Maniacal laughter filled Hermione's ears as she burst through a set of mahogany French doors and into the lavishly appointed drawing room of Malfoy Manor, the singsong quality of it causing fear to pool in her stomach and bile to burn at her throat. No. Please. Not again, she thought desperately as tears pricked at the corners of her eyes and she ran beneath the great, crystal chandelier.
“Come out, come out, wherever you are,” Bellatrix Lestrange cooed, her voice now startlingly close. “Come out and play!”
As Hermione's hand closed around the glass doorknob opposite the room from which she'd entered, there was an angry snarl from behind. Bellatrix had caught up to her.
“Where do you think you're going, you filthy little mudblood?!” the hateful woman screeched. Her rage quickly turning to glee as Hermione struggled with the knob, and Bellatrix cackled as she crept across the room in an oozing motion, not unlike a cat readying to pounce. The crystals sent a shower of jungle-hued rainbows cascading over the Death Eater as she approached the centre of the room. It was just as she reached towards the sheath holding her savagely curved blade that the lock clicked its release and Hermione pushed her way through the door, Bellatrix letting out a vengeful howl.
Slamming the door shut behind her, Hermione cast a quick Colloportus and turned around. The sight that met her confused and shocked her, and she couldn't help but suck in a harsh lungful of air as she was met with the familiar riverstone fireplace and chesterfield sofas of her childhood lounge. She was home. And snuggled up on her father's favourite overstuffed chair were her mum and dad, looking up at her with twin expressions of startled dismay.
“Daddy?” she whispered, happy tears of relief spilling over her cheeks as her eyes flitted between the two of them. “Mum?” At this her parents looked at one another with worried confusion.
Unwinding from her mother, her father slowly stood, cautiously approaching her with outstretched arms, his hands held up in a calming motion. He looked over her various cuts and bruises, before his eyes came to rest on the still bleeding letters carved into her arm.
“Are you alright, young lady?” he asked in a practised calm, which she knew he only used when he himself needed soothing. “Is there someone we can call for you?”
“Can we contact your parents?” her mother asked as she approached her father from behind, resting her hands on his upper arm in a reassuring manner. The look of concern in both of their eyes tugged at Hermione's heart, warring for her attention with the sensation of uneasy bewilderment.
“Mummy. Daddy. It's me. It's Hermione,” she murmured, pleading with them as her gaze shifted between the two. Why are they looking at me like that? she thought to herself.
Patting her father's shoulder, Hermione's mother gave them both an uneasy glance and crossed the room to pick up the phone. Hermione scanned the familiar space as she followed her mother's movements; confusion turning to dread as she realized that there wasn't a trace of her in the room. Pressing in the familiar three-digit calling code, her mum watched her with barely concealed fright as her father led her over to a sofa and sat her down to deliver the harsh line which she was slowly coming to expect.
“I'm sorry young lady, you seem to be confused. We don't have any children,” he rubbed her hands between his lightly calloused ones as he searched her face. “Sit tight. We're going to get you the help that you need.”
Fighting nausea, she looked up into the same brown eyes that she herself shared before her eyes traveled back towards her mum as pain blossomed in her chest.
“Hello? Operator?” her mother asked, looking back towards the child she'd birthed with complete bewilderment. But the next words that spilled from her mum’s mouth were not her own. They were, instead, a startled jumble, in a rich baritone that did not match the breathy chords she had expected, but which were as familiar to her as her own voice.
“Hermione. Love. Wake-up.”