Cadens

A/N: This is a short story of mine written for a contest on a forum I go to. The challenge was to write a HP fanfiction in which someone committed suicide. This wasn't a topic I'd ever written before, so I was pleased with my placing – Honourable, which is basically fourth place. As a first try out of 12 entries, that's not bad!

Anyway, a bit about the story: The title, Cadens, is Latin for 'Falling'. Other instances of Latin are in the spells, and you should be able to figure them out by what they do. Towards the end the POV changes around a lot – to help you keep track of this, the ~*~ symbol denotes a change in POV, the POV always changes in the same order, Harry -- Hermione -- Ron, and each POV has a different font style, either bold, normal or italic.

I think this covers everything. All that's left to say now is read and review. Enjoy!

~*~

'Did you see the look on his face!' Ron laughed. 'The way his smirk kind of melted into shock, I could hardly point my wand straight!'

It was a seemingly normal night in the Gryffindor common room. Harry, Ron and Hermione were sat around the fireplace, talking as usual, in their warm, secluded space. The common room was half full with chattering, laughing Gryffindors, and the atmosphere was one of friendly warmth.

Harry and Ron were laughing together, reminiscing about an encounter they'd had earlier with Draco Malfoy. Between themselves they referred to it as a fight, but it didn't honestly deserve the term. He'd swaggered up to them, sneering as usual, Harry and Ron had taken one look at him and hexed him soundly.

While the two boys laughed over the event, their friend didn't look so happy. Hermione sat near them, staring sadly at the fire. Harry and Ron broke into a fresh round of laughter, louder than before, and she flinched as though the sound had cut her.

'He didn't mean any harm…' she whispered under her breath, and looked away.

She hated them when they were like this. Unfeeling, almost. Uncaring… Ron was supposed to be her boyfriend, but he didn't care, or didn't show it. Oh, they did all the things you were supposed to. He took her out to Hogsmede, he bought her jewellery… right down to the eager, blush-red kisses in hidden corners that Pansy and Lavender enthused about. But there was something missing. He never made her feel… special. Not like…

She should tell him, her conscience chimed up with a wave of guilt. Tell him the secret… He would find out anyway. And she was sick of pretending.

'Ron?' she asked, looking up timidly. 'I was meaning to ask… could I speak to you about something important?'

 'Sure, love.' Ron smiled. 'Go ahead.'

'No…' Hermione floundered. 'I meant alone…'

'Alone?' Ron's face darkened as he frowned. 'Why alone?'

'It's important…' She didn't meet his eyes, staring instead at the sofa.

Ron shrugged. 'You can talk about it in front of Harry.' he told her. 'It can't be that serious…'

'I don't mind going.' Harry put in peaceably, getting to his feet.

'Stay.' Ron replied. 'No point going if we're only going to be five minutes.'

Hermione forced herself to look up, meeting Ron's gaze. 'It's serious.' she said softly, not expecting him to pay attention to what she said. He never did. 'And it'll take more than five minutes…'

He gave her a rather patronising smile. 'It'll be fine, I'm sure. Don't bother going, Harry. Stay.' Harry did so, though he looked a little ruffled at sitting in on their conversation. 'Go on, Hermione, what is it?' Ron asked.

Hermione sighed, looking away from him. She couldn't tell the whole truth… not with Harry here… She took a deep breath, tried to meet his gaze, and failed.

She stared at the carpet. 'Ron I think we… I think we should split up.'

His smile froze. 'What?' he asked, and gave the smallest of laughs, not quite believing. 'You mean… stop going out?'

Harry got up quietly to leave.

'No, Harry, stay.' Ron said, motioning for him to sit down. 'We just… misunderstood what she said. That's all. What did you mean, Hermione?' Now his voice had a note of desperation.

'I meant what I said.' she said, firmly this time. 'We should split up.'

'But… but why?' he asked, his face falling. 'I don't understand…'

'I just don't think it's working out…' she replied. Ron interrupted her.

'But it is! I mean… we have great times together, like the last Hogsmede weekend at that café… You enjoyed that…'

'Yes… but… Ron, you're a wonderful person and I still want to be friends, but… We should split up. It's nothing to do with you, it's… me.'

Ron shook his head, looking stricken. 'I don't believe this.' he whispered. 'This can't be happening… Hermione, say it's all a joke…'

 'I mean it.' she whispered. 'I'm serious…'

'No… I don't believe this…' Ron whispered. 'You wouldn't just decide like that and then give me some excuse about it not working out!' He looked at her sorrowfully. 'Why, Hermione. Why are you really doing this?'

She bit her lip and looked away, not answering.

'Damn it, Hermione…' and now he was almost shouting, but there was an ever-present note of heartbreak that cracked his voice to splinters and made her flinch. 'Tell me the truth! Please… you owe me that much… just be honest with me, please…'

She made the mistake of looking upwards. Once she met his eyes, both furious and deeply hurt, she couldn't refuse him. 'I…' she said, her voice cracking, 'I… I fell in love with someone else…'

He froze. His face grew red with anger, his expression frightening Hermione, sending her cowering back into the cushions. The silence in their corner was absolute, and the chatter from the rest of the room seemed ominous.

'Who?' he asked, the syllable strangled with rage. 'Who?'

Harry finally spoke up. 'Ron, calm down…'

'Shut up Harry.' Ron spat. 'Hermione, who is it? I'll kill him!'

'No…' she whispered, arms curled around herself, afraid he'd attack. 'It… doesn't matter who he is…' she replied in a small voice.

'Yes it does!' Ron shouted, leaping to his feet. 'I want to know, Hermione. I want to know who stole you from me!'

'D... D…' She began, shaking too much to finish the sentence. 'Draco... M… Malfoy.'

There was silence. Ron's face, red as flame, now paled to a sickly white as he stared at her in shock. Even Harry was gaping at her, eyes wide.

'No…' Ron said in a wavering whisper. He sat down hard, as though his legs had given way beneath him, and shook his head, staring at the fire. 'No. You're joking, Hermione… that or insane… completely raving mad…'

'Malfoy?' Harry gasped incredulously. 'That filthy Slytherin rodent? And you… I don't believe this either.'

'It's true…' Hermione said in a small voice, wobbling with restrained sobs. 'And I'm sorry, Ron, I really am… I didn't mean to hurt you…'

Ron didn't reply. He seemed frozen in place, staring into the fire, which cast its eerie, flickering light over his face.

'Hermione…' Harry began, 'Ron's right. I mean… Draco Malfoy?' He ran a hand through his messy black hair. 'You've lost your mind. This is Malfoy. The Slytherin rat who calls you a Mudblood. The bastard who wants Ron's dad and Hagrid fired. He's probably among Voldemort's minions already!'

Hermione, trembling, shook her head. 'He's not like that.' she whispered, weakly but firmly. 'He isn't.  His father…'

'His father is a Death Eater.' Harry said levelly. 'How can you trust someone like that? Someone who was brought up with evil… Hell, he's probably been learning the Dark Arts ever since he could hold a wand!'

'You were brought up with the Dursleys.' Hermione pointed out softly, tearing her eyes away from the sight of Ron, who still stared into the fire, closed away from reality. 'And the Dursleys are horrible, but that doesn't mean you are.'

 'The Dursleys never taught me to use Dark magic!' Harry's eyes flashed. 'They never taught me to hate Muggles and Muggleborns. They never trained me to be evil. Malfoy's dad did!'

'But he isn't evil!' she replied. 'He isn't! People change, he changed… Just listen to me!'

'I don't believe you.' he said flatly. 'He's a bastard of the worst kind.'

'No he isn't!' Hermione interrupted, but Harry ignored her.

'He's insulted us all for the past five years. How can you ignore that? He's our enemy. And then, to cheat on Ron with him…' His face was darkly twisted. Both their eyes travelled towards Ron, still staring at the flames and dead to the world.

'I didn't mean to… It just… happened.' Hermione protested. 'But please, Harry, Draco's changed. He really has…'

Harry sighed, crouching down before her so that his face was level with her own. 'He'll hurt you, Hermione.' he said softly.

'No, he won't…'

'He will. That's all he's ever been interested in, that's all he ever will be interested in. Ron will take you back if you apologise.'

'You're wrong…' she said softly, her voice filled with a bitter menace. 'Why won't you listen to me? How can you be so… so blind, so closed-minded?'

'He'll hurt you.' Harry insisted vehemently. 'We won't. Malfoy's dangerous, he's evil… It's not safe!'

Hermione gave a faint, sarcastic laugh. 'You're not exactly safe either. If it's dangerous to be around him, it's twice as dangerous to be around you…'

'What do you mean?' Harry asked angrily. 'I'd never hurt you!'

'Not intentionally.' Hermione replied nastily. 'But neither would Draco. The only danger from either of you is the danger you attract. And you attract far more than he does.'

'I… But I don't mean to hurt anyone!' Harry protested. 'And he does, he will…'

'If danger's a factor in deciding who you care about, then I should never come near you!' She told him. She was fuming now, shaking with anger, venting her rage. 'You put us all in danger! Or have you forgotten what happened at the Department of Mysteries last year? Sirius died because of you, and any one of us could have been second. He died! And it was your fault, you caused him to die! Draco never killed anyone, so tell me, who's safe now!'

Harry gaped, unable to reply. 'Hermione... I…' he swallowed. 'You don't mean that. You can't… I never meant to…'

'Just fuck off, Harry.' she said viciously, surprising them both with her language. 'You aren't doing anything helpful.'

He turned his face away, hiding his expression of bitter pain. 'I…' he began once more, before turned sharply away from her, and walked off, weaving his way to the portrait hole without ever looking back. If he had done, Hermione would have seen the tears on his face.

The portrait slammed behind him, and Hermione shivered, her anger leaking away. Had she really said that? Guilt spread through her, and for a minute she wanted to go after Harry and apologise. But he could be anywhere. And it was best to leave him alone… to calm down…

And then there was another problem. Ron. The sight of him staring into the flames, unaware of anything around him, made the guilt in her stomach turn sickeningly.

'Ron?' she said in a half whisper. 'Ron, I'm sorry. I didn't mean to hurt you. I just… It wasn't fair to keep lying to you. I'm so sorry…'

'Sorry…' he whispered, so quietly that Hermione thought she'd imagined it. He didn't move, eyes still fixed to the flame. 'Sorry doesn't make it better…'

'I know.' she replied, looking away. 'But I still care for you…'

'But you don't love me. Not in that way. You love him.' Ron said, and he met her gaze. The look in his eyes stabbed Hermione like a guilty dagger; it was a look of utter loss and heartbreak. 'Why? Why him?'

'I don't know.' she replied. 'It just… happened. I didn't even realise I was falling for him…'

Ron didn't reply for a minute. 'Just go, Hermione.' he said at last. 'Go.'

Bowing her head, Hermione got up and walked away.

~*~

The room was dark, the abandoned desks and chairs covered with dust. It had once been alive, filled with laughing students and impatient teachers. But all those who had puzzled over lessons in this room were gone now, and the professors who had taught them were dead, buried in the cold, unforgiving ground.

Into this room walked Harry, face as white as the chalk dust that swirled up from the floor. As he shut the door, his eyes flitted to the huge bay window, going instantly to one particular, significant point of light in that black, cold infinity. He felt tears well in his eyes, blurring that speck, and he crumpled onto the windowsill, biting his lip.

If danger's a factor in deciding who you care about, then I should never come near you!

Hermione's angry outburst wouldn't stop whirling through his ears. Danger… He was a danger to them. To his friends. To the people he cared about…

~*~

Angry tears fell from Hermione's eyes as she walked through the corridors. She shouldn't have shouted at her friends… She shouldn't have cheated on Ron in the first place. And now Ron was upset, and to top it all off she'd accused Harry of killing Sirius! How could she have been so idiotic…

But another selfish voice deep inside was angry with them. They don't understand. They're just going to keep hating Draco because they're too caught up in 'He's evil, he's evil!' to stop and realise that he's not…They're totally stupid!

She stopped suddenly in the middle of her thoughts. She hadn't been concentrating on where she was going, just following her feet, and they had led her to the library.

She pushed the door open, cautiously stepping inside the dark room. She walked straight to the back of the library, to a hidden corner well away from prying eyes. A small sofa, old and worn, stood against one wall with a battered table in front of it. The walls were lined with bookshelves.

She slumped onto the sofa, biting her lip. Her eyes fell by stages to the floor, where a gleam caught her eye. She reached down and picked it up off the floor.

A quill, made from a black feather with a sharp silver nib. And on the nib, surrounded by curling patterns, were two initials: D.M.

~*~

Ron sat in the dormitory, curled into a sad ball by the wide-open window, the wind tugging at his hair. The view from the window was as spectacular as always: the lawns spread out far below, silver in the moonlight. The Forbidden Forest bordered the grass, no more than a dark smear. Beyond that came sharp hills and rolling valleys, decorating the horizon.

But even the most beautiful landscape could not have kept his mind from what had just happened. Hermione… His lips formed her name, eyes longing. He loved her. He'd never said it to her face, only in the depths of dreams. He was… timid. Afraid of loving her. What had he feared? Rejection?

            ~*~

He was an idiot, Harry told himself harshly. A senseless, reckless idiot. He should never have listened to that dream. He should have learnt Occlumency, but he'd just had to keep on dreaming…

And look where it had lead. Sirius had died. The scene, fresh from nightmares, streamed across Harry's vision: Bellatrix hitting Sirius with the blood-red light, laughter turning to shock… Falling, curving backwards, surprise and fear etched onto his face – the last expression he'd ever wear – as he passed through the veil…

'No!' he called aloud, reaching forwards as though he could catch him and pluck him from the memory, but nothing was there. He blinked, shuddered, and pulled back his hand, curving it across his chest.

Sirius died because of you, and any one of us could have been second.

Hermione's words had all been true, he realised. Any one of those who'd followed him could have joined Sirius behind that veil. All because he'd had that dream and raced off on a stupid rescue attempt.

Not just the ones who'd followed him there. The ones who'd come to rescue him, too, had been endangered by his foolishness. Tonks, Lupin, Moody and Kingsley… even Dumbledore. Six had come to rescue him, and five had survived…

~*~

A sob escaped Hermione, and she curled her hand round the quill, trying not to cry. She couldn't love Draco and be friends with Harry and Ron at the same time, she realised, because they would never accept it. It was a choice: her best friends or the one she loved, and how could she choose? Her hand tightened around the quill as her tears came painfully, heaving themselves from her chest in great wracking sobs…

Which stopped with a sudden sharp pain in her palm, and she gasped, her tear-dewed eyes opening wide. She had clutched the quill so tightly that the sharp nib had driven itself deep into her palm, sending her crimson blood pumping from the wound.

But her pain filled mind had room for only one fact, one truth: the physical pain in her hand had thrown out her emotional torment, pushed it aside for a new and easier suffering. Her troubles were at the edges of her thoughts, driven there by the razor-sharp pain. But they were still there, and just thinking about them drew them forward…

~*~

Rejection mattered no longer. He'd lost her anyway, been so afraid to love her that he'd not shown it enough… and that bastard Malfoy had stolen her. He hated himself then, for being afraid. He hated Malfoy even more for stealing her. And he hated Hermione for falling in love with that…

No! He didn't, couldn't, wouldn't hate Hermione. He loved her too much. He hated himself instead. It was all his own fault: he hadn't shown he loved her enough, he hadn't cared properly…he'd been too scared to tell her properly how he felt, and look where it had led…

~*~

He was a danger to them all. He had caused Sirius' death, and only luck had kept the others from a similar fate. He was a murderer…

How could he just forget this? How could he carry on living, knowing that he was just as responsible for Sirius' death as if he'd wielded the wand himself? He couldn't. He was a murderer. He had killed Sirius.

Hot, painful tears were poured down his cheeks unheeded. With an insane self-hatred driving him on, his hand slid to the pocket in his robes. It was filled with bits and pieces of rubbish – a Canary Cream, a few Knuts, a Chocolate Frog card…

…and a penknife.

He flicked the blade out, turning it to and fro before his eyes, frightened, awed, amazed that the answer was this simple. The steel gleamed coldly in the moonlight. He ran a finger over the edge.

Sharp.

~*~

Hermione looked at the quill, its sharp nib gleaming in the moonlight, bloodstained. Slowly, unsurely, she brought it against her skin, pressed. A pearl of blood formed, but not enough, and the ghosts of thought still flickered across her mind. She couldn't bring herself to press harder, to cut on purpose…

Angry with herself for being afraid, she took her wand from her pocket, replacing the quill's point with the tip of her wand. 'Seca.' she whispered, drawing the wand tip down her wrist, blood welling in its wake.

She gasped at what she'd done, rationality returning. What was she thinking? She could die by doing this. She could kill herself…

…And why shouldn't she? It was the perfect answer. She didn't have to choose between friendship and love. She could just... die.

So engrossed was she in this notion that she didn't hear the sound of footsteps.

Eager now, she pressed the wand against her wrist. 'Seca.' she whispered again, slicing another line. 'Seca!'

The person stepped into the corner where Hermione was so busily destroying her life, carrying with them a lit wand that illuminated the area. There was a gasp.

'Hermione, what in hell do you think you're doing!'

~*~

He remembered their last trip to Hogsmede. Sitting in a café, roses on the table, drinking Butterbeer out of elegant glasses, he almost told her then. 'Hermione?' he'd asked, heart beating fast and redness rising in his face.

She'd looked up and met his gaze with her soft brown eyes, and asked 'What is it?' in her gentle voice, and he'd lost his nerve. He'd just embarrass her, or she'd feel pressured, or a thousand other things. So he'd asked if she wanted another Butterbeer, and she'd smiled and said yes, thank you, and the moment was past. Maybe if he'd told her she'd have broken it off with Malfoy, and he need never have known. But now she was lost forever, stolen from him by the Slytherin.

~*~

Breath fast and eyes wide, Harry pressed the blade to his wrist. This was the answer. He couldn't live on, not with Sirius's death hanging over him. Not when he was a danger to everyone he cared about. He had to do this. And it solved so many problems, he thought dimly as he prepared to plunge the blade into his flesh. No more Dursleys, no more Slytherins, no more Malfoy, no more Death Eaters. No more worrying about killing Voldemort and fulfilling the prophecy…

… which said that either he had to kill Voldemort or vice versa. So how could he kill himself? He paused, blade to wrist.

Voldemort had laid the trap that he'd been caught in like an idiot. Voldemort had caused the incident at the Department of Mysteries. So if he killed himself because of that, then Voldemort had caused his death in the same way that he had caused Sirius'. If he killed himself it fulfilled the prophecy as surely as if Voldemort had cut his wrists himself.

If he killed himself, Voldemort won.

And he couldn't lose.

He raised his eyes to the sky, lifting the blade from his wrist and fixing his eyes on a single solitary point. He would live, and Voldemort would die by his hand.

He swore it silently that night: never to give up on defeating Voldemort, always to fight him, until his dying breath freed him from guilt. His eyes never moved from that single bright point.

Sirius, the Dog Star.

~*~

She cried out, trying to hide her arm in her robes. But the figure lunged forward, grabbing it tightly, revealing the wounds. Hermione looked up fearfully, and her eyes met those of a pale, frightened, angry Draco Malfoy.

'Sana.' he said, and the cuts healed over. Still holding her wrist, he sat down heavily on the sofa next to her. 'Explain.' he said simply. When she hesitated, his face softened. 'Please. Tell me, Hermione, please?'

'I told Harry and Ron about us.' she replied in a very small voice, not meeting his eyes. Draco understood.

'They didn't take it well?' he asked. Hermione nodded.

He put his arms around her rather awkwardly and gave her a hug. 'It's alright.' he told her firmly. 'It'll be alright.'

They talked for a long time that night, until both fell asleep on the sofa in each other's arms.

~*~

He could see what would happen: Hermione and Malfoy, walking through the corridors hand in hand, smiling, kissing, and he would stand there and watch. Malfoy would smirk at him as they passed, as if to say, 'She's mine now, Weasley. You lost her.' And they'd grow up together, and leave school, and get married, and he'd have to pretend to be happy as they had a brood of disgusting, smirking blond-haired kids...

Ron's imagination was running away with him, and his picture was semi-ridiculous even to his eyes. But there was a grain of truth in it that he couldn't ignore: he'd have to watch while Malfoy went around with Hermione – his Hermione – and after Malfoy some other guy, and another, and another… And all the while he would remember that once he'd had her, once she'd been his, but he'd lost her forever…

Could he live like that?

No.

The answer was obvious, and its implications obvious too, and they made everything clear. Ron stood on the windowsill, pushed the window open as wide as it would go, and suddenly it all fell away, didn't matter any more. Nothing mattered any more. The tower was high enough above the ground that a fall from it would be fatal.

Ron leaned forward and fell.

~*~

Thank you to everyone for reading, and please don't forget to review!