The truth that many people never understand, until it is too late, is that the more you try to avoid suffering the more you suffer because smaller and more insignificant things begin to torture you in proportion to your fear of being hurt.
“Ron needs our help Hermione!” Harry shouted, waving his arms about frantically. “How can you deny it? He could be being tortured right now, and you don’t care?!?”
Hermione’s eyes flashed. “I do care Harry James Potter and don’t you dare tell me that I don’t!” she yelled back. “I just refuse to take action off of a letter! It could be a trap; remember Sirius?”
Hermione knew the moment the words left her mouth that she had gone too far. Harry turned scarlet and his eyes burned in restrained anger. When he spoke next, his voice shook with rage. “How dare you bring up Sirius?”
“I-I’m s-s-sorry...” mumbled Hermione under her breath. “B-b-but I just d-don’t w-w-want you to get hurt...”
Harry wiped away the tear that was curving its way down Hermione’s prominent cheekbone. “I will save him,” Harry stated simply before turning to exit out of the portrait hole, throwing the invisibility cloak over him as he walked.
“I’m coming with you, then.” Hermione’s voice carried across the room and although Hermione could no longer see Harry, she knew from his breathing that he had stopped. Harry whipped the invisibility cloak off.
“No, you’re not,” he said. “I need to do this alone!”
“What’s with you always having to do things alone?” Hermione hissed as she pushed herself up from the plush, maroon couch that sat near the fire that raged in the hearth. “Why can’t you accept the help that your friends – all of your friends – want to offer you?” Hermione’s eyes pleaded for an explanation. “Harry...why?”
Harry’s eyes pleaded in return for understanding. “You know why. If I don’t come back...”
“You’re coming back, Harry...”
“If I don’t come back,” Harry insisted, “I want to know that I did not waste the lives of all those I ever loved...”
“Waste?” Hermione responded shrilly. “Is that what you think it is, to die at the hand of the most tyrannical wizard that ever lived? Wasted? D’you think your parents wasted their lives? No, Harry, no!” Hermione cried. “We would die in honor, for a holy cause...”
“But you would die all the same!” Harry shouted at her, breaking her off in the midst of her sentence. “And I...I can’t have that piled on top of me! I couldn’t bear it if you died because of me!”
“Well, I couldn’t bear it if you died and I wasn’t able to come to your aid,” whispered Hermione. Harry looked at her, startled, and Hermione sent him a slight smile. “I’m coming with you,” she whispered fiercely.
“But nothing. I’m coming with you, tonight.”
Harry sent a half-smile back at her. “Thanks, ‘Mione,” he whispered softly. He placed a strong, steady hand on her shoulder and looked into her eyes. “We will find him.”
Hermione sent him a small smile of her gratitude and they both vanished beneath the Invisibility cloak. Then they crept out into the night.
As they approached the Whomping Willow, they shed the Invisibility cloak and hastily glanced around. No one was in sight, and they both let out sighs of relief.
“The letter said he’d be in here,” Harry whispered, pointing at the entryway hidden amongst the tangled roots of the great tree. “How do you reckon we get in?”
Hermione pulled her wand from her pocket. “Immobilous!” she shouted clearly, her voice sullen. The tree froze and allowed both her and Harry to creep through the entryway unnoticed and unharmed.
As they walked inside, rough hands grabbed Hermione, pulling her away from Harry. Hermione tried to cry out, but a strong-smelling gag was thrust down her throat and she choked. Then an elbow came at her from above, collided with her head with a loud, echoing thunk, and her world faded away into darkness.
Hermione woke, her head pounding. Her surroundings were pure white and the bed she lay in was cold. She recognized her surroundings, as she had been her more than once before: the hospital wing in Hogwarts. Hermione tried to push herself onto her elbows, but the moments she moved, she couldn’t restrain a moan. Her head ached more than ever...
The moment she emitted the groaning sound, even though it was quiet, Madame Pomfrey hastily walked over to her bed and tilted her head back with considerable force. Hermione winced as a slimy, putrid-smelling and foul-tasting liquid was poured down her throat. She was only able to swallow it when she realized that if she didn’t, she’d have to take another dose.
Hermione only realized that the potion was a sleeping potion when she woke again. It was late in the evening and the sun was setting. A orangey-pink tint colored the horizon. It was quite beautiful and Hermione smiled as she looked at it until she remember how she had gotten here.
Harry, she thought, panic setting in. The last time she’d seen him, he’d been in harm’s way. What if he was hurt; what if he was...Hermione couldn’t bear finishing the second thought.
It was at that moment that Hermione noticed that she was not alone in the room. Three beds over from her lay a very familiar face framed by a shock of flaming red hair. His eyes were closed, his mouth slack. She couldn’t tell from this distance whether he was breathing or not. As Hermione tried to push herself up from the bed once more, another voice drifted over from the corner.
“He’s not dead.” Hermione’s head jolted around and she saw Professor McGonagall striding toward her. Hermione let out a sigh of relief, then remembered her primary worry. She turned to face Professor McGonagall.
“Harry...?” she asked quietly, barely risking breath in fear of not being able to hear the answer.
Professor McGonagall’s lined face grew grave, and she suddenly looked so much older...and burdened. “I’m sorry,” she whispered before leaving the room, tears misting her own eyes. For the grief was still too near for her.
Hermione’s breath caught in her throat. Harry was dead. Her best friend and ally was dead. And she had led him there...willingly. She should have run to a teacher, to the headmaster...but she hadn’t. And now Harry was dead.
Hermione woke to the sensation of wet and salty tears dripping down her face and gathering in her ear in a pool. Her hands shook at the dream. It was much too vivid to be a dream. No one could dream with such accuracy or color. No, there was only one solution.
Her memories were returning, had been returning. The writhing little boy, the shriveled and blackened woman and her small child...Hermione realized at that moment that she had killed them, as she had, involuntarily and unwillingly, led Harry to his death.
I’m sorry Harry, Hermione thought, her face soaked and trembling. How could I? she wept, thinking of the frightened little boy and the eyes of the mother, lost and terrified, pleading...begging. How could I murder them?