Summary: Hermione is sent to Azkaban for using the Killing Curse. Can she survive the Dementors?

Rating: PG.

Category: Angst

Disclaimer: No, it doesn't belong to me.

Anything spoken telepathically is in single 's. I know often cursive is used for thoughts but some sites where I post this strip such formatting, and there'll be a lot of it.

1. The Killing Curse

Hermione crossed the campus of the Wizard University in Leeds. It was late and she walked quickly. She never felt completely safe, even here on the campus, it wasn't like Hogwarts. There she'd never felt this uneasy, even when the Basilisk had been hunting the castle or when that horrible woman, Umbridge, had been in charge. Even then, Hogwarts, or at least the Gryffindor tower, had felt like home. Fortunately, this was her last year and once she graduated, she'd join Harry, Ron, many of her old friends in Romania.

For the longest time, it had been assumed Harry and Ron would become Aurors. They'd worked hard to make the qualifications, and all had seemed well during their sixth and seventh year when Fudge finally had to admit Voldemort had returned. But then, at the end of their seventh year Harry had faced Voldemort again and had hit him with the Killing Curse. Voldemort had vanished in a shower of green sparks, not leaving a body behind. Those who'd watched had cheered, believing You-Know-Who to be dead, yet Harry's scar had stung. He'd been convinced Voldemort wasn't quite dead yet.

Over the next weeks, Harry had felt his scar whenever he let his guard down. He'd even tried to stop blocking his mind completely, and while he hadn't felt or seen as much as he had years earlier –Voldemort likely did his best to prevent Harry from reading his mind after Harry had finally learned Occlumency and Legilimency- Harry had been certain Voldemort was still alive.

Yet no one but Dumbledore and their closest friends from the Order would believe him. Instead of learning from their earlier mistakes, the Minister had once again denied Voldemort's existence, all too happy to celebrate a great victory. And to Hermione's dismay, most of the wizards had been just as happy to swallow the information the Ministry fed them as they had been two years earlier. Not unlike their fifth year, the newspapers discredited Harry's story and Professor Dumbledore, and after their graduation none of her friends had any desire to work for Fudge and his lackeys.

Unlike the previous time, Voldemort had not launched any major attacks, and the more time passed since the 'final battle', the more people were convinced he was truly dead. Hermione knew better. She'd heard of secret meetings from Professor Snape and other spies, Harry had dreamed flashes of secret killings and torture sessions. But as long as the Ministry refused to believe them, it was in Voldemort's advantage to quietly gain power and followers until he had amassed enough power to be ensured victory.

Dumbledore still ran Hogwarts, but the Ministry was extremely displeased with the Headmaster and his actions. Rabble-rousers and troublemakers were some of the nicer things Fudge had called the Headmaster, his staff and her friends. The Minister insisted the rise in the numbers of Death Eater attacks was a direct reaction to them spreading the rumor that Voldemort was still alive. According to Fudge, if no one were stupid enough to believe it the Death Eaters surely would not have remained active, 'hoping for their Lord to return again.' Instead of taking it as proof, or at least a strong indication, their information was correct, he put the blame for his problems on them! Remembering how hard it had been last time, discredited by the Ministry and the Daily Prophet, her friends had left the country, joining Charlie Weasley in Romania for further training in Defense. When the time came there would be people prepared to fight, in spite of Fudge and the Ministry of Magic.

Hermione had considered joining them, but had chosen to continue her studies instead. Knowledge would always be important, especially Charms and Potions. There would be much she could do in both fields when Voldemort attacked. Something she was certain would happen again eventually.

Suddenly she heard something from between two buildings. She grabbed her wand, wishing she hadn't stayed in the library this late. Or that she could Apparate on University grounds.

Glancing into the darkness, she recognised two of her new friends and classmates, Tanya and Fran, Petrified against the wall of the lecture hall. At the same time she saw the flash of green,  and Fran went down.

"Stupefy!" she called out, aiming into the dark at the origin of the green light. The curse bounced off an invisible shield, and she had to duck out of the way, throwing up a shield of her own.

"Nice try, Miss Granger, but that won't work," someone said in the darkness. She recognized the high and whining voice. Pettigrew!

"Petrificus Totalus!" It, too, bounced back. Pettigrew laughed.

"Expelliarmus!" That one had no effect whatsoever. She could see the Rat now, silver hand glinting softly in the shadows.

"Like the reflector spell my Master taught me?" Pettigrew inquired. Then he didn't even bother with her, but turned his wand toward Tanya.

*There's no blocking it*. She knew of only one curse that might make it through his shield. "Avada Kedavra!"

A stream of green lit up the space between the buildings again, and indeed, it did not bounce off but cut through the Death Eater's shield without even a sparkle. Hermione felt intensely relieved as Pettigrew went down.

The Petrificus curse on Tanya broke as Pettigrew died. Hermione rushed over to her friend and study-mate as the girl crumbled and started to cry. There was no need to check on Fran.

Moments later, she heard running footsteps and shouts.

"You're surrounded by Aurors," one of the new arrivals called out. "Give up and we will let you live."

"The Death Eater is dead," Hermione called back.

"I'm not taking any risks, throw down your wand and come out, anyone who is there."

Hermione glanced at Tanya, then she complied. Tanya didn't have her wand, but Hermione carefully tossed hers out where the Aurors could see it, then walked forward with her hands above her head.

Two of the Aurors rushed her, two others grabbed Tanya, and one picked up her wand.

"There's two dead here," a sixth called out.

None of the Aurors asked what happened, but the one who picked up her wand cast Prior Incantato. Hermione's breath caught as she saw the ghostly pale green light flash from the wand.

The Aurors who held her tensed, holding her tighter, as if she could possibly pull free from the two large, armed men.

"This is your wand, isn't it?" the one who had cast the spell asked.

"I had to, he killed Fran and he would've killed Tanya," Hermione defended herself.

"So you admit you used the Killing Curse?"

"It was self-defense. Let me explain what happened." She couldn't help but worry now. Surely they would allow her to explain?

"She's right, she tried other curses but he had a shield up, they bounced off," Tanya supported her.

"Quiet!" the Auror barked. "Do you admit to using the Killing Curse?"

Hermione took a deep breath. "Yes," she said. "It was as Tanya said, I tried…"

"Shut up!" the Auror cut her off. "Take her away."

The two Aurors who held her acknowledged his order, and she was dragged off, more worried every moment. Well, she would be able to explain what happened once they got to the Ministry.

The Aurors took her to the nearest office, then took her by Floo to a Ministry building. She wasn't sure where. They searched her, took her cloak, and put her in a small cell with only a cot and a blanket. Any attempt to talk was cut off brusquely.

She didn't see anyone until the next morning when she was taken out of her cell again. The same two Aurors took her into a small, almost bare room. Her wand was laying on the only piece of furniture, a small table up against one of the walls.

To her dismay, the Minister of Magic himself entered soon after.

"Miss Granger," he said. "So you show your true colours again."

"Sir?" she asked, a little confused but also very, very worried.

"Using the Killing Curse. Do you and your friends regularly practice Unforgivables?"

"This has nothing to do with any of my friends. I have little or no contact with them. I'd never cast the spell before, and it was self-defense," Hermione said, trying to keep calm.

"There is no excuse for the Killing Curse, you should know that."

It was true, according to the letter of the law even a single casting of any of the Unforgivables meant a life sentence in Azkaban. But there were many exceptions, a great number of the Death Eaters had pleaded to be under Imperius, while others, like the Malfoys, had received sentences of months or years only, and there were still a few who had been able to avoid trial completely. Surely she would at least get a chance to defend herself? "He would've killed Tanya, he'd already…"

"Silence!" Fudge barked. "According to your friend, he did not cast Imperius on you. Were you acting of your own accord?"

"Yes," Hermione had to admit.

"Then you know the consequences. Azkaban, for the rest of your natural life." The Minister took her wand from the table and snapped it in two. Then he whirled around and made for the door.

"No!" Hermione called out, panicking now. "Don't I even get a trial?"

Fudge turned. "You just had it."

"No, you can't, please at least let me explain…," she yelled, trying to start forward. The Aurors held her back and one cast a silencing spell on her. She cried silently as they pulled her out of the room, through the corridors and out of the building.