Disclaimer: As far as I know, I am not J.K. Rowling - so if you recognize it, it's not mine.

A/N: This story follows the series through Order of the Phoenix, but is an alternate 6th year experience. Rated M for following chapters.

As always - do be kind and review. The story won't progress if nobody cares enough.

Bound to Him

Chapter 1

The day had begun as sunny and delightful as a mid-August morning could be. By late afternoon, however, the weather had made a drastic change. The dainty breeze that had so pleasantly tickled the leaves on the trees had vanished, leaving an inexplicably ominous calm in its stead. The temperature had spiked at least twenty degrees, and the humidity had quickly followed suit. Threatening dark clouds had begun to gather, concealing the summer sun and plunging the day into a foreboding shade of gray.

It was on this day that Hermione Granger found it necessary to escape the tension of her house and seek solace with her thoughts in the small, wooded park not far from her home. With the muggy heat of the day forcing all reasonable people to seek shelter in their air-conditioned houses, she had known she would have the place to herself.

As she lay back on the old wooden picnic table, watching the sky, she let her thoughts wander.

How apropos, she thought of the dark clouds forming above her. The world was growing darker – and her life was no exception. Sirius Black was dead, and Lord Voldemort had returned to power. The headlines in the Daily Prophet that were delivered to her house weekly were depressing, if not downright disturbing. Even the muggle publications her parents subscribed to had made mention of strange disappearances and sinister happenings occurring throughout the country.

Liquid dripped down Hermione's cheek, and she casually wiped it away. She realized it was only her perspiration. The sky had yet to open up to release its moisture, and so far she managed to avoid shedding any tears.

There had been a close call earlier before she had sprinted out the garden door of her home and ran to her current location.

Several minutes prior, Hermione had been called down from her room by her father. She had found him standing in the sitting room next to her mother, who was seated on the couch.

She could tell they were both concerned – her father's look was most solemn while her mother had not stopped wringing her hands.

"Hermione, darling," her father began. "There's something we feel we must discuss with you."

Hermione twisted her eyebrows in apprehension. Glancing down, she could see the most recent copy of The Daily Prophet lying on the coffee table.

Oh no, she chided herself on her carelessness at not destroying immediately after reading it. She knew what was coming.

"Miney, you know that we love you – and that we want to support you in everything." Her mother paused, evaluating her daughter's reaction. "You are a bright girl, and are more talented than we could have ever imagined. It's just that, lately, your father and I have been more than uneasy with –"

"With what?" Hermione interrupted.

Her father cleared his throat. "We don't think you should return to Hogwarts this year."

"Not return?" She had expected them to give a lecture on being cautious – she had not expected them to consider withdrawing her from school. A small part of her felt ambushed. "You can't be serious!"

"Don't be upset, dear," her mother cooed. "We just feel it's too dangerous for you to be there."

"No, no, no, no…." Hermione gestured with her hands as she paced back and forth across the room. "I can't stay here – I have to go back! I have to go to Hogwarts!"

Her father stepped forward, placing both hands on her shoulders in a comforting manner. "We only want to do what's best for you. Perhaps if things calm down in the world, you can go back next year."

"Next year," she whispered. Next year. What's best for me?

Several emotions flooded her body. Anger. Fear. Disappointment. Confusion. And yet – understanding and compassion for her parents. The mix made Hermione feel claustrophobic and she wrenched away from her father's grasp.

"Hermione!" He called after her as she quickly retreated from the room.

"I just need some air," she responded before bolting through the kitchen for the back door.

Hermione sighed as she stared into the impending storm. Her parents' concerns were certainly not without merit. Logically, it made sense that they would want to protect her from the dark forces invading the wizarding world, but she knew in her heart it would not be long before the Muggle world would be just as – if not more – dangerous. Her parents would be unlikely to understand this at the present moment.

She absolutely had to return to school. Hogwarts was undoubtedly the safest place for her. Her friends were there. Dumbledore was there. They would all protect her. Hermione was just considering how she would be able to convince her parents of this when something made her startle.

At the sound of crunching leaves, Hermione lurched up into a seated position. Her eyes darted everywhere it seemed, but she saw no intruder. She could not, however, shake the feeling that she was being watched.

"Who's there?" she demanded, cautiously stepping down from the table. "Show yourself!"

Silence met her command. Her heart was racing and she suddenly wished she had been carrying her wand.

Not that I would use it without proper provocation, she mused, but it would be comforting to have, none the less.

The wind had begun to pick up, and leaves swirled around her feet.

She nearly jumped out of her skin when she caught sight of movement out of the corner of her eye. When her gaze locked onto the cause of the crunching leaves, she let loose a large breath.

A small rabbit had hopped around one leg of the picnic bench.

"Oh, Merlin," she sighed, waiting for the adrenaline in her system to subside. When she could breathe normally, she started to laugh. She had been so jumpy lately; she had to remind herself that evil was not lurking behind every corner.

Just most corners. She thought as her smile faded into a grim expression.

Hermione checked her watch and figured it was high time she made her way home. She did not want her parents to worry any more than they already were.

She brushed off the wood splinters from the seat of her jean shorts and took a step away from the table. She stopped nearly immediately, however, at the occurrence of a strange rustling.

That's not a bunny. Hermione spun around where she stood. The trees all around her were violently waving in the wind. A large crack of thunder broke, and the sky got darker – if that was possible.

The gray clouds had since become charcoal colored, and Hermione froze as streaks of black smoke swirled down to the ground.

Her brain suddenly kicked on, and she turned to flee from the scene as two Death-eaters appeared in the clearing.

She had only managed to run a few yards before a spell cast from one of their wands immobilized her. Hermione fell to the ground as darkness settled around her.

A/N: Review, Review! I always accept suggestions and constructive criticism!