Author's Note: As always, this story is a mature story written for adults. It may contain the following: death, violence, adult situations, sexual activity, manipulation, devious and deceitful behavior, and imperfect people. Hermione will definitely be imperfect, neurotic Book-Hermione who makes mistakes and isn't All-Powerful and All-Knowing. If you want that, you'll want a different story. Please pay attention to story genres. Just like every other story I write, this will be fairly dark. If you want fluffy goodness, you will be incredibly disappointed.
Every single step Hermione took seemed to take more effort than it should've. For days she felt as if she'd been living in a fog from which there was no escape. Was that what her life was doomed to be from then on? Just one confusing moment after another exhausting moment? She hadn't been physically injured in the battle that took place inside the castle while Professor Dumbledore was being murdered in the Astronomy Tower. Thanks to the Felix FelicisHarry gave them before he left on his fruitless hunt for a horcrux with the Headmaster, none of the spells and curses from the Death Eater intruders made their mark. She was sick to her stomach when she tried to imagine what would've happened to them without the liquid luck potion. It was nothing less than a miracle that they were all still alive.
Returning home after Professor Dumbledore's elaborate funeral left her emotionally drained. Far from being the only one in her world to feel the same way, so many of the poor souls who put their hopes in Albus Dumbledore being the one to save them all from the wrath of Lord Voldemort were disillusioned and afraid. Their world, which Hermione remembered being so vibrant and full of joy her first few trips to Diagon Alley as a new witch, seemed drab and depressing. An undercurrent of fear permeated every corner of their hidden world. The second Wizarding war, the one that was feared by all generations ever since the first ended, had finally arrived in its full and brutal violence. The previous year had been entirely whispers. Now Lord Voldemort and his murderous Death Eaters were shouting their existence to the world that had once been so content to ignore the facts right in front of their faces.
Everything would get much worse before there was any hope of it getting better. Like a nasty fever ravages and weakens a sick body, their world would have to suffer before it broke. A big fight was coming. How many of her loved ones would be alive at the end? Would she?
Determined to keep a happy face at all times for her parents, she was able to convince them that nothing out of the ordinary was going on. Yes, she was sad because her Headmaster died, but he was an elderly man who had been ill since the previous summer. They'd been sympathetic, understanding to an extent of her emotions. It was imperative to Hermione that they know as little as possible. If they feared for her life, she would have a more difficult time leaving to hunt horcruxes with Harry and Ron. Her parents knew nothing about the dangerous war beyond the peculiar news stories they could see on the Muggle news.
One night, just as the sun finally descended in the summer sky, Hermione made an excuse to her parents why she couldn't watch whatever silly program was about to come on the television to go upstairs to her bedroom. After an entire week back home, she still hadn't begun fully preparing for the task ahead. As soon as Bill and Fleur's wedding was over, they would have to start on their unpredictable journey. Time was running out.
Sorting through all of her many belongings to determine what she might need was more difficult than she expected. How could she possibly plan for every potential situation or problem? If their mission went as she was knew it would, there would be large swaths of time they'd be on their own with no one to help them. She would just need to be more thorough and imaginative.
Out of the corner of her eye, Hermione thought she saw a dark shadow in the back garden. With the world being as dangerous as it was, she couldn't afford to be callous with her own safety. Staring out her window into the darkness, she gasped when she saw the shadow, the big shadow, move. Both of her parents were downstairs. She could hear their combined laughter. The shadow seemed too big to belong to an animal. Her mother thought dogs were too smelly and dirty and they lived in the middle of London. Wild animals of any great size lived only in the zoo.
She flipped the light switch on the wall, plunging her bedroom into darkness. It took her some time for her eyes to adjust in the dim light. Just as she feared, she wasn't going completely mad. There was someone standing in the garden wearing dark clothes. Though she couldn't explain it rationally, she didn't get the impression they were there to harm her. Maybe it was because they made no move to hide when it was obvious they were spotted. Pushing aside the sudden worry that they could simply be a decoy, she unlatched her window.
Too many questions would be asked if she went outside the traditional way. Her parents, especially her mother, could be very nosy. Whoever was waiting for her remained patient as she climbed out her window and down the tree that had served that very purpose since she was old enough to climb. Just as she prepared to jump the last few feet to the ground, a pair of strong hands grabbed her waist to assist her descent.
With his surprisingly gentle hands still on her body, Hermione recognized with no small jolt of fear that he was Thorfinn Rowle. Not only did the massive blond man used to delight in tormenting her the one year they were at Hogwarts together, she knew for a fact he was a dangerous, murderous Death Eater. Once during the previous year she'd seen him in the village during a Hogsmeade Saturday. When he recognized her, he laughed and made some disgusting remark about her arse. As inappropriate as he'd been, she didn't think he was a danger. Not until she saw him in the castle the night Dumbledore died trying to kill anyone close by. She had no clue he was a Death Eater. Even seeing him duel with her own eyes, she struggled to immediately believe he could be responsible for setting Hagrid's hut on hire with Fang still inside or casting the Cruciatus Curse on Harry as he ran across the grounds.
The moment her feet were on a solid surface again, she slapped away his hands. He smiled, not offended. She knew it made no sense, but she still didn't believe she was in danger.
"What are you doing here, Rowle?"
His amused smile made her want to curse him in the face. Just to be sure he knew who he was dealing with, she pointed her wand underneath his chin. He didn't stop smiling but did hold up his empty hands for her inspection.
"If I was here to hurt you, Princess, you'd already be screaming."
Against her better judgment, she let her wand fall away from his face. Clearly there was a reason for his visit. She would allow him another minute to explain himself.
"How did you find me? What do you want?"
"I'm glad you weren't hurt that night in the castle. You shouldn't have been there. I tried very hard to keep my curses from hitting you once I knew you were there."
She didn't believe him. There was something very unsettling about him finding her at home. Again she repeated her questions.
"Did you know I can get any address I want if I just wander into a Muggle library? It wasn't hard to find where you lived. Had to look up your parents, but thanks to the very helpful bird behind the big desk, I got what I needed. Even managed to give that mousy Muggle the fucking of her life later that night. She actually reminded me a bit of you."
"You have no idea. I'd be happy to show you how depraved I can be."
Thorfinn took a step closer and she nearly forgot how to breathe. He tugged on one of her curls with a wink she knew worked on other women. She hated that she found him attractive. She always had, but he also repulsed her at the same time. Neither of those feelings changed. His blue eyes stared into her eyes as he moved even closer. Had she gone crazy or was he about to kiss her?
"Hermione, darling, are you out here?"
The opening of the back door and the sound of her mother's voice broke whatever spell the cretin had her under. Seeing her mother's flushed cheeks and the grin she was trying so desperately to hide, Hermione groaned. It must've looked like she'd just interrupted a romantic moment. Thorfinn's pleased smirk didn't help matters.
"I had no idea you had company."
"Is this someone from school, darling? Would you like to come inside?"
Thoroughly enchanted by the handsome wizard, her mother actually blushed when Thorfinn introduced himself with a cheesy kiss on the back of her hand. He was three steps closer to the back door, fully prepared to accept the invitation when Hermione placed both of her hands on his broad, firm chest to push him back.
"He's just leaving, Mum."
"Oh, that's a pity. Please do come back soon, Thorfinn. I always love meeting Hermione's friends."
She left them alone a few moments later with a smirk and a reminder they shouldn't stay out so late on a night that promised rain. It was only then that Hermione realized she was still touching the horrible man. He laughed again.
"Lovely woman your mum. I see where you get it from."
"Why are you here? Answer me or I'll start hexing you places that would make mousy librarians sad."
He reached into the pocket of his robes. Afraid he was going to curse her, she was ready to cast a shield. Instead of his wand, he removed a small purple beaded bag. She didn't understand what she was holding when he pushed it into her hands. Sensing her confusion, he explained.
"There's an undetectable extension charm on it. You could put anything in it. Pack up everything you own and run."
Hermione was even more thoroughly confused. His tone was serious, no joking at all. Was he trying to help her? That didn't make any sense. When she didn't say anything in response, he continued.
"You're in a lot of danger, Princess. What's coming isn't going to be good for people like you. Especially not for you. You should've chosen better friends."
"Why are you doing this? Why are you even here? What do you care what happens to me?"
If it was even possible for Thorfinn Rowle to do so, he seemed embarrassed by her questions. He sighed.
"I haven't been able to stop thinking about you since I saw you in Hogsmeade. It's been even worse since I realized you were actually trying to fight the night Dumbledore died."
"Just promise me you'll run, Princess."
He Disapparated from her garden with a loud crack leaving her even more befuddled than she already was.
Two days after her mysterious visit from a Death Eater in her back garden, Hermione was no closer to understanding what happened. She left his beaded bag on top of her chest of drawers but hadn't touched it since that night. Though her eyes would glance at it on occasion, she wasn't sure what to do with it.
There was too much to do to think about it long, too much to prepare for her horcrux hunt with her boys. Each time she thought she knew everything they'd need, she'd remember something she'd forgotten to add to her list. Her parents had no idea that her planned visit was only going to be a short one. Her guilt grew with each plan they made that she knew she wouldn't be home for.
When the owl arrived with her wedding invitation, Hermione was annoyed. It was easier to pretend she had more time to prepare without that reminder. She didn't really want to go. Life went on even during dark times, but she still found it strange to celebrate in the middle of a war. Of course the main reason why she didn't want to go was due to the inconvenience of having nothing suitable to wear. She couldn't find anything she already owned that looked good or still fit. It was such a ridiculous reason to pause her preparations.
Finally deciding she had to make time for dress shopping, Hermione went into one of Muggle London's busiest and most popular shopping districts. Her mum offered to go with her, but she was certain she couldn't stand an afternoon of her mother gasping and telling her how beautiful Thorfinn was going to find her in every dress she tried on. The woman had been relentless in her questions about the handsome, mysterious wizard. Even her dad started up with his own line of embarrassing questions.
Finding a suitable dress she liked was relatively simple. After trying on only three different dresses, Hermione settled on a lilac dress she liked, but didn't love. There were more important things to worry about than what she wore to a wedding she wasn't even sure should be taking place at all. Once she bought a pair of shoes she planned on charming to match, she stepped out of the shop relieved her odious task was done.
An unsettling feeling of being watched was hard to ignore. Assuming she was only being paranoid, Hermione tried to ignore it and convince herself it was just a harmless Muggle in a large crowd looking in her direction. The further she walked away from the shop, however, the stronger the feeling became. It felt like she was being followed. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn't shake the feeling. Even with the large number of clueless Muggles surrounding her on all sides, she felt exposed.
When it became too much to ignore, Hermione dared to look over her shoulder. Her eyes caught pale blond hair disappearing around a corner. Trusting her instincts and pushing away her fear she was running towards danger, she followed. She turned down a quiet street, almost immediately regretting her choice. If she felt exposed and vulnerable in a crowd, she was worse alone.
A foolish wave of relief washed over her when she saw Draco Malfoy calmly leaned up against a wall watching her approach. They might've spent years despising each other, but he was never able to hurt more than just her feelings. To be safe, she reached into her pocket to feel the end of her wand.
"Why are you following me, Malfoy?"
"I didn't mean to. It was an accident."
She scoffed. What a terrible liar he was!
"Do you often wander Muggle London alone?"
He didn't respond.
"That's what I thought. Leave me alone."
Hermione was only a few steps away when he called out after her.
"Your parents are in danger."
Furious and wishing to cause him real pain, Hermione spun back around. She had her wand out of her pocket and pressed up against his chest in a heartbeat. He seemed nervous, but didn't immediately reach for his own wand. That was all that kept her from cursing him at once.
"Are you threatening my parents, Malfoy?"
"No, I overheard Yax… someone say they were going to be keeping a close eye on your parents. They're not safe."
Of course she knew it was always a possibility that her parents would be in danger. It was a tactic that evil maniacs used since time began. Targeting the loved ones of their enemies could yield favorable results. She remembered how easy it was for Thorfinn to find out where they lived. He wouldn't be the only one who came looking.
Something in Draco's stance calmed her down. Even with a wand pointed at his chest, he wasn't in a rush to hurt her. There was a resignation in his entire body. Where was the arrogance he was known for? Hermione dropped her wand to her side. He took a deep breath in relief.
"Did you follow me here to warn me?"
"It really was an accident. I'm not supposed to be here, but I couldn't stand another moment inside that house."
Hermione could tell that he'd lost even more weight since she'd last seen him. All throughout sixth year he'd been pale and thin. After Dumbledore's murder and the part he played in it, she wasn't surprised that he was so frightened and sick. The Ministry was searching for him. At least she hoped they were. There was a real temptation to stun him herself to turn over to the authorities, but she decided against it. Too many Muggles continued to walk past them.
"You should run, Granger. Take your parents and go."
"Why should I?"
Some of Draco's fight returned to him in the form of clear frustration. She could almost see the old Draco poking through his beaten exterior.
"Because you'll get yourself killed if you don't."
There was real fear in his grey eyes. He believed that she was really in danger.
"I'm not going to run away."
"Of course a Gryffindor wouldn't." He rolled his eyes. "Then at least tell your parents to leave. They're going to wish they never had a daughter if he… it's on your conscience."
He didn't linger in the quiet street. Still processing what he said to her, she watched as he ran towards the more crowded street. She lost sight of him almost at once. Where was he going? Why was he in such a hurry to leave? She didn't understand what house he meant when he said he couldn't stand another moment there. Surely he couldn't mean his own home. How incompetent was the Ministry if they didn't look there first?
With no other reason to stay and a dozen tasks still to be completed when she got back, Hermione returned home. The bizarre encounters of the previous few days weighed heavily on her mind. What was she supposed to make of them? Was she really supposed to believe that two known Death Eaters who each had a history of personally despising her really wanted to keep her from dying? It was insane.
Back in her bedroom, she picked up the discarded beaded bag. Why would Rowle give it to her? She'd already checked it for curses, but she had every intention of having Mad-Eye Moody check it too. Blindly trusting the dangerous wizard could very well get her killed despite all of his warnings and claims he didn't want that to happen. Maybe he was just a talented actor with a devious plot to entrap her on behalf of his master.
Hermione's mind struggled to find any rest that night. Long after she went to bed, she lay awake trying to figure out the answer to her problems. The warnings she'd been given were dire. Only a fool would choose to ignore them just out of pride and spite. Their motivations might not be obvious, but their warnings were clear. She couldn't just leave her parents ignorant in their easily accessible house. If something terrible happened to them because of her negligence, she would never forgive herself. It was bad enough that just her simple friendship with Harry put them in danger.
The answer was painfully clear. Some time in the middle of the night she came to a desperate conclusion. There was something she could do to keep them protected and also keep them from being afraid for their daughter's safety. It was awful and very intrusive, but she feared she didn't have much of a choice.
Before the sun was even up the next morning, Hermione was dressed and ready to go. She wanted to be in Diagon Alley the moment the stores opened. It would be easier if she didn't bump into anyone she knew. No doubt some well-meaning friend or acquaintance would want to know why she was being reckless enough to go shopping on her own. Very few witches or wizards dared. It was too dangerous. Too many people were simply disappearing. There was safety in numbers. Besides, if they could see the sorts of books she planned on purchasing, they might stop that too.
Standing outside of Flourish and Blotts waiting for the door to be unlocked was eerie and uncomfortable. No longer the same as it was when she was younger, Diagon Alley felt sinister. Those who dared to go out either rushed by her without making eye contact or slowed their steps to make lingering, bold eye contact. There didn't seem to be any in-between. She had never been more thankful for the shop to open.
Finding the books on memory charms was easy. To her relief, there were a number to choose from. Never having cast one before, she felt at a loss of where to even begin. How did one go about stripping themselves from their parents' memories? It was a dilemma she doubted very many people had ever been faced with before. Draco's comment about her parents wishing they'd never had a daughter if he caught them was what gave her the idea. Strip their memories and make them leave the country. Surely not even Lord Voldemort would expend much effort for two Muggles halfway around the world?
As she pulled a couple of books from the shelf to review their contents, Hermione experienced the same feeling she'd had the day before when Draco was following. Someone was watching her again. When she looked up, she half-expected to see Draco there with another warning. Instead, a dark haired man stood blocking her only exit. What might have only been mildly annoying was terrifying when she realized who the man watching her from the corner of his eye really was.
Antonin Dolohov was supposed to be in Azkaban. After she silenced him during the whole debacle in the Department of Mysteries, he'd nearly killed her with his horrible spell. She would never be able to forget the fury she'd seen in his dark eyes when she forced him to suffer the indignity of a lost voice. Even through the holes in his mask, she could see he wanted nothing more than to rip her to pieces with his bare hands. But he'd been captured with all of the other Death Eaters except for Bellatrix Lestrange that day. How was it possible that he was there in Flourish and Blotts just a few steps away?
She couldn't breathe. Fear coursed through her entire body. Trembling began in its wake. She needed to get out of the store as soon as possible. Two Death Eaters in three days who didn't harm her were strange enough odds. She didn't like the thought of tossing in a third. Especially not one who spent most of her life stuck in Azkaban Prison having his mind and emotions manipulated by the dementors. Whatever she did, she would have to do it quickly.
With her eyes focused on the space just on the other side of the fearsome wizard, Hermione ran. If he hadn't been watching her every move and expecting something, she might've made it. His hand grabbed her arm in a crushing grip. He smiled the coldest smile she'd ever seen. It was soon replaced with a sneer.
"Best be more careful. The next time I find you alone, I'll finish what I started years ago."
Hermione nearly sobbed when he released his hold. Not wishing to test her luck, she ran out of his reach. As she passed by the counter with the saleswizard, she tossed enough galleons to pay for the two books she miraculously managed to keep in her possession. She didn't even bother to wait for the change.