Chapter One: Bitten
The bright, brown-haired Gryffindor was distraught as she paced about the Common Room. She and Harry were the only two still up at nearly two in the morning. Ron had gone to bed ten minutes prior.
It had been six months since Voldemort had fallen, and Harry and his friends had returned to Hogwarts to help rebuild and to catch up on the year they had missed while searching for Horcruxes.
Minerva McGonagall had taken over as Headmistress. Slughorn had resigned with the reasoning that he was getting much too old and wanted simply to relax in retirement, Severus Snape resuming his post as potions master after barely surviving his encounter with Voldemort's snake, Nagini. His story had been told to the rest of the school at last (minus the parts about Lily Evans-Potter of course), and he was both feared and respected once more.
Harry had pursued a relationship with Ginny, while Ron and Hermione continued forging theirs. At present, however, Hermione was very much reconsidering that relationship.
"What am I going to do, Harry?" she asked her friend in desperation.
"I suppose just tell him the truth," said Harry, feeling somewhat guilty knowing he was pretty much telling one of his best friends to break his other best friend's heart. Did that make him a terrible person?
Hermione whirled on him, almost on the verge of tears. "And break his heart? I can't do that, Harry, I just can't!"
"You can't go on lying to him," Harry reasoned. "Look, believe me, telling him now is better than waiting until he figures it out for himself."
"Oh…I know you're right…" She dropped down beside him on the couch, folding her hands in her lap as she tried not to cry at the thought of what she had to do. "It's just…so hard. I do love him, Harry. Just…not in that way…anymore…"
Harry wrapped his arms around his friend as he had loads of times in the past. The two were infinitely close-like brother and sister. If Hermione were being honest with herself, she could relate much more to Harry than she could to Ron. Ron was ignorant and oblivious most of the time, while Harry seemed to understand the wide range of emotions one could possibly feel. It was he who usually brought Hermione comfort when she couldn't confide in anyone else, although she had tried to take the same liberty with Ron many times before. Each trial ended in her only growing more upset because he never seemed to understand.
"It'll be alright, Hermione. Whatever his reaction is, he'll come round and things will go back to normal."
Or at least, that's what he hoped would happen. He prayed that a failed relationship didn't ruin the bond they all shared-a bond they had forged over the past eight years.
Friday evening in the Great Hall, the entire school sat down to supper. It was six o'clock in the p.m., and as usual, Ron was stuffing his face, Harry at least trying to maintain decent table manners as he sat next to Ginny who smiled at him once and awhile during the conversation. Hermione had barely said a thing, which was unusual for her, as she sat next to Ron, picking at the food on her plate. Truth be told, she was nervous about what she had to do that evening. Ron, of course, was oblivious to her obvious state of unease, but Harry knew exactly what was wrong with her. Even Ginny had picked up on her strange mood.
"Oi, Hermione, aren't you going to yell at me to tell me to stop eating?" Ron teased, nudging her with his elbow.
Hermione grimaced just enough for Harry to take notice before his eyes returned to his plate. She took a steadying breath and faked a smile. "No, I suppose not. I've given up trying to convince you."
Ron laughed. "About time."
Again, Hermione took a steadying breath as she pushed her plate back, having barely touched her food. "Ron…" She began slowly, then paused, her eyes meeting Harry's. He gave the barest nod, his eyes encouraging. She supposed that she would have to take that leap eventually, so why not sooner rather than later? Hermione turned to face the red-haired boy. "Could I…speak with you in private after supper?"
"Sure thing, Hermione," he replied around a mouthful of his dinner roll. Attractive…
She exhaled and looked forward. "Good." She stood, forcing herself to act casual as she looked to each of them in turn. "I'm headed to the library before it closes. I forgot I have a book to return. I'll meet you atop the Astronomy Tower when you're finished," she said to Ron. Not awaiting his reply, she walked off down the aisle and out of the Great Hall toward the library.
Ginny had left Harry and Ron to head back to Gryffindor Tower with a couple of seventh year girls, leaving the two boys to talk idly at the long table in the Great Hall as they waited for everyone else to clear out. Once the room was nearly empty, they stood and followed along behind the crowd, not caring if they got left behind a few dozen feet or so.
"Suppose I have to go and meet Hermione," said Ron conversationally.
Harry nodded, a bit uncomfortable knowing what his best friend was about to be told. "I suppose, yeah."
They walked along in silence for awhile before Ron stopped and turned to face his friend. "Harry, can I ask you something?"
Harry shrugged. "Yeah, sure Ron."
The redhead hesitated before looking Harry in the eyes. "How do you feel about my sister?"
Potter was taken aback by the question, wondering if Ron would consider hitting him if he said the wrong thing. He decided to answer honestly nonetheless.
"Well I…You know…I really care about her. I mean, she's…beautiful and smart and…I couldn't imagine life without her. I love her."
"Yeah…" Ron said after awhile. "I know what you mean. I feel the same way about Hermione. She's brilliant."
Harry nodded, suddenly rewarded with a sick feeling in the pit of his stomach. However, he said no more as Ron headed in a different direction to go to the Astronomy Tower.
Hermione stood at the very top of the tower, peering out at the vast expanse of lake and trees and grass. Her heart was breaking with the thought of what she had to do, and it took all the strength she could muster not to break down and cry. She was nervous, but she knew Harry had been right. She needed to just come out with it. It would save both she and Ron a lot of heartache in the end.
It wasn't like it was her fault. She couldn't help it if that spark that had been there before had suddenly disappeared; if her hormones had stopped raging and she'd grown to realize that her obsession with Ron had been silly and fleeting. Hermione wanted something more from a relationship-something that Ron seemed unable to give her.
"Hey Hermione," said Ron jovially as he came to lean on the rail beside her. "What's up?"
She inhaled to steady herself. "Oh, not much…"
"You wanted to talk. So go on then. I'm all ears."
Hermione bit her lip, unsure of how to begin. Suddenly, she lost her nerve and found herself unable to say the words that needed to be spoken. After a long moment of silence, Ron finally caught on that something wasn't right. He wrapped an arm around her, leaning in to pull her closer.
"What's wrong, Hermione? You can tell me. You know I'm here for you."
She gave a shuttering sigh, holding back the tears that began to burn just behind her eyes. "I know, Ron…"
"So out with it then. And hey, whatever it is, we'll figure it out together. Just like we always do. I mean…we fit pretty well together, don't you think? You've got the brains…and the good looks…and the big heart…and I…" He paused, unable to think of his own defining qualities. "Weeeelll…I love you! It's bloody brilliant!"
She spun on him, the tears threatening to fall now. "Stop Ronald!" she nearly shouted, not wanting to hear him sing of her praises when she felt anything but praiseworthy. She grimaced at how harsh she had sounded, but there was really no use in apologizing. Not when she was about to disappoint him tremendously.
He stepped back from her, confused, then placed his hands on her arms to comfort her. "Hermione, what's the matter?"
She stepped back out of his grasp, leaving him even more confused than before. "Ron, I'm sorry…"
"For what…?" He didn't miss the trail of moisture forming upon her cheeks as her eyes burned into his. "Hermione-"
"I…I don't love you…Ron…"
She could see her words beginning to sink in after a few moments of silence, Ron's face growing pale. "I mean…I do…It's just not the same…I'm sorry…"
He stood there, dumbfounded for the longest time, and Hermione began to feel all the sicker as his expression became pained. "Hermione…you're not serious…?"
"Oh, I'm so sorry, Ronald…Please understand…It's not anything you did-it's not you at all. It's just…Things have…changed…And I…"
"No," he said in a voice both quiet and full of anger. "I get it. I get it perfectly well." He turned his back on her, leaving her to sob quietly to herself atop the Astronomy Tower.
Harry sat in the Gryffindor Common Room, reading the Daily Prophet as he waited for his friends to return. When Ron finally appeared, it was no surprise to Harry that he was beyond upset. Harry rose to his feet as Ron stood in the doorway, staring at him.
"You knew, didn't you?" he accused.
"What?" asked Harry, feigning ignorance.
"Bloody Hell, Harry, don't pretend like you didn't know what she was going to tell me." His voice was much too calm, but Harry could hear the angry edge within it.
Harry dropped the newspaper on the coffee table, giving up trying to play the innocent. "What was I supposed to do about it, Ron?"
"You took her from me!" came the next accusation to fly from Ron's mouth.
"What?" Harry asked again, this time in complete disbelief. "Is that what you think?"
"Yeah, that's what I think! She always did like you better. Ever since first year, do you remember that?"
"Ron, I have no idea what you're talking about, but you're not making any sense! I'm with Ginny! You asked me-just before you left-how I felt about your sister! And I told you!"
"Or maybe you just want two girlfriends, is that it? S'alright. I know I can't compete with the Chosen One."
"That's in the past, Ron. Everything's…normal now. No one cares if I was the Chosen One."
"Sure. Right. Keep telling me that, maybe one day I'll believe you." Ron stormed across the room and up the stairs, glaring at Harry as he went. When he was gone, Harry sunk down on the sofa and ran a hand through his hair, unsure of what exactly had just happened.
Hermione did not want to go back to Gryffindor Tower to face Ron, Harry, or anyone else for that matter. She felt sick, not because she regretted ending her relationship with Ron, but because she had obviously hurt him a great deal and she was terrified that the breakup would ruin their friendship considering the angry way he had stormed off.
Not up for conversing with her fellow students, she left the castle just before dark for a long walk. Being partial students, Hermione was grateful that she, Harry and Ron no longer had to abide by curfew rules, so she was free to wander wherever she pleased on Hogwarts grounds.
As it was, she walked until she came to the Whompping Willow, staring at its base to the entrance to the Shrieking Shack. Not having a particular destination in mind, she decided to venture inside. After shooting a spell at the willow to keep it from its whompping, she headed to the tunnel, finding herself inside the rickety old shack within minutes.
Hermione walked around the place, her sobs long since gone, looking out through the cracks of the boarded up windows. She looked to the piano, remembering the last time she'd been there along with Harry, Ron, Sirius Black and…Peter Pettigrew. She remembered how Snape had walked in, threatening to hand Sirius to the Dementors, Harry blasting Snape a moment later, having pieced the puzzle together and wanting to hear Sirius finish his tale. She remembered Ron holding his pet rat, Scabbers, before Sirius had taken the animal and revealed that it was no common rat.
Such awful memories, really, but something good had come of it. They had found out that Sirius had been framed, serving time in Azkaban for something Pettigrew had done. Harry had come to know his Godfather.
Hermione forced herself to push all thoughts of the past aside. She didn't really want to revisit them at the moment. Sitting down in the corner where Ron had once sat, she sobbed silently to herself again, eventually crying herself to sleep.
She awoke hours later, not knowing when she'd drifted off or what time it was now. It couldn't be that late, she reasoned, standing slowly. Whether she had to abide by curfew or not, she was still wise enough to know that no one should be out past eleven, lest they risk running into danger. So, reluctantly, Hermione headed from the Shrieking Shack, still unsure if she was ready to face her friends and the rest of her schoolmates.
It had been several minutes or so since she exited the secret entrance beneath the Whompping Willow when she began to feel that someone or something was watching her. She froze and looked around, finding nothing out of the ordinary before walking again a bit more hastily. When a low growl came to her ears, she picked up the pace even more. But unfortunately for Hermione, she wasn't fast enough.
Without warning, something slammed into her, pushing her to the ground and knocking the breath out of her. She sat up, gasping for air as the lightheadedness began to take over. Her vision blurred slightly as she stared up at the creature that had attacked her.
It was a werewolf.
A werewolf abandoning the seclusion of the Forbidden Forest was extremely rare, and in Hermione's memory, she couldn't think of a time when it had ever happened while she was at school. Either way, she knew that coming face to face with one was no picnic.
She got to her feet, finally able to catch her breath, and ran like hell to get back to the castle. The werewolf had much longer limbs, however, and caught up to her in no time. It lunged for her, and she dodged it, pulling out her wand and throwing stunning spells its way. The dog was too fast for her spells, and eventually, it's great hand-like paw hit her in the side. She hit the ground hard, her wand flying out of her grasp and landing somewhere in the thick grass. She screamed as she felt its claws rip open the skin of her back, but that seemed to be the least of her problems.
Before she could comprehend what was happening next, she felt a sharp, searing pain in her side. She screamed even louder as the wolf sunk its deadly fangs into her side, the blood spilling from her body and pooling on the ground beneath her.
The werewolf's jaws were suddenly gone from Hermione's body, although the pain didn't lessen. Harry ran up to her, grabbing her wand as he did so as she continued to scream in agony. Breathing heavily, he only wished he knew about medical magic. Her wounds were deep and possibly fatal. There was no way he would be able to mend them.
The werewolf, whom Harry had blasted backwards with his spell, was now on its feet again. Harry didn't move away from his friend, but instead, shot more spells at the creature. A few hit, but most were dodged. It leapt for Harry, jaws open, but the wizard was ready for the attack.
The werewolf dropped like a fly as it was petrified, giving Harry the opportunity to get Hermione to safety. She still screamed in pain as he tried to find a way to help her. Tearing off a large piece of his school robes, he wrapped the cloth around her torso to try to stop the bleeding before he picked her up and carried her back to the castle. As he reached the main entrance, McGonagall appeared in the doorway with a shocked expression.
"Potter!" she exclaimed. "What has happened?"
Nearly in hysterics himself, praying that Hermione would be okay, he said, "She was attacked, Professor. By a werewolf. I think she's been bitten."
Hermione was no longer crying out, but every now and then, she would make a noise that conveyed the fact that she was badly hurt. "Well, Potter, be lucky-for both your sakes-that it is nearly sunrise," said McGonagall, her voice shaky. The two of them took her up to the Hospital Wing for immediate treatment. The Headmistress addressed a Slytherin as she passed them.
"Please tell Professor Snape that I need to speak with him immediately in the Hospital Wing."
The Slytherin girl nodded and hurried down the corridor to find her head of house, Harry and Minerva rushing to Madame Pomfrey. They lay Hermione upon a bed, her blood soaking the sheets instantly, having already soaked the cloth Harry had tied around her ribcage.
"What has happened here?" Pomfrey demanded as she shuffled over to see what all the commotion was about. "Oh my word!"
"It was a werewolf," said Harry automatically. "She's been bitten, I think."
Poppy turned to McGonagall. "Severus?"
"I've sent for him already," the Headmistress replied just before Hermione screamed again.
Harry watched as Madam Pomfrey rushed to undo the tourniquet he had made to staunch the bleeding. It wasn't long before Ron rushed through the doors, calling out to Hermione as Poppy worked to clean and mend the wounds. He stopped beside Harry, looking at his friend with wide eyes.
"I can mend her in a heartbeat," said Madame Pomfrey. "But the bite…I'm afraid there is nothing I can do to stop the change from occurring. What's been done is done."
"You wished to see me, Headmistress?" came the cool, emotionless voice of the dark potions master. Harry and Ron turned automatically as Minerva addressed him.
"Yes, Severus. It seems Miss Granger has been…bitten…by a werewolf."
Ron's eyes widened once more in shock. She'd been attacked? By a werewolf? How? And why?
Snape, although seemingly unfazed by this news, let his eyes wander the girl in Poppy's care. The wounds looked severe, but they seemed to be healing fairly well. He was glad to know that she was alive, nonetheless. He turned his stony gaze back to McGonagall, his mouth a straight line of indifference.
"I suppose I should get started on a Wolfsbane potion right away. However…as you know, it takes a full twenty-eight days to complete, and I barely have the reserves to make one batch."
"Please, Severus," said McGonagall in her best Headmistress voice. "Make what you can, and only after that batch is made, you may go and get the supplies needed for more."
Once again, Snape's eyes shifted to Granger. Of course, as usual, it was one of the Golden Trio that had gotten into trouble again. What a surprise, he thought blandly. At least it wasn't Potter this time. Quite frankly, Snape had had enough of saving the boy's arse over the years.
"Of course," he said to McGonagall slowly, then turned to face her completely once again. "Send her to me once she is in a much less critical condition. I will begin the brew straight away."
He bowed his head slightly to Minerva, then turned to exit the wing in a flurry of black robes and dark, feathery hair. He could be annoyed with this interruption in his day to day activities, but by now, he was used to such mishaps. He tried very hard to let these things roll off his back like rain water from the leaves of a plant. Sometimes, however, these "emergencies" became an irritation. Luckily for Granger, he chose that day to be somewhat patient.
Harry and Ron sat at Hermione's bedside once Madame Pomfrey had finished her ministrations. Both were quiet for a long time as they stayed with their friend, hoping she'd be alright, but mortified by the whole situation.
After awhile, Ron looked at Harry. "Look mate…I'm sorry about last night. I was way out of line…"
Harry shrugged. "It's alright Ron. I understand."
"I'm serious…I was a right foul git, wasn't I?"
"I suppose so," Harry agreed.
Ron flushed a bit, looking down at Hermione and stroking her hair. "So…let's forget that whole thing between us even happened, alright?"
Harry nodded. "Sure thing, Ron." Harry's eyes returned to Hermione as well as he held her hand, remembering back to their second year when she'd been petrified by the deadly eyes of the Basilisk.
He looked at Ron questioningly.
"How did you find her?"
"I…saw Ginny this morning, and asked her if Hermione had returned last night. I was worried about her. She said Hermione never came back to Gryffindor Tower as far as she knew, so I went looking for her."
Ron was silent for a long time. Then he said, "Thanks, mate. Not sure what she'd have done without you."
Upon returning to the dungeons, Severus immediately went to his stores to locate all of the ingredients for a Wolfsbane Potion. Unfortunately, it was just as he feared: he was low on two essential ingredients, one being the Wolfsbane itself. The other ingredient was Fanged Geranium thorns. Both items were very difficult to find, and nearly impossible to buy.
With a sigh, Snape took the supplies from the storage closet and set to work. He despised creating this potion for several reasons. One reason was the amount of time it took to brew it. Another was because the ingredients necessary to make it were extremely hard to come by. The third reason he disliked the task was because the recipe was so particular that if the brewer strayed from it even the tiniest bit, the potion could do more harm than good.
It took an hour for him to complete the first few steps. The fourth step is what took the longest amount of time. Each day at precisely the same time, he would have to add one Wolfsbane leaf to the potion until the twenty eighth day. Then he could finish the last of it quite easily.
Severus, having done all as was able for the time being, set the cauldron up out of the reach of any curious students, then sat at his desk to finish grading the essays he'd received from his final class of the day yesterday. Later that evening, McGonagall entered with Granger, Weasley and Potter standing back in the doorway. Snape stood and approached the Headmistress.
"I've begun the brew, but just as I thought, I will need to go and retrieve more Wolfsbane and Fanged Geranium thorns for the next batch."
"Very well," said Minerva, slightly unnerved by the morning's events. In all her years as a teacher, she couldn't remember any student ever being bitten by a werewolf outside of poor Lavender Brown being attacked by that miserable cur, Greyback during the final battle of the war. Turning from Hermione, she motioned both Harry and Ron to head back to their dormitories, assuring them that Miss Granger would be along shortly.
Severus stepped forward and closed the door before brushing past Hermione and heading back to his desk to put the papers safely into a drawer.
"Professor…" Hermione said shakily, still unable to believe what had happened a few hours earlier. "I'm…I'm not really going to become a…a werewolf…am I?"
Snape whirled round and leaned on his desk, expressionless. "Unfortunately, Miss Granger, yes. You have been bitten, and therefore will now retain the ability to shift into a wolf-like creature upon the complete rise of each full moon."
The horrified look upon her face was slightly amusing to him, and he couldn't keep the slight smirk from spreading across his face. "I must admit, Miss Granger, it surprises me that you-of all people-would not be wise enough by now to know how dangerous it is to wander outside the castle late at night. The Forbidden Forest is hardly a place anyone, even as dark as myself, would prefer to spend their nights."
Hermione's horrified expression took on a somewhat outraged look. "Excuse me? I'm sorry that you're misinformed, Professor, but I was not in the Forbidden Forest." She was aware that she sounded exceptionally defiant, but she was too rattled and unnerved by what had happened only just that morning and she was in no mood to be toyed with.
He lifted his brows in question, as if he honestly thought she was lying. "Oh really? Then where exactly where you when you were attacked?"
"I was in the Shrieking Shack, Sir," she explained, trying to keep her tone more respectful, yet determined to let him know that she wasn't as stupid as he obviously thought. "I…I felt like taking a walk last night before dark, and I only went as far as the Shrieking Shack. I sat there for awhile, and…I must have dozed off. When I awoke, I hurried back toward the castle, not knowing what time it was. I was attacked before I reached the bridge."
Snape said nothing, as if trying to decide if she was telling the truth. At last, he stepped down from beside his desk and walked down the aisle toward her. He stopped a few feet away, looking down at her with a blank expression once again.
"As you are already aware, Miss Granger, the Wolfsbane potion does not take away your ability to transform, but merely makes you docile once you have transformed. I'm sure you are also aware that it takes a full twenty-eight days to complete, which means it won't be finished until the morning after the next full moon. Besides that, it must be consumed exactly a week beforehand."
She grimaced, fighting back the urge to cry in front of him. No doubt that would earn her a detention at the most, a snide, embarrassing comment from her potions master at the least.
"Therefore, I ask that you report directly to me after dinner that night."
"What for, Sir? If the potion won't be ready in time-"
"Are you really that daft?" Hermione wanted to slap him for his continued implications that she was an idiot. "You have just been bitten by a werewolf. That means that in exactly one month, you will turn into a savage beast that can and will slaughter whoever and whatever gets in your way. Therefore, you are to report to me. I'm afraid you will have to be placed in isolation until you revert back to your human form."
She looked aghast. "You're going to throw me into a dungeon cell?" she screeched, indignant and outraged.
"Forgive me, Miss Granger," he said quietly, coldly, as he leaned his face closer to hers with each word that fell from his lips. "I could turn you loose on the rest of the school and have you either kill or turn half the students and staff. Or perhaps I can turn you out into the Forbidden Forest, where there are many creatures capable of killing a werewolf, especially a new, clumsy, inexperienced one…"
His face was mere inches from hers, and Hermione was forced to stare into the dark, black eyes of the potions master. She swallowed hard, suddenly intimidated by his close proximity. After a long moment, he pulled back, standing straight once more, his hands behind his back.
"Now, with those three choices, I should think that you would have the common sense to know which is the only reasonable option."
She forced her eyes downward. This man had a way of making even her feel ashamed of a simple question. "Yes, Sir," she amended quietly.
"Very well, Miss Granger. Now, report back to your dormitory and rest up. It is Saturday. I strongly urge you to enjoy your weekend. And do pull your nose out of those books. Perhaps if you spent more time socializing, you wouldn't find yourself so alone that you have to venture out to an abandoned old shack in the middle of the night to fill the obvious void in your pathetic life…"
This time, Hermione did glare at him before turning to storm from the room, slamming the dungeon door behind her.