Date Written: Sunday, October 9th, 2011
Unimaginative Disclaimer: I do not own Harry Potter.
Hermione, Ron, and Harry were walking towards Gryffindor tower after the Halloween feast when Harry stumbled suddenly. He continued to stagger drunkenly, and Ron grabbed his arm, helping ease him against a wall.
"You all right, mate?" he asked.
Harry's eyes were screwed shut as if in pain, his eyebrows furrowed. Everyone except Hermione, Ron, and Lavender Brown, who hovered awkwardly in the background, had continued down the corridor and turned the corner. The rumbling of traveling students faded away, leaving an eerie silence in its wake.
"Harry, what's wrong? Are you hurt?" asked Hermione.
Harry opened his mouth to respond, but after struggling for a moment closed it again. He was breathing very quickly, and Hermione's worry increased.
"I need you to look at me, Harry. Please open your eyes," said Hermione, raising her voice.
His eyelids fluttered, then opened fully, and the two reared back, Ron swearing. Harry's eyes were severely dilated and were almost completely back. Only a tiny sliver of green surrounded the wide, emotionless iris. It was one of the creepiest things Hermione had ever seen.
"H-harry?" said Hermione, aware that her voice had risen to almost a squeak.
Those eyes flickered about the corridor as she spoke, then seemed to freeze, riveted on something behind her. "Lavender," he said in a strange voice. The crease in his brow smoothed, his mouth turning up at the corners. "Lavender," he said again.
"No, Harry; Hermione! That's Hermione," said Ron, but Hermione's jaw dropped in realization. She whirled around, pinning Lavender with her fiercest glare. The girl took a step back, eyes wide.
"How dare you!" Hermione shrieked furiously, whipping out her wand and firing a powerful hex that would cover her body in painful and disgusting boils. ("Hermione!" Ron exclaimed.) Lavender screamed and fled down the corridor.
"You shameless skank!" Hermione yelled after her, and would have hexed her again, but Harry had grabbed her arm tightly, jerking her towards him.
Those eyes glared down at her, and Hermione actually felt a tendril of fear coil in her stomach, but Harry made no move to harm her. "Stop," he said emotionlessly, and released her.
Then, as if all of his energy were spent, Harry slumped heavily against Ron, who appeared utterly confused.
"What just happened?" he asked.
"Lavender has dosed Harry with a love potion," explained Hermione. "Most likely a time-delayed one that she slipped to him at the feast. Those are much more potent than the ones with an immediate reaction, but are supposed to take effect gradually. They're also much more complicated, and obviously that idiotic bimbo brewed it incorrectly – they aren't supposed to do this," she said, gesturing at Harry, who now stared blankly at the dark ceiling, his head lolled on Ron's shoulder.
"Bloody hell," Ron swore, and for once Hermione didn't reprimand him for it. "I never thought Lavender would do something like that. She could have poisoned him!"
"I think she has actually," Hermione admitted, twisting the hem of her shirt. "This... isn't natural. We need to get him to the hospital wing."
"Can you do that on your own?" Ron asked. "I want to go see what Lavender did to that potion."
"Oh, yes, that's a good idea," said Hermione. "She probably wouldn't tell me now anyway. You can meet us there afterwards. Here, let me take him..."
Ron positioned Harry's compliant arm around Hermione's shoulder and made sure she could support him, then sprinted down the darkening corridor.
"Don't terrorize her, we need answers!" Hermione called after him. She couldn't exactly tell what he shouted in reply, but it resembled something like "Hypocrite."
Hermione tightened her hold on Harry, and began trudging away in the opposite direction to the hospital wing, which was three floors down from where they were. She had only just reached the bottom of her first staircase when she froze, sure that she had heard something in the darkness. This particular corridor had no torches, and the pale moonlight streaming through a single window did little to help her see.
"My mind playing tricks on me," said Hermione a bit shakily. Shadows around her took forms of looming monsters, and she wished she could light her wand, but her hands were occupied by supporting Harry.
She had taken a few steps when she heard it again: it was a whisper of something lightly sliding against the stone floor.
"Who's there?" Hermione called out. Her heart hammered in her chest; if they were attacked she was in no position to defend herself and Harry, and she had no illusions that there were many who would wish them harm. She entertained for a moment that it could be a professor, a prospect which lightened her heart considerably, but she knew it wasn't. If there was a professor here they wouldn't hide. It also couldn't be Ron; not enough time had passed.
For a long moment Hermione stood there, her own heartbeat and Harry's quick breathing the only things she could hear in the pressing silence. Hermione had just started down the corridor once more when she heard it again, this time accompanied by a low hiss.
"Who's there?" Hermione called again, though she was beginning to doubt their stalker was human. She really wished Ron was there. "Show yourself!"
Another hiss. Harry stirred on her shoulder, and it occurred to Hermione that he could probably understand it. She tried to lower her friend to the ground so that she could access her wand, but something struck her leg just below the knee, making her cry out.
Hermione dropped Harry and fell to her hands and knees. Harry made a small noise of protest but otherwise did nothing. The pain in her calf began immediately increasing to an almost blinding level, and with shaking hands Hermione drew her wand.
"Lumos," Hermione gasped, but regretted it immediately. Instead of illuminating her attacker, the sudden light effectively blinded her. "Nox!" She dispelled it.
Then, what she suspected to be a snake struck her again, biting deeply into her thigh. Hermione screamed, barely managing to hold onto her wand. She tried to stand, but her legs would no longer obey her.
"Diffindo!" Hermione said, trying to aim for the hissing, but without being able to see she missed. "Diffindo, diffindo!"
Hermione was struck twice more on her side and her stomach, both just below the ribs, making her collapse onto her side and drop her wand. She screamed again, lashing out with her arms, and hit something long, cold, and about as thick as her fist, knocking it back.
The snake, which Hermione now knew it was, was both both large and poisonous then, if her cramping legs were any indication, but she couldn't think of any snakes that fit that category. In fact, the only poisonous snake native to Scotland was the adder, and those were tiny.
Was this a deliberate attack?
But Hermione didn't have time to think. She instinctively curled into a ball as best as she could, and folded her hands behind her neck, tucking in her head and protecting it with her arms. She was glad she did when she was bitten again, this time just above her elbow, where her face would have been.
Hermione drew in a breath and screamed as loud as she could. The snake struck her arm again above the other bite.
Still screaming, Hermione prayed someone would hear her and come help, but the odds were not good. She was in a low-traffic area in the castle that wasn't near any particular land mark, and unless someone just happened to be passing by, she was on her own. Her only hope was a teacher on patrol, but even that was doubtful, as curfew had only passed about a half-hour before.
Hermione tried to scream again, but was suddenly having trouble breathing. She wondered if she was hyperventilating, but then realized that her diaphragm was cramping up.
It dawned on Hermione then that she might die. Tears formed in her eyes as she thought of her poor parents, and of Ron who would certainly blame himself, and of Harry who – Harry.
Harry was there with her. If she died he was almost certainly next, especially if this was a planned attack.
The panic growing in Hermione's heart transformed into a burning determination, and a desperate plan formed in her mind.
Bracing herself, Hermione waited for the next bite. There was another low hiss next to her head. That's right, Hermione thought, her breathing becoming even more shallow. I'm still alive. Come and get me.
Pain shot through her as the snake bit her shoulder, but before it could pull away Hermione propelled herself with her undamaged arm to her other side, trapping it completely beneath her. The snake writhed under her, biting her shoulder and armpit again and again, but Hermione didn't move, instead searching out with her good hand for her wand, hoping against hope it was within reach. If it wasn't her plan was next to useless.
Her hand scrabbled frantically on the stone floor, but came up empty.
Darkness crowded at the edge of her vision. Hermione's lungs and snake bites burned and her body twitched, and she was beginning to go into shock.
Hermione had wanted to do so many things with her life, help so many people. She'd wanted to travel the world and study different cultures, learn everything there was to know. She had been going to bring Harry and Ron with her, as both of them had barely even seen their own country. She'd wanted to get married and have a boy and a girl. She had wanted to change the world.
None of that was going to happen now. She really shouldn't have been surprised though, considering all of the dangers she had been forced to face thus far. It was a wonder she had survived her Hogwarts education as long as she had.
Then Hermione's fingertips met smooth wood.
Gripping her wand triumphantly, Hermione raised a violently shaking arm above her head, pointing it skyward. Unable to speak due to lack of breath, Hermione released an unfocused burst of magic, much more powerful than it normally would have been.
Darkness swamped Hermione's vision, a roaring in her ears becoming louder than everything. Her arm fell limply to the floor, her wand tumbling from her grasp once more. Distantly, as if through the wrong end of a telescope, the last thing Hermione saw was an ocean of brilliant red sparks unrolling like a carpet over the ceiling and out to the surrounding corridors.
Does she live? Did she die? That is for the reader to decide. Review, please! Flames are not appreciated - constructive criticism, on the other hand, is.