Two Steps From Hell
This story has three parts:
Two Steps From Hell
The story is books compliant until the scene in the Forbidden Forest where Harry goes to face Lord Voldemort.
When destiny comes into play, Hermione Granger becomes the Horcrux instead of Harry, and no one expects what such a change can bring to the world. Her new situation allows her to see both heaven and hell, and her struggle to not give into the temptation begins.
Not chained in the dungeons, and instead having all the doors open for her, Hermione must decide what is good and what is evil, or finally agree with the Dark Lord that only power matters.
When you make decisions, do you think they could shatter the world?
The story is told from different POVs :
Mostly, but not limited to : Lord Voldemort, Hermione Granger, Harry Potter, Lucius Malfoy, Tom Riddle, Rabastan Lestrange, Bellatrix Lestrange, Ron Weasley, Draco Malfoy, Ginny Weasley and others.
A lot of dark and adult themes present, so if you want a fluffy story, then I suggest you turn away.
Rating is M, so adults only please.
Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter. No profit is being made. No copyright infringement is intended.
Beta: Serpent In Red
Two Steps From Hell
Numb, but not numb enough.
Utterly and completely crushed.
Smashed down with inhuman force from the Heavens and thrown into the deepest circles of Hell.
Hermione Granger was just seventeen; she was young.
Too young to feel so old, the physical body not reflecting her mental age.
There, in the mindscapes, she was older than she should have ever been. Much older.
Each new year after turning eleven had been worse than the last. Each year, she saw things that were not meant to be seen, did things that no teenager should have done, and experienced more than it could be considered healthy.
Tremendous, unthinkable, magical.
Ever since finding out she was a witch, Hermione Granger strived to impress, to belong, to prove her worthiness, not only to the rest of the magical world, but to herself foremost. She wanted, needed, to be her own person.
Hermione Granger was a Gryffindor through and through. Not because she was loud or reckless, like many who shared her House.
Before coming to Hogwarts, Hermione Granger would have not thought she was brave or daring; she used to be so closed off and introverted, not needing to show or even acknowledge those traits.
How everything had changed…
The Sorting Hat had warned her. It said that even the brightest of minds could crumble if the weight they chose to carry was too heavy. That responsibility came with a great price that not all were ready to pay.
The Sorting Hat had offered Ravenclaw. Hermione Granger valued intelligence, knowledge, and creativity, but somehow, against her better judgment, she chose Gryffindor. Without any outside influence, Hermione Granger chose her own destiny.
Hermione Granger chose to help Harry Potter in his fight for his life—in the fight for their lives.
Hermione Granger chose not to give up, not to run away, not to hide.
Hermione Granger was no fool. She knew from the day one what could await her, and still, Hermione Granger chose to stand tall near her friends. Shoulder to shoulder, together. And the consequences be damned.
Hermione Granger chose many things, but she did not choose this.
Hermione Granger was ready to sacrifice her life. But never expected this. Never.
One hour ago
"Ron!" A horrified scream of the Boy Who Lived echoed through the ancient corridors of Hogwarts, letting the pain and desperation cling to the cold walls.
"No!" A second scream followed. Emotions so thick and so raw lacing just one word were so honest and powerful that it seemed that even the dead could feel them.
Harry Potter raced between the bodies, his heart clenched in agony and pain. There, only a few meters away, lay the prone figure of his best friend. His mop of bright orange hair was soaked in blood, robes shattered and torn. Harry could see Hermione dropping to her knees before the still figure of Ronald Weasley. Through blurred vision, Harry could see Hermione gently touching Ron's head with her wand, and he prayed to all the gods he knew that Ron survived.
That he hadn't died.
A brutal sob escaped Hermione when Harry finally, after what seemed to be an eternity, reached his best friends.
Unable to breathe through panic and horror, anticipating the worst, Harry turned his pleading eyes to Hermione, as if begging her to spare him. Not to tell. Let the denial shadow his conscience's inhuman shuddering.
Not Ron, please…
"He's dead." A statement, not a question. How could it be any other way? Everyone he came to love had died or were going to die soon. Why should Ron, his best friend Ron, be any different?
Denial had never been Harry Potter's best friend, and it didn't stick around for long enough to even breathe.
A gentle, but fierce, hand slapped him in the face.
"Shut up!" a shivering Hermione demanded through clenched teeth.
Harry could see the tears flowing down her face, like a waterfall that reminded him of his failures. All because of him.
"He's alive." A whisper.
Relief so strong that Harry had to keep himself up with one hand, squatting near his friends, washed over him, entering every fiber of his being.
"Harry," Hermione whispered again with a stronger voice, looking into the desperate green eyes. "He's in a coma."
She did not want to analyze, to rationalize, or to just think. Ron, her Ron, was in a deep magical coma and there was nothing she could do. He had been hit by a spell that was meant for her. It was her fault if those blue eyes never looked at her again. She wasn't fast enough.
A whimper escaped Harry Potter's closed lips when Molly Weasley raced to her fallen child. A wail so desperate that both Harry and Hermione shuddered.
"No, no, no… No! Pl-, plea-se, I beg you, please," incomprehensible sobbing was all that escaped Molly's mouth as her unseeing eyes traveled over her youngest son. Trembling hands gently, too gently to be normal, laced through blood soaked hair, unseeing eyes full of tears and a soul so crushed was all they could see.
"He needs medical attention, now," finally gathering her wits, pushing her guilt and horror aside, Hermione Granger pleaded. "He's been hit by two curses, he's in coma but he is alive."
Molly's head snapped to her side so quickly that Hermione thought she could hear bones breaking.
"Al-alive?" The hope in Molly Weasley's voice made Hermione's horror-frozen heart miss a beat.
Frank and Alice Longbottom had also been alive. But to what extent?
Empty brown eyes of the Weasley matriarch stared at Hermione. The pain of a mother who had already lost one son today and thought that she had lost another, was too much, too hard to take, and Hermione Granger for the first time averted her eyes to Harry. She couldn't watch those emotions unravel and suffocate her. She needed to breathe.
"Pomfrey is here, she'll-" Arthur Weasley's unsteady, trembling voice was interrupted by a cold, emotionless one.
Never before had Hermione heard so much hatred, animosity, and loathing in just two words. So much arrogance.
"Come to me, Harry Potter, and I shall spare those who defy me. Come to me and those around you will live." Voice so cold and ruthless, like a coiled serpent ready to strike, echoed through the halls of Hogwards, making all those inside freeze and listen.
"If you don't come until midnight to face me, all those around you—yes, Harry, look at them—all will be slaughtered".
Wide eyed Harry looked around, seeing only horror and devastation. And hope.
A sick feeling twisted his guts and his heart stopped for a second. Guilt unlike any before was eating him alive, as if the Fiendfyre flames escaped the Room of Requirement and manifested in his heart.
Burning him, eating him. Suffocating.
"No, Harry!" a pained but strong voice made Harry turn to face Hermione Granger's trembling form.
"You will not go to him," Hermione repeated more forcefully, as if sensing what he was feeling. As if Hermione also felt those hopeful eyes on him. On her.
Molly Weasley had her eyes closed, as if afraid that should she open them and should Harry look closely, he'd see hope. Hope that was so wrong and out of place, but it was still hope—to see all her children alive, to be able to live. She wasn't the only one.
"You have one hour, Harry. Don't make me come for you. "
Lord Voldemort's magnified voice scratched his soul with long, sharp nails and left as quietly as it came.
Closing his eyes for a second, Harry tried his best to gather his famous Gryffindor courage and just go. He needed his bravery to move his damn legs, as they were frozen in place, unwilling to march to his own death.
He would go. He would.
He just needed some seconds. Those tiny seconds that mattered nothing in the scope of time, that were nothing but a small grain of sand compared to the rest of the day, this horrible, endless day.
But as destiny's twisted humor once again made itself known, it had been those seconds that changed the whole world. That mattered.
Had Harry kept his eyes open, he would have seen it, and maybe, maybe, he could have prevented it.
But maybe was not enough in this case, for Harry's eyes remained closed, and he didn't see the determination that manifested and affirmed in brown eyes, determination that was so strong that it could have cut through walls.
Hermione Granger swallowed hard. Her mind was made.
She knew that chasing after Harry especially when he had his invisibility cloak was fruitless.
She just knew that Harry would run away from her.
Harry Potter was even more Gryffindor that her, and look where she was now—reclined against a damp tree near the edge of the Forbidden Forest, half crouching and half sitting, shivering from anticipation that was eating her from inside out.
After Harry had run towards the Headmaster's office, she'd followed. Like a Slytherin—quietly and steadily.
Harry refused to let anyone, especially her, accompany him. Voldemort's words found their way to Harry's already bleeding heart and pushed.
Hermione did not know what Professor Snape had left for Harry to see. She didn't have a chance to find out, as the staircase to the Headmaster's Office refused to let her in after Harry had entered. The only place where Hermione could interfere was the opening where Voldemort and his Death Eaters were waiting. She wasn't stupid enough to believe that Voldemort, Lord Voldemort, would be unable to detect her; invisibility spells or not, he would know. And it would have been too early. She needed to stay undetected.
She had made her choice and there was nothing that would stop her.
Armed with her wand only, Hermione Granger waited.
"I am ready to die."
Hermione Granger bit her lip until her mouth was filled with metallic taste of blood. She wanted to rage and scream, but there was nothing she could do while she watched her best friend whisper quietly to the Snitch.
I open at the end.
How? How could Dumbledore do that to Harry? How could he have done it to them? Was it normal for teenagers to take all the weight of today's horrors onto their shoulders and stand tall?
Hermione Granger had no time to think about Professor Dumbledore, or philosophy of life, as her best friend was now quickly walking towards his death.
Picking up the stone that Harry had left on the ground—she'd think about the stone later—Hermione followed.
Harry didn't stop, didn't falter; he kept going.
Admiration and sublime respect were melting the ice in her chest, as Hermione quietly but quickly ran behind Harry, her steps and movements not visible to human eyes and ears.
She was useful, Hermione tried to tell herself. She was more useful to Harry than to Ron. Harry needed her now. She wasn't running after Harry just to get killed. Even though she was afraid to think about future, she wasn't running away from her problems just to end up tortured and slaughtered.
She was helping.
It was for the greater good.
"Harry Potter, the Boy Who Lived has come to die," his voice was as merciless and cold as he was.
Hermione Granger stood a few steps behind Harry, partially hiding behind a tree trunk. She needed to get closer but couldn't do so without Voldemort noticing, even though his full attention now belonged to Harry.
Her Harry was standing tall and proud, showing no fear of dying as Voldemort raised his bone-white wand and smiled.
It was too early, too fast; Hermione had awaited a longer monologue, or maybe more action. But no, it seemed Lord Voldemort was in no mood to talk. He just wanted to kill Harry. For good.
She was now close, close enough to see Harry close his eyes when he should have been fighting. His wand wasn't even directed at Voldemort. He was giving up.
She wouldn't allow it.
The wand made a short circular movement before being pointed directly at Harry Potter.
This was it, Harry thought. He was a Horcrux for Merlin's sake! It was too much, too horrible. To know that as long as you lived, Voldemort would live as well. Nagini was still alive, but Harry had all his hope placed in his best friend's hands. No matter what, Hermione would destroy it.
And then … and then they could destroy Voldemort.
He had to die.
They both had to die.
Green light so bright that it blinded in its glory as it rushed towards the still standing Harry Potter left Lord Voldemort's wand, directed and ordered to capture and destroy.
Red eyes widened and the thin lips opened in a scream when a body pushed Harry Potter from behind and almost away from the path of the curse. But not away enough as Harry Potter managed to push back.
And then the green light engulfed both figures.