This story is very AU. It was started before HBP was published

Author Note: My dear friends, I started this story many, many (MANY MANY) years ago. It was the first time I had written a word of fiction in five years, and my oh my, you can tell. I am suitably shamed by how bad this story starts. I will ask, dear friends, that you continue reading past the initial dreck, as I believe my writing improves quite a lot as you proceed. I have considered rewriting the first ten or so chapters numerous times, but first my friends, I must finish the story! I would humbly ask you give it a chance, regardless of how terrible it starts. If you get to chapter 12 and still think I suck, well, then I really deserve your flames. :)

Prologue, Or: a Series of Summarized Events Crammed into one Small Chapter

She had changed. There was no getting around the fact that Hermione just wasn't the same person she used to be. The only ones really aware of the new, bitter Hermione were Professor Remus J. Lupin, newly instated Headmaster at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, and Hermione's best friend, Harry Potter, also known (to his intense annoyance,) as The-Boy-Who-Lived. Everyone else saw Hermione as the brave, clever, righteous bookworm she had always been. It was necessary to maintain this image as the formidable Ms. Granger was viewed as a pillar of strength, an inspiration, and a savior to the wizarding community. The wizarding community needed a sense of stability more than ever, perhaps more even than the time of Voldemort's first reign of terror. Then at least, they had Dumbledore. Now there was no one that the Dark Lord feared, and along with his ever-expanding ranks of Death Eaters he committed bolder and more atrocious acts than ever. It was living under these conditions that had caused the changes in Hermione. After the whole Department of Mysteries fiasco, which simultaneously caused the Ministry to announce Voldemort's return, (they were a tad slow on the uptake,) inform Harry of his "It's-him-or-me" destiny with Voldemort, and brought about the death of Harry's beloved godfather, Sirius Black, Harry had returned more bitter and disenchanted with life than ever, to Number Four, Privet Drive. This had been over four months ago, and now Harry actually looked back with a sense of fondness at life with the Dursleys. Two weeks into holiday, during the early afternoon of July the 11th, there had been a mass attack by the Death Eaters.

Split into two separate factions of forty, one led by the abominable Lucius Malfoy, (who had broken out of Azkaban the day before along with the other imprisoned Death Eaters,) the other led by the insane but deadly Bellatrix Lestrange, they effectively demolished St. Mungo's, leaving behind only one survivor and a crater-like hole. Bellatrix effectively attacked the Ministry, using a new, deadly poison that Voldemort had developed, the Ango poison. It was in gas form, a purple cloud that upon inhaling the fumes the unfortunate victim would keel over dead, blue in the face and clawing at their own throat, in less than a minute. While Lucius had orders to annihilate St. Mungo's, Bellatrix was responsible for keeping the Ministry intact, sans employees. This way, once clear, Voldemort would apparate in and steal weapons, spells, wands, potions, and anything else that would help him gain power. The plan had gone off without a hitch, as the Death Eaters, complete with new gas masks, (Voldemort failed to mention that this was a Muggle device) stormed the building and started looting. However, as Voldemort apparated into the Ministry, he was greeted by Dumbledore, and in his abject fear of the twinkling headmaster, gathered up his minions and apparated away. There were a few survivors at the Ministry, those who had managed to stumble out of the building before the gas had taken effect, and also those who had not yet come into work. Mr. Weasley was not one of the survivors. Fudge, Umbridge, Madam Bones, and almost every single auror were dead. Kingsley Shacklebolt, Tonks, Sturgis Podmore, Amos Diggory, and Percy Weasley survived, and they did so only because they were at a meeting of The Order of the Phoenix at the time.

Gilderoy Lockhart, (former professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts, and five time winner of Witch Weekly's Most Charming Smile award) oddly enough, was the only survivor of St. Mungo's attack. Dumbledore, who had arrived at the scene after the Death Eaters had already apparated away, had originally thought all dead, until the sun came out from behind a cloud and reflecting upon something buried in the crater, cast a blinding flash of light into his eyes. Upon inspection, he discovered Lockhart buried under a pile of rubble, unhurt and covered in dirt, except for two gleaming rows of disturbingly white teeth.

The destruction of the Ministry and St. Mungo's was a devastating loss to the wizarding world of Britain, leaving its inhabitants with no working government and no medical aid.

It was around this time that the sudden and mysterious disappearance of Ginny Weasley occurred. In fact, she wasn't even on her mother's clock anymore, as her arrow had spun in rapid circles than snapped off completely. As there was no ransom note, and no clues at all as to what had happened, the remaining Weasleys were even more upset by this than by Mr. Weasley's death.

Owls had gone out to all of the new and returning Hogwarts students, announcing the usual booklists, prefect badges, and the reminder to journey to platform 9 and 3/4 on September the first. Dumbledore was eager to return the stabilizing force of school into his students' lives.

Hermione had picked up Harry on her way to Diagon Alley with her parents for back-to-school shopping, and strangely enough, Uncle Vernon and Aunt Petunia had quite taken to the Grangers. (Unfortunately for Hermione, Dudley seemed quite taken with her as well.) This might have had to do with the fact that not only were the Grangers Muggles, but had arrived in a brand new, silver BMW, much to Uncle Vernon's approval. Hermione and Harry were going to spend the last week of the summer holidays at Number Twelve, Grimmauld Place with Professor Lupin, who was returning to teach Defense Against the Dark Arts that year..

Professor Lupin, the Grangers, and Harry spent a somewhat relaxing (and healing,) day in Diagon Alley and Harry cracked his first smile in months, when, while gorging themselves at an outdoor table at Florean Fortesque's, Professor Lupin had cracked a truly terrible joke about werewolves and chocolate. As Hermione thought that the day actually seemed to be going quite well, it was at this point that irony, (the little bastard) stepped in and bitch slapped her. A loud cracking noise rang out, and the entire force of eighty-some Death Eaters, surrounding their leader in a ring, apparated into the crowded street.

Predictably, shrill screams, people blindly running in all directions, and cries for help rang out immediately. The Death Eaters were throwing curses everywhere, and they were almost all casting the Killing Curse. In the first five seconds, twenty people fell dead. At this point everything began to slow down for Hermione. Time was acting crazy, first seeming to almost stop, and then flying by a rush of noise, color, and curses. She dimly registered that Professor Lupin had leaped up, whipped out his wand, and was furiously casting spells at the nearest Death Eaters. A blur to the right of her peripheral vision was Harry lunging after Professor Lupin with his own wand out, a frightening look of rage and recklessness on his face. Her mother fell to ground after she had leapt up as well, as a green light hit her in the chest. Her father hurried to her mother, but Hermione, still in her dreamlike trance, vaguely noticed she had somehow moved thirty feet in a space of two seconds, and was currently casting her own curses left and right at any Death Eater unlucky enough to be in her vicinity. So as she, that she barely noticed the sudden of Apparition indicating that the Order and the entire staff of Hogwarts had arrived.

She was never to clearly remember what happened next, but as far as she could tell, Harry was running straight at Voldemort, through ranks of Death Eaters, bellowing incoherently in his rage.

She turned in horrified fascination, as Dumbledore screamed at Harry to stop, then Apparated between Harry and Voldemort to take on the Dark Lord himself. As if things weren't bad enough, the entire Weasley clan Apparated right in front of Harry, in the midst of the Death Eaters. Hermione screamed bloody murder when she saw the vastly outnumbered and surrounded Weasleys bravely pull out their wands and plunge into battle. Hermione leapt over a corpse of a Death Eater she had accidentally killed and sprung toward Harry and Ron, who were now battling side by side. In nightmarish slow motions, she saw Mrs. Weasley die. Dedalus Diggle. Elphias Doge. Tonks. Moody. Emmeline Vance. Professor Sprout. Hestia Jones. Professors Vector and Sinistra. Bill. Madam Hooch. Charlie. Then she was suddenly next to Harry and Ron, the former who gave her a grim smile, the latter who grinned and yelled,

"What took you so long? Busy creating more S.P.E.W badges?"

It was the last thing Ron ever said. She was about to scathingly reply to his horrendously inappropriate comment when she saw his eyes widen, as he looked to a spot above her head, and suddenly threw himself at her. She fell to the ground, her ears ringing with the cry of,

"AVADA KEDAVRA!" in an all-too-familiar voice.

Ron fell next to her with a thud, and as she looked over at him she registered his blank, staring eyes and slightly opened mouth. She spun around, a hatred and fury rising that she was not aware she was capable of, and met cold, empty gray eyes and platinum hair.

"Well, Mudblood, he died for you, a blood traitor to the end. Arthur would be proud." Lucius Malfoy drawled, "And now, perhaps we will play a bit before I kill you. You have become..." and here he paused, raked her body with his eyes, and leered at her, "quite attractive for such filth, and my wife doesn't please me as she ought to anymore. EXPELLIARMUS!" and as her wand flew out of her hand, she heard a yell of

"AVADA KEDAVRA!" once more.

Malfoy, eyes wide open in shock, fell to the ground in a heap and Hermione whipped her head around so fast her neck cracked, and saw Percy Weasley. His normally pompous, smug manner had utterly vanished, and he too had a disturbing gleam of rage in his eyes. There was no time for thanks, however, as the reason for Harry's sudden absence became clear; he was dueling with Nott senior. Hermione and Percy simultaneously a curse, and two jets light hit Nott in the back. Harry hollered his thanks to them, and all three rushed off in different directions to face new opponents. Hermione tripped over a prone body and sprawled onto her stomach, knocking the wind out of herself. With a jolt of horror, she looked down and met the empty gaze of Angelina Johnson, who had apparently run out of the nearby Gladrags and joined in the fray. Here on her stomach, gasping for air, struggling not to vomit, is where she witnessed Voldemort kill Dumbledore. Professor McGonagall flew at him in her fury, and fell dead as well.

With Dumbledore and McGonagall out of the way, Voldemort turned his sight to that constant splinter in his side, The-Boy-Who-Lived-And-Lived-And-Lived-And-Goddamnit-Why-Couldn't-He-Just-Fucking-Die-Already!? (Usually, at this point, a Death Eater would rush over and place a paper bag on the head of He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named until he stopped hyperventilating.) As his red, snake-like eyes narrowed and his lips curved in a shark-like grin, Harry sprung towards Voldemort with a terrible grin of his own. Hermione, still sprawled among bodies piled helter-skelter in the street, saw that Voldemort was a half-second quicker than Harry, and that half-second was fatal. Her body was unable to work, her brain was frozen.

There was no one there to save Harry this time, as Voldemort swished his wand, yelling the Killing Curse. No Dumbledore, no Lily, no McGonagall, no Sirius, no Lupin, no Ron, and she had failed Harry as well. No one had his back, no one stood between the Dark Lord and the savior of the wizarding world except a strangely silent Wormtail. Hermione, whose brain was still mush saw the burst of green light traveling towards her remaining best friend, and hitting-hitting Wormtail?! The ever-reviled Wormtail, it seemed, had finally had his conscience kick in. With a panicked cry, he had flung himself in front of Harry; so much like Ron had jumped in Hermione's place, for death. Voldemort let out a horrible, blood-curdling, cringe-inducing, skin-crawling screech of rage.

It was then that Voldemort glanced around at his Death Eaters, who were quickly being outnumbered five to one as more and more people ran to the aid of the Order. He Apparated away instantly, but not before Hermione saw him touch the Dark Mark on a nearby corpse of a Death Eater, point his wand skywards, cry "MORSMORDRE!" and disappear.

As the Dark Mark shot into the sky overhead, the remaining death eaters Apparated with a loud series of "cracks" after their master.

Lying among her friends, classmates, teachers and enemies in the green glow of the Dark Mark, staring at a Harry who seemed on the verge of going completely insane, is when Hermione's brain jump started into action, and she first thought of her plan.