Song Suggestion: Sevdaliza– "Human"

Gaelic words: I got these from google m'kay. I did my best.

Thank you MyPrivateInsanity for putting up with me.

Trigger Warning: dark content. Rape/ noncon (though it borders on dubious consent), torture

Venus of Willendorf

They appeared in the middle of Stonehenge, her bare feet pressing into damp earth as she caught her balance. The circle of stones looked as if a giant had assembled a toy block set and left it unattended.

Like many wizarding historical sites, Stonehenge appeared as a ruin to muggles, but the stones had held upright for thousands of years in perfect condition. In the past, it would have elicited amazement from her, thinking about the ancient people building it. But now it resembled a cage, causing her dread.

A fall chill bypassed the temporary warming charms, leaving the hair along her body raised. A multitude of stars twinkled above her, giving enough light to see about thirty Death Eaters surrounding them in their black capes and skull masks. Despite having seen Titus in his full regalia hundreds of times, the image of them en masse tugged out something forgotten from her.

Watching from the window.

Red and Green—like Christmas lights.

I can smell you.

Her childhood nightmare materialised. Panic welled in her, but she somehow sliced it off at the roots before it could control her. For strength, she clutched the edges of her white robe and cinched it tighter across her chest.

"You didn't give her the potion." Titus yanked off his black mask. He looked irate and pale, as if he might collapse. "She's terrified."

It hurt to see him there, standing with the men. But it seemed to hurt him too, as she stared back at him, fully aware.

Draco was void of any emotion. "She didn't want the potion."

Titus almost vibrated with visible rage, dark hair blending into the night sky. He took one step forward, but a hand landed on his shoulder. Snape, she believed, though she couldn't be sure. Titus frowned down at the hand, and as if being reminded, he grimaced and stepped back into position.

He shrugged off Snape's hand and pointed a gloved finger at Draco. "I went to great lengths to make sure this night would be gentle for her!"

"Foolish decision, boy." She recognized Dolohov's voice, belonging to a bone white mask. "If she fights and interrupts the ritual, you'll be the one punished. We've waited years for this girl to come of age. And if you just fucked it up, I won't go easy on you."

"She won't fight." Draco stole a quick, pleading glance at Hermione. "I've told her exactly what's expected of her."

"Did you now?" Dolohov sounded amused. "We'll see how well that works. After seeing her in the Trials, I suspect she might be a handful." He turned his attention to Hermione. "A single flinch, mudblood, and I'll let Nott take over."

Hermione was a rabbit trapped in a circle of wolves. What could she do but agree?

Would Titus force the potion down her throat if he had to step in? She bet he would. He'd think it was a kindness to her, a show of love. Her instinct told her to fight and flee, but her logic told her to stay put.

"Good, then let's begin." Dolohov snapped his fingers, and the horde of masked men jolted to attention and pulled out their wands simultaneously. "Flint, place the relic in the center."

A Death Eater with broad shoulders walked in, carrying a small statue that fit snugly in his large hand. Despite her terror, she looked at it in curiosity, and then in recognition.

The Venus of Willendorf.

Hermione's eyes ran along the voluptuous curves of a woman. She had a rounded belly and thighs. A crown of tight curls encircled her head, though she had no face. The stone was yellowed, but unlike the pictures she'd seen of it, the top of her head was dark.

Dried blood— she realised with a shiver.

Before Titus banned her from certain books, she'd read about statues like these. This venus statue in particular was one of the oldest known magical artefacts in the world, believed to have been carved twenty-five thousand years ago. Prehistoric humans worshipped the venus statues, carried them in their hands like talismans, though even wizards didn't know much about them.

A fake statue had been placed with the muggles in one of their museums, but the real one was kept deep in the Austrian ministry—one of the most secure places in the world.

Why did they have it here? And how did they get it?

When Flint placed it near her feet, he kept his head down and walked off without acknowledging her. The Death Eaters collectively went silent and stared at the sacred object. Pulsing magic emanated from it—wild, earthy, chaotic.

Creation magic— the strongest form of magic next to love, and possibly the least understood.

She resisted the temptation to pick it up and protect it from the eyes of the desecrators, knowing it did not belong here. She understood now that the Purebloods were attempting to break the curse by sacrificing the same people the artefact was crafted to revere, dissecting a generation of women in search for the spark of life hidden in their womb.

The primordial magic hummed like a caress, a welcome… a warning. Aeons of struggle hid in the curves of her breasts and the roundness of her hips. There was an eternity of women on the stained stone, placed there even before the curse. She heard their joy and despair like an echo from the past. It was an instinctive knowledge, a reverence to the heavy price paid for existence. While staring at the object, Hermione was reminded that her first breath originated from a million years of blood running down thighs, of tearing skin and groans of pain.

The crimson stains on the stone horrified and oddly comforted her. You're not alone, she thought she heard it whispered in the molecules of the air, the same words she'd whispered out loud to Katie—a wish sent through the universe.

The circle of Death Eaters tightened around her, preventing her escape. The trap snapped shut. Magic simmered in her fingertips, ready to be used. But though she wished to fight, it was a foolish urge. She'd struggled to defeat Titus the day before. Standing around her were all four mediators in full Death Eater garb, along with Severus Snape, and she knew the rest were of a similar calibre.

There was nowhere to go. Nowhere to turn.

A single sob escaped from behind her lips, before she mashed them so hard together, they ached with the pressure. At the noise, she watched Titus, now with his mask on, as he closed his gloved hand into a fist.

"Midnight has arrived on Samhain," Dolohov began. "The veil between us and the afterlife is thin, and any magic produced will be at its most powerful."

The words felt like sliding a cell door closed. The rattle of a key in a lock.

Dolohov began a chant in what she believed to be old Gaelic, deep and low. If it didn't feel sinister, it would have sounded like a song. She only caught the meaning of a few words, but the energy in the air shifted. It thrummed around her, as if rising from the Earth.

"Yaxley," Dolhov said. "The elements."

A man broke free from the wall of Death Eaters and poured salt in a wide circle around Draco and her. Then he placed a bowl of water near the edge. On the opposite side, he poured a scoop of dirt in a second bowl. In the third bowl, he threw a bundle of sticks and set them on fire with a quick Incendio. The branches crackled as he set a fourth bowl down, which he kept empty.

The statue near her feet began to vibrate. The hum went through her, feeling like a tremble of rage. She wondered if the men felt it— the wrongness.

They weren't supposed to be doing this. This type of magic didn't want to be played with.

She looked up to see Draco shedding his robes. He did it methodically, without the ease, confidence, or smirk from the glade. His face showed nothing, so deeply occluding, he seemed like a second statue. His skin glowed like alabaster under the moonlight as the robe slipped off his shoulders, puddling on the ground. Then, with a flick of his wand, the bundle of cloth rose in the air and rearranged behind her. She knew it was to make the cold ground more comfortable. Even now, she admired his form. Broad shoulders had filled out from when she last saw him, trim waist. A small trail of hair went from his lower abdomen to his cock, which wasn't erect.

Draco didn't even look at her, eyes above her head, as he uncapped a potion he held in his hand, drinking it while giving one frown in disgust.

"What's the matter, Malfoy?" An anonymous voice asked from the crowd. "Can't get hard on your own?"

"Not when I know your ugly face is here."

She didn't have to guess what the potion was for. Within a few moments, his cock went erect.

Was he embarrassed to be naked in front of other people? He didn't seem to be, though that might just be the occlusion.

The crowd waited. It took her a second to realise they expected her to shed her robes like Draco. Terror raced through her. She swayed once, digging her fingers even harder into the white robe.

The word "no" lingered on her lips. But she remembered Dolohov's warning and her promise to Draco. Her eyes naturally went to Titus, staring at his black mask. Both his gloved hands were still in hard fists, as if took everything in him to not rip her from the circle. One dragon hide boot moved forward.

A part of her wanted him to.

Save me, she knew her eyes were pleading, but she hated herself for the foolish hope.

Maybe she should have taken the potion, or at least gotten drunk. Would it have been so horrid to forget what was happening? The reality of getting naked while sober was more horrific than even her imagination.

Accidental magic zipped out of her, lifting pebbles into the air. They hovered like a curtain. She didn't remember the last time she ever felt fear like this.

"Magnificent," she heard a man whisper. "I think she'll be the one."

"Quiet, Mulciber. The girl needs to control her magic and comply like she said she would." Dolohov's voice was hard as stone.

She'd be an idiot not to catch the threat. Hermione willed the pebbles to return to the Earth.

"The ritual can happen whether she wears the robe or not." Draco sneered at the crowd. "Her body is mine. I earned it, and none of you lecherous fucks get to see it."

"Lucius—" Dolohov said. " I see that your possessive streak has been inherited. Inform your son that he needs to play by our rules if he wants to keep his little prize."

"The girl stays clothed," Lucius answered. She didn't dare turn her head to find which masked man he was.


"Hermione keeps her robe on," Titus cut Dolohov off.

The rest of the Death Eaters shifted in discomfort at the disagreement. It seemed Lucius and Titus made a formidable team.

"Very well," Dolohov said, clearly annoyed. "The girl can keep her robe, but the ritual must proceed."

Shame already ate through her pride. How could she ever walk among these men with her head held high? Could she endure the knowing smirks? Even without baring her skin, they'd soon see the most intimate moment of her life, something that should have been private.

No, she wouldn't give them her shame, she decided. They could try and steal the tender parts of her and display them as trophies all they wanted, but all they would get from her would be sharp knives and the slicing cold of winter. Nothing would be given freely.

She straightened, determined not to show them any emotion, even panic.

Draco walked forward until he stood in front of her. He reached out and cradled her cheek.

"It's time," he said.

She gave a single nod, and the chanting began again. She followed Draco's lead as he pushed on her shoulders, until she lay on his white robe. She kept her own robe firmly together, and her whole body went stiff with fear.

The energy whipped around her, the old magic, as if attempting to soothe her. It brushed across her skin in comforting waves.

Draco hovered over her. His grey eyes stared down at her, and he buried one hand in her curls. She felt his erection, pressed near her thigh.

"I'll try to make it fast," he whispered.

A nudge of consciousness tickled the edges of her mind, and she tried to push it out.

"Trust me," he whispered, making eye contact. "Don't look away."

She decided to leap again and allowed him inside her mind.

An image of books exploded behind her eyes. Books on top of books, stacked in perfect lines on old bookcases.

A library.

Malfoy manor, she assumed.

Hermione almost gasped. Draco was projecting—an advanced form of legilimency. It required placing thoughts and images into the other person's mind. Only a few, powerful wizards could do it.

The fact Draco could stunned her, though it made sense. Occlumency and legilimency were different, but if one was proficient at one, they were usually adept at the other.

Hermione was partially aware of reality. The chanting still filtered through, spiking her heart rate. The magic whispered its secrets along her skin. If she concentrated, she could see a sea of black robes and skull masks.

"This will be yours," Draco whispered once he noticed her attention wandering.

In the image, he walked forward and pulled out an autobiography of Alfeda the Cruel. She'd read it before, but she thought it might be the latest edition with several new chapters and annotations. It looked so real to her with the fairy lights glittering. Nott library had always been moody, and Malfoy manor resembled it, sporting dark wooden wainscoting and leaded windows. Ancient leather chairs and tables were scattered strategically. The sight calmed her.

But not enough.

His wand touched the center of her thighs, and he whispered a spell. Wetness dripped down her skin.

"Lubrication," he whispered out loud.

She nodded and allowed him to enter her mind again, but this time it was a true memory.

A young Malfoy stood in front of the mirror. He wore a tiny suit, looking about the same age as at the party. He had his pale hair slicked back in the pretentious way he used to wear it, and he held Hopper in his hands.

"This is yours." He held out the old bunny, as if someone could grab it. "I hope you don't mind that I slept with him sometimes—" He cut himself off and shook his head, cheeks brightening, as if he hadn't meant to say that. "No," he scowled. "That makes me sound stupid. She wouldn't want to be friends with a ninny."

"I think she would," a woman's voice said, though she couldn't see her face. "Being kind doesn't make you a ninny. She'll be so relieved to have him back, I think."

"I'm not sure I like being kind. Besides, maybe she's forgotten the dumb bunny."

The woman took a moment to answer.

"We never truly forget the things we love."

Hermione wondered who the voice belonged to. He was too old for it to have been his mother. Maybe it was a nanny.

The feel of her dress pushing up her legs ripped her again from the memory. She kept his grey stare as he brought it up just enough while still keeping her covered from the prying eyes. He pressed his hand between her legs to separate them. The pressure was light enough it felt like he was asking for permission. She trembled as she opened and let him rest where he needed, cradling him between her thighs.

"Look at me," he whispered.

A second memory. In this one they were in the astronomy tower, right after their first kiss. Her lips were pink, hair tousled. The diamond rose necklace glittered when she moved. She watched as she gave a grin and vanished on her way back to Theo. Once she was gone, Draco walked over and leaned against the balcony, close enough to the edge it made her nervous. But the height didn't bother Draco. He touched his lips, wearing a true smile. It lit up his face. And then he tugged out a broom from his pocket, expanding it on contact, and zoomed off into the sky, doing flips and rolls in celebration, flinging both his arms open to the moon.

The chanting stopped a moment, and she was brought back to reality. Draco lined himself up.

She thought he'd give her more time, but with a deep breath he pushed inside in one hard stroke. There was a slight tearing sensation inside her, despite the lubrication. He felt too big for her.

Her hand went up to his shoulder with surprise, as if to push him away, but she only dug her nails into his flesh.

"Holy fuck." His eyes rolled back as they shut in pleasure, and he groaned and leaned his head down, mouth against her shoulder. "Did I hurt you?"

She waited for intense pain. It did sting, but after the initial tear, it didn't hurt as much as she thought it would. It felt odd more than anything, stretched in a way she didn't think she could be.

"No," she whispered back, and his shoulders caved a little.

"Now boy," she heard Dolohov growl. "You need to start and last until the end of the ritual."

"Give me a moment."

Draco once again lifted himself on the palms of his hands. His tousled hair hung over his eyes, and he bit his bottom lip. They were still connected. She wiggled on instinct to adjust her body, feeling uncomfortable.

"Stop moving," he hissed. "Or I'm going to cum in you right now."

She stilled. She turned her head to the side, and she saw the Death Eaters staring down on her behind the masks. Her breathing increased, and she felt like she might vomit.

Draco's hand went to her chin, turning her head back toward his grey stare.

"Don't look at them," he said. "They don't deserve your attention."

"You need to start, son," she heard Lucius drawl. Draco clenched his jaw.

"Fuck them all." He began to move inside her.

Across the circle, each of the men pulled out wicked daggers, dripping with dark magic. After sliding off a single glove, they sliced their palms in unison. Tilting their hands, they squeezed, letting their blood drip on the ground. Magic syphoned it into rivulets, resembling veins, the blood spreading to the salt, mingling with it as it encircled them.

The discomfort was gone, so she watched him above her as he moved. Keeping their eyes locked, he tried to show her another memory, but he couldn't concentrate enough to project. His face contorted in pleasure, and he bit his bottom lip as if hating that he felt it.

The world around her vanished as she studied him. If she focused, she could pretend it was just him and her.

"Goath," Dolohov said. The empty bowl cracked in half, and a gust of wind twirled around them. It was fast and furious, like a miniature tornado, whipping their hair around, but it ended fast.

Draco scrunched his eyebrows.

"Fuck, I don't know how I'm going to last." He was going excruciatingly slow, and when she adjusted her hips by spreading them wider, he made a noise of despair in the back of his throat.

When the wind died down, Dolohov raised his knife.

"Uisge." The second bowl cracked, and a sudden wall of water rose up and encircled them. The crowd of Death Eaters were obscured from their vision, making it seem oddly private.

"It will be over soon." Draco capitalised on the seclusion by stopping and staring down at her. "Very soon if you keep fucking wiggling like that."

She didn't know what came over her, but the thought of making him break with a slight movement intrigued her. She brushed her legs up along his thighs, clenching her lower body. The muscles of his chest tightened, hands digging into her skin.

"Bloody hell, I'm starting to think you like to be cruel." The water crashed back into the Earth, sucking inside it as if it had never existed. Draco began to move again as if he'd never stopped.

"Talamh," Dolohov's deep voice could be heard over the water dissipating.

Almost immediately, the third bowl cracked and a curtain of soil, resembling the pebbles she'd raised earlier, surrounded them. It completely blocked any view of the others.

"We're alone again," Draco whispered. This time when he stopped moving, he lifted her dress to gaze at where his cock was buried in her. His groan made something flutter inside her, a warmth that trickled down her limbs. This was what it should have been– these stolen moments.

He pulled out and pressed inside her, watching it as if amazed.

"It's torture not releasing inside you. It's taking all my control." Her body felt hot at the words. She tried to bury the sudden spark of desire inside her, but her body didn't obey her. How could she feel this after promising herself not to? How could she feel desire with a crowd of Death Eaters, even if they were out of view?

The dirt began to drop, and he covered her with her robe again.

When he began to move, the sensation could be felt in her stomach and her thighs.

It didn't feel bad at all. In fact, the tension as he pushed up inside her left behind a familiar tingle. She bit her lip to hide the effect it had on her, but one of her hands lifted and rested on the side of his abdomen, feeling the muscles move with his slow thrusts.

"Theine." The final bowl cracked, and a wall of flames erupted around her. The heat was instant and intense. But there was nowhere to cower from it.

Their skin glowed. Draco stopped moving again, one hand still curled in her hair. With the sudden privacy, he leaned down and hovered right over her lips.

He searched her expression slowly as if asking for permission. She licked her lips in preparation as he pressed their lips together. Their mouths opened, tongues briefly touching, followed by a quick nip of her bottom lip. A stolen kiss, just like all their others.

The fire roared next to them, cutting off the view of the Death Eaters. Hermione took her chance. Her hands firmed on his waist and when he gave a thrust, she met it with her own, letting herself whimper with the curling sensation in her stomach. It was a phantom of the pleasure she'd felt in the glade and at Malkins, and definitely not a release, but it was enough.

Draco froze.

"Did that—"

The fire died down, leaving his question unanswered, but he already knew. His eyes closed a moment, as if the thought of her feeling any pleasure was too much for him to stand.

"Finally." With the next thrust, he stilled and released inside her, holding her hips tight.

He was panting, the weight of his body pressing down on her. Sweat dripped down her neck and into her robe as they stared at each other. The lingering heat of the fire left her skin warmed.

"What's next?" She asked with him still inside her. She dared not search out Titus or anyone. It felt too intimate.

He grimaced. "This part might hurt."

Draco pulled out of her, careful to keep her covered. He reached up and swiped his fingers around her tender skin, causing only a slight discomfort, a relic of the tear.

He brought his hand up, glistening with his release, tinged pink with blood—virgin blood.

The hand with the blood drifted to the statue resting near her, and he smeared it on the crown of the venus' head.

She thought that was it, but Draco held her down hard, once again occluding. He tried to enter her mind, but in her fear she pushed him away.

"What are you doing?"

"It's almost over." He tugged her hips toward him.

"Almost? I thought—"

Draco's free hand once again reached down to her inner thighs. He swiped at the fluid there with his thumb, a mixture of blood and semen. Then he slid his hand under her robe and placed his thumb on top of her lower stomach.

"Nine marks. That's all we need."

She almost asked another question, but then he swiped down, and searing pain blinded her. She bucked in agony, but he kept her pinned. A second drag of his thumb on her skin, and a scream was ripped from her throat.

After the third mark, she lost count. It felt like her insides were burning, as if a knife was carving into her stomach to yank out her guts.

"Stop," she pleaded through her screams. "Please, stop."

She lost her words after that. She placed both her hands near her neck as if to tear her veins apart to release the lava.

"I'm sorry," she heard him whisper again. She attempted to scramble away out of pure instinct, no longer in control of her actions. "You need to stop fighting me."

Was she fighting? She realised that her hands weren't on her neck, but on his. Red welts from her nails decorated the skin of his face and chest.

"Settle her," Dolohov commanded.

Draco held her down hard, eyes guarded, and swiped another time.

"You're killing me," she moaned. It hurt so badly, she thought she might have wished for death out loud. Begged for it.

"Only one more," he said.

"No, no no," she cried.

She grit her teeth in preparation, and he swiped down hard one more time.

The pain dissipated, like popping a bubble. Her whole body arched, lifting from the ground, and a golden light glowed under her skin. The statue vibrated beside her, glowing as bright as the sun. Power, pure power. It lingered inside her, but it didn't belong to her. There was a moment of silence, and then, as if giving birth, a wave of magic exploded from her, rushing in all directions, causing the Death Eaters to stumble.

It took a moment for everyone to recover from the blast of energy, standing back up, readjusting robes and masks.

Draco reached for her as she collapsed back into the earth. She tried to curl away from him, but he tugged her up into a hard hug, her mouth meeting his shoulder as she trembled and sobbed. He smelled familiar, comforting. Like Hopper.

"It's over," he said, stroking her jaw with his thumb while he laid her flat again. "There's no more pain. I just need to bind you to me. That's it."

She whimpered, unsure she could withstand anything more, but he didn't listen.

He said the binding spell. She was too far gone to catch the specifics. It required a single drop of blood from each of them on each other's tongues. She sobbed as he put his thumb to her lips, leaving behind the taste of copper, and then he picked up her finger. After a small cut to her finger, he sucked on it.

The magic this time wasn't painful. It felt like a hot cup of cocoa, comforting and snug. Curling up near a fire, book in hand. His warm hand hovered over her stomach. The binding magic partially soothed the burning ache left from the ritual.

When he pulled back, he whispered in her ear. "It's done."

"It was never that powerful before," one of the Death Eaters said. The voice brought Hermione back to the reality that people stood around her—discussing her. "This may be it."

Hermione found it hard to concentrate. She was panting. Her whole body shivered from the latent pain. Draco had retreated from her mind, and he brushed a strand of damp hair from her forehead.

"Someone needs to check to see if it worked," Dolohov said.

"I'll do it," she recognized Lucius' voice.

Draco looked up with a hostile expression as his father walked closer, and he straightened her robe so it covered her legs.

Lucius reached down and picked up the statue that rested next to them. He stared at the Venus of Willendorf, as if it was a puzzle he couldn't solve.

"Have mercy on us," he said. "End this torture."

In one furious stroke, he lifted it into the air and smashed it against a broken stone. The ancient relic splintered into shards.

Hermione gasped in surprise, and everyone went silent. The Death Eaters stared at the stone.

One second. Two. Three. Four.

Lucius took off his mask.

"I think it—"

The scrape of stone against stone echoed as the blood-stained statue slowly reassembled, one piece after the other, until it was whole once more.

Lucius went pale.

"No!" Titus yelled from the side, a deep sound in the back of his throat, and he swayed on his feet.

Dolohov accioed the restored statue; it was dwarfed by his giant palm. He grimaced at it, as if he hated it more than anything in the world. In the recesses of Hermione's mind, she recognized that this statue was the origin of the curse. Why else were they working so hard to destroy it? But she also had a deep sense his anger might be connected to something else. Why would Dolohov care about babies? It didn't make any sense, and she knew she was missing something important.

Dolohov's furious gaze went to her, no longer amused, and his lips curled into a frown.

"How disappointing." He pocketed the statue. "Avery, we'll need to change our approach for the next time. If this didn't work with her, it won't work with the others. Maybe there's a variation of language we can try. We need to filter out all possibilities, especially when it's the Potter girl's turn. She's nearly of age. Have you thought about when you're going to do the Trials, Severus?"

There was a moment of silence. It seemed like Snape hesitated.

"Not until she's older. I promised her mother I'd wait."

"I think you should consider moving up the date. Time is… of the essence. Let us all remember what happened in China. That could be us at any time. If this continues not to work, we might need to lower the age for the Trials. There are three muggleborns close to fifteen, but I think the Potter girl is more promising. She's the first child born after the curse. It's imperative we see if she's fertile or not, but we also can't waste virgin blood with something this important. I'm not sure how much longer we have left."

Snape made a noise of disgust.

"She's a child. The girl might not be of my own blood, but I consider her mine."

"I think she's old enough. Maybe for the winter solstice."

"She'll enter the Trials when I say so, and not a moment sooner."

Dolohov's lips thinned.

"We'll discuss this at a later date. When you're capable of seeing reason, perhaps."

Reality crashed into her. Whatever they had meant to do with her didn't work. It had all been for nothing. Everything had been for nothing— her pain, her shame.

Though a large part of her was glad they were denied what they wanted, it only meant they'd keep subjecting girls to what she'd just experienced.

Dolhov sighed and vanished with a pop. One after the other, the rest of the Death Eaters disappeared.

"You did well, son." Lucius walked closer, but Draco twisted his head with a snarl, dropping his occlumency with his father's presence. Luicus paused for a moment. "I'm proud—"

"Don't fucking talk to me," Draco seethed, baring his teeth, his lips pulled back as if he was an animal about to attack. He had one hand on the ground next to her head, still leaning over her, as if to protect her. He reached for his wand and pointed it at his father.

She'd never seen Lucius surprised, but both his eyebrows raised.

"I understand your anger, but it was necess—"

"My anger?" Draco spat. "You think you understand my anger? Get the fuck away from me. You got what you wanted, now leave me be."

Lucius hesitated. She swore he might have looked wounded. But she found she had no pity for him.

Zaps of burning pain still randomly shot through her veins— remnants from the ritual. Still in shock, her mind trudged through something viscous, unable to pull herself out.

Lucius sighed and stepped back.

"We'll talk again when you're in a better mood."

Lucius apparated away. As soon as his father vanished, Draco went pale.

"Granger," he asked. "Are you— do you— oh, fuck."

He bolted to his feet and rushed to the stones of the Stonehenge and vomited. She heard him retching over and over.

Hermione just laid there in a numb trance, staring up at the stars, tracing the constellations. In one of the history books her godfather gave her, she'd discovered that humans had already touched the glowing white surface. Had already travelled into the infinite darkness.

Hermione wondered how a person could be born to that life, so free they could travel to the stars. She wondered what it might feel like to walk on the moon and touch the edge of the known universe, go farther than any person. Did their souls lift with the lack of gravity in the millisecond they bounced before landing again? Maybe it was the closest a human could reach the idea of forever.

Familiar footsteps walked toward her, crunching the gravel below, but she found it hard to concentrate. She'd forgotten that Titus was still there until he hovered over her. He stumbled and collapsed, kneeling beside her prone body, throwing off his mask.

"Sprite," he said, voice cracking. Tears streamed down his face, red and sweaty from the fire. She'd never seen him cry. One gloved hand reached out and touched her cheek gently as if she might break. "I told him—you were supposed to drink the wine. I made sure it would alter your state of mind. You wouldn't have remembered anything."

Did he think that was any better? Of course he did. Maybe he was right in a way. But how terrifying it would have been to wake up with pain between her thighs and no memory of what occurred. She'd have lost her virginity to the darkness.

She let herself sit up. Titus reached out to help her, but she shoved his hand away. The shock was twisting into her chest, breathing fire through her.

The pain in between her thighs and on her lower stomach gave twinges as she stood. She suspected the ritual would leave permanent scars on her abdomen. Bright red bloomed across the white, the wounds still raw. She wobbled like an old woman, and Titus steadied her. In a moment of pure rage, she straightened and smacked him hard on the face. His head twisted to the side with the force, and his cheek already bloomed with colour.

"You knew." Her voice sounded foreign to her ears. "You've always known, and yet… and yet you still let me believe you loved me." Her insides felt cold. "You let me love you."

She wished to purge the love for him from her body, but it clung tight to her soul.

"What do you mean? Of course, I fucking love you!" His face crumpled in agony. "Do you think I had a choice. But— I would have been gentle and fast. I wouldn't have hurt you like he did. That was the most agonising thing I've ever endured. To see you so scared and in pain as he violated you, looking at me as if I could help you."

Hermione realised Titus truly believed what he said. Did that make it a lie or a truth? She conceded she didn't know enough about the situation to make a judgement, that she was missing something important. Everything was too confusing. Was it love to attempt to shield someone from painful things? Maybe, but at the moment it didn't feel like it. Could betrayal and love exist in the same action?


"I'm not your Sprite anymore," she spat. "I'm Draco's."

It sounded like a hammer striking a nail.

As if reminded, his pain slid off his face. He placed a single hand on his heart as if to protect it.

"You'll always belong to me."

She felt heat at her back. Draco had returned.

"As she said," Draco pointed his wand at him over her shoulder. "She's mine."

Titus took one more look at her face, as if memorising it. Tears still wet his cheeks. Then his eyes glanced down to the front of the robe— at the blood stains.

"If I stay here one more second, I'm going to rip out his heart," he growled, accioed his mask, and then he vanished.

She stared at the empty spot where he'd stood, and then she leaned down and grabbed Draco's robe, dirty and crumpled on the ground.

The loss of her virginity meant nothing to her. Men fought for the right to be the first between a woman's thighs, but she didn't understand why. She'd never put the importance on it that other people did. Why would it matter so much? She was the same person.

But the pain of the ritual changed her. The illusion of security that had kept her sheltered from the world had been ripped from her, exposing the dangers surrounding her. She grieved most the loss of the trust she'd placed in the people she'd loved.

She knew now that men like Dolohov wanted to crush her. But she wouldn't let them, if only to spite them.

She turned toward Draco and handed his robe over to him. He put it on and wiped his mouth, as they stared at each other, unsure how to proceed, knowing she didn't trust him either.

"Take me home," she said.