This story was written for Mourning Madam's "Where Gods Dwell" mythology fest, posting now on AO3! Participants were allowed to choose a mythological couple, and I was fortunate enough to lay claim to Orpheus and Eurydice. This story is loosely based on that, but hopefully in a way you don't suspect.
All the love to LightofEvolution for her beta perfection, In Dreams for being queen alpha, and MCal, unparalleled cheerleader.
Just when we think we are hearing one story, we realize it was only the beginning of something else. In May, for instance, a war ended, but that was almost the easy part.
Draco Malfoy sweeps through the halls of his family's ancestral manor, called to attend a meeting in which he has dubious interest and a large stake.
In their west parlour, a group is already gathered. A strange collaboration of Death Eaters, Wizengamot, and Order members. This is the new world order, and Draco has never been more terrified. Gone are the McGonagalls and Greybacks, the forces for pure light and dark. The wizards and witches left standing are far more ruthless. Kingsley Shacklebolt is holding court.
"We all know that Riddle had poor impulse control," the former Order leader chuckles, as if this is a lark. "Of course we had to stand against him; he was dangerous. What we are proposing now is a common sense solution. Muggleborns will have their memories modified in childhood, and leave us nothing to fear from issues with the Statute."
"Does nothing to stop the dilution of our blood," Thoros Nott spits back. One of the most staunch of pureblood supremacists allowed to attend.
Percy Weasley levels the man with a look and snipes, "Yet you followed a half-blood nearly to ruin."
Nott purples, face twisting as he begins to unleash a tirade, but he is interrupted by a stately Narcissa Malfoy.
"Do not embarrass yourself, Thoros. We can no longer deny there is empirical evidence that power is not solely housed in blood. Let's move on to things that matter."
"So you're just giving up centuries of breeding and tradition then, Narcissa?" Nott sneers back at her, and Draco feels his hackles rise. He does not care for anyone speaking to his mother in such a way.
"We will see to the exceptional purity of our lineage, Nott. I advise you to look to your own house. Do you believe your son is… equipped… to give you an heir?" Draco looks to his father, noting the self-satisfied look on Lucius' face as Thoros sits back, red-faced, in his chair. It's a low blow, and everyone knows it. Theodore Nott's proclivities to wizards is no secret, and it is an effective way to end the conversation.
"What of all the Mudbloods- excuse me... Muggleborns... already infiltrated in our society?" A new speaker. Wizened and frail, this is Archibald Cook, one of the longest standing members of the Wizengamot. Though no supporter of the Dark Lord, he has long been a loud voice in favor of the eradication of Muggle influence.
The tides are turning. Propaganda, sweeping through the streets and Ministry sanctioned, reveals incidents during the war which had nearly destroyed the Statute of Secrecy, that threatened the sanctity of exclusion the wizarding world has long celebrated. The Order, it warns, would have us overrun by Muggles. They would see us bowing and scraping to the beasts that overpopulate the world. The herd does not rule the shepherd, they say. The cattle do not sit in judgement of the farm.
Tensions are high once again, but without the folly of Riddle's genocide, logical and pragmatic members of the community are paying attention.
Shacklebolt looks to Cook and answers, "They will be dealt with in a similar fashion."
"What of your family," Thoros throws out at Percy, deflecting from his own issues. "You think your Muggle-loving father is going to roll over with this new decree? Are you ready to face another war, staring at your mother across the battle lines?"
Percy takes a sip of tea from the china in his lap, holding the plate beneath and his pinky extended. With no concern, he says, "Yes, of course. Though, I believe with the proper conversation amongst civilized wizards, we can bring around more of the Order supporters. We aren't discussing anything so barbaric as murder. This is preservation."
"Quite right," pipes up Hallin Greengrass. "Preservation. Muggles can have their tellervisions and hellycopters and other nonsense," he blusters on. "We just need to keep them away from us. Protect ourselves."
"Which brings us back to the anomalies that are Muggleborns," Percy cuts back in.
Draco has never seen the man seem so commanding. Was war good for his fortitude? Or has estrangement from his family made him strong?
"I've been conducting independent research the past two years. Likely, they are a result of squibs or old family lines well into their own past. Regardless, they are perfectly magical. It is their ties to their Muggle family that makes them dangerous. How we have survived this long without an irresponsible sibling or parent blowing this all apart is a mystery."
"So easy to cut out family, eh, Weasley?" Draco couldn't help it. The man is so self-assured, he's endlessly irritating.
The red-head assesses him with a cool look. "We do what we have to do. Some of us make concessions on nothing but family, as I understand it. Some of us look at a bigger picture."
Draco narrows his eyes and opens his mouth to respond, but Shacklebolt takes control once more. "Enough of this. We all seem to agree in some regard that safety is paramount and Muggleborns are the hole in an otherwise tight ship. I, for one, will not be part of the wholesale slaughter of magical people, but nor will I see them integrated while maintaining Muggle connections. My proposal is foolproof and humane. I call a vote. In favour?"
His dark eyes sweep the room, landing only briefly on Draco. Does he have a vote? Draco feels a small flush of pride with having been invited, but his nerves spark as well. He doesn't want this kind of responsibility. And if he votes for this? What then? What does that mean for the Hermione Grangers of the world? Why he is thinking of her specifically he doesn't even want to begin to voice.
A barrage of positive declarations, some milder than others, are heard around the room. It's unanimous, if somewhat reluctant from some, and then they are all looking at Draco. Why even ask if they are all in agreement? Feeling superfluous but pressured all the same, Draco lets his mind wander just once to chocolate brown eyes obscured by a halo of luxurious hair, then clears the image and raises his hand.
If he hadn't known what to expect when he cast his vote, he learns soon enough. The visage of Draco's guilt is a fresh faced wizard across his desk, and he reaches to shake the young man's hand. He is not the first, but the discomfort is always the same.
Six years since Tom Riddle met his end, five since Muggleborns were subjected to forced Obliviation, and today the conflict still rages. Not all out war, but more a collection of insurgencies. Skirmishes, really.
Draco's life had continued much as it was always fated, war aside. He is now studying under his father to learn his place at Malfoy Industries, while simultaneously learning how to maneuver the games of power at the Ministry. All the while, the Muggle Solution Act hangs over the heads of all Wizarding Britain.
"Mister Creevey, thank you for coming in."
"Oh, I appreciated your owl very much." The young man pauses and tilts his head. "I understand we attended Hogwarts together."
Draco nods, posture stiff. He hates this part.
"You'll have to forgive me, of course. I don't have much memory of those days. Magical accident, I'm told. Very rare."
Nodding again, Draco answers mildly, "Yes, I'd heard something to that effect. Must be difficult…"
Dennis waves the thought away. "You know, it's funny, but you can't miss something you never had, am I right?" The younger man offers a crooked grin, and Draco's stomach turns. He voted for this. It's monstrous. As bad as anything Riddle every suggested, wrapped up in all the pretty trappings of justification.
"Your family helps you through it, I suppose?" Draco prods, curious in spite of his guilt.
"No family to speak of, unfortunately. Parents died when I was small. Only child, so it's just me." He shrugs, and Draco squeezes his eyes closed just briefly, a vision of a small boy with a camera flashing in the darkness. A boy forgotten by the one who should remember.
"Well, at any rate, let's see about this position." Looking for something to hide the tremor of his hands, Draco flips through the parchments on his desk. "It appears you had excellent marks. N.E.W.T.S. were pretty exceptional, notably Transfiguration."
"Even if I hardly remember taking them," Dennis says with a chuckle. Draco can't end this interview fast enough.
"I think we might have something for you in product development. Entry level, you understand."
The man brightens and sits up straight. "Of course. Really, I'd be pleased with any position. Give me a chance to show you what I can do, and I'm certain you'll see my potential." Considering Draco a moment, he asks, "Did we know each other well?"
"No," Draco answers quickly. "Not well." Shaking off his curt demeanor, he tries to add a charming smile. "Too many years between us, I'm afraid."
Dennis agrees in a self-deprecating way as to the truth of his younger age and thanks Draco again as he is hustled back out into the corridor.
Rid of him, Draco slumps behind his desk and rests his forehead on his palm just as his father enters the room. He tries to straighten and look nonplussed, but Lucius Malfoy didn't get where he is without being observant.
"Issues with the interview process? Are they as hopeless as the last batch?"
"No, Father. I've just hired one. For R and D." He holds out the parchment with Creevey's information and watches his father's face as his eyes dart across the page.
"I see. Remember him, I suppose?"
"His brother was killed at Hogwarts," Draco offers, still watching for response. Lucius has played his cards close to the vest the past few years, perhaps learning from the folly of extremism.
Stoic as ever, his father gives nothing away. "Very well. I trust your judgement. Your last three placements are settled in quite well." Before Draco can respond with as much as a 'thank you', Lucius continues. "I've come to say I have been called away and you will lead the conference with our Italian investors."
That is his father's very civilized way to speak of his ongoing role in a new, quiet war. He is often involved in the capture and obliviation of Muggleborns, though the frequency of this has been slowing over the years.
"How long do you expect to be gone?"
There is a pause, uncharacteristic to the very decisive Malfoy. "It might be that this will be one of the last. Potter has been spotted."
Draco starts. Potter… A name he hasn't heard aloud in some time but is always on the tips of everyone's tongue. Though he was raised with Muggles, there had been no question that the savior of Britain had no love for his Muggle relatives. As a descendant of magical blood, a war hero, and an orphan, he was offered a chance to keep his memories in tact. Unfortunately, he had been too idealistic to agree to those terms and joined the now-waning rebellion as a figurehead. His involvement is likely what garnered much of any support at all from the population at large. Otherwise fickle, most witches and wizards were all too ready to vilify Muggles, but their savior leading the charge had given many pause.
Draco just wants the fighting to end. Dennis Creevey is bad enough, but Draco still feels a roiling in his stomach when he considers the half-blood marriages that had been dissolved, children left with only one parent and a hole in their minds. The reach of the Act had been broader than he had considered when he cast his vote. It wasn't just a handful of Muggleborns from amongst his peers; it was generations of integrated muggles that were uprooted and erased from the memories of their families.
Draco firms his posture and acknowledges his father. "I understand. I will look after mother while you are away."
Lucius smirks, an expression so much like his son. "As if that woman needs looking after."
Grinning back but with little humour, Draco amends, "Well then, I'll keep her from going stir crazy or redecorating your office in a fit of pique."
The Malfoy men bid each other farewell, and Draco returns to the drudgery of his days.
It is two weeks before Lucius returns, but he does not come back alone.
"I'm only observing, the room has not been touched in sixty-three years. He could at least let me have the floors refinished." Narcissa takes a dainty sip of tea, her eyes wistful with possibilities.
True to his word, Draco has not let her touch the study in the east wing. Since Draco was a small child, he can remember his mother trying desperately to decorate the one room in the house that Lucius has claimed as his own. The manor is hers to explore aesthetics, remodels, and decor, but the room that had once been where Abraxas Malfoy conducted business has not been touched in decades.
"It's one room, Mother. Let him have his walnut paneling."
"Atrocious," she mutters into her cup. "Does nothing for that room. Eyesore to the entire house."
Draco starts to suggest that she simply shut the door, but their calm and civilized Sunday tea is shattered when Lucius Malfoy strides in with dirty boots and a gash on his cheek.
"Lucius!" Narcissa is up in a moment, gliding across the room and laying her hands on the sides of her husband's face.
"I'm quite alright, my flower. No need for concern."
She continues to fuss as Draco rises, questions swirling around his head. "Father. Welcome back."
Lucius nods and lays a reassuring hand on his wife's shoulder before calling for an elf. A glass of firewhiskey is presented quickly, a spell seals the skin of his face, and the Malfoy family enjoys being together for the first time in days.
"The Ministry will be here within the hour," he tells them. "Potter was elusive… perhaps he'd never been there… but we uncovered a safe house with three Muggleborns living in squalor. Really, we are doing them a favor. One had already succumbed to her circumstances."
Narcissa lays a hand at her breast with a small gasp. "Such a shameful waste. Why do they insist on this path? It is only harming them."
"So they're here?" Draco clarifies. The Malfoy dungeons are centuries old, barbaric and outdated, but somehow always end up remembered in times of conflict.
Lucius nods. "The two survivors and the corpse. I will need that done away with…"
The way he says it, Draco is fairly certain Lucius is expecting his son to step up. The man is a conundrum in some ways still. Does he want to see Draco more involved in the conflicts? Is he, himself, unwilling in doing the dirty clean up that results from his tasks for the Ministry? Regardless of reason, Draco steels himself and, with a preceding sigh, offers, "I can take care of the third for you father."
Inside he's cringing, disgusted at the thought. A body. Another death. Hasn't he seen enough of that in his young life? Yet it follows him to his doorstep at tea time, demanding to be confronted.
"Very well. The two that survive are in the first cell. The third is laid out down the hall. I would prefer if the details of her death or our involvement be kept quiet. Truly, her body may have been left behind and incinerated when the safe house was destroyed."
Ah. There it is. Plausible deniability. Self-preservation still rules the roost.
"I understand, Father."
Narcissa offers Draco a supportive if pained expression. He's never done well with death, yet here he is, cleaning up the mess of war to preserve the quiet sanctity of their home.
"If you'll both excuse me," he offers politely then slips from the room.
Resigning himself to a future hour of levitation and scourgify, Draco makes his way to the dungeons.
As mentioned, the first cell houses two wizards. Draco doesn't know them. Appearing to be a bit older, he would peg them in their thirties. They look a bit worse for wear, tattered and gaunt. Nearly corpses themselves.
There, laid at the end of the corridor on her back, a witch, to be sure. A witch with familiar hair, and Draco's stomach turns. No no no…
His feet feel weighted, transfigured to stone, but he drags himself to the body regardless.
Dennis Creevey with no memory of his fallen brother was hard.
Justin Finch-Fletchley, otherwise forgettable, but made to be of note when his obliviation went wrong and he had to relearn absolutely everything… that had given Draco further pause about the path his world had taken.
But this… the body of Hermione Granger isn't even cold, laid out on his ancestral floor. Draco is reminded of her screaming and begging as her blood was spilled on the parlour rug a few years before, and he is afraid he might retch.
She is laid on her back, halo of curls half obscuring her face and arms bent at odd angles. He imagines his father, dropping her with little ceremony to the floor, and it makes his fists clench. Why couldn't she just submit to the programme? Stupid witch… Ever the fucking hero, and look where she has ended up.
His thoughts are angry and sour, but his movements are cautious, touch gentle, when he pushes her hair from her face. Still and silent, skin carved from marble.
What to do with her? Shall he build a pyre to hasten her to the earth? Bury her beneath the rose bushes?
Draco closes his eyes, swallows, and levitates her body from the ground. She deserved better than to be chucked into the gardens like a lost pet. He decides as he walks that he will entomb her in stone.
The Malfoy property is vast, but easily traversed. Well kept and level grounds are dissected with paths of brick and stone, hedgerows and flowering plants lining the way. He follows them in silence until he has reached the far corner of the southern wards. There are Malfoy tombs to the north, but here is erected the the final resting place for various members of household that did not bear his name. An orphaned maid from the eighteenth century, a beloved stablehand from the next. Granger might not have been valued here… Draco had hardly even liked her for fuck's sake… but she had been an important part of the world. Of his world, even.
He lays the body gently down on the slab alight with ever-burning candles. Should he say words? He supposes she deserves that much, but he's not sure what he would even say.
Focusing on a crack in the slab, resolutely not looking at her face, he tries to put voice to his secret thoughts. "I've wondered about you," he starts softly. "I wondered if you were alright. I thought maybe… maybe you'd run, left Britain. Imagined you were somewhere with Potter and Weasley, maybe holed up on some island in the sun. You fought hard, Granger. For a world that betrayed you in the end. I might have been on the other side, but that doesn't mean I can't see it for what it is. I'm sorry this is where you ended up. I hope your Muggle gods welcome you home."
There is a bowl of soil laid at her feet, and Draco takes a healthy fistful to adorn her skin. Sifting through the slits of his fingers, he lets the rich earth make trails on her arms and legs, rejoining her magic to the natural stream.
One last look, he decides. To memorize her features since he is the only one to bear witness to her passing. That, at least, he can do.
He studies her, the cupid's bow of her lip and the smooth quality of her skin. She was beautiful without effort, though he had never admitted it to himself. Unable to resist, Draco lays a hand against her face and rubs his thumb across the bone of her cheek. He wonders if her friends know she is dead. He wonders if Potter really is still alive.
Eyes squeezed closed, Draco takes a cleansing breath and lets his hand fall away, preparing to leave her here for the magical crypt to take its due. Her body will be refined into new earth inside these marble walls within days. Such a fucking waste…
His dragonskin boots scuff the floor as he turns, making enough noise that he almost misses the breathy whisper that echoes into the air.
Scrambling back, Draco presses himself against the wall, eyes darting. He's alone… no ghosts or demons to haunt him. Alone with a slowly shifting Hermione Granger, brown eyes blinking open as her head turns his way.
She darts up, scooting so far on the slab he thinks she will fall off. She rights herself and stands, keeping distance between them.
"Malfoy?...Where am I?" She sounds panicked, eyes darting about the room.
"I… the fuck?! I thought you were dead! You were dead!"
Those panicked, darting eyes dim and fill with tears that momentarily refuse to fall. She blinks, and they cascade down her cheeks. "He brought me back. Did he know?"
"Who? Did who know what?" Draco straightens his posture. It won't do to let her know how much her resurrection jarred him.
"Your father," she answers back. "He brought me here, didn't he? Is this where they do it then? Erase everything I am? Are we at the Ministry?"
Draco looks around once, baffled. "No, we aren't at the fucking Ministry. We are in a crypt, Granger," he says, emphatic. "You were fucking dead."
"I was never dead, obviously," she corrects. "Draught of Living Death. I hoped no one would bother with my body…" She trails off in thought, then her eyes snap back to meet his. "Where is Harry? And Ron? Where are they?"
"That's the million Galleon question, isn't it," he says back with a bit of heat, a bit of being fucking sick of this war. They stare at each other, a stand off from their opposite sides of everything.
"And now?," she asks, suddenly seeming quite small. "Will you kill me? Erase me? It's much the same."
The look she is giving him is full of so much, fear and loathing and resignation, that it gives Draco pause. All the soul searching and inner philosophical debate means nothing when faced with this living embodiment of his past. She represents all the choices he has made up until now.
Dennis Creevey flashes across the black behind his eyes. Only child, so it's just me.
What will he do with her? Draco has never been terribly brave, but he is self-serving. Right now, what would serve him well is a little absolution, and it's standing there in dirty trainers with wary eyes.
"I can keep you safe," he says and immediately is sure he's made a huge mistake. "Here." He gestures toward his home on the other side of the walls. "You can't leave; the wards will know and they'll hunt you. But if you stay, you can still… be yourself. It's not much, maybe, but it's what is in my power to give."
"You'll… hide me?"
She's so unsure, untrusting. Draco doesn't blame her for that. "I will. The raids have slowed down. Most of the Muggleborns have submitted." Her eyes narrow at his choice of words, but he rushes forward before she can protest. "My father thinks you're dead. Official report will go to the Ministry you were discovered in Italy, body destroyed. No one will look for you, Granger. You'll be safe as long as you stay hidden."
"Why on earth would you even bother?" She questions, unsure.
Why, indeed. Probably the most honest he's ever been, he answers back, "I don't know."
His words echo on the stone, and the following quiet feels heavy like a shroud. Finally, she nods at him. "I suppose I haven't much choice, but thank you. Do I…" She looks around and bites her lip, looking suddenly nervous and as young as her twenty-five years. "Do I have to stay here?"
He shakes his head. "No, of course not. I'll give you a proper place. In the manor."
"But your parents…"
"They hardly visit my private rooms, never uninvited."
She considers that, and he sees her physically steel herself. "I don't know why you're doing this, but it's worth it if I can remember who I am, even if hardly anyone else does."
"I remember," he says, heavy with meaning. "Let's get you hidden before my father wonders why I've tarried so long." He holds out his hand, intending to Apparate them across the grounds, and only upon seeing the hesitation on her face does he realize how much faith she is placing in him.
His hand nearly drops until, finally, she reaches forward, and Draco spins in place to take Hermione Granger home.
In a startling discovery, Ministry agents have uncovered the location of two alleged members of the once revered Order of the Phoenix. Two wizards, identities undisclosed, were found in a small dwelling just outside the wizarding community of Verona, Italy. We are told evidence suggests they had been travelling with known insurgent Ronald Weasley.
Further interrogation of the suspects reveals first hand knowledge of the death of the infamous Hermione Granger some months prior. Though loss of life is always tragic, this reporter must take some comfort that a supporter of continued war will no longer be influencing young witches and wizards to violet ends. The Ministry assures us we are close to an end to all conflict and a new era of peace under the vision and leadership of Minister Shacklebolt and the New Order.
And with that, Hermione Granger, as far as the world knows, is dead.