Author's Note: Sooooo sorry it's been so long guys. Thank you so much to everyone who has stuck with me for so long. I know this is short, and it hasn't been beta read, but something's better than nothing, right? I'm going to make a sincere effort to get back into the habit of writing regularly, instead of a ton at 3 in the morning. A preview of chapter 12 will go to the first reviewer who catches the hidden muggle movie reference in this chapter.
Chapter 11 Falling Apart
Hermione didn't make it up to Dumbledore's office until late Tuesday afternoon. Just as she had assumed, Dumbledore agreed that Ron should be fully informed. That night after dinner Ron, Hermione, and Harry all headed to the Room of Requirement. They had decided to go down early to get set up for the new training plan they had devised. Hermione had decided that nonverbal spells should be an important part of their lesson plan. It would give them the element of surprise and it would be useful for anything else that might come up, in which they would require stealth.
They spent the first hour practising nonverbal spells. The second hour was devoted to learning two new attack formations Ron and Harry had developed with help from plans Hermione outlined after reading one of Professor Snape's books. By the end of the meeting Hermione was feeling pretty good about their progress.
Harry, Hermione, and Ron were the only ones left when Hermione cleared her throat to get the boys' attention.
"What's up 'Mione?" Ron asked as he turned to face her.
"Well, Harry and I have something to tell you." All at once the Room of Requirement conjured up 3 big comfy looking chairs and everyone sat down, although Ron looked quite concerned. Hermione looked at Harry, who took his cue,
"Dumbledore thinks that it would be a good idea if I continued my Occlumency lessons."
"But Harry, Snape drove you bonkers…" Ron interjected, but Harry held up his hand and Ron shut up.
"Yes Ron, Professor Snape," Ron made a face, "and I didn't have much luck with Occlumency, but I'm not going to be learning it from him. I'll be learning it from Hermione."
"But she doesn't know how to…" Ron interrupted again, but Harry shot him a glare and Ron fell silent. Harry sighed, trying to keep his temper in check.
"You're right Ron she doesn't know it yet, but she's learning from Sn-, Professor Snape, and then she'll be teaching it to me. Harry searched Ron's face for any indication of how the rest of the conversation was going to go; it didn't look good.
"So you're both learning it. Is there nothing important enough in my head to need protecting? Oh sure, let's leave Ron to the Death Eaters and hope they don't crack him." Harry shot Hermione a worried look. He had not expected this.
As usual though, Hermione was three steps ahead,
"You'll only crack if you don't pay attention to what I'm going to teach you, you prat."
"Well isn't that just…wait, what?"
"Professor Dumbledore and I agreed that as long as I'm teaching one of you, I might as well teach the both of you." Harry shot her a concerned look which she tried to brush off with a smile, but Harry wasn't convinced.
"So I'm going to learn too?" Ron asked in awe. Hermione rolled her eyes,
"Well, ok then. Now what?"
"Harry and I, and now you, will meet here at noon on Sunday and we'll get you caught up."
"Alright, well then I'm off to the kitchen, anyone else?" Ron replied.
"We'll catch up Ron." Harry spoke up. Ron looked like he might argue, but Harry gave him a look that sent him out of the door.
After Ron left Hermione turned to Harry, waiting for the lecture, and Harry didn't disappoint.
"What are you thinking Hermione? Did you ever consider that you're taking on too much? You've got your thing with Snape—Professor Snape, and we've got the DA, and you're learning Occlumency too. It's too much Hermione."
"This from the Chosen One…the one who's supposed to kill Voldemort, the one who is also learning Occlumency, the one who is helping with the DA…"
"It's not the same Hermione, I've got to…"
"Got to? You've got to? Who says you've got to?"
"Well, if I don't finish him off, who will?"
"My point exactly."
"You're not making sense 'Mione."
"If I don't teach the DA who will? If I don't teach you and Ron Occlumency, who will? We're both the kind of people who feel as though we have an obligation to do absolutely everything we can to make certain that Voldemort doesn't win this war. We've both seen too much of the suffering to sit on the sidelines and observe." Hermione looked Harry in the eyes when she finished; daring him to argue. He nodded reluctantly.
"I guess I kind of knew that, but it's just so unfair, you…"
"Life's not fair Harry, if it was we wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place, now let's get up to the Tower before Ron gets more wrong ideas."
"I suppose, but it doesn't mean that you win, I still say you're taking on too much 'Mione."
"Says the pot, to the kettle. Come on Harry, I'm tired."
That night Hermione laid awake contemplating the future, trying to picture a life after the war; if there even was one. She fell into an uneasy sleep filled with familiar nightmares.
At five in the morning Hermione gave up on getting any more sleep. She felt like she hadn't slept at all. She dug out another of the books Professor Snape had lent her and took notes until she heard Ginny begin to stir. Her classes seemed to drag on forever and she was practically a zombie by dinner time. She hurried through her dinner so that she would be on time to Snape's….Professor Snape's brewing session. Now she knew she was tired.
She raised her hand and knocked on the classroom door. From the snappy tone of his "Enter!" Hermione knew this could be a very long night. They had come to the point where the preparation of the ingredients became very complicated and time consuming, so they were both busy preparing them. Hermione was moving unusually slow, trying to concentrate on not making any mistakes.
"I know it's a little more difficult, but surely it doesn't require such a glacial pace," Severus snarked after five minutes of very slow work.
"I'm sorry. I didn't sleep much last night." Hermione replied trying to increase her pace. She managed to do alright for the next half an hour until,
"Miss Granger, those are supposed to be cut lengthwise and scrapped out, not crushed!" Hermione looked down at the instructions, then at her hands. That's when the tears started.
"Longbottom can at least read!" Severus snarked.
"Well then perhaps you should have him be your assistant!"
"Perhaps I will." Severus cringed inwardly at how childish it sounded.
Hermione turned and headed for the door, slamming it as she left.
"Impertinent child…" Severus mumbled to himself. Hermione stormed to one of the empty classrooms on the fifth floor, shut the door and cast a silencing spell. She sat on the stone floor as the tears racked her body. In the 7th floor boys dormitory Harry sat alone watching the Marauder's Map. When he saw Hermione's dot leave the Dungeons in a hurry he followed her. When she stopped in the abandon classroom he muttered,
"Mischief managed," and tucked the map back in his pocket.
He reached the classroom, looked around to make sure no one was coming, and quietly opened the door. Hermione was on the floor with her knees drawn up to her chest, sobbing.
"Hi Harry." She said without looking up.
"How'd you know it was me?" Harry asked.
"Are you ok?"
"Can I fix it?"
"I don't think anyone can fix it, I'm not sure its just one thing, its everything. It's all starting to overlap and, argh…"
"I see." Harry said, understanding exactly where she was coming from.
"I'm supposed to be the reasonable one, not the one that runs crying out of the room after making a mistake."
"Well as long as you don't decide to spend the rest of eternity in an S-Bend. I think you'll make a full recovery." That made Hermione smile. She glanced up at the clock in the classroom.
"Its only 9? I'd better get back and apologise to Professor Snape."
"You don't need to Hermione." Harry tried, although he knew it was useless.
"I know, but I think I should."
"Alright. I'll be in the Common Room when you get back." He replied trying to be supportive.
"Thanks." Hermione replied standing up slowly and heading for the door.
Hermione approached the door, pushed back her second thoughts, and opened the door without knocking. Severus looked up from chopping for a moment and then continued without a word. Hermione gathered all of her Gryffindor courage, marched to the table, and looked over his shoulder to find out where he was. She found it quickly and fell back into step with him.
After a solid twenty minutes of silent work Hermione said in a very small voice,
"I'm sorry Severus."
"I know." Came his equally quiet reply. Ten more minutes of silence followed until Severus spoke again, so faintly that Hermione should not have been able to hear it, "as am I." She almost sliced her hand open, but managed to recover without making a mistake. When they were done for the evening Hermione left as quietly as she had entered. As promised Harry was in the Common Room waiting for her. The room was not empty, but Ron was conspicuously absent. Upon seeing Hermione's look of surprise Harry answered her asked question,
"I sent him to bed." Hermione smiled wondering how he'd managed it.
"Thanks for earlier Harry; I'm sorry I fell apart." Harry smiled conspiratorially and replied,
"It happens to the best of us." Hermione laughed out loud. Her face flushed as a few heads turned in her direction.
"I think I've had enough excitement for one day, so I'm off to bed."
"All right, you know where I'll be, if you change your mind."