Disclaimer: I gain nothing but satisfaction and maybe a few kind words from strangers (speaking of, I've decided that this will eventually be a collection of one shots, not necessarily in chronological order but from the same universe. I'd been considering it, and now I've been convinced by a reviewer).

Also, this is rather experimental, but I'm rather fond of the concept at its core. I hope you enjoy.

Summary: AU. They protect her in the new world order the only way they can.

"O, Iniquitous Haze"
well, darkness has a hunger that's insatiable
and lightness has a call that's hard to hear
( closer to fine ; indigo girls )

Helium is a gas.

If a balloon is filled with helium, it floats. The gas defies the gravitational pull of the earth's atmosphere.

She feels weightless. Has she been filled with helium? She isn't sure, because there is a rough texture under the soles of her feet which must mean that they are still touching the ground, but there is a weightlessness about her all the same.

Perhaps it's a consequence of solitude? Sometimes there are others, she thinks, but the shapes are blurred, indistinct and she is easily preoccupied by her own thoughts: the mind is inspiring – complicated like a labyrinth and capable of so much – and she is quite happy exploring the depths of her own.

There are voices.

She can hear them speaking; asking and responding, whispering and praying, and sometimes she hears a name that might be hers: Hermione.

Infrequently, she hears singing. The words are Latin, and the tune is only foreign the first time she listens to its melody, and every time she hears it she wishes she could join in with the clear, comforting tenor and the piano.

The haze isn't quite right.

She isn't entirely sure if it's wrong, but something in the tranquillity feels off, like eating cereal for dinner.

"She's breaking through again," Theodore Nott cries frantically, trying to get a grip on the curly-haired witch's flailing arms and toppling them both in the ensuing scuffle. His companion expertly flicks his wand at the door, locking it magically, before turning the wand on the distressed witch. "Petrificus Totalus!"

Instantly, she freezes in Theodore's grasp.

"That's twice this month," he sighs, cradling her stiff form. "Her immunity to the curse is growing, Zabini. We can't rely uniquely on Imperius anymore."

"Then how do we keep her safe?" Blaise enquires, stowing his wand back into its wrist holster.

Theodore's lips are the thinnest of lines. "I don't know." Gently, he wipes away a single salty rivulet that has made its way down her cheek. "I'm sorry," he whispers sincerely in her ear. "I'm sorry, Hermione, but it's the only way to keep you safe."

He doesn't know if she can hear him, or if she'd even understand, but it makes him feel better to say it aloud. Carefully, he lies her down and rises to reapply the Unforgiveable curse. The pearly jet of light makes her eyes glaze over, and Blaise nods delicately and exits in silence as Theodore repeals the Full-Body Bind.

Hermione stands under his direction and he cups her cheek carefully, his thumb delivering a loving caress, and as her body moves to the window seat Theodore sits at the piano and begins to sing. When he reaches the fourth line, a soft hum joins in and he smiles at the little witch with her hands folded in her lap.

He hopes his efforts will be rewarded. He hopes that she will be saved before he is overcome by the insatiable hunger of the Dark.


Read and review responsibly, please and thank you!