Chapter 1 : Rage Against the Dying Light
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It was so cold in her dark cell, that when she exhaled she made little puffs of smoke. She huddled in the corner that was farthest from the door. Her body trembled constantly, whether from the cold or fear, she did not know. Time had left her a while ago, so that she never knew if it was day or night. The only part of time she knew, was that she was running out of it. With this her only constant thought, she waited in the dying light and listened for the heavy echoing footsteps that would always come.
“Have you found her yet?” Ron inquired.
“No, Ron, not yet,” answered Harry tiredly.
“But it has already been three days…”
“I know Ron!” Harry snapped.
Ron turned away hurt and Harry let his head fall into his hands. He rubbed his face and started in a much calmer tone, “Look Ron, I know your worried, I am too, but I am doing everything I can to find her and you are not helping by sulking and asking me if I have any new information every hour of the day.”
Ron looked like he was about to protest when they were interrupted by Remus Lupin.
“Harry, there are Death Eaters…,” he said hurriedly before disappearing down the hall.
Without another word Harry and Ron disapparated.
She awoke with a start, never remembering when she had fallen asleep. She stretched out and winced at the pain in her stiff joints. Her teeth chattered, as she resumed to violently shake. She blew onto her cupped hands and started rubbing them together and then rubbing them on her arms and legs, desperately trying to restore feeling to the numb limbs. Her stomach voiced its annoyance at her meager food supply and her mouth was as dry as sandpaper from lack of water. Her light was waning out and no matter how much she raged against it, it still continued to flicker down. She was now beginning to seriously question when she would be rescued, for even in her dazed state she knew that her time was running out.
“Where is she?” Harry yelled at Lucius.
“Wasting away in a cell,” Lucius smirked at Harry.
“Let her go!” Ron screamed pathetically at him.
“Why ever would I do that? That would destroy our bargain. Remember Potter, you have one day to meet the Dark Lord’s terms or else your precious Mudblood will die,” said Malfoy smoothly before disapparating.
Harry sank to the ground.
“Harry we have to meet You-Know-Who’s demands!” exclaimed Ron.
“Ron, I don’t think I can,” Harry said slowly.
Ron stared at him incredulously.
“What do you mean you can’t meet them?”
She jumped painfully to her feet when she heard the echoing footsteps. Leaning against the wall for support, she desperately hoped that they would give her some more food. The hope sank as she realized there was more than one person coming towards her. No, this time was going to be different. Hurriedly, she tried to make herself look presentable. She wiped the tears off her swollen face with the back of a cold hand and wiped her dripping nose on her sleeve. Whoever was coming, she did not want to look afraid or like the filthy mudblood she was supposed to be.
“Well what are you going to do?”
“I don’t know Ron!” snapped Harry. “I don’t know how to stop him from killing everybody at Hogwarts. I don’t think I can!” he continued staring determinedly at the floor, realizing what it was that he was saying.
“So you are just going to let her die?” asked Ron incredibly.
When Harry did not speak and continued to not meet his eyes he continued,
“Harry you can’t do that!”
“Ron don’t make this harder than it already is.”
“Then don’t do it!”
“There are more lives at stake then just Hermione’s,” Harry said aggravated, raising his voice slightly.
“Your friend’s life should come before all others,” Ron continued desperately.
“And I wish it could! But it can’t Ron. It just can’t. Not in these circumstances. Not this time!”
“Well mudblood, your friends have abandoned you to your fate,” sneered the chilling voice of Lucius Malfoy.
Hermione used every ounce of her will to keep herself from crying out. They had left her to die. She wanted to curl into her corner and cry for all eternity; but her defiance kept her standing; her courage kept her staring into the merciless eyes.
“Kill her Lucius, she is of no more importance to us,” the voice of Voldemort said coldly.
“Yes my Lord.”
Hermione was defenseless to do anything as she watched Malfoy point his wand at her. She could only stand as the green light raced towards her. Her vision faded suddenly and her lifeless body slumped to the floor.
“How could you let her die?” shouted Ron, “You could have saved her!”
Harry slammed his hands down on the table and yelled back, “You know that it was too risky!”
“You had the chance! If you had seized it she could still be alive!”
“And how many more would have died, Ron? Should I have saved one person and let hundreds more perish?” asked Harry angrily.
“She was your best friend, Harry!” choked out Ron.
“Do you think I don’t know that!” shouted Harry, becoming frustrated.
Ron, unbelieving, asked Harry quietly, “What happened to the old Harry; the one who would risk everything to save a friend, the one who would pull off amazing stunts?”
“He’s dead, Ron! He died when Sirius and Dumbledore died because he tried to perform another amazing feat, but unfortunately, he failed!”
“Well at least when he failed the other times it was because he tried to save them! You did not do a damn thing this time Harry! We never blamed you for the other times, but this time I know who the one at fault is.”
Harry looked around at the silent, weeping people before looking down into the coffin that held his former best friend. Her once bushy hair lay limp. The beautiful brown eyes that had been lit with knowledge and happiness were now closed against the world forever. Her face lay grim, showing no hint of the dimples that had appeared every time she smiled. The once smooth pale skin was now marred by bruises that seemed to scream accusations at Harry.
“I’m sorry Hermione,” he whispered, before returning to his seat, apart from the others.
Ron stood from amidst his family to make his speech. They were no longer speaking with each other and Harry had been banned from the Burrow by a sad looking Mrs. Weasley.
No one seemed to understand that he had to do what he did. It was not like he had wanted to do it and it had taken every ounce of courage for him to condemn her fate. Yet when he had walked into the church, not one of his friends had greeted him, nor had even looked at him.
“Today we honor the memory of a special young woman who paid the ultimate price for defying You-Know-Who. This day we mourn for the loss of such a bright and intelligent woman…” Ron’s voice cracked and he had to take a deep breath before continuing, “Many here loved Hermione; family and friends alike. I for one will miss… miss her terribly…”
Harry studied Ron’s tragic face as he spoke. His words flowed around Harry, but not into him. He could not let them; would not hear them. He was already having trouble keeping the pressure that threatened his eyes at bay.
How many more funerals would he have to attend? How many more friends of his would have to die? And even worse, how many more deaths would he cause?
Harry noticed that everybody was standing and consoling each other. The funeral was over.
With a determined air, he maneuvered his way to Hermione’s parents, receiving many glares as he did so.
“Mrs. Granger, I’m so sorry for your loss. Hermione… she… she meant the world to me. No one will ever be able to replace her,” he said grimly.
Hermione’s mother attempted to smile at him even with red, swollen eyes and tear streaked cheeks.
“Thank you, dear boy,” she said as another tear escaped her beautiful brown eyes that looked exactly like her daughters.
“I’m sorry but I… I’m not quite sure who you are.” she said bewildered in her grief.
After a short pause Harry answered sadly, “I’m the one who killed your daughter.”