Life’s like a novel with the end ripped out
The edge of a canyon with only one way down
Take what you’re given before it’s gone
And start holdin’ on, keep holdin’ on
~lyrics from "Stand" by Rascal Flatts
I knew the clock was ticking. There were so many muddled thoughts going through my brain, but I knew now was not the time for me to try and sort through them. As I traveled through the air on broomstick, racing to the first destination, I had to force myself to concentrate on the task at hand, and not the undeniable and unbelievable truth that I was facing. The truth that I had unconsciously replaced my husband less than a month after his death.
Shaking my head in frustration, I reassessed my location and realized that I was closer than I had originally thought. I landed shortly, and looking at my watch, saw that I now had less than four hours left.
The first Hallow I was trying to retrieve was the Elder Wand. I decided to get this one first due to the mere fact that it was closer. When I reached the ground, I stared silently at the great house before me, the house where so much had been lost to a one-year-old boy, where his life had been altered forever, consequently altering many others.
The streets of Godric's Hollow were silent as I ascended the steps of the Potter's old home. It was exactly as I remembered it from years before when Harry and I had come here. Remembering the experience, I shivered, but I knew that there was nothing evil inside this house anymore.
The door opened easily, only slightly creaking as its old, forgotten hinges turned. I looked around the room cautiously before stepping inside.
Actually, I sort of fell inside, and soon I couldn't see the room at all. Looking up, I saw that a trap door had been triggered by my stepping on top of it and, as I was looking through it, it slowly fell shut. For the moment, I was trapped.
I sighed in frustration, lighting up my wand as I did so. I was in a long narrow room with a small doorway at the end. As I moved closer, I thought I glimpsed something moving out of the corner of my eye. I spun around, lighting up everything around me, but there was nothing that I could see.
Deciding that I was being paranoid, I continued my journey to the door. I became slowly aware that the air around me was getting colder, that my thoughts were becoming increasingly desperate and fearful, that my wand was losing its light…
"Expecto Patronum!" I said instinctively. The light from my wand increased as I turned around, penetrating every corner of the room. The Dementor escaped through the same trap door I had fallen into, fleeing from my Patronus.
"Nice choice of guardian, Harry," I mumbled sarcastically. If someone fell into this chamber unawares, and was not equipped to battle a Dementor, the loss of their soul would be on Harry's hands. In addition to this, anyone who was actually looking for the Elder Wand would be more than able to fight off a Dementor.
I turned to face the door once more and realized that the Dementor was just a distraction. A huge mountain troll was running towards me from behind; I hadn't seen him in the shadows and I hadn't heard him start in my direction. Before I could respond to his advance, I was in the air, dangling upside down by one foot. The troll started jerking me around and raised his club, obviously deciding to use me to practice his aim.
I automatically flung my body upward, his club missing me by inches. He stumbled and his hold on my leg loosened. Taking advantage of the opportunity, I pointed my wand at his hand and it started swelling quickly. Making a sort of yelping noise, he abruptly released his hold and I began tumbling to the ground. At the last second I was able to slow my fall with my wand, preventing me from breaking anything, despite the force with which I hit the ground. Groaning, I rolled onto my back just soon enough to see the troll's hand reaching for me again. I sent a stinging curse his way as I rolled out of reach. The troll roared in pain, obviously enraged. I scrambled to my feet and just missed his hand once more.
"Petrificus Totalus!" I chanted in desperation. The troll was immediately lying on his back, motionless.
I leaned against the wall, panting in exhaustion. Clever, I thought to myself. The Dementor would completely throw people off, making them unprepared for the troll. The mountain troll wasn't a particularly hard creature to defeat, but if one was taken off guard it was very likely that they would get their head bashed in.
I slowly made my way over to the door and pulled it open. A devil's snare was engulfing some sort of case in the middle of the room. With a flick of my wand, the devil's snare retreated into the shadows and I snatched the case from the center. A broom was sitting against the wall, obviously there to provide a way of escape, and after grabbing that as well I left the smaller room to reenter the first chamber I had been in. As the troll behind me began to stir, I took off on the broom and was soon soaring above the lights of Godric's Hollow.
After traveling for a few minutes, I landed and opened the box I had obtained. Inside there was nothing but a note. Groaning in frustration, I closed the case once more.
"Thanks, Harry," I mumbled.
At least now I actually knew where it was. I also knew that it was in a place where I could safely keep it hidden until I led Malfoy to it.
Until I led Malfoy to it…
I couldn't believe that I had actually agreed to give him the Deathly Hallows! He wouldn't know how to use them, granted, but if he did learn, there would be high consequences. But surely Harry and Ron would stop him before it could get too far. Especially after they found out what happened to me…
I realized as I ascended into the air once more just how devastated both of them would be by my death. They would stop at nothing to defeat the Death Eaters, bringing in all the power in people and magic that they had access to. I thought of the pain Ron would feel if he lost me, the look in his eyes the night he almost did. He had lost me once to Nick, and if he lost me to death…
Silently, I prayed that somehow, he would never find out. I prayed that he would think I had just disappeared or that I had found a new place to live quietly and peacefully. I didn't want to hurt him; he had suffered enough pain, just as I had. Yet I knew that he would know—he would know I was dead, because if I wasn't, I wouldn't be able to keep myself away from him.
I started to sob as I flew towards my next destination. Why was I feeling this way? It wasn't natural for someone to accept someone else so readily, especially after losing a person they had so deeply loved. I felt trapped by my emotions—I couldn't accept Ron, because that would be completely turning my back on my husband and daughter, forgetting about all they had given me and all the love I had for them. At the same time, I couldn't deny Ron—it was physically impossible. When I thought of his arms around me, everything just seemed to right, but it was all wrong! This was not how it was meant to be for either of us!
Why did everything have to be so hard!
I looked at my watch again, realizing that I needed to be watching the clock. I gasped as I saw that I only had two and a half hours left. I had apparently taken my time at Godric's Hollow.
Panicking, I scanned the ground. I sighed in relief as I recognized the familiar castle looming on the horizon. Hogwarts wasn't any different than it had been three years ago. I had sent a note ahead using Harry and Ginny's owl, Peverall, telling Professor McGonagall that I was going to be visiting. She was waiting for me at the front door of the castle when I landed.
"I haven't seen you for years, Miss Gra—I mean, Mrs. Rollins," she said, smiling slightly. "I was sorry to hear about your husband. Now, what is all this fuss about?"
I explained the situation to her, though not fully, as we walked through the halls to the second floor girl's bathroom. I didn't tell her what I was retrieving, or the time limit that was placed on me, but she understood the urgency.
Just as we were about to enter the bathroom, I saw Neville turn the corner, running as fast as he could. He stopped right in front of us, panting.
"Madam Hooch told me she saw you," he breathed, smiling as he met my eyes. "I figured that the Hermione I knew wouldn't come to Hogwarts without letting me know unless it was an emergency."
"You were right," I said, entering the unused lavatory. He followed me inside, but Professor McGonagall remained in the hall, insisting that she had other duties to attend to and was sure I could handle myself.
"How's Luna?" I asked, trying to distract myself from the urgency of the situation as I looked for the hidden snake.
"Fine," he replied, watching me quizzically. "She misses you."
I smiled painfully. "Tell her I'll visit her when I get the chance."
It wasn't a lie, either. If I survived this somehow, I was determined I would make sure all of my friends knew I hadn't deserted them. I was no longer going to hide from danger—I was going to fight.
Suddenly, I recognized the symbol of a snake on one of the sinks. I sighed in relief, and tried to remember how Ron had done it in on that glorious day that Voldemort was killed.
"Need some help?" Neville asked, coming to my side. He had been told all about the Chamber and knew most of its secrets, and he was obviously anxious to help.
I shook my head. "It might be better if you leave, Neville. I only have one broom."
Truth was, I didn't want to get Neville involved at all. Everyone else I had interacted with had been killed or else they were in extreme danger. I didn't need to add one more person to the list of people who's lives I had destroyed.
I was aware of the fact that Neville did not move from his position, but there was too much at stake for me to spend time trying to get him to leave. I began shaping my mouth into strange formations, while trying to imitate the sound I had heard Ron make years ago. After what felt like ages, the Chamber finally began to open. I sighed in relief.
"It's been nice talking to you, Neville," I said, picking my broom up from the floor.
He gently grabbed my wrist, and I turned to look at him. He shook his head. "Whatever's going on, Hermione, you don't have to do this alone."
I sighed, wishing he could understand. "I do Neville. Trust me."
He slowly let go of my arm and backed away. As I prepared to descend, he uttered the phrase I had heard so many times from so many different people in the past few days:
I responded mechanically, not really meaning what I was saying.