Just a note to say that nothing in this fic that is recogniseable from J.K.Rowling's stories belong to me. The plot is mine, so no stealing!
I hope you enjoy the fic - please review!
Hermione was bewildered; no, beyond that, astounded – shocked, whichever word you wish to use that conveys a message of complete and utter confusion, along with a strong sense of disbelief and a slight tinge of panic.
She was, at the moment, in the headmaster's office, surrounded by her friends – Harry, Ron, Ginny – and the headmaster and deputy headmistress herself. The last person to fill the remaining place in the ring of people present was, the one and only, Professor Snape.
Now why is the most popular, intelligent sixth-year girl, standing, looking flabbergasted, under the scrutiny of all those present?
It so happens that, a few minutes, or seconds rather, before, Hermione had received a very shocking piece of news indeed. The whole sequence of events started off with, upon the arrival in the headmaster's office, being ushered in front of the three, looming professors. Anyone who had eyes would have been able to see that Severus Snape, who was usually scowling and irritated with the world and bitter, was furious. More furious than when Sirius Black had escaped from his clutches almost three years previously, more furious than when he had found Harry Potter spying in his pensieve, more furious than the night he had been betrayed and had his life spared by the person he loathed even more than James Potter and Sirius Black. His face was flushed and his nostrils flared; eyes burning in hatred, and fists clenching and unclenching in righteous anger. No one had ever seen Severus Snape this angry before. And the focus of his anger was on Hermione Granger, Gryffindor Know-It-All, Muggle-born witch and best friend of Harry Potter.
The reason, allegedly, was because—
"Miss Granger, we have received reports that you have betrayed us." Dumbledore said.
There was no twinkle in his eyes; a solemn and grave gleam replaced them. On the other hand, Hermione was stunned. Her friends were also, and immediately looked from the headmaster to the five-foot and a half-tall girl. Hermione's composure faltered.
"What? What do you mean?" Hermione asked.
For the first time, she did not understand something that a teacher had just said.
"Miss Granger, it was you who betrayed me to Him." Snape hissed.
There was no doubt as to who 'He' was.
"But that's not possible! Hermione's our friend!" Harry argued.
Oh what useless words! However, they had an encouraging effect on Hermione, and she smiled gratefully at him. However, this did not stop the shaking of her hands, nor the trembling of her lower lip as she tried fervently to hold back her tears.
"I'm sorry, Harry, but this information came from very reliable sources. Miss Granger, can you tell us what you were doing last night at one o'clock?" Professor Dumbledore asked.
"I-I was in bed. I h-had been working l-late a-and—"
"Miss Granger, you were seen leaving the school, wearing Death Eater garments at that moment in time."
"B-but how could it have been me? I was in bed!" Hermione said, bile rising in her throat. "And how could the person have known it was me, if Death Eaters wear masks and have their hoods up?"
"And how do you know that, Miss Granger?" Snape asked, still flexing his fingers as though he were refraining from strangling someone.
"It was in the book called 'The—"
"We do not need to hear your excuses." Snape snapped.
"Miss Granger, you have been seen more than four times. And, people have seen you sending owls carrying messages to Voldemort." Dumbledore said gravely.
"But I didn't do it!"
"Join the Death Eaters? Or betray Severus?" Professor McGonagall spoke tersely.
That was when Hermione realised that there was no point fighting. Her Head of House, the one who she had always relied on like a second mother, the person she had trusted the most in this Wizarding community, had turned against her. When Hermione looked around, her friends had also taken a few steps back, having seen three of the most trustworthy adults they knew accuse her of this heineous crime. This is the point at which we entered into the story.
Hermione looked at Harry.
"Surely you don't believe this, Harry?"
When she received no answer, because Harry had looked away, unable to make eye contact, she turned to Ron.
"Ron?" She said, despair creeping into her voice.
"I don't know, Hermione, I mean… Professor Dumbledore hasn't gone wrong before, at least, not very often. And… three professors! I'm sorry, Hermione, but I'm – I'm not sure whether I should trust you anymore."
"Ginny?" Hermione asked.
It was her last hope, but that too was dashed, when Ginny looked down at the floor. Hermione could hold her tears back no longer. They ran freely down her cheeks. She felt stung by their rejection- their betrayal of her trust.
"None of you! I thought—I thought—"
"That is the price of betrayal, Miss Granger." Snape said harshly.
"I never betrayed anyone! Let us see the evidence then! Show me what incriminating evidence has decided that I serve H-him!"
Snape snarled at her, but swiped something off Professor Dumbledore's desk. It was a silver mask. It reflected the light, and the portraits began to mutter amongst themselves. He dangled it in front of her face.
"This was found under your bed." He paused to let the words sink in. "What did he promise you, Miss Granger? Power? Glory? Recognition?"
"I don't want any of those things! I'm happy as I am!" Hermione cried.
"What about the safety of your family?" McGonagall said quietly.
There was silence in the room. Hermione had nothing to say to that.
"Do you think… you think that I would join them and worship th-that thing to save my family? That I'm more willing to sacrifice my friends…"
"It's possible." Dumbledore said.
"But how do you know somebody didn't plant it there? Somebody must have! It's not mine!" Hermione said, pointing at the mask and walking to Dumbledore, pleadingly.
"Alas, we do not have any proof of that. However, this is enough to tell us that you must be separated from Harry."
"Please don't—don't send me back into the Muggle world! I'll find out who framed me! I promise!"
"We will not expel you until we have hard evidence. As you say, there is no evidence that this mask is yours, but there is no evidence saying that it is not, either. We are taking precautions, and we would have had to tell Harry, Mr. Weasley and Miss Weasley, as well as yourself, before doing so. We were also trying to see whether you would confess, but, as you have not, you are free to go. Innocent until proven guilty."
Hermione ran from the room, sobbing. But, by the time she reached Gryffindor Tower, news had already spread, courtesy of the paintings, and people spat at her as she entered into the common room.
"You really had me fooled." Seamus said spitefully, before storming up to the boys' dormitories, followed by Dean, who was glaring at her.
The girls had put their nose high into the air and walked to their dormitories, loudly saying horrible things about Hermione. The younger years were all terrified and immediately scurried away. Only those of the year above stayed, but not without shooting hateful glances at the poor, frozen, girl, standing at the entrance. The portrait opened, and Harry, Ron and Ginny entered, but none of them would look her in the eye as they went past.
The week passed by terribly. The Hufflepuffs, known for regarding loyalty very highly, were just as bad as, if not worse than, the Gryffindors, who had all taken to giving Hermione the cold shoulder. The Ravenclaws, who had always been angry with a Gryffindor beating them all academically, were positively delighted with the chance to taunt the girl. The Slytherins, regardless of her true loyalties, treated her as they always did, and jeered at her for having no friends, not even snivelling Longbottom. In fact, the Slytherins began to attack her more often, in the corridors, in classrooms, because she could not defend herself against a whole group of them. The other houses just stood by to watch. Strangely, inter-house unity seemed to have improved, much to Dumbledore's pleasure and Hermione's despair.
She often hid in the library, which was the only sanctuary from the large, vehement crowd, since none of them wanted to suffer Madam Pince's wrath for starting a ruckus in her precious library. But even here, Hermione was still verbally attacked by nearby Ravenclaws.
Finally, she could take the strain no longer. She burst into tears and found a book called 'Wizarding Schools in the World'. She filled in all the necessary application forms. Professor Dumbledore and McGonagall, who had to send references for her had both pleaded with her to stay, but she refused. Even the teachers had not come to her aid when she was suffering in the hands of her peers. Her parents had been harder to convince, but eventually, they consented, appalled at the events that had occurred.
So, less than two months since her meeting in the headmaster's office, during the Easter holidays, she was to be transferred to Phinxgild. Surprisingly, Dumbledore had kept it secret from the rest of the school, and Hermione had been more than relieved.
Unfortunately as the holidays approached the intensity of the torture increased. Once, she was ambushed by a group of seventh-year students in a deserted hallway. Two of them were Slytherin, obviously the ones who planned this, one was Ravenclaw – the one with the knowledge of the spells, one was Hufflepuff – watching for teachers, and two Gryffindors. It was the Gryffindors and the Slytherins who cast the hexes and jinxes at her. Although Hermione was able to defend some of the curses, most of them hit her, and she was gravely wounded. They were not yet finished when Hermione heard the footsteps of a teacher approaching. However, none of her attackers noticed until he was right behind them. They immediately stopped.
Hermione looked up into the unforgiving face of Severus Snape. She was bruised and bleeding with cuts and bumps all over her. It was fairly serious this time, as she was barely conscious. She reached out a hand, pleadingly, towards him, begging him for help, hoping against hope… After all, he was a figure of authority. With one withering stare, he would be able to send these people into epileptic fits. There was a long period of silence, which stretched on and on. In response to her suffering, he only stepped out of her reach, turned around and walked away.
That moment was most likely the worst of Hermione's life. All of her respect, all of her trust, for the Hogwarts teachers slipped away as he disappeared around the corner of the corridor. The group decided to cast a few more slicing hexes before scattering, leaving Hermione in a bleeding pile on the floor.
Hermione sobbed. Her heart was so, so heavy. As were her eyelids. The pain was excruciating, although not as bad as the Cruciatus, the pain was numbing, and she began to feel cold. So cold. She could no longer move. She cried, because she knew she was innocent, and she was the one who had been betrayed. She was the one who had been let down. She was the one whose friends had deserted her. She was the one who was being punished, but why? Why, out of all the Hogwarts students, why her?
She was vaguely aware of some people passing by. There was a sudden stop, as though hesitating as to what they should do. Finally, Hermione felt herself being lifted up by a spell, and she was slowly lifted down the corridors, in the direction of the Hospital Wing.
Madam Pomfrey was angry at the perpetrators - possibly the only member of staff who pitied Hermione, if only because the extent of her injuries were so severe.
"Fractured bones in your hands, cracked kneecap, dislocated shoulder, broken left wrist, broken right arm, fractured right femur, crushed cheekbone..." Madam Pomfrey looked up from her list at the bruised and battered girl lying in the bed, seemingly unconscious. "And not a single point deducted? My word!"