The Last Curse

Harry saw Hermione sitting alone in the Great Hall. She looked stunned and miserable. He walked over to her and sat down in silence. The two friends had just been through death and life again together and right now there was nothing left to say. "Take a walk?" Harry asked. They had been giving the Weasley family some time together to care for their dead son and brother, Fred.

"Sure" Hermione said. She just wanted to get away from the horrible scene of her injured and dead friends lying all around her; here in the place where she had once spent the happiest times of her life.

The walked together in silence through the still smoldering ruins of the courtyard. The Battle of Hogwarts was over and the sun was shining brightly today. They had finally defeated Lord Voldermort, his Death Eaters and all the dark creatures that had conspired and fought with him. She was at a loss as to what to do now. This fight was all she had known for the last seven years. Where do we go from here, wondered Hermione. "Will it ever be the same?" she tearfully asked Harry.

"It will be rebuilt, but it will never be the same" he replied, even though he knew she wasn't just asking about the school. Just then, they heard rubble shifting and a low moan come from behind a pile of debris ahead of them and to their left. They looked at each other and Hermione said "Someone's alive over there!" and ran off.

"Hermione, wait!" Harry shouted. She has no idea who that might be, he thought, running after her and pulling out his wand. He heard a muttered curse and Hermione's brief scream. He rounded the corner between two piles of wreckage and she was there, lying in the dust. So was a dead Death Eater, partially buried under a pile of bricks that had once been part of the wall of the courtyard. He must have cursed Hermione with his dying breath, he realized. Harry scooped the unconscious girl up and carried her back to the Great Hall. He entered the hall and yelled, "Someone help us, please!" Professor McGonagall, Madame Pomfrey and Ron Weasley all came running as soon as they saw whom Harry had in his arms. He laid her on the nearest open stretcher.

"What happened?" asked Madame Pomfrey. Harry recounted the incident in the courtyard. Professor McGonagall said to Harry "We must go back out there and check if he really is dead. Come with me, Mr. Potter." Ron knelt beside Hermione and clutched her hand. If anything happens to her, he thought, after everything else, I really will go mad.

Harry showed Professor McGonagall the Death Eater that had attacked Hermione. He had not moved from the position he was in when Harry had left him. She confirmed that he was dead and took his wand. She performed the Prior Incantato spell to make the wand reveal its last spell and a troubled look came over her face. "He managed to use the Deletrius before he died. I cannot retrieve the spell he performed on Miss Granger. Did you hear what he said Mr. Potter?" Harry thought as hard as he could. His best friend's life may be in the balance, but all he could remember was hearing someone speak. He had been too startled by her scream to remember what he had heard just before it.

"No, Professor" he replied to her.

Harry and Professor McGonagall returned to the Great Hall with the Death Eater's wand. They went directly to the stretcher where Madame Pomfrey was attending to Hermione. "Poppy, I have tried to recall the spell this wand cast, but the Deletrius has been used. Is there anything you can do?" Professor McGonagall asked.

"No" replied Madame Pomfrey. "Minerva, your spell craft is better than mine, if you couldn't do it I'm afraid there's nothing else I can do with that wand."

"How's Hermione?" Harry asked.

"There doesn't seem to be any physical damage." Madame Pomfrey replied kindly to Harry. "Perhaps it was just some type of stunning spell." she offered. "We will have to wait until she wakes up to see how she is doing."

Draco Malfoy had returned to his dormitory in the Slytherin dungeons. He stood by his bed and ran his hands through his hair, then rubbed his tired, bloodshot eyes. There wasn't anything here he wanted, he had just needed somewhere to be alone. He packed Vincent Crabbe's things into his trunk. He may still have family somewhere that might want them one day, he thought. He looked around remorsefully at the room where he had slept for the past seven years. What had happened? he thought. All the youthful boasting and bragging they had done in here. The plans and schemes they had conjured, the things they would be famous for after the Dark Lord returned to power. It seemed to have happened a century ago. The war was over, and he was probably going to be sent to Azkaban sometime today. His heart felt heavy as he left the dungeon and slowly made his way back to the Great Hall to meet his parents.

Hermione awoke gradually. She raised her hand and gently rubbed her forehead. "What happened?" she said before her eyes were even open.

"You got hit with some kind of curse" Ron said, stroking her cheek. At his voice and touch, her eyes flew open and she sat straight up.

"GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME YOU FILTHY LITTLE COCKROACH!" she screamed at him and jumped up off the stretcher. She ran full speed out of the hall and collided with Draco Malfoy as he was entering. "Oh!" she said as she saw who she had run into. Then she wrapped her arms around his neck and sobbed. "It's over isn't it? We've lost! Its over." she cried.

Draco wouldn't have looked more confused if Dumbledore himself had reappeared in the hall at that moment. He pried Hermione's arms off his neck and pushed her back from him. "Wh-what?" was all he could manage to say.

"After all we did, how hard we worked" she cried, "It was all in vain. They won!" she screeched.

Professor McGonagall, Madame Pomfrey, Ron and Harry came over to the odd pair.

"Hermione, have you lost your mind?" Ron asked.

She glared at them with palpable hatred as she scrambled to hide behind Draco. "Don't let them near me!" she spat, "They put some kind of curse on me, the Weasel said so himself!" Hearing the slur on his name coming from the girl he loved, Ron looked as if someone had slapped him.

"Well" said Professor McGonagall, "It appears we know the nature of the curse she is suffering."

Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy approached to find the cause of this scene that seemed to involve their son. "What is happening here?" asked Lucius, still using that insufferably imperious voice he had. Hermione broke away from Draco and hugged Narcissa. She looked more shocked than her son had at the girl's embrace.

"I'm so sorry, Narcissa" Hermione whispered. "We tried so hard."

"That's alright." Narcissa said, bewildered, as she pulled Hermione's arms off of her neck.

"Lucius," Hermione said, as she moved away from Narcissa, "What happened? We were so strong! We were invincible, weren't we?" she trailed off, looking confused.

"Miss Granger has been cursed by a …." Professor McGonagall started. Since the girl seemed to think that she had been one of them, she was worried that if she said Hermione had been cursed by a Death Eater, it might set her off to screaming again. "She has been cursed. I think she probably should be transported to St. Mungo's."

"I am NOT going anywhere with you people!" Hermione growled. "It's a trap, isn't it? You tell me you're taking me to St. Mungo's, so I'll go along willingly and the next thing I know, you are turning me over to the guards at Azkaban! No way!" she hollered as she tried to hide behind Draco again. He looked as if a Blast-Ended Skrewt was trying to cuddle with him. He moved away from the others, trying to escape the clinging girl, but she followed him like a scared puppy.

"If you won't trust us, Miss Granger" Professor McGonagall said, looking to Lucius and raising her eyebrows, "Perhaps the Malfoys would be so kind as to escort you to the hospital?"

"Absolutely not!" said Lucius emphatically. "We are returning to Malfoy Manor at once. You will have to find a way to help the little mud-"

Ron shoved past Harry in a blur. He seized Lucius' arm and thrust his wand against his neck. "FINISH THAT SENTENCE" he roared. "Please, PLEASE , just give me a reason!"

Harry placed his hand on Ron's shoulder and pulled him off of Lucius. "He's not worth it, Ron. It's over. He's on the losing side. Let him go." Ron gave his wand one last push into Lucius' neck, shoved him slightly and backed off, fire still in his eyes. "Lucius," Harry said coldly, "I wonder if I might speak with you for a moment?" He motioned him a short way away from the others. Lucius followed.

Harry spoke quietly, but firmly. "Lucius. I saved your son's life twice last night. The only reason your family is not already in Azkaban this morning, is because your wife saved my life in the Forbidden Forrest last night. I have already spoken for your family once. The way I see it, you owe me quite a large debt." The older wizard looked extremely uncomfortable at the idea of owing this particular boy wizard anything. "So," Harry continued, "You and your family WILL take Hermione to the hospital and see to her well being. You will stay with her as long as needed, and follow all the orders of the doctors to make sure she recovers from this curse. Treat her well and I will make sure that, when the time comes, your deeds after this day will be recognized."

Lucius's eyes narrowed and his jaw tightened. He took a deep breath. As much as he burned with hatred for this "chosen" boy and the mudblood girl, he recognized this as his only chance to keep his family of prison, at least for now. He nodded curtly. "Thank you" Harry said, and they walked back to the small group discussing Hermione's condition.

"Narcissa," Lucuis said to his wife, "I believe Professor McGonagall is correct. Miss Granger," he corrected himself, even though the name caught in his throat, "Hermione would be best treated at St. Mungo's."

"Hey!" shouted Ron, "There is no WAY I'm letting her go with them!"

"It's alright, Ron" Harry reassured him. "Lucius and I have worked it out. Please trust me Ron. She's my best friend too, and I wouldn't let her come to any harm". Harry nodded at Narcissa and she went to the girl who was still clinging to her son.

"Come dear, the protective charms around Hogwarts have been replaced. We will need to leave the grounds to apperate to the hospital" she said gently as she put her hands on Hermione's shoulders and began to guide her out of the hall.

"Wait!" Hermione said, "My wand! Where is it?" Ron went back to the stretcher where she had been laying and retrieved it for her.

"Best let Mrs. Malfoy take care of it until she has been treated" suggested Professor McGonagall. The last thing they needed was this exceptionally talented, but now very troubled young witch in posession of her most powerful weapon. Ron handed the wand to the older witch. He watched as the girl he loved walked away with the people he hated. The small group left the school, walked through the destroyed courtyard and off the grounds. He heard the distant "Crack" as they disapperated. "Be safe, Hermione" he whispered.

Authors note

I don't know yet how fast this one will come; there are still some large holes in the middle I am working on. Once again, I am trying to keep to canon, pre Deathly Hallows epilogue. If you spot any mistakes, please let me know!