Chapter 1 : Broken Inside
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She sat alone at the muggle station, her cloak pulled tight around her in an attempt to keep out the cold. But she didn't really care. The war had caused her to lose everything; friends, family, the will to live. All she wanted was to find somewhere to hide and live out her miserable life in peace. A place where no one would know her name.
Escape is never easy; but when you're running from yourself, its near impossible.
A train passed, not stopping at the station, just a through train that was too good for the one she sat at. The wind whipped her hair around her face, and she pulled back, further into the wall behind her, moving away from the sharp draft of the moving locomotive. And then the train passed, and she was left alone with her memories once more.
“C'mon Hermione, Harry obviously needs us now or he wouldn't have called with a patronus.”
“I know, I know. I'm just tucking the children in. It doesn't matter how urgent it is, these two are our priority. Mom'll be over in about fifteen minutes to look after them.”
“Honey, they're three and six. A bit young perhaps, but I was home with my brothers at that age. I'm sure they can survive for ten minutes. Your mom's got a key, hasn't she? Nothing will happen, okay.”
Hermione smiled at her husband's reasoning. He always tried the same thing whenever they went out and it never worked. Three really was far too young to be left without an adult close at hand.
“Ronald! I hope that you don't leave them like that when I'm out! Go ask Mrs Ash from over the road to keep an eye on them 'til my parents get here. She adores Hugo and Rose. She won't mind a bit.”
“Fine.” Ron left to go fetch 'the old bat' as he endearingly named her. There was something he just didn't like about her, something a little strange.
Hermione left the children's room, they were asleep which meant she and Ron couldn't apparate from inside. Her foot hit the bottom step just as the front door swung open. She jumped.
“Oh, I'm sorry. You startled me! Come in Mabel. Ron and I are going to be out for a few hours tonight but my mother is running a bit late. Could you possibly keep an eye on the children for me until she gets here?”
“Of course dear. He's already explained it all to me. You two go on out, the little darlings will be safe with me.”
“Thank you ever so much. Mom shouldn't be too long, but make yourself at home while you wait. There's some food in the fridge if you want it and...”
“'Mione! She knows!” Ronald cut her off mid-sentence, “Lets just go else Harry will be mad at us. Bye Mrs Ash.”
He pulled her out the front door before she could say another word.
“Ron, I wish you wouldn't do that. And be more polite to her, she's doing us a favour so there's no need to be rude.”
“I don't like her. She's just got that something about her. Anyway, we'll talk about it later, right now we need to get the the Burrow. That's where he said to meet.”
Hermione sighed, he was so impatient. “OK then honey, I'll see you there.”
The couple turned on their heels and disapparated with a loud crack. They hadn't been gone a minute before the front window of their house lit up like lightening. Twice the green light illuminated the room, showing anyone who cared to look the same broomsticks and cauldrons patterned over the walls, and the two seemingly sleeping forms lying in their beds.
She woke with a start. Similar dreams had been haunting her ever since she'd left. Another train rattled up slowly, stopping at the station with a loud hiss. She shivered. The rain had stopped, but it was night time, and the cold darkness surrounding her was enough to break any Gryffindor courage she hay have had. She cried herself to sleep, and let her dreams take over reality.
The redhead fell to the floor as the green jet of light hit her square in the back. Hermione screamed and started to run towards the young woman lying still on the grass.
“No, Hermione! Behind you!” Someone called to her, making her stop in her tracks. She turned quickly, her head spinning as fatigue wore her down. She was running on adrenaline, and the need to protect her friends and family.
The Malfoys. Lucius, Narcissa and Draco. The three of them marching forward, parting the crowds of wizards duelling, the elder two occasionally pausing to shoot a curse at the defenseless. They were marching straight towards her.
“No.” Barely a whisper of the word left her lips but the sound knocked her out of the slight daze she was left in. The bushy brunette ran, as fast as she could across the grounds and nearer to the thicket of trees on the other side. She was no coward, but she'd be damned before she was stupid enough to take on two skilled wizards and a witch at once.
Blank faces and empty eyes looked up at her as she passed. The dead watched the living, dark and light alike, willing them to keep what they themselves had lost not long before. Life is far too precious to be thrown away.
Orange light shot past her head and hit the wooden hut, making it burst into flames. Hermione tripped, falling face first into the dirt.
“On the floor where she belongs. Hello Mudblood.”
“Back off Malfoy, keep you and your family away from me.” Hermione dragged herself from the floor slowly, not wanting to give the pale man in front of her any reason to kill her sooner.
“See, and that's why you'll always be recognized as a mudblood. Anyone can tell that you were raised by muggles, dirt covered and lack of manners all rolled into one. Get back on the floor! Crucio!”
A scream rang through the air, but Hermione could not remember opening her mouth even to breathe. All she knew was pain and impenetrable darkness 'til the curse was lifted.
“Leave. Me. Alone.” Barely a sentence, but Hermione did not have the energy. She screamed once more in pain as the orange light hit her once more. Agony, she decided, was not something she wanted to experience often.
Then the pain stopped and she felt Malfoy's wicked smile on her as he raised his wand.
Hermione screamed again, but it wasn't the cruciatus curse that caused her pain this time. As if by magic she found herself about 500 yards across the grounds. Looking back, she realised that of course it was magic; she wasn't a witch for nothing. She ran a few steps farther to the side of the man who saved her life.
Ronald Weasley had been hit by sectumsempra just after he shot the killing curse at Lucius Malfoy. A second of distraction had cost him his life, and had left his wife with an unbearable pain deep inside of her, a hundred thousand times worse than 'crucio'.
Guilt racked her chest as she blamed herself, blamed Malfoy and Voldemort for the death of the man she loved.
“You've got dirt on your nose, by the way. Did you know? Just there...” The first words she spoke to him were the last words he spoke to her. She shook her head slowly, tears streaming, as she stroked his face. She couldn't believe he was gone so soon.
A loud cackle came through to Hermione. The laugh was evil and cruel. Bellatrix Lestrange was standing just behind her. Hermione turned her wand to point the other way and spoke the only two words she knew how.
Hermione had relived the war so many times in her memories; memories that would haunt her to her dying day. They swirled around and around in her mind, doubling her pain and anguish every moment. She wanted it to end.
Everyone was crying. Molly Weasley sobbed onto her husband's shoulder. She had just four sons from her seven children left alive. Fred had also died in the Great War. Other order members and some ex-Hogwarts students were all gathered around the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw tables in the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall kept herself more composed than the rest, standing in the doorway with but a few tear stain down her cheeks.
The Boy-Who-Lived had died. There were no doubts about it, and everyone was mourning for him and their loved ones that they had lost. Voldemort was also gone. They were killed in the same moment, neither living and neither surviving.
Hermione stared about the Great Hall, never blinking, never crying, until her gaze rested on Mrs Weasley and her hacking sobs. Slowly, the pain of her mother-in-law engulfed her also, and she slowly began to cry.
A small hand took hers and lead her towards the small group of redheads. She let go of the gentle but insistent girl's hand and revealed that both their hands were covered in blood; Ron's blood. She looked up slowly, unwilling to see Luna's sympathetic gaze upon her. Their eyes met, and Hermione's silent cries became louder, louder than even Mrs Weasley's.
Shock and trauma. Mixed together they can break even the strongest among us.
Luna drew Hermione into her arms, and she soon matched Hermione's blood stained attire. For someone so young, the pretty young blonde had wisdom beyond her years.
Hermione cried until she had no more tears left to shed, and she slowly pulled herself from Luna's soothing embrace. With a small smile from her friend, Hermione turned and apparated back home. She dreaded having to tell the children about the wizarding world's catastrophe; least of all the news about their father's death. She was so distraught and had no desire to inflict that amount of pain onto two so young.
The house was dark, and she assumed that her parents would have gone to sleep in the spare room. 5Am was a bit too late to stay up 'til. 'At least four people are oblivious to the pain and trauma the rest of them had experienced. For now.' she thought. A small tear slid down Hermione's cheek as she thought again of what must be said. She would be strong. For her children.
She couldn't relive the next bit. She couldn't. She wouldn't. She did. If you happened to be at the station with the lonely woman, you would have seen her eyes widen in terror, as if shocked at what she is seeing. Her mouth falls open and she bursts into tears. Sobbing loudly, a man sees her fall forwards, stretched onto the floor. Her head in her arms, she clutches at something invisible next to her. The minutes pass, and the tears do not subside, yet he still cannot see what she is staring at. There is nothing around her save for a beaded bag and a small wooden stick next to her shoe. The man walks over to the woman on the floor, sinking to the ground beside her. She shifts her body, resting on him and her hacking sobs slowly fade into dry hiccoughs as the memory fades also.
The funerals were devastating. Watching those she had once known and loved being lowered into the ground slowly killed her spirit. Spadeful by spadeful, the soil they insisted on shovelling the muggle way, hit the coffin as it fell. Thud, thud, thud.
Hermione took slow steps backwards, not wanting to draw attention to herself. She had withstood seeing her fellow order members, her best friends, and even her husband being buried, but she would not, could not withstand the sight of her two children being lowered into the darkness.
“Hugo doesn't like the dark, he would hate to be buried under like that.” Her small whisper carried on the breeze and some heads turned to see Hermione's wild eyes and masses of hair billowing about her face. She looked rather like another, darker, brunette from the war. Luna was the first to stand up and rush to Hermione. She looked up into he eyes with such emotion and pity that it hurt Hermione even more to wrench herself away from her friend.
“I'm so sorry. But I can't, I just can't.” Without another glance at the lady who had been taking care of her the past week, she apparated to her old home.
She hadn't been back since that night; the night where she had found four dead people in her home. Four of the people she loved most in the entire world: the first and third generation in their family.
The bodies may have gone but she tried to avoid the living room and front bedroom. The pain was still so strong, consuming her soul with every breath she took.
Hermione made her way to the master bedroom, refusing to look at the bed she had shared. She packed some gold, books and clothes in a familiar beaded bag. It was all she needed.
Tucking her wand back into her cloak, she turned to take one last look at the view outside her window. How many shattered lives? It may only be a muggle street, but a wizarding war is not the only way to feel such sorrow and grief. Death, disease, destruction. So many different ways to hurt a person.
And then she apparated away, leaving no trace of her presence behind, but a single tear drop that had fallen only a second before.
She came here to get away from the world. Train stations are busy places, so busy that no one would ever stop to talk to a nobody like her. She barely exists in the muggle world, just a birth certificate and primary school records. The house wasn't in her name, the neighbours didn't know her as 'Granger'. Hermione Granger hadn't existed for the past fifteen years, and now it was time to come back.
A warm hand was strongly holding her shoulder, another stroking her hair. It felt so much like when her father held her after a nightmare.
'Maybe it was all just a bad dream,' she thought 'I'll open my eyes and be back home, eleven years old and scared to be starting high school. Maybe.'
Hermione's eyes slowly opened, her eyelashes heavy with tears. She looked up into the sparkling silver eyes of the man beside her. Beautiful eyes, but they didn't belong to her father.
She squeezed her eyes shut, choking back another cry as her heart broke into pieces smaller than small. There was no hope in her life, no pleasure that she could possibly derive from being orphaned and widowed in the same night.
She was all alone. She was broken inside.
The man slowly rocked Hermione, making soothing noises as he gently stroked her hair. He couldn't bear to see a woman cry, his one weakness, and he silently vowed to stay with her until she was better again.
It was, after all, partly his fault.