Notes: 2023 edit. Author's notes, including content warnings at bottom.
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.]
Bellatrix was like a witch from a Muggle child's nightmare. She hung over Hermione leering, crying, "Crucio!" over and over with mad, desperate glee. It was like nothing Hermione had ever experienced or imagined. It was incomparable, worse than anything...ever. Hermione couldn't think while it was happening, couldn't breathe; all she could do was scream until her throat gave out, flayed and raw. She understood why Neville's parents had gone insane, 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 silver 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 face hovering in the periphery of Hermione's blurred vision, wringing her hands nervously. She looked sickened by the messy use her elegant home had been turned to, rather than distressed by Hermione's plight. Lucius stood closer, his haggard face distorted by Hermione's veil of tears, his narrowed, calculating eyes turning often between his cringing wife, and his sister-in-law's current amusement.
She could tell he enjoyed watching.
Hermione gargled an inhuman shriek through the raw, swollen flesh of her throat as the pain spiked and her observations splintered. Bellatrix giggled, pausing in her work for a moment.
"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 was going to die. She knew it. She lay there limply between the endless rounds of cruciatus and cutting, wishing for it to just end. Her vision had gone dark around the edges, black dots flashing, the shreds of her mind focused on one thing now. The person she hated most in the room. Draco Malfoy. He was so tall; 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 gazing, instead reluctantly lingering on the mutilation his aunt was inflicting, expression nauseated. And that made her hate him more than anyone else in the room. He knew this was wrong – and he still didn't help her. The others, they were just utterly evil, depraved – and you couldn't despise conscienceless monsters in the same way you could hate ordinary people that did monstrous things. Or allowed them to take place without trying to stop them. He was ordinary and she hated him.
"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, an awful manic screech, and cried out the Unforgiveable again.
"Crucio! Crucio! CRUCIO!" And Hermione screamed. On and on, time dilating and the pain stretching out interminably. When her body finally went limp again she stared at Draco with pleading, bloodshot eyes, willing him to look at her, listen to her.
"Draco. Draco I beg you. Draco, please..." She was debasing herself for him in her naked pleas, and she no longer cared at all. She wanted to die. Needed the pain to end.
"The mudblood wants you, Draco. What does the mudblood think you can give her? Death maybe...or something else? Hah, yes...something else the mudblood wants from a handsome young pureblood, 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' and 'whore' cut jagged and bloody above her simple black cotton bra. He still couldn't meet her eyes.
"What do you want?" The words were barely audible, a dull low murmur. Hermione stared at his bowed 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 sharp features – so perfect and pristine. 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 glinted wet silver with unshed tears, and Hermione hated him. He didn't have the right to cry over her. She was the one being ripped apart, while he just watched, unscathed. How dare he pretend to care.
"I – I..." Draco shook his head and backed off a step, shining grey eyes still fixed by 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 utter inability to do anything of use, Hermione thought hazily. Because he looked as though he cared, in some sick, cowardly sort of way. He cared but he was too damn weak to do anything. She despised him. Coward.
"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 rage was only cut short when Bellatrix grew bored with the show, and cried:
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 spread-eagled 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 Unforgivables 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 strangely clear in the aftermath of her torture – she thought she must be in shock – Hermione resolved to stop being so stupidly noble when it came to fighting the Death Eaters.
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. Although right now she felt like it would be easy for her. And it would feel so good.
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, shivering with cold and shock. 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, the blood and saliva crusted on her chin. 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, trying fruitlessly to clamp her legs together and he flinched at her fear, and the implications it carried.
"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, unable to breathe, steeling herself for whatever it was Draco was going to do. She was 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 – 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 first name alone. 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.
But 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 clearly 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 leave...to join them.
"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 my failure to capture you. What dear Aunt Bella did to you will no doubt 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 lower lip trembled, and Hermione could see tears of fear well up in his eyes, as they became red-rimmed. Draco wasn't lying; he really did expect to be tortured for helping her. And right now 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 as his gaze cast over her. 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, please, 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?" Luna'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, per'aps 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. A wand movement over Hermione's body was accompanied by a stream of muttered words, and Fleur nodded as the magical scan confirmed her silent assessment. Her mouth turned down with sympathy. "Dittany will 'eal your wounds, but I am sorry 'Ermione, ze cuts seem to 'ave been made by a cursed blade. The scarring will remain. A medi-witch might be able to feex it, per'aps, but I cannot." Fleur dabbed the dittany over some of the deep cuts as she spoke, the bloodied open mouths of the slashes sealing to dark purple-red scars, instead of fading to nothing like her other abrasions and bruises were. "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, his 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 giving up, 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 at that thought 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...
Hermione 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.
Content Warning: This fic contains graphic consensual sex, graphic violence, graphic torture – hell, graphic everything – sexual assault, implied/referenced rape, unhealthy relationship dynamics, alcohol abuse, minor body horror, pregnancy, abortion, and other potential triggers, as well as rude language, and ten times your recommended daily intake of angst. This is a rough one, folks.
The universe belongs to Jo Rowling; I'm just playing in it.
I'm back on a part-time basis after a long hiatus, despite family life and real life writing keeping me very busy. I'll be tying up loose ends and making some new beginnings as well.
I've gone through the entirety of Gravitation/The Risk-Reward Ratio and The Just World Fallacy, and edited them for style, typos, grammar, and minor plot inconsistencies that were bothering me, and as of 01/08/23 am beginning to re-upload them. I'm sure I've missed some mistakes (feel free to let me know once I'm done,) but they feel tidier to me now. I'm toying with the idea of an epilogue novella of vignettes, working title Axiom, and plotting it out just in case.
I'm working on Fascination, and am three-quarters finished, with 156,000 words pre-written, and a twice weekly posting schedule. I'm loving writing it, and highly recommend for something a little lighter and more mature.
I'm also writing a sequel to Crumple, titled Crumple: Aftermath, which was in fact what pulled me back to my fanfics. Much like Crumple it has little actual plot, and is most angst, an exploration of trauma, and relationship building. I'm currently 65,000 words into it, and have begun posting it.
He Dreams He's Awake is still on hiatus, but not abandoned. I enjoy writing in present tense, and may yet pick it up again once Aftermath is finished.
Onions and Icebergs is officially abandoned, I'm sorry to say. There's a chance I may yet finish it in the future, but I have no solid plans to do so at this point.
I also have plans to write a new fic, set at Hogwarts several years after the war, so watch this space!
All the completed and active fics mentioned above are findable over at AO3, under my user name MissiAmphetamine (Kaleidoscope).
Please feel free to PM me if you have any questions or suggestions.
Lastly and most importantly, thank you so very much to everyone who has ever read my fics, and favourited, commented, shared, or recced them. I'm so happy to be back doing what I love again, and I hope my writing is still enjoyable!