A/N: I know! I'm sorry! I'm sorry! Please don't hurt me. I know that it's been a long time since the last update, especially since the last chapter kind of ended with a cliff-hanger, which makes my offence doubly unforgiveable, but I'm here now so let's par-tay! (I'm never going to say that ever again, don't worry). I'm not going to bore you with the excuses, but I do feel like I know in what direction this story is heading now – which is good.
Thanks to all of those who favourited and followed the story, I hold you dear to my heart. A special thanks to Chapter 3's reviewers: Pimberlee; Lilabeth; FallenCrimsonStar; LiquidLuck007; KraZiiePyrozHavemoreFun; ColteeYT; Dancing-Souls; miel04.
I value all reviews, and it were these reviewers that made this chapter possible. THANK YOU!
So now, please read on to…
Chapter 4: The End of Days
All was still within the mind of Hermione Granger. An effortless sort of calm that she hadn't felt in… well, probably ever. It felt like she was floating on water, provided with a sense of buoyancy that effectively detached herself from her own feelings and surroundings.
Her eyes watered as she opened them, the room she was in was white. Very white. Wherever she looked her unfocussed eyes could not discern one object from another. She tried to lift her head to see better but gave up when the effort proved to be too much and her neck muscles cracked painfully.
"Mai… Babe… Are you all there? Babe? Baaaaabe?"
My babe? Hermione thought sluggishly, attempting to order the jumble of thoughts in her head. My babe… My baby? The only person who had called Hermione "my baby" was her own mother, but the voice didn't seem quite right to her. Too smug and… masculine. What? Where am I? Who is that?
"Oi, Harry. She hit her head pretty hard, don't cha think? D'you reckon her head was supposed to bleed that much?"
The name made Hermione's insides spasm involuntarily as a sudden influx of memories overwhelmed her. Harry fighting Voldemort. Ron crashing through the ceiling. Hermione stealing the Elder Wand from Voldemort only to have Malfoy obtain it. Herself confronting Malfoy on his stance in the war. Malfoy's reply…
"Harry?!" Hermione gasped as she jerked forward, her eyes watering. She could just make out his unruly dark hair as her eyes began to adjust and focus to her surroundings. A warm hand pressed itself into the small of her back, rubbing small circles in an oddly intimate and possessive gesture that made her uncomfortable. Frowning, she turned her head slightly to see who the offender was, but she already knew by the flaming red hair before his face swam into view.
Except he looked different. His hair was gelled back in what was very reminiscent of the way Draco Malfoy had styled his hair in their younger days, his shoulders seemed slightly broader and his stature taller. Yet it was his face that frightened Hermione the most. The face that seemed always poised to give her a warm smile or a perplexed frown was mutated into a sneer and smug expression, an expression that she hadn't thought was physically possible. Especially on Ron.
Her eyes roved around the room, aptly registering that she was in the hospital wing before her gaze rested on the dark haired young man seated in the chair opposite her and the simpering blonde on his leg. Hermione's frown deepened at the pallor of his skin and the oddly empty yet disdainful look on his face. He was staring straight at her, and suddenly he seemed borderline hostile.
He wasn't even wearing his glasses.
Sending Harry a curious look, Hermione's perplexed gaze went to the blonde girl half-sprawled onto Harry's lap, a manicured hand creeping up his upper thigh. The girl was looking at her as she did so, as if to prove a point and she let out a high-pitched screeching laugh as Hermione's brows furrowed in concern.
Hermione's eyes widened as she recognised the blue eyes that were usually accompanied with flaming red hair, which were so similar to Ron's. Ginny?
Hermione wasn't sure what shocked her more: the fact that she had bleached her hair blonde, or that she was practically dry humping Harry's aloof form. Her mind spun in confusion. These weren't her friends, but even imposters using a Polyjuice potion would have been acting more convincing.
"Where – What happened?"
"You fell down the Grand Staircase this morning while on the way to breakfast," Ron said, his hand sliding up her shirt, making her squirm. "You were in the middle of showing Ginny how to walk seductively. Made quite an entrance, babe."
Ginny released another high-pitched screech that Hermione took to equate to a laugh. "Perhaps next time you'll focus less on swaying your hips and more on where you're actually going." Ron began to laugh, a deep patronising sound that gave the impression that he didn't expect anything different out of her. Harry, however, just continued looking at her meaningfully.
Rather than it grating her nerves and snapping at him like she would have normally done, a sense of unease rising in her stomach made her feel skittish and confused. This wasn't right. These weren't her friends. Were they under some sort of compulsion? Or was it herself? Was she in a nightmare? Whatever it was, the nauseating feeling in her gut told her to play a passive role, at least for the moment. If she was being set up, she'd play along – for now.
"I – I don't remember," Hermione said finally, lying back down so Ron would either have his hand squashed or would have to remove it from where it was trying to undo her bra strap. Wisely, he chose the latter.
"Can I show her the mirror?" Ginny purred suddenly, interrupting any potential questions that Ron – or Harry, if he ever decided to stop glaring at her – might have asked her. Wait – a mirror? What mirror? Harry jerked his head slightly in assent, a corner of his curling as Ginny scampered off his lap to retrieve a hand mirror which sat on a small bedside table next to a wand that Hermione hadn't noticed before. Her wand. The one she'd taken from Ollivander's Wand Shop the week before… this had happened. With feverishly bright eyes and a grin to match, Ginny held the mirror in front of her face, and Hermione noted that Ron had his fingers in his ears and the corner of Harry's mouth had curled upwards into a smirk.
Hermione's felt her eyes widen. If they had expected Hermione to scream, however, at the sight of her appearance, they were disappointed. Her mouth dropped open into an O and a choked sound of horror escaped her throat. Although from all the bruises adorning her face it certainly seemed as though she'd fallen down a flight of stairs, there was one thing about her appearance she had never heard that falling down a staircase would cause.
Her hair was straight.
Before today, she had never thought it possible, and over the years she had grown attached to the fact that her hair refused to cooperate to the social norm – retaining its bushy nature for the world to see. But here it was – her hair – straightened out and hanging limp yet stylish around her face. Hermione continued to stare at the mirror and the only thing she could think of was that Hell had finally frozen over.
Sweet Merlin, she looked like Lavender Brown!
Looking away from both the mirror and Ginny's smirking face, Hermione settled into the hospital bed feigning a look of indifference that she certainly didn't feel. Something was really wrong here. Something was wrong with them. Her friends weren't her friends anymore, and it was alienating to look at their familiar faces and see someone different. Her own compassionate Harry was now detached, uncaring and – Hermione was beginning to believe – holding a grudge against herself. The Ron she was in love with was no longer cutely and infuriatingly oblivious, instead, everything he said seemed to be speaking in constant sexual innuendos that were making her feel objectified – and infuriated. And Ginny – Ginny seemed borderline homicidal crazy and seemed to have no problem making lewd hand movements up Harry's thighs and crotch. And she was blonde.
It was insanity.
It was as if she had stepped into another world.
No – now that would be insanity.
"I didn't know that you got a new wand, Mai," Ron said. Pointing to the wand lying on the bedside table. Hermione frowned, she'd already shown it to him back when she had first obtained it. Hermione had constantly whined about using Bellatrix's wand, and it was Ron who suggested that they stockpile their wand supplies, so that anyone without a wand could be armed against the Death Eaters.
Hermione needed to be alone, needed to think without the constant distraction of the people – for she could no longer call them her friends – around her. Her frazzled mind churned out the excuse that she had to fix her hair, and it was only later that Hermione realised that if these people had truly been her friends they'd know that something was definitely wrong with her at the prospect of Hermione Granger actually caring about her hair. It was definitely the most obtuse thing she had ever said, but they nodded as if her saying such things was a common occurrence and left the Hospital Wing, pushing past an oddly timid Madame Pomfrey roughly, nearly sending the woman airborne.
Yet another odd thing about this world, because that's all she could explain it as – another world.
She would investigate, she decided as Madame Pomfrey checked her for any lasting signs of any concussions. Tonight, she would go out and figure out what was happening. Hopefully it was just some sort of weird joke and everything would be normal once she left the Hospital Wing.
She wasn't optimistic, however.
It was well after midnight when Hermione finally left the Hospital Wing, her wand clasped tightly in hand. A young first year had turned up late in the afternoon vomiting profusely, and Madame Pomfrey had tended him with the efficiency of a startled chicken – lots of flapping limbs and no efficiency of movement. And squawking. Lots and lots of needless squawking.
At least staying awake to this hour hadn't been an issue.
Finally though, she managed to leave the Hospital Wing at a time when she would be unnoticed. Alighting her wand with a silent lumos, Hermione crept down the corridor towards the staircase. She would head towards the library first, she decided. Throughout her afternoon in the Hospital Wing, Hermione had had much time to consider her situation after waking up in this strange place. For one thing, all the injuries she'd sustained during the Final Battle had disappeared from her body and were replaced with injuries consistent with a spectacular trip down the Grand Staircase. Yet she still possessed the same wand that she'd obtained from before the Final Battle – that fact could not be denied.
But then she'd come up with a hypothesis – one that she didn't like very much. Often she'd read about magic spells and enchantments going awry, with their castor being sent through space and time. At the time, she'd thought it to be impossible to go more than a few hours into the past, or travel to too far a place through means other than Apparating. But then, she supposed, there were deviations to every spell. Countless magical corruptions throughout the ages had proved that magic could be vastly unreliable when tampered with. Which was largely the reason why the Alchemist branch of magic had died out so long ago.
Hermione wondered if even Alchemists would think twice before mixing the Killing Curse with an active Resurrection Stone, however.
Hermione made it to the library without incident and found herself equal parts relieved and annoyed that the prefects who should be patrolling the floors at this time of night seemed to be getting some action with his girlfriend on the fourth floor staircase. They didn't even have the decency to find an abandoned classroom – not that that would have made Hermione any less annoyed at the two. Where on Earth was Filch at this time of night?
Shaking her head, Hermione headed into the library, making a bee-line for the section in the library that could provide her with some answers.
The library held an archive of all English Wizarding – as well as some international – newspapers dating back for the last century. They were extensive and categorised by country and then by date which was helpful for her objective today, but had caused her much strife in the past when researching for assignments. If Hermione were to find anything significant about why this world was so messed up then it would be in there.
Hermione hurried to the back of the library, the silvery light of the moon and her own wand, casting eerie shadows amongst the bookshelves. Figures and silhouettes darting between cases and shelves, seeming to follow Hermione no mattered which aisle she turned down. Perhaps irrationally, Hermione pushed herself faster towards the door leading to the archives, opening it quickly and slamming it closed behind her.
Hermione stood there for a moment leaning against the door and catching her breath. Apart from the chorus of the door slamming echoing throughout the library all was silent and still, but she lingered by the door before continuing forward into the large hall-sized room with stacks of newspapers and articles and documents. Working her way around the stacks, she began searching. The Daily Prophet would be the obvious newspaper choice, although her own experiences with the Prophet had been far less than pleasant The Daily Prophet still had an extensive web of reporters, contacts and resources to provide an indication of what was happening in the world. She found The Daily Prophet's stack on an enormous shelf stretching up towards the room's domed ceiling. There was also a large ladder nearby which one could use to peruse the contents of higher shelves at their own leisure.
The dates that Hermione was looking for, however, were practically brand new when compared to the history that the archives spanned. She was looking for the date of today's paper, two weeks after Battle of Hogwarts. They were a lot further along on the shelf than she had expected. Perhaps this Madam Pince wasn't as pedantic about her shelves as Hermione's Madam Pince was. Pulling out the newspaper, Hermione pointed her lit wand at the front-page and inhaled sharply.
Taking up at least a third of the front page was a picture of herself, Harry and Ron standing against an obviously fake landscaped backdrop of smoking ruins for the camera. Ron and she were in each other's arms on the left-hand side of the photograph with Harry standing to her right with a short but quite noticeable distance between them. It was obvious that there was some kind of divide between the three, and Hermione somehow knew that it wasn't by accident that she – or rather, the Hermione who was in this picture – was between the two. Whatever had Harry clenching his jaw at Ron, or had Ron smirking at Harry as his hands slid down her back to roughly grasp her behind, she felt had something to do with her. But then again, perhaps it was just these versions of her Harry and Ron that made the two boys seem competitive – if it even was competitiveness that she was seeing. Hermione already knew that the Ron she had met in the Hospital Wing was not her Ronald Bilius Weasley – he was way too cocksure and lewd – but perhaps even if her Ron had expressed some of these traits then her Harry would look as angry as he did in the picture. Hermione knew that she certainly wouldn't appreciate it.
Shaking her head at the tangent her thoughts were taking, she moved to analyse the Hermione in the photograph. She was already aware of the current unfortunate condition of her hair so the first heart failure Hermione received was from the length of her skirt – or lack thereof. And – as if to add insult to injury – Hermione watched in horror as the Hermione in the picture leaned up to whisper something into Ron's ear, making him smirk at Harry, before sliding back down his body – hiking up her already ridiculously short skirt in the process.
Trying not to retch, Hermione began to read the article beneath it:
ORDER TRIUMPHS OVER PUREBLOOD SUPREMACY
Following the defeat of the Knights of Walpurgis at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry last fortnight by the celebrated heroes Harry Potter, Ronald Weasley and Hermione Granger (pictured above; left, right and middle respectively), Kingsley Shacklebolt – member of the Order of the Phoenix as well as renowned Ministry official – has taken over the reigns as Minister for Magic after the untimely murder of his predecessor, vampire Rufus Scrimgeour.
In a hosted press conference yesterday afternoon, Shacklebolt stated, "[pureblood supremacist's] tyranny over society has now come to an end. With the defeat of the so-called 'Knights of Walpurgis' two weeks ago, we know that they have drawn many sympathisers and shelters from pureblood elitists." Following a question asking what he intended to do as Minister for Magic to rectify the situation he responded, "The pureblooded elite are nothing but a scourge of society, they contribute nothing to society and pass judgement from their remote sumptuous manors and mansions. Those that don't agree or oppose them find themselves 'discouraged' by bribes and vicious threats. Their chauvinistic attitudes and upbringings are disgraceful. But no more. Within the next few months – perhaps weeks even – things are going to change."
Minister Shacklebolt then announced the approval of his Supremacy Subjugation and Enslavement Act and the Muggleborn Anti-Slander Act by the Wizengamot that morning. "We have a few 'inner circle' Knights of Walpurgis in custody from the Battle at Hogwarts two weeks ago." Shacklebolt announced. "They have kindly obliged us with a list of names of supremacist sympathisers that Aurors are arresting as we speak. We hope that these sympathisers will, in turn, provide us with further names and so on so forth until we have every last terrorist sympathiser in custody." Shacklebolt has also stated that new disciplinary actions are currently being undertaken to aid in discouraging sympathisers, being termed as simply 'Re-education'." [continued on p. 8]
Hermione balked. If she hadn't been convinced before, she certainly was now. This definitely was not her home, her world, or even her universe. Somehow, by being attacked with the Killing Curse and defending herself with the Resurrection Stone's magic, she'd been transported to this universe. But why did she look like this universe's Hermione? Had assumed this Hermione's body? If so, why did she still have physical objects from her own world like her wand? And where was this world's Hermione anyway?
And what on earth had the article meant by a "Supremacy Subjugation and Enslavement Act"?
The reason why she had gone on this midnight visit to the library was so she could get some answers, instead she just seemed to be full of more questions than before. Her situation seemed to defy common sense at every turn.
Skimming the newspapers with her finger idly as she made to retreat from the room, her finger snagged on the pages and pulled it from the shelf, where it landed on the floor with a soft whump. As she bent down to pick it up, her wandlight swept over the page, and she couldn't contain the small gasp that escaped her lips as the dark, misshapen silhouettes in the headlines' picture morphed to take the form of humans. Starved, hunch-backed and chained to posts like animals, they were positioned in rows and aisles going back as far as the pictures' quality would allow. Moving her wand higher, she checked the date.
It was dated August 11 – three months ahead of what she knew the date to be.
Hermione's wand fell to the floor with a clatter. She'd time-travelled as well? This couldn't be happening. She fell to sit on the floor to keep the room from spinning. This was too much. Not just the time-travelling but all of it. The impossibility of it all. The transportation over to this universe. The enslavement of wizarding society's pure-blooded elite. This isolating feeling of alienation in a place that she had considered home for so long. Noticing that she was no longer breathing, Hermione forced herself to drag in a deep, steadying breath of air, and slowly exhale. She felt so alone here. No one knew her, or they thought she was some dumb bimbo whose meagre magical skills were solely pointed towards make-up and keeping her hair straight and allowing herself to totter around in obscenely tall heels.
Hermione wiped her eyes with the heels of her hands, to keep the tears from leaving her eyes. She missed her Ron and Harry. She missed her Ginny. She missed her world, her parents, even her war to a point. At least she'd known where she had stood. At least she'd known what was happening. At least she'd had friends…
She had nothing here. But she knew without a doubt that this whole situation – this anomaly of nature – was not temporary. Not all enchantments could be undone. She should have died that night in the Ministry – in the Chamber of Mysteries – and it was by some freak accident that she had landed here. And now Hermione Granger was just another mystery to add to the Chambers' collection.
One that she would try her damnedest to solve it.
But for now, she would have to blend in. Assume this universes Hermione's persona, or otherwise risk discovery.
The boy in the cage spasmed as another cutting hex ripped through his body, this time his shoulder. Once, not too long ago, he had been a proud young man, a reckoning force, the Chosen One.
But he was not yet broken.
Even as another curse ripped his body to pieces and his blood ran unhindered to the stone floor of his iron barred cage he remained strong. Perhaps not physically, but his mind remained in one piece. And although he had finally come to terms with the fact that he would be doomed to an existence of enslavement and torture, and that his dreams and hopes were gone, he clung to his sanity as if it were a life raft.
The deep familiar mocking laugh echoed around the stone walls of his torture chamber.
"You think you can get away with pushing my girlfriend down the Grand Staircase? You're lucky she's alright otherwise I'd kill you."
He said nothing, just continued to lie prone on the stone floor, blinking slowly in a weak effort to clear the blood that had fallen into his eyes. He'd stopped listening to the Weasley's threats a long time ago, and just tried to feel indifference to the red-headed he had despised for much of his time at Hogwarts.
Over the last six months since he had first been mandated into slavery he had spent an excessive amount of time in a chamber similar to this one in the Weasley Manor – the manor that had once been his own home. He knew why he was here now. His master had shoved him as he carried all of the luggage up the Grand Staircase to Gryffindor Tower, and he had fallen back, knocking into beauty queen Granger as she strutted down the Grand Staircase. It had been an accident, but the bint had deserved it.
Ronald Weasley reached through the iron bars and grabbed him by his hair, lifting him up against the bars so that the ugly red 'W' brand on his left cheek was easily noticeable even in the dimly lit chamber.
"Do you? Do you?!" Weasley spat in his face. He had missed the question, but he hesitated only an instant before replying.
"Y-yes, Master Weasley."
The rage on Weasley's face before he threw him to the stone floor again betrayed that he had answered incorrectly. He didn't even have the strength to break his fall as he landed on his face, breaking his nose on the cold, stone floor that was now slick with his blood. He hoped that he would run out of blood soon, he couldn't take much more of this.
But this was not to be as his master cast a weak healing spell over him that did nothing but clot the blood flow.
And then the torture began again with renewed energy and Draco Malfoy could not help but scream and scream and scream until he had no voice left to scream with.
A/N: So? What do you think? Very much what you expected? We find out a lot about this new universe in this chapter, I think. I'm pretty sure I explained things rather well and in detail, but if there is some kind of huge gap that I'm overlooking, please do share. It can be really hard to remain circumspect on these kinds of things when you're the one doing the writing.
Those of you who have read Reverse by Lady Moonglow may find some similarities between mine and hers, but that is as far I will allow myself to take. I in no way intend to rip-off or copy her story. Though this story was definitely inspired by Reverse, and, at times, be very similar to it. I apologise in advance.
Now, go drop me a review! :D Until next time.