AN: Thanks for the reviews. You guys are awesome!


The duo entered the Gryffindor common room to find the third of their trio waiting for them on one of the sofas by the empty fireplace.

"So, how was Potions," asked Ron. "The new guy has to be better than the dungeon bat after all."

Hermione sighed as she dropped her backpack beside the armchair before collapsing in the seat. "Ronald, his name is Professor Snape. You should use it every once in a while, add some variety to your language."

"I like my language to be colored with insults, thanks," replied the redhead smartly.

Harry snickered as he took a seat next to his mate on the sofa. "So far he seems alright. But of course, anyone would be after Snape."

"Professor Snape," muttered Hermione to herself as she began rummaging through her bag so she could start on the previous lesson's homework. She tuned out the boys as Harry started to explain the fine attributes of the new Potion Master since they all seemed to end with the words "unlike Snape" being voiced. What did grab her attention however was Harry's explanation of the brewing competition.

With wonder coloring his tone, Ron replied, "Yeah, I would give almost anything for some guaranteed luck."

"Luck..."

Hermione's eyes contained a strange gleam in them when she focused her attention onto the Boy-Who-Lived. "Harry, I need some of your blood."

"What?"

"'Mione, blood in spell casting is dark magic," objected Ron.

Ignoring the redhead, the witch turned to Harry, scribbling notes as she explained her reasons for needing some of her friend's life-force. "Look, if I'm right, I think I just made a breakthrough in figuring out your mother's wards."

"Hermione..."

"It's got to be a combo," muttered Hermione, already lost in her own mind with a new parameter to sort through and add to her growing collection of snippets and possibilities pertaining to Lily Potter's amazing but unrecognized understanding of magic, which was apparently on a totally different level then what had been previously explored by traditional concepts of the tried and found true method of spell crafting.

"What?"

Harry's question broke through her concentration, forcing her to redirect her attention back to her apparently lost friends looking at her with expressions somewhere between awed confusion and bewildered horror.

"Your mother more than likely adapted some type of combination spell with the amplification of a very complex potion that she had to invent herself in order to manufacture a shield against the Killing Curse. I'm unsure if I will ever be able to recreate what your mother invented without her personal notes on the subject, and who knows where they are, but ..."

"...But, you need my blood to even get stated in unraveling the potion part of the equation?"

"Yes. I think, perhaps, that there might be some variant of Felix Felicis involved. I wonder if that does not explain some of your more death-defying exploits as well."

"You think that my mum had me ingest the potion ahead of time?"

"Wait," cut in Ron. "I am completely lost. What are we talking about? What spell? What potion?"

"Oh, that's right," said Hermione, blinking at her confused friend. "We have not filled you in about all of that yet, have we?" She turned to look at Harry before dropping to dig through her bag again. As she pulled out an empty vial from her Potions' kit, she informed Ron, "Harry can fill you in with the particulars. Harry, give me your hand."

Harry slowly presented Hermione with his left hand, deciding that finding out something extraordinary about his mother was more important than the momentary pain of blood extraction.

Hermione healed his hand before spelling the vial to keep its contents fresh and useable as well as protected from breaking. She repacked her bags and made her way towards the exit of Gryffindor Tower.

Running off in the direction of the library, the young woman only vaguely heard Ron calling after her, reminding her that she still had two more classes today and could not stay sequestered with her books and her equations.

She knew that.

She did not need the faculty to single her out any more than they already did. The pitiful looks were bad enough, but if they turned to those of disappointment because she started missing classes, she feared they would perform some type of intervention, or worse still, begin watching her every move.

If she was to make any type of headway in one of her extracurricular projects, she had to maintain perfect attendance if not perfect performance in all of her classes. She just did not have the energy to be the ideal student any longer, but that did not mean that she was going to slack off with her school work or perform her class work below par. Her eidetic memory would prevent her from having to spend additional time rereading the books she devoured over the summer, leaving her with hours of free time to explore and discover the possible answers to the confounded questions that had been plaguing her since her horrifying jaunt in the Department of Mysteries.

Instead of spending hours in the library like Ron warned against, Hermione grabbed several books on the subjects of inquiry she had been traveling through her head.

She decided to save the reading for later and made her way back to her personal room in the Room of Requirement.

She expanded the room to include a potions-slash-chemistry area for the examination of Harry's blood.

Satisfied with the additions, Hermione continued her exploration of Vanishing Cabinet until it was time for her next class, forgoing lunch.

The rest of the day went by relatively smoothly. In addition to Charms and Potions on Mondays, Hermione had Ancient Runes right after lunch followed by History of Magic and Herbology. Luckily only Potions was a double at the beginning of the week with Charms lengthening on Wednesdays and Herbology on Fridays.

She finished her work in Ancient Runes with plenty of time to spare for reading about the history and applications of Felix Felicis while History of Magic allowed her a free block of time to research the methods for extracting and containing a memory.

During dinner, the one meal she promised Professor McGonagall she would see her attend, Hermione reviewed the applications of transportation spells on inanimate objects between bites of whatever Harry had put on her plate.

Food did not seem to have much of a taste any longer.

Not since the fire.

That night, Hermione went to bed feeling, not lighter, but closer to finding the answers she was seeking.

Slowly but surely, she was finding a way to write some of the wrongs and injustices around her.

Maybe her research will save someone's life.

Maybe her research will save his life.

Maybe.

Hopefully.


Once again suffocating darkness surrounded her. Once again she drowned in the engulfing black that clothed her petite form in shadows and mystery. Once again she stood blind to anything and everything around her.

Everything was the same.

Everything stayed the same.

Same blackness.

Same dark.

Night after night, Hermione stood completely exposed to the terror and pain breathing down on her.

Everything was the same except for the sounds.

That night, there was no sound.

No screams, no cries, no moans; there was nothing but utter, unsettling quiet.

The young witch took a deep breath as she strained her ears for any noise to indicate that she was not standing in the dark alone.

There was nothing.

No sound.

"Hello?"

Hermione's voice shook as she called out again, "Hello?"

She clenched her hands to stay their trembling.

She did not know what to do. She did not know where to turn, where to look, where to move.

She had never been afraid of the dark as a child. She was never scared of monsters hiding under her bed or in her closet.

But this blackness, this overwhelming dark shook her to her very core.

Tears began to well behind her closed eyelids as she tried to regain her composure.

She silently begged to herself as she tried calling out one more time that someone would answer, that she was in fact not alone in the dark.

"Hello," said Hermione, voice shaky and horse, thick with choked back tears.

She let out an involuntary sob when the only answer she received was more silence.

There was no noise.

Nothing.

No guidance to lead her through the dark.

No reassurance.

No familiar voice.

She let out another sob.

Then another.

Then another.

She collapsed to her knees like she did just yesterday in front of a newly visible Thestral and her best friend.

She cried and cried until she ran out of tears.

She hated being alone.


AN: Sorry for the short chapter. It was originally meant to be a part of the previous chapter, but it got cut so I could get you guys an update. Not really happy with this but hopefully the next will make up for what this one lacks.

The next chapter is Defense class. I'm thinking dueling. Anybody got any suggestions for dueling partners?