Disclaimer: The 'verse is JK Rowling's; I own nothing but a twisted imagination.
A/N: This fic is undergoing edits; mostly just concerning fixing general grammar and formatting errors, of which there were many. Basically I'm polishing it up a bit. As of 10/12/15 editing is complete.
Cover Image here (remove spaces etc): imgur dotcom /1HdRn73
Content Warning: There is content throughout this fic and the rest of the Risk'verse that could possibly be disturbing. In this fic, violence is rife, and sexual assault touched upon, as well as consensual sexual activity. The Risk'verse was initially intended to be a purely emotionally gratuitous angst-and-whump-fest that quickly turned into an epic, and as such, deserves an M-rating in my opinion.
I also feel the need to point out that the main characters' thoughts, choices, actions, and relationships in this fic are not always healthy, and could be considered problematic to varying degrees if they were to occur in real life.
Now, with all of that said...read on to revel in angst, drama, smut, violence, and the gradual development of a relationship within a war zone.
I hope you enjoy,
BOOK ONE: GRAVITATION
[Law III: To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.]
Prologue: Of Monsters and Men
You're gone, gone, gone away
I watched you disappear
All that's left is the ghost of you.
[Little Talks, Of Monsters and Men]
Bellatrix was like a witch from a Muggle child's nightmare. She hung over Hermione leering, crying, "Crucio!" again and again with mad, desperate glee. It was like nothing...ever. Hermione couldn't think while it was happening, couldn't breathe; all she could do was scream until her throat gave out. She understood why Neville's parents had gone mad, and wondered if she would - when she would. Everything hurt. It was indescribable. From the first she wished for death. It would have been preferable - anything but this. Anything. If it would only stop. And then it would stop, and Bellatrix would bare another bit of flesh to carve with her blade. Hermione wept helplessly, her dignity stripped from her by the pain. Even the searing burn of having her skin sliced into by Bellatrix was a blessed relief compared to the horror of the cruciatus curse.
Faint yells drifted to her ears whenever she fell silent; Ron, screaming her name impotently, each helpless invocation of her name cutting into her like Bellatrix's blade. She tried not to listen and looked anywhere but at Bella's insane smile. Narcissa came into view now and then, a pale worried face hovering in the periphery of Hermione's blurred vision. Lucius stood closer, his haggard face distorted by Hermione's veil of tears, his eyes turning between his worried wife and his sister-in-law's current amusement. She shrieked and felt her throat tear as Bellatrix giggled.
"Mudblood. Now everyone who sees you will know what you are." There was such pleasure in Bellatrix's voice, such pure joy; the witch was barking mad and it was terrifying. Hermione choked and sobbed, coughing up blood and snot. She lay there limply between rounds of cruciatus and fixed all her focus on one thing. The person she hated most in the room. Draco Malfoy. He was so tall now; he loomed above her, standing close to Bellatrix as the mad witch had insisted he do. Bella thought Draco enjoyed watching Hermione be tortured, but Hermione could see enough to know better, even through her delirious haze of pain.
He was terrified and sickened, his ferret-pointed features paler than usual. His grey eyes never met Hermione's, avoiding them, lingering instead on the mutilation his aunt was inflicting. And that made her hate him more than anyone else ever. He knew it was wrong - and he still didn't help her. The others, they were just pure evil - and you couldn't hate evil people in the same way you could hate good people that did evil things. Although Hermione didn't believe Draco had ever been good as such, he still wasn't evil in the way his father and Bellatrix were.
"Draco," she croaked for the hundredth time and his pressed-tight lips twitched, his broad skinny shoulders hunched further up around his ears and his wand hand twitched almost as though he wanted to do something. "Please!" Hermione begged him and he heard her and did nothing. Bellatrix laughed, awful screeching sounds and cried out again.
"Crucio! Crucio! CRUCIO!" And Hermione screamed, and screamed, and screamed. And when her body finally went limp she stared at Draco with pleading, bloodshot eyes, willing him to listen to her.
"Draco. Draco I beg you. Draco, please..." She felt as though she was debasing herself for him, and she no longer cared at all.
"The mudblood wants you, Draco. What does the mudblood think you can give her? Death maybe...or something else? Hah, yes...something else, maybe? Come on love, ask her," Bella cooed and Draco shot a hunted look at his aunt and shuffled slowly forward. Hermione felt sick as she realised what Bellatrix was insinuating, and another level of fear washed over her. Bella prodded him, and Draco looked at Hermione - at her half-exposed chest with the words 'mudblood', 'scum', and 'whore' scrawled bloody above her simple white cotton bra.
"What do you want?" The words were barely audible, a dull low murmur. Hermione stared at his platinum blonde head as though she could burn a hole through his skull.
"Draco. Draco. We were at school together. I - I thought I knew you. You're not like this. You're not this person. Please. I never thought... Please, Draco. Help me," she begged him incoherently and his eyes finally met with hers. Anguish and shame marred his perfect features - so perfect. No blood or snot or tears on Draco's face. Only Hermione's.
She sobbed, half-disgusted with herself for begging but unable to stop herself, and Bellatrix laughed shrill and amused. "Please! Please Draco...just do it, kill me. Please." He flinched and his grey eyes swam glinting silver with tears and Hermione hated him. He didn't have the right to be upset over this when she was the one being ripped apart. How dare he?
"I - I..." Draco shook his head and backed off a step, shining grey eyes still fixed with Hermione's bloodshot brown.
"Please! Please, Draco! I'm begging you please just kill me. Just kill me. Please." The words tumbled out of her in a rushing tumbling sob, putting every ounce of emotion that she had left into pleading with the boy she had always despised. Trying desperately to convince him to end her life. Even dazed and in agony as she was, Hermione could see the irony in it. Draco whimpered - actually whimpered, and stumbled back shaking his head, horror printed all over his face. Horrified by his inability, Hermione thought hazily. Because he looked as though he cared, in some sick, cowardly sort of way. He cared but he was too damn cowardly to do anything. She despised him.
"I hate you! I hate you! I -" Hermione's feet drummed against the floor as she fought the spell that kept her immobile and spittle flew from her bloodied lips as she roared the words at Draco, who only crumpled in on himself even more. Hermione's maddened shrieks were only cut short when Bellatrix grew bored with the show, and shouted:
And Hermione screamed without words, animalistic and awful as Draco watched, trembling.
When Harry and Ron came charging stupidly - bravely - out to rescue Hermione, she was drifting in and out of consciousness. Chaos erupted around her in a split second and Hermione came back to herself slowly, the spell Bella had cast on her keeping her spreadeagled on the floor as Harry took on Bellatrix, and Ron attacked Lucius Malfoy.
"Hang on, Hermione!" Harry sounded like Sirius, Hermione thought to herself, so cocksure and reckless, no thought of failure entering his mind. Relief flooded her limbs and gave her a rush of energy and she struggled against the hex that pinned her like a helpless beetle to the marble floor of the Malfoy Manor. Nothing happened. A sob choked from her aching throat. She had to get free and get to her wand; two metres away and dropped carelessly on the floor by Bellatrix as she'd spun to face Harry.
Bella and Harry were flinging curses back and forth madly, and Hermione decided then and there that they had to start using spells stronger than expelliarmus and stupefy. Voldemort's right-hand woman was using two of the Unforgiveables and any number of dark spells that were designed purely to maim and rend flesh and psyche. Harry wasn't going to be able to sustain the frenetic level of duelling Bellatrix was engaging in for very much longer if he kept only using defensive or immobilising spells. If he got a hit in Bellatrix would be stunned or wandless - if she hit Harry, however, he'd be dead or in an enormous amount of pain.
Head surprisingly clear in the aftermath of her torture, Hermione resolved to stop being noble and good when it came to fighting the Death Eaters, bitterness seeping through her and leaching strength into her bones.
Ron, surprisingly, was holding up well against Lucius - Hermione would never have expected it from him but he was casting not mere stun and disarming spells, but spells to hurt and injure if not actually kill. She felt a little touch of warmth and worry - it was because of her that Ron was fighting so ferociously, and Hermione hoped that if he killed Lucius he wouldn't feel too bad about it. None of them had ever killed before, and Hermione guessed the first time always had to be difficult.
She redirected her dazed and skittering attention to her immediate situation, hoping that with Bellatrix distracted the spell would falter and Hermione would be able to break free of her invisible bonds. But no such luck. She swore and sobbed and struggled weakly, blood loss making her head swim. It seemed like hours but it could only have been several minutes at most since Ron and Harry had broken into the hall, when a face appeared above her. Draco Malfoy. Hermione shrank in on herself and was suddenly, acutely, aware of her half-nakedness; the damp patch on her jeans from wetting herself during a crucio, the slurs scribed into her pale skin, the runny snot drying beneath her nose. She was filthy and disgusting and helpless and if he wanted he could do...anything... Her mind shied away from the possibilities and she blanked out, not thinking straight.
"Don't," she whimpered and he flinched at the implied accusation.
"Draco!" A hoarse, low cry drifted across to the pair of them and the blonde glanced back over his shoulder toward the hushed female voice. "Draco! Grab the Mudblood and hurry!"
"Go mother! I'll follow behind!" he hissed back loudly, flapping his wand hand as though to shoo Narcissa away. Even in her terror Hermione found herself capable of despising Malfoy for his cowardliness. Draco looked back down at Hermione, face unreadable, and raised his wand. Hermione shut her eyes tight for a moment, steeling herself for whatever it was Draco was going to do - terrified that he was going to do what his family wanted and spirit her away to a place where the torture could continue. Anything but that.
"Releshio," he whispered under his breath and Hermione opened her eyes in time to see Draco finish the complex little wand flick that accompanied the releasing spell. Her mind was reeling as she repeated the word in her head - R-releshio? But why? But when she tried to move her arms they moved. Draco Malfoy appeared to have really freed her...what in Merlin's name...?
"Draco?" Hermione's voice broke as she queried what the hell was going on, and she realised that today was the first time that she had ever addressed him by his first name. She sat up with a moan, watching him with darkly suspicious eyes and tugging at the shreds of her shirt ineffectively.
"Accio Hermione's wand." Draco gave it to her as soon as it had settled in his large hand, pressing it into her smaller one with a strangely pained expression. Hermione guessed neither Malfoy's family nor Voldemort would be very happy with him for 'letting' her escape. "Get out of here, Hermione, quickly. The - the Dark Lord will be here soon." Another jolt struck Hermione as her slow brain realised he had just called her by her first name for the first time as well. It made her angry, somehow, and with wand now in hand she was brave enough to show it.
"Not Mudblood, then?" She lifted her chin defiantly and indicated the sluggishly bleeding word where it was cut into the skin of her chest, and again on one arm and on her stomach. It was as though she had struck him - his cheeks flushed hot red and he reared back, stumbling to his feet. His shoulders hunched like they had when she had been begging him for help earlier, like an indicator of his shame. He ignored her comment.
"Get out of here, Granger, and take Potty and the Weasel before my father and darling Aunt Bella kill them." Hermione spared a glance for Harry and Ron, both still holding their own, if only barely. How in the hell was she supposed to help? She staggered upright and stood swaying, facing Draco.
"Why?" she asked and his jaw went tight, the muscles spasming.
"I -" he started to speak and broke off as with a pop Bill and Fleur Weasley apparated into the room holding Dobby's hands, their wands spitting sparking curses as soon as they appeared.
"Why?" Hermione demanded again, only thinking clear enough to know that if Draco would save her, the girl he used to love to torment, maybe there was hope for him yet. Maybe she could convince him to...
"I'm not a damned monster, Hermione. Granger. If I leave, if I don't do what I'm told, my family and I get tortured or killed. I'm doing what I have to do to survive."
"How fucking noble," she spat and was disappointed when he didn't react to her attempt to goad him.
"He's going to torture me for the failure to capture you. What dear Aunt Bella did to you will be a fucking drop in the ocean compared to my lot later on. So don't you dare lecture me about noble!" His voice cracked and his lip trembled, and Hermione could see tears of fear shimmering silver in his eyes. Draco wasn't lying; he really did expect to be tortured for helping her. And that didn't change a damn thing in Hermione's mind.
"Good," she snarled in a most un-Hermione-like manner, rage consuming her. "Think of me while you're screaming, and how if I was there, I wouldn't fucking help you. Stupefy!" The last word was yelled and Draco went tumbling backwards, wand skittering out of his hand as his head met marble floor. Hermione didn't spare him another glance, turning and running for the others, where the battle raged on. She skidded to a halt by Bill Weasley, pointed her wand at Bellatrix, and yelled: "Crucio!" Venom saturated her voice, and the insane witch couldn't block it in time. Bellatrix crumpled, writhing, and Lucius was distracted for a moment - forced to use defensive magic instead of curses. He threw up a Shivering Shield charm with a snarl.
"Quickly!" Dobby cried and held out his hands to the five witches and wizards. They dashed to him quickly, Harry lagging behind, shooting curses at Malfoy Senior as he backed towards the house elf.
"Come on, Harry!" Bill urged as Hermione laid her hand on Dobby's back. House elf magic didn't operate by the same rules as human magic, and apparently one benefit was that Dobby could apparate past the Malfoy's wards, taking humans out too, using side-along apparition. Her eyes met Ron's as they all jostled together and she saw horror and empathy written over Ron's face. It was awkward, too intimate, and Hermione dropped her eyes and her cruciatus curse sputtered to a halt. Just as Harry reached Dobby, Bella scrambled to a crouch and pulled something glinting silver from her clothing. A laugh erupted from her twisted mouth as she threw the silver blade toward them.
Hermione flinched, and then the world twisted and nausea gripped her as Dobby disapparated.
Hermione hit the sandy ground hard and tumbled to her knees ungracefully, the wrenching feeling behind her bellybutton fading. She was on all fours, and her tears dripped on the backs of her hands and on the ground, her whole body trembling. She could hear Harry calling Dobby's name, fear and anguish in his voice, but she couldn't focus on it, the world slipping into chaos. Was she safe? Were they away? Her wounds stung and her mind felt utterly shattered from the events of the past few hours. Only a few hours? It must have been. God.
"Hermione?" Ron's familiar voice was a balm on her nerves as he lifted her to her feet, wrapping his arm around her waist to keep her upright. His arm dug into the cuts on her lower ribs, but the feel and smell of him was like home, and Hermione leant her head against his side, sighing softly.
"Merlin, 'ermione! What deed zey do to you?" Fleur's French tones buzzed over her in a worried wave. "Ron, Ron we must get her eenside. Come."
"Can you walk?" Ron leant his head down to hers, speaking into Hermione's tangled mane, breath warm on her scalp and ear.
"Y-yes." She found some remaining strength somewhere and lifted her head, looking around. "Oh..." The exclamation wisped from her softly, and her tears started anew as the first thing her eyes fell upon was Harry walking towards them with bowed head, Dobby cradled in his arms. The house elf's head lolled limply, and Hermione knew he was dead. She bit her tongue and tasted blood; Bellatrix had taken a victim after all, and that made Hermione furious. Ron tried to guide Hermione away from the grassy edge of the beach but Hermione resisted his tugs as Harry drew closer. "I'm so sorry, Harry." He met her eyes and nodded once jerkily.
"Thanks. I'm sorry too." A rough whisper and misery in his green eyes. "I want to bury him. Not with magic. Do you have a shovel around?" Harry asked Fleur and Bill, and Bill nodded, leading Harry away into the grey of the nearing dawn.
"'Ermione, pleeze, come eenside and let me feex your wounds." And so Hermione followed the Beauxbaton's witch painfully up the long winding pathway to a little cottage overlooking the sea, leaning heavy on Ron. Her brain was crammed to overflowing with the vivid memories of what had happened since they had been captured and her mind kept wandering away on her. She was rather certain she was suffering from shock.
She felt her jeans rubbing damp on her upper thighs and blushed, mortified and simultaneously amazed that she had the energy to care about something as minor as wetting her pants. Her knee hurt like buggery - she must've twisted it somehow - and she was panting with exhaustion and pain by the time they reached the top of the low gently sloping hill Bill and Fleur's house sat atop. There was a little white picket fence around the house, and the gate that Fleur swung open had a little copper plaque that read 'Shell Cottage'.
"Hermione." Luna appeared in the open doorway of Shell Cottage in a pair of brown overalls, hair in two plaits, her mouth dropped open with concern. "Ron, Fleur." Luna looked them over as they traipsed in past her, Ron jerking his head in acknowledgment and mumbling hello. "Where are Bill and Harry and Dobby? Are they alright?" Lina's tone was almost as dreamy as always, and lacked most of the urgency most people would express; a faint pursing of her lips and worry in her eyes the only overt signs of her fear for the others.
"Dobby's dead," Ron answered her abruptly as he led Hermione through to the room Fleur waved him towards. "Harry and Bill are fine. Harry's burying Dobby. Come on, 'Mione, let's get you on the bed."
Ron sounded stronger lately, Hermione thought dazedly, clinging to him like an anchor in a storm. He had changed since he'd come back to them and destroyed the locket. It was as though something fundamental had been altered within him. He'd grown up. It made Hermione feel like she didn't have to do all the thinking herself, which was ever so useful in a situation like this, where she was too fragile and hurting to be the organised, together one.
As if in a dream Hermione lay down on the bed and heard Luna murmur that she was going to go and keep Harry company. She thought that was nice of the girl. Merlin, she was tired, and still so sore from the cruciatus curses she had suffered through. Her mind spun like a top.
"Ron, perhaps you should go. We need privacy for zees."
"I'll be just outside, 'Mione." A warm, large hand squeezed Hermione's and she squeezed it back, eyes shut. The door closed with a creak and a soft thunk, and Hermione sighed, opening her eyes and looking up at Fleur. The beautiful witch was staring down at Hermione's wounds with sympathy, and Hermione thought that loving Bill was good for Fleur. She looked softer, easier in her skin somehow.
"Accio Essence of Dittany," Fleur called and a bottle zapped off a shelf, flying into Fleur's hand. "Zey are not so bad, your injuries." A wand movement over Hermione's body accompanied by a stream of muttered words, and Fleur nodded as the magical scan confirmed her judgement. "Eet looks as zo all but zees, ah, injuries on your arm and chest were done wees a blade. Zose ones were done wees magic, and ze scarring weel not be eliminated wees dittany. A medi-witch would be able to feex it, per'aps but I cannot." Fleur dabbed the dittany over Hermione's other wounds as she spoke, the injuries slowly disappearing to nothing but healing pink skin as she worked. "I am so sorry, 'ermione."
Hermione felt dazed and numb. So, Bellatrix had marked her, had she? She couldn't seem to summon the energy to care. "Thank you, Fleur," she whispered hoarsely, and shut her eyes, letting the Beauxbaton's witch tend to her wounds in silence.
Hermione sat on the stairs and worried, head propped up in her hands as she stared at the front door. It had been nearly two months since Hermione and the others had arrived on Bill and Fleur's doorstep, bloodied, battered and carrying their dead. Griphook, Merlin damn him, had absconded with the sword three days after they had arrived there. God knew how he'd managed to escape, body as broken as it had been, but either way he was gone, and with him the only hope of destroying the other horcruxes - including Helga Hufflepuff's cup.
After that loss, things had kind of...stagnated. There was no way of getting successfully in and out of Gringotts without Griphook's help, and without the sword they couldn't destroy the cup anyway. All stealing the cup would do was alert you-know-who to the fact that they were actively seeking out his horcruxes. So they had done what they had called 'regrouping', but what was really just stagnating in Hermione's opinion.
She, Harry and Ron had joined back up with the Order of the Phoenix and now the war against you-know-who was fought with guerrilla tactics and far too much spying and sneaking about for Hermione's frayed nerves to take. Hogwarts had fallen a month ago, and lives had been lost...god, so many lives. Children and teachers alike had been cut down by the Death Eaters, led by Voldemort himself and backed from within the castle by Snape, damn him. The Order had managed to get a lot of people out to safety through a tunnel from the Room of Requirement that ended in Aberforth Dumbledore's pub. That had saved a lot of lives, but it still hadn't been enough. She rubbed a hand over her eyes and sighed, lips pressed tight as she held back tears.
And so Hermione sat, worrying and waiting on the stairs of Harry's babyhood home in Godric's Hollow. You-know-who would never think to look for them here, of all places. The Order had cast a web of spells and charms over the building, and from the outside it appeared the same to wizarding eyes - a tumbling down ruin. In reality, the old damage and the disrepair had been fixed, and the size of the house magically enhanced, to accommodate some of the many witches and wizards now working with the Order.
They were well organised, Hermione had to admit, and a lot of that was thanks to Harry, who had found a ruthless streak within himself that kept them all together. He might not have the knowledge or skill to run the Order by himself, but with the use of judicious delegation to older and wiser witches and wizards, Harry made a fine figurehead for people to rally under. He was more than just Harry, now he truly was the Boy Who Lived. He hated it, of course. Hermione smiled and jiggled her feet on the carpeted stair unconsciously; a nervous tick.
Harry, Ron and Mr Weasley were out getting food supplies - they went through a lot of food these days - and the safest place to get them was through Muggle means. So they apparated to a nearby town and apparated back onto the doorstep with bagfuls of groceries. Hermione would have gone with them, but since that day at the Malfoy Manor...
She shut her eyes and buried her face in her knees, trying not to remember, stopping herself with no little effort from indulging the perverted urge to pull up her sleeve and look at the crude letters carved into her skin.
She didn't like going out anymore.