Disclaimer: I am absolutely 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.
Bound to Him
The day had begun as sunny and delightful as an August morning could be. By mid-afternoon, however, the weather drastically changed. The dainty breeze that had so pleasantly tickled the leaves on the trees vanished, leaving an ominous calm in its stead. The temperature had spiked at least twenty degrees, and the humidity quickly followed suit. Threatening dark clouds gathered, plunging the day into a foreboding shade of gray.
How apropos. Hermione Granger, reclining on an old, wooden picnic table, watched the dark clouds form 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 Daily Prophet headlines delivered to her house were depressing, if not downright disturbing. Even the Muggle publications her parents subscribed to reported strange disappearances and sinister happenings throughout the country.
Perspiration dripping down her cheek, Hermione reflected on what had sent her sprinting out the garden door to seek solace within the small, wooded park not far from her home.
"Yes, Dad?" Hermione stepped into the sitting room, having been called down from her bedroom. Her father stood solemnly behind the sofa, where her mother sat wringing her hands. "What's wrong?"
"Hermione, darling," Samuel Granger began. "Please sit. We need to have a discussion."
Eyebrows twisting, she settled into the armchair. She glanced down to see yesterday's copy of The Daily Prophet on the coffee table. Color fading from her face, she chided herself for not destroying it immediately after reading.
"Hermione, you know that we love you…and that we want to support you in everything." Jean Granger evaluated her daughter's reaction. "You're a bright girl, more talented than we could have imagined. We've always wanted you to succeed in whatever you pursue, in this world or the magical one."
"I know," the girl nodded.
"But lately… Well, your father and I are uncomfortable with the thought of you out there on your own."
"What are you saying?" Hermione asked.
Her father cleared his throat. "Your mother and I think it best you not return to Hogwarts this year."
"Not return?" Hermione felt ambushed. She had expected them to lecture her on being cautious, not to withdraw her from school. "You can't be serious!"
"Don't be upset, dear," her mother sighed. "It's too dangerous."
"No, no, no, no…." Gesturing with her hands, the girl paced across the room. "I can't stay here – I have to go back! My friends –"
"Will still be your friends," Jean assured her. "You can still write them, and we could arrange visits."
As Hermione gaped at her mother, Samuel placed both hands on her shoulders in a comforting manner. "We want to do what's best for you. If things calm down in the world, you can go back next year."
"Next year," she whispered.
"Perhaps they might agree to something long-distance," Jean suggested. "They can do magic, for goodness sake; it shouldn't be that hard. And we're willing to pay more in tuition –"
Samuel groaned and received a scathing glance from his wife.
"If it means you're safe, we are happy to pay whatever it takes," she reiterated. "And if they won't work with us, we'll find an alternative. Maybe you take a gap year? We could take some time off, travel."
"Gap year?" Hermione heaved a gasp and covered her mouth. Several intense emotions warred within her. She was angry at their suggestion, yet also understood it. She felt guilty for both entertaining and dismissing the idea because she was afraid of disappointing her parents, friends, or teachers.
The confusing mixture made her feel claustrophobic, and she bolted through the kitchen – ignoring her parents' shouts – in search of air and space.
Hermione sighed, staring into the impending storm. Her parents' concerns were not without merit. Logically, they would want to protect her from the dark forces invading the wizarding world, but she knew it would not be long before the Muggle world would be just as – if not more – dangerous.
Of course, she was scared, but she had to return to school. Hogwarts was probably the safest place for her. Her friends were there. Dumbledore was there. They would protect her.
But how do I convince my parents of that?
At the sound of crunching leaves, Hermione lurched up into a seated position. Her eyes darted every direction; while she saw no intruder, she could not shake the feeling of being watched.
"Who's there?!" She climbed off the table. "Show yourself!"
Silence met her command. Her heart raced, and she wished she had been carrying her wand. She was not supposed to use it given her age, but it was undoubtedly stupid not to have it on hand.
The wind picked up, and leaves swirled around her feet. Movement in the corner of her eye made her nearly jump out of her skin. She felt silly a moment later when a small rabbit hopped around the picnic bench.
"Merlin." Hermione bent over, waiting for the adrenaline to subside. She started to laugh, which startled the rabbit.
"I'm sorry!" she called as it fled for safety. Groaning, she wiped her face. Evil isn't lurking around every corner. Just most corners.
Checking her watch, Hermione figured it was time to head home. Her parents were already worried enough.
She brushed wood splinters from her shorts and moved away from the table. She stalled, though, when the rustling resumed. And continued growing louder.
That's not a bunny.
The trees around her waved violently in the wind. A large crack of thunder broke, and the grey clouds darkened into charcoal.
Hermione momentarily froze as black smoke streaked to the ground, revealing two masked Death-eaters. Wandless, she attempted to flee but only managed a few yards before one of their spells immobilized her.
Darkness settled around her as she fell.
A/N: This chapter was revised 06/23 to improve concision and expand the conversation with her parents.