Author's Note: There are no words. Just apologies. It is finished and this last chapter is the end. Thank you for reading.
The streets surrounding the apothecary shop were lit by the faintest of light from the encroaching dawn. Disillusionment charms and invisibility cloaks allowed the team of Aurors to walk virtually unseen. When they arrived at the block where the shop was located Harry and the others held back while Moody went ahead. A few minutes later the faint vibration of four Auror badges let them know that Moody had given the all clear. Tonks went first and concealed herself across the alley from the back entrance. Since Harry had the most experience detecting early warning spells he went next.
At first he only found low level security wards and much like Hermione was about to give the signal to enter when he found one more spell, more elaborate than he had even come across before. Harry returned the team and explained what he had found. "Now do you have any doubt that these people are up to no good?" Harry asked Kingsley
"Harry, I have to tell you, I've only seen wards like that at the houses of Death Eaters. Malfoy Manor was notorious for them."
"There has been no recent escape from Azkaban that we weren't made aware of was there?" Harry questioned "All the Death Eaters were either killed or imprisoned after the war."
"There will always be people who decide to follow the dark, Harry." Remus said softly
"Can you break through it?" Kingsley wanted to know
"I can try. This is really Hermione's area of expertise."
"We've got you covered while you work." Kingsley added before watching Harry return to the back door.
Approaching the door for a second time Harry was careful where he walked. He didn't want to think about what could happen if he triggered the wards before he had a chance to take them down. Slowly and carefully he worked on them until finally he could feel them start to fall apart. It took all of his control to not rush. When the last part of the ward fell he could only hope that whoever was inside hadn't noticed.
With the security ward gone Harry could now attempt to detect if anyone was inside the shop. Silently casting the spells he immediately hit a block. A very strong shielding charm was in place and it was impossible to break through. They would be entering the building blind.
Harry returned to Remus and Kingsley and informed them of the situation. "Do we go in curses flying or try the surprise?"
"It's your call, Harry." Kingsley said
"We'll go in quiet. As much as I would like to end this quickly if Hermione and Ron are here and they're in trouble I don't want them accidentally getting hit by friendly fire."
"Understood. Communication is by badge code only." Kingsley stated
"Remus there is a small office to the right as soon as you enter I want you to take that. Straight ahead is the main part of the store and the rest of the back is for storage and potion making. Upstairs is the residence. We don't know where they might be. Kingsley, do a quick scan of the back room and then we'll move together to the front of the store before proceeding upstairs. Any questions?"
The two aurors were silent before casting new Disillusionment charms and following Harry to the back door.
The realization that the son of Antonin Dolohov was behind all of this was shocking to Hermione and Ron. Never had they entertained the thought that the son of a Death Eater would go to such lengths to avenge his fathers death. What was even more frightening was the knowledge that this young man was completely delusional, no amount of talking or pleading was going to change his mind.
Hermione felt her stomach roll as Dolohov Jr. leaned in even closer and took a deep breath in. Behind him she could see Ron struggling to get out of his bonds, furious that he was so close to her. There was a look in Dolohov Jr.'s eye that sent a shiver down her back and she ground out "Don't you dare touch me." in a voice so low it sounded unnatural.
The laugh that came from their captor started so soft it was barely audible but it soon rose in intensity. He stepped away from her then and spread his arms wide. "And who exactly is going to stop me?" he questioned almost gleefully. "You two are completely helpless and the great Harry Potter is no where to be seen. Some 'Golden Trio' this is." He seemed to become lost in his own world as he continued speaking. "You know, although muggles are far inferior to pure-bloods there are a few things I admire about them. Those guns they have are quite handy. Unlike wands which are too easily lost. " At this he pulled two wands from behind his back and twirled them teasingly in front of Hermione and Ron.
"That was you that shot at us!" Ron exclaimed
Dolohov Jr. just grinned "That was Mother's idea. She just wanted to kill Dr. Granger, didn't want there to be any chance that she could detect what we were doing. But I disagreed, I thought it would be much more poetic for you to really understand what we went through when you killed my father. To suffer the loss of those closest to you, to watch me completely disguise their murder knowing no one will ever know how they died before killing you as slowly as possible." and in a flash he turned to Ron and said "Crucio!"
Hermione bit her lip so hard she split open a new wound. As much as she wanted to scream out in protest she knew her desperation would likely only encourage the monster to do more damage.
Ron writhed in pain, his head going back involuntarily and hitting the chair with a sickening crack. They had all undergone the Cruciatus curse during the war but that didn't make it any less painful.
Dolohov Jr. took the curse off before tossing Ron's wand in his direction. Hermione watched as it clattered to the floor out of their reach and rolled under Ron's chair almost mocking them.
Hermione studied Ron's face closely and released the breath she was holding when she saw his eyes flutter open slightly. Her only hope right now was to take Dolohov Jr. by surprise and she needed Ron to be conscious if they were to have a chance. Their captor had resumed retreated to the dark corner by the stairs and she could hear the clanking and clinking of bottles. Forcing disturbing thoughts of what he may intend to do with those bottles out of her mind, Hermione took a deep breath and slowly let go of the loose ropes that had once bound her wrists.
To her it sounded impossibly loud when they hit the ground with a soft thud but Dolohov Jr. gave no indication he had heard anything. She carefully lowered her arms to her side, biting off a cry as they were moved from their unnatural position. Hermione gave them a slight shake and hoped she had enough strength left in them to do what she needed to do.
She caught Ron's eye and his lopsided grin as he realized she was free. Hermione nodded surreptitiously at his chair and then at the corner where Dolohov Jr. was standing. Ron gave her the best wink he could and shut his eyes again playing unconscious, if the Death Eater spawn didn't think he was a threat he would have one up on him.
As quickly and quietly as she could, Hermione stood and inched her way over to Ron's chair. She was now only two feet from Ron's wand when Dolohov Jr. chose that moment to turn around. Hermione dove. She knew she would only have an extra second on him as he processed what he was seeing and as she felt the spell fire fly over her as she hit the ground, taking Ron's chair with her. She cringed as his head hit the ground again and didn't make a sound. Knowing that she was now alone with Dolohov Jr. was a frightening thought and she scrabbled desperately for the wand, almost sobbing with relief when she felt the smooth wood beneath her fingers.
Dolohov Jr. was almost on her when she turned suddenly and fired off several spells of her own, forcing him to erect a shield charm and back away a few steps. Hermione positioned herself in front of Ron and kept firing everything she could think of as her opponent regrouped and shot a series of dark spells, each once intending to maim or kill. A severing charm hit her upper thigh and Hermione screamed in pain as her leg crumpled beneath her. Falling to her knees she put up the strongest shield she could manage and allowed herself a glance down. Her leg was still there, the charm had only glanced off the side but she was losing blood quickly and she knew with an injury like this she didn't have much longer.
Over the train like rush of blood in her ears she thought she could hear voices above them in the shop workroom. Dolohov Jr. had backed off too and she could see that one of her spells had hit home, his wand arm hung limply at his side and he was panting heavily. He also heard what she had and rushed towards the table near the stairs. The noises she had earlier of bottles being knocked together resumed and far too late she realized what he was doing. He was setting a trap for anyone who would try to come rescue them.
Suddenly, she heard the trap door being blown off its hinges and the voices grew louder. Dolohov Jr. turned and ran for the back corner of the cellar before firing a shot over his shoulder, aimed right for the collection. It was a timed detonation spell, allowing the caster enough time to take cover before it went off.
Hermione felt her heart stop and she screamed as loud as she could, but it was too late. "HARRY!!! NO!!!!" Her words were drowned out by a huge explosion that rocked the building and sent fire, smoke and debris raining down on them. She threw herself over Ron's prone form and prayed Harry had not been at the top of the stairs when the spell hit.
Harry, Kingsley and Lupin entered the back of the shop as ghosts. Remus peeled off to the right while Kingsley and Harry made a quick sweep of the workroom. Not seeing anything out of the ordinary they met back at the doorway and headed into the store area, careful to check behind the counter and all the shelves but again everything was quiet. A door next to the sales counter contained a staircase to the residence and they moved up the stairs as quietly as they could. Upstairs there were two small bedrooms, a kitchen and a living area but no indication there was anyone up there or had been recently. Harry was becoming increasingly frustrated. There was every reason to believe this is where they had gone but there was no trace of them.
Harry ripped his invisibility cloak off and ran a hand through his hair, panic rising in him. Remus put a hand on his arm and spoke softly "We'll find them Harry. You were right to believe they came here and you were right that there is something not right about this place." But Harry didn't want to be consoled, he shrugged Lupin's hand off and practically snarled at the man "Except that I wasn't right, was I! They're not here and we have no idea where to look for them now!"
Harry spun angrily away and was stalking down the stairs when Remus suddenly grabbed his cloak from behind shushing him as he turned, curse half spoken. "I think I hear something." the werewolf said, straining his animal senses to pick up noises no human could here. "Down! I think there is a cellar!"
Thats all Harry needed to hear, he tore down the stairs, Kingsley and Lupin right behind him. Once they reached the store he started frantically searching the floor, looking for the tell tale sign of a door. "Do you see anything?" he yelled at the others as he ran back and forth shining his wand in wide swaths.
Harry ran into the back and checked the office quickly, before joining the other two in the workroom. Suddenly he spotted one lone rug and knew instinctively what it hid underneath. "There!!" he shouted and sprinted for the threadbare fabric, ripping it away to reveal a door that had been cut into the flooring and laid flush to conceal it's true design.
As they looked at the door they could now hear what sounded like a battle going on below. "Hermione!!" Harry yelled and made to open the door but it was locked. With no hesitation he fired a Reducto spell at it but it stayed shut. "Reducto, with me. Now!" he commanded and Kingsley and Lupin joined him but again there was no change.
The three of them started sending every known explosion curse they could think of at the door but it still remained firmly closed. A whine of panic resumed inside Harry and then he heard Hermione scream.
All other sound vanished and Harry focused all of his magic and energy on the door. Willing it to open. And it did. The three Aurors were thrown backward into the workroom. Harry hit his head hard on a cauldron and was shaking off the daze, while checking to see if the other two were alright. He saw Lupin and Kingsley regain their footing and went to stand up when he found himself on the ground again, overcome by a wave of dizziness. Lupin rushed to his side and supported him under an elbow. "Harry! Are you alright?"
"I'm ok, Remus." Harry assured, hoping it was true. He didn't think his weakness was from hitting his head. He was starting to feel like he did after the veritaserum and was beginning to believe that Snape's potion was wearing off. The magical force it had taken to blow that door off had once again drained him.
Harry ran to the stairs, wand drawn and would later swear he heard Hermione scream his name before hell itself rushed towards him. The explosion from the door was nothing compared to this. He threw up a shield charm but was propelled backwards again, but with a more terrific force. The entire building shook. Fire lapped at the opening of the cellar and window panes burst. Plaster crumbled around them and then the office side of the room collapsed.
Harry lost track of where Lupin and Kingsley had been thrown to. The building collapsing scared the hell out of him. It took everything he had to pull himself up again. He was beyond exhausted and he knew he couldn't even try to perform magic right them even if had to.
He wrapped his Auror cloak around him and headed to the smoking hole, terrified of what he might find.
Hermione could feel the heat from the fire on her back and enlarged her shield charm to cover both her and Ron as best she could. She groped for the ropes keeping him tied to the chair, knowing they didn't have long to get out before the smoke or fire did them in. She managed to untie him and push the chair away. Using her good leg she pushed herself up to a kneeling position and looked around the cellar, searching for Dolohov Jr. She thought she saw a glimpse of light on coming from the back wall before there was an ominous snap and then tons of wood, rock and dirt began collapsing in on the back half of the cellar. Hermione tugged furiously on Ron's prone form, managing to drag him a few feet before falling again. A large beam smashed the chair he had been held captive in and she once again threw herself over him as more debris rained down.
Coughing furiously, she swiped a hand over her eyes, barely able to see through the smoke now. She knew they were closer to the stairs but she didn't know if she'd be able to get up them on her own with how badly her leg hurt much less while trying to drag Ron. Looking down at her friend she was relieved to see him starting to stir. She rolled him to his side as he began to cough and gasped as she saw bright red flecks of blood splatter on the ground next to him. That made her decision for her. Ron obviously had internal injuries and they had no choice but to get out at any cost.
Hermione couldn't hold her shield charm and cast a levicorpus spell at the same time, even though the shield wasn't doing that great of a job it was keeping them from being burned alive. She slapped Ron's face repeatedly, hoping she could get him to wake up enough to get up the stairs under his own power. He groaned and swiped at feebly at her hand before cracking open one eye. "Mione...wha..." he coughed again, his entire body wracking before he laid his head back.
"No. Ron! Wake up. Come on, you've got to wake up." Hermione cajoled, smiling when she saw his eyes again.
He seemed more present this time and grasped her hand.
"We've got to get out of here. This whole place is going to come down around us if we don't!" she said frantically, pulling at his arm and shaking him in desperation.
"Ok, Mione. Just stop shaking me." he ground out, rolling to his knees and almost pitching forward from the pain it caused.
Just as she was about to help him stand she spotted a narrow strip of wood by the edge of the wall nearest them. Her wand! She scooped it up and turned her attention back to Ron. "Do you think you can hold a shield?"
"I can try" holding out his hand for his wand
For a few seconds hot cinders covered them and the smoke got thicker before Ron reestablished the spell. Hermione put up another one and they were able to breathe easier.
"Stairs are this way" she said, nodding straight ahead. She used the wall for support as long as she could and would have fallen if Ron hadn't caught her. She knew she had jostled his broken ribs and whispered an apology. When they reached the spot where the stairs were Hermione knew there was something terribly wrong. They weren't there. There was nothing but charred bits of food and flames licking what remained but there were no stairs. She looked up and saw that they simply disappeared at the first landing. However, something else caught her attention. Standing on that landing was a dark form.
Harry grasped desperately to the railing, and lowered himself carefully step by step until he reached a landing. Below that there was nothing. Smoke swirled and fires still raged but there were no more stairs. He half laughed to himself, an overzealous Auror would be the death of him and do what even Voldemort couldn't. No one could have seen that one coming. Harry considered his options. He could jump off the landing, but then he'd be trapped, he could attempt to levitate himself down there but he didn't even know if he was capable of doing magic right then. He was much less concerned about the affect doing such a thing could have on him. As he took a moment to contemplate his options two figures appeared out of the smoke where the bottom of the stairs should have been and his heart leapt. At first he was unable to discern who they were until he saw the familiar swing of Hermione's hair.
"Hermione!!!" he bellowed, voice cracking with pent up fear.
"Harry!! I knew you'd come." she yelled back, tears evident in her voice.
He sagged against the railing. Relief making him slightly lightheaded.
"Harry, you'll need to levitate us up. It's taking everything we've got to keep the shield spells up."
Her words sent a shock of fear through him. They couldn't get themselves up and he couldn't either. He couldn't even conjure a rope much less levitate them.
"Harry! Harry, you have to bring us up!" The confusion in her voice was evident.
He couldn't bring himself to answer her. He swallowed hard and took a deep breath, before shutting his eyes and concentrating harder than he ever had before in his life. His magic was there it was just very very weak. It took everything he had and in a way more than he had to perform the spell. Sweat poured off of him but slowly Hermione and Ron began to rise. For a moment he lost his concentration and they dipped suddenly but soon enough they were on the landing with him and the spell broke. As luck would have it Hermione landed on her bad leg and cried out in pain. Ron fell on his side and retched up blood and bile before passing out. Harry simply fell against the railing, pale and shaking before joining Ron.
Hermione waited until she could breathe again before reaching out for Harry. She came upon his clammy hand first before getting a good look at his face. Scrambling to her knees she looked for a pulse and got a faint one. Not having any idea why Harry would be in the condition he was in she was now faced with the fact that she was now stuck in the cellar with two unconscious wizards and ten steps between them and certain death.
She stroked Harry's cheek and pressed a kiss to the top of his head. The smoke was rising and so was the heat. The extra debris that had fallen had acted as additional firewood to the already raging flames. She didn't even know if she would be able to drag her own self up the stairs between the damage done to her leg and the blood loss and she certainly wouldn't be able to drag the boys up as well.
Much like Harry had done moments ago she let out a half-laugh. "Who would have thought the 'Golden Trio' would go down like this. Death by smoke inhalation." a coughing fit set upon her and she was weak and dizzy when it was over and so sleepy. "Maybe I'll just rest here for a minute before trying the stairs." she thought and laid her head down on Harry's chest.
Suddenly there was a tremendous racket above her and through half-lidded eyes she saw the shapes of Moody and Lupin at the top of the stairs. "They're down here!!!" Remus shouted behind him "All three of them!"
The landing had held them well but it was starting to feel the affects of the fire. She could feel it shift beneath them and licked her lips once before taking a breath. "Levitate us. Now!" before succumbing once again to the smoke.
Moody and Lupin didn't hesitate and the trio was in the air just as the bottom dropped out below them. Getting them through the narrow opening was a challenge which resulted in more scrapes and bruises but as they were deposited whole on the floor of the workroom it was worth it.
Tonks and Kingsley were waiting anxiously and rushed to their side.
"The potion is affecting Harry." Lupin ground out "He looks bad"
"Granger's lucky her leg is still attached." Moody said after trailing his magical eye over her. Tonks saw where he was indicating and gasped at the amount of blood "And Weasley has internal injuries. They need a healer."
"Get them outside now and we'll apparate back to the inn. Poppy will have her work cut out for her." Kingsley commanded. "Hurry. I don't think this place is going to hold much longer."
No sooner were the words out of his mouth that another crack and crash were heard. Kingsley scooped Hermione up and raced for the door the others quick to follow.
Just as they reached the alley the entire back half of the shop caved in sending up a huge plume of smoke and dust. Now that they were outside of the anit-apparition wards they vanished, reappearing in the inn to a pacing Poppy and a scowling Snape.
"Oh my heavens!!" Poppy gasped as she took in the condition of the three. She had already constructed a makeshift hospital ward with cots and screens and every potion she could conceive of. "Lie them down here. Who is the most injured?" she asked, drawing her wand and beginning diagnostic spells on Harry.
"The draught seems to be affecting Harry already. Ron has internal injuries from what Moody can tell and Hermione's leg was almost severed." Lupin said gravely, dragging a tired hand over his face and sinking into the nearest chair.
Poppy began to bark out orders, "Severus, see to Dr. Granger, she'll need a blood replenishing potion and several healing charms on that wound. Tonks, try to stabilize Special Auror Weasley as best you can." she turned back to Harry, mouth tightly drawn.
Hermione was the first to regain consciousness. When she saw the dark shape of Snape before her she knew they had gotten out of the shop, but had they all gotten out alive. "Harry!!" she yelled, gasping and struggling to sit up.
"Lie down Miss Granger." Snape snapped " You'll reopen your wound."
"I don't give a damn about my wound!" Hermione retorted "I want to know if Harry's alive!"
"Considering I just spent the better part of an hour putting you back together again I do 'give a damn' about your wound and would ask again that you LIE STILL." the former potions professor growled at his former pupil not backing down from her glare.
Lupin rushed over as he heard Hermione's protests "Hermione! You're awake!" he cried before pulling her to him in a tight hug. She allowed herself a moment of comfort from Remus "How is Harry? Please? I have to know. What happened to him before he came for us?"
"Hermione, dear.." Lupin began not knowing how to tell her that Harry was most likely dying and there was nothing they could do to stop it.
Listening to Remus choke up, Hermione felt her body grow cold and all the blood rushed to her head. "No." she managed to choke out before she threw off the sheet and stumbled out of bed, pushing past Snape and Remus and ripping back the curtain next to her cot to reveal the sickly, ragged form of Harry Potter.
There was a roar of noise in her ears and spots danced in front of her eyes before she remembered to breathe again. "Harry! Harry!" she screamed shaking him hard, hoping to get a response. Tears had already started falling down her face but she was oblivious. She felt desperately for a pulse and could find none. "No!" she yelled angrily and began chest compressions before looking wildly about the room "Don't just stand there! Help him!"
Poppy had stepped back, her wand at her side, looking wholly defeated.
Remus stepped forward, knowing what Hermione did not, that the potion Harry had taken was killing him, if it hadn't already. "Hermione, dear" he started gently reaching for her hands
"Don't!" she growled looking at Remus with a mixture of confusion and distrust "Why won't you help?!"
"Hermione" Remus started again "You don't understand. He took..." but he trailed off not knowing how to tell her that the reason Harry was like this was because he had taken the Draught of in order to save her.
Hermione had been so focused on trying to keep Harry alive that she almost missed what Remus said. Her head whipped around so fast brown curls struck him in the face as she processed the last part. "He took...he took what? What did he take? What did he do?!" she demanded desperately "What did he do Remus?" yelling so loud her voice cracked
Snape stepped forward "It was the Draught of Regeneration"
Her hands slipped from his chest for a moment as she gasped, the reality of what he had done hitting her. "Oh why, Harry. Why would you do that?" she moaned softly before turning her ire on those around her "How could you? How could you give him that?" she spat at Snape not waiting for a response before turing on Remus as well "You were supposed to look out for him! How could you? Why?"
Snape said nothing to her in response and Remus stood back up, guilt evident on his face. "He insisted Hermione, you have to understand. Caige gave him enough veritaserum to kill three men, his magics were almost depleted. He saw this as the only way to save you." he said quietly, knowing that his words would bring no comfort to her.
Hermione wasn't sure how she kept up the chest compressions. Her tears rolled even harder and it was difficult to breath. "No!" she shouted suddenly. "I refuse to give up. Harry is not going to die like this" she shook her head forcefully as if shaking away the grief that clouded her thoughts. The first thing they needed to do was get his heart beating again, that may buy her some time to figure out how to save him.
Hermione jumped to her feet, startling those around her and drew her wand, pointing it directly at Harry's chest. She didn't even look around the room before making her demand. "On three everyone needs to cast 'enervate' "
Tonks spoke up from the corner "Hermione! Thats too strong. It could kill him!"
Hermione whipped her head toward Tonks before grinding out "He's already dead!" desperation evident.
"On my count. One. Two. Three. Enervate!" Five jets of light hit Harry square in the chest and his body lurched unnaturally before settling back down.
Hermione threw herself down to his side and once again shakily felt for his pulse and finally she found one, although it was very faint.
"It worked" she cried out breathlessly, tears still flowing, though this time they were tears of relief. She wiped her face quickly on her sleeve before taking a moment to gather herself. Harry's life was in her hands right now and she had to be focused. One more deep breath and she turned a very familiar gaze on her former potions professor. This was the Hermione they were all used to seeing, determined, and seeking information.
"Tell me everything about the Draught of Regeneration . Don't leave anything out."
For the next twenty minutes Snape spoke and Hermione listened. She allowed Madame Pomfrey to cast a few stability spells but there was little the healer could do she had already tried everything she could think of to save him. When Snape was done, Hermione thanked him and turned back to Harry. Remus came to her side. "What are you planning on doing?"
She had become quiet again and he knew she wasn't really addressing him when she began speaking. "Do you know why Donnovan was put under the Imperious? We were working on the same spell." she let out a short, bitter laugh "Thats why Donnovan kept trying to get to me. They knew I was the only other one who knew the spell existed. If I couldn't detect it they would be able to get away with murder after murder. " she knelt down next to Harry now, brushing dark hair off of his scar, noticing that the green tinge his skin had taken on was getting worse. She knew she didn't have much time left.
"What spell was this? Ron never told us what the spell did, just that it was dangerous." Remus asked, confused as to how Hermione would have been working on something so heinous.
"It didn't have to be though. When I developed it it never occurred to me that it could be used for something so despicable. " she took a deep breath before continuing. "I wanted to erase dark magic and it's traces. The spell was designed to, lift, for lack of a better word, the dark curses from a location. Erase their effect on a building or a plot of land."
"Impossible!" the sharp retort came from Snape "You can't just erase a curse that dark."
Hermione didn't look up, knowing how unfathomable the idea sounded even to her before she was successful. "Quite possible actually. I've been referring to it as a Cleansing spell. I was hoping it could be used at battle sites, like Godric's Hollow or the Burrow or even Hogwarts. But they were using it to erase evidence of the killing curse and other unforgiveables. No one else would have been able to detect its use except for me, thats why they were trying to kill me."
The room was silent for a long moment before Remus asked what everyone was thinking "What do you plan to do, Hermione?"
She smiled down at Harry gently and looked over at Ron's still unconscious form, wishing he was awake right then before answering. "I'm going to use the Cleansing spell to remove the Draught of Regeneration from Harry."
"Have you used this spell on a person before, Granger?" Snape asked
"No. It wasn't designed to be used on a person. I'm not sure it will even work." she admitted sadly
"Hermione, could this...I mean, is this..." Remus stammered, not wanting to ask her how dangerous this could be.
"It could kill him, Remus. I don't know for sure. It could remove all his magic permanently or do something worse. I don't know what will happen. But I do know that right now he's dying and I have to try something." she answered in a hollow voice not wanting to think about how she could be responsible for Harry's death.
Remus gave her a hard hug before stepping back and allowing her to work. He knew she was the only chance Harry had at surviving.
Hermione settled herself next to Harry and leaned over his still face. She removed his glasses and once again brushed his hair off of his scar before softly pressing her lips against it. "I love you" she whispered so quietly no one else could make out what she had said.
She looked at those around her "I don't know how long this will take or what it will do to him, or to me. But thank you all for everything you've done, for both of us. I just have to ask that you don't interrupt me at anytime, no matter what happens. If you need to leave us alone to ensure that I understand."
"We're not going anywhere, Lassie." came the gruff reply of Moody
Hermione smiled sadly in response before taking a deep breath and turning all her attention back to Harry.
Pulling out her wand, Hermione closed her eyes and began chanting the spell in a low voice while making intricate motions over Harry's inert form. Over and over she repeated the process, no longer noticing time or anything going on around her.
The others eventually settled themselves in various spots around the room. Ron woke up after she had been working on Harry for about an hour. After receiving numerous potions from Poppy he was cleared to get up, Remus having filled him in on what had happened and what Hermione was currently attempting.
Ron sighed deeply and shook his head, he wasn't surprised that Harry had taken a potion he knew could potentially kill him in order to save Hermione. He crossed the room to where his friends were and sat behind Hermione placing a hand softly on her shoulder, lending her support the only way he knew how.
As the hours passed Hermione's voice never wavered. There seemed to be no noticeable change in Harry but Hermione was beginning to show signs of fatigue. She was growing paler and a fine sheen of perspiration could be seen on her skin but she didn't allow that to distract from her focus.
Ron exchanged a worried look with Lupin, what if Hermione wasn't able to keep it up. They could tell she was getting tired. The wound on her leg had never been fully healed and she had needed more doses of the blood replenishing potion. Red had started to seep through the bandage again and Poppy started to go forward to tend to her but was stopped by Ron.
More time passed. Ron had lost track at how long it had been and had nodded off a few times. Hermione was completely slumped forward now. Her wand barely moving, her voice faint. Ron looked at Harry, expecting for him to appear worse but what Ron saw made him gasp out loud. Remus startled at the noise and approached Ron from behind. "What is it?" he asked
Ron swallowed hard before speaking "His scar" he said, faltering before he could continue "Does it....does it look like its faded?"
Remus directed his gaze to Harry's forehead and saw the same as Ron. The scar was there, but so faint if you didn't know what you were looking for you would miss it.
"You don't think...." Ron trailed off
"That she's erasing everything? All the dark magic that has ever happened to him." Remus finished for him
"Yeah. Can she do that?" he asked, in awe
"I think the evidence is right before your eyes." Remus answered with a smile, hope beginning to fill him once more that they make it out of this in one piece.
The others had heard them talking and came to gather, gasping when they saw how Harry's scar was disappearing.
By this point Hermione was no longer just slumped over, she was using Harry's chest to hold herself up and her words were no longer intelligible, when she began to sway Ron grasped her shoulders to keep her upright. "She's not going to hold out much longer." he said, concern evident in his voice.
"She'll hold out as long as she needs to." Tonks said knowingly
Then, the room was silent. No one was speaking, not even Hermione. Like a puppet who's strings had been cut she fell, Ron caught her just in time. As he sat between his two best friends he was confronted by the chance that he could lose them both. Poppy raced over and concluded that she was suffering from a combination of exhaustion and blood loss, she tried to get Ron to lay her down on a cot but he refused. Somehow he knew they needed to stay right there, next to Harry for whatever may come to pass.
The healer seemed more pleased with Harry's condition than she had before. All traces of the draught were gone as were most of his other injuries. He too seemed to just be sleeping now. Ron let out a breath he hadn't know he's been holding when Poppy passed along this news.
As they sat waiting Ron filled them in on what had happened, that it was Antonin Dolohov's son and wife that had started all of this. "Revenge is a powerful motivator" Moody said
Kingsley took down what he could and left to return to headquarters, asking to be notified if there was any change.
Harry was the first to move. Just his hand, first one twitch and then a second. Ron looked up when he saw Harry's head move slightly to the side and his eyes begin to open. "Hello, mate" Ron said softly, not able to hold back a grin. Harry seemed confused at first and then his eyes landed on Hermione sleeping quietly in Ron's arms.
"Mione..."Harry struggled to sit up but didn't have the strength
"She's ok mate. Promise. She's just resting." Ron assured him "How do you feel?"
"She's really ok?" Harry asked, visibly relaxing at Ron's nod. He fell back against the pillows before answering "I feel...good. Better than good...I feel...light. Like I've had this weight lifted off of me that I didn't even know was there."
Ron chuckled at this, he couldn't wait for Harry to learn what Hermione had managed to do. His scar was completely gone now, no trace that it had ever existed.
"What are you laughing at?" Harry asked suspiciously
"Just that you couldn't be more correct. But I think Hermione needs to be the one to tell you."
While they waited for Hermione to wake up Ron once again told the story of Antonin Dolohov Jr. Harry was shocked that the wife of a former Death Eather and her son would go to such lengths for revenge. Harry shook his head sadly "Thats two more deaths we can attribute to Voldemort."
Harry reached out to take Hermione's hand, wanting to be close to her even if she wasn't awake. They sat like that for a long while, grateful that they were together and in one piece.
Hermione was awake long before she opened her eyes. She awoke to the strong thud of Ron's heart beneath her cheek and the feel of Harry's warm, healthy hand softly stroking over hers and she was content in the knowledge that they had made it out alive and that her Cleansing spell had worked. When she had started it had taken her longer than she thought to rid Harry of the draught. By the time she had worked her way through that she had discovered that there was much more behind it. Traces of every dark spell that had ever been cast upon him and the largest of all, the killing curse that had given him his scar. She decided then and there that the greatest gift she could ever give him would be to truly and totally set him free and so she went to work erasing decades of damage. Voldemort's first curse had turned out to be the most difficult to work through made even more so by her fatigue but she plowed through and feeling the last vestige of his evilness fall away from Harry had almost brought her to tears if she hadn't been so exhausted.
Harry's voice broke her from her reverie "Wake up Sleeping Beauty." he said lightly, squeezing her hand as he did.
She smiled first and then opened her eyes to see Harry, whole and happy and grinning back at her. "Hi" she said softly and felt Ron pull her to him for a moment before releasing her and helping her sit up. As soon as she knew she wouldn't pass out again she launched herself at Harry, hearing Ron laugh as he got up and quietly stepped behind the curtain, allowing them to have a private reunion.
Harry did his best to catch the flying mass of Hermione that was headed his direction. Kisses and hugs and words swirled around them with Hermione sobbing so hard in relief he could hardly make out what she was saying. "I was so scared I had lost you" she said "You were dead. Did you know that? Actually dead. I had to try Harry. I had to. I couldn't lose you."
He pulled her closer "I thought I had lost you too. When I realized you were in that cellar and then the explosion...I've never been so scared in my life and that includes the final battle." he pressed more kisses to her hair before she lifted her face towards him. Suddenly she scrambled up his chest and hurriedly pushed dusty, sooty hair off his forehead and was touching where his scar was supposed to be.
"It's gone" she whispered in amazement "It's really gone."
"What's gone?" Harry asked
"Your scar. It's not there anymore....I didn't know it would do that..."she fell silent as her mind whirled and Harry sat shocked with the knowledge that the mark that had always defined him and had determined his destiny was now no longer.
"How is my scar not there anymore? What did you do?"
She looked at him shyly "I wasn't sure it would work but I had to try something. You were de..dead." choking on the word "The Draught of Regeneration is technically a dark potion so I thought I could try using the Cleansing spell to remove it from you. That was fairly easy, it probably only took me a couple of hours but then...I discovered that every dark spell that has ever hit you has left its mark on you and so I just kept going. The first one...the killing curse Voldemort gave you at Godric's Hollow, that was the worst of them. But when I felt that one fall away...it was beautiful Harry, thats the only word I have to describe it."
He was in awe of her. She had given him a gift that truly could never be matched. He was finally free of everything that had had a hold on him since he was a baby. He allowed himself that release and pulled her tight to him, burying his face in her neck and wept and laughed simultaneously. He had never been so happy before. Hermione just held him, she had always been the only one who truly saw Harry for who he was apart from his destiny and now she had given him that as a reality.
They stayed like that for a long time, neither of them wanting the moment to end and it wasn't until a very intrusive 'Ah-hem' was heard for the fourth time that they sat up. Ron had come back to join them, bringing word from Kingsley that Inspector Caige had been fired and an investigation into her conduct was underway. Also that two bodies had been discovered in the burned out ruins of the apothecary shop.
The trio sat in silence for a minute before Ron smacked his thighs with his hands and stood up quickly. "Well, I think we've all learned something very valuable here." he said, trying to sound serious.
"Oh, and whats that.?" Hermione asked playfully as Harry wrapped an arm around her waist and pulled her back towards him
"You my dear, are never again allowed to go to a conference half a world away!" He answered
"Here here!" Harry said, "I agree, I'm not letting you out of my sight again."
"Oh really. And I don't suppose I have any say in this. You two Neanderthal's have decided this for me have you." she said with mock seriousness
"Never again, Mione." Harry replied, turning her so that she now faced him and brought his hands up to cup her face "We were idiots for far too long and I can't lose you. Besides, we have years to make up for." he said before leaning forward and capturing her mouth with his.
Ron sighed and turned around waiting for them to finish grateful beyond words they were all ok. "Oy! You two! We talked about this!!" he yelled in their direction.
"Sorry Ron!" was all he received in return before he headed out of the room again, leaving the two of them to make up for lost time.