We Were Soldiers

Category: Marvel MCU/Harry Potter

“What now, Buck?” Steve Rogers asked his best friend as they sat outside a hidden retreat T’Challa had agreed to let them use for a short amount of time while Bucky recovered from the intensive psychological treatments that ‘turned off’ the Winter Soldier in his head.

“We can’t stay here long,” Bucky replied, stating the blatantly obvious. “Too many people know. We’re going to have to keep moving.”

Steve nodded once in agreement, and shot a look at Wanda, who was playing absentmindedly with what looked like a wisp of red smoke between her fingers and not responding, though he could tell by the slight frown on her face that she was listening, and knew the implication. The retreat was beautiful, and, more importantly, it felt safe. Safer than anyplace had felt since the Avengers compound. Outside the grounds was the unknown, where they would join Sam, Natasha, Clint, and Scott Lang in their constant movements to avoid detection. The group had split up for now, thinking it best not to move as a unit as large groups tend to draw more attention, but Steve had kept Wanda close by as Bucky was rehabilitated, in case something went south she was the best chance he had to stop his friend with minimal chance of injury. She, too, would eventually go her own way: she had heard rumors of a group of people who knew about magic and thought that might be a good place to go sort herself out and maybe learn a bit more about controlling her powers.

“Need a drink?” Bucky asked, standing and heading toward the door without waiting for a response.

It happened so quickly Steve barely had time to react. He saw the flash out of the corner of his eye and grabbed his friend around the middle, throwing him to the ground as the flash of green light passed within inches and smashed into the wall behind, leaving a large hole. All three turned toward the source of the flash, and saw nothing. Steve instinctively stood in front of Bucky, who had obviously been the target, holding up a plain vibranium shield, something T’Challa had given him to replace the one he had given up as he left Captain America behind. Wanda’s hands were out, fingers curled around small balls of light, but they couldn’t see anyone or anything on the hillside where the light seemed to have originated from. The two exchanged worried glances, and Steve took a cautious step forward to investigate.

An invisible force threw the shield and, by extension, Steve, sending them flying through the air, landing about fifteen yards from where he had been sitting. Wanda spun around, looking for the source, and was hit with a flash of red light, throwing her backwards.

“Bucky!” Steve shouted, throwing him the shield, and Bucky managed to just get it up in time before another green jet hit it with an earsplitting crash. A woman appeared from out of thin air in front of him, her body clad in tight black and a mask obstructing most of her face. She kicked Bucky’s legs out from under him, knocking him to the ground as she pointed a stick at the shield. He cried out as it was torn from his hands and sent flying, and the woman pointed the stick at him.

“Avada…” she started, but Bucky hit her in the knee, causing her to stumble backwards. Meanwhile Steve had retrieved the shield and he charged the woman, who turned around and shot a jet of red light from the end of the stick at him, he dropped and rolled, then stood up and ran at her again. He and Bucky reached her at about the same time, each with the same goal in mind- get her stick from her. But the girl could fight, and she was fast, dodging punches, kicks, and the shield expertly, though not attempting to physically hit either man herself. Every so often she managed to wave the stick at one of the men, once causing Bucky to retreat quickly as a snarl of ropes threatened to entangle him, another time disarming Steve and opening a gash on his shoulder. Every so often the woman would disappear right before a punch hit her, reappearing feet away before firing off another shot, and Steve got the sinking feeling it was only a matter of time before she managed to get to Bucky. With one swoop of her wand she knocked Steve back again, and tripped Bucky, wrapping black ropes tightly around him, and she seemed poised for the kill when she suddenly sank to her knees, teeth gnashing together in agony.

Wanda had finally recovered from the hit and was concentrating hard on keeping the woman in whatever terrifying version of reality she had sent her to. The stick dropped from the woman’s hand and Bucky, who had managed to free himself, snatched it up and backed away to a safe distance.

“She’s fighting it!” Wanda cried, looking fearful. “I don’t know how much longer I can…”

The woman seemed to break herself out of Wanda’s hold, falling backwards onto the ground and turning onto her side, where she dug her fingers deep into the hard ground as though she would be able to literally pull herself back to earth. She looked up and saw Bucky holding the stick, and her body coiled and tensed, as though she were fighting the urge to lunge at him. She closed her eyes and the group could tell she was fighting something no one else could see, something deep in her mind. Breathing hard and with a shaking hand she picked up a rock and began scratching something into the earth next to her.

“Finite?” Steve asked, looking confused.

The woman pointed at the stick, then at Wanda. Bucky held the stick out to Wanda, who hesitantly took it. The woman was now repeatedly making the same motion with her hand curled around an invisible stick.

“Say it, please,” she begged in a hoarse voice. “I can’t fight it much longer…”

“F…f…finite,” Wanda stammered, pointing the stick at the woman, but nothing happened.

“Do the motion,” Steve encouraged.

Wanda took a deep breath, mimicked the motion twice, then on the third try said, “Finite!” while pointing it at the woman. For a moment it seemed like she had only made it worse, the woman’s body tensed so tightly her back arched grotesquely and an animalistic growl escaped between her clenched teeth, but then her body crumpled to the ground and she lay, unmoving save for her chest, which heaved with the effort of trying to control her breathing. Steve picked up a length of the black rope and cautiously approached her. She opened her eye just enough to see him coming, and held out her arms, wrists together, accepting what she knew was coming. Steve quickly bound her hands and then hoisted her to her feet, where she stood unsteadily.

“Who the hell are you?” Bucky asked as Steve patted her down.

“I’m…” the woman trailed off, her eyes darting around as though she were searching the air around them for the answer. “I’m… Ginny? No, that’s Harry’s… Luna? No, that doesn’t sound right. It started with an H. H… Her…Hermione. Hermione Granger. That’s it.”

“You don’t know your own name?” Steve asked, sounding surprised.

“Of course you don’t,” Bucky interrupted. “Your identity is the first thing they take away from you. If she had completed her mission they would be doing another wipe on her soon, getting it even further away from her.”

Steve and Wanda looked at him in surprise.

“I know another Super Soldier when I see one,” he muttered darkly, nodding to the red star on her upper sleeve.

“There are more of them?” Steve asked in surprise.

“Not that I knew of, but the evidence is right in front of us,” he shot back before looking at Hermione. “Status report, comrade,” he commanded in Russian.

Hermione tensed and her eyes grew distant. “Mission failed. Target not eliminated. I’ve been captured,” she replied, eyes almost fearful.

“Stand down.”

“Yes, sir.”

“It’s alright,” he said in a concerned, yet comforting tone. “I’m not going to hurt you unless you try to hurt me again, do you understand?”

She nodded.

“What is the last thing you remember?”

She squeezed her eyes shut tightly as she tried to remember. “The World Cup, 2014. Leaving after with Viktor, we were going to go celebrate Bulgaria’s win. Viktor… Viktor is dead. He was taken with me, and he fought too much. They killed him, it was me they really wanted, though they would have taken him.”

“Germany won the 2014 World Cup,” Wanda said softly. “I remember them watching from my… room.”

“The Quidditch World Cup,” Hermione clarified. “For witches and wizards.”

“Witches and wizards?” Steve asked, sounding confused.

“I thought you knew!” she cried, eyes going wide. “She’s obviously one, she used my wand to free me.”

“We knew about that one,” he replied. “I didn’t know there were more. I think we have a lot we need to talk about. Start from the beginning.”

“I… I don’t remember all of it,” she admitted softly. “Bits and pieces here and there. A magical school, some friends. I had parents, I remember modifying their memories, but I don’t know where they went or even if they’re alive. I remember Harry and Ron, my best friends, and I think I remember Ron’s family. I remember Viktor, we had been seeing each other for a while when we were taken. But all this, it’s like it’s buried, under something dark and terrifying.”

“A place you can’t name?” Bucky offered. “Where the rewards for doing good are only slightly less horrific than the price of failure?”

“Yes,” she nodded once. “There’s faces, too. I don’t know who, all I can remember is…”

“Killing them,” he finished.

“Yes,” she whispered softly.

“Because you were ordered, and a good soldier follows orders without question.”

“I don’t want to be a good soldier.”

“I know. But you have to be. That’s what they’re good at, making soldiers and keeping them loyal. Wanda managed to break you out of it.”

“Whatever she did to my mind, it got me out of my mission mode, which meant I was only under magical control. They use this book, and the Imperius curse, to control me. They had to start using whatever is in that book, because I started fighting the curse too well. They use both, they’re afraid of me breaking loose. Whoever held the curse on me will know I’ve failed. They’re coming for me, and they’re going to kill me.”

“You don’t sound afraid of that,” he raised an eyebrow.

“I’d rather be dead than do what I’ve been doing the last couple years any longer,” she replied. “I came here to commit another murder. If they don’t kill me, if they bring me back, I’m just going to kill someone else. Or they’ll send me back for you.”

“Why did they send you to kill him?” Wanda asked.

“Isn’t it obvious? A soldier who will not follow orders and cannot be controlled is of no use to them. He’s gone rogue, and he knows too much.”

“How many soldiers are there like you?” Steve asked.

“Magical? Three that I know of. There may be others out there, but if there are, they didn’t leave anything around that I might have seen. I think three is all the more our handlers can keep in line at any one time.”

“Do you know the other two?” Bucky asked.

“The first is Gregory Goyle. I remember vaguely that we went to school together. He’s one of the meanest people you could ever come across, strong, but not the most powerful wizard. I wouldn’t be surprised if he volunteered for this, he doesn’t seem to need the same amount of… conditioning that I do. I don’t know the other, they don’t let us talk much and even if they did he’s the quiet type. Whenever I see him he’s being conditioned, I think he resists more than I do.”

“How many witches and wizards are out there?” Steve asked.

“Hundreds of thousands. Maybe even a million.”

“And why were you chosen?” Bucky asked.

“I don’t know,” she answered truthfully. “Maybe because I was easy to catch. They frightened me, showed up in dark robes and silver masks, I thought the Death Eaters were back. I panicked, and that was all it took to capture me.”

“And the person who was controlling you?”

“I don’t know,” she shook her head. “I never dealt with the wizard or witch who put me under the curse directly, they let the soldiers do most of the work. But I do know that the Imperius curse gets more difficult to hold the further the person you’re controlling gets from you. They had a hold of me once I threw her,” she nodded at Wanda, “out of my head, but someone with no experience with a wand was able to end the curse. They’re probably within a few hundred miles. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on their way right now. If you leave quickly you’ll probably have a chance before they get here, I doubt whoever it is will be stupid enough to come alone.”

“And what are you going to do? Stay here?” Bucky scoffed.

“I’m not going back,” she shook her head emphatically. “I’ll go down fighting, but I will go down. I can’t go back to that.”

“You don’t have to,” Steve said. “We know someone who could help. They were able to free Bucky’s mind, perhaps they can free yours as well.”

She looked conflicted, then looked at Bucky. “What is there after?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” he replied truthfully. “They only just finished with me, I was here to recover. I don’t know if it’ll help since our situations are somewhat different, but if they can’t help they can put you on ice until they can figure out a way to help.”

She thought about it for a long moment before nodding. “Do you have a knife?” she asked.

“Yes,” he nodded, looking confused.

“There’s a tracker in my left shoulder, or at least, I think it’s a tracker. Something small and cylindrical. You’re going to need to cut it out, or my bid for freedom isn’t going to last long. I’d do it myself, but I doubt any of you are going to trust me with my wand or a knife at the moment.”

“And you trust me to do it?”

“I don’t have a choice now, do I? The more we talk, the closer they get.”

Bucky nodded, pulling a knife from his pocket and approaching her. She cocked her head to the side, and he unzipped her jacket just enough to pull it out of the way. Carefully he ran his fingers over her skin until he located the small device.

“Ready?” he asked, placing the knife against her skin.

“Go,” she ordered, wincing as he cut into her skin. A couple seconds later the blood-covered tracker was on the ground and Bucky raised his foot to smash it.

“Wait,” she said, placing her bound hands on his chest and causing him to pause. “If it’s smashed they know I’m running. If it’s active they might think I’m still here. It may give us a couple extra minutes.”

“Which we’re wasting if we’re standing around here. Come on,” Steve ordered, rushing them to a Jeep used by grounds maintenance. Wanda waved a hand, starting it up as they climbed in, Steve driving with Wanda next to him, Bucky lifting Hermione into the back before climbing in himself. Gravel kicked up as Steve peeled out and took off down the road, Hermione watching nervously behind them as the retreat grew smaller, then finally disappeared from sight.

“What’s it like?” she asked softly. “The… deprogramming or whatever you’d call it.”

“You’re not going to like it,” Bucky replied. “They’re going to re-create a lot of your conditioning. But rather than wiping your memory they’re going to have someone you know from your past help fill it in. They’re not going to hurt you, they’re going to give you something to take the edge off the memory. And they’re going to repeat your words to you, ordering you to disregard them, over and over until you actually don’t react to them. It’s brutal, but it worked.”

She bit her lip. “I don’t know if I can do that,” she muttered.

“You had a few names earlier…”

“I don’t know if I can let them know what I’ve been doing,” she replied. “I’m sure they think I’m dead, it might be best that they keep thinking that. Maybe you can keep me on ice until they figure out another way.”

“Is that what you really want?” he raised an eyebrow.

She squinted at something in the distance. “We didn’t get out quick enough,” she said.

He looked and saw three black figures flying toward them. “Steve! We’ve got incoming!”

“Gun,” Steve said, tossing one back to him.

“Not enough,” he muttered. “Where’s her wand?”

Wanda and Steve exchanged a look, and he nodded. Wanda produced the wand and held it out.

“I hope you’re not lying when you say you’re ready to fight them,” Bucky said, cutting the ropes binding Hermione loose and holding out the wand. In response she grabbed it, pulled herself up and braced herself against the roll bar, and fired off a spell that hit one of the three black-cloaked broomstick-riding pursuers and knocked them backwards into a rock, where they slumped motionless. Bucky stood next to her and started firing as Steve steered the Jeep into a wooded area, knocking a rear-view mirror off as he skirted close to trees. Wanda focused on clearing a path as spells started to hit the Jeep. Hermione and Bucky took turns shooting at their attackers and keeping an eye on the incoming spells. After several frantic minutes Hermione shot off a spell just before Bucky took a shot at the same pursuer, who managed to deflect the spell before getting hit in the head with the bullet. The final pursuer aimed a spell at the Jeep, which flipped into the air. Wanda instinctively stopped it mid-air, and Hermione and Bucky, who weren’t strapped in, went flying. She managed to grab his wrist and turned in mid-air, pulling him side-along to a spot behind their attacker, who wasn’t expecting the move and was just turning to look at them when a jet of green light sent them crumpling to the ground. Bucky was bent double, trying not to retch from the Apparation as Hermione rushed to the fallen attacker, pulling their hood off.

“Know him?” Steve asked.

“No,” she said, shaking her head. “They wouldn’t send either of the other ones yet, but they might now. We have to keep moving.”

“The Jeep is shot. We’ve got at least a day’s walk,” he sighed.

“If you trust me, I could Apparate us there.”

Steve, Wanda, and Bucky looked at each other.

“If this is a ruse, it’s a hell of an act,” Bucky shrugged.

“Do it,” Steve nodded.

“You have to think of it,” she ordered.

“I am.”

She looked him in the eyes. “Legillimens,” she whispered. A moment later she held out her hands. “Hold on,” she instructed.

A moment later they landed in front of the medical facility where Bucky had been treated. Hermione put up a few basic wards before following the group inside.

“We need to talk to Dr. Chike,” Steve said to a woman sitting at a desk just inside the door. She nodded, disappearing through a door and returning moments later with a tall, dark-skinned woman with close-cropped black hair following her.

“Mr. Barnes,” she said, concern flooding her voice. “Did something go wrong?”

“Not with me,” Bucky shook his head, stepping aside so Hermione was visible. “We just so happened to run into another one. Doc, meet Hermione Granger, one of a new crop of Winter Soldier.”

The doctor looked surprised for a moment, but she stepped forward and offered Hermione a hand. “Nice to meet you, Miss Granger.”

Hermione nodded.

“Could you do the same for her that you did for me?” Bucky asked. “Get it out of her, I mean.”

“We could try,” she nodded. “If Miss Granger has someone who could…”

“No,” Hermione shook her head. “I don’t want to contact anyone. Please, just put me on ice so I’m not a threat.”

“A moment?” Bucky asked. “Steve, stay.”

Wanda and Dr. Chike walked across the room. Bucky stood directly in front of Hermione, gently reaching out to lift her chin so she had to look him in the eyes. “You don’t want to go back on ice indefinitely,” he said firmly. “The longer you’re on ice the more time they have to find you, and with how quick they came after you I’d say it’s safe to say that they’re already looking. And if they find you in cryostasis they’re not going to kill you. They’re going to take you back, and what they’re going to do to you is going to make the past look like child’s play. You went rogue once, they’re going to break you so badly that you never do that again. And then they’ll send you back out to kill again. Is that something you want to risk?”

“How could they ever forgive me?” she asked softly.

“If they know you at all, they’ll know that you never would have done any of it,” Steve replied. “They’ll want to help you.”

She bit her lip and thought for a long moment. “Is it completely gone?” she asked Bucky.

“It’ll never be completely gone,” he replied. “But it won’t have power over you. Their faces, what you did… it’s all still there. I’ll let you know if the nightmares ever go away.”

Their eyes met for a long moment, and she nodded. “I have a Patronus to send,” she murmured, heading for the door.

“What are you thinking?” Steve asked.

“Seems like this place is becoming a Winter Soldier deprogramming center,” he shot back. “I didn’t know something like that would be needed.”

“If this works?”

“We need to figure out who did this to her. They lose some and they make more, it’s only going to keep going and that’s the last thing we need.”

Steve nodded. Hermione walked back inside as Wanda and Dr. Chike came back in. Her arms wrapped tightly around herself and the color had drained from her face. When Bucky put a supportive hand on her shoulder he could feel her trembling slightly.

“Has Mr. Barnes explained the process to you?” Dr. Chike asked her.

“He gave me the short version,” Hermione replied softly.

“We are going to attempt to deprogram the soldier in you by disassociating all memories you have of their programming procedure with their work, and instead associate the process with something calming, and something you can control and are familiar with. As of right now that means re-creating much of what you went through, though taking some of the power out of it. Instead of extreme physical stress we will be administering calming drugs, and instead of wiping your memories we will, with the help of someone from your past, be attempting to fill in the gaps and bring back what was suppressed. When we worked with Mr. Barnes we also twisted the words used to activate him enough that they no longer have meaning to him. Did they do something similar with you?”

“Yes,” she nodded.

“I’m afraid the process isn’t pleasant, and will be confusing and stressful for you. We worked eight to ten hours a day for a week with Mr. Barnes before we could finally declare him ‘deprogrammed’, the other hours you will need to rest and recover from the day.”

“You can’t just put me on ice each night?”

“No,” she shook her head. “We will be simulating the cryogenic freezing process to activate those memories, but we will not do a full freeze on you. It would be best for you to use your time not in treatment to reflect, focus, and communicate with those you trust. It would be too much of a stress on your body to freeze and thaw you every day. Do you understand?”

She nodded.

“I’m going to make a couple phone calls and start setting things up. We are going to need someone who knows you…”

Just then the door flew open and three people rushed in.

“Hermione!” one shouted, and they ran toward her as a group. Bucky only had just enough time to jump out of the way before they had enveloped her in a tight embrace.

“What the hell happened to you?” Ron asked, his voice thick with relief.

“We thought you were dead!” Harry added.

“When we found Viktor…” Ginny started.

“I’ll explain it all in a bit,” Hermione cut her friend off, and Bucky noticed she was much more composed than the other three. “It is a VERY long story and part of the reason why I’m in this place.”

“Maybe we should give them some space,” Steve muttered.

“We should,” Wanda agreed, and the two of them turned and walked out of the room. Bucky cautiously approached the group and touched Hermione’s arm lightly.

“Do you need anything?” he asked softly.

“Not now, thank you,” she replied with a little smile that he couldn’t help but return.

“I’m just going to be in there if that changes,” he said. “Come find me when you’re ready.”

“I will,” she smiled again, and he found himself waiting until the smile had been obscured by Harry’s head to leave. He walked through the door and down a hall into a small living area surrounded by dorm-style rooms, where they would be staying during Hermione’s deprogramming. He shot a dark look at the heavily secured and monitored room that had been his home during his treatment, and the room directly to its right which was where much of the actual treatment had occured, but knew that he wouldn’t be returning to those rooms. He’d be in one of the other, smaller rooms that had little more than a comfortable bunk bed, small closet, and a desk, and most likely he’d be sharing with Steve. He sat down next to his friend on a couch, his back to the room.

“What are you thinking?” Steve asked.

“I’m angrier than I have been in a long time,” Bucky responded truthfully. “I thought this was over, I thought with the other ones dead and with me defected and deprogrammed that the program was finished. The thought that they not only made another group, but they plucked random people from public places…”

“Do you think it was random?” Wanda asked. “She is a witch.”

“One of a million or so,” he shot back. “That’s a pretty big pool from which to choose, and they took her from a public place…”

“Which makes me think she was targeted,” Steve cut in. “Why risk leaving a body? I’m assuming the World Cup in their world is a pretty big deal, it had to take some guts to kidnap someone from that area around that time, but they decided the risk was worth it. They didn’t wait for her to be alone, and they didn’t think twice about killing the man she was with, so what did they have to gain other than they got somebody they really wanted.”

“You do know what that implies, don’t you?” he muttered.

Steve and Wanda exchanged looks.

“They took me because I was there. The others were volunteers. If they’re targeting people there’s a reason. Granger must have a skill they were after. And if they are targeting people and kidnapping them that means they are getting bolder. They want the raw skill and are willing to kill, kidnap, and draw attention to themselves to get it.”

“Are they getting desperate?” Wanda asked, sounding somewhat hopeful.

“I don’t know,” he replied honestly. “But it’s concerning.”

“Let’s get this girl taken care of , then we can figure out what Hydra is up to.”

Bucky nodded, but didn’t respond.

Harry emerged from the room, face white and jaw set.

“What happened?” Ron asked, standing up and hurrying over and Bucky, who was pretending to read a book, cocked his head slightly to listen.

“I don’t know what they did to her, but that wasn’t Hermione,” Harry responded. “I was in there, what?”

“Two hours,” Ginny replied.

“Two hours. And she didn’t meet my eyes once, didn’t show any emotion. It just… it wasn’t like her. And then the doctor…”

“Please, make a path,” Dr. Chike said behind him. “Don’t try to talk to her right now, she’s complying with orders.”

Behind her Hermione emerged, face set and alert. She scanned each of them, eyes lingering on Bucky long enough that he tensed in preparation for a fight, before turning and walking into her bedroom, where she laid on the bed, and allowed herself to be strapped down by two nurses. One nurse gave her a sedative, which would put her to sleep for a couple hours to recover from the treatment, the other switched a switch which blasted freezing air down on Hermione to simulate going into a cryochamber.

“Scary,” Ron muttered. “How long is this going to take?” he asked the Doctor.

“I know it didn’t seem as though we made much progress, but she did show signs of remembering much of what you were talking about,” she smiled optimistically. “You did a good job, staying on the big events, your war, though I would steer clear of mentioning her torture for now. We will get there after a while, but let’s not stress her too much at the moment.”

“Those words…” Harry started.

“Mr. Barnes might be better able to explain, all we know is they’re used to trigger the soldier, so we’re repeating them as a way to gauge our progress. When we’re done she should no longer respond to them, but it will take time.”

“How much time?”

“It took a week last time, however Hermione has been under their control for much less time, and from what she reported they had been using a combination of a spell and their brainwashing. She also has three people here to help, so she will have less gaps in her history and more perspectives to her history.”

“Would more help?” Ginny asked.

“It certainly wouldn’t hurt.”

“Excuse me,” she said, hurrying from the room.

“Harry said she didn’t show any emotion,” Ron started.

“She wouldn’t,” Bucky interrupted. The trio looked at him, so he sighed and elaborated, “Good soldiers don’t show emotion, so we were not allowed to. If we did we were punished for it. I’ll be honest with you, I’m still not comfortable with it. I wouldn’t expect her to be willing to openly show displays of emotion for a long time.”

“I’m going to go check on her,” Dr. Chike excused herself and Harry and Ron sat down with Bucky.

“She said you were one, too, but she didn’t get into specifics,” Harry started.

“I was one, but I’m not a wizard. They took me because I was there, and because they could experiment on me without subjecting one of their own to that treatment.”

“How long were you one?”

“Seven decades.”

“Blimey,” Ron breathed. “You look good for over seventy.”

He chuckled softly. “I wouldn’t recommend my anti-aging regimen, or Steve’s for that matter.”

Harry swallowed visibly before saying softly, “Hermione said they used her as an assassin.”

“That was the point of the program when I was the only one, I can’t imagine they changed course much in the time since I defected.”

“Do you know who…?” he trailed off. “She wouldn’t say.”

“I don’t know and I didn’t ask,” he shook his head. “Seeing as she was trying to kill me I wanted to get her here as quickly as possible, so I didn’t ask for specifics.”

“She was trying to kill you?”

“Yes. As I said, I had defected. I’m a liability. I don’t think she’s going to be the last coming for me.”

“But you’re staying here,” he pointed out.

“For now,” he nodded. “This place is safe, at least, it’s safer than most places out there. And I want to see how she does.”

“Do you think it’s not going to work?” Ron asked, sounding concerned.

“She’s only the second one this has been done on,” he said with a forced smile. “So far it has a one hundred percent success rate.” Without another word he stood and walked past the rooms and out a side door, where Steve was sitting, watching the misty forest for nothing in particular.

“Did I always look that murderous when I was done with a session?” Bucky asked, sitting on a low rock wall.

“Well, I was in the sessions with you, so I have to say that you didn’t look any more murderous after the sessions than you did during them,” Steve replied. “It gets better. The first couple days you were still torn, wondering if it was a good idea or if it would work, and the soldier in you was putting up a hell of a fight. Once you started to remember things on your own things progressed quickly. She already seemed to have more memories than you, so perhaps it’ll be easier. But yeah, I’d expect her to look a bit murderous.”

“I thought she was going to attack me when she saw me. She looked at me like she was thinking about it. Perhaps her last order was still in there.”

“The first order they would have given her would be to disregard any previous orders,” he pointed out.

“Still, the pull is strong. She doesn’t know Dr. Chike, she might not respond to her.”

“She didn’t attack you. She doesn’t have her wand, so you have the physical advantage if she does. If you’re worried about it, just be out of her line of sight when she comes out.”

“Thanks for the vote of confidence.”

“I thought you wanted to stay here?”

“I do,” he nodded. “I want this to work, and I want it to work quickly. I’d rather not be thinking that we have to kill anyone else they kidnap.”

“I don’t either,” he said softly. “I talked to T’Challa. He agreed that, once she’s done with treatment, we’re going to need to go after the ones who took her. She said there’s at least two others, we can’t sit on this too long.”

“I know,” he nodded. “If they find out she and I are in the same place they’ll come for us.”

“I know,” he sighed, looking into the mist as if he were waiting for someone to come running out of it. “Are you okay?”

“No. And I won’t be for a while.”

Twenty-seven hours later Bucky came back inside from a hidden smoke break to find a flurry of activity. Several of the witches and wizards were re-arranging the sitting area, moving things out of the way to clear a large space in the middle. A stern looking woman whom Harry had mentioned was one of their former teachers emerged from the treatment room and placed a chair in the middle of the spot, and began waving her wand at it so it twisted and reshaped itself into a piano. Another chair became a bench.

“What’s going on?” he asked Wanda.

“That woman, she remembered Hermione playing the piano once when she first visited her. Dr. Chike wants to see if Hermione remembers any of that, she thinks music would be a good way for Hermione to feel in control.”

Bucky stepped toward the instrument as Hermione entered the room, more relaxed than usual, so he immediately knew she wasn’t under orders. She still scanned everyone, and to his surprised she flashed him a quick smile before she sat at the piano. For several agonizing minutes she did little more than run her fingers over the keys, occasionally pressing one, or tapping a foot pedal. His chest began to ache as he realized he was holding his breath, when she started playing. To listen to her she had never stepped away from the instrument. The song was slow and cautious at first, something he vaguely recognized, but it soon grew more complicated. The music twisted his insides, there was nothing happy or joyous about the music, instead it made him feel saddened and confused, and at times even a bit trapped through he was safe at the moment. She had been playing twenty minutes before he realized that every so often she would look up from the keys, and it was always at him, and the look on her face was either curiosity, or as though she were seeking his approval. He found himself drawn closer to the instrument, even closer than her cautious friends dared venture, and it was as though everything drained from the room but him, her, and the piano. For the first time in a long time he felt as though someone understood him, and he mentally begged her to never stop.

Hermione paused at the end of a song, and Dr. Chike started reciting words in Russian. She immediately tensed.

“No,” she muttered, hands slamming onto the keys. “Please, don’t, please.” She shook her head and begged, tears traced down her cheeks, as her white knuckled fingers grasped the piano like a lifeline. But as the last word came out the tears immediately stopped, her back went rigid, and she looked forward blankly.

“Comrade?” Dr. Chike whispered, trying to hide her own pain at having to do that to Hermione.

Ready to comply,” she replied.

“Go back to the room for further orders,” the doctor ordered.

Fight it, Bucky mentally begged.

And to his shock Hermione didn’t immediately move. Instead her hands started tracing the keys in front of her, as though her body refused to give up the instrument. For a full minute she sat there, body seemingly in a fight with her brain on if she would comply at all.

“Go back to the room,” the doctor said more firmly.

This time Hermione gave in, standing up and going back into the therapy room. Bucky moved to the open door, and Dr. Chike, who had a smile on her face as she entered behind Hermione, didn’t close the door all the way.

“You will stop obeying these orders,” the doctor said. “These words are meaningless to you now. You will not let the soldier control your mind any longer.”

Hermione trembled and shook her head several times, mentally in a fight with herself.

“You will go to your room to rest now.”

“I thought I wasn’t to be obeying orders,” she snapped back.

“You will go to your room to rest now,” she repeated forcefully, and this time Hermione complied.

“That’s good, right?” Bucky asked Dr. Chike as they watched Hermione return to the room.

“It took you six days to get there,” she replied. “This is very promising. I think we need to give her some more time on that piano for her next session, and then I’m going to try something a bit different. I want you there for it.”

“Anything,” he nodded.

When Hermione emerged for her next treatment Bucky had already positioned himself in the seat closest to the piano, where he could watch her face and her hands work, and where she could see him if she wanted to look over. She played for two hours, occasionally shooting a glance in his direction, and when she was ordered to stop it took two repetitions of the words to get her to comply and she questioned the orders four times, and even then she reminded him a petulant teenager who was only complying grudgingly.

That night, after several grueling therapy sessions, Hermione was given the chance to visit with her loved ones. She played the piano for a while and talked, but always seemed a bit distracted. Bucky stayed on the periphery, mainly to hear her play, and as she quit so people could retire for the night he went outside to collect his thoughts.

“Was it this brutal for you?” Hermione asked softly, bringing him back to reality as she sat next to him.

“Of course it was, but you seem to be making some brilliant progress,” he replied.

“I didn’t have nearly as much experience as you.”

“You also have a much larger group of people who showed up to help,” he pointed out.

“I wish they hadn’t called in the rest,” she sighed. “I didn’t even like Harry, Ron, and Ginny knowing. But I was willing to deal with that fallout to be deprogrammed.”

He studied her face as silence fell. She bit her lip, something he noticed her doing often, and studied him as well out of the corner of her eye.

“What’s the plan for when this is done?” she asked.

“You make it sound like you’re involved,” he shot back.

“You and I, we’re different,” she said softly. “I know what Steve and Wanda do, and I know we both would love to help, but I don’t think either of us are there.”

“You presume to know a lot about me.”

“I’m basing a lot of it off what I know about myself right now. I guess it is an assumption that you have the same burning desire to stop Hydra before they do something else like what they did with me.”

He smiled and nudged her leg with his. “I guess you got me on that,” he replied dramatically, but immediately became serious. “If they’ve resorted to kidnapping people…”

“There are some people who would make very appetizing targets,” she finished. “Not the least of which would be your best friend in there, and many of the people he associates with.”

“Or you and I,” he added. “I think the deprogramming ends our immediate threat, but if we’re recaptured I’m afraid we might be easier to brainwash a second time.”

She bit her lip again, and he reached out to gently pull it down.

“You’re going to give yourself a scar if you keep chewing on it like that,” he said softly.

“I’ve been doing that since I was in primary school, and it hasn’t happened yet,” she replied.

“Just the same, I’d rather my partner not give herself scars, since God knows how many we’re going to get trying to play underground superheroes.”

“Partner?” she raised an eyebrow.

“Safety in numbers and all that,” he shrugged.

She gave him a skeptical look.

“By the way, you play beautifully.”

She blushed, and started to bite her lip but quickly stopped. “Thank you. I’m surprised I’m not more rusty, I haven’t played in years.”

“Could have fooled me.”

They sat together for several minutes, pressed side-to-side with each other. She looked toward the stars, but he knew that the distance in her eyes was not by trying to look to the heavens.

“So, partner, what’s the plan?” she finally asked.

“If this works as planned, I think this may be the final session,” Dr. Chike announced cautiously to the group just after lunch the next day. “I think we’re going to do something a bit different, something we weren’t able to do with Mr. Barnes. Mrs. Weasley, I’d like you to be the one in there with her this time.”

Molly, who had been knitting, looked up. “Me?” she asked, surprised, with a glance at Harry.

“She’s heard from friends, and she’s heard from her teacher, but she has not heard from someone she views as a parental figure. I want you to go in there and assure her that you are not holding her responsible. She would benefit from hearing that she is not being rejected, and that you are not disappointed. I think the last hold the soldier has on her is her fear that she will lose everyone over this.”

“I can do that,” Molly nodded.

“Mr. Barnes, I want you in there, too.”

“She’s not going to believe any of that coming from me,” he pointed out.

“No, I want you to be the one to say her words,” she said. “Out of everyone here you are the one she would view most as an enemy, the one she has the worst history with. If anyone can shock her into going back into that mode, it would be you. If she resists even with someone she associates with all that ordering her I think she’ll be finished with our program.”

Dozens of reasons why he didn’t want to go through with the plan flashed through his head, but in the end Bucky nodded, and followed Molly into the treatment room, taking his place in a darkened corner. A minute later Hermione, looking out of it, was dragged into the room by two nurses and placed in a chair, where she was strapped down. A device was placed on her head that stimulated the calming centers of her brain as a mild sedative was injected into her arm. He noticed her breathing remained steady through this, as though she expected it, and a ghost of a smile came across her face as they took the device off and she opened her eyes.

“Hullo, Molly,” she said, her voice hoarse but pleasant.

“Hermione, dear,” the older woman seemed to deflate a bit, and couldn’t help but reach out to put a hand on Hermione’s. “You do not deserve this.”

“I don’t think anyone does,” she replied.

She dabbed at her eyes with a handkerchief she held in her free hand, and took a deep breath. “I’ve spent the last few hours composing what I was going to say to you, but now that I’m in here I can’t remember a word,” she smiled sadly. “I’m supposed to tell you about memories we’ve shared, but I can’t remember any myself right now.”

“It’s alright,” she said softly. “You just being in here is bringing back a few. I remember Sunday dinners and Christmas sweaters and how you comforted me when I realized things between Ron and I weren’t going to work. It all seems so… common, stuff that I might not have even remembered before they stole my memories from me.”

“It’s common because that’s what families do for each other, and sometimes, when you’re with your family, those things don’t seem like important memories. But when you’re in a situation like this, where you’ve spent years away from those little moments, they are what you are desperate to have back. The big things are good to remember, winning the war and being honored for it, those are important, but that’s not what is going to comfort you. What comforts you is the familiarity that comes with being surrounded by those who love and care for you, and those you love and care for yourself. You might remember getting your Order of Merlin, but that memory wouldn’t feel like something’s missing like what it would be like to wake up on Christmas morning without your Weasley sweater under the tree.”

Hermione gave a half-chuckle, half-sob, and a tear threatened to fall. “I would give anything to have those days back,” she whispered.

“You will, dear,” she patted her hand. “It’s going to take time, I know, you’ve been through so much and you have a long road ahead of you. But I will be there when you start going back to your normal routine. I’ll invite you to every Sunday dinner, every birthday party, every time you just need someone to talk to. As long as I am around you will wake up to a sweater every Christmas morning, like the two I made you while you were gone,” she pointed her wand at her bag, and two parcels flew out. “It didn’t feel right not making you one,” she added softly as the packages opened themselves and two sweaters, one a vibrant red, one a rich blue, came to rest on her lap.

Two tears fell as Hermione, hands still bound to the chair, moved her fingers as much as she could, wrapping them tightly in the fabric and holding them in such a way Bucky thought whoever tried to take them from her would probably have to cut her hand off to get them.

“You may not have my blood or my name, Hermione, but you are my daughter in every other sense,” Molly said firmly. “They told me what you’ve been forced to do, and I want you to know that I know that wasn’t you. We don’t blame you one bit for following your orders, you were under the control of someone else, someone wicked. And I’m angry, Hermione. The last time I felt this kind of anger Bellatrix was pointing a wand at Ginny. I feel like, should I find out whoever did this to you, I would have a hard time not doing the same to them. How dare they harm my daughter like that? How dare they take someone I love and make them do horrible things? How dare they take something so beautiful and try to break her like this? I don’t think the anger I feel about this will ever fully subside, Hermione, not so long as you’re in pain over this, but I want to make sure that none of that pain comes from me. You are loved, and no one is going to love you less for what has happened over the last few years.”

Tears streamed down Hermione’s face now, and she rubbed her cheeks on her shoulders in an attempt to hide them. It was the most vulnerable he had seen her since he had met her, and he knew if there was any time the soldier would be able to take over once again and erase the progress she made, it would be right then. As much as he hated to do it, he knew now was the time to push her.

Hopeful,” he deadpanned. She immediately tensed and turned towards him.

“Not now,” she growled.

Broken,” he continued.

“Stop,” she hissed, starting to fight against her restraints.

Seventy nine.

The noised that escaped her lips was more animal than human. A growl of desperation, either to get out or to get to him, and she started to fight desperately against the restraints.

Midnight… castle… seven…” he pressed on, as Hermione’s whole body seemed to contract and start to shake.

“Please, stop,” Molly begged. “You’re hurting her!”

Passion… freedom…ten…

It happened at once, and nearly knocked him off his feet. A burst of energy shot across the room, as the chair holding Hermione broke to pieces. He didn’t see her move, but the next second he felt her hand on his throat as she pressed him back into the wall. “Don’t finish,” she ordered.

Field,” he choked out, completing the set of words. Something shifted behind her eyes, her face becoming unreadable, and for a long moment everything was still.

“Comrade?” he whispered.

“I will not comply,” she said with a triumphant smile. “I will never comply with those words again.” She released him and spun, marching out of the room.

“Are you alright?” Molly asked, looking between him and Hermione, who was now sitting at the piano and starting to play.

“Yes,” he answered, unable to tear his eyes from Hermione, waiting. He had arranged for one more trick, just to make sure.

Hopeful,” Wanda started from a corner, cautiously approaching the piano. Hermione laughed and kept playing. “Broken… seventy-nine… midnight… castle…seven… passion… freedom… ten… field.

Hermione smiled widely and started playing “God Save the Queen”.

Hopeful,” a rich voice rang out, and T’Challa stepped out of his hiding place in one of the rooms. He had wanted to meet Hermione earlier, but Bucky asked him to wait, thinking that having someone completely unfamiliar to Hermione say the words might be enough to activate the soldier again, but she stumbled slightly, then quickly kept playing, and when T’Challa finished she let off another laugh and said loudly, “I will NOT comply!”

The tension in the room seemed to break in celebration as Hermione’s friends surrounded her. Steve, Wanda, Bucky, and T’Challa stood to one side, watching with smiles on their faces.

“You said she is one of three,” T’Challa said softly.

“Yes,” Steve replied.

“Then there is work to be done.”

“There is, and she knows it,” Bucky replied. “I think everybody here is willing to help in that regard.”

“Should we let them?”

“I don’t know how we can stop them. And if the others have magic, it’ll probably be good to have as much of that on our side as possible.”

“Then we must get started, soon,” he nodded, and strode forward to introduce himself to Hermione.

“How are you holding up?” Steve asked as the small group walked cautiously through an abandoned industrial park somewhere not too far from Kazan.

“Ask me again when this is over,” Hermione replied, stopping at an intersection. She scanned each of the buildings, then closed her eyes, calling back a memory. “That one,” she said, pointing to a faded blue building two away from them.

“Second wave in position?” Steve asked.

“One block behind,” Natasha Romanoff replied.

Bucky glanced over his shoulder, but he saw no one.

“Are you sure they’re still there?” Wanda asked.

“I’ve got four in the building,” Sam Wilson’s voice replied. “And a very cold chamber.”

“Only one?” Bucky murmured.

“They probably sent one of the other ones to finish what I didn’t,” Hermione replied. “We’re going to have to be cautious with our movements for a while.”

“Oh, well, if that’s all it is,” he smiled.

“Murderous brainwashed soldiers coming after us. Just another day in the life, right?”

“Yeah, well, I’m not going to do this to the next one that tries to kill me.”

“Do what?” she asked, looking confused.

Without warning he grabbed her arm and spun her, pressing his lips to hers in a quick but passionate kiss.

“Is this really the time for that?” Steve chastised as they broke apart.

“When you’re being hunted there’s no time like the present, because you’re not sure if you have much of a future,” he replied.

“We are going to have a talk about this later,” Hermione warned, but she was smiling.

“That doesn’t sound like a ‘do that again and I’ll kill you’, does it?”

“Stop making me lose my focus.”

“Yes, ma’am,” he smirked.

“Ready, then?” Steve asked.

Before anyone could reply Bucky held his hand out to Hermione, who grabbed it and twisted herself, bringing him side-along Apparation into the building. It was reckless and it was not planned in the slightest, and it would only give them seconds before the rest of the group burst in, but they didn’t care. They wanted first crack at the people in the building. Hermione landed with her wand already in motion, only needing to slightly adjust to hit one of the soldiers with a beam of red light, knocking him across the room where he slumped, unmoving, to the the floor. Bucky fired two shots, taking down man in a uniform, but immediately found himself facing a large man holding a wand. He fired two more shots, but the man waved his wand a deflected them, then waved it again, sending a burst of green light his way at the same moment he felt someone grab him around the middle. There was the feeling of Apparation again, and he found himself behind a stack of crates with Hermione’s arms around him.

“Goyle!” she shouted, standing up, drawing his attention from the group of people bursting in the doors.

Bucky could only watch the ensuing duel in wide-eyed fascination. Jets of light flew back and forth so furiously that the whole area flickered with different colors. Hermione and Goyle looked like two dancers with the way they dodged one curse and sent another. It was only after he had watched for a while that he realized what Hermione was doing, carefully turning the battle 180 degrees so Goyle would soon have his back to where Bucky was hidden.

“Who was it?” she asked as they fought. “You seemed so complacent… you know who got us into this!”

“Parkinson,” he sneered.

“Pansy Parkinson?” she was so surprised she nearly tripped over a box.

“Got the idea from her Durmstrang boyfriend. I volunteered first, but they thought someone with a little more logical mind might make for a stealthier assassin. Problem is few Slytherins or people who go to Durmstrang want to associate with a Muggle organization. Volunteers from there were non existent, and we knew that it would be a hard sell to anyone else, so we decided to just shop for what we needed. Your name came up quickly, and Parkinson was dead set on it being you.”

“She targeted me for this?”

“Got paid a pretty penny for it, too.”

“Why? Because I bested her at school?”

“Because you’re everything a Mudblood shouldn’t be, and even though you’ve deflected your life is worthless. You’re a killer, Granger, and you’re going to have to keep killing if you want to avoid the Kiss.”

“Wrong,” Bucky muttered under his breath, standing up and shooting at Goyle, who managed to turn just in time to deflect the bullets, but realized his folly a fraction of a second too late, just before the jet of green light hit him and he crumpled to the ground. Bucky hurried over to Hermione, and they looked around the room. Everyone from Hydra was either dead or captured, and as the fight had ended people were starting to look around for them.

“Time to set the plan in motion?” he asked.

“I know just where to start,” she replied, taking his hand.

“They left?” Ginny nearly shouted as she and Harry walked across the Atrium of the Ministry of Magic.

“They weren’t there when we swept the place,” Harry replied.

“They had been there. We found Goyle dead,” Ron added.

“How the hell did you let Hermione and that other soldier man just walk right out of there?” she demanded as they entered a lift and were whisked upward.

“It’s not like we were planning on it!” Ron snapped.

“Do you have any idea where they went?”

“I think Rogers does,” Harry replied as the doors slid open. “But he’s not saying. He had a letter and a cell phone he quickly hid when we went to talk to him.”

“And you didn’t think to question him?”

“No reason to. Our official capacity was to shut that facility down, and we did it.”

“And let two assassins and a couple more wanted fugitives escape,” she pointed out.

“We’ll find her,” he promised as the lift doors opened.

“I just want to know she’s safe,” she said softly.

“I think she’ll be…” he trailed off as he entered his office, and found Pansy Parkinson bound tightly to his chair, an envelope on his desk bearing his name in Hermione’s handwriting and a phial containing a memory sitting next to it. He lunged for the letter and nearly tore it in two in his haste to get it open.

Dearest Harry,

I am so sorry we left without warning. Bucky and I have a lot of work we need to do, and it’s probably best we have as few people know our whereabouts as possible. We know we can’t take down all of Hydra ourselves, but perhaps we can do them significant damage. I will keep in touch as it’s safe to do so.

This memory is of Goyle confessing that it was Parkinson who sold me to Hydra. Because she’s an idiot incapable of an original thought this one came from someone from Durmstrang. I intend to find out who, though you’re welcome to try to beat me to him.

Take care, Harry. I will see you again.

Love from Hermione

BB Signal Home

4 thoughts on “We Were Soldiers”

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