Warning: This one-shot does contain some graphic details.
This is AU in March during Half-Blood Prince.
He sat in the dark musty rooms of his master's headquarters. He was angrier than he had ever been before.
He had spent months in Azkaban, sitting in dampness and squalor. They gave him little food, and the dementors sucked out any hope of rescue he might have had. Finally he had been rescued, but only because his master was having trouble recruiting more followers.
It was her fault. He had defeated the Prewett twins in a duel to the death, but one teenage Mudblood had destroyed his reputation.
If he was honest with himself, it hadn't just been her. But he was never a fan of honesty.
She silenced him, preventing him from calling the others. She had survived a curse that had been the one to murder Fabian Prewett. And she had made a mockery of him.
Indeed, Bellatrix's insane laughter grated on his nerves whenever he saw her. "You couldn't even kill a poor 'ittle Mudblood girl!" she'd taunt.
He'd show them. The Mudblood would die by his hand, but first she would regret ever having entered this world.
His insane cackle echoed through the halls of the house, but no one paid him any attention, they had all succumbed to madness and such sounds were common.
- - -
Hermione sat in the Great Hall eating lunch and reading her latest letter from Charlie. It was three days old, and already she had had to cast repairing charms on it where the parchment had worn thin from refolding.
I miss you, and I hope you are keeping safe.
Ira finally caught the poachers. They were junior Death Eater recruits, and have been imprisoned in the Romanian National Prison for Magic. The Minister of Magic was furious, and has sentenced them to life. The dragons are an important part of Romania's magical culture, and this sort of sentence is not uncommon here.
Also, we were allowed to question them under Veritaserum before they were taken away. One of them mentioned the Death Eaters who recently escaped from Azkaban. Apparently one of them is after revenge. I'm worried because they said it was Dolohov, the one who cursed you. They said he wanted revenge against a teenage Muggleborn girl. The only Muggleborn at the Ministry that night was you.
Please be extra careful right now. I have already spoken to the old crowd about getting some protection for your family.
I really miss you, and can hardly wait until summer.
Hermione had of course responded right away, and even shared the information about Dolohov with Harry and Ginny. Because of this, she had hardly any privacy anymore.
Harry stuck to her side like glue because he was worried that some of the Slytherins would attack her.
All of this hadn't been helping Hermione's nightmares, and she could only take the Dreamless Sleep potion once a week or she'd become addicted.
- - -
Charlie stepped out of the fireplace at Grimmauld Place for yet another boring Order meeting. Really there wasn't much going on right now that he needed to be there for, but Dumbledore insisted that everyone show up.
He sighed and collapsed wearily into one of the kitchen chairs, making it creak ominously.
"Charlie, dear, are you alright?" his mother asked.
"Yeah, Mum, just tired," he muttered as his eyes drifted shut. "Izben a long week," he yawned then began to drift off.
He was woken up ten minutes later when the meeting started.
As expected, the meeting was more boring than one of Dolores Umbridge's defense classes.
He was just about to leave when Mundungus Fletcher apparated into the back yard and ran into the house.
"Grangers…" he gasped out, "under…gasp…attack!"
Mundungus had been assigned watch duty for the Granger residence tonight as he was the least needed Order member.
People began to panic until Dumbledore suddenly bellowed, "SILENCE!"
"Arthur, you are in charge of Team A. Mad-Eye is in charge of Team B." Dumbledore continued, "Team A is Bill, Tonks, Dedalus, and Mundungus. Team B is Charlie, Remus, Hestia, Fleur, and Kingsley."
Arthur turned to his group. "We apparate to the alley between numbers 17 and 19 Herring Drive. It's a block to the Granger's house from there."
"An' we're going directly to the Granger's front yard," Mad-Eye said gruffly.
A minute later, Charlie was standing on the front lawn of Hermione's childhood home. He could hear her mother's screams coming from inside.
Mad-Eye led the way as the team burst through the front door, and began to hurry to where the screams were coming from.
Mad-Eye threw open the library door, and sent a barrage of curses toward the ten dark figures that stood over the two Grangers.
Charlie was one of the first to enter behind the ex-Auror.
He cast spells as fast as lightning. Stupefy, Protego, dodge, Expelliarmus, Incarcerous, dive, Incendio, Protego, Reducto, duck and roll, Expelliarmus, Protego Maximus.
They could hear the other team entering the back door. Several of the Death Eaters took advantage of the Order members' temporary distraction by apparating out.
Arthur led the second team upstairs to make sure no one was hiding out.
"One was up here, but he got away!" Arthur yelled.
The whole house was silent except for the gasps of pain coming from the Grangers.
Charlie dashed to their sides and began to cast as many healing spells as he could on Richard, who was unconscious, while Fleur was working on Jane.
Inside, Charlie was panicking. There was so much blood on the ground; obviously, whoever had been torturing Richard was overly fond of cutting curses.
Jane was moaning loudly, but not saying anything.
Then, Fleur suddenly started cursing in French.
But Charlie didn't bother to ask why; he was still trying to heal the numerous cuts on Richard's body.
Richard's eyes suddenly flew open.
"Mr. Granger," Charlie said, keeping his voice steady, "I'm healing you. You're going to be okay."
Richard looked up at him and managed to gasp out, "No, I'm not."
Charlie paled. "Don't talk like that!" he ordered. "You're going to be fine."
Richard shook his head. "Lost too much blood," he rasped.
"Promise me something." He grabbed the younger man's wrist and squeezed tightly.
"Anything," Charlie said.
"Take care of my little girl. Take care of Hermione for me," Mr. Granger whispered, "since I can't anymore."
"I promise," Charlie said solemnly.
Richard sighed in relief, and a minute later, died.
Charlie sat by the body in shock until his dad pressed a hand to his shoulder.
"Charlie," Arthur said, "There's something you need to see upstairs."
He rose to his feet and followed his father upstairs, still in shock. The two men entered a room with purple walls that could only have been Hermione's.
Charlie took one look at where his father was pointing, and dashed across the hall to the bathroom, where he promptly threw up.
On one wall, written in a dark red liquid that Arthur tested and determined to be Richard's blood was the following message…
You're next Mudblood!
- - -
Three hours later, an exhausted Hermione was woken up.
"Miss Granger, I need you to come with me to the Headmaster's office," Professor McGonagall said, an even more serious than normal look on her face.
"Is it Harry?" Hermione asked worriedly as she pulled on her bathrobe.
"Just come with me," the professor said, not answering the question.
Hermione stepped into her blue fuzzy slippers that had been a gift from Luna for her last birthday, and followed her Head of House out through the portrait and down the corridor.
It was a silent trip except for the sounds of some portraits muttering, and someone's lost toad's croaking.
The first words Professor McGonagall said after leaving the dormitory was, "Andes Mints," to the gargoyle outside of Dumbledore's office.
Hermione stepped onto the stairs behind the professor. McGonagall didn't bother to knock on the door; they just walked right on in.
The first thing Hermione saw when she entered the office was Charlie, standing by the fireplace.
Normally this would have pleased her, but the look on his face scared her.
"C-Charlie? What's going on?" she stammered, walking toward him.
He suddenly hugged her tightly.
"Charlie?" Hermione asked again.
"There was an attack," he said thickly, through his tears.
"On who?" she asked, though she already suspected the answer.
"Your parents," he said.
Hermione began to cry. "What happened? Are they okay?"
Charlie maneuvered them over to the nearest chair, and he sat down, tugging her onto his lap. "Your…your mum," he stuttered, "is in St. Mungos. It's serious."
She pressed her face against his neck as she continued crying. "How serious?"
"She's…well…the Death Eaters used the Cruciatus Curse on her…"
Hermione interrupted him. "She's like the Longbottoms now, isn't she?"
"Yes," he said in little more than a whisper.
She barely managed to say, "And my dad?" She stared up into his eyes.
"I'm sorry, Love. I tried everything I could think of, but he lost too much blood," Charlie said, unable to tear his eyes away from hers.
The professors both looked somewhat uncomfortable as Hermione sobbed somewhat hysterically on Charlie's shoulder for the next hour.
"What am I going to do?" was the first thing she asked when she had run out of tears.
Charlie gently kissed her, and pressed his cheek against the top of her head. "I'm going to take care of you," he said, remembering his promise.
- - -
Charlie kept his promise and held Hermione's hand during the funeral. He gave her his handkerchief when she started to cry again. And when they were at the wake, he served her some food and punch so she didn't have to get up. He also helped by talking to her parents' friends and business associates. Hermione just didn't feel up to telling everyone the story the Order had come up with to explain her mother's insanity and her father's death.
Charlie wound up having to explain to ten (self-proclaimed) concerned friends that Jane was in a private care facility and was not expected to recover.
These same 'friends' also said things like: "Where is Hermione going to go? We have plenty of room for her to stay with us. It would save her money. How much did she inherit anyway?"
It was a good thing he was handling it too, because Hermione was getting more and more angry at those people as the day went on.
It was rather well known that Jane was the only child of a very wealthy businessman, who owned the Sparkle Toothpaste Company. He had died when Hermione was a year old and left everything to be split equally between her and her mother. In addition, the Granger library was known for being worth a small fortune as it contained some very rare first editions.
- - -
That night, Hermione put on her baggiest flannel pajamas (red plaid), and curled up on her musty smelling bed at Grimmauld Place and cried. She was the only Granger left now.
Knock, Knock, Knock.
Hermione wiped her tears away and crawled out of bed to shuffle to the door. She opened it a crack and saw…
"Charlie," she breathed out, and opening the door wider, suddenly hugged him tightly and began to cry again.
"Oh, Mya," he murmured against her hair. He leaned over just a bit and suddenly swung her into his arms, and carried her to the bed. He gently placed her down, and climbed in next to her, covering them both with the heavy damask comforter. Hermione snuggled close to his side, using his chest as a pillow like she had in Romania.
He'd had a feeling that she'd need him tonight.
"I miss them so much," Hermione said through her tears. "They didn't deserve that. It's all my fault," she gasped out. "If I weren't a witch…"
"They would have been in just as much danger because they were Muggles. The truth is that you simply being a witch, and a powerful one at that, were a strong deterrent to anyone who might have attacked them." Charlie sighed. "The truth is, you might have extended their lives simply by being who and what you are. What ifs are useless, they just make you more miserable, and your parents wanted you to be happy. I know it's hard to be happy after losing someone you love; I cried for weeks when my Grandma died. But you need to try, for their sakes."
Hermione tilted her head back so she could look up into his face. "I know you're right, but it hurts so much."
"I know, Love," Charlie said. He tugged her up on his chest a bit, and kissed her softly on the lips. "I know."
Hermione suddenly began to talk about her childhood, and at long last, around four a.m., she fell asleep.
Charlie drifted off moments after she did, but not before promising himself that someday he would see Dolohov dead for what he had done to Hermione.
Sorry it took so long to post this. I was having trouble getting it to come out right. I realize the themes are a little darker than what I usually write, but the truth is that in any relationship hard times are going to come, and it's how you deal with the hard times that shows what kind of a person you are. There is a reason that wedding vows traditionally include the line "For Better or For Worse". Charlie's vow at the end may seem off for the way I have portrayed him in the previous parts of this story, but ninety percent of all the men I know (no matter how gentle-natured) react violently when someone hurts the women in their lives.
Please Review. And also, please take part in the poll I just posted on my page. Thanks.
Congratulations to Gryffindor for winning the Summer House Cup.