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to love is to hate

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Hermione was packing her school trunk, making sure to place everything in its correct place so that she would have room for all her belongings. As she folded her new school robes and uniforms she wondered about the coming year. About Harry and Ron's reactions to seeing her again after the long summer apart. Placing the last of her shirts in the red and gold trunk she placed her ties atop them and sealed it. Setting it at the foot of her bed, she looked around her room one last time, double checking that she hadn't forgotten anything. Once satisfied that she hadn't, Hermione laid down on her bed. Tomorrow an escort would come and take her to platform 9 ¾ and she would leave for her fourth year at Hogwarts.

The thought of seeing her friend again brought a small smile to her face. She was trying to imagine their reaction to her. She had changed over the summer, so much had changed over the summer, and she couldn't tell them a single thing. Heaving an agitated sigh, she reached over and clicked off the light of her bedside table. As she lay in the pale moonlight that seeped through her bedroom curtains, she thought about the ending of third year, about that night three weeks before school ended.

Hermione knew there was not much they could do without being seen. Sirius was injured badly and Harry couldn't hold back any longer. He moved to lunge out from behind the tree that hid them, but Hermione stopped him. He turned to tell her to let him go, that Sirius needed him, his godfather needed him. As soon as he looked at her he knew she had a plan. Hermione squeezed his hand one last time and jumped out into the open. She took a deep breath and howled. Harry was torn, he wanted to pull her back behind the tree and pray Moony hadn't heard her. However the sounds of Sirius's labored breaths gave him pause. Hermione watched as the werewolf halted his assault on the smaller dog and turned towards her. Sending one last glance at Harry she ran into the forest, Moony sprinting after his new prey. Harry wasted no time and rushed towards Sirius' blood-caked body.

Hermione's lungs burned. She could feel her legs giving out as she made her way deeper into the forbidden forest. She spotted a tangle of overgrown roots, weeds, and fallen trees and made her way towards it. Every step praying to Merlin that Moony had followed her, but hoping he didn't catch her. As she hopped over a dead oak tree she glanced back but didn't see the werewolf trailing her. A sudden panic filled her chest and she drew a deep breath, once again releasing a howl into the darkened wood.

She waited for a response, waited for an answering cry telling her that Harry was safe, and she was not. After a tense few seconds she heard nothing. No howl, no grunts, no twigs snapping under monstrous paws. Only eerie deadly silence answered her. Hermione's heart at once sank and doubled its pace. She stood back from the fallen tree and drew in a deep breath crying out the best interpretation of Moony's howl that she could and stilled, once again waiting for response.

Another heart stopping second passed with no answering howl and Hermione thought she should double back and find the rogue wolf. Steeling herself for the task she took a step towards the rotting tree, preparing to hop back over, when a low growl to her left caught her attention. Her blood ran cold and her heart seemed to stop. Gryffindor courage, she realized, failed in the presence of a powerful beast like the one eyeing her right now. Trembling she forced herself to turn towards the shadows the growl had come from and waited.

Thoughts of Buckbeak and Sirius filled her mind. 'Harry has his godfather and two innocent lives were spared tonight.' She had thought to herself. If she died at least her last acts were heroic and made a difference. The large black beast made his way out of the shadows once it felt Hermione's fear reach a fevered pitch. It stalked its prey, circling it in ever tightening passes, each time coming closer to the young girl. Hermione stood frozen, silent tears running down her face. There was no spell she knew that would help her, nothing would save her.

As those last thoughts filled her mind, Moony let loose a final howl, one of victory, and pounced on the girl knocking her to the ground. Hermione's head slammed onto a rock and a deep gash let a river of blood loose. Moony inhaled the sent and it drove the wolf wild. Hot saliva dripped on Hermione's face as a warm tongue lapped at the wound. She felt disgusted and terrified. She began to push the wolf off of her. Deciding that if she were to die, then it would be fighting. Griping her wand she called up any spell that might help, her mind racing until it finally stopped on one.

"Stupefy!' She yelled out, her cry upsetting the quiet woods.

Moony was suddenly gone and she wasted no time waiting for him to hit the ground. Jumping to her feet she surged through the forest in what she hoped was the direction back towards Hogwarts. Her head was fuzzy and her vision swam. Trees doubled and tripled as she ran past them. The dark shadows that filled the forest seemed to be making a home in her head and in her eyes. She could feel her blood-soaked hair weighing her head down, could feel the blood as it trickled down her face and neck, drying in a grotesque sticky mess.

She began to stumble as her body protested her movements. A quiet chant of 'please, please, please' repeated in her mind was all that she could hear besides her footfalls echoing in the dark forest. She couldn't hear Moony but she knew he was close. Rounding an ancient tree she tripped over an exposed root. She pushed herself up forcing her body to obey her. As she gained her footing a sharp set of teeth sank into her right ankle, snapping it.

She cried out into the night, clawing the ground trying to prevent herself from being pulled farther into the forest, from being pulled to her death. Long claws pierced into her back forcing her to stop moving. Letting go of her ankle, Moony moved up to her calf sinking his hungry teeth into warm flesh once again. Before he could rip the tasty bit of flesh off the girl he was knocked back.

The ground rumbled as something slammed into it. Hermione turned to see Buckbeak standing between her and the hungry wolf. She could see bits of her jeans trapped between the teeth of the creature. Her blood mixed with its' saliva dripping down onto the forest floor. The hippogriff pawed the ground, daring the werewolf to come near, to try and take her again. Realizing he stood no chance against the larger, more powerful creature Moony sent them an angry snarl before disappearing into the dark again. The hippogriff turned to Hermione and took in the sight of her.

Hermione bowed her head to the awesome creature and waited. She could feel reality becoming fuzzy and soft, even the ground beneath her felt as soft as her bed in the dorm. The rough tapping of the hippogriff's beak on her head interrupted her fast approaching sleep. Looking up she saw the animal waiting for her. Forcing the pain and sleepiness away she staggered to her feet and climbed atop the huge animal. As she did so she remembered that in order to climb atop him in class she had needed a stool to stand on.

Her mind worked trying to figure out if she had gotten taller or if Buckbeak had gotten smaller. Hermione gripped the animal's neck tight enough not to fall off as it took flight, carrying the broken form of Hermione up into the sky and rounding back towards Hogwarts. Hermione hadn't realized how far she had run until she was up in the air. The castle looked miles away, but that may have had something to do with blood loss and head trauma. The flight was smooth and Hermione held on tight to the feathers in her grip, fighting off the sleep and trying her hardest to keep her eyes open and not fall off the creature she was riding.

Once again the ground shook with the impact of the large clawed front feet of the animal. As Hermione slipped off the winged creature she noticed another hippogriff taking flight from the astronomy tower carrying another rider. When she turned to her hippogriff it was gone. Turning back to the castle she limped forward, each move causing a searing pain to shoot through her body. Eventually it was too much and she fell to her hands and knees, crawling across pristine school grounds leaving a trail of blood behind her.

Her vision started to swim again, and the light of the castle dimmed and moved farther away from her. Her body finally giving way, she dropped flat to the ground. As her last moments of consciousness slipped away she saw a whirl of green and purple robes moving towards her and the sound of two distinct voices she knew calling her name. Then darkness was all around her.

End Chapter Of One