One late fall day, after the first task but before the announcement of the Yule Ball, Hermione Granger pulled Harry Potter aside to a corner of the Common Room.
"I was wondering if you could help me with something," she said, not whispering, but keeping her voice low.
"Well," she looked around, seeing no one was near, hearing that some sixth-year's were making such a ruckus that they could hardly hear each other so close, but still wishing she knew a Charm for privacy. "The Imperius Curse. I didn't do well when Professor Moody had us practice against it earlier, so I've been reading more about how to resist it, so I'd like to try again, but it is controversial to use it in class, so I don't know if Professor Moody will try it on us again until exams. It will show up on the exam, don't you think?"
"Er, probably. So, what, you want to ask him to do it to you again? After class?"
Hermione said, "If I got private lessons from a Professor, that might be interpreted as a back channel. A way for you to be given special assistance by the school." More than that, though Professor Moody was a Professor, and Dumbledore trusted him, she didn't at all like the idea of him casting the Imperius Curse on her when it was just the two of them.
For something like that, you needed someone you trusted absolutely, and Harry was the best she had.
Hermione said, "I thought we might try it on each other."
Harry blanched, falling into a whisper. "It's an Unforgivable."
"We wouldn't be using it for real. Just so we can practice."
"It's dark magic."
She'd mulled over that for weeks. Her innate respect for the rules was a barrier, but such barriers had never been very thick for Hermione when they stood between her and what she wanted, and Hermione wanted to do well, and learn everything she could.
And more than that, the sense of helplessness when she'd realized that she wasn't especially good at breaking the Imperious, and that there were people in the world who might be able to make her do anything, had kept her up many a night.
Hermione Granger hated to be helpless. A great deal of her life was about not being helpless, and she did that by controlling everything she could and being as excellent as possible.
Hermione said, "Professor Moody cast it."
"Well, I suppose." He glanced around. "Shouldn't we go somewhere more private?"
They went to the same abandoned classroom where they'd practiced the Summoning Charm for the first task, and Hermione layered three different Locking Charms on the door, then sealed the cracks with summoned putty, Harry raising an eyebrow, but not saying anything.
Harry said, "I saw Professor Moody do it plenty, but I'm not sure about the wand motion."
Hermione took out a sheet of parchment, a single panel, enchanted, showing the wand movement for the Imperius Curse, as best as she'd been able to copy it from attentively watching Professor Moody.
Harry tried the movement a few times wandless, and said, "Right, let's give it a go. If you're sure."
"Just don't have me do anything too mortifying.
"Er, you know it's easier to break the curse when you really don't want to do what you're asked to."
"Nothing too denigrating," Hermione clarified.
"Right, here goes." Flourishing the wand in the prescribed way, Harry said, "Imperio."
Unlike other forms of magic, Curses tended to work for Harry on the first try. Hermione was sure that if Hogwarts had a Dark Arts class like Durmstrang did, Harry would be its top student by a wider margin than he was the top in Defense Against the Dark Arts.
The spell hit, and warmth suffused her. There was nothing to worry about, nothing to fear, and things were good.
"Sit in the chair," said Harry.
Hermione started to sit, but stopped.
What was wrong with sitting in the chair? Nothing was wrong with sitting in the chair. But. But.
Imperius Curse. Right. She wanted to break it.
And it broke.
Shaking her head, Hermione said, "That wasn't strong at all. It might work better if you could be frustrated toward me. To cast this Curse, you have to really want to dominate other people, Harry. You have to want to make them do what you want.
"Er. Sounds harder than the Patronus Charm, even. I'll try again."
He closed his eyes, screwed up his face, and cast again.
It was a little better. Not much. Hermione was oddly pleased, in a way. He tried a more few more times, but just couldn't summon up the necessary desire to dominate, and Hermione broke it easily every time.
Looking sheepish, Harry said, "Try it on me. Casting it yourself might make you understand how to defend against it better." He grinned. "And you're certainly forceful enough about what I ought to do half the time."
Unlike Ron's, the joke wasn't supposed to sting, but it did. Not that Hermione showed the sting any.
Unlike Harry, Hermione needed several times to cast the Curse at all, but finally she felt it catch, his eyes going glassy.
"Sing 'God Save the Queen.'"
His mouth opened, moved once, soundlessly, and Hermione felt the Curse break.
"Alright," said Harry, "But Moody's was a lot better. Try again, if you like."
All the things he hadn't done that she wished he would. The way he was ignoring the egg to play around with Ron. The way he didn't see anything wrong with not taking his exams at the end of the year and didn't seem to know what was important anymore.
If he would just listen to her.
"Imperio," said Hermione, and the Curse caught far more powerfully than before.
"God Save the Queen, Harry."
He sang, not badly, what with the nerves gone and his throat relaxed. She cut him off after two bars, wondering what to try next. She couldn't think of a great deal that was both more embarrassing for Harry and wouldn't leave him feeling upset afterward, even if it was for his own good.
Harry would forgive Ron just about anything, she supposed, but events of their third-year had taught Hermione that the same did not at all apply to her.
"Hug me," said Hermione, because he had never once hugged her without her hugging him first, and if he'd broken the Imperius Curse and asked her why she'd ordered that, she would've told him it was because she supposed he had a dislike of touching.
But when his arms went around her, pulling her close, she bit back a sigh.
It was nice to pretend that he wasn't under the Curse at all.
Hermione said, "From now on, you're going to listen to me when I speak, and not tune me out all the time."
"I'll always listen to you. Maybe not do what you say, but I'll listen."
"And when Ron and I disagree, you'll think about taking my side."
"I'll take your side if you're right." He grinned that boyish grin. "You usually are."
"And you're going to take school seriously."
"And the tournament too, and whatever happens next, you'll deal with it sensibly and not almost get yourself killed by ignoring it like you did last year, and this year too."
"Definitely." His look was confident and determined, giving her flashbacks to first year, oddly. "I'm going to face up to anything that happens, and I'll do my best, pretty well, and it'll work out well enough, I reckon."
"Good." That was it, wasn't it? What she wanted? For Harry to act smart enough, decisive enough, that he wouldn't die. She knew he had it in him, even if he hated to show it.
She wanted more.
"I know it's my job to care about you. But Harry, pretend you care about me."
"My parents and I aren't very close. I know it's not like your homelife — you won't tell me much about it, but I get that it's bad — but, well. They're not bad parents. They do what they're supposed to. But, I think that's why. Because they're supposed to."
Eyes kind and glassy, Harry said, "That sounds horrid. At least for me, it's simple. I don't like the Dursleys and the Dursleys don't like me. But feeling like you're a chore, like they're pretending to love you… that's bad in different ways."
"There isn't anyone who I'm really important to. But you're so important to me. Harry, tell me I'm important to you."
"Hermione, you're important to me."
"The most important."
"The most important person in my life."
Hermione said, "Say you love me. Not romantically. It could be, but that doesn't matter. Just, that you really love me. That you really care, and not because I help you pass your classes and stay alive, or because you like having two friends, but just because."
"I love you, Hermione, more than I can say. If you disappeared, or turned your back on me, the whole world would drop out from under my feet."
Hermione tightened her grip on him, burrowing her head into his chest, wishing the illusion were real.
But it wasn't real, couldn't be real, and while it was nice to know that nothing she'd had him say was so objectionable that he'd been able to break the Imperius Curse, there was no reason for her eyes to be wet.
She released the Imperius Curse.
She'd hoped, somewhere, in the most childish corners of her head, that he'd look touched. That realization would suffuse him, and everything she'd just made him say, he'd say of his own will.
Harry looked scared and confused, eyes wide, mouth gaping.
This is my first canon compliant story. If I had written it properly, it would be the saddest thing I've written.
I suppose I should say that in my mind, Harry isn't a tenth so determined to not give in alone with Hermione as he was with Moody in front of the whole class, nevermind with Voldemort in the graveyard.