Harry Potter and company do not belong to me, rights go to JK Rowling.
Chapter Forty: End
"Yeah, you know only how to own me
You know only how to own me
You're buying stars to shut out the light
We come alone and alone we die
And no matter how hard you try
I'll always belong in the sky."
Buy the Stars-Marina and the Diamonds
"Don't you fret, my dear
It'll all be over soon
I'll be waiting here for you
Run fast as you can
No one has to understand
Fly high across the sky from here to kingdom come
Fall back down to where you're from
Don't you fret, my dear"
Kingdom Come-The Civil Wars
The air outside was cold; the bleak sky was a pale grey, mottled with clouds. From where Hermione stood she could see the gardens and the surrounding lands perfectly; the green shrubbery thrashed wildly about in the wind and the flowers swayed, turning into bright blurs of colour that stood out against the green. The stalks of lavender waved at her from their field, almost beckoning her to join them. Hermione sighed softly, thinking back to the events of the day.
She had been startled awake when a new House Elf came into the room with fresh garments for both her and Draco. Hermione had looked for her own clothing she had worn the night before but they were gone, likely sneaked away when she had not noticed by the Elf to be laundered or destroyed. The Elf had gone without another word or glance at Hermione, who felt a little hurt until she remembered Bogg, whom she had not seen at all since her return. She did not need to ask Draco what had happened to the poor Elf. No wonder this new creature would not even look at her-he didn't want to be killed because of her.
It had taken longer than anticipated to extract herself from his Draco's hold. He slept calmly without remorse for what he had done. In his view, it was all justified because now he had her and she would not leave him again. The thought made Hermione seethe, but only for a moment. She was wasting time, she had to move. So she began the task of getting out of the bed, which proved to be a challenge. Just when she at last managed to pull out of his firm grip he would pull her back again, and she would be back at square one. It had only happened twice but she had done the job slowly with a racing heart. The last time, his arms went out to grab her again but she pulled away in quickly, almost rolling herself off the bed in her haste. When she got back up, he was still asleep, but had rolled over onto his back.
Now he lay on the large bed; fast asleep, and alone. This was what she had been waiting for.
Hermione had been obliged to wear the dress. Her own regular clothing suited her present task much better, but they were not to be found so it was the dress or nothing, and she would not do it naked. Ignoring the pain and soreness felt all over her body, Hermione made her way upstairs as stealthily as she could.
There was no time to lose. Her plan was extremely faulty and could backfire at any moment, but it was all she had-it was her last chance and she would take it, never mind the consequences if it didn't work. She would at least try, or spend the rest of her life (however long that might be) hating herself for squandering a golden opportunity.
She was winded halfway up the third flight of stairs, but paused only for a few seconds to regain breath before sprinting up again. Her whole body hurt and once or twice she almost fell but caught herself in time to keep moving at the same pace as before. Hermione tried to be as quiet as possible; she breathed in through her nose and took quick, light steps.
Before leaving the Burrow Hermione had gone through Mrs. Weasley's Potions+Medicines cabinet for something, anything that might help her. Sadly, Mrs. Weasley was not in the possession of any poisons, of which Hermione had directly searched for. Everything else was mostly tonics for colds and relief potions for bodily aches, and the sleep potions Hermione took each night.
Hermione took one of these small bottles and rushed into the loo to think. There was no way she could smuggle them with her-Draco would find and discard them. Briefly, she entertained the notion of holding a little in her mouth until he kissed her but there was no way that would work either so she shoved that idea aside. She thought frantically, trying on one idea after the other until she was left with only one. Even this one was not quite likely to work but it was better than the others so she acted upon it.
It felt absurd at first but she knew unless she was extremely lucky he would touch her that night. There was no way she could prevent it-she would go to him to save Neville, and it was the only way her plan could work. But this did not mean she was willing. It was only because she had to, and because she could see no other way. To her frustration, however, she needed her wand, so she had to slip back into the bedroom where Harry still slept to retrieve it and ducked back into the loo.
Making sure to lock the door first, Hermione stripped off all her clothing before opening the bottle, dipped her finger inside, and began to dab it on her skin like it was a perfume. First she had cast a modified Impervius charm so her skin would not absorb it. She did not want to fall asleep before she was sure Neville was safe. On her neck, shoulders, breasts, between her thighs-anywhere he might put his mouth. The thought almost made her ill but she kept going until she finished. Once dry she pulled her clothing back on, fighting her trembling fingers and left the room. Everyone was still asleep; no one had moved. Hermione returned her wand and left through the back door.
Through her confrontation and meeting with Neville, Hermione had been afraid her plan would not work, that her clothes were rubbing the potion off her body and there would be nothing left when it was time. She worried Draco would find out about it, that he would punish her for it or even worse, that the potion would have no effect now that it was dry.
But the time came and he hurt her. Hermione had been holding back such turbulent emotions until then she could not help it when they burst out of her. It was another panic attack, she realized dimly once he began, but he didn't know that. She didn't think he cared either. He simply thought she was in pain, that she was venting her grief. Well, she had done that too, but only after the panic attack had gone, and that had taken a long time. By then she had almost given up hope, which already was hanging by a thread. His mouth had already ravished the areas she had applied the potion and nothing was happening; she had to remind herself over and over that it was a small quantity and even if it worked it would take time to do so.
So Hermione waited, trying not to let herself fall apart while he hurt her over and over and his mouth tasted her. She did notice as it happened, that by the end his movements had slowed down some. His eyes were tired and glazed as he released her hair from his fist and pulled out of her. Hermione cringed at feeling the remnants of his assault run thickly down her legs, and she collapsed, shaking, onto her stomach just as he grabbed her and pulled her to him, to her dismay. Against her better judgment, she had let herself fall asleep, but now that she looked on it she was glad she had allowed herself to rest for just a tiny while. Had she gone once Draco had released her she would not have been able to get up the first flight of stairs without collapsing of exhaustion.
But she had made it to the top floor at last, red in the face and still short of breath but she made it.
It hadn't occurred to her until she came up to the doors that led to the balcony that they might be locked. She tried the handles, and they were. There was no lock on the handles either, she supposed they were charmed to let only Draco open them.
The rage and desperation that filled her then were almost blinding. Together, the emotions seized her and shook her violently, clenching her jaw tight to keep inside the scream of hatred that if let out, would have her discovered and punished.
To have come so far to be thwarted again! It was too much to be borne.
She slid down to her knees, pounding her fists against the doors wildly.
It wasn't fair! It wasn't!
She would spend her life trapped with that vile, wretched monster. Never again would she see her friends or family, never again would her family even remember her, she would certainly never finish her schooling. What was there left for her? Rape. Hate. Misery. A man who saw her as a possession, something to be conquered. She was all but stripped of her power here.
No, there's nothing left for me, she thought, and the sadness grew, mingling with the rage. Her head and shoulders dropped low and her fists, lying reddened and raw in her lap, loosened.
She sniffled. As if in prayer, her hands rose with her palms open, and pressed flat against the door, which gave way and opened at her touch.
Hermione looked up quickly, astonished. Before standing she looked around to make sure Draco was not there with her, that it was not a cruel joke. But there was no one.
Could she have done it by accident? She raised her hand and stared at the ring. It gleamed innocently up at her. Hermione would have liked to know exactly how this had come to pass but a miracle had been granted her, apparently, and she would not let it go to waste. She wasn't sure how much time she had left. She hurried past the doors and onto the balcony.
The strong wind howled, whipping around her in gusts. Below, everything green rustled loudly.
Shaking, she raised herself onto the ledge, the toes of her cold, bare feet sticking out over into the air. Gooseflesh rose on her skin, again and again, making her shudder. The brisk air nipped at her skin, whisking her curls around forcefully. The skirt of her dress fluttered around her in a frenzy as though pleading for her not to follow through with what was on her mind.
"It's the only way," she whispered to herself.
And it was.
Images of Harry, Ron, Neville and Ginny flashed through her mind. Memories of visiting the Burrow and their adventures at Hogwarts, her life with her parents played before her eyes and she let out a quiet sigh. The war was over and Voldemort was dead but nothing in her situation would improve. No one would ever be able to find her. Malfoy had taken her freedom-she couldn't fight back at all.
This was the only way. She wondered at how she was able to get this far in defying him-perhaps he had not thought her capable of going to such lengths? It must have been true. Several months ago she herself never would have dreamed of doing this. She was Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of her age. She always found a way out.
Hermione took care to not look down. She had promised Neville she would wait, but how long would that take? A day, three weeks, a year? However long, she wasn't sure she could wait until then. She had been through enough, and wasn't sure she could go through more. She had only agreed to please him. Even then she had known she would find her way up here one way or another.
There was no help coming. It was a hard pill to swallow, but Hermione was positive there was no way Draco would have let Neville walk free just like that. He knew too much about a man who was supposed to be rotting in a grave. Most likely he had Obliviated her friend to make sure all this stayed a secret.
Hermione looked behind herself, making certain she was alone.
She had to move-Draco would not remain asleep forever.
But she didn't really want to do it. Her legs shook quite badly and she repeatedly felt her whole mind and body scream at her to step back down and not jump.
But it was the only way.
It was either this or to live the rest of her life in captivity with a man who was steadily losing his mind, if he hadn't completely lost it already. He had taken so much from her; she figured this was the only way to cause him pain, to get away from him permanently.
Take away the only thing he cares about, she whispered.
Hermione found herself wondering what Draco's reaction would be when he found her. The thought of his perfect face twisted with rage and grief made her want to laugh. He'd severely underestimated her, thinking himself so clever with that ring. Did he really think she would just give in? He was a fool if he thought she would actually surrender. It had taken her some time to get to this point, to be sure, but this was what it had come to and she would do it. He could choose what she wore, ate, he could think he owned her, but in the end it was only she who had control of her life, and she was determined to keep it that way.
Draco had stolen her control. She would steal it back.
Hermione's foot slipped and she lost her balance, flailing her arms wildly to steady herself. It took a second or two but she managed it at last and stayed perfectly still, sucking in air. She had always had a fear of heights. When she was a girl her parents had taken her to Paris over the summer for her tenth birthday. They had visited the Eiffel Tower and had ventured as far up as the second level. She had been all excitement and curiosity until she had got out of the lift and had run to the edge to see the view. All it took was one look and she was reeling; clutching an iron beam for support as she staggered. Her parents had rushed to her, concerned, her father had picked her up and carried her away from the imposing view as she trembled, hiding her face into his shoulder. And now standing there she felt as though she was that little girl again.
Only this time there was no one there to comfort her even though she wasn't shying away from the terrifying view. Part of her embraced it while the other half was shouting in her mind, begging her to step back and find some other way to free herself.
"It's the only way, it's the only way, it's the only way," she repeated to herself.
Still, she couldn't help but release a few bitter tears. All her life she had known she was special. Not as special as Harry, of course, he was far more important than she, but she had always dreamt she would do something great with her life. Fight in the war alongside Harry and help defeat Voldemort, bring peace to the wizarding world and who knew what would have come after? She would have got herself a good, rewarding job in medicine or potion making, perhaps something in the ministry? Something in which she could have used her famous brains. But then Malfoy had come along and now she was nothing more than a trophy wife. A sex slave, a mere plaything for him to take advantage of. She couldn't say no, she couldn't fight him; he had gone to great measures to ensure that. In kidnapping and marrying her he had taken her freedom and ultimately, her life, for since the moment he had slipped that ring on her finger her life was in his hands.
But not anymore.
She could try to endure but in the end, to what would it lead? She could be here for the rest of her life unless he one day grew bored of her and killed her, and from what he had told her she didn't see that happening. There was no Blaise this time, no third party that could help her. Lucius and Narcissa were dead, and Neville, even if he was somehow able to rally the others; he didn't know where the Manor was located anyway. Hermione didn't want to die but she didn't want to live in this manner anymore. Both options were extremely unappealing but in the end she preferred death, even if it frightened her. In death she would be free.
She looked down, swaying slightly as the vertigo hit her.
One step is all it takes…
The winds picked up. Hermione let out a shaky sigh and closed her eyes. Strands of her hair whipped across her eyes in the wind, as though shielding her from the terrifying view should she open them again. A melody began to play in her mind and she hummed along softly until she reached the chorus and she began to sing.
"No enemy to call my own,
No porch light on to pull me home,
And where I stood was beautiful
Because I was free-"
By the last word her voice came out as a broken whisper. Hermione straightened her posture and spread her arms out by her sides. Shaking, she leaned forward and the rest of her followed, hurtling down, down, down. The last thing she felt before her world went dark was the wind blowing past her face as an horrible anguished cry tore through the air.
Following Hermione's disappearance, the Burrow was in a state of silence. The note she had left at the table shocked them all; they spent hours wondering what could have prompted her to leave so suddenly in such a fashion. An even bigger surprise was presented to them when they discovered her wand had been left all wondered why. Harry was beside himself with worry, thinking she had gone to hide in the Muggle world.
There was no reason, none at all, they all thought, for her to run away. She had been safe with them, recovering from her ordeal.
Mad-Eye and Tonks arrived, unaware of what had occurred, and had been filled in promptly. Mad-Eye inspected her room and the kitchen with his eye, Tonks questioned them all if anything strange had happened the night before she had left. Nothing was deemed suspicious, for no one had seen the mysterious package that had arrived for her, which was gone. There was a debate on whether the search for the Grangers should be continued or not. Harry argued they were better off the way they were now. It was better, he said, to find Hermione first.
Later on that day, Neville arrived, to their surprise. Harry and Ron immediately sensed something was off, and were proved right when upon their asking him where he had been for the past several days; he confessed he had no idea. His memory of that time was a curious blank.
All he knew, he said, was that after coming back from America he had gone home. He could remember putting a kettle to boil and taking off his coat, but after that there was nothing.
This unsettled them all greatly. How had Neville come to disappear as well and suddenly come to by the Burrow? Not only that-everyone wanted to know how he had come to have only one ear? Who had cut it off? Had he done it himself? Had he been tortured, and by whom? Most importantly, why?
Poor Neville! If only he could remember, he was the one who wanted the answers to these questions the most. He explained to them how he had come to and the first thing he saw was the Burrow. Even he hadn't known he was short one ear until they gave him a hand mirror, and he saw for himself the strange little hole where his ear had once resided. It shook him up a little but Neville, being an opportunist, decided that if he could still hear and if he still had the other ear, he would be alright.
Once that confusion was over, Harry asked if he had seen or heard anything of Hermione. Neville was shocked to hear she had run away, and became just as worried as Harry, who feared there was foul play involved.
There was a disquiet growing inside Harry by the minute. It just didn't seem right that Hermione leave that way, which was not something she would do, especially as abruptly as that.
What did she mean by leaving her wand behind? And why? With everything she had gone through one would think she would make sure to be armed at all times, especially if she was running away. The cryptic note she had left behind bothered him as well. Unless she disliked someone, she was not the sort of person to speak through notes as curt as that.
No, Harry was convinced there was someone else involved. The only problem was that the person he had in mind was supposed to be dead.
But there was no body found, remember? A voice piped up in his head.
This was something else that bothered him. Despite the suggestion that someone else happened across the body had been mutually agreed upon, Harry did not believe it at all. It was just a hunch, really; a piece of doubt inside him that grew each day. Others would have brushed it away as paranoia and grief fogging his mind but Harry knew better. This feeling had saved him too many times to count; he would not stop listening to it just because the others wouldn't believe him.
So he had got Neville alone with him and Ron, and asked him more questions. Did he think his home had been broken into? Did he hear or see anything before he had blacked out? Did he think he had been kidnapped? Did he think Malfoy was behind this?
Neville answered no to every question, but something curious happened.
To the last query he said, "No. He's dead, isn't he?"
Harry had been watching intently, and caught the way Neville's lip curled in contempt, the way his fists clenched slightly and his shoulder twitched up to where his ear was missing. It was a quick, fleeting reaction. Even Neville had not noticed it until Harry and Ron pointed it out.
This was all Harry needed to confirm his suspicion. Malfoy had got a hold of Hermione again. He must have been the one to kidnap Neville. Somehow he must have made her aware of the fact Neville was his hostage to make her go to him.
"That's got to be it!" he decided, pacing rapidly from one end of the room to the other. "Malfoy probably made her leave her wand behind-since the ring prohibits her from using magic in the first place, she wouldn't be able to use it there."
"There's one thing I don't understand," Ron interjected. "If the ring doesn't let her use magic then how was she able to use it when she was with us?"
"Hermione told me that since Blaise was the one who gave her wand back. He gave her permission to use magic. He was her protector and the ring allowed it so I imagine that's how it works."
"But why would Malfoy have kidnapped me?" Neville asked. "Wouldn't he have gone after one of you, or both?"
"We've been here all this time," Ron said. "I guess it would have been too risky for him to come and try to take her just like that, or take one of us as hostage. Reckon you were the easier target, since you were alone and all."
"One last question, Neville; Can you remember anything about where you where?"
Neville shut his eyes, thinking for a moment.
"Sorry, mate. Nothing. I only remember waking up here." He rummaged in his pocket for a moment. "I forgot- I did find this."
He held a rusty old key in his palm.
"It was lying on the ground near me when I woke up. I brought it with me since I figured it might be important."
"Neville, you're brilliant," Harry said, grabbing the key carefully. He turned to Ron. "D'you think we can get Bill to take a look at it? Maybe he can help us find out if it was used as a Portkey."
"Bill's still in Venice on some case for Gringotts but I'll write him and get him to come," Ron said, and left quickly in search of some parchment and a quill.
"I've got a bad feeling about this, Harry," Neville said.
"We all do," Harry replied.
"Not just that," Neville shook his head. "Don't you feel like it all ended too easily? Voldemort hardly put up a fight when you tried to kill him again. It's almost like…"
Neville shrugged. "Like he wanted it to happen. He was smiling when he died. Like he knew something we didn't."
Harry sat down on his cot.
Harry thought he had been the only one to notice the mad, knowing grin that had flashed onto the dark wizard's face the second the curse had hit him. It was unsettling and haunting; Harry had been glad to see Voldemort fall to the ground at last.
The war was over, Voldemort was gone and his followers imprisoned. Still, Harry couldn't quite shake the feeling that the dark wizard had been one step ahead of him all this time. There was something coming. Had no one noticed how none of the captured Death Eaters had put up a fight? Not one had fled the battle, not one of them tried to run or plea innocence. They all went without complaint to the terrible prison.
They're waiting for something, he realized.
No, not something. A face flashed through his mind's eyes. Cold eyes, pale hair.
Harry sighed, and ran a hand through his hair.
"Yeah," he said quietly. "I worry about that, too."
Thanks for reading.
More to come. One-shot will be published in November, please stay tuned.