Hermione

Well, it was one of those great stories that you can't put down at night.

The hero knew what he had to do, and he wasn't afraid to fight.

The villain goes to jail, while the hero goes free;

I wish it were that simple for me.

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Professor Dumbledore looked kindly at her. "I knew I could count on you, Miss Granger." He laid his hand on her shoulder in a gesture of confidence, and led her to the kitchens.

They entered through the main doorway, which Hermione had never noticed before, though she recognized the entrance she'd learned about from the twins. Professor Dumbledore recruited four house-elves for the task and gave them their instructions. They looked warily at Hermione until Professor Dumbledore explained that she could not set them free, as she was not their master. She would handle all the clothes herself.

Professor Dumbledore warned Hermione and the house-elves to return well before moonrise, as the moon was full tonight. She assured him that she wouldn't forget. Once the headmaster left, the four little beings clustered around Hermione. Each of them touched her hands or arms, and with a loud, whip-like crack, they were in Hagrid's hut.

It was more difficult than Hermione expected, organizing the personal effects of a loved one who had died, deciding what to distribute to his friends and what to discard. She wept as she folded Hagrid's hairy brown suit and placed it with other items that were to be discarded or donated to charity. One item Hermione kept for herself: the photograph of him and his father, taken the summer before his dad died.

Two hours later, Hermione and the house-elves had made significant progress, but they hit a snag. The house-elves had vanished, taking Fang with them, but the dog reappeared just as Hermione was preparing to leave. He was agitated, and he kept whining, so she stayed to soothe the boarhound.

A long, drawn-out howl made her mind up for her. Hermione looked out the eastern window.

Moonrise. She hadn't realized it was so late. Now she had to stay.

Hermione decided to try and get Fang to sleep, but it was not an easy task. The dog paced the floor, still whimpering, scratching at the door. He looked even more morose than usual. After an hour of trying to persuade the dog to rest, Hermione gave up and sat in Hagrid's favourite chair. She covered herself with an enormous patchwork quilt and curled up. She dozed, but woke frequently over the next several hours.

Hermione didn't want to be here. She missed Hagrid. She wished that Harry and Ron weren't so behind on revising for the N.E.W.T.s; it was lonely out here with only a dog for company.

Fang got into a snarling match with several animals outside the door around midnight. Terrified, Hermione watched him growl and scratch at the door. What if it was the Forest pack? She'd be dead or bitten by morning, if they were determined to get in; werewolves could be quite cunning. Hermione did the only thing she could think of: she stood up on the chair's seat and jumped, lifting herself into the rafters of the little hut. She clung to the beam as Fang snarled and warned the werewolves away.

She didn't know how much time had passed when Fang barked again. It wasn't threatening; it almost sounded like an announcement. Hermione heard irregular footsteps outside. They sounded human. She looked for her wand.

It was on the other side of the room. She stared at it, focused her will upon it. The irony of needing her wand to get her wand was not lost on her. "Accio wand," Hermione whispered. It was a simple spell, so it should work ... Come on

The wand glanced off the tips of her fingers and fell onto the chair below her. Hell and damn! Not knowing what else to do, Hermione stayed very still. The door opened. She heard ragged breathing in between Fang's booming barks. A tall, dark figure moved into the hut. It turned and shut the door, then locked it. The visitor muttered something to Fang, then spoke to the dog in a louder voice: "Good, now go away."

Nice. Now she knew who it was. Hermione allowed herself to blink.

A tall figure in a terrifyingly familiar mask swayed in the centre of the room. Pale hands reached up and pulled the hood off, and Professor Snape threw it to the floor. He looked terrible. Summoned to meet with the Death Eaters. Wonder what happened to him, that he's in such bad shape, she wondered, her eyes prickling at the sight of him so weak, so broken. I hope he'll be okay.

How do I tell him that I'm here? I don't want him to hex me into next week for startling him.

He shucked his robes, outer coat, and vest off right in front of her. A part of her didn't mind; indeed, as she had had a crush on this particular professor for some time, she didn't mind the view one bit. But when he began to unfasten his shirt, she knew she had to speak up. Hermione realized that bare-chested wasn't the worst it could get; what if he had to relieve himself here?! He'd have two words to say to her when he learned that she had been watching, and one of those words would be Avada. Hermione took a deep breath and said the first thing that came to mind: "Before you go any further, I think I should tell you that you're not alone."

He swung around, nearly losing his balance. It was the first time in seven years that she'd seen him move so gracelessly. Then she saw the wand in his hand. She gasped in panic and ducked behind the beam as best she could, thinking, Please don't hex me, I don't want to die!

But then he sighed, and she knew he wouldn't attack. "Miss Granger, what are you doing here?"

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Author's notes:

It all started out with a line from a movie: "Before you go any further, I think I should tell you that you're not alone." It just built on that.

Many thanks to Janinka, Emily X, and Lis for their wonderful beta help.

Credits:

Harry and Co. are not mine, though I'd loooooove to borrow Severus or Remus for an hour or three in the Room of Requirement. But they belong to Jo the Great. I am not making a single Galleon, Sickle, or Knut off this story.

The "Before you go any further" line comes from the Howard Hawks film Hatari!

And, of course, the song lyrics are from Hero, sung by David Crosby, with Phil Collins: © 1991 Hidden Pun Music Inc. / Stay Straight Music (BMI). I improvised on the punctuation. It isn't the tightest fit between song lyrics and fanfic, but that's because I was halfway through the writing when I thought, Hey, the song would fit!