The sun was still casting a warm ember glow across the school grounds. Hermione Granger leant against the heavy ancient bark of a twisted Oak tree facing out towards the heavy ripples of the Black Lake. Her dark brown robes clung to her body with a dirt-riddled mixture of blood and sweat. Her barrage of curls blew across her eyes carried by the sickly hot breeze. A sigh blew through her lips but she didn't reach up to push the thick brown curtain away. Adrenaline had failed her only minutes before, making standing impossible for her. This was how she came to be sitting on the churned mud of the grounds in the after-glow of the battle.
The pungent smell of burning flesh filled her nose. She could hear the slow hiss and crackle of the human cremation behind her, as it licked up the body of biggest monster in their dark little world. The quiet whispers of other survivors burned her ears as they moved about the grounds, giving her silent vigil of the lake a wide birth. Hermione felt an insane urge to laugh as she imagined what they must see when they cast their gaze upon her. Body huddled in her oversized Order robes, matted hair splayed out across the heavy brown material. She sighed again and tore her eyes away from the lake to the snapped wand dangling limply between the fingertips of her left hand. A torn Gryffindor scarf was twisted around her right to stem the flow of blood from a particularly nasty hex.
Her eyes moved lazily past the remnants of her childhood and focused on the soft grass around the edge of the lake. Hermione ignored the flurry of brown material that fell down on the grass next to her, a gangly arm wrapped around her shoulders. The whispers were getting louder but she couldn't understand them anymore. Hermione felt her eyes close against the fuzz of Harry and Ron's quiet conversation about finding her somewhere to rest. The blow of her head falling sideways into Ron's lap barely registered as the roar of sleep dulled her senses.
Hermione swallowed a deep breath, and clutched tighter to the two large hands in hers. Out of the corner of her eye she watched Harry duck his head, tears rolling down his cheeks. Comfort may have felt naturally alien to her, but a head on his shoulder and a thumb caressing his hand seemed to help. A sudden snort ruined the deafening silence. Hermione's mouth fell open in shock; outraged lungs drew in air ready to scream at Ron. Harry's hand was released from her grip and she turned to face him. Lips opened, teeth bared and she readied herself to yell but the horrified shaking of Ron's shoulders stopped her. His face burrowed deeper into the knitted G on a Weasley jumper, muffling his whimpers. Hermione reached across the divide between their spindly white chairs and pulled him into her arms. His sobs became vocal once again and Ginny's coffin was lowered into the ground.
It had been three months since the battle, which had marked the final hours of her sixth summer as a witch. The images of everything that had happened since blew about her head as Hermione walked purposely across the school grounds. Harry and Ron trailed along behind her, and Hermione sombrely smelt the small bouquet of daises clutched in her hands. Fridays at the long rolling stretch of graves littering the edges of the grounds around Hogwarts had become a traditional past time for the threesome. An outing for pretending that Hermione didn't walk around with dead eyes. A time when they imagined that Harry could bear to use his magic on anyone and when they forgot that Ron cried himself to sleep with his grief every night. They arrived at Ginny's grave and Harry and Hermione purposely turned away from the silent shaking of Ron's hands. She passed the daises to him and he laid them down on the healthy emerald grass.
The November wind chilled them to the bone and each one had traitorous thoughts of their unhealthy obsession with visiting Ginny's grave. But the jump off of the small pier into the furthest depths of the lake from the castle was waiting for them. Dutifully they stripped off the warm outer layers of their school robes and made ready to leap into the frozen darkness out of their thanks for survival.
"Anyone had any thoughts about what we'll do when the lake ices over?" Harry asked, chattering teeth breaking up his speech as he stood in his white shirt and boxers. Ron shrugged, stowing his wand in his shoes was the only activity stopping the sobs. Even speaking would break his concentration and he knew Harry and Hermione had already seen too many tears.
"No idea." Hermione said dully, "We'll have to think of another way to feel alive I guess." They turned as one to the heaving crash of black waves surrounding the pier. The familiar tug of heartstrings pulled in their chests when they all heard the sweet laughter of the little sister that had told them…"I'd rather jump into the bloody black lake then let people know I had been so stupid as to accidentally let old Riddle get me." With a deep breath the three ran towards the edge of the wooden pier, preparing themselves for the onslaught of frozen pain. But an obstacle was emerging:
"Leaving so soon?" the cold whip of the voice cut through the wind like a knife. Shock sent Harry and Ron flying up into the air above the water, but Hermione skidded and turned to see Lucius Malfoy. Blood red eyes flickered across from her to the two boys arching in the sky towards the water. Green mud covered robes licked out behind him, his long white hair tangling with it. Hermione watched in horror as he lifted a long pointed wand at them. His voice was high and laced with desperation as he screamed.
"Horaventus," a crack of lightening shot from the long elegant wand, and Harry and Ron dropped below the pier into the water. The spell plunged through Hermione's chest and suddenly she felt herself falling backwards. Her head and back hit the hard planks of the pier, knocking the air from her lungs.
White lights flashed across her vision and she reached out to grasp the dark November sky that was disappearing from above her. Sudden angry pain ripped through her heart and she screamed out for help. The lights disappeared slowly and she watched in horror as the sky burned away with them. A feeling of furious spinning ripped through Hermione. Her body turned numb but her brain continued to fight to stay awake.
She slowly succumbed to the darkness, still trying to kick out and fight against the spell. But a sudden blow to her head, knocking it's numb bulk to the left, blew a fuse in her fight, and she only knew the fizz of sleep.
"Oi! Oi! What the hell are you doing?" The ground was too hard, the noise too loud, the light too furious as it tried to force its way through her eyelids. Hermione groaned and tried to push the pain in her head away with willpower alone. When nothing happened and angry shouts of someone too close grew too fierce she cracked open one eye.
"Thank you! Was that so hard? Showing me you weren't a corpse wasn't too taxing was it?" Heavy black eyes glared down at her from above and Hermione felt a sense of odd relief to see the sky again above a black hair framed face. "Ok now you can say something so I know you're alright, then I can leave and maybe tip off Madam Pomfrey that there's a hungover student by the lake." Hermione tried to focus on the face berating her from above. His voice grated on her nerves and she felt a nearly unavoidable urge to tell him to leave her alone in a string of expletives. But something told her that was a bit too much of a Ron like reaction. Hermione cracked open her other eye and suddenly found it much easier to see the boy standing above her. Clothed in Slytherine robes and carrying a large pile of books under one arm, the boy stared down at her with a severe nose and angry eyes. A feeling of familiarity itched at the back of her mind and she tried to collect her thoughts, but he started talking again. "Seriously, the longer it takes for you to speak the less chance I have of getting you help." Hermione rolled her eyes and sat up on the wooden floor of the pier, the boy took a hasty step back and observed her bemused look. "I don't actually know you as you're probably aware so this act of kindness is quite out of character…"
"Oh piss off Snape." Hermione looked up in horror as the words flew out of her mouth without her instruction, now sure how she knew the boy.
Lucius Malfoy shifted from foot to foot nervously as he watched the mudblood talk to a young Severus Snape. His wand twirled between his fingers in anticipation. His plan hadn't exactly worked seeing as it wasn't the precious Potter who was lying vulnerable to attack only feet away, but he smirked knowing that Granger could almost be good enough. He tapped the small marble in his pocket with his shaking wand and was pulled out of Hogwarts by the portkey to his unsuspecting master.
A.N – Revamped this chapter in my new short sentence style, which was quite fun and killed some time.
Thanks for reading. I would really love a review if you have time but I know you're probably eager to read something else, so no pressure.
(Researching Snape. Love him even more now because of wikipedia… didn't think that was possible…)