The Sugar Quill
Author: sunnycouger  Story: Troubled Mind  Chapter: Default
The distribution of this story is for personal use only. Any other form of distribution is prohibited without the consent of the author.

Body Troubled Mind

Author: Sunnycouger (sunnycouger@lineone.net)

Disclaimer: Not mine, never will be (probably a good job or else we would end up with R/Hr, H/Pan, D/G and with sizeable contributions of N/La, F/A & S/Par in the books ;)) Alas, this isn't going to happen and all the blame can be placed at JKR's doorstep. ;)

Rating: R (I'm saying R just in case because it refers to some pretty graphic scenes although it probably isn't that bad - better safe than sorry right?)

Summary: Companion piece to Unbreakable and Unforgiveable Sinner from Hermione's point of view. Can Ron persuade her not to throw their relationship away?

Authors Notes: This fic is a stand alone companion piece to Unbreakable and Unforgiveable Sinner - if you haven't read either fic, please do and let me know what you think.

The title is based on the song Troubled Mind by Catie Curtis which is a great song - I've been listening to it way too much recently and it inspired this.

Thanks to Fez and Zsenya for looking over this and letting me know what you think and how to improve it. A big thank you to everyone who reviewed the last part. I don't know if I'll do any more parts of the series although some people have mentioned wanting a Remus, Snape or Angelina piece but I'll have to see how my time pans out when I go back to uni. Anyway, I'm glad you guys liked. (I'm onto foof for the next year I think after this series but at least this one is a bit happier than the last two ;))

IMPORTANT - I'm a Brit, so the spelling we use is slightly different from the one people in the US use - you would not believe how many emails I got when I posted this on a Mailing List pointing out my spelling 'mistakes' because I use the letter 'u' in words and spell some stuff with a 's' instead of a 'z'. I know that it's probably obvious but it's the one thing that really irritates me so I thought I would point it out in case anyone was in doubt. :)

Oooh, one more thing - the Impediment curse was used in GoF and slows the thing it's used on down so slowly it almost stops moving (which is kinda important later on ;))

Let me know what you think - the good, the bad and the ugly. (The ending was a pain to write, it took about 4 drafts before I got one that I liked enough to post :()

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

And I'm tired from all the weight
Tired of being strong
So won't you come and stay
Let me lay down in your arms
Down in your arms

I've got a troubled, a troubled mind
And you've got a heart, a heart so kind
So kind
...

~ Troubled Mind by Catie Curtis ~

She always liked books - they were something she'd loved since she was a child. A book was sturdy, reliable and whenever something got too scary or made her feel nervous she could skip a few chapters along and know the ending. If it was a good ending she could continue reading and if it wasn't she would stop and get another book.

She'd always thought life would be like that - well, not thought but hoped. She'd always hoped that her life would be like a good book - a kind of slow beginning, getting more interesting in the middle and having a happy ending.

Her time at Hogwarts, she realised, had been the beginning of the interesting part - especially when she became friends with Harry Potter.

She'd expected life to be difficult and hard work but she knew that it wouldn't be like that forever. She knew that because good people always got the happy ending they deserved. Ron Weasley once said she was deluded if she thought that they would all come through the war unscathed. She liked to think she was just an optimist. Well, she used to think she was an optimist but times had changed and Hermione Granger had finally worked out that Ron had been right - she was deluded and placed too much faith in fairy tale endings.

Real life didn't work like that. Real life was so much harder. So much crueller. And she'd finally worked out how much she'd wasted her life in believing that everyone got the ending they deserved.

Hermione walked into the library, sat down and opened her books up at the pages she'd marked the previous night. She stared aimlessly at the dimly lit pages.

She should have been more concerned about being caught - she was Head Girl and it should have mattered more to her if she was caught - she was breaking the rules after all. But she didn't really care about that - they were only rules. They didn't really make a difference to anything other than her report card.

It wasn't the difference between life and death.

Rules hadn't done any good when it came down to it so what was the point in worrying about them? She had spent her whole school career worrying about the consequences of her actions - always telling Harry and Ron to be careful or they would get in trouble. She'd been a good little girl and what good had it done anyone? What good had it done the people she loved?

None at all. So what was the point of it? Of anything?

She took a deep breath and looked down at the charmed glass quill she had perched in her hand preparing to write. It had been charmed to change colour depending on her mood; it had been black since January.

She supposed she hadn't been in any other mood to make it change colour anymore - it may as well have not been charmed at all.

Ron had given her the quill for Christmas all of three months ago and she'd been shocked at how pretty it was at the time - it had been yellow when she opened it because she'd been so happy; it then turned a deep pink when she looked at him because she loved him. It was a perfect present. Despite that, he'd felt bad about only giving her that because he couldn't afford anything bigger - better. She couldn't imagine anything being better - it had been given with love, his love and that made it better than anything.

He made a lot of things better than anything.

She exhaled deeply and shook her head. That had been before, she had no right to dwell on the past after what she'd done. She had no right to think about him after what she'd put him through - not yet. Not until she was sure it was safe. As soon as it was safe she would make sure they all knew that she was sorry but that they would be safe with her now. She wouldn't be weak, she wouldn't be a liability. She would keep them safe. She would make herself be strong. She would protect them.

She would be in control.

She wouldn't let them take that control from her again. She wouldn't let anyone take that control from her. She would rather die.

Die. It was such a small word - small but powerful. Tiny but mighty. Simple but terrifying. Cedric had died. Hagrid had died. Lavender had died. And Ron...Ron had nearly died. He had come so close...too close.

He had nearly died and she'd nearly done it. Killed him.

She felt a shiver run through her as she tried to clear her head. It wouldn't do for a second to think about that at all - she had work to do. If she didn't do the work it could happen again and if it happened again she would be weak and a liability and not in control. And if she wasn't in control she would rather not endanger anyone.

Especially him. She loved him too much for that.

She took a deep breath and looked at the book again - she had to concentrate. She had to work it all out and then they would be safe. She would be able to fix this - she knew she would. She just had to concentrate and not think about the sound of his voice.

The voice she'd barely heard in two months. It was easier to avoid him if she didn't talk to him, to him or Harry. She couldn't risk being alone with either of them just yet and she knew it hurt them but it was the lesser of two evils. She would rather they hate her and be alive than pity her and be dead. She couldn't bear that so she would protect them - no matter how much it killed her inside, she would protect them.

And it was killing her - her insides always felt that she was being pulled apart when she saw them, especially him. It hurt so much, too much. She felt her eyes fill with tears again as she looked at the book unable to block out the pain. She hated them so much for doing this to her - she didn't deserve this. She had been a good person! She picked up the book and threw it hard towards the other end of the library - she didn't deserve this!

"I think Madam Pince will have something to say if she caught you doing that."

She spun around and saw him appear behind her as he pulled off Harry's invisibility cloak. How had she not heard him come in? "Ron, you shouldn't be here - how long have you been here? You shouldn't be out of the common room! It's not safe to be wandering around the school at night!"

He shook his head and threw the cloak down on the desk. "I snuck in behind you with Harry's cloak, I wanted to see what you got up to. Apparently you spend your time avoiding us ruining books."

She shook her head and walked towards the door. She had to get away from him. "You have to go," she began as she reached for the handle, "this is against the rules!"

He shrugged his shoulders as he walked over to the desk where she'd been working. "I'm following the example of the Head Girl," he muttered as he picked up the parchment she'd been writing on and began to read. "I wouldn't try the doors, Harry's charmed them so you can't do your usual 'run away' trick."

She pulled the door handle hard only to find it wouldn't budge. She looked out the window to see Harry sitting on the floor opposite the library door and pointing his wand in that direction. She banged the window desperately - he had to let her out! "Harry! Open this door!"

He just looked at her and shook his head sadly. "No, sorry, Hermione, but no..."

She felt her breathing quicken as she turned to look at Ron. "Make him open the door!"

Ron glanced up from the parchment he was reading and shook his head. "No. He's as sick with the way you're treating us as I am - although admittedly you didn't break up with him through a letter so he's not quite as upset as I am, but he's pretty damn close."

"Ron, I swear I...will take points from you both - you want Slytherin to win the house cup?"

He shook his head. "I don't care. I don't think anyone cares about that now."

"I care! Get out of here!" she cried as she ran over to the desk and grabbed her wand before running back to the door.

"I wouldn't do that, it's a charm that Sirius and Lupin gave me and Harry - very complex and it's tied onto Harry's wand so you will do him a lot of damage if you attack the door."

She dropped the wand and clenched her eyes shut as she brought her hands up to her face. Why were they doing this to her? "Just go, please."

"What are you doing down here every night? What's this list?"

She turned around, walked to the desk and grabbed her parchment from Ron. "None of your business."

"Oh, I think it is our business," he said as he looked at her, waiting for an explanation.

"If you must know," she sighed as she looked at him, "it's measures to prevent students being subjected to the Dark Arts - it's ways that the school can make sure what happened in January can't happen again."

He shook his head and let out a laugh. "You're kidding? At least three of the measures you have down are illegal! And that's only the ones I know about from Dad. I mean for crying out loud, Hermione, you can't punish people for being unable to withstand the Imperious!"

"That's why I say that from first year they should be put under it as part of their Defence Against the Dark Arts program to build a resistance!"

"Dumbledore would get flung in Azkaban for even suggesting it! It's an Unforgivable or did you conveniently forget that little fact?"

"That's why we have to try and eradicate it - if people can fight it, it won't be a weapon against us!"

He shook his head in shock before grabbing the list. "You want to have the students who have been away from the school measured for Dark Arts exposure? That uses equipment the Ministry has had banned for years!"

"I don't care!"

"You bloody well should! You want to suspend students with reported links to Dark families until they can be 'assessed and categorised by threat potential'?"

She nodded her head as she grabbed her list back. "You can't start on me for that - you said yourself that Malfoy should be expelled and he's from a Dark wizards back ground."

He nodded his head as his eyes were wide in disbelief. "Sure, Malfoy is an evil little git but what about the others? Susan Bones had relations in Azkaban for using Dark Arts, Lavender's grandfather was a one time You-Know-Who supporter until the Muggle torture began -"

"Yeah well, Lavender's dead so it wouldn't do much good suspending her would it?" she said as she spun around and took a few steps back. "Maybe if we had been more careful she would still be here."

He shook his head, his voice laced with pain and bitterness. "Yes, I can see how much better it would have been if we had all been exposed to the Dark Arts much earlier in our lives. It's not like we've not seen enough of it already. You don't honestly believe this list will solve anything?"

"It will solve enough - there's spells, counter measures - lots of things we can all do to make everyone safe! That's enough for me!"

She heard him take a deep breath before he began to speak. "It won't do any good! Do you honestly, honestly believe that You-Know-Who won't find other ways? Don't be so naive, Hermione."

"Stop calling me that!" she turned and slammed her hand down on the desk as she looked at him. "I know exactly what I am, and I'm not naive anymore! I'm not! I know how the world works and you - you're the one who doesn't know! You're the one who doesn't understand how anything works. You're the one with their head in the sand! I'm not the naive one here!"

She ran back over to the door and banged it again furiously. "Open the door, Harry!"

"He won't open the door until I tell him to; you aren't running away from me again. I deserve better."

She fought to stop herself crying as she banged the door again. Why were they doing this to her? Didn't they know she was doing it for them? "I know you deserve better, that's why I'm fixing things - so it will be safe for all of you."

"It's not your job to protect us, Hermione!"

She shook her head and walked over to him. "I wish you would leave! Just...go, go, Ron...please. If you care anything for me you will go."

"No, I'm so sick of listening to what you think is best! It's time you listened to me!"

She took a step away from him. "It's for the best...please, please just go."

"What's for the best? 'Dear Ron, please realise this is for the best. Have a nice life, I'll actually say goodbye to you at one point but until then take a letter. Nice knowing you? Tell Harry I said hi.' Is that for the best? I've got to say that certainly made breakfast interesting last week," he spat as he took a step towards her.

She looked down and began playing with her fingers. Why was he doing this? He must know that she was right. "I told you I was sorry about that, but I didn't have the time to explain it..."

"You could have used the time that you weren't going to Herbology to explain it - or the time that you've been sleeping through Transfiguration. I mean, you're now failing classes that you were top of - is that for the best? Everything you worked seven years for?"

She looked up at him and felt her temper begin to rise. "Well, you always said I spent too much time studying! Besides, what good does Herbology, or Transfiguration or...or History of Magic do anything? Really? You can't save a person with history - history has been and gone!"

"Exactly! What's in the past is in the past!" he said with desperation. "Why are you torturing yourself over something that has been and gone?"

She winced as he said the word. Torture. Why did he use that word, of all the words he could use? She took a step back, and then another. "Like...like us. Been and gone like us...move on, Ron. We're...we're in the past as well."

He looked at her defiantly. "No, we're not! I refuse to let us be in the past because of him!"

She shook her head and began walking towards the other end of the library. "That's not your decision! I've made my choice - respect it and leave me alone!"

He shook his head in disbelief. "Even Seamus got over his self pity!"

"Well, go date Seamus then!" she shouted back at him.

"I'm not in love with Seamus!"

Her heart crumpled at his statement and she grabbed the nearest chair and clenched her hands around it as the tears streamed down her face. Why wouldn't he just leave? Why was he making this so hard? "You can't be in love with me either, not anymore..."

"That's not your decision to make. I can't turn off how I feel about you because you tell me to," his voice wavered as he spoke. "I'm not like you, I can't make my heart not feel because my head tells me I shouldn't. I can't be that cold."

She brought a hand up to her eyes and vainly wiped the tears away. Why didn't he hate her? It would be so much easier if he hated her. Didn't he remember that she would have killed him? Gladly killed him? Why didn't he hate her?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

Hermione took a deep breath as she stepped out of the Gryffindor common room with Seamus Finnigan. She reached into her pocket and pulled her wand out - it seemed like a smart thing to do for some reason. It was important to be prepared - like Neville Longbottom and Seamus both looked. They looked prepared as they walked away from her without saying a word - Seamus in the opposite direction and Neville walking up the stairs. Normally them not talking would have seemed strange to her, but not today. Today nothing seemed strange, for the first time in a long time everything seemed fine. She didn't care that she could be studying for her Transfiguration project, she didn't care that Sirius was living in the Shrieking shack, or that Harry had an important Quidditch game in the morning - she didn't care about anything. She had nothing to worry about, it was an almost blissful feeling that had overcome her and she enjoyed it. Even if deep down she knew that it wasn't normal she didn't really mind - she had somewhere to be and she had to get there quickly.

She wasn't exactly sure where it was she was supposed to be or why, but it was definitely important - that much she was certain. As she walked down the corridor she heard loud whimpering coming from somewhere and when she looked up she saw Kirsty Johnson on the floor while Daniel Moon was grabbing her arm and pushing her into an empty classroom. She turned away knowing she should have stopped, but...she couldn't, she didn't have time. No time at all for that. Besides, Daniel had looked like he was in a hurry like Hermione, so it wasn't a good thing to disturb him and slow him down. Whatever he had to do must have been important. She would make sure everything was okay later when she wasn't in a hurry.

She shook her head as she walked on, she should have felt bad about not stopping but she didn't. She actually still felt happy. That was confusing for her, but she really didn't care.

She continued walking until she came to the room she was supposed to be at. She smiled absently as she looked at it - their room. It was the room in which Harry had found the Mirror of Erised back in first year and the three of them had claimed it as theirs ever since. They could be alone there - it was their place and no one else's. She opened the door and walked in to see Ron Weasley sitting on a desk looking nervous.

"Hermione, hi. Okay, before you start I know you wanted to talk to me and you said it was important but can we do it quick? I said to Harry that I would go down to Hogsmeade with him using the Invisibility cloak. He needs new gloves for the game tomorrow and..." he looked up at her and squinted. "And are you okay? You don't look so good..."

She gave a sigh as she looked at him. Typical Ron, he and Harry always went into Hogsmeade on a Friday. Why hadn't she remembered that? It had just seemed so important that she saw him.

"Hermione? If you're mad at me I would prefer you just shouted at me, although in my defence this isn't exactly a new occurance...you know? Hermione?"

She shook her head as she looked at her wand, she couldn't really hear what he was saying she just knew he was talking. Why couldn't she hear him? She suddenly felt slightly queasy as she looked up at him and raised her wand slowly.

His eyes widened before he looked at her in exasperation. "Oh, come on! I know I'm blowing you off but that's no reason to curse me..."

She tilted her head to the side but didn't respond as he walked over to her and pushed her wand hand down. "Are you planning on standing there in silence all night? I thought you wanted to talk? I mean, I have a little while..."

She sighed and brought her hand up to rest on his chest. She felt herself smile as she grasped her wand tight - she really did have a good feeling inside today. She brought her wand hand up to his chest as well before using all her strength and pushing him back so that he fell backwards and cracked his head against the corner of a desk.

She looked down at him as he struggled to a sitting position and rubbed the back of his head in pain. He brought his hand around to his front to show blood on his fingertips.

"What the bloody hell did you do that for?"

She bit her lip. Something inside her was beginning to feel wrong as she started to feel like her body wasn't in her own control. It was such a strange, scary feeling when she tried to fight it but it felt so good when she didn't. She didn't want to be scared like that - like she wasn't in control so she stopped fighting and embraced the feeling of warmth.

He attempted to get to his feet but before he could she'd brought her wand up and pointed it at him.

"Hermione?" His voice, that was so angry before, was now laced with fear. "Put the wand down. Now. This isn't funny!"

"Impedimenta!" she said as he suddenly froze solid - his blue eyes filled with horror as the curse hit him. She walked over to him and slapped him hard across the face before taking a step back and looking at him. "Crucio."

Her voice was barely a whisper but the effect was instant as his face contorted in agony but no sound came out. She reached over and felt his arm muscles contract despite the fact that his limbs couldn't move like they demanded. The strain he must have been under - his muscles would eventually rupture because of the effort. It must hurt.

His legs began to twitch as he fell forward on the floor in a heap when the two curses wore off. She wasn't entirely certain why he was looking at her in such fear and pain but she didn't like it. It scared her and she didn't want to be scared. Something was wrong and she knew it but she didn't know how to fix it - she couldn't remember what to do when something was broken like she was. Something was wrong with her and she didn't know what she was supposed to do.

She felt her body overcome with warmth, instantly soothing her, as somewhere a part of her told her to lift her wand again.

"No...no, Hermione...no, don't...please..." he whispered as she looked at him.

She wanted to tell him she wouldn't, she wanted to tell him she'd stop. She wanted to tell him she didn't know what was wrong. But she couldn't, she had to do something else. It was important. More important than what she was feeling - more important than what he was feeling. "Impedimenta."

He let out a scream before he was frozen again with the curse, his face locked in terror. She walked over to him and looked at his face - his red hair was stuck to his head, his face was so pale it was almost translucent and his eyes were bloodshot and filled with tears. She'd never seen him look like that before. He looked so scared and in so much pain. She wanted to help him. "Crucio."

Inwardly, she felt like she wanted to be sick as she saw the effect the two curses were creating - he was in agony but didn't even have the outlet of screaming. She took a step back and desperately tried to get herself to lower the wand as he fell face first to the floor and let out an agonising scream. Blood was trickling from his mouth and nose, the effort of withstanding the curses bursting blood vessels. It must have hurt...

She lifted her wand again and the more she tried to fight the impulse to lift her wand the greater the feeling that she was floating became - and the harder it became to resist. It felt so good and it took away all the pain of watching him like that. Nothing else helped so she welcomed it.

"Her...Her...mi..." he gasped but shook his head as he tried to lift his hand to reach for his own wand. "St...stop..."

She lifted her wand and his eyes widened in terror as he began to scream. "No! No!"

"Impedimenta," she whispered. "Crucio."

His eyes rolled back and the blood that was coming from his mouth and nose was now appearing from his ears as well. He was dying and she couldn't feel enough of anything to care and that killed her inside. Why wasn't she stopping this? Why wasn't she strong enough? Why did she not want to think about it?

She lifted her wand away from him to end the Cruciatus and he let out another loud agonising scream using the last of his energy as he slumped forward on the floor unconscious. She walked over to him and gave him a kick to see if he was awake. As she got no response she lifted her wand and pointed it at him not caring as the door behind her barged open.

"What on earth is going on in..." she vaguely heard the voice of Professor Snape ask behind her as she kept her wand on Ron. She couldn't give herself time to turn around - she was busy and this was important. Every fibre told her she had to do this.

"Avada..."

Before she had a chance to finish what she was saying Snape had interrupted.

"Expeliramus!"

Her wand went flying out her hand and she immediately spun around to look at him. Did he have any idea what he had done?

"Granger, what have you done?" he quickly moved past her and ran to Ron. "Weasley, Weasley? For crying out loud, Ron! Wake up!"

Ron gave a low moan at the sound of his name being called and Snape let out a breath in relief as he turned and looked at Hermione and took his wand out. "Granger, what on earth did you do to him?"

She looked at him and felt a fuzzy feeling leave her.

"Granger?"

As the last remnants of the bliss she'd known left she suddenly gasped for air as she felt like someone had punched her hard in the stomach. "Ro...Ron...Ron?"

She felt like she was going to collapse as her legs gave way from underneath her but Snape quickly reached out and caught her in his arms and sat her down - his dark eyes actually showing concern. "Gran...Hermione, take a deep breath and tell me what you did to him so I can help him."

"I...I...Ron...Ron..."

Snape immediately turned her face to look at him. "Ignore him and tell me what you did? We have to help him now! Think, girl. What curse did you use?"

"The...Cruciatus...Cruciatus..." she whispered as Snape held her chin so she couldn't look at Ron who was moaning on the floor. "The Cruciatus and...and the Im...Impediment..."

"Together?"

She began to cry as she tried to look past Snape - she had to see him. She had to know he was okay.

"Granger!" Snape's voice made her look back at him as she began to tremble. "Did you use them together?"

She nodded her head as Snape closed his eyes quickly before patting her shoulder in the closest thing to a reassuring gesture he could manage. "Okay, Granger...it's okay - it will be fine. He'll be okay..."

She shook her head as she felt a tight feeling in her chest as she struggled to breathe. It wouldn't be fine, nothing would be fine, she'd...she'd...she began to shake uncontrollably as loud sobs escaped from her. What had she done? "He...he's dead, isn't he? I...I," she gave up fighting it as she wrapped her arms around herself to try and stop from shaking as Snape worked on Ron.

"No, but I have to take you both to the hospital wing - you were clearly under some outside influence that increased your power and made you do this," he began before his eyes widened in horror and he turned even paler than normal. "Did you have your wand drawn, Granger, before you came here?"

Hermione looked at him, tears streaming down her face and nodded her head as Snape immediately stood and ran to the door. "Finnigan and Moon..."

She turned and looked at him as she whimpered. "Daniel...Daniel had taken Kirsty into a classroom when I was coming here and...and Neville, he...he had his...wand out...as well..."

Snape cursed as he looked at Ron and to the door clearly trying to make a decision on what to do. He pointed his wand at Ron and elevated his unconscious body towards him. "Come along, Granger. Now," his voice was full of authority and determination as Hermione tried to stand but felt her knees give way again as she fell to a heap on the floor.

"I...can't...I can't..." she whispered as she tried to get up again, her body weakened by the magic she'd used. She cursed herself as she thought of the time she was costing them - why didn't she know how to deal with this? "I'm...I'm sorry..."

Snape looked at her before walking over to her and bending down and picking her up with surprising ease and carrying her out the door as Ron floated ahead of them. Hermione didn't open her mouth as she kept her eyes on Ron all the time. She'd done this to him - she was responsible.

"What classroom were Moon and Johnson in?" he asked quietly as he kept his eyes on Ron.

She shook her head as she tried to remember - it was near here. Why couldn't she remember this? This was important! The tears continued to stream down her face as three figures ran down the corridor towards them.

"Severus! Thank the stars - dead or alive?"

Snape looked at the tall figure of the Muggle Studies professor and nodded his head. "Alive, barely. What is going on here?"

"Imperious Curse...God only knows how many have been hit..."

"There are others under the influence, I saw two and Granger saw another. Is anyone else down?"

Professor Callaghan nodded his head as he looked morosely at the two figures who had continued running down the corridor looking for students. "Three down and out that we know of, Lupin and Sinistra are upstairs because they think it could be four. We're searching the whole school."

Snape shook his head as Hermione continued looking at the floating figure in front of her. Four down? He was down...was that five? Or was it four including him? Either way it sounded like a lot...

As Snape and Callaghan continued walking at speed towards the hospital a loud bang came from a door at the end of the corridor as a sandy haired boy ran out of it desperately. He looked around, his eyes filled with terror and tears as Snape settled Hermione on her feet while the other professor ran towards him.

"Pro...you...you have to help - Kirsty...Kirsty, she's...she won't wake up. I tried to wake her up but...but...she...you, you..."

Callaghan immediately ran into the room that Daniel Moon had just come out of and returned seconds later with Kirsty floating in front of him. He gave Snape a sad shake of the head. "Five down."

Snape took a deep breath before shaking his head and walking on quickly. "Granger, Moon, come on. We have to get the two of you and Weasley checked out."

"Wh...what about Kirsty?" Daniel looked at Hermione helplessly. "Why...why aren't they waking her up?"

She shook her head and spoke in a quiet voice "Because they can't, you killed her."

Daniel looked at her intently as tears began to silently fall down his face - the bitter realisation sinking into him as he stumbled forward and clenched his fists in an attempt to curb the sob that was going to escape. He looked at the wall and began punching it repeatedly until his knuckles were burst wide open and his hand was shattered. She looked at him as Snape and Callaghan disappeared from sight and whispered. "Does it hurt?"

"Not enough..." he glanced down at his hands and shook his head before looking at her and whispering. "Why were they in time for you and not for me?"

"I...I don't know..."

"It's not fair...he should...should have sa...saved her fi...first," his face suddenly crumbled as he fell to his knees and let out a loud wail like a wounded animal. She walked over to him and put her arm around him. She couldn't give him any words of comfort because they didn't deserve them but, she knew what he was going through.

"Granger, Moon...come along, this isn't helping anything...we have to check you both out."

She looked up to see Snape looking at them almost sympathetically. It was a strange look on a man who had only ever looked at her with venom and disgust.

"Where's Ron?"

"Professor Callaghan has taken him up, you two have to go downstairs - Professor Dumbledore wants to see you all. Come along now, we don't have much time," he said almost wearily. His cold voice not as severe as usual.

She stood and helped Daniel up as Snape guided them both along slowly. She felt numb as she walked and vaguely heard Daniel crying beside her and loud anguished cries coming from the floors above her. She couldn't quite understand what had happened. It all seemed so surreal. It couldn't be real...it was like a bad Muggle movie. Things like this didn't happen. It couldn't happen...

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

But it had happened. She had stood and cursed him three times. She'd nearly finished the curse that would have killed him and it was only dumb luck that had saved him. Luck. It was good luck for her and bad luck for Daniel and Kirsty - if Kirsty had screamed it would have been her that would be alive and not Ron. That was the difference - one scream saved Ron's life - that was all that did it. Not anything else, not her own self control, not her love for him. No, the only reason he was alive was because a Professor had heard his tortured scream before he could hear another person's. Was that luck? Wasn't that reason enough to hate her? Why didn't Ron hate her?

"I'm not cold," she whispered. "I can't just turn my feelings on and off. I'm not cold..."

He took a deep breath and she could hear him walk towards her. "Then why are you acting it?"

She shook her head. "Please, just leave. Leave!"

"It was me you cursed and I don't hold you responsible!"

She spun around and brought her hands up to her face. "I don't care if you do - I hold myself responsible!"

His face twisted in disgust. "Poor little Hermione, playing the martyr - I'm so sick of it! You haven't been through anything that the others haven't been through -"

"And you have no idea what any of us have been through," she began as she stormed past him towards the table where her books and parchments were. "Have you any idea how it feels for us to know that we did this - Dark magic our bodies couldn't handle flowed through us? We could see and feel every curse we used and that we didn't care? Do you know how I felt when I was hurting you? I felt happy - blissful, it was a great feeling. I didn't want to fight it because when I fought it, it hurt! So I didn't bother fighting it...I enjoyed the feeling I got - I enjoyed feeling nothing. No stress, no pain. I enjoyed it!"

He took a step back in horror. "You...you were happy?"

She bit her lip before taking a deep breath and nodding her head. He had to know and then he would leave her alone so she could fix it. She walked over towards him. "Yes."

His eyes filled with tears. "But...the curse, makes you feel that way..."

"I...I knew something wasn't right but I didn't want to fight harder to make it stop." She looked up at him and whispered. "Even when Snape came in - I was one word away from killing you."

He shook his head. "I don't care. It wasn't you, it was the curse!"

She ran a hand over her forehead as she tried to explain. "That doesn't matter. I was weak - they got to me. What happens if they decide to do it again? You, or Harry - do you not think they will try and kill Harry? It was so easy for them before that's why you have to keep people out. That's why I'm staying away from you and Harry - it's dangerous to trust anyone until we make it safe."

He shook his head, his face betraying the way his heart was breaking. "How can you say that? I trust you with my life. I always trusted you, I always will trust you...I love you."

She shook her head as she whispered a reply. "That's why we can't be together. That's why it's dangerous because you can't trust anyone, anymore. Especially me."

"Do..." he looked at her in despair. "You're so wrong, I cannot believe you're actually saying this! You and your books, and lists and...and don't you even care what I think? What I feel?"

"Of course I care!" she began as she turned away from him and clenched her fist tight so her fingernails dug into her palm to stop her from crying again. Why wouldn't he just go instead of doing this to himself? Instead of making her hurt him again? "But it doesn't make a difference, I've made my decision - you should live with it."

She couldn't see him because her back was to him but she heard him move quickly over to where he'd left the cloak. She looked up and saw him pick up the cloak and grab the parchment of the desk and rip it up before throwing it down on the desk bitterly. He then walked over to her and pulled his watch off his wrist. He held it up so she could see it. She felt the breath catch in her throat - it was one she had got him for his birthday the year before.

"Remember this? 'To Ron, I'll be here for you, until time is through, love, Hermione.' Remember giving me that with that engraving? You were embarrassed because you thought I would laugh? And I didn't, I didn't laugh. I was so happy - I thought it was the best present I ever had. You remember that?"

She nodded her head as she looked at him, her lower lip trembling as he dropped the watch to the floor with a clatter. He crouched down to look in her eyes, his blue eyes brimming with unshed tears yet his expression determined as he brought his foot down on the watch face smashing it causing her to flinch at the cruel sound of the glass breaking. "I guess the time is through now. Have a nice, lonely life, Hermione...I hope you're happy - you let them win."

He walked away from her and banged the door which immediately opened and he stepped out of it without looking back, leaving her looking down at the broken watch. She looked down at the shattered watch face and fell to her knees as she tried to gather all the pieces together - it was so badly broken she didn't know if she would ever be able to fix it. What if the pieces didn't fit together again? It would be ruined forever.

She couldn't let it be ruined. She could save it for him. She wiped her eyes and began separating the hands from the broken glass and the mechanical pieces. She could fix this for him. She would just take the engraving off the back of it and he would be able to use it. She could fix this...she could...

Even if she couldn't fix his heart she could fix this.

She hadn't been sitting for long when the library door barged open. She looked up and saw him standing there again.

"No - I take it back! I don't care what you say. No, no, no, no, no!" he shouted as he looked at her. "We're not through and I swear I'll follow you up and down, to every class, every night time trip down here, wherever you go I will follow you until you listen to me! You. Are. Not. Responsible! And I'm not leaving you alone until you believe that!"

He took a deep breath as she looked at him wide eyed and knelt down beside her. "Believe me..." he reached up and took her hand and whispered. "Trust me."

She looked down at the watch and shook her head. "It's not you that I don't trust..."

He looked at her and shook his head. "I'm not walking away from you, from us...never. It will take more magic than stupid You Kn..." he paused before shaking his head and looking directly in her eyes. "It will take more magic than Voldermort has to make me do that."

She couldn't help but let a small laugh escape as she turned to him, her voice still weak. "You said his name..."

He sighed. "I had to show you I was serious..."

She bit her lip. "You shouldn't be here."

"I'm not leaving."

She felt her eyes fill as her voice wavered. "Please, don't make this any harder..."

He took her other hand. "I'm not leaving. I love you, don't push me away."

Tears began to fall down her face as she looked up at him. It was so hard. She wanted him so much but she couldn't...if they attacked...if they saw her weakness. It would be her fault again... "I...don't want to push you away, but I have to keep you safe..."

He reached up and wiped her tears away. "Let me worry about staying safe. Come back to the common room with us - take your life back, Hermione..."

She shook her head. She couldn't, he couldn't keep saying it would be okay. He didn't know. "I can help..."

"Fine, help us! Help me, or help Harry or...or even help Neville. Help us by being you again. It wasn't..."

"It was, it was my fault. One word, Ron - I was one word away from killing you - don't you care?"

He looked at her and shook his head as he lifted her hand and put it on his heart. "It's still beating, I'm still breathing, I hurt like hell for weeks but I was alive. I don't care if I was one word away from dying - I care that I didn't die. Other people weren't that lucky. I'm alive, Hermione, and so are you and I honestly don't give a damn about anything else. I look at Neville every day and I'm grateful that I'm not him - you should be grateful as well. The past has been and gone - the future is ours. I..." his eyes misted up again as he continued, "I don't care what happened before, I care about what happens next and I want you with me when I have to face that. So does Harry. We need you - I need you."

She looked down at the watch. Until time is through...she'd meant it when she'd given him it. She was always going to be his but...it was so hard now. The look on his face when she'd hurt him still haunted her when she closed her eyes. How could she risk hurting him again? She looked up at his face - etched in pain and expectation. What if she told him no? He would be crushed but he would move on eventually. She wouldn't though...she would never get over it.

"Please, don't make me beg, Hermione. Because I will, if that's the only way you will listen to me, I will beg..."

She shook her head. "I don't want you to beg...I want you to be safe."

"I am safe," he sounded exasperated as he looked at her.

"I...I don't want you to hate me...ever."

"I could never hate you - well, unless you were to go and marry Malfoy or something..."

A laugh escaped again involuntarily as she wiped her eyes. "Yeah, I could see why you would hate me for that..."

He nodded his head with a smile. "Other than that, I can't ever see me hating you..."

She began to cry as she nodded her head. What had she done to deserve this? "Thank...thank you..."

He reached over and pulled her into a hug. "Don't thank me...it's not like I have to try to not hate you. It just kind of happens..."

She let him hug her close as she wiped her eyes. This wasn't supposed to happen but she didn't want to fight it anymore. She didn't want to hurt anymore, she didn't want to hurt him. She just wanted to forget it all. "I...I do love you, Ron...I just...it...it was for the best...I thought it would help..."

He pulled back and looked at her. "Being alone isn't for the best..."

She shook her head as she felt a small sob escape. "I'm so sorry...so sorry, I..."

"Wasn't responsible," he interrupted, "don't apologise for it - you've said sorry already. Loads of times, I mean it's done. Over, okay? No more guilt - because other than the fact that you don't play the scarred hero half as well as Harry does, you're starting to make my Transfiguration marks look good - which is just wrong."

She nodded her head at his teasing tone as she wiped her eyes quickly before he reached down and kissed her forehead. She pulled back and looked at him before he looked at her almost nervously before bringing his hand to caress her face. She closed her eyes at the sensation of his touch before he leant in close to her and kissed her lips gently. She felt her breath catch in her throat at the taste of his lips - she'd missed him so much. She felt the constant weight that had been on her chest immediately lift at his touch the soft feel of his lips clouding over all the feelings of hate and self loathing she'd kept inside for months.

He pulled back and looked at her with a relieved expression as he tried to continue like he hadn't stopped talking. "So, I...suppose, what I'm trying to say is...I miss you being you - as unbelievable as that may seem, it's true. I miss you yelling at me for not reading the books, I miss you throwing a stroppy when me and Harry talk about Quidditch instead of learning charms, I miss you lecturing everyone in the common room for being up too late. I miss you, Hermione. Every annoying, bossy, know-it-all, self righteous, overly moral, irritating, frustrating thing about you. I miss it all."

"You make me sound like such a catch," she sniffed.

He tilted his head and gave her a grin. "Well, on you I can take all the infuriating traits as adorable..."

"Adorable?"

"Well, less adorable and more fun...besides, it makes for an interesting life..."

She closed her eyes as she thought about what he said. "Don't you care what I did?"

"No, not even a little," he replied immediately. "It wasn't you, the same way it wasn't Seamus or Neville or any of the others - so no, no I don't care. I know it and you know it as well. I just wish you would remember all the lectures you gave me about the Imperious..."

She just looked at him, the words sinking in. Maybe he was right - deep down she knew she wasn't responsible for what she did, but, that didn't stop her blaming herself. So close to losing him, too close. She wouldn't be able to live with herself if she lost him - but she didn't want to let him go. Ever.

"Hermione? Do you think we can maybe move to the common room now before I actually realise what you made me do to my watch?"

"I didn't make you do anything..." she whispered as she looked down at the watch.

"I was proving a point - which was because you wouldn't listen to me," he said as he stood up and reached out for her hand.

She looked up at his hand - unsure of whether she should take it or not. Not sure what was for the best - being with them or without them.

"Hermione, come on - you can't hide down here every day. Come back with me," his voice was pleading but authoritative which she'd never heard before. "Come on - trust me."

She felt herself smile - something she hadn't done in months as he looked at her. Every doubt, every fear, everything didn't seem that important anymore. She felt...happy. Well, not happy - happier. She couldn't imagine feeling really happy until she was sure they would all be safe, but she was happier. And happier was so much more than she could have hoped to deserve a few hours ago. She reached out and took his hand and let him pull her to her feet. She would just have to be careful, she would be strong for him. She would be better for him. She would make it up to him because she loved him and she wouldn't hurt him again by leaving him.

She would make sure he was happy because that's what he deserved and, despite it all, deep down she needed to believe that they would get their fairy tale ending - no matter how naive that dream was. She needed to feel naive again - she needed to believe she deserved to be happy one day. And the only way she would be happy would be with him - and that's all she cared about. To hell with school, to hell with war, and to hell with Voldermort - she didn't give a damn about anything other than what was important and that was Ron and Harry. She would be strong for them, she would protect them and she wouldn't make them miserable anymore.

They were good people and didn't deserve it.

She let Ron lead her out of the library towards Harry who immediately wrapped his arms around both her and Ron without saying a word. She smiled as Harry and Ron hugged each other in relief - they were her boys and she would keep them safe no matter what. She would kill for them, and if Voldermort thought he could take them from her he was very much mistaken.

She was Hermione Granger and she would be in control, and Voldermort had no idea what he'd taken on when he had taken her on. But, he would know one day - she would make sure of it.

~ fini ~

//
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