A/N: Thank you to my beta! For her efforts to do this quickly despite her horrible schedule!

I own nothing but my fingers :D

WARNING: Some heterosexual content, not too descriptive, within the first few paragraphs.

BTW: I started a forum for this story located here: (full fanfiction net addy here)/myforums/Apatija/1753679/ or just click on it on my profile and hop on by (seriously annoying how they wont let you link things, even their own links). I just thought that since it's a mystery, you guys might have fun talking amongst one another about it -shrug- Im learning as I go along... so bear with me if I dont mod it very well lol Hope you enjoy :) Sorry for editing this chapter so frequently lol (had to add this bit in)


Ron died last night.

There was a dull, persistent humming in her ears. She couldn't quite pinpoint its origins but was fairly certain it came from within her. It wasn't very loud but she seemed barely able to hear anything from the outside. All she could do was stare helplessly at her mother's haggard face. The creases were deeper and new worry lines had appeared. Hermione had never remembered her mother's hair being so grey. Her mouth was moving but no sound came out, just the humming.

Ron died last night.

It was a strange sensation, numb and half alert to the environment. Something squeezed her hand hard enough to register in her mind. Her father was holding her hand and looking at her strangely. He looked sad.

Ron died last night.

It almost felt… good. Very little thinking involved. And she did far too much thinking, worked herself up into attacks of anxiety. Sometimes she wished she did as little thinking as others. Then she could relax. Only it didn't quite feel relaxing. It was just an absence. An absence of feeling.

Ron…

She briefly wondered where they were going. The world was white and although things appeared vaguely familiar, she couldn't focus in on any details. Everything was blurry and odd. The strange humming hadn't gone away and she had an unnerving notion that the humming was trying to tell her something important, something to clarify the situation and for some reason she shied away from it. The ever curious Hermione Granger shied away from information. It almost made her smile. Her father gave her a weird look.

Ron…

More people talked to her, touched her, hugged her but she still couldn't quite make out what was being said. She clung to her mother, never straying from her presence. This neediness was not something her mother normally allowed or encouraged, pressuring Hermione to cheer up the last few months, but apparently Hermione got some sort of reprieve that day.

Whole parts of the day were rendered a useless jumble in her mind, a muddled cacophony of images and sounds. In a brief moment of clarity she was surprised to find herself in her own bedroom. Her mother was dressing her for bed. The window was open and the room cold.

Her mother said some things, looking very worried. With what was an unnatural amount of effort, she managed to nod her head a little, not quite sure what she had responded to. But her mother seemed a bit more comfortable. The window was closed and the curtains drawn. Hermione was carefully placed into bed by her mother, who left her a glass of water by the bed. The chamber pot was out in the open, looking quite clean.

I threw up in that… I think.

Her mother kissed her forehead and seemed conflicted about something. She decided to cast her daughter an anxious smile before blowing out the last candle and closing the door shut.

Finally, in the dark of the night when the protective spells were up, Hermione burst into tears. Hot tears that made her eyes burn and itch, her throat dry yet somehow thick with phlegm, she sobbed. Her body curled up on the fetal position as her mind raged at the world and all that was in it. The numbness had lifted but her mind was no clearer. In place of the dizzying mist that had clouded her mind all day, a furious blinding storm. She felt sick. She was angry.

I always obey the rules. I always do what I'm told. I follow the lines, I don't indulge, I back down, and I bend to the wills of others. I can't do anything because of Diagon. I can't do anything because of Them. I couldn't do anything to help Ron and so he got drunk and killed himself. Dead. Dead. Dead. Dead. DEAD. ALWAYS DEAD ALWAYS FUCKING DEAD.

Want to do everything can't do a damn thing.

Memories of Ron flashed through her mind as she squeezed herself tight on the bed. She had feared the monsters, she had been curious of Them, and she had even been in awe of Them. Now she hated Them.

If They didn't exist then we could be living anywhere we wanted to. If They didn't exist Ron would be alive. If They didn't exist life would be different. If They didn't exist I wouldn't be here sobbing and I wouldn't care about being in this room and maybe I could see the moon again and maybe I could see… so much more. If They didn't exist.

But They did exist and Hermione was tired of Them. Ron was dead. But then, he had been dead for a while. Hermione had been barely holding onto life herself.

For the past few months she had been miserable. She had never felt so strangely in her life. All the energy had been sucked out of her, she slept more and her school marks had dropped badly. People had nodded their heads, all-knowing, Hermione Granger was just a girl, and the high grades were only a phase. Her head hurt all the time and nothing made sense anymore.

There were times when she could barely get up out of bed. She would break out in silent tears randomly throughout the day then go months without a single reaction. She didn't want to do anything. Every small detail in her life was a huge obstacle. She didn't care what people said or thought of her. The forest was barely worth a glance. She slept with Ron.

She slept with Ron. When it happened, she hardly registered it. It didn't even seem so scandalous anymore. Nothing mattered. Countless times holding Ron and listening to him cry or just ramble, she had hardly noticed anything. Her own mind was frayed and tired. Tired of the village. Tired of him. But he was the only one for her. No one else in the village was anything close to a friend. Ron wasn't just a friend. He wanted more of her. Something she thought no one would ever want. That queer Hermione Granger would never find a boyfriend, they thought.

They were sitting on the grass by the forest, no one around there as only Hermione would be foolish enough and Ron drunk enough, to sit so close. He had been drunkenly ranting. Nothing new or unknown to her. But for the first time he was openly sobbing in front of her.

To her shame, she only felt disgusted with him, not affectionate or understanding. She was tired of his self absorbed ravings, as if he was the first person in the village to lose family to Them. And she had her own problems to deal with. All she wanted was to slap him hard across the face. Beat the bullshit out of him.

It was surreal, she could barely hear him rambling on about Bill and his family. His face scrunched up and red as the tears poured from his eyes and all she could think about was how much she wanted to be elsewhere. Anywhere. So far far away.

He fell into her, gasping for breath and she held him reflexively, eyes unfocused as she stared off into the distance, into the forest. The trees were beautiful. A mosaic of colour, playfully rustling in the wind.

She felt his lips on her neck, doing something odd. She didn't particularly like it. But she loved the trees.

Hermione wondered how fast They could run. Perhaps if she created the right spell, she might be able to outrun them. Run through the forest and straight out into the world, leaving those creatures, with their gaping maws, staring at her in shock. The whole village would be shocked that Hermione Granger had outsmarted them all, just as she had always believed she could.

As he fumbled with her breast she realized quite quickly what his intentions were. She was almost offended that he would try such a thing with her. But she also didn't care anymore. She hardly cared about anything. And no one cared about her.

It was true, her school grades were bad but no one seemed to care. It even comforted them. No one tried to help her, ask her what was wrong, what had happened to a promising young mind. She was certain they would have gone ballistic if Harry's grades went down. Oh yes, his marks had gone up and he was proving himself quite motivated. There was already talk of him joining the teams searching for magic to kill Them or find a way out. But Hermione losing ground in school? Was only a matter of time.

Everyone sickened her. Her own mother seemed pleased that she was finally becoming a woman. Teaching her to sew and cook. Her upper lip curled as Ron continued fumbling around her. He hesitated briefly before nudging her onto her back.

She wondered if it would kill his enthusiasm if she mentioned the fantasies. Drowning herself in a well. Jumping from a roof. Or her favourite: waltzing into the forest.

She didn't want to sleep with him. Didn't even want to touch him. But then she would have to deal with the stupidity of all his whining. She wondered if he would stop seeing her over it. Then she would have to pretend to want a new beau. Her mother would go insane if she didn't find one. She recalled her mother's relief when she met Ron. No other man would want her. And maybe she would gain a child from him… then he would have to stay with her. Of course then she'd have to care for the child… maybe a baby would give her some purpose beyond existing. She wasn't entirely sure but she couldn't bring herself to worry or think too much on it.

Ron was struggling with her skirt. When he finally got them off he got on top of her. She gave up and gave in. Too much thinking, far too much thinking her whole life. As he started doing things… her mind went away. It only lasted a few minutes. She felt dirty and tired; Ron looked confused for a moment before passing out. She got up, dressed and kicked him hard in the ribs. He woke up startled and she told him to go home. It would be nightfall and she was leaving. She left without another glance. After that she made sure she regularly bought potions from Parvati to keep a baby from happening. She never asked how the girl got them. It was a disappointing first time. But then Hermione could never recall a first experience that wasn't disappointing.

He used to talk to her, ask her questions and actually listen to her. Oh, he could be as stupid as the other villagers sometimes but he was a good man, always polite and honest. At least, he used to be that man. Then Bill died and Ron picked up the drink. Her only effort to stop him was not actively providing him with drink. She had briefly wondered if she could try it but then seeing him… changed her mind permanently. He was repulsive, weak, and pitiful.

She felt guilty. Why? Because a part of her rejoiced to hear he was dead. His incessant wailing and embarrassing her in public. She stood out enough without him behaving like a drunken idiot. No more days of dreading his presence, of having to let him touch her, of pretending to care. But it shouldn't be that way. It didn't have to be. But for Them.

Them.

Always Them. She wanted Them dead. It drove her insane that They did these things to people and nothing happened to Them. Nothing! Nothing fazed Them. All the efforts of the village and nothing changed. Except for the people affected.

It was enough to drive one insane. A hidden tormentor, harassing you at all hours of the day, mocking you and you can't do a damn thing. Everything could have been different if it wasn't for Them.

She wasn't crying just because of guilt. She cried because she mourned for the people she and Ron could have become. The people everyone in the village could have become.

But what could she do? She knew as little of Them as the villagers. And her only possible ally was a coward, clinging to weird, half torn stories written by a poisoned old man. Aberforth Dumbledore was useless. She didn't know what to make of that letter. For months she had tried to ignore, understand, and discredit it all at once.

She looked out into the darkness of her room, eyes puffy to the point of hurting. Things needed to change. She couldn't live like that anymore. She was done waiting for others to accomplish things and she wasn't half as scared as she used to be. The question of 'why' was no longer of importance. Why They did what They did, why They could kill with such remorseless ease, why They killed without discrimination. It did not matter! The heart of the matter, the important point that she kept forgetting as she fantasized about saving the village, was that They wanted everyone dead. There was no reconciliation. She had done nothing to Them. A hapless girl staring out into the forest and wishing for freedom but doing nothing.

Hermione dug deeply into herself and wrapped the numbness around her once more. She would need it to muffle the fear. Ron was dead, that was Their fault. She barely cared, and that was Their fault. It was time something happened to Them. It didn't matter if all she managed was a slight scratch, or giving Them a headache with her screaming. Some consequence had to happen. It was the law of nature.

She stood up in the dark and walked to her window, finger tips gently caressing the fabric of the curtain. Memories of lust flashed through her mind. Ron must have died while… she shuddered. It didn't matter anymore. What was important, was figuring out what she wanted to do.

Perhaps Dumbledore could help her? She bit her bottom lip, hands still teasing the curtain as she considered him. The chances were slim that he could offer her any help, let alone want to. He had tried talking to her frequently since they met but she avoided him, not wanting to be associated with him in addition to a drunken redhead. Besides, he was quite adamant about her doing precisely the opposite of what she planned to do. He wanted her to stay away from the forest. No. It was too late for that. The forest would always be with her. Staying away was futile and redundant. There was no way to avoid Them. The villagers could lie to themselves, hide inside their houses… but there was no avoidance. The creatures were always there, the primal fear in the heart of Diagon.

No, he would not help… but there might be a chance he would prove useful to her. People were scared of his house. He might not have felt the need to put barriers on it. She needed advanced magic and, now that the town was convinced she had finally become the idiot girl they expected of her, no one would offer her any. He had those letters from his brother in the house. Who knew what else he had hidden in there? It was risky, but the numbness was strong, an awful yet wonderful cloak that softened all emotion even fear.

Tomorrow she would begin watching him. Soon, she would be in his house, and(,) hopefully, leave with a book to use against Them. If nothing else she would be rummaging through an old fart's house for no reason and end up home with nothing. Then she'd have to come up with another plan, somehow.

She had failed Ron, but he did not die for nothing. She would make sure of that. There would be consequences.

*****

It had been a week. For all the mystique and fear surrounding the old man, he didn't appear to know she was watching him. But watch him she did, even going so far as to take notes on his daily habits. His habits were boring but patterned. The majority of his day was spent squatting on his porch and smoking a pipe. But he did go out for groceries from time to time and would be out for a few hours, stopping by pubs.

It was difficult, finding a reason to stand in the bitter cold of winter for hours on end. She lied to her parents, pretended she went to the library all day. Neither questioned her as she always tended to go to the library when she needed comfort. It was too uncomfortable for her family to talk about Ron.

People were irritating her, offering condolences and sad stories of the past. Some were tactless enough to gossip about Ron's drinking in the process. They all had some anecdote to give her. It had never really occurred to her she would receive so much attention. It made watching Dumbledore more difficult. She had a powerful urge to do something obscene in the middle of their stories, though she wasn't sure just what, or why.

Her mother allowed her some time to herself. She didn't have to go to school for that week. She got the feeling her parents were worried about her. But she didn't have time for that. Today was the day.

She was lurking behind one of the other houses as she waited for him to leave. Dumbledore got out of the house carrying a couple of empty sacks for the produce. Hermione watched him lock the door and mutter a few spells. This had been an issue in her plan but she eavesdropped and learned the counter spell.

As he made his way toward the village centre her nerves came to life. If she was caught, she had no idea what would happen. She didn't know Dumbledore as a man so she couldn't predict his reaction. At best he might punish her personally. At worst he would tell the village and she would be publically humiliated, probably thought to be crazy and her mother would never allow her outside the house without supervision. She didn't dare think it outright but she strongly suspected there was no way she would allow herself to live that way.

The numbness was no longer as strong and for a minute her resolve faltered.

No! Not now. Not this close. There is nothing for me if I turn back.

She let go of her clenched fist, unaware of the deep red marks she left in her palm, and carefully made her way to his house.

No one was nearby, not surprising as people were afraid of him. She quickly pulled out her chalk and with a practiced hand traced a set of runes on the doorway. Hermione almost smiled to herself. Her grades may have suffered but her talents didn't. It took her only one day to practice the runes, and they were Master level.

A drop of blood and the door was open.

She swallowed hard and walked in, closing the door behind her. All the strange smells hit her and for a moment she was brought back to the day she sat there trying to eat bread and talk to Dumbledore, listening to odd tales from a letter. She shook her head and drew her robes tight around her.

The process was slow and unpleasant. She knew she wanted to start in the kitchen, because it was the place most would least expect to find texts, especially forbidden ones. It was risky but she carefully snooped around the house trying not to disturb too much of his belongings; it was possible that somehow this mess made sense to him and he would notice any changes.

"Ah—!" She stifled a scream when a warm thing brushed up against her leg. Asha looked up at her from the floor, rolling onto her back and exposing her slightly white belly.

"Stupid cat…" she muttered, quickly leaning down to rub Asha's stomach before proceeding to the hallway. The cat mewed in protest but she ignored her.

So far she failed to find anything. She had even checked his basement, located under a carpet in the living room/kitchen. It was dingy and extremely dusty. She couldn't locate the broken wall that Dumbledore said had the letter. If he was an excellent spell caster this would have all been useless. What was she to do if he charmed areas of the house to protect his books? And what if he had no books in the first place? Just as the villagers incorrectly assumed Hermione was strange and dangerous, they also might have been wrong about Dumbledore. Just a simple old man living alone with a cat.

But she couldn't think about that yet, there was still one room left to search. His bedroom. She cringed at what she was about to do. It was wrong on so many levels. Entering an old man's private quarters with or without his permission… not to mention the disaster she was sure his bedroom would be, after the nastiness that was his house.

And so, it was with great trepidation that she opened the door to Aberforth Dumbledore's private sleeping quarters – only to be puzzled. She could barely see inside, side stepping to allow the natural light in the hallway to seep into the room. It was nothing like she had imagined. In fact, it hardly looked lived in. It was almost creepy.

There was a small bed in the corner and a chair in the centre of the room. The darkness was thick, it was almost as if the light from outside was coaxed inside, only to be swallowed whole. Hermione paused, her right hand twitching nervously as she eyed the blackness. But it was too late for second thoughts. She was already there, had worked herself up to it and would go absolutely insane if she turned back then. Insane and homicidal. She could feel a pressure in her chest and knew it was the weight of Diagon's endless tense droning. A village constantly on the verge of death and going nowhere. Stagnant and barely alive, and it was going to swallow her whole if she went back. But the room was totally immersed in darkness. There was no person in Diagon brave in the darkness. Other than those who drank themselves to stupidity or lost their minds. Darkness was Their lair.

She turned abruptly and grabbed the nearest candlestick off a wall. Ever prepared, she had brought a match. The chalk and magic would have taken too long and left too much evidence.

With the lit candlestick ready, she carefully made her way into the bedroom. The darkness was nearly complete. She didn't understand it. The window was totally boarded up, yes, but why on earth would the darkness be so thick? The candle accomplished nothing, only ruining her night vision. Frustrated, she had the urge to tear down the boards on the window. But that would have been stupid, leaving a ridiculous mess so that she could do what? Look at his bed?

Hermione ran her fingers through her bushy locks, trying to calm herself down so she could think more clearly. She only had one chance at this and didn't want to lose it just because she got impatient and discouraged.

At first she made her way around the room with the candle, keeping it as close as she could without touching anything. It was the plainest room she had ever seen. There was literally only one bed and one chair. Was it possible that Dumbledore didn't sleep in his own bedroom? What the hell was the point of this room then?

Meow.

Hermione jerked with a squeak as Asha's warm furry body settled onto her foot. But then the candle fell to the floor, and the cat was of little concern to her.

It was pitch black. Did someone close the door? Suddenly it felt hot and stuffy. Hermione struggled to breathe, panic settling in her chest. Where was the cat? The candle? She fell to the floor, grasping blindly in the dark, desperate to grab the candle. But it was no longer there. Utterly ludicrous, but she managed to lose the damn candle in a room harboring only a chair and bed.

"A-Asha? Kitty?" The cat would have been a comfort at that point.

Her temples pounded frantically and her breaths became frantic panting. It was as if the room became smaller and the air was steadily leaving it. She felt far too hot, sweat beading all over her body. And she couldn't see! A sudden, irrational thought gripped her: What if somehow one of the creatures was in there with her? Maybe Aberforth was using one to guard his contraband? Haha, no, impossible. She realized her chest hurt. And she couldn't think properly, and the panic was increasing, but her eyes saw nothing. She could no longer tell if her eyes were open.

Hyperventilating and shaking, she realized this was no ordinary room. She was going to die. The air was not enough. She fell to her knees, nearly laughing at the absurdity. After all the terror and mental preparation, she would die before ever setting foot out into the night air. The laughter brought up tears and for a moment she could breathe better. And it was then that she realized she could breathe. Nothing was stopping her.

Her heart was still beating fast and she felt faint but she managed to force herself into a seated position. With her legs crossed she leaned forward and took control of her breathing, slowly recovering her senses. It was important to pretend that the darkness was normal. It wouldn't hurt her. If anything was going to hurt her it would have by then. But she would still be caught. Still caught and in horrific trouble. The people of Diagon would find her and she would seem like a lunatic! Her parents would never let her out of the house, or touch a piece of chalk.

In an instant she was gasping once more, nerves sparking wildly throughout her body. Her focus was escaping her and fear coursed through her veins. The villagers would find her and she would be forever lost. What was left of her deformed personality would be completely obliterated. Blackness pressed against her from all sides, almost physically manifesting itself. So hard to breathe.

Has to be a spell.

Her overactive mind fought to find somewhere grounded. Logic. She needed to use what used to be abundant in her arsenal. She needed to think. By forcing her thoughts away from the situation she would be able to recover her breathing. Last thing she needed was to pass out in Dumbledore's room.

She felt as if the earth was moving under her, she was falling without ever moving and her chest hurt.

"Alright!" she shouted, desperate to drown out the fear in her head. "Alright! Alright… I can't think clearly!" It was actually helping, talking slowly and clearly made the tension weaken slightly.

"This. Has. To. Be. A. Spell!" It was hard, talking and hyperventilating but she pushed forward, she needed to hear herself talk. Needed to know that there was a way out. So long as she could speak she could think about something else, something other than the moving darkness. And not knowing the difference between closing her eyes and opening them. And – "So all spells have effects! What is the effect here? Darkness…" she giggled, nearly gagging in the process.

"Darkness…. Useless to me right now."

Her heartbeat sped up and a wave of nausea struck her hard.

"Oh God…" she gasped "Can't breathe. Can't see. Can't move. Panicking… Panicking… Panic… Panic?"

Her mind grasped the thought in an iron grip, so tightly she stopped moving altogether. A revelation. She knew what to do. It was a panic curse, she couldn't be sure what variety as there were so many and she hadn't learned them all. But it was a panic curse! It wasn't some smothering curse. Ingenious! Dumbledore found the perfect way to immobilize intruders without physically harming them…

He must have some fantastic spells hidden away.

And there it was, her resolve was back. In the darkness, with panic surrounding her, she erected powerful mental barriers. Time for change. No more self doubt. No spell would stop her. All her stupid insecurities would be put on hold. Her whole life had whittled down to this one goal. Hermione Granger would get the hell out of there with at least one new piece of information.

She frowned at the darkness. Perhaps it was another feature of the spells but she could swear there were faint outlines on the wall. Tentatively, she got up to a crouch and waddled over to the wall by the bed. It looked like a door, no more than three feet tall and wide, the edges dimly lit by some blue coloured light. She carefully fingered one of the edges and was surprised to find the door easily slid open, revealing an illuminated hidden compartment.")

"Oh!"

There were books. Two of them. And some other papers and pictures. This had to be some safe of his. Whatever spell had been attacking her was gone. It was an odd but fascinating spell that must have been quite complicated, maybe Dumbledore wasn't completely useless after all. Hermione paused with her hand over the texts, wondering if they might be jinxed. It was unlikely, since jinx spells were so ridiculously difficult to control, but considering the hidden compartment, she had to play it safe. She brought out the chalk and a scrap piece of paper she held onto in case of emergencies. Hermione completed a series of complex spells testing the safe. She used as little blood as possible, weary of the remnants of dry blood interfering with the spell she needed to use to grab information from the texts.

Everything appeared clean. She stared at the books. There was only one other test. A final test. She had to touch the books. It would either kill her or it wouldn't. She had no choice. What a way to die, she thought, only a few steps away from her goal. Although she didn't have the time to waste, she couldn't help but sit there and stare at the texts. She couldn't move. It just seemed so pointless to die now. But would Dumbledore have something so dangerous he would kill another to stop them? She had many false starts, hand reaching out before dropping to her lap. In the end she couldn't bear it anymore. She could not go back empty handed.

Her hand shook but she slowly reached into the compartment and hovered over the books. She shifted so she could get up more quickly, in case of an explosion. She inched closer and closer until her hand finally rested on the cover. She waited. Nothing. Hermione tried opening the book. There was a loud crackling as the old book opened up but nothing happened.

She didn't understand. He set up some spell to make her pass out and that was it? Disappointment burned in her chest. His only spell was to make her pass out? Doubt plagued her mind. There was nothing in those texts, just a paranoid old man protecting some small spells. It was all for nothing. She should just go home…

Tears welled in her eyes as she flipped through the pages blindly. But her mind refused to give up. She would take what little the book offered. There was nothing else to do. She would not admit failure. She could not admit failure. He wanted her to pass out. There had to be something. She would take whatever she could get.

Hermione was an excellent spellcaster, far more powerful and talented than was permissible. She had learned complicated spells in secret, snooping around the library to learn any new information and testing it out herself. There were even a few, rare moments where she had improved upon a spell. Nothing too great. One of them was the Copy spell.

Hermione wasted no time taking out the small folded paper in her pocket and straightening in out. With a quick gash in her palm with her small knife and a few small chants, she placed the bloody palm on each book. An odd tingling sensation prickled through her hand before she placed it back onto the sheet. The dried blood from her testing did not interfere. The books were clean, no blood residue, which only ever happened when a spell was perfectly cast and complete. Messy spells always left their mark.

She shifted her weight on her knees and took a calming breath and held it, trying not to stress over the most difficult part of the spell. Stretching her fingers out tautly, she put out her hand on the parchment and let out a slow breath. Letters dribbled out from her hand in a frenzy. It was rapid and mesmerizing, watching the small flurry of letters disappear onto the parchment. When she could no longer breathe out, the spell finished. She repeated the action on the other side of the parchment, gladly wiping the sweat off her brow when she was finished.

The parchment looked blank but she knew a small incantation that would bring up the words again. Thankfully, she had done well enough not to accidentally meld her hand into the sheet - or in the case of one poor fool – meld her hand with the words and shred the skin off her palm. What she wasn't certain of was whether she had gotten any good spells down. She had tried to draw out her breath as long as she could to prolong the transition.

Hermione replaced the books and closed the wall. The swell of accomplishment served to dispel any remaining fear in her, if only for a brief moment. She suddenly felt tired. Sitting blindly in a dark and dusty old man's room should not have been that difficult. She crawled on her hands and knees to the door, relaxed enough to find it with little disorientation. She refused to think about the spells in her pocket.

Perhaps it was pure luck and not canny deduction, but Dumbledore did have texts hidden in his house. Her goal – if the text she stole proved useful - was half accomplished. With the sections of texts safely put away in her pocket all she needed to do was leave the house and read the spells. She wondered just how risky it would be to return to his house a second time, even with the barrier spells.

What if I don't find anything valuable… I don't have a back-up plan after this…

As she turned the knob she decided she would just make do with whatever spells were copied down. It wasn't worth the risk and she could always improvise with what she had.

Her relief amplified when the door opened and allowed light to stream in. The room had long since then returned to its former drabby little bed and chair. She got up from her knees and dusted herself off.

The front door rattled.

Without thinking she flung herself back into the darkness of the room, instinctively aiming for the bed. In a matter of a few precious seconds she managed to slide herself underneath it just as the front door opened and Dumbledore walked in, humming to himself.

She couldn't see too well from under the bed, both glad and annoyed that the blanket could hide her. The small opening in the doorway made Hermione nervous. Was it too closed? Too open? Would he notice either way?

The floors creaked as he walked by the bedroom. The clanging of pots informed her of his presence in the kitchen and Hermione could finally relax her stiff and overly excited muscles. This was getting to be too much for her.

She slowly made her way out from under the bed.

"Asha…" she froze as he mumbled something to the cat and went back to whatever it was he was doing. Crouching the whole way, she finally got to the edge of the door and peeked through. She couldn't see Dumbledore so he had to be at the stove. His humming started up again.

It had to be fast. It had to be silent. It had to be perfect. Hermione was tired but she had to move swiftly.

Open the door, step out into the small hallway, open the front door, close it and run. She felt a little nauseated at the prospect.

So many, many ways for this to go horribly wrong…

She shifted her legs, steadying herself, and tried to slow her breathing.

Mew.

She nearly choked. That stupid cat had nearly scared her to death for the hundredth time. If it wasn't for the danger of getting caught she would have kicked the damn thing.

Asha sniffed at her and promptly turned away, as if dismissing the agitated brunette.

She grit her teeth and slowly opened the door a notch. Holding her breath as the door soundlessly opened enough for her to slip through. She managed to gulp down a few breaths as softly as she could before taking one very wide step into the hallway, pivoting in place. Her heart pounded in her throat but she managed to do it, opening the front door silently and slipping out before he registered anything amiss. At that point she broke out into a full run, gulping air into her straining lungs and trying to run far enough to feel safe.

After quickly getting winded – damn it I need more practice running – she began to calm down. A few people gave her odd looks, wondering why her hair was a frizzled, sweaty mess and her face so deeply red, but she ignored them. The last thing she wanted was to be held up by more sympathy and condolences while her hand clung tightly to stolen notes from secret texts hidden away in a notorious hermit's home… It was too ridiculous a story. But even if they didn't find out just how she got the papers, she was sure there would be consequences for walking around with unauthorized magical texts.

But what if, after all this effort, these works end up being utterly useless? Or not even magical?

She smiled painfully to herself and entered her home. At least she could laugh at the irony of it in the future.

"Hermione?"

She paused and looked to her mother who stood in the kitchen watching the brunette uncomfortably.

"Where have you been?"

"Out for a walk."

"Oh… well how are you feeling?"

"I'm alright. I'm going to go to my room now." She looked away.

"What about lunch?"

"I – uh – I'll have some later."

"You haven't been eating." Concern edged her voice.

"I promise I'll have some" she called out as she walked away, avoiding her mother's eyes. There was no time for healing; she needed to focus on her goals. She'd deal with her stressed mother later.

*****

It had taken two days to fully understand the notes she stole from Dumbledore and figure out what to do. If he knew about it he didn't speak to anyone, not even herself. Most of the spells were in Latin, completely out of her league and useless. Not that they weren't fascinating but she didn't need to learn how to grow plants with magic or duplicate small animals. She needed a weapon.

She did manage to find one spell. She blanched when she realized she found the spell Dumbledore had put on his room. She supposed it worked in her favour that she was so blissfully ignorant. What on earth could the man have stored in his room that he cast a deadly spell to protect it? Like all the spells it had no title. It was simple enough in theory. It sent intruders into a panic: a nonstop, ever increasing panic that would tear the human heart to pieces. She should have had a heart attack and died. Hermione had accidentally used the one technique available to stop the spell: sheer control. According to the text it was supposed to be nearly impossible to find that much control while suffering a severe panic attack. Dumbledore must have had some counter spell he knew. She couldn't see him fighting off the spell every time he went to bed or visited the compartment.

She should have died from the beginning. Hermione was furious. If she had brought enough paper and had enough time… or wasn't so damn discouraged, she could have stayed there longer and stole more of the spells! She seethed with anger at herself.

But it was not the time for self pity or questions of 'what-if' so she made a mental note to save that spell; perhaps try it out later, though she wasn't sure what for. She had to focus on what little she had. In the end there was only one spell that she felt she could use and she wasn't sure how effective it would be. It was a mild paralysis spell, supposed to slow the movements of an assailant or prey. But to use it on Them? Might get her killed.

She had to decide what to do. Deep down inside, she didn't want to waste time, didn't want to analyze and research. For the first time in her life she wanted to jump head first into a situation she knew nothing about. Ironically, it was probably the only real instance where careful planning was truly needed.

Hermione had weighed her options. She could use the spell as it was and hope for the best. Or, she could spend time and effort trying to intensify or manipulate it. She could ditch the spell and try for Dumbledore's again. Problem was she couldn't tell if Dumbledore knew. If he did know… God knew what kind of spell he'd put on the place, or even if the texts were still there. The panic spell itself was not an option. The last thing she needed was a powerful panicking mythical creature. At best the creature would alert Others, at worst it would go on a rampage and kill her in the process.

But to manipulate the spell would risk many complications. She could die, paralyze herself, paralyze innocent bystanders while practicing, or have some weird unforeseen consequence she couldn't even imagine. And if it killed her, then she would be dead before ever setting foot outside. So she decided to combine a spell she knew with the paralysis one. There was no other way to do things. Master the paralysis one and use and old one she already understood. A knockout spell lasted a few measly hours but she would wait until it was so late it was nearly dawn. Then she could keep the unconscious creature in her room until the spells on the town wore off.

It was risky, a suicide mission fraught with possible mistakes, but she had no other choice. The leaders were taking forever, she was sick of Diagon's existence and everyone else was too scared to do a damn thing.

And now it was time.

She planned for things as carefully as she could and accounted for all possible errors. She had spent a week practicing the spells near the forest where few people ventured, under the veil of a distraction spell most young lovers used to hide themselves. After she mastered everything, she stole a plank of wood from the carpenter.

She glanced at her most vital tool. By drawing out the runes first hand on the wood she wasted less time casting. The only thing she couldn't do ahead of time was draw blood. The fresher the blood the more powerful the spell. She couldn't risk weakening an already mild paralysis spell. But it would have also been stupid carrying a knife around her. Clumsily trying to cut herself would have been dangerous. To solve that problem, she was carrying a fine thin wine glass her mother had inherited. She had swiped it from her mother's cupboard. She knew how easily they broke so the blood would flow instantly and fresh. But she did feel guilty. While it wasn't as difficult for wizards to create glass as it was for the humans, it was still rare. Her mother would be furious but it needed to be done.

She felt sick to her stomach, sitting in her room. It was already quite late but she had spent the last few days calculating just when dawn broke. She couldn't leave too early.

The plank of wood was on her bed. Not very large or heavy, Hermione made sure of that, it was only slightly larger than her Potions text. The runes had been carved into the wood with a knife. Hermione smiled wryly, remembering how she had to practice the runes ten times on paper before applying it to the wood. Always the perfectionist.

Her palms were sweaty. She hadn't eaten anything before returning to her room, but with her queasy stomach she preferred it to the alternative. Had she known, her mother would have had a fit.

Hermione frowned, suddenly wishing she had said goodbye to her parents, just in case.

Technically… I could just sleep tonight, try again tomorrow after I spend some time with them…

But no, she couldn't bring herself to say goodbye. She wasn't sure why, but she just couldn't. Her eyes watered and she had to swallow hard a few times to gather her resolve and keep from crying.

She was standing in a clearing before an infinite number of paths and possibilities. There were some paths, unknown and benign in appearance where others were familiar and safe. But now she stood before the one path, the one trail so shrouded in darkness and stained with death and hatred that she was nearly frozen. It is difficult, taking that first step, to push oneself toward death, alone and frightened.

Her hands were shaking. Without realizing it the numbness she had when she heard of Ron's death disappeared. The shock had worn off. More than that, she had a task, and the task made it easier to stop thinking about Ron. It was all about that moment, where she sat in the darkness of her room with her two spells prepared. Where she sat on a bed and quietly, unconsciously, prayed. If anyone had asked, she would have told them she didn't pray. Hadn't prayed since she was a little girl. But in that moment she silently asked for salvation. All she wanted out of that night was for something to happen. For some progression or even regression to occur, so that Diagon would no longer rot in limbo.

She got up from the bed and took a careful breath, drank some of her glass of water to wet her dry sticky lips, and grabbed her plank of wood. She fingered the delicate wine glass in her pocket as she faced her shrouded window.

There was no turning back. She either died or came back fully knowing the horror that lay in the woods.

Her heart sped up and her stomach churned nauseatingly but she forced herself forward. The curtains lay limp over the window, the archway to hell, so simple and unassuming it appeared benign. Vivid recollections of her first time peeking through the curtains fluttered through her mind as her hand reached out. Finger tips gently brushed the fabric but she could not feel it. Terror had finally arrived. She went against her nature, against the logic her ancestors had passed to her and pulled at the curtain, drawing herself closer to the danger.

She felt as if the body she operated were not her own. Hermione was an innocent bystander, a voyeur watching an indescribably tense intimate moment between some strange hypnotized woman and a window curtain. There was change in the air. A deep undercurrent that threatened to turn the whole world upside down as the woman carefully unhooked the curtain.

How peculiar, that she keeps her eyes to the ground, but her hands so easily remove the cloth as if its shape had been imbedded to memory…

The cloth fell to the floor and Hermione was herself again. She swallowed hard and raised her eyes.

For a moment she was in awe, all her fear falling away so she could bask in the beauty of nightfall. The grey skies of daylight dulled the entire village, but the silver moon made everything shine under the snow. And by God the moon! Hermione had nothing to compare it to. It almost hurt her eyes with its bright glow. It was as if the whole village transformed at night.

Crack.

Hermione flinched and jerked her hand out of her pocket.

"Damn." Her thumb was bleeding. She hadn't realized she was clutching the plank in one hand and the glass in her pocket with the other. Luckily she didn't manage to crush the whole thing, but snapped the lip of the glass. It was dangerous mixing old blood with the fresh, made the magic unstable. Hermione switched the items so she could break the glass on her undamaged palm. She sobered up and scolded herself for wasting time admiring the goddamn scenery.

She climbed over the window sill and instantly felt the chill of winter even under all the extra clothes she put on. The moon was near the horizon, so she had timed things well. Daylight would be fairly soon.

The sound of her boots crunching in the snow was too loud for her. It echoed eerily through the silent village. Although Hermione knew there were hundreds of people asleep in their beds all around her, she felt as if she had entered a ghost town. She gritted her teeth as she walked, as if that would somehow quiet the noise.

She was only twenty feet from her house, but it was enough. Her home was right at the forest's edge. She stated at it intently, hoping to read some secrets from the silent blackness within their depths.

The village was to her back. She had considered just how dangerous this was, standing out in the open, but she feared that They might not come to her if They saw she was close to her house. Might smell a trap. By standing out in the open They might also smell a trap, but at least They would be less cautious. After all it was suicide, standing so defenseless.

She held the glass carefully and remained deathly still. Never before had she been so confusedly petrified and bored at the same time. A good ten minutes went by with her standing there, freezing and staring at the forest until her eyes hurt and her legs went stiff.

She wondered if all the others did this. Just sort of… had nothing happen to them for a long period of time. Hermione was almost frustrated. It was too much, anxiety could only remain powerful for a short period of time. Her reflexes would be slower, mind would grow dull, and then she would fail. She knew it. She wondered if They knew it. Perhaps this was part of Their plan?

A spot on her lower back itched. To scratch it would be to let go of one of her weapons. She didn't move.

The cold started to gnaw on her flesh. Her teeth were chattering and she could no longer breathe through her nose because it burned. She had not anticipated this. They were supposed to jump out at her. She had even expected Them to wait for her outside the window. But there she was, her fingers getting weaker as the cold numbed them.

She nervously chuckled to herself, unable to wrap her mind around the situation. For the first time she considered that maybe, just maybe, They weren't coming out that night at all. Perhaps They were busy having a cup of tea just around the bend of the farthest tree? And there she was, standing there like an idiot, awake the whole night and nearly pissing herself with terror as she forced herself to stand in the snow.

She glanced at her house, not too far away from her. At that point she could have just walked back to her room. A good thirty minutes had gone by and all she had done was stand there like an idiot.

She shifted her weight from leg to leg. A chill went up her spine. She would have dismissed it; after all, she was freezing. But Hermione was never stupid. She glanced around, checking behind her, and saw nothing. Goosebumps crawled up along her arms and neck. And then the earth stopped moving.

A pair of incredibly soft lips pressed against her ear. Hermione sighed, her knees gone weak. In an instant her mind was clouded with bliss. She whimpered as her sex throbbed pleasantly and insistently. There was a gentle purring now, soothing and full of promise. She rocked in place, gasping when a warm hand rested on her shoulder. So deliciously warm, Hermione had never been warmer.

Her breathing became more erratic as the lips shifted away and a cheek pressed to her own. Hermione couldn't move, couldn't think, her brain muddled by ecstasy. That hand moved to her collar bone, trailing sharp nails across her overly sensitive skin…

There was something she forgot. A wonderful scent wafted to her nose, it reminded her of the forest in spring… the elders had said the woods were filled with flowers they could not name…

Her body had relaxed and the wine glass became nonexistent. Another hand… this one on her hip… Everything so relaxed… everything so beautiful… sensual… mesmerizing…

Her numb fingers could no longer hold the plank… the wood slipped through her fingers… and landed… on her foot.

"Ah!" She cringed as the stabbing pain shattered everything. She jerked forward, away from the warm body, and tried to clutch her aching foot. Her mind whirled in confusion. The lust battled with shock. She tripped over herself and twisted her ankle awkwardly. To her horror she fell face forward, her bare hands smacking into the biting snow.

Crack.

"Oh God…" she groaned, as the glass cut into her upper thigh.

The glass, the plank, Them, the forest…. The glass….

She turned abruptly, her mind desperately holding onto her plan. Hermione harshly began chanting the spell, her hand raised to - -

Never in her life, never in Diagon, had she ever seen anything so perfectly beautiful.

There was a woman standing before her. A naked woman, standing in the snow… an ice woman, a Goddess of Winter...

"Oh…"

She was tall. Skin like milk, with luscious curves and hard muscle… Breasts large and full with peaked dark nipples, and if Hermione had any sense left in her mind she would have been mortified by the woman's blatant, proud nudity. But her brain was stricken with awe.

Silver-white hair and silver-blue eyes… a child of the moon, she had to be looking at a child of the moon…

The woman smiled at her, those pouty lips beckoning. Hermione smiled back dazedly. Who was this woman, whom Hermione was about to knock unconscious?

"What… where? Who are you?"

The blonde woman raised an eyebrow at her.

"What are you doing here?" Hermione frowned. "It's not safe here… how… did you come here across the woods? Are you from the outside?!"

Could it have been possible? Someone crossed the woods and made it safely past Them? Maybe she had some fantastic powers! She could help Hermione!

Hermione got up as quickly as she could, limping with one leg full of glass and the other a twisted ankle. She reached out to the blonde, who grasped her forearm carefully. That hand was amazing, such elegance… so warm… so wonderful…

Hermione froze and looked up at the woman more carefully.

Her smile became a grin, and with that feral grin, sharp canine fangs. Hermione nearly keeled over when her body suddenly hummed with lust.

"N-No…." She couldn't believe it. This was no woman. This was Them. They were women? Were people? What?

Her sense of self was quickly deteriorating, her fears disappearing…

Skin like silk… touch her… taste her… worship that body… she will keep you warm and safe…

Hermione shivered, eyes glazed and mouth watering. She could just imagine… everything. Her sex throbbed once more.

The woman wrapped her arms around Hermione, holding her close.

Those supple breasts pressed to her, strong firm arms wrapped around her protectively… a Goddess… She was touching a Goddess. There could be no texture on earth or heaven as soft as this Goddesses skin… so warm.

Her fingers moved to the woman's hair, gasping as the hair fluttered over her fingers like water.

The Goddess was redemption, was joy. Hermione's hips began to move of their own volition, as if her sex were truly being caressed by the unseen hands of this Goddess. She whimpered and buried her nose into the Goddesses neck, the firm quick pulse in her throat beating against Hermione's nose. The pulse that carried the Goddesses lifeblood, her essence, her dark red blood, her red… red… red… red hair… Weasley. Ron Weasley.

"I SAID NO!" she yanked back, her fingers caught in the blonde's hair.

There was an animal roar as Hermione accidentally tore off some hairs in her fist. The blonde was enraged. Hermione's head cleared instantly. She was shocked to find herself surrounded by nude, voluptuous women who were looking at her in surprise.

The blonde was clutching at her scalp, the angles of her face deeper and fiercer. Hermione scrambled to her feet as best she could, looking frantically for her plank, but it had disappeared. One of Them must have taken it! She had no weapon! She was going to die, die and have nothing to show for it. Another footnote in Diagon's history, joining Ron and Bill and countless others.

The woman moved forward, licking the tips of her fingers. It was surreal, Hermione watched as that creature licked her own fingers before reaching out to that saliva covered hand… which had slowly become clawed.

Hermione tried to scuttle back.

"Get back!" The other women… the things, were laughing at her. The blonde woman didn't laugh. She walked toward Hermione purposefully, her thighs rippling with strength where Hermione's wounded legs trembled. The blonde darted forward, her clawed hand extended. Hermione screamed, closed her eyes in terror and tried to use her hands as a defense. One of the claws nicked at her throat… she was dead… she knew it… but then a peculiar thing happened.

A rush of power flooded through her body and nearly burned through her hand. Hermione cried out in shock, eyes snapped open to see the blonde's confused expression just before she was flung hard across the snow.

Everything went quiet.

Hermione didn't waste time. In Their stunned silence she made for the house. The creatures hadn't cut off her route to the house! They were fallible!

A deep roar rattled the core of her body. The blonde was furious. Hermione ran desperately as a set of rapid footsteps caught up to her. One of the raven haired creatures body slammed her into the wall of her house, knocking the wind out of her and imbedding the glass more deeply. She groaned in agony, the window just an arm's reach out of the way.

What kind of spell required no runes? Just blood and a chant? The only useful one she could think of. A Tickling spell. She focused on the body pinning her in place and mumbled it quickly. The creature squealed and jerked back. The blood on her wasn't fresh so the spell didn't work right. But it worked in her favour, the creatures body felt as if there were pins and needles crawling around her skin, as if her whole body had fallen asleep.

Hermione flung herself half through the window before another set of hands wrapped around her ankles. She screamed in pain as her twisted ankle flared. To her surprise another rush of power flooded her body and the creature howled, releasing Hermione, who fell over into the room. Though disoriented, she managed to slam the window shut after her and quickly set to work shrouding the window.

Her heart was in her throat, pounding insanely, but she managed to cover up the window.

Safe.

And then her mind went into overload. They were women. They looked like women. The creatures looked like beautiful women. She needed to find books. Never had she ever wanted the library more than she did at that moment.

Were They sirens? Demons? Fairies? So many questions, so many many questions… And Their power… Their bodies… What the hell was going on?

Her head started to hurt. The adrenaline allowed her two hours to think clearly. And then… her ankle hurt. Her upper thigh hurt even worse. She lit a candle and looked at herself. Hermione's pants were covered in blood, her ankle was completely swollen and she tasted blood from when her body slammed into the wall. She took out the mirror and stared at her bruised face. Her left eye was blackened and her bottom lip torn.

Shit.

Luckily, the blonde woman missed Hermione's throat. She could see no mark whatsoever. Her hand, however, was really cramped. She glanced down in surprise. The few silver-blonde strands of hair were in her fist that whole time. She touched them lightly, almost sad to put them down.

She worried about her thigh. Hermione took out some chalk and did a quick Cleaning spell, hoping that it got most of the glass out. She reached to the lowest drawer on her table and brought out the emergency clotting potion. There was very little in there as it was so difficult to make that Diagon rationed it. It would stop the bleeding, but in the morning she would have to go to the nurse for her ankle and the rest of the glass.

And how on earth would she come up with an excuse for this? She had to lie. Hermione was so tired, all she wanted was to sleep and deal with everything in the morning… which was horribly close.

She decided her best bet was to say that she had taken the wine glass on a whim, to appreciate its beauty then distractedly took it to her room. Then in the night she went for a glass of water, tripped on some clothes, twisted her leg and fell on the glass… and her face. She figured Ron's death would work in her favour, though she hated using his name in any way. And she hated how people would only feel more certain of her lunacy and simpleton behavior.

Hermione lay on the bed carefully, on her back. She glanced at the window.

Tomorrow was going to be a very busy day.

*****

After They allowed the girl back into her room They turned to the blonde. The raven haired woman looked to her Alpha with doubt. The blonde raised an eyebrow, her sensual features sharper and vicious. The raven haired woman stepped back in apology. She bowed her head in respect.

The blonde looked around at Them, able to taste Their anticipation. She lifted her bloodied finger tips to her lips and licked them clean.

They rejoiced! Their Alpha did not join in on the fun. It had been too long. No more time would be wasted. She walked back to the forest, intent on completing the task quickly and licking her fingers the whole way.

There would be retribution.


A/N: I am profusely sorry for the delay. I won't go on a long rambling explanation (waste of your time) but suffice it to say, it shouldn't happen again (oh but if you want the rambling explanation check out my livejournal, lots of rambling there lol). Again, sorry, sorry, sorry and… sorry. Your reviews have been so kind (and evil, what with the guilt tripping lol) I hope the length of this chapter and its content have made up for the ridiculous delay. (sorry, by the way).

I'd like to address some issues with the last chapter now. If you are not interested, feel free to skip this long bit to the last paragraph 

A reviewer was particularly offended by the last chapter and claimed to speak on behalf of others as well. I would like to apologize for not warning you all that there would be heterosexual content in my previous chapter. I did not plan to offend anyone, didn't go out of my way to do it. She mentioned being disgusted, or rather that I have a "dark, disgusting, confusing mind" so I would like to point out that whether you decide something is dark or disgusting is a matter of subjective opinion. I personally find incestuous undertones and rape disgusting. People write it. I don't try and judge them personally for writing it. To each their own. I will not censor myself. I have real life where I have to carefully watch what I say. This is the fanfiction world, I should be allowed to explore my creativity. Besides that, I don't actively seek out ways to upset or offend people. This is a horror genre, please expect that there will be disturbing content, not a pure romance where people meet, fall in love and have fantastic M rated sex.

Which brings me to another issue. The sex in the last chapter was repulsive and I did set out to do this. It wasn't about straight sex. It wasn't about Hermione/Ron. It was about alcoholism and depression. Not all sex is the fantastic magical sex that the fanworld creates for their characters. I was sincerely trying to depict my understanding of the loss of a family member in a horribly repressive society. If you are offended by straight sex, yes I should have warned you. I will do so from now on more carefully. I didn't mean to startle you. I just personally do not find straight sex disturbing. Now… if you have a specific problem with Ron/Hermione…. Erm I dunno what to say. They were boyfriend and girlfriend in this particular story. While it is popular to pretend that all main female characters in femslash start off as never having had sex before they meet the loves of their lives…. Lesbian women do have sex with men sometimes. Bisexual women have sex with both. It's a fact of life. Im sorry you don't approve of my attempt at realism. I do not hate men, I do not wish bad things upon them. Men should have consensual sex with women. –shrug- I am just not offended by straight sex.

I will however, be more careful. I really don't want to offend people for the sake of offending them.

If the 500 words I spent on the sex between them (out of the 10,000 or so I wrote in the last chapter) has offended you so much you wish to stop reading… well I wish you luck in finding a story you like. I don't wish you anything negative. It has been fun reading your reviews. I will not stop writing. I don't mind criticism. I have 79 alerts for this story and 53 faves. I almost had 30 reviews the last chapter (not counting my own contribution and one person who repeatedly asks me to update lol). So far my intentions appear to be understood.

I am really sorry if I offended anyone with the last chapter. For the last time: this story is rated M for Mature. Please expect that some content may be disturbing or upsetting but I will not mess with my integrity to make people comfortable which at least appears to be ok with most of my readers.

And lastly, I am not a writer for instant gratification. This is a mystery, so yes you will need to wait while I slowly reveal information. I understand the frustration, if this were a completed book you could just read every chapter in quick succession and get to the conclusion quickly instead of waiting for my updates.

A technical issue: why would Hermione have sex with him and risk getting pregnant? I do hope no one thinks that they never had unmarried sex in the past or that they didn't have some contraceptive ability (especially in the magical world). Although I envisioned Ron as barren, I couldn't figure out a way to put it in this chapter so I just pointed out that they had some ability to stop contraception.

Again, sorry for the long wait, I had issues. I hope you enjoyed this chapter, took me 4 times editing to finally feel comfortable with it. About 11,000 words hehehe. Please don't give up on me, I'm not going anywhere. I am almost finished with Walking a Mile's latest chapter. I hope you find the time to review and if not, I hope you at least enjoyed this one! :D