She clenched her fists tightly, her nails digging into the palm of her hand, but she barely noticed. The only thing she is really aware of, is the sound of her heart throbbing against the cage of her chest, trying to escape from its confinement. The sound was ringing through-out her head like a ticking time bomb counting down to her ultimate demise. Which at the moment wasn't entirely false, anything could happen right now. No matter how unlikely.
It's not until the chatter that seemed to buzz around her fizzled out, leaving utter silence. No one daring to say a word, not wanting to tempt fate. Instead of nervous chatter and bumbling, the sound of a microphone being taped and a clearing of her throat replaced the former.
Thousands people surrounded her, yet none of them dared to speak as the ceremony officially commenced. A man who was near his thirties stood behind a wooden podium where a microphone sat, letting out a small squeak as the man began to speak.
She saw the mans mouth moving, the corner of his lips wrinkled as it was sent into a small frown yet she couldn't hear his words. Only her heartbeat could be heard over her deep breaths. Needing to do focus on something other than what this might lead to for herself, or him. She looked at the man, he was six feet tall, possibly taller and his light brown hair portrayed how old he really was since there was little grey specks on show.
Something or someone grabbed her hand, their sweaty palm pressing into hers as he intertwined his fingers with her. Sparing a glance at the boy beside her she could feel the weight that was originally pressing down on his chest release it's hold and it felt like she could breath properly. She felt a little light headed from the sudden oxygen but was glad to feel something other than the crushing fear of reality. His eyes held her gaze, his eyes not being able to hide the fear everyone over the age of twelve felt. She swallowed and gave his hand a squeeze, letting him know he wasn't alone in this. That she was feeling the exact fear he was, and both somehow found that comforting knowing they could find comfort in the most horrid situations
"It's going to be okay" he mouthed, and although she wanted to believe those words she couldn't, she really wanted to, but silly reassurances wasn't going to prevent someone from picking out either of their names. In respond she sent him a small smile, lips tightly pressed together and tightened her grip on his hand. Reminding him, like he did her, that he wasn't alone in this crowd of people, who were all secretly rooting for themselves.
The man tore her attention away from the brief assurance and the ringing in her ears only increased. "Now, let's find out our first.." He gave a small smile, clearing his throat "tribute is, shall we?" He question was met with silence so deafening that you would of heard a pin drop. Not that he expected anything less. She wanted to scoff at the sight of his tentative steps towards the plastic bowl, wondering what he had to be nervous about, someone's life was in his hands after all, but she couldn't find the energy too. Stopping in front of the glass bowl that contained the name of every male that's within age of this faction.
One single paper could decide the fate of a innocent. The contract to ones life was literally in his hands.
A single paper could change, twist and tear apart someones life as Riddle made them trapeze around like shoe monkeys and set them in front of a camera letting the world witness the slow breaking of ones soul. Since this was all for entertainment after all, the biggest show of the year.
The man on stage slowly reached into the bowl, nimble fingers playing with the papers before he picked one up. It was so silent that the sound of the paper shuffling was heard as he opened it up. His eyes narrowed slightly as his eyes flicked over the name, written in flowery and loopy handwriting, reminding him of childhood innocence. The mans lips settled into a thin line before looking up, not daring to look at the hoard of panicked faces and tilted his mouth towards the microphone "The male representing faction six..."
"Who will be competing in the 108th annual Deathly Hallows-"
Thump, thump, thump
The Deathly hallows was a game created over a century ago, a game which was made as a punishment for the rebellion of faction thirteen. And was used to show who was in power. Many thought the games were a thing to be celebrated, something to look forward to every year. People laughed and joked about it as if they weren't betting on people's lives, as if it was just a show and they weren't destroying people's lives just by existing.
The deaths were easily forgotten as long as they showed the winner in riches and gold, as if money could buy the memories away. Even if you survived, you would never truly live again. The memories more haunting then the experience, the dark scarier then it was before. Slipping into deaths arms seeming easier then before.
Yet no one saw a problem with it as long as the the winner got food and a house where they could play pretended. Pretend that their smiles weren't fake, pretended that the bags under their eyes weren't from the nightmares that haunted them in the dark, and pretended that they didn't push away the screams from their mind as they slept.
All of them were just dolls in the Ministry's games.
Tom Riddle, the president, orchestrated these games; coming up with new and impressive ways to push people to their breaking points, every year and people rewarded him with it.
It started before this generation, no one knows why or how it started but it did and it changed the world. It was a completely new threat arising from the horizon, one they didn't even know existed. In a snowy winter.
Kids grew up on this broken planet and all they learnt was that the world was surrounded by death, and that this should be a thing to celebrate. They were supposed to cheer as the grim reaper collected the fractured souls from all the tributes and survivors, not to mention their friends and family.
The Reapers goal was to taint lives and he was succeeding.
In the past, the kids played with dolls and trucks. Know they played with Knifes, teaching themselves how to use it, just in case. Just in case they got chosen.
Just in case they have to fight for their lives one day. Proving their life to the public.
Three Hours Earlier
"Harry?" She asked, her voice quiet as she stared up at the sky, as if the stars had spelt out the answers she was looking for, to the questions that always seemed to answered.
"Do you think everything happens for a reason?" Harry let out a small laugh beside her "Deep" he joked, she wacked his chest with the back of her hand, a small mutter of opposition mumbling from his lips before sighing "I think so" he replied to her previous question, fingers lazily playing the bottom of his rags.
"You do?" Hermione couldn't help the hint of surprise in her tone. She knew Harry was a skeptic.
"Yeah" He said, shuffling onto his side so that he could face her, holding his head up with his elbow "I'd like to think so at least" Harry shrugged, giving her a small smile "It would be cool wouldn't it, know that even a small impact on this would could change everything, change the world be currently know."
"Like imagine that, just because you left the last piece of bread on the shelf for someone else, you could stopped someone from dying from starvation" Hermione looked over at him, and couldn't help to smile. He was the good this world needed "I know it's dumb, but it's nice to think about y'know?"
Hermione nodded, turning on her side as well. The damp. grass of the hill they currently laying on, tickling her arms "Have you heard of the butterfly effect?" She asked, taking Harry's look of confusion as a 'no'
"The butterfly effect is that even the smallest of motions can set a massive action in motion. They say that a Butterfly flapping its wings miles away could cause a typhoon, which is not physically true, a butterfly couldn't cause that,-"
Harry cut her off "-But it's intriguing to think about, isn't it?" His eyes wide with curiosity as he spoke, this was what he was meaning to portray earlier. It seemed as if single concept gave him hope, even if it was a little flicker of it. Which is as much as anyone can ask for on a day like this "That a little action I do everyday could effect the life of another drastically, it could make a change"
"I could make a change" Harry mumbled to himself and Hermione gave him a smile, a genuine one.
"You could, you could change the world for the better Harry Potter" She said, her words unbelievable but true "And I believe you will. You are an unstoppable force after all"
Two hours earlier
Hermione sighed, running a hand through her already messy curls giving up on trying to tame them, no one would be paying attenti to her today, to wrapped up in themselves. In fact, she would be surprised if no one noticed her walking about if she was covered in blood and was lugging a dead body behind her.
She glanced in the mirror one more time, her hair a frizz and her scraps of clothes hanging loosely on her body, surely she would be matching with many of her house. Her house wasn't frankly the richest but they made up with it with their brains, using their knowledge to come up with new ways to help the world, well what's left of it.
Slipping on her pumps, Hermione headed down the stairs, letting a small sigh leave her lips as she glanced at the clock, two more hours to go. She knew it was unlikely she would be picked, she was careful to count how many times she put her name it, which had only added up to two this year, leaving her chances slim, but not impossible.
Nothing was ever impossible.
Some part of her believed that before their world collapsed into chaos and turned to shit, before the war to be more specific. That magical beings ruled the world. That dragons used to rule the sky, wings soaring gracefully through the wind as the mythical creatures below shared the Earth. That they ventured the land and used their magic for good.
That they could breath in fresh air freely and not have to worry about the consequences of what their actions may cause. She liked to believe that the generations before her savoured the ground the sand, the sea. Although she knew none of it was true, magic included.
But despite it, Hermione laid awake at night wondering what life would be like if the world was normal. Although her definition of normal wasn't much like anyone's else's. Her normal was hunting with Harry in the forest, and having conversations with her cat on the daily.
Although today wasn't a normal day either. Today was known to be celebrated as the War of Unity. Where apparently everyone decided to put down their weapons and decide that the thing they were fighting for, wasn't worth it anymore. Hermione thought the whole thing was fake, a ploy of some kind. It didn't make sense to her that after all the bloodshed, they just stopped. That they decided to kiss and make up.
Hermione sighed, eyes regaining focus onto the bony body in front of her when a flash of orange out of the corner of her eye caught her interest. She turned and smiled at the cat, dhe crouched down so that she was the same height of him. Stretching an arm out she scratched behind his ear "Hey Crooks"
As if he understood her, he meowed. "Look, I'm going to be a little later today" she said, as Crookshanks curled into the Palm of her hand, her sleeve already covered in start orange hairs "So don't worry about me, and to make up for your late dinner, I'll remember to pick up something you like when I'm out hunting maybe a fish" His ears perked up at that, causing Hermione to chuckle "Or a a tuna fish, who knows?"
Seeming Satifsed at her words, Crookshanks meowed once more and trotted away, the pitter patter sounds of his paws whispering throughout the small house for two, three if they squeezed. But that was more then enough for her, after all it was just her and Crookshanks, and Harry, who stayed over often, since he too was alone since he was a child.
Her parents well, her mother fell sick, and since they weren't one of the 'important' houses, they didn't put much effort into fixing her illness, leaving her to rot away right in front of her eyes. She would never forget the moment she found her dead, she hadn't sobbed so much in her life before. Her father had died too, in an malfunctioning accident making her an orphan.
Leaving her alone.
Hermione looked up at the sound of the door being knocked on. Shaking away her morbid thoughts she lifted herself from of the ground and headed towards the door. Already knowing who it was before she opened it, there was only one person who visited her anyway. Hermione twisted the handle and opened the door, a pair of green eyes welcoming her. Harry's eyes were happy and she couldn't possibly know why, she could barely conjure up a smile.
"Hey Kiddo" He grinned, a small groan leaving her lips at the nickname. He had called her that since they were kids even though it was incorrect.
"I've told you many times, I'm older then you" He seemed to ignore that as he pushed through the door, her wiped of the stock off his jacket and hung it up on the hook. Turning to her with another smile.
"Well that's obvious when I look at you" Harry mused, raising an eyebrow at her as he jokingly scanned her face. Shaking his head, he laughed "I'm joking, you look as beautiful as ever" Hermione rolled her eyes at him and the corner of his lips quirked up
"Thanks" Hermione drawled
"But seriously, you're going have to do something about that forming wrinkles, make you look older then you are-" Hermione smacked him across the side of his head, a sound of protest leaving his lips.
"Damn woman, inviting me into your home then attacking me, have you no morals?" Harry muttered, rubbing against the side of his head. Hermione couldn't help the small smile that tugged at her lips, the tense atmosphere that always seemed to arise on May the 2nd melting away
She shook her head at him "You'll have no head if you continue on" Harry tutted, sitting down on the ratty couch, the springs squeaking underneath his weight.
"How would I annoy you then?" He asked
"I'm sure you'd find a way" She murmered, sitting down on the other end of the sofa "So what honour brings you to my humble abode?"
Harry sighed "Would you believe me if I said to eat some of you homemade cakes?" Hermione laughed, shaking her head 'no' "The last time you tried one of my cakes you threw up, and wouldn't stop complaining about it for three days" The bushy haired girl smiled at the memory "I think you were honestly being a drama queen though, as always. Since I tried them and I thought they were pretty nice-"
Harry shivered "If you determine pretty nice as 'Disgusting, horrible, horrendous-"
Hermione cut him off "-Alright, alright, that's enough, I think I get the point before you run out of smart words, I know you have a limit of them for each day" He chuckled
"I'll have you know I have a few more words to describe those monstrous things you had called food, none of them good" Harry said and Hermione rolled her eyes
"I get it, they weren't pleasant" He scoffed "But stop delaying the subject, and tell me what you actually came here for" Harry opened his mouth, she cut him off "-And I know it wasn't to insult my cooking, which yet again, isn't that bad" Hermione sent him a warning look as he made a move to disagree
He finally gave in, letting out a sigh. "I was just thinking today..." he trailed off, his eyes going distant, Hermione noticed the sag in his shoulders and moved across the coach, sitting next to him. Hoping that her presence would comfort him.
"I can see why you came to me-" She lightly nudged him "-you thinking is very concerning" Hermione said, Harry looking up and giving a half-smile in return, knowing she was using this as a way to attempt to lighten the mood.
"Har, Har" He mocked sarcastically "Hilarious as always" Hermione shrugged with a smile.
Silence filled the room again, and the tension slowly invaded through the cracks and dents of the room, causing Hermione to worry. She knew she was a bit off now a days, but this was odd for Harry. "It's just that, this years been rough.." he began "Since I've turned eighteen, my so called remaining family has been using me as a scape-goat, putting my name in the bowl in return for food constantly...
"They laugh about it and smile, and act that they aren't risking my life more and more each time they eat some bread, or rabbit. My names been put in a total of seventy-right times already and even I know that my chances aren't good. Not to mention my luck" She grabbed his hand for comfort, for both him and herself. Hermione knew where this was going and she didn't like it.
"And I'm just worried about," He gulped, his mouth feeling dry "I'm worried that if I do get picked" Harry looked up at her "that..you'll be alone and I-I Just, don't want that to happen" Hermione wanted to shout at him, slap some sense into him but settled with a squeeze of his hand, she turned to face him "I can't believe you some times, you have a possibility of entering the games, and yet you sit here worrying about me?" Her voice was raised and she was frustrated. Why did he always have to be so selfless?
"You know what?" Hermione continued her eyes beginning to water "I understand alright? because If you got picked, it would break me, I don't think i could live in a world without your dumb green eyes and stupid dimples, but I'd be fine" Harry just stared at her
"Because I know if you got picked then you'd battle your way out and come back to me, because I swear to god Harry James Potter, If you're going to die on me, then I'll drag your ass out of the afterlife and beat you up!" Hermione warned, Harry was her family. The only person she had left.
"ALSO, if I get do picked, then I want you to not to worry about me, because I'll be fine knowing that you're safe and that you're not going to suffer. I'd happily die if I know that your hearts still beating, that you're still breathing, and that's the truth, so don't worry about me, otherwise I'll worry about you ten times more"
She jabbed a finger into his chest "Do you get that you four eyed twat?!"
Harry stared at her eyes wide, before pulling her into a hug, a thing they've done many times, although this time it was different. The hug was a silent promise to eachother that they'd always be together and they'd always return if they get ripped away "Don't you dare leave me either Hermione Jean Granger" he mumbled into her neck.
"Not if you leave me first" she mumbled into his shoulder, feeling sucure in his hold
"I love you Mione"
"I love you too you big idiot"
1 Hour Earlier
Hermione groaned "I'm going to strangle you"
"C'mon!" He laughed "You gotta admit, I'm straight, and I'd still ride him like-" Hermione's squeak cut him off, a light pink dusting her cheeks. She did not want to be speaking about this with her best friend.
"Let's not talk about this, alright?"
"Aw, why not?" He pouted, smiling at her flushed expression. It's not like she hadn't done stuff before, she had. She just preferred not to talk about this with him. Her male best friend. To to mention when he started to add Metaphors into the mix.
"Don't want to admit he's hot?"
Hermione huffed "Look yes" she mumbled "Theo Nott is hot, anyone with eyes can admit that. But what's the point in talking about it? We're never going to meet him. And plus he could be a jerk, we've only seen snippets of him on Tv" She bemused and Harry shook his head at her
"That's the exact point, we're never going to meet him so what's the harm in admitting how attractive he is?" Hermione's sighed, mischief glinting in Harry's eyes. Him being in the games didn't sound that bad now.
"Fine, sure" She sighed "He's attractive-"
"Was that so hard?"
"-but, I prefer blondes" She finished, grinning at him.
"Now you're just saying that to hurt me" He said, pushing her lightly on the shoulder where she sat cross legged in front of him.
She ignored him "And hot boys are always dicks, it gets to their heads" Harry snickered, Hermione hit him, he opposed.
"So I must be a pretty big dickhead then" His eyes sparkled.
"Actually" She leaned over "You're pretty adorable, pup" She said, ruffling his already messy hair. His mop of black hair sticking up all over the place.
"Stop insulting me, you're doing this on purpose now!" He whined, flattening his hair down with his hands. Only making in worse in the end.
"Aw no I'm not, lighten up kiddo" she grinned, her eyes matching his earlier mischief. Enjoying being on the other side for once
"You wanna play it like that grandma?" He beckoned, eyes narrowed behind his glasses "Cause I can play it like that if you'd really like to"
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him "You really want to do this?"
"Says the bushy haired girl to the handsome boy"
She scoffed "Give it your best shot kid, I've had more time on this earth"
"For like six months!"
Hermione clicked her tongue, never one to back down "Six months of pure bliss without your haunting presence on this earth"
Harry tutted "Wow I really must of cost you a lot of stress in these past eighteen years then, because as I must bring up again, those wrinkles" He tilted his head, with false pity
"-are not doing you justice, but hey" Harry patted her shoulder "We could maybe fix it, heard house three's got some good face cream-"
"Well baby face-"
"Says the elderly woman-"
An alarm blasted from the tv, a message sprawled out across the screen, being read outloud by a monotone, - Robotic voice
"All residents below eighteen or above eleven please start making your way towards the stage immediately, the choosing ceremony begins in thirty, I repeat all residents eighteen or above please start making your way towards the stage"
The air was sucked out of the room, again. Humour that was dancing through the air dissapearing like an old magic trick, no where to be seen. Harry and Hermione turned to eachother with solem faces, a silent message transpiring between the two, one they wouldn't utter out loud otherwise it would make the impossible a possibility.
They both silently got up, abandoning their conversation, and made a move for the door. Anything worthy of possenion already stuffed into their pockets. Lazy prepared earlier. They left the house hand in hand, brother and sister, sending out silent prays to the sky in hope that it wouldn't be the person beside them.
'Please, If you exist, God, Merlin, whoever who stands up there looking down on us, please keep Harry safe, please'
"Please" she whispered.
30 Minutes Earlier
"Next" She got shoved forward, now standing in front of a desk, a man covered in black robes sat in front of her "Name?" His voice was dull, tired. "Um Hermione-" she cleared her throat "Hermione Granger"
"Hand" She had barely outstretched hers before he grabbed onto it, snatching it and bringing it towards him, causing her to stumble from the abrupt force, the man in robes brought up a small needle, woven like a snake, the end of the point sharp, like a snakes tongue and peirced the end of her finger.
She hissed quietly to herself, not expecting the sting of it before pushing it down on the paper, leaving a bloody fingerprint below her name, marking her with red blood. He then reached for something on his left, grabbing a stamper and pressing it on her wrist. When the black robed man removed it, it revealed a snake wrapped around a skull imprinted into her skin, the blackness of it contrasted against her pale skin.
"Next" he repeated, Hermione got pushed away from the desk and towards the crowd of people full of both genders. She brought up her finger to her mouth, sucking away the last of the blood while her brown orbs automatically began to search for the mop of familiar back hair, suddenly feeling anxious around all these people.
Breath she reminded herself, slowing her steps and taking in her surroundings, there was a stage in the middle of it all, two bowls on the edge of each side, they were called the Goblet of Fires. They contained little white papers that had the name of every person here, some repeated. Hermione looked away, swearing she saw a flash of black, but couldn't find him.
A hand gripped her shoulder, a small gasp escaping her lips at the sudden contact as she turned around "Hey kiddo" Harry spoke quietly, neither of them having enough energy to act the opposite of how they were feeling.
Nervous, anxious, scared..
"Hey" she smiled, pulling him into a hug, just wanting to a feel a familiar warmth, even though they had only spoken at least half an hour ago, it didn't feel that way in her mind. Harry breathed in the smell of her hair, it smelling like oranges and cinnamon, a smell he could always picture in his memories whenever he though back at her. They pulled away, being reassured enough by one another's presence as they stood side by side, waiting for the first sign that this was beginning, and that this was real.
This was both of their last time at the reaping. And it was terrifying.
They had both almost made it out unscathed, only one more chance to be chosen and they were free. But freedom wasn't always kind.
It felt like her stamp was burning her, the ink seeping into her skin releasing what felt like venom into her blood and the only antidote was time.
Harry glanced at her, practically feeling the nerves radiating off her. And without thinking grabbed her hand, comforting her like she did to him earlier today. Reminding her that she wasn't alone.
That they would both be fine.
The rest of it went by in a blur, the commentary, the tension, the hand dipping into the goblet, selecting one. Everything seemed so out of focus, but reality came back all all to fast, smacking him in the face harshly.
He felt his breath he didn't know he was holding escape, leaving him breathless as the words processed in his mind, he was entering the games. He had prepared for it, knowing his luck, but hearing it was a different thing, and he didn't know if he could handle it. He thought he could but know that it was truly happening he didn't know how to react, how to move, how to breathe.
The girl beside him, who dropped her hand from his in Shock. This wasn't real. He said that they were both going to be fine, Harry wouldn't lie to her. But the truth never lied
Hermione's eyes were wide and it felt like all her nightmares coming true, he was leaving her. How could he do that to her? She needed him to function, she was broken and all though she knew it was selfish, she needed him to keep her from breaking apart.
It seemed like she couldn't breath, a pressure building upon her chest, weighing her down as she realised that she was going to loose her best friend, her brother. All her thoughts were spinning rapidly round her head and she couldn't spare a second to process them all.
How could this be happening?
This has to be a bad nightmare that she took a little too late to wake up from, she would wake up any minute now gasping for her breath. But ultimately happy knowing it was all just a dream.
But she never woke up, and they started to drag Harry towards the stage, leading him towards everything he hates.
Death, murder, slaughtering people for entertainment, all of it
And he let them, what else was he supposed to do? He couldn't do anything. If he didn't want to endanger the ones he loved, mostly Hermione. If he was going to do this, he would do it with honour, he wouldn't loose his morals. Even if that meant dying. It pained Harry knowing that Hermione might be alone if he doesn't come back, but she would understand.
His feet dragged against the stone, feeling more than a hundred eyes stuck onto him, but he could only feel one.
Hermione's feet moved towards Harry before her mind even processed it, breaking out into a sprint after coming out of her trance, pushing past all the people who crowded around to watch and flung herself into Harry's arms, not giving the guards enough time to stop her.
His arms instantly wrapped around her waist, pulling her close and breathing in the smell her hair, cinnamon and orange. For what could be the last time, he commited the smell to memory to comfort him in through the lonely nights like a blanket.
This hug was different from the one they shared earlier. The one earlier was full of unspoken hope, an underlining feeling of belief that they would both be okay, but it clearly wasn't, not anymore. This hug was filled with lost opportunities, the opportunity of living a normal life slipping through his fingers and leaving him, alone. The opportunity of finding true love, not one haunted by ghosts and spirits filling him everywhere, whispering in his ear when he was alone, taunting his mind.
And although Hermione didn't want to admit it, that was only if he survived
How was it far that she was broken already and they were sending the one who had hope away to break it, it wasn't fair.
Funny to think of that word right now, Fair was the opposite word to describe this situation right now. The exact same situation that had been happening know for over a century.
But that was life she supposed.
Hermione let out a shaky breath, the words rolling off her tongue before her mind even told them to leave and she pulled away from him, ripping herself out of his arms.
She would do this for him, for himself. For hope.
She turned towards the stage, Harry's arms reaching out towards her as he registered was about to happen "Hermione- Stop!"
But the words had already left her lips
"I volunteer as tribute!"