Don't move to London. London is a land ripe with disappointment, where evil blooms and hopes come to die.
In fact, you should stay away from England. England is the giant boil festering on the face of the world and London is its throbbing white head. The world is a boy, just reaching manhood. Though his body has matured his face remains locked in pubescent purgatory. Dirt collects in the pores of his dry skin, marinating in pools of sweat and bile, until the pressure of the infection forces itself to the surface and explodes in the embarrassment and shame of adulterated youth.
If she could wipe London off the map, she would have. So intense was her disdain, so passionate was her hatred that it could have driven her over cliffs of insanity and mountains of madness. Were there some button, somewhere, which could release the most powerful of the muggle military arsenal onto the all too unsuspecting London, Hermione Jean Granger would have spent her life in desperate search of it. And, when located, would have, without hesitation, pressed her trembling thumb into the awaiting doom- ending London forever.
Such a button did not - well, maybe- exist and as it were Hermione was trapped in London. At the Ministry. In a conference room with him and the face he apparently hadn't washed in a week.
I cannot even deal with this right now, Hermione thought to herself, rubbing her hands over her dark face and through her absolutely mad chestnut curls. Is this even legal, subjecting witches and wizards to this sort of inane drivel? I am Hermione-bloody-Granger. The Brightest Witch of My Age. The brilliant vagina of the Golden Trio, single-handedly responsible for saving Parts I and II of said Golden Trio on numerous occasions. I helped bring down the bloody Dark Lord, why am I being punished in this unholy fashion?
The Auror meeting had droned on for an inhumane two hours and forty-two minutes exactly. Hermione knew this because she had spent two hours and forty minutes doing nothing but staring at the small muggle clock -curious, that- hanging above the door of the conference room. The slow, methodical tick of the minute hand rattled through her ears and drove into her skull like an ice pick. But that ungodly sound was like the chirping of tiny baby birds compared to the voice she had spent nearly three hours pointedly ignoring. Or pointedly trying to ignore.
At the front of the room, surrounded by rolls of enchanted parchment that hung magically in the air containing graphs, charts, and photographs, stood Ronald Bilius Weasley. With his crimson hair and sky colored eyes and pale skin and a light dusting of freckles across the nose that Hermione really should have broken two weeks ago when he had unceremoniously ended their engagement.
Hermione often categorized her life into two very distinct columns: pre-Battle of Hogwarts and post-Battle of Hogwarts. Life had changed, life was different now. How could it not be? Being tortured at the hand of an insane bigot, having a slur carved into your arm, and watching the people you'd grown up with killed around you tends to change a person. Most days Hermione felt completely separated from the naive swot - too be fair, still a swot- she was pre-BoH. Once upon a time she had believed that deep within everyone there was goodness. Deep within everyone there was something to cherish and value, but being hunted down like an animal due to the accident of your birth tends to change a girl's perspective on many things, like the inherent goodness of others. She wasn't sure if she'd call what she'd fallen into after the war a depression, but it certainly wasn't relief. Muggle psychologists would have told her she had Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but she'd never gotten around to actually visiting one herself. Though Hermione had insisted Harry contact a muggle or squib doctor within weeks of Voldemort's death. Unlike The Ginger Twit, The Boy Who Lived Yet Again actually listened to and heeded Hermione's advice.
The Ginger Twit thought Hermione was swotty. The Ginger Twit thought Hermione was bossy. The Ginger Twit thought Hermione was cold. The Ginger Twit didn't notice that in the four years since May 2nd, 1998 Hermione had gotten two - maybe three - actual nights of sleep and all of them had been brought on by Dreamless Draught.
No one noticed.
But Hermione did, Hermione noticed everything. She noticed how Ginny's hand instinctively curled into a fist whenever a stranger brushed against her. She noticed Harry compulsively checking wards around his office and Grimmauld Place and his muggle car. She noticed Ron's drinking. To be fair, everyone noticed Ron's drinking and for the first year of their relationship Hermione had had enough sympathy left in her system to tolerate it. Ron had lost a brother and who was she to judge his coping methods? They were all trying to cope. They were all a little self-destructive, it was just that Ron's self-destruction was at the surface with the rest of his emotions. So Hermione had brewed him his hangover potion, and she picked up the empty bottles of firewhiskey in the morning, and she kissed the top of his head when he cried and gently rubbed his back. Then Hermione would crawl into her own bed at her own flat and remind herself of every mistake she had made and of every life she had not saved. Like a mantra every night she would repeat the names of the dead. Fred Weasley, Remus Lupin, Nymphadora Tonks, Lavender Brown, Cedric Diggory, Severus Snape, Colin Creevey, Albus Dumbledore, Sirius Black, and so many more.
Across the table Auror Finnigan's boisterous laugh cut through Hermione's thoughts, forcing her mind back to the reality of the moment and, unfortunately, Ron's excessively long proposal. Without thought, she turned her amber orbs to Ron who had a smile on his lips, lips that up until recently been Hermione's to kiss. Now the thought of kissing him made her want to vomit all over herself.
He had dumped her. Hermione Granger had been dumped by Ron Weasley, and he had very conveniently done it after she had helped him write and edit the proposal he was now presenting in front of the Minister and the whole of the Auror Department. A proposal he had insisted would be for the betterment of magical creatures held in ministry custody by said department. For six months Hermione had used her already sleepless nights to read, compose, and revise the proposal Ron was certain would finally bring him that promotion he so desperately wanted. Curiously enough, despite hours of researching, pouring over tomes of magical creature biology, physiology, sociology- all of the “ologies” -Ron had never seen fit to let Hermione in on the little secret of his grand thesis that would make all of this information relevant. At the time she'd merely rolled her eyes, but after he had ended their engagement, Hermione began wondering what types of secrets Ronald had been keeping from her and for how long. Despite the near constant urge to wring his pale neck, Hermione couldn't deny that she was more than a little curious as to the point of all this.
A foot nudged Hermione's leg under the enlarged conference table, and her amber eyes shot a glare at her bespectacled best friend, perpetrator of said foot nudging, who raised his eyebrows and nodded towards Ron.
"What do you think, 'Mione?" Hermione cringed at the nickname and turned back to Ron, only to realize she had just been asked a question.
Crap. What do I think? I think you're a pile of worthless dog shite. Is that an appropriate response?
The well-oiled gears in Hermione's brain quickly flipped on while her eyes darted to the floating parchments, she brought a hand to her chin, as if contemplating the question she hadn't actually heard the Weasel voice.
Oh, he's the Weasel, now? Well, if the fur fits.
Her mind was quickly formulating a vague enough response to make it appear as if she'd been listening rather than contemplating the many and varied ways of removing a person's spine. Methodically, Hermione scanned the documents, inspecting each one with a logic that she knew her former fiance lacked until her brown eyes narrowed in delight. Apparently Ron had chosen to ignore a few of Hermione's revisions.
A fatal mistake.
"I think," Hermione began carefully, "that this has all been quite thorough, Ronald."
Thanks to my efforts.
The wizard's shoulders visibly sagged in relief, of all the Aurors in the room he'd obviously been expecting the most push-back from his former fiancee. Hermione could feel more than hear Harry breathe a sigh of relief next to her.
"However," Hermione almost smiled at the panicked look that shot across Ron's freckled face, but quickly schooled her features into a calm and thoughtful mask. "I couldn't help but notice your use of outdated research."
Ron stiffened and opened his mouth to speak, but Hermione cut him off.
"Could you explain in greater detail the assumptions you've made about the effectiveness of veritaserum as a tool of interrogation? I noticed that you're basing your claims on tests conducted illegally by the alchemist Jon Elegnem in 1941 on werewolves, tests that were proven incorrect thirty years later." Hermione sat up a little straighter in her chair and placed her hands neatly in front of her on the table. She had told him last month that veritaserum is not effective on veelas or werewolves, but he had obviously not seen fit to heed her advice.
At least he fixed his numerous spelling mistakes and various misuse of homonyms.
The tips of Ron's ears turned almost the same obnoxious shade of red as his hair, and he visibly bristled. "Veritaserum is effective on veelas, werewolves, and other magical beasts under the right circumstances ."
Hermione's eyes narrowed into dark slits, hair nearly sparkling as rage flooded her system, burning out her insides as she suddenly understood . This whole time, all her nights and research and work for him, he had intended to use to justify the use of torture.
This was the brilliant idea he had insisted of saving for the "big reveal" because he knew Hermione wouldn't have bloody well helped him do a damn thing if she'd known what it was he was really proposing. Not the reformation of the treatment of magical creatures in Ministry custody, oh no, the fucking torture of them.
"What circumstances are those?" Kingsley Shacklebolt's deep bass rang through the room before Hermione had time to leap over the conference table and throttle the ginger with her bare hands.
"The Cruciatus," Hermione spat out, determined to say it before Ron. Hours of thankless assistance so that he could convince Shacklebolt and the Aurors to agree to the use of Cruciatus. It was making her sick.
Shacklebolt raised a cautious eyebrow and turned to Ron. The ginger Auror squared his shoulders.
"The effects of the Cruciatus Curse lower the natural resistance werewolves have against veritaserum enough that they can't fight the compulsion to answer questions," Ron said evenly, apparently having practiced for this moment.
"Are you being serious, Ronald? Is this some sort of joke?" Hermione's voice was made of ice and daggers. She had put so much trust in him. Since they were eleven she had had faith and trust and he had fucking ruined that trust. He had shite on that goddamned trust. He continued to shite on that trust.
"This isn't a joke. I'm being dead serious."
Oh, you're about to be dead. When I finish with you, you'll be bloody good and dead.
"You-Know-Who fell four years ago and we have made no progress bringing in the werewolves and magical creatures that supported him. Greyback is dead, but his packs are still out there finishing the work he began. We're averaging two more infected witches and wizards a month, that has never happened before. We have to find out who is leading them and where they are," Ron's voice had risen, and he was now gesticulating passionately at the parchments. "We are almost there . We are so close to figuring out the werewolf who infected Padma, and once we do, once we have him, we have to do everything in our power to figure out who is behind this. We can't be nice anymore."
Did we love him once? Hermione marveled in the silence that surrounded them at the man she’d once loved. When had he changed? Or is it me?
"Be nice?” She breathed into the stillness of the conference room; all eyes turned to her. “ Be nice? You think we're being nice by not using Unforgivable Curses on possibly innocent citizens? Well fine, if that's what you want to call it then yes, Ronald, I suppose we're being nice, but that is what makes us different from them, that's what puts us in the right . If we resort to methods of-of torture and terror , then we are no better than Voldemort and his merry band of Death Eaters." Hermione had risen from her seat, her voice also rising to match the intensity Ron's had held moments ago.
Harry, now standing, reached out a hand to steady Hermione's trembling shoulders.
"I think we all need to take a breather for a moment here," His voice was calm, but firm, and it sobered Hermione's turbulent mind almost instantly.
Taking a deep breath, she realized now what a spectacle the two former lovers had been making of themselves.
Get a fucking grip, Granger. You're letting him get you worked up. Hermione nodded at her black haired friend and was about to return to her seat when Ron decided he needed the last word.
"The war hasn't actually ended yet, Hermione. Stop being so naive. Sometimes the ends have to justify the means."
"Maybe," Hermione's voice suddenly dropped, low and cold, "if you had actually experienced a crucio you would understand with a little more clarity what exactly you're proposing."
"For Merlin's sake you were tortured, we get it ." The words tumbled out of Ron’s large mouth like the sand through an hourglass as time runs out. The ginger looked suddenly, painfully sick, hand hover over his mouth as if it could have kept him from speaking. His pale face grew, somehow, even paler. His freckles standing out in stark contrast to his draining pigmentation.
The room was motionless in the manner of a lioness before she charges her prey, overcome with an icy tension and strained patience. The only sound was a gasp.
The warmth drained from Hermione's body, the hot rage from seconds before now replaced by a frigid numbness. Very distantly she could hear Ron apologizing and Harry yelling, but all Hermione was aware of were the walls surrounding her.
Moving towards her.
And the crazed laughter of a mad woman suddenly echoing through her mind.
And without intent or purpose or thought, Hermione ran.