Hermione Granger woke at her regular time of 6:00am. It made no difference that she was staying with Harry and Ron at the Dursley residence; she simply woke at the same time every day, regardless of her location. With a yawn, she tossed the covers from her body and padded into the bathroom down the hall. It had been her night to sleep in the bed, so she had to be careful not to step on Ron or Harry, who were leisurely spread out across the small floor.

She took a moment to survey her appearance in the mirror before turning on the hot water for the shower. She gave another involuntary yawn as she removed her long nightshirt and undergarments and stepped under the hot spray. Only another two weeks until Harry's birthday, she told herself. And then we can escape this place forever.

After a reasonable amount of time, Hermione shut off the water and wrapped a towel around her small frame. She frowned at the way her hair was already growing bushy and put that up in a towel as well. She gazed in the mirror one more time before heading back into the hallway and towards Harry's room.

Since it was only about 6:30, she had not expected to find Ron sitting up, eyes wide, staring at the door.

"Where did you go?" Ron asked in a harsh whisper.

Hermione arched a brow at him and indicated her state of dress with a hand. "In the shower, Ronald. Why?"

Ron's breathing slowed down considerably at her response. "You know exactly why, 'Mione. That piglet Dudley's had his eye on you since we got here. I was just …"

Hermione stifled her laughter with a hand. "Oh, honestly, Ron. You don't think I would have run off with him, do you?"

Ron muttered something under his breath before noticing her look and emitted a woe-is-me sigh, "No, 'Mione. I don't think you would have run off with him. I do think that he's going to try to make off with you though." He paused a moment before a lopsided grin crossed his face. "Especially if you're going to walk around the house like that."

She frowned a mock-frown at him and pulled the towel out of her hair, then sent it sailing in his direction. His grin only grew wider. "Plan on dressing any time today?"

She huffed at him then fished around in her trunk and pulled out some clothes to wear. Sending him a suitably nasty look, she stomped from the room. His faint laughter followed her down the hall.

After quickly changing and applying a few drying charms, Hermione walked back into the bedroom to see Ron in a pair of faded jeans and a Cannons t-shirt. At her questioning look he smiled, "What? You're up. I'm up. I'm hungry. You can cook. Looks like there's a problem and a solution, right, 'Mione?"

"You're awfully cheeky this morning, Ronald," she replied before turning and walking out of the room.

As she left, Ron had to admire her clothing selection. He was a bloke, but damn he could appreciate some of the clothes she wore. Today, since some crazy muggle on the television had said the night before that it was going to be hot, Hermione had chosen a pair of denim shorts that showed more thigh than he could have ever imagined, and a deep red halter top that his sister had given her. After a bit of time, he checked on Harry and headed down to the kitchen.

When he got there, Hermione had pulled her hair back into a ponytail and was bending over looking into the fridge. Don't stare at her bum, you git! Ron screamed at himself. You're going in the right direction but being randy surely won't help you win the girl.

"Like what you see?" Hermione asked, breaking him out of his reverie.

He spluttered until he heard her laugh. Then spluttered again when she told him that he was a better cook and she wanted eggs and kippers for breakfast.

She smiled with satisfaction as he got up and started cooking. She flicked her wrist and the coffee started brewing just as Harry came slumping down the stairs, still in his bed pants and a ratty t-shirt.

"Keep walking like that, mate, and I'll think you've turned into Krum," Ron smirked, purposely ignoring the look he received from Hermione.

"Shuddup," Harry yawned before plopping down at the table next to Hermione.

They all looked up to the window as an owl flew in, presented its leg to Hermione (from which she untied the Daily Prophet and paid the bird), and flew off again.

As Hermione read to herself, Ron resumed his usual habit of questioning her through it. "Anyone we know who died?" he asked.

"Yes," replied Hermione in a soft but calm voice.

Harry and Ron both snapped around to look at her. Please don't let it be someone we're all close with, Harry silently begged. Maybe Snape or Malfoy …

"Who?" Ron asked with both interest and trepidation.

"My parents," Hermione calmly replied, turning the page to continue with the story as if she had said something normal. She's too calm, Ron thought.

Harry and Ron exchanged looks as they turned their attention back on the bushy haired girl at the table. "'Mione? Are you okay?" Ron asked slowly. Dumb question, git, he hollered at himself.

Her head snapped up and she stared him in the eye. "Fine." After a moment, she offered him and then Harry a slight smile before asking, "Breakfast almost done, Ron?"

Before he could reply, Dudley came pounding down the stairs thinking his mother was cooking breakfast. "Mummy! Mummy! I don't want e-," he started before seeing Ron in front of the stove and Harry and Hermione at the table. "What are you doing up so early?"

Harry frowned at Dudley and then pointed to Hermione. "Early riser, that one. Couldn't sleep, I reckon."

Dudley then turned his fat face on Hermione and smiled broadly. "I'm up early every morning. Sometimes I fancy going for walks." At this, Harry arched a brow towards Ron, a large smile splitting his face. "Fancy taking one with me right now?"

Hermione slowly put down the newspaper and, as she did, Ron started to notice the warning signs. It's like a slow motion train wreck, Ron thought.

"Let me ask you something, Dudley. Have you ever heard of Michael and Emily Granger?" She didn't wait for an answer. "No? Well, I have. And so have Harry and Ron. See, they were my parents. Did you catch that, Dudley? I said the WERE my parents. They were killed last night," she continued, a wild look in her eyes. "They were killed by the man … thing … that is going to come after you as soon and Harry leaves. You know why!" she screamed, again not giving him time to answer. "Because you're related to Harry's mum! Because you're muggles! Because Harry spent the first seventeen years of his life here!" She was breathing deeply now, but no one made a move to stop her rampage. "He killed my parents, Dudley! He killed them last night! He didn't care that I wasn't home and that we hadn't been in contact in weeks! He killed them because he could! And now I don't have a family!" she screamed in anguish. "What would you do if it had been your mum and dad, Dudley! Would you …" she panted, "fancy …" she grabbed the candle holder off the table, "a walk with someone you despise!" she screeched, hurling the silver decoration at Dudley's head. "Would you!" she continued, next hurling its mate.

Ron needed no more provocation. He dropped everything and rushed towards her, wrapping his arms around her. It was both a hug and a method of restraint. She punched back at him, but his grip tightened and her arms were suddenly trapped against his chest. "'Mione, you have to calm down," he whispered softly into her head. "Please calm down."

After a moment of slight struggle, she fell limp against him and started crying, her tiny hands clenching his shirt. "They're dead," she cried in anguish. "My parents are dead."

"I know, 'Mione. And I'm sorry. We'll work it all out … just calm down. I'm right here." He attempted to release her, but she grabbed him tighter. "Okay, okay. Shh. We'll take care of everything."