizards from beyond the veil for a breeding program. Abruptly, Hermione broke their eye contact and turned to Trinity.
'Can you please tell him why this Ministry has summoned him from the afterlife?'
'Ermm … yes, of course,' Trinity replied uncomfortably, while Hermione crossed her arms and watched Alphard Black during this explanation with interest. 'Due to the war with You-Know-Who and his followers, this Ministry discovered that there is a devastating Wizarding shortage in the UK, which will be detrimental in the survival of our species in the end. We've estimated all ancient families will be completely eradicated before the next century.'
Alphard blinked, then frowned. His eyes flashed to Hermione in bemusement. She raised up both hands in a 'not my idea, don't look at me' gesture, and he turned back to the babbling Trinity, contemplatively.
'—so it was decided upon that any wizard from a respectable, authentic, wizard bloodline would be eligible to help us out,' Trinity concluded.
Hermione waited expectantly as Alphard Black lowered his head somewhat, raised his hand and pinched the bridge of his nose, closing his eyes briefly. Then, he looked back up and said slowly, 'So, let me get this straight: You summoned me—' he placed his hand on his chest '—from the veil because too many Wizarding folks got killed?'
'Well, yes,' Trinity said in a duh-uh manner as if she couldn't believe he had to repeat it to believe it.
Black snorted first. Then, he met Hermione's eyes, saw how she was pressing her lips tightly together, and burst out in laughter. Loud boisterous laughter. It was too infectious for Hermione not to start laughing, too, and she joined in.
'Mrs Blishwick says this is a serious matter,' Trinity said, not finding it funny at all.
'Oh, I am sure sweet Katherine will find it extremely serious when she sees me,' Alphard said, snorting. 'So, what am I supposed to do now?' he asked Hermione humorously. 'Take you here on the floor? Do we get points for any kinky positions or is there a Ministry-approved stance?'
Hermione roared with laughter.
'I really do hope I measure up,' Alphard said dramatically. 'I mean, with a judge and jury around, I'm kind of wishing I'd picked different underwear today. I hoped you shaved, dearest—the Ministry is watching. Well, you had foreknowledge, so I am taking you came prepared. I feel slightly at a disadvantage now. What if I have performance anxiety? What if Little Black won't come up? Not that he is really little,' he commented reassuringly on the side to Hermione, 'you needn't worry. But still … my entire reputation … lying in the balance … on this one ultimate time. I could tarnish it … forever!'
Clutching to her belly, Hermione tried to alleviate the cramps from her laughing fit, but it wasn't doing much good.
'And then, what would I do with myself? No longer the dashing Mr Black who sweeps women off their feet.' He made an exaggerated sobbing noise. 'I couldn't live with myself. Oh wait! I am already dead. Oh my—' He nudged the laughing Hermione playfully. '—you bad, bad, kinky girl, you.'
Tears were now streaming down her face from the laughter, and Alphard's sarcastic comments about the insane, ridiculous situation they were in just kept coming and coming, not helping her one bit in regaining her composure.
'—and I thought the Ministry couldn't possibly sink any lower than it had before,' he finally said, sounding serious for the first time with that quiet, soft voice he was suddenly sporting. 'Well, here it is. Don't we have laws against necrophilia anymore?'
'You're not a corpse,' Trinity said sourly while Hermione wiped her face clean, back in control of herself again.
Alphard quickly patted all over himself and checked for a pulse on his wrist. 'Hmm … point taken, Miss Fudge. However, my question still remains: Where is all this action supposed to take place?'
'Oh, we have specially prepared—' Hermione snorted when she saw Alphard's eyes widen in shock as Trinity opened a door behind him with a flick of a wand. '—chambers, Mr Black.'
Stunned, Alphard Black just stood there, staring into the room Trinity had opened as if he couldn't believe his eyes. Hermione bit her lip, trying to avoid her laughter from bubbling back to the surface. It was hard with that utterly disgusted expression on Black's face.
'You can't be serious,' he said to Trinity, a hint of danger creeping into his voice.
'I'm afraid she very much is,' Hermione replied, looking to him apologetically.
'You mean we're supposed to …' he trailed off, gesturing between them and the room, 'in there?'
She nodded, making a face. 'I'm not too happy about it either,' she replied seriously.
He just stared at her, his face utterly blank. It made her feel incredibly uncomfortable, and she scratched her neck as a subconscious diversion. She really hoped it was just the whole idea of this that made him so appalled and not because he happened to be stuck with her. Surely, she wasn't that hideous?
Black suddenly turned back to Trinity. 'And then what? Are we supposed to leave currency behind on the bedside table?' he sharply asked.
'No, of course not,' Trinity replied, offended. 'I thought you, as a member of the completely eradicated Black family line, would be thrilled to be given a chance to reinstate it.'
'Thrilled? Thrilled!' Black snapped, anger flashing over his face. 'Does it look like I ever gave a damn before? And you brought me back here so I could create a child with her after which, I suppose, being the good ministerial servant you need me to be, I am to just go quietly back to my death?'
Trinity had taken a step back. Hermione couldn't blame her. All pleasantness and playfulness was gone from the wizard's face, and instead, there was something dark and dangerous lurking out. Something that felt incredibly familiar to her and made her swallow nervously.
Something clashed against the door to the Death Chamber. The three inside turned their heads, the current row momentarily forgotten.
'Oww! Bloody door!' Another softer 'boink' followed that sounded like someone had kicked the door in frustration.
Hermione took a step in the direction of the door. 'Ron?' she shouted questioningly.
'Hermione? Good, you're still there. We're coming!' Ron yelled. 'Don't do anything stupid!'
'Oh, sweet Merlin, no,' she muttered, dropping her head and clenching her fists. 'I told you lot not to do this!' she screamed back.
'Ron, you're in the way. Move over.'
'Harry! What about my parents!' Hermione shouted, now getting angry. They would screw up everything she'd so carefully planned.
A blast followed, burning the outline of the door a greenish blue.
'Harry!' she yelled, frustrated about not getting an answer. 'Eek!'
She was unceremoniously swung over a shoulder and carried away. However, Hermione wasn't going anywhere without a fight.
'Put me down,' she said, struggling ferociously. 'Alphard Black, you big, idiotic, male chauvinistic pig, put me down right this instance.'
She grabbed the door's frame on their way into the chamber, but a spell impacted on her hand, and it slipped from her fingers while he moved them indoors. Next, the door slammed shut behind them, and there was a low hum before it vanished altogether.
At the same time, the door outside the Death Chamber got blown off its hinges. Ron Weasley stormed inside, frantically looking around for Hermione, his wand raised.
'Where is she?' he growled at the pale-looking Ministry witch.
'Inside,' Trinity said, pointing to the 'doorless' chamber.
'Hermione!' Ron yelled, running to the blind wall and trying all kinds of charms and curses to get through or make the wall disappear.
Harry stood in the doorway, staring from the chamber to the Ministry worker in resignation, whilst his best friend was having a fit. He flicked his wand at the door he'd blasted away, and it repaired itself before flying back into the post with a click.
'I take it that's an Uniseal Unspeakable's Chamber?' he asked sorrowfully.
'I am sorry,' Trinity whispered, nodding. 'I—I—'
Harry shook his head at her and raised his hand to stop the apologies.
'Ron!' he shouted, trying to get the redhead's attention and failing miserably. Sighing, he walked to him. 'Ron,' Harry said softly, placing his hand on his friend's shoulder. 'Ron, there's no point. We're too late.'
'No, we're not,' Ron said, shaking off his hand and casting another Blasting Charm. 'She is in there. Do something, Harry. We can get through. We got inside Gringotts, too.'
'Gringotts wasn't designed by Hermione, Ron. That chamber is. It's over. There is no way in.'
'There has to be. I am not giving up.' Ron casted and casted at the blind wall, until he was panting and leaning on his knees from exhaustion. Then, he looked angrily at Harry. 'Do something, Potter. If it were Ginny, you wouldn't just stand there like a monkey.'
'Ron, if there were a way in or out, Hermione would've told us the moment this stupid policy became a fact,' Harry replied calmly.
'Why didn't she just say yes?' Ron yelled, kicking the wall in frustration. 'I asked. This didn't have to happen. Why did she have to think it over? For a whole bloody year! I would've married her, and this wouldn't be happening!' Suddenly, he noticed Trinity. 'You! You did this to her!' He flashed his wand.
'Protego!' Harry yelled. 'Expelliarmus!'
Trinity Fudge's eyes widened as Ron's curse collapsed into the silvery shield surrounding her.
'Give me back my wand, Harry,' Ron hissed, turning to his friend with clenched fists.
'Not until you calm down.' Harry turned to Trinity. 'You're Trinity Fudge, right?'
'She was on the list, too, Ron. She's as much a victim of this policy as Hermione.'
'I don't care,' Ron snapped irrationally, stepping closer and closer to Harry. 'Give me my wand or I'll beat you to pulp, Harry.'
Harry sighed. Right when Ron was about to take a swing at him, his wand flashed. 'Stupefy!'
A Levitation Charm prevented Ron from striking the floor.
'You should go,' Trinity said softly, 'before they catch you here, too. They already saw your wife.'
Harry smiled at her, grabbing Ron's arm. 'Since we're all at a busy social function at Malfoy Manor, I don't see how they could've seen Ginny. Unless someone would like to make the unlikely, silly suggestion that Draco Malfoy of all people would help us out? I'm sure they were simply mistaken or someone used Polyjuice Potion to incriminate me and my wife.' He stared at the chamber for a moment. 'Who is in there with her?'
Harry raised his eyebrows. 'I suppose …' He sighed again. 'It could be worse.'
'He seemed really nice,' Trinity added immediately, 'quite charming and handsome, too, and—' She stopped her babbling when she saw Harry's face darken. 'But I suppose that doesn't matter,' she said demurely.
'No, it really doesn't when one is forced to do something with someone not of their own choosing,' Harry said sharply as he walked to the door. He turned around and asked, 'Why do you do this job?'
'I've worked all my life to get here. I studied for this. What else should I do?'
'Anything else,' Harry said before throwing the Invisibility Cloak over Ron and him and exiting the Death Chamber when the door opened and Katherine Blishwick walked back in.
'Did Miss Granger and Mr Black get into the chamber?' she asked in a businesslike tone of voice.
'Yes,' Trinity replied softly. 'But I didn't get to the next one yet.'
'Then, let us continue. Who do we still have on our list for tonight?'
'Val Delaqueen and Fred Weasley, Shani Daniels and Sirius Black, Cosette Flaskerud and Jack Scabior, Miya Lath-Dye and Godric Gryffindor, and Shara Serpent with—oh, how fitting—Salazar Slytherin,' Trinity read out loud.
'Well, we better get to work.'
A yelp left Hermione's mouth when Alphard turned around and abruptly dumped her on the bed. She landed ungracefully on her bum, her legs up in the air, arms swinging around afraid to drop to the floor as she slipped to the edge. Her fingers clutched frantically to the covers until her feet touched the floor, stopping her sliding movement. Taking a deep breath in relief for not falling to the hard floor, she lay there for a moment as she contemplated on her situation.
Then, utterly furious, Hermione looked up, leaning on her elbows as she watched the person whom she was trapped into this chamber with and who had just dumped her on this bed uncaringly. Alphard Black had paced away from her and was standing with his back to her, staring at the blind wall. Both his hands were in his neck as he stretched out his spine, taking a deep breath.
'What's the matter with you?' she hissed. 'Don't you get that—'
'Shut up,' he snapped, all kindness gone from his voice.
Hermione sputtered in indignation and rose from the bed. 'Don't—'
'Granger, stay away and give me a moment to get my temper under control unless you care to take the brunt of it,' he warned in a strained tone, his arms dropping.
There was a slight tremble running visibly through his body, and she froze on the spot, noticing he'd clenched his fists. Just how bad was this temper of his?
There was nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide in this tiny room, and he was an awful lot taller than her. Her eyes flashed around, looking for anything that could be used as a weapon in case it were necessary. Besides the king-sized, wooden four-poster, there were two nightstands positioned on either side. However, there was nothing on top of them, not even a lamp or a decorative vase, and they looked too heavy to pick up and use as a battering ram. Other than the bed and the nightstands, the room was empty—present company not included.
So, she stood there, waiting silently and somewhat keeping her distance. If push came to shove, she supposed she could always plant one of her high heels in a sensitive part of his anatomy.
The trembling of his body ceased, and his fists unclenched. Finally, he took a deep breath and turned around, his facial expression composed and seemingly under control.
'Are you all right now?' Hermione asked, wincing inside at how snide and sarcastic those words left her lips.
He smirked. 'Are you always this blunt?'
'Do you always threaten to beat up the nearest person even when they aren't to blame for your situation?'
His smirk broadened into a devious smile. 'Well, it's convenient,' he replied unapologetically.
Hermione scowled and placed her hands on her sides.
'However, you needn't worry. Right now, it wouldn't be convenient at all for me to damage you since we're clearly in this … together.'
'Well, we wouldn't be in this … together,' she added, mimicking him, 'if you hadn't dragged us in here. Those were my friends outside and—'
'Are you always this unobservant, Granger?' he interrupted. 'That insipid Fudge woman had her wand out and was about to cast us in here. I figured this way would be less violent.' He shrugged and rubbed his back, muttering more to himself, 'Hadn't counted on you kneeing my spine though.'
'Sorry,' she said, sounding equally unapologetic as he had a minute ago.
'Apology accepted,' he replied with a cheerful smile.
She felt her irritation rise despite her better judgement because she was certain he'd taken her apology seriously for that purpose. Only a fool would miss she hadn't been sincere. She actually hoped his spine hurt lots.
By Godric, how can one person be so … so … grrr.
'Unfortunately, there seems to be some ward against wandless magic activated. Nothing I did worked. I tried disarming that witch. I tried Apparating us out of the Death Chamber several times in case the ward was oscillating. Or did you really think that I merely enjoyed holding onto your arm all that time?'
'Oh niiiiice. Love you, too, darling,' she mimicked his previous flirting behaviour snidely, even though she was somewhat impressed about what he had tried to do. Apparently, he wasn't completely brainless and quite powerful, too, if he felt secure enough to attempt a wandless Apparition for the both of them. Her mind lingered a moment on that thought, but she shook it away. She couldn't dwell on it now, not while they were still trapped in this room.
Alphard grinned about her accurate acting performance. 'And pray tell, what did you do to help us out of that situation besides just standing there, gawking at me?'
'I wasn't gawking at you,' she immediately replied, horrified he'd noticed.
He arched one of his perfect eyebrows.
'Well, not for that,' she added, wanting to pummel him to death. 'I just thought you looked – you looked more alive than I expected.'
'It's the truth. I don't find you attractive at all.'
Another infuriating smirk followed that statement. Blasted Slytherins.
'Really?' he teased.
He slowly glided towards her, halting inches away from her body. Hermione arched her neck to meet his eyes, refusing to back down. She wasn't going to let him intimidate her with his invasion of her personal space. He would just have to back away himself. She wasn't moving. He, however, was. Leaning towards her ear, he breathed seductively against her skin as he whispered oh so softly:
'So, it won't affect you at all were I to do,' he paused, raising his hand, 'this.'
With the back of his hand, he gently caressed her right cheek. It tingled and had an effect on her she would never have been able to predict. She was by no means inexperienced. She'd been touched by boys, men, before and in much more intimate ways. Yet, this simple action nearly made her come undone. When she didn't step away or object to his caress, his hand followed the path of chin, fingers turning around to cup her left cheek, and his thumb grazed over her mouth, hardly even touching her lips. Still, it made her mouth dry, and she licked her lips in response to that titillating sensation he brought forth inside of her. Hermione closed her eyes, leaning into his touch, and a soft mewl escaped her. She wanted nothing more than to close the distance between them.
His low, triumphant chuckle broke her out of her reverie, and her eyes snapped open, slapping his hand away at once.
'What?' she started, looking around confused for a minute and then realising the chamber had to be charmed with a lust-inducing spell for her to have such an extreme reaction. Oh, she was so going to make them pay for all this. 'I can't believe they actually jinxed this room to get us going at it faster,' she said through gritted teeth. 'What are we, on a timer?' she yelled at the place that used to host the door.
'It's a bit crude,' Alphard concurred calmly.
'I'm going to kill them,' she hissed vengefully. 'I don't know how yet, but it'll be something slow and excruciatingly painful!' The latter was once again shouted in the direction of the absent door.
'I believe killings would be counterproductive to their goals,' Black joked.
'Do I look like I care about their damn goals?'
He regarded her quietly for a moment. 'No,' he said slowly. 'You don't seem like the type of witch to mind. So, then tell me, how come Hermione Jean Granger is here, obediently following the orders of a Ministry she clearly disagrees with? I have to say, I'd love to find out how they managed that,' he added, staring at her entertained. 'That must have been something.'
'They threatened my family,' Hermione said sourly, starting to pace the room to and fro. 'I should've told my parents to stay in Australia under their aliases after Harry vanquished Voldemort. Why did I even think it would be safe for them to ever come back? Fudge, Scrimgeour, Thicknesse,' she stopped in front of him, counting off the names on her fingers, 'all idiotic, power-hungry bureaucrats—Ministers, they're all tarred with the same brush. If only Kingsley would've kept the job, something might've changed. Still, I should've waited. I should've seen the signs when Minister Mogol took office. I should've never brought them back.'
'Don't beat yourself up over it. Leaving them there wouldn't have made a difference,' Alphard said reassuringly. 'There are always traces. They would've been found easily by the Ministry if they started checking the Muggle records.'
Alphard's face contorted before finding his composure back. It was slightly disappointing to Hermione he couldn't take the name as well as Sirius had. Then again …
'Maybe he would have if he hadn't sent Severus Snape to do that job,' Alphard said blankly, interrupting her thought process.
'What?' Hermione said questioningly, turning pale upon getting her fears about her parents having been targets confirmed. 'How do you know?'
'Not much remains hidden behind the veil, dear. However ruthlessly you Obliviated your parents, they would've been found and their memories restored if Severus hadn't altered the Muggle records to point to a completely random couple in the United States. You have no idea how much time they wasted trying to restore memories that never were.'
Hermione staggered back, her hand on her chest, as she shakily sat down on the bed. She thought she'd covered all the angles. It was beyond disconcerting to hear how close everything had come to be a disaster.
'That couple?' she asked, already knowing the answer beforehand.
'Dead,' Black coldly said.
She swallowed. 'I had no idea Professor Snape had done that for me. I used to scold Ron for calling him names because he was on our side, but I never really …' she trailed off, scratching her neck uncomfortably.
Alphard sat down next to her, placing a hand on her leg. 'You never liked him?' he finished carefully.
'He was a miserable, old bat,' Hermione said sharply. 'Always picking on Neville and Harry, it was so immature. I really enjoyed setting his robes on fire. I just wished it had caught better.'
'Why, you're a vicious one,' Black said, laughing loudly. 'If it makes you feel any better, I sincerely doubt Snivellus did it for your benefit.'
Hermione looked sideways, shaking her head at Alphard who was enjoying himself a bit too much for her taste.
'It doesn't matter for whom or why he did it. It matters that he did,' she replied. 'What did you ever do to stop Voldemort?'
Alphard looked at her in amusement, giving her leg a soft squeeze. 'We can't all be daring warriors,' he countered.
'So you did nothing,' she concluded.
'Hmm…' he shrugged, clearly straining to keep his face composed.
'It's not funny,' Hermione said. 'People like you—' Her index finger pricked into his chest. '—the silent majority is what validated his reign. Those of you who stuck to the sidelines, not wanting to be noticed or targeted, who just went on with their everyday lives as if nothing had changed, that's what truly kept him in power.'
'So now you're blaming me for his deeds?' Alphard asked, grinning.
'Oh, so you think you're innocent?'
'I never said I was.'
'You just don't care.'
'Didn't say that either.'
'Well, you either care and do something or you don't.'
'Are you honestly this naïve to think people would rise up against someone if they have everything to lose and nothing to gain? People are inherently selfish, Hermione Granger. It's part of human nature and the need to survive. You don't just go and attack a big predator for the sake of morality or total strangers.'
'Pastor Niemöller said it better than I ever could,' Hermione countered, quoting: '"First, they came for the communists, and I didn't speak because I wasn't a communist."'
Before she could continue with the rest of it, Black already interrupted her:
'"And by the time they came for me, there was no one left to speak up." You're exactly proving my point with that quote, Granger. It contains quid pro quo thinking at the deepest level. I stand up for you now, so therefore, when it's my turn, you have to stand up for me. There are no selfless reasons for resistance; one's own survival lies at the origin of everything.'
Hermione gaped, not used to having her words turned against her or being out-debated by anyone in any subject, especially not when it came from a Muggle source.
'So how did it serve your needs to keep quiet?' she asked snappishly.
He smiled, the hand not on her knee reached out and stroked through her hair before settling at the back of her neck.
'Who said I kept quiet?' he asked softly, fixating her with that dark gaze of his.
'So, you spoke up against Voldemort?' she replied, leaning towards him. Their lips nearly touched; her hands tugged at the rags on his body, and those two closed buttons snapped loose, scattering around the room.
'No,' he replied shortly, his fingers deftly unbuttoning her robe.
'No?' she repeated questioningly as he pushed her simple, black robe off her shoulders.
His breath stuck in his throat for a second as his eyes roamed appreciatively over her exposed body. She was only wearing lingerie underneath her robe. His pupils dilated in lust, darkening his eyes further.
'I see someone came prepared,' he said hoarsely.
Hermione wiggled her eyebrows mischievously. 'Well, like you said, I had foreknowledge.'
His lips calmly brushed hers before capturing them in a searing kiss. He tilted his head to deepen their kiss, exploring her mouth with his tongue whilst she returned the favour with hers. Hermione completely forgot about anything and everything as they each enjoyed their kiss to the fullest. An occasional moan filled the air. When he finally broke off the kiss, she had to open her eyes, having completely lost herself in the experience.
'Wow,' she whispered, amazed.
'Wow indeed,' he replied, equally affected.
Perhaps this wouldn't be such a chore after all.
As they enjoyed each other to the fullest, it happened: A foreign source of magic weaved and washed over them like a tidal wave.
'Oi,' Hermione said, surprised, clutching to him while his arms found their way across her back, holding her close. The sensation was bordering on unpleasant, the pressure so heavy that she almost couldn't breathe. She could sense his heart pounding as hard as her own, echoing in her ears. Were they beating in sync? It felt as if her heart were trying to get out of her ribcage and jump to his. Her mind whirred; there was this buzzing noise that got louder, and she felt bloated, nauseated. Then, it was like a balloon had been pricked by a needle. Her mind cleared; the excess pressure whirled away; and her senses returned to normal. She sighed, thinking it was over.
Electricity shot through her spine, connecting to her brain and every single nerve cell in her body. She cramped up; her body began to shake like she had a seizure, and then, power blasted outward from within her chest. So much power. It was intoxicating. She inhaled it like a drug addict, wanting more and more. It felt wonderful, like she was on top of the moon. Unbeatable. Flying on the wings of eternal magic.
She recalled reading about Samhain in Morgana's book that when the veil was at its thinnest, the impossible would occur. Up was down, down was up. Everything could be achieved by those the Goddess valued.
The thought whirled through her brain, unbidden and relentless. She was exhausted when the power settled inside of her, as if it had always been there, as if it were hers. Always and forever.
Why him? For Goddess's sake, why him?
She'd not looked at him once during that 'power attack', but she'd felt his body's reactions against hers, knew he'd experienced the same sensations as her, and she feared he'd know exactly what it meant, just like she did.
Not him. Anyone but him.
This was one hell of a night: her worst and best Halloween ever.
She'd wondered. She'd been curious. Knowing they'd keep this ridiculous program running through that fated, ancient holiday, she'd weighed and weighed whether to fight this Ministry with their old methods as Harry, Ron and Ginny wanted to do or use ancient powers to defeat them. With the memory of camping in tents in forests fresh in her mind, even after all these years, the choice had been easy. Though, she'd not shared her plans with the others in case they would backfire or she'd be wrong.
She'd made sure to push her name to this date on the list. She would've been able to bypass that pathetic threat they'd made to her family easily—a threat that still made her see red in fury, but she'd not acted on that, for it had been a convenient excuse to use to stop Harry and the others. A convenient excuse as to why she wasn't running or fighting.
What have I done?
How do I stop this?
The solution presented itself on a silver platter, so obviously staring her in the face that she nearly missed it. Hermione smiled against his chest. The exhaustion left her body, and she felt rejuvenated. She felt beyond marvellous. She would kill two birds with one stone: the Ministry and him.
As she rolled off him, feeling truly mentally and physically satisfied, she felt a burst of magic flying to the walls. He'd cast a powerful ward, obviously to prevent people from entering, wands drawn. Hermione looked sideways at the wizard who gracefully exited the remains of the bed. His hand waved casually through the air, and robes folded around them from thin air.
Then, he glided to the door. Her eyes widened, and with a quick spin on the spot, she Apparated inside the room, right in front of the door. With a swift wave of her hand, a second ward formed around the room.
He halted, narrowing his eyes at her figure, blocking the exit. 'What are you doing?' he hissed softly.
'You're not going out there,' she replied, staring at him determinedly.
'Do you think you can stop me?' he asked patronisingly.
'I'll allow you to Disapparate from this building, but you're not touching my friends or anyone I care about,' she added, ignoring his words.
'I see,' he replied calmly. 'How long have you known?'
'I had my suspicions from the start, but I only became certain after we were in here. No pure-blood would've known that Muggle World War Two quote. Not a chance in hell. And you really shouldn't have dropped that despicably irritating flirting act so fast, Voldemort.'
He shrugged. 'Alphard is easy to imitate but rather annoying to keep up. I didn't see the point since you hadn't known him.'
'I knew you.'
'You never really met me, dear.'
'I'm not your dear.'
He smirked, his eyes darting over her figure suggestively. 'Very well, you're not my dear. However, you did supply me with a wonderful additional source of ancient magic there. So move over, I have some people I'd like to express my gratitude to.'
'I'll be the one doing any expressions of gratitude,' Hermione interrupted sharply. 'Did you not understand me when I said it the first time? You're not going out there. You're not going to hurt anyone.'
'Or else?' he replied, arching an eyebrow at her mockingly. 'You'll do what?'
'I'll drag you back through that veil so fast you won't even have a second to enjoy having an alive body again,' she threatened. 'Something went wrong during that spell that was supposed to bring forth Alphard. My guess would be the Goddess of Samhain interfered somehow, giving you a second chance for some incomprehensible reason I can't even begin to state my disapproval about. However, since you came here through me, I'm guessing it will be relatively easy for me to dispose of you through me, too.'
'That would mean taking your own life, Hermione,' he said quietly. 'Are you telling me you're willing to go that far?'
She took a step into his direction and looked up, staring straight into that knowing gaze. 'Look into my eyes, Tom Riddle, and you tell me. I lived through what you think society should be like. I won't let it happen again. I won't let you do this to anyone again. Not if all I need to do to stop it is die.'
Anger radiated off him as the truthfulness of her words sank in. His hand flashed, grabbing her upper arm.
'Let go of me right now or I'll do it,' she hissed.
She saw the conflict in his eyes, and when he moved, so did she, blocking his stunner.
'I'm not a silly teenager anymore, Riddle. One more attempt to attack me, and you'll find yourself back behind the veil. Your choice.'
He turned around and walked away from her, rubbing his neck. Noticing that contemplating gesture, Hermione lowered her ward around the room. She might be willing to die, but that didn't mean she wanted to die right now. Knowing his absolute fear of death, Hermione knew that as long as she had this hanging over his head, he had no choice but to obey her commands.
For a moment, he looked over his shoulder at her with a smirk on his handsome face.
'I'll be seeing you again, Hermione Granger,' he said, followed immediately by his Disapparition crack.
And then, he was gone.
'I don't doubt it for a second,' she muttered when the door blasted to pieces and Aurors stormed in.
'Well, hello there,' Hermione said, turning around casually. 'So nice of you all to finally come to my rescue.'
'Where is he?'
'Oh, I am afraid Lord Voldemort didn't stick around,' she said viciously, enjoying how they all winced at the name. 'He wasn't at all amused to having been summoned by this Ministry in order to "make love" to a Mudblood, but I suppose the people of Britain will be even less amused to hear this Ministry brought him back to life.' She moved to the door when the Head Auror grabbed her arm. Hermione looked down at the offending hand and then looked up coldly. 'If you want to keep that hand, you will remove it from my arm immediately.'
'We need to know what happened, and you will answer our questions,' he replied sharply, letting go of her arm in shock when she pulled up her sleeve all the way to his hand, showing them the extensive bruises underneath. 'Oh no,' the Auror whispered, horrified. 'I'm so sorry. Did he do …?'
'No, all the other people in this room attacked me,' she snidely answered. 'How did you find out Voldemort was in here anyway?'
'The real Alphard Black hitchhiked along with his nephew when he got summoned,' the Auror explained, his voice far more kindly now. 'Apparently, some of the dead are quite disturbed with the actions of this Ministry.'
'You don't say,' Hermione muttered sarcastically. 'It's called "rest in peace" for a reason.'
'What happened to you?' he asked, ignoring her comment.
'Well, let me summarise: I did my job as the good, little breeding cow this Ministry liked me to be. And who does this Ministry get for me: The one wizard I helped my best friend, Harry Potter, destroy. You lot got me into this chamber that I couldn't exit unless I "made love" to the most dangerous wizard of all time, so I did. Then, you let him escape. As you may recall, my wand is in your custody, so I'm lucky I am still alive: The only reason for that being that he probably just loves the idea of torturing Harry with having done this to me. Now, if you'd excuse me, I have a Healer to see at once, unless you want me to contact Miss Skeeter and let her know all the sordid little details of what happened here tonight? I'm sure she'd be absolutely thrilled to write a comprehensive coverage on the Ministry's doings if she can describe explicitly how I got raped. I wonder how long you lot will remain in office when that article hits the street. Make sure Minister Mogol understands what's at stake for him.'
'I don't think that article will be necessary, Miss Granger,' the Head Auror said. 'We understand each other perfectly.'
'Good. Now where is my wand?'
He reached into his pocket and held it out to her. 'The Minister for Magic wanted me to express our sincerest apolo—'
'If the Minister really meant that, he could've delivered those apologies himself,' Hermione said sharply as she accepted her wand back. 'Since he's not here and probably hiding under some rock with heavy security, I'd rather not listen to any statements made from a PR perspective. However, I do look forward to hearing the undoubtedly wonderful excuse for his resignation in the papers tomorrow. Goodbye.'
As Hermione paced past the Auror and left the chamber, the group that crowded around the door and stood in the Death Chamber parted like the red sea for her. The only sounds to be heard were the continuous, sharp clicks of her heels on the concrete floor. As she approached the door out of the room, she suddenly realised she didn't need to leave this area to exit the Ministry anymore, so she turned around and said:
'Tell Minister Mogol I expect this insane, obligatory breeding program to be ended by him before he resigns his office. If I hear one more witch has to go through this unwillingly, Lord Voldemort will be the least of his worries.'
And with that, she spun on the spot and Disapparated straight through the Ministry wards as well.
Behind the veil, Rowena Ravenclaw stood ramrod straight, her arms folded over each other and her face set extremely disapprovingly. Scratching her scalp, her redheaded company stared at the rapidly thickening veil. Samhain was officially over.
'Well,' Rowena started, seemingly at a loss for words.
'Well,' Helga repeated, equally eloquent.
'I suppose all is well that ends well.'
'Yes, yes, you're absolutely right,' Helga agreed. 'We stopped the Ministry of Magic with their unnatural acts of using discarded genetic material.'
'Hermione did that. The Goddess of Samhain did that. You were merely the vessel that provided Samhain with the resources through your absolute screw-up,' Rowena corrected, staring at her friend sternly. 'Connecting veils,' she muttered, shaking her head. 'After all those centuries, you still haven't learned that nothing good ever comes from your interference into people's love lives.'
'No point in keeping this veil here,' Helga said, ignoring Rowena as she flashed her wand at the still burning candles. The pentagram dissolved, and the veil vanished with an understated 'pop'.
The two witches just stood there, staring into thin air contemplatively.
'Still, I didn't see that coming: him and her,' Helga said after the long silence. 'But who knows …'
'They're a match made in Heaven?' Rowena concluded sarcastically. 'Maybe you can pour some glitter through the veil next time and sparkle the entire wo—'
'Oh shut up, Rowie. I don't get it at all. I never fail at this. Love is my speciality. It's always been. How come He got in there? It should be impossible. Amortentia made it impossible.'
'Salazar will become unbearable when he hears about this,' Rowena said, sighing. 'All that gloating … You think you could keep your big mouth shut for once, Helga?'
'He shouldn't have been able to tap into this spell. He's not equipped to do so,' Helga continued. 'Unless they have a deep connection, but that makes no sense. Does it?'
'Of course the gloating may be less when he hears the girl is a Muggle-born,' Rowena continued, frowning in deep thought. 'No, she's brilliant. He'll still be obnoxious about it, no matter what her blood status is. We're never going to hear the end of it.'
'I wonder …' Helga said, pondering. 'Why did no other come forth?'
'Oh my, and I haven't even considered Godric's reaction. He'll be so pissed, which will delight Salazar, and then, they will … Oh, we have to keep this under wraps, Helga. Let's just blame it on Samhain.'
'Of course!' Helga shouted, slapping her companion relieved. 'It's the Goddess of Samhain.'
'Perfect, so we're in agreement? Not our fault at all. We know nothing.'
Helga laughed. 'Oh, I should've thought of this beforehand. I could've helped had I known all the boundaries and the rules. This is just brilliant. They'll be perfect together.'
'Huh?' Rowena said, staring after the happily walking away witch, bemused. 'Who? Whoa! Wait, Helga!' She ran after her friend. 'You can't possibly mean them.'
'Of course I do. Don't you see it? No other came forth. It's been him all along. Perfection. I love it. I knew I didn't mess up my spell after all. It's always been him. Now, that's irony for you. I can't wait to see Salazar's face.'
'Oh dear,' Rowena said quietly, 'you've finally lost it completely.'
'No, I've won,' Helga replied triumphantly.
'How can you be so certain?'
'If I am mistaken, there is always Beltane,' Helga replied cheerfully.
'Of course, Beltane,' Rowena said, rolling her eyes. 'Nothing could possibly go wrong then.'
A/N: The next chapter is a little satire bit, not an actual continuation of this story.
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