Prologue

This hurts, this hurts, this hurts! The small innocent child deep inside Hermione shrieked uncomprehending of anything except that this hurt.

The more sensible, fully matured, side of Hermione ignored her inner juvenile voice as she watched all that transpired between him and her from a distance. She felt every blow her body received, more potent than the last. Yet when she felt it… it was as though this wasn't her pain but the pain of a stranger that had somehow found her while searching for it's true owner.

She watched everything unfold from somewhere just above her body, witnessing all that happened in those few violent minutes numbly. She heard her voice cry out for help. She saw the tears flowing down her pale battered skin. But no one came to her rescue, not that she'd really been expecting any aid. And in all honesty she didn't want any. Sure this hurt… but relief wasn't worth him getting expelled; which would surely be the result.

Her scream was just her going through the motions. No one was even within hearing range. She knew it's shriek was in vain, but still… if she didn't at least try and save herself she'd be no better than those broken, helpless women she'd seen on that muggle show; MSNBC. Though she knew that if this continued, one day she'd stop shouting. It was inevitable. Sooner or later she too would give up, her will erased, barely alive… just like those women on the television.

But she'd put it off for as long as she was able.

At the sound of her shrieks the attacks grew even fiercer. Hermione knew this was in reaction to her vocal SOS. She let her wail grow softer and softer, until finally it became inaudible to even her. It wouldn't do her any good now that she was sure no one was around to listen.

On and on it went… she kept on thinking the end was just around the corner though it never actually was. Wishful thinking, some far away part of her identified. She could sense it when the end in reality was drawing near when his formally quick movements started to slow down and when the force behind his fists began to dissipate, soon vanishing all together as Ron Weasely turned away from his girlfriend, walking down the corridor and back to the Great Hall without another word.

Hermione was more hesitant to leave this spot. She was left beaten and bruised on the cold, hard, floor propped up against the wall, after all was said and done. For once the portraits hanging up and down the passageway were at a loss for words. Some of the bolder paintings eyed her sympathetically while most simply glanced around their picture frame in an attempt to not make eye contact. She knew she'd have to get up before Harry or one of her other friends went looking for her.

She sighed softly and picked herself up off the smooth, marble tile. It was then that she noticed it; blood, and lots of it, trickling down from her forearm. It radiated a sickening crimson. Strange, she didn't recall Ron hitting her there. Under close scrutiny she realized the gash was far too precise and too acute to have been the result of a punch or a kick. Plus she didn't usually bleed unless he hit her very, very, hard.

That's when it hit her. Ron had always carried around the pocketknife he'd received as a gift from some great aunt a while back. But he had never used it on her before… Not until today. She fingered the relatively small wound and knew if he had wanted to he could have done much worse. It wasn't too serious, but it was oozing with the scarlet liquid. It only would require a simple healing spell. She stood up, her body aching but functioning fully as she fumbled through her robe for her wand. Hermione discovered it in one of the many inside pockets of her mandatory school uniform.

She quickly picked it up and started to trace the thin line of freshly cut skin. Idly she wondered how she hadn't noticed it when it happened, but then dismissed it telling herself that pain was pain, it didn't matter if it came in beatings or tiny incisions. How could she differentiate between the two when Ron did both?

She searched her mental spell catalog for a quick solution.

"Episkey!" The spell rolled off her tongue like she'd said it a million times. Come to think of it, she probably had. It wasn't like she could just go to the nurse to take care of her wounds. No, healing was a burden that fell squarely on her own shoulders. When she was finished she was thoroughly convinced that Madame Promfrey herself couldn't have done better. The bruises however were harder to get rid of… The only known cure for them was time, and by the time they turned yellow and faded she'd probably have a brand new collection of them to worry over.

After she had sealed up the wound and finished her musings, she walked slowly but surely in the same direction Ron had taken. She whirled around to survey the scene once more, which was peculiar for Hermione, who under normal circumstances, fled these places as quickly as she could once Ron was done with her.

But something compelled her to turn around just this once. And she saw a pool of bright crimson ugly and foul on the ground of the sacred establishment of Hogwarts… she cringed even smaller because she knew that her blood was unworthy of even touching the floor of such a prestigious, elite, place as this.

She wondered for a moment if anyone would wonder about the bloody mess… but no. They'd just think of it as yet another of the strange and mysterious happenings at Hogwarts School Of Witchcraft And Wizardry.

She didn't want to face Ron. Not now, not ever. She didn't like the emotion she felt boiling inside her. It wasn't pride, or bravery, or chivalry… not the emotions of a true Gryffindor. But instead… fear… weakness… shame...

She didn't want to have to meet his blue green eyes as they burned their emerald fire, and watch him smirk only because he had absolute control over her.

He wasn't the stubborn, funny, sometimes thick headed boy she'd fallen in love with… he was changed. Then again she had changed too. She was no longer the strong, courageous, young woman that she used to be. Ron had changed that. He held her heart in his hand, and tore it all to pieces, breaking it down bit by bit, and reassembling it into something so much more fragile than before. Someone that he could abuse the hell out of, someone who would tremble when they saw him coming around the corner, someone who was nothing more than a victim.

Instead of immediately going into the Great Hall to join in the end of the year feast, Hermione drifted up the stairs leading to her House's common room. When she reached the portrait hole the Fat Lady sighed and eyeballed her with pity. Hermione chose to ignore it, as she slowly drawled out the pass word and came inside in an unhurried fashion. She dragged her feet all the way to the stairway leading to the girl's dormitory. She refused to admit to herself that she was stalling for time, so she could put off seeing Ron. In her heart of hearts she knew that most of the reason she was going at a snail's pace was simply to avoid him, though this trip itself was truly necessary if she was to be seen in the public eye.

After what seemed like far too short of a climb to Hermione she arrived in the dorm. Deep inside, she knew that even if there had been a million steps… it would still have seemed like barely ten to her.

Hermione exhaled the breath she hadn't known she'd been holding in sorrowfully. She drifted over to her already packed bags and rummaged through her luggage until she found the item she was searching for. A tiny, half empty jar of concealer. Oh, how she wished she didn't need it. In the past two years that she and Ron had been dating, it had become less and less of a make-up product and more and more of a vital component in their relationship. It covered up the bruises that told the full history from start to finish of Hermione's love life. Starting with a pale yellow dot, and ending in a large blue-ish purple mark on her right shoulder, the bruises told all anyone would ever need to, or want to, know about her twisted "romance".

At this point, the abuse had been going on so long she couldn't remember a time when she didn't need concealer.

She sighed to herself and moved toward the communal bathroom. It was much like Muggle Public restrooms. The only difference was toilet talked to you, and there were no towel dispensers. Mainly because if you couldn't find a single spell to dry your hands off than you weren't a real wizard.

A long stretched out counter held the sinks, and was normally littered with everything from News Papers to Hairdryers. Not today though. Today was the day they left Hogwarts for Summer and most of the girls had removed their things from it leaving the marble perfectly exposed. She placed the Concealer at the very back corner of it, because leaning against the nearby wall was a full length mirror.

She'd thought about doing this before of course she had. But she'd always been too scared to… to see… everything Ron had done to her. But Hermione was struck by the sudden urge to see herself for what she really was. Beaten.

She was confident no one would find her there, disrobing. They were all too busy enjoying themselves down stairs. She let her robe drop the floor, shortly followed by every other article of clothing she wore until she was looking into the full length mirror with the rusted iron frame and at herself completely nude. After the first time Ron hit her she had tried desperately not to catch a glace of herself in mirrors, or even in the reflection off her goblet. When she bathed she scrubbed herself blindly with her eyes tightly shut so she wouldn't have to look at her damaged, defiled body. And now she was. Staring at it blatantly tracing the outline of bruises both new and old… from her shoulders to her legs… they were everywhere.

She stared at the image and wished she hadn't looked in the first place. Without even realizing it she started to cry sorrowful choking sobs. And she stood there and allowed a single tear to fall for every bruise he'd left on her body. By the end of it her face was puffy and red. She didn't worry though. The Concealer would take care of it as well. She reached out for the container and as soon as she had it in her grasp she spread it all of her face, neck, and a small fraction of her shoulders. Anywhere an injury was visible she slathered it on.

Garment by garment she redressed herself. Before she knew it she was walking out the portrait hole yet again , her thoughts gravitating toward Ron as they always did when she was alone with nothing else to preoccupy her mind.

She remembered once when she was a little girl, she heard someone say that for every winner there was a loser. Being the optimistic child she was back then she automatically assumed this was wrong. Everyone could win, because when she thought like that the world had been a much brighter place. She knew better now. For every winner there was a loser.

He had won. Hermione had lost. It was that simple.

She'd lost the minute she met Ronald Weasley with his charming smile, and curly red hair.

Snapping out of her thoughts she made an attempt to lighten her mood with the thought of Summer. At first it did not succeed but then she thought about Summer's implications… No Ron. No more bruises. For a whole three glorious months. Bliss…

She only had a few more hours to get through before the Hogwarts express would whisk her home… and there she could forget all about Ron. At least temporarily. Of course she'd have to come back to school come August but she wouldn't focus on that until she had to. All that mattered was the fact that for three full months she wouldn't be anywhere near Ron Weasley.