Written In The Body
A/N: There will be a number of mature things discussed including torture, same sex relationships, violence and others… you have been warned.
Also this is an AU after the events mentioned are listed. The changes are noted. If there is nothing noted you can assume that the events of the book have occurred.
A/N 2: This is an edited version of the chapter and uploaded after the first version back in December 2012.
PS. This is a work of fiction using the characters created by J.K. Rowling. They are not used with her permission. All actions follow the events of book seven of the series, excluding the epilogue. Any similarity between any person living or dead is purely coincidental and unintentional. If you happen to find your life reflected in this piece I'll be impressed.
Every nerve in her body exploded in pain, a crawling, sharp, burning pain that had enough continuous variation that her mind could never become desensitized to it. It rolled through her body like a plague and destroyed all resistance, tearing down all barriers like tissue. Sound no longer came out of her as she had already screamed the air from her lungs and there was nothing left to pull air back in. The pain itself was killing her.
It ended in an instant and she was left gasping on the floor, desperate to take in air, fingers trying to find purchase on the cold stone, tears burning down her face. From above her, a sharp woman's voice filled with tremendous malevolence spat at her yet again, "Well, what about the sword mudblood? I know you broke into my vaults."
"No. Not real. It's not real. Dumbledore made copy. A copy." sobbed out Hermione, the pain still echoing along her nerves, making her wince with every slight move that brought about another firing. The pain was both clouding her thinking and making it razor sharp, focused mostly on the details. "Didn't go your vaults."
"Somehow, I don't believe you." said Bellatrix.
Her world again burst into the same unimaginable pain, her body convulsing with it, thrashing against the hard floor. Nerves were flayed by the spell, burning raw under the power of the magic until all she seemed to know was the white flare of pain, until she was again lying there on the marble gasping for air and weeping.
"You know… Draco told me that people say you are the smartest witch of the age and little Draco wouldn't lie to me now would he, eh Muddy?" came the mocking voice from so far away. It was clear that the wild haired woman was enjoying every minute of this, drinking in her suffering like a drug.
"s'not… It's not real." It took real effort from her to gasp that out as her body protested. All she wanted to do was breathe and cry, tell Bellatrix whatever she wanted to hear, anything to just end this pain. Her body still smarting from the curse but she had to keep trying, all the while praying for a miracle.
"Really now, you still trying to pass off that pathetic lie?" sneered Bellatrix, drawing closer, kicking her in the thigh for some variety to the pain.
Hermione Granger lay on the floor of Malfoy Manor, eyes too full of tears to see the chandelier above them that she vaguely remembered from the start of this, body trembling from ravages of the Cruciatus Curse. Her mind was racing, faster than it ever had before, trying to find some way to escape, some way to get the boys and get out, so they could get the sword and the horcrux that she surmised Bellatrix had stored in her vault based on how vehemently she was torturing her about that one point. Another part of her mind however looked at herself, her state and was growing dispirited. Her whole life came down to this moment, being tortured by a madwoman and all she actually had were deep regrets of a life she had been too afraid to live. Harry and Ron had helped her relax over the years and be more openly herself but she had been so worried about the rules and what was "right" that she never really truly just let go and did what she wanted to do, had been who she wanted to be.
Her scream lasted longer this time as she had been able to get more air in her lungs thanks to that longer break. The pain must have lasted longer this time as she lost herself in a haze of white and red and when it stopped she convulsed uncontrollably for a short while. Her muscles protested against what was happening to her, drool trickling down the side of her face, muscles half cramping.
"W-we only have a copy. I swear." protested Hermione, when her body had stopped and she could speak again, her voice raw. It was so hard to think and she was going with the only story that had presented itself when this had started. If only Bellatrix would believe her and stop. Part of her wanted to crawl inside her mind and hide away forever.
"I swear. I swear. Like I believe you, filthy mudblood. Your filthy blood is stinking up the place." ridiculed Bellatrix, sneering down at her.
Somehow, somehow if she made it through this, she needed to forget about rules, forget about being the good girl that everyone expected her to be and wanted her to be. If she survived she needed to find a way to be free, to be herself, whatever and whoever that was. She had a few ideas but mostly she knew it was not even remotely the safe conventional schoolgirl she had been for so many years, too afraid of the comments of bullies and others to really spread her wings. No, she was something else but what?
"It's just a copy. Just a copy." Her voice was so weak as her strength was fading. She had no idea how much more of this she could endure.
"Shut yer gob!" spat the madwoman, flinging her arm at Hermione.
Her body again erupted with white fire coursing through her veins, over flayed nerves, her back arching up, as if it were trying to escape from the agony that was all she knew. It almost felt like she were a taut bowstring humming a tune in the key of screams and she could not even recall how they had gotten here. All she knew anymore was this floor, that horrible voice, and an existence, maybe even an eternity of pain. Why hadn't she died?
When it was over this time, Hermione was in a bit of a daze, her mind having difficulty focusing on things, hearing a mad titter off to her side somewhere, something she had registered through her screams. Her head lolled to the side and she looked, almost unseeing towards the bannister, her eyes not quite able to focus. Cruel. All this was so very cruel, like the kids had been to her when she was younger, when they discovered she was smart, smarter than them. Cruel, like in the way they mocked her, taunted her, tripped her and more all before she found out she was a witch and her whole world transformed into something amazing. Their petty cruelties drove her even farther into books, even more into a world where it was safe to play by the rules, to follow directions, to stay close and listen to teachers, to be what others wanted you to be so they would care for you. If you were a good girl and the teachers liked you they could even keep the worst of the pain away.
"I think this stupid girl keeps forgetting her place. Is that what you are doing mudblood?" Bellatrix kicked Hermione in the side, keeping the girl from slowly curling into the fetal position.
Hermione tried to answer but words failed. All she could do was weakly sob and groan.
"I think the smartest witch needs a reminder of who she really is."
Hermione's left arm was pulled out from where it had been, trying to protect her body, the sleeve torn open and Bellatrix knelt alongside to her, whispering happily, "It's a good thing this filthy mudblood can read else all our work would go to waste."
A new pain burned out in her arm, a different burning than she had felt before and Hermione found that she could still scream and thrash a little. When she saw that Bellatrix was cutting into her arm with a knife, blood trickling down her arm as a salty fire burned in her flesh as it was violated, she started calling out in a scream ravaged voice, "No, no, no!"
Bellatrix was humming happily as she worked, taking her time in order to shape each letter perfectly. The pleasure on the woman's face was chilling. She grinned down at Hermione, very pleased with her developing work. "Now you will always know who you are."
Hermione glared at the witch. That woman was literally writing who she wanted Hermione to be in her very flesh, Bellatrix was writing her life. She was yet another bloody person trying to dictate to her who she was supposed to be. She twitched again as another letter was cut into her and another scream tore itself out. No, she was not going to let someone else write her life, no, not ever, never again!
The pain crested higher and she fell into darkness, shuddering into nothingness.
Several things made themselves apparent to Hermione as she came out of the darkness. The salty air, the sounds of sea birds, the faint roar of the sea, and the softness of a bed underneath her, these things were all so unlike where she had been when she had lost consciousness that it made it hard for her to make sense of all of this. This place was so markedly different from her memories of pain that it was difficult for her to really grasp what this was. Nothing was familiar. Where was she?
She tried to move and then hissed in pain, as everything about her body protested what she was doing. Her throat felt torn up and the sibilant sound she had made was not helping. Even her eyes hurt to a degree and while she did not know where she was right now she remembered everything that had happened before the darkness engulfed her, including what she had promised herself. That meant that it was all true, that they had been captured, that they had been take to Malfoy Manor, that Bellatrix had actually tortured her for what seemed like forever, that she had that hated, foul word carved into her arm. She could feel tears start to trickle down her face as those thoughts shook her with the weight of those memories. Her body spasmed a little, muscles reacting to her movement and that made her gasp as the pain flared again, giving her a taste of the Cruciatus again. As she moaned, too devastated to scream, the door opened and before she could flinch away in walked a very familiar blond. She looked at her with some confusion not really believing what she was seeing. Rasping out with a voice that bespoke her discomfort, she asked, "Fleur?"
"Sshhh 'ermione. I am 'ere. You are safe." replied Fleur rushing to the bed and gesturing to Hermione to not move.
Hermione stopped even trying to sit up and lay there looking at the former Triwizard Champion with some surprise. How could the woman be here wherever here was? "Where?"
"You are at Shell Cottage. It is mine and Bill's 'ouse on the coast. It is protected by a Fidelius Charm and is quite safe. No one knows you are 'ere."
Hermione closed her eyes and sighed, letting her body fully relax for the first time since she had awoken. All that Fleur said was good to hear. Hopefully that meant they were safe for now. Everything hurt and that little bit of tension had drained her more than she thought possible leaving her weak. She still hurt but thankfully it was not as bad as it had been back at the mansion. The pain was not a raging fire but a dull burn.
"I am going to change your bandages. This will 'urt and I am sorry but it must be done." apologized Fleur, her voice the gentle sound one used with the very sick or injured. That sound alone told Hermione just how bad off she was.
Realizing that this was inevitable, Hermione nodded slightly, trying to prepare herself for what was to come and wishing she had some sort of context. Fleur made the process as gentle as possible by using her wand for as much as she could but Hermione could not help herself, crying out in pain several times as agony lanced through her. Tears rolled down her face and she could see that Fleur was not pleased with how this simple act was hurting her.
The bandages on her arm were quite red but not soaked through completely in her blood, which was some small comfort. Once unwrapped, Hermione winced at the red flesh, the ends only barely trying to close, still oozing blood. Fleur cleaned the site carefully, pausing when the pain grew too much, and then pulled out a familiar bottle. Sniffling slightly as it all hurt, Hermione asked curiously, "Dittany?"
"Oui. Relax as best you can, I will be as fast as I can manage. This may sting a little." Fleur smiled apologetically.
She hissed again as the essence of dittany burned along the cuts, its magic trying to reweave the flesh. Towards the end, it started to feel like she was being cut all over again and she bawled in pain, not even worried about trying to be brave. All she could remember was that woman and her foul breath as she carved happily into her arm. "I am so sorry 'ermione. It is nearly over."
The torment continued a little longer and then when her sounds dropped to weak sobs, Fleur delicately rewrapped her arm with a fresh bandage. Hermione was barely conscious, as her already low reserves had been depleted even more by the renewed pain caused by the healing. Her eyes were open a mere slit and her head lolled to the side as it was difficult to hold it up. She was too drained to do more to keep it straight. "I 'ave a Calming Draught for you and potion to 'elp 'eal the effects of the Cruciatus. Thankfully, you were not under it too long or the effects would be worse. Ron and 'arry could not say 'ow long she 'ad you under it. If I 'ad any Dr. Ubbly's Oblivious Unction I would give it to you, to 'elp you forget what 'appened to you as that might 'elp."
"No… no… want to re…" It hurt but she managed to swallow and get moisture to her raw vocal chords. She needed to make this point clear, so there was no misunderstanding her. "… remember. 's 'mportant."
"Very well. I don't understand 'ow that could be important but very well. Now drink." Hermione had the two draughts that were offered and then felt a bit drowsy afterwards. This was not a bad thing because she remembered what her parents had always told her that sleep was often the best medicine. She drifted off thinking of them and how much she missed them. Right now she wished her mother was holding her, brushing a hand through her hair, and telling her it would get all better.
After who knows how long, Hermione came awake with a scream, as her body was seared under the pain of the Cruciatus while Bellatrix's laughter echoed in her ears. The door swung open and Fleur and Ron burst in, wands at the ready. As Fleur started to come around side the bed Hermione flinched away from Ron. Fleur, noticing this, pushed him out. Once her wand was away, she moved to the bedside and asked, "Are you okay?"
Hermione panted, her ribs throbbing, and the bandage on her left arm again red with blood, her body aching from the pain flare and all of her muscles protesting. Her face burned from the salt of tears. She cried some more as the pain was just so overwhelming at the moment that she couldn't help it. There was really no stopping this flood. After Fleur had finished treating the cuts on her arms again and giving her another Calming draught, the French witch asked, "Why did you flinch from Ronald?"
"Are we in private?" Hermione was somewhat nervous as she asked that.
With a few gestures and muttered spells, the blond nodded. Hermione sighed, looking at the ceiling, looking for the words to proceed. How could she explain this? It was all so vague and jumbled in her head but saying it aloud might help things fall into place. "The torture was horrible Fleur, simply horrible."
"You don't 'ave to talk about it 'ermione." said Fleur, gently, resting a hand lightly on her shoulder.
"I do. I need to get this out before it eats me up. Honestly, I don't know how many times she used the Cruciatus on me. I lost track at six or seven and I know there were more after that. I just kept lying to her, hoping she would believe me and all she did was make things worse. All I do know for sure is that while I was there I realized something about myself and I want it to change." Hermione's voice was flat, the brutality of what had happened to her still shaking her to her core. She kept having images of what had happened to her dancing in her mind and she tried to shut them out. Even those were trying to do it to her as well.
"And what does this 'ave to do with Ronald?" It was clear that Fleur was not following along with her but it was little surprise as she wasn't following herself.
Hermione sighed and turned her head to face Fleur, even though her neck protested the action, making her wince. "I realized that I wasn't really living my life, at least not how I really wanted. I was playing it safe, being what other people wanted me to be and that my never questioning that, always following rules, all of that had only gotten me to that point, onto that floor. I felt and feel like other people have had more say in my life than I ever had. Even Bellatrix was there like all the rest trying to carve an identity into me. And while I was trying to survive I realized that I refuse to let anyone write my life again."
She could tell that she was crying again and her voice was choking up some. It was getting harder to speak so she closed her eyes and concentrated. She had to finish this, "Right now, I think I just need time, time to get myself in order, to figure out who I am and what I want. Seeing Ron or even Harry, but especially Ron too much until I am better will only make that worse. Ron has too many notions of who I am and who I am supposed to be and I can't take that right now."
"Very well. I will tell Ron and 'arry that you are still not feeling well and are not ready for visitors. I will think of something to get you more time. Let me give you something for the pain as I will not give you another sleeping draught. This way you can sleep or think as you need. But you should know, they are worried about you."
"Thank you Fleur. Maybe letting them come up here for a few minutes to see that I am alright would be fine. Just to let them know I am okay. That might curb their curiosity for a little while," offered Hermione, hoping for a happy medium.
"Potion first." Once Hermione was able to drink the potion completely and the pain that kept rolling through her body faded some to a faint pulse, Fleur headed downstairs.
Soon the door opened slowly and a familiar red head poked around the door, "Is it okay to come in."
Hermione rolled her eyes and said, "Yes Ron, just for a little bit."
As the two boys entered the room, Ron seemed to be moving in for a hug. Hermione wanting to avoid that, knowing how she felt and how he hugged, snapped, "Ron, please don't touch me. I hurt everywhere."
"Right, sorry." mumbled Ron, looking upset and awkward, shuffling a little in place.
"How are you Hermione?" asked Harry, coming close but not touching her, clearly respecting her boundaries. Never had the differences between the two boys been made clearer.
"Alive. I am very thankful for that. I don't know how you both managed to get us out of there but whatever you did was brilliant." said Hermione smiling at the two of them, quite proud of them for achieving the impossible. She then noticed that neither of the boys were smiling and actually looked sadder than a few moments ago.
"We didn't. It was Dobby." Harry's voice was soft, almost tremulous.
She stared at him in disbelief. Dobby had rescued them? What was he not saying? "What happened?"
Harry looked stricken, deeply wounded from whatever it was that had happened that enabled them to escape Malfoy Manor. Ron continued, picking up the thread, saying, "He died saving us, Hermione. All of us. Luna, Dean, Ollivander, Griphook, all of us."
Hermione looked confused the more the explanation continued. All those people had been there as well? All she had known was her torture. She had clearly missed so much. Thinking about the goofy sock wearing house elf, her heart went out to her best friend, "I am so sorry Harry."
Harry just shrugged, trying to play it off like he usually did. "All this would be over if it weren't for him. I just hate what happened."
Harry needed a hug but she hurt far too much to give him one and she hated that. She sighed and then winced, as some pain flared up her back bringing tears to her eyes. Ron's eyes widened at seeing this and he asked, "Are you okay?"
"No. The pain from the curse still affects me. I guess it will take time for my nerves to recover and I just need to rest in peace to do that. I am sorry for that." Hermione was apologetic, but only just. She really did want and need this time alone.
"No Hermione, don't apologize. Not after that. Not after what you endured. Take whatever time you need. You just get better," said Harry as he stood. "Come on Ron. We should let Hermione rest. We'll be by to check on you later."
Once the boys left Hermione lay back deeper into the pillows and listened to the sounds of the tide rolling in and out. The sound was soothing and helped her mind to relax. This was what she needed, peace and quiet after all the chaos and pain they had been under in such a short period of time. It was like a balm to her. As her thoughts drifted she thought about Harry and Ron. They were clearly worried about her and that was sweet. They were both such dear friends.
That thought gave her pause and she had to look at it again. They were both… friends? She understood with Harry, as their relationship was far more like brother and sister than anything else but her and Ron? She had thought that they had been developing something more romantic before his departure had thrown a wrench into things. When he returned after he saved Harry, Ron had mentioned how he had felt about her. And she felt that way about him as well… right? She knew she had been having dreams for the past two years that were rather vague and half remembered about cuddles and kisses and red hair and touches and more and surely that was Ron. Right? She hadn't been dreaming about someone else, had she? Her eyes went wide in fright; could she actually be in love with either Fred or George?
The idea was so chilling that it was easy to dismiss the idea. Than if she didn't feel that way about him what did she feel for Ron? They were very close, about as close as Harry and she were, and she had felt hurt last year at school with that mess with Lavender Brown. Moreover, she had clung to his side when he was recovering from his poisoning. The way they fought about things. Didn't that mean that she had feelings for him?
Hermione let her thoughts drift as she listened to the waves some more. No, she was going about this whole thing the wrong way. All she was doing now was making the issue more muddied, making a complete mess of things. She needed to approach this whole thing more logically, calmly, setting out her thoughts and feelings in a manner that allowed her to make sense of the whole situation without her emotions overriding things.
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, wincing from the pain that simple move caused. She let it out slowly, feeling some of the tension that had been building since her thoughts had turned this way leaving. Logic was somewhere where she felt safe, in control. Right, so where should she start? A simple listing of Pros and Cons? To the relationship or to Ron? She needed to figure out her approach, her methodology, because that had an effect on the results and she didn't want to skew things. Well if she wasn't feeling the same way towards Ron that she had thought she was supposed to be feeling then perhaps she needed to direct her thoughts towards Ron himself to see if that offered any clues. It was the best she could figure at the moment.
Starting off with Cons, so things she did not like… well one easy one off the top of her head was the way he ate. He simply devoured food and sometimes it was simply off putting. And there was his obsession with Quidditch and the way he fawned over that one team. Or his lack of intellectual curiosity. Or the way that he never studied, relying on her for all the answers. Or the way he seemed to never understand her feelings, which she had to admit he was getting better at. Or the way that he didn't seem to have an interest in any part of her muggle life. Or the way that he got so angry so easily often over the smallest of things. Or how he had left Hermione and Harry when they really needed him and know the horcrux didn't count because they all had been dealing with it. Or how he had done the same thing a few times to Harry for years. Or how he was kind of lazy except when it came to Quidditch or eating. Or how he hadn't realized anything about her until after he had been poisoned and she had been there for him after having been friends for six years.
She sighed and let things go. She knew she could keep going but he was a good friend and if she kept going she would just get mad at him for things that were in the past and she had forgiven him for. To keep dwelling on them would only serve to stir up trouble where there was none. However it really did give her a good idea about the cons and that there were quite a few. So how about the pros?
Well, there was the fact that he was very protective of those he cared about and the way he gave his whole heart to things. Or that he was caring in a rather awkwardly adorable sort of way. Or that he wasn't a bad looking bloke. Or that he could be clever sometimes, like when he played chess. Or that he did seem to care for her in his own manner. Or that he was very brave even when it came to spiders. Or that he could be sweet, sometimes, when he thought about it or Harry prodded him. Or that she was running out of things. She frowned. Surely it should be easier to think about good qualities about Ron. He really was a wonderful person and she cared for him deeply. But this train of thought seemed to indicate that he was not the person for her.
They really did not have a lot in common beyond their friendship and their desire to help Harry defeat Voldemort. Her parents, who had the kind of relationship she most wanted, were friends with differing interests but also had a lot of shared interests. They had a lot in common, had many shared opinions and worked together wonderfully and there was no questioning their love even if there were times when it was uncomfortable to witness. It was, in truth, what she wanted most in a relationship. Looking at Ron from that viewpoint, it wasn't going to happen. They were too different to have that sort of relationship, to have that kind of happiness and she knew it.
Hermione started crying. It felt like her heart was breaking as she realized that all her dreams of her and Ron were for naught. What about her dreams, her desires? What about her wants for a happy future? There were many nights where she had dreamt of showing up at the Burrow with her family in tow, her spouse behind her, just out of sight and that had made her happy. This realization had robbed her of all that. She was crying again and muttering, "It's not fair. It's not fair."
Her body ached again, the pain coming back, as the tension she was feeling aggravated everything. She whimpered as the waves of pain kept getting stronger, trying to call for help through clenched teeth, fighting the urge to scream, "Fleur?"
It hurt and her mind was a maelstrom, cut loose from what she had known. What did this all mean? Did she have to lose Ron? She tried to focus on what she remembered of the dreams she had been having for the last two years, of red hair, kisses, touches, long time lying together in beds, in the grass, in a tub but there were no clear details of anything else. It helped calm her some as the familiarity and comfort of that dream and those images wrapped around her and ramped down the pain. Those dreams had given her such comfort and they did still. Yet if those dreams were not Ron, than who?
She looked at her bandaged arm and narrowed her eyes in concentration. Right now it did not matter who it was. Right now all that mattered was that she needed to get better and that she needed to do what was right for her. Just going along and not upsetting people had been the old her, she needed to stand up for herself more and stop letting herself down. Because if what she was feeling about Ron was true than she just couldn't do it anymore. Not to him and not to her.