Disclaimer: This is a Dark!Harmony story and includes mature and possibly shocking themes. Reader discretion is advised.
Today of all days she dearly wished she hadn't worn heels. It was making running as if her life depended on it difficult. The Director had informed her and she's taken off to Kingsley's office in a sprint. She had to know. A dozen awful scenarios were playing in her mind, the prominent one being that there would be nothing left to do.
Her breath heavy, she spotted the Minister and his entourage. She picked up her already frantic pace. "King!"
At the sound of her voice, the Minister and his aides turned around. The look on his face was one of bewilderment and pity. Her heart sunk.
"Please tell me he's alive," she huffed.
He nodded. "For now," and looked towards his aides. "I'll take you on my portkey, just follow."
As they continued to the Atrium, he started his explanation.
"He's in a secure ward at St. Mungo's. He was brought in just now by the ICW handlers. I have limited information, but his partner was killed." They stopped just inside the apparition area and he held out a white baton, turning to their escort. "I want the press on lockdown until I come back. No word gets out without my approval. Hermione, hold on."
She did and Kingsley activated the portkey with his wand.
They appeared into an empty room, sharply white and clean. She followed Kingsley and further ahead a healer was leaning on the side of a wall, scribbling on a piece of parchment. He perked up as he saw the Minister.
The balding man ruffled his hair with a doubtful look on his face. "We've had a hard time stabilizing him. He took a curse straight to the chest, I'm sure anyone else would already have been gone."
Her breath came out in a ragged whimper. Kingsley shakily nodded.
"We're still running tests," he continued, "and we have the best maledictologist portkeying over from across the pond. She should be here shortly." He turned to Hermione. "We've also contacted his wife. I… I would not recommend seeing him right now. He is in a bad state."
"I want to see him," she said instantly.
With a deflated sigh, the man nodded. "Very well. Please follow me, Mrs. Weasley."
"Granger," she corrected.
Kingsley stood inside, not far from the door. Entering, she could instantly see his pale visage, black hair drenched with sweat. Five healers stood above him, brandishing wands, while the nurses stood by with potions and salves on the side.
She couldn't suppress a whimper at the sight she saw. Right in the middle of his chest was a large black wound, practically pulsating with dark magic. Tears filled her eyes. She might not be a healer, but she knew a bad curse when she saw one. Even with help, if he lived –. He'll live, of course he'll live. You didn't beat Voldemort for him to die here.
"Is he deteriorating?" she asked the healer. "I'm sorry, I didn't ask your name."
"Healer Ferwell. And yes, there are deleterious aspects to the curse, although we haven't been able to identify in which way. We're most concerned about how his internal organs are faring. The curse hit really closely to the heart."
One of the healers took a potion from a nurse and started to feed it to Harry through a feeding tube.
"Restorative draught," Ferwell said, "exactly to counteract those effects."
"God," she exclaimed.
One of the healers attending to him, walked over to them. "We have a matter of hours before it gets beyond repair," she said with a glance to Hermione. "Do we have word on when Cudas will get here?"
"Not yet –"
He was interrupted by a pop and hurried walk. A woman with messy black curls and heavy glasses strode in. She looked more dressed like a vampire than a healer, with her black leather boots and large cloak.
"The chart for his results?" she said eyeing them.
"Here!" Ferwell said, handing over the scroll.
"How antiquated," she complained, looking over the scroll and tapping it with her wand.
She handed it back and slid over to Harry; the other healers made room and Hermione followed her. Up close the wound looked even worse, seeping putrid liquid from its edges. It looked as if he had been split in twain.
"Her name is Marie Cudas," Ferwell said. "She has a reputation for knowing much about the Dark Arts, but she is the best at what she does."
"Dark Arts," Cudas snorted. "I swear this country gets more backwards every year."
She lightly held her wand above Harry's torso. In an instant, a purple flash came between the wand and Harry, startling everyone. It took everything for Hermione not to interpose herself between the strange witch and Harry. But she was out of her depth. Her friend was dying and she could do nothing.
Once more the wand lightly passed over the wound, and a violet wave of magic like tendrils followed its movement. The skin around it darkened and lightened, causing Harry to convulse. With a deep breath Cudas stilled the wand.
"Do you have a resonance basin?"
Ferwell bumbled forward. "Y – yes I think we might have one, over in storage."
"Go get it. Now!"
Hermione gathered her thinking. "Is a resonance basin used in dark – I mean rituals?"
"It's a precaution, we have to prepare for the worst," Cudas replied. "Are you an acquaintance of Mr. Potter?"
"A friend, yes, Hermione Gragner," she said, extending a hand. It was rare these days for someone not to know who she was. "A very good friend," she added, wiping away tears.
"Well good," Cudas said. "We might have need of you yet. Does he have any other close friends?"
"Um, yes. A wife, and his brother-in-law. They should be here any moment."
"In the meantime I'd like to try something," she said, extending a hand. "To test the resonance of your magical signature. I'll do the same for his relatives when they arrive."
"Okay", she said, extending her arm.
Cudas' wand conjured a clear ball of light and moved over to Hermione's wrist. With a tap, yellow strings linked up with the ball and danced in a swirling pattern around it, almost perfectly in a parabolic motion. With a second tap, the ball and strings disappeared.
"Was that good?"
She gave Hermione a wry smile.
Hermione watched on in a daze, a moment later she heard more pops down the hallway, and the voices of panicking Weasleys. She took a step back to meet them near the door. But really, she was in shambles. Nothing that the healers or the specialist had said inspired much confidence.
The look in Ginny's eyes as she entered said it all, it was the look of a woman who feared to lose her husband. Ron had a vacant look in his eyes, probably still under the impression his friend was invincible. George was with them too.
"Hermione!" Ginny cried as she enveloped her in a quick hug. "What's happened to Harry?"
She had to swallow a lump in her throat before answering. "They have a specialist from the States. I – I really don't know much more, I just got here. Ginny..." It hit her all at once. Seeing other people who cared about him, realizing full well what him being in any real danger could do to her. She broke down in tears on Ginny's shoulder, and felt a hand around her trying to comfort her. It was Ron, but there was no comfort to be found.
There were chairs arranged to the side and she sat down in one. Cudas approached them. She must have run some more tests.
"Good evening. Marie Cudas. You are all family of Mr. Potter?"
"I'm his wife," Ginny said with her usual bare-knuckle determination.
Cudas nodded. "If you could all stand up and lend me your wrists."
Ginny was first. The same test was done. The tendrils seemed more eclectic and took on a red-orange hue. Over to Ron, it changed again, the threads seeming more calm and blueish. It was the same colour for George, except they seemed to move more quickly. By the end, Cudas had a scowl on her face.
She turned to Hermione. "Have you ever shared wands with Mr. Potter?"
"Yes," she replied weakly.
"It's a good show of magical compatibility when using someone else's wand."
"Didn't Harry use Malfoy's wand?" Ron asked.
"He claimed it from him," she answered.
Cudas nodded. "It's much different from a wand won forcefully. But that's beside the point. Mrs. Granger, you're the only one with a resonance close enough that I would be willing to risk the procedure."
"Hold on!" Ron said. "What are you talking about? What procedure?"
"Ron," she said, trying to calm him. "Miss Cudas, could you please explain."
"I will. And I wish to be clear that you should not feel forced to do this. It is by and all a very dangerous procedure. There is no guarantee that either of you will be safe when it is done, and there are… long term effects."
"You're actually thinking about doing this?" Ron asked with a hand on her arm.
"Of course I am! He would do the same for us."
It was harsh of her to lash out like that, but despite Ron, she couldn't lose Harry. She knew it would break her, and probably break them as well.
Cudas interjected. "While it's still a mystery what curse was used, it's rapidly encroaching on him. It is set to change him even if Mrs. Granger chooses to go through with it. And the long term effects might range from changes to both yours and his ability to do magic, physical discomfort or disability, chronic pain, headaches, psychosis… It would be shorter to list what side-effects are impossible."
Ron looked at Hermione with a 'please don't do this' kind of look. And looking over to Ginny, she could see the exact opposite. George was merely looking resignedly ahead. The thought of losing someone else weighed heavily on him. But regardless of what the assembled Weasleys wanted or thought, her mind was made up. She would risk her life even if it meant a fraction of a chance to help Harry. It had always been that way. Why would it be different now?
Still, she had to ask. "What are the chances he'll recover?"
Cudas groaned and adjusted her glasses. "Fully? It's unlikely. But there's a good chance for him to be functional if it succeeds."
"If it succeeds..." Ron muttered.
Ginny looked at her with pleading eyes. "Hermione? I – I can't ask you to… But it's Harry."
George finally spoke up. "Nobody will hate you if you don't." A pained smile formed on his face, and tears sprung from his eyes. "But if you do… same thing."
"It could save him?" Hermione asked. It was more of a statement than a question.
"Yes," Cudas replied.
She stood up. "I'll do it."
"Hermione!" Ron said, standing up beside her. "You… you heard what she said. There's no guarantee. I – what if…"
He looked at her pleadingly. But her mind was set. She would jump off a cliff for Harry. She had always felt this way, despite the ring on her finger claiming loyalty to her husband. The war might be over but there was no stopping those years of devotion.
"I have to do it, Ron."
Ron turned to Cudas. "She could die, that's what you said. How likely is that?"
The expert shifted uncomfortably on her boots, eyeing the both of them. "It depends on the quality of the resonance between them. What we have is a very strong similarity, however it's hard to say what the chances of success are. In recent history the procedure has failed twelve times and succeeded three times. Of those twelve cases, nine resulted in death for both participants." She then turned solely to Hermione and took a step forward. "I want there to be no mistake about this, it is lethally dangerous, but it also is our only option."
Cudas in a so far seemingly uncharacteristic moment of sympathy, put a hand on her shoulder. "You could die doing this, it is a very real possibility."
She fixed Ron. Cold anger lined his face. They had been there before, and the outcome was certain. "I'm doing it," she said, waiting for his reply.
Shaky hands found her shoulders, awkwardly finding a place to rest. She met his hug and sobs shook her body, Ron's sobbing which precipitated her own. George and Ginny came in for a hug too. She wished she might see her parents before doing this, but there was no time.
Cudas cleared her throat as the emotional interchange ended and guided her over to a bed beside Harry.
"I have to ask you a few questions first. I understand this is not common in Britain, but please answer truthfully. Are you, Hermione Granger, sound of body and mind?"
"Has anyone forced you to accept this procedure either through threats or coercion?"
"Do you have any history of mental illness, magical or otherwise?"
"Not that I'm aware of."
"And finally," she said with a nod to the three others, "is there any reason to suspect you might be under the influence of a spell, potion or charm that would inhibit your ability to reason. Such as the Imperius curse?"
"There isn't," she said determinedly. "I've been trained to resist compulsive magic."
"Good to hear. Then I will ask you to sign here," she said, extending a piece of parchment. "I've drafted it in a hurry, but it declares you are aware of the risks and wish to proceed."
She read it over quickly. They didn't have such things in Magical Britain, but it seemed completely ordinary writing, nothing magical about it. She signed.
She took place on the bed and a few moments later Ferwell came in levitating a large brass basin with etched runes. The healers and Cudas milled about the beds and a large container was emptied in the basin, it was a dark and thick liquid.
"Dragon's blood," Cudas said, looking over to her. "A great medium for handling complex magic. But from what I've been hearing you should know about that."
"Yes," she answered. Her teeth were starting to chatter and she felt cold all over.
"Sorry," Cudas replied. "But we can't risk giving you a calming draught, it might interfere with the process."
Ron and the others couldn't come too close with all the activity around them. She balled her fists and took a deep breath. "That's okay."
She turned her head to look at Harry. The large bags under his eyes and even paler complexion than usual made her stomach close up.
"It will be fairly simple," Cudas said. "The curse will be partially displaced into the resonance basin, at which point we will transfer it in part to you. Should we not, the backlash would kill Mr. Potter. We have minutes to do it and you will feel intense pain and nausea. We will then stabilize the curse and with luck it will stay in place, unable to identify which body is the target. Are you ready?"
"Yes," she nodded.
Cudas smiled and bent closer. "Mr. Potter is very lucky to have a friend like you," she whispered.
She couldn't think much aside from the anticipation that filled her. In a corner of her mind she was hearing the echoes of Bellatrix Lestrange, insulting her and torturing her.
Cudas held her wand steady with her fingers and the palm of her other hand. Violet waves of dark magic were being corralled towards the basin, angrily trying to escape. As they reached the basin, they turned as if spotting a target and dipped into the dragon's blood with a splash. A dark miasma steamed from the bowl.
"Now," Cudas said softly, and swished her wand in front of the bowl.
The instant the assault of the curse hit her, she felt like her very being was being set on fire. Unspeakable pain. Fear so intense she might lose her sense of self.
You lying filthy mudblood!
Despair coursed through her, filling every pore in her body, but for a pinprick.
Harry Potter is dead! Do you understand now, deluded ones!
She felt her very soul ebb away, trying to dislodge itself from her body and escape the torment.
Then a nothing, a non-whisper in her ear. The voice of Harry who never said a word as he marched into the forest resigned to die. And she knew she could not leave any more than he could have turned back.
Focusing her body to take in all the nauseating corruption of the spell, she endured, through that pinprick of hope and determination in her mind. A vague taste of bile in her mouth and liquid coming out of it. The wound etched in her torso feeling like frost and fire alike. She shook uncontrollably, willing herself to live through this and wake up to the both of them, alive.
Live. Live on, Harry. Let's live on. At any cost.