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"Is there anything else?" Hermione asked Professor Dumbledore as he handed her a copy of the contract that she then stuffed into her book bag. It wasn't a signed copy with all the spells seeped into it like the original was, but Hermione intended to memorize the bloody thing. Dumbledore, Snape, and McGonagall had signed the original contract as witnesses, and Hermione didn't know of anything else that had to be done today.

"No, nothing else for now," Dumbledore confirmed.

Hermione nodded and left the office and started walking down the stairs, not really knowing where she was heading. Professor McGonagall stopped her before she had gotten halfway down. "Are you going to be all right Hermione?" the older woman asked.

Hermione took a deep breath. "Yes Professor, thank you. I just need to go find someplace to scream," she said, now knowing where she was headed.

Hermione continued walking down the stairs and into the halls. When she was almost halfway to her destination, she rounded a corner and almost bumped into Ginny.

"Hermione? What happened? Are you all right?" Ginny asked, concern evident on her face as she fell into step with her.

Hermione didn't answer right away. She was afraid that if she opened her mouth, she would loose it right then and there in the very public hallway. "I…I just want to be alone for a little while," she finally managed to say as she arrived at her destination. She needed a place that was private.

"Oh…ok," Ginny answered, standing back so Hermione could pass the same stretch of wall again.

Hermione needed a place where there were a lot of things she could break. Ginny left as Hermione walked past the wall for the final time before entering the door that appeared for her. She needed a place that was soundproof.

She entered the Room of Requirement. Instead of the room that was used for D.A. meetings, there was now a large kitchen with a table and chair, and cupboards filled with dishes and vases everywhere. The first thing Hermione did was scream. And she did it again, and again. She screamed until her throat was raw.

Then, Hermione walked up to one of the cupboards and withdrew a plate, and hurled it towards the wall where it broke and then fell to the floor in a thousand pieces with a crash. Her only way out of this mess was if Malfoy was convicted of being a Death Eater. Crash! It would not happen before the wedding, he probably couldn't join the Death Eaters before graduation and it would be unlikely that he would do so and then be caught within the week, so there was no way of getting out of marrying him. Crash! Which meant, according to the contract, that the relationship would have to be…consummated…on their wedding night. She would never be able to give that very special part of herself, for the very first time, to someone she loved that also loved her. Crash! The last war with Voldemort had lasted ten years, what if it was that long before Malfoy was caught? She would have to bear his children if that was the case. Crash! What if he was never caught at all, or managed to wriggle out of a conviction like his father had? Crash! Merlin, she was engaged to Malfoy! CRASH!

After Hermione had broken every dish and vase in sight, she repaired everything. She didn't want to accidentally get a shard of glass in her hide somewhere on top of everything else. She sunk into the chair, and began to cry. She cried until she had no tears or energy left, the only emotions she could feel were a dull pain and exhaustion.

Hermione decided that her vacation from reality was over, and got up and washed her face. She didn't want everyone to know what was going on yet, and if she started walking the halls looking like she had been crying, they would know that something was up. Then, she picked up her book bag and went into the hallway.

Hogwarts looked rather deserted, she thought, until she realized that it was suppertime and everyone was in the Great Hall eating. Knowing that she had absolutely no appetite, Hermione went directly to Gryffindor Tower, and then up to her room. She lied down, still fully clothed, and pulled the curtains around her bed. She just stared up at the canopy not having the energy to do anything, but still unable to sleep.

For Ron, it was like having the worst nightmare of your life, only to wake up and see it replayed before your very eyes. Literally.

"This doesn’t sound good," Ron said after his sister finished explaining about her encounter with Hermione that afternoon as they walked down a deserted hall, returning from supper. They had taken a less used route in order to avoid anyone overhearing their conversation.

"Especially since Hermione isn't the type of person to overreact to anything," Ginny agreed. "I wasn't sure if she was about to cry, scream, or strangle someone. Maybe it was all three."

After a few seconds, Harry said, "Did either of you see Malfoy's reaction when McGonagall got Hermione from breakfast this morning?"

"No…why?" Ginny asked carefully.

"He turned dead white and practically fled as they passed him. I could swear that McGonagall turned around to look at him for a moment. Normally anything that scares Malfoy, I like, but if it involves Hermione…" Harry trailed off.

"What, exactly, are you suggesting Harry?" Ron asked a little more gruffly than he intended to.

"Well…it's just that…. Merlin, I hope I'm wrong. Ron, I sure hope that you have absolutely no talent as far as predictions are concerned," Harry said fervently.

Ron had to bite back giving a response to that in order to swallow the bile that had somehow worked its way into his throat. He knew what Harry was referring to, though, and agreed wholeheartedly. He hadn't told Harry, however, about what had happened when he had tried to kiss Hermione, or his dream last night. He had seen Hermione in his dream, her face as white as the wedding dress she wore, walking towards the alter where Malfoy waited for her. He had woken up trying to scream from that one. The only reason he had not woken everyone in the House up was that his pillow had somehow gotten in front of his mouth while he tossed in his sleep, and muffled the sounds long enough for him to realize that he had been dreaming.

It had only been a dream. A nightmare. Worse than his normal nightmares that concerned spiders or Death Eaters, true, but still nothing more than a dream. At least he hoped that it was no more than a dream. But why had he not been able to kiss Hermione last night?

Ron looked over at Harry, who seemed to be waiting for some kind of a response, and nodded. He didn't trust his voice at the moment. Even the memory of that dream made it difficult for him to speak without his voice cracking.

When they got Gryffindor Tower, it looked like a normal Saturday night. Most of the students in the common room were playing games, though a few of the more studious ones were hard at work and either ignoring or glancing wistfully at the students that were playing games. But Hermione wasn't at her customary spot, scribbling out some essay like she usually was on Saturday nights.

Ginny asked Parvati if she knew where Hermione was, and it turned out that Hermione was in bed and had told anyone who asked after her that she had a headache. Ginny went up to 'see if she could get Hermione anything' and returned ten minutes later with Hermione and lots of textbooks. They went to go sit at Hermione's table, and it appeared that Hermione was explaining something that Ginny didn’t quite get.

"Well, that's one way of luring Hermione out into the open. Just pretend that you need help with your homework," Harry said, digging out homework of his own to work on until most of the other students left the common room. Whatever was going on, some privacy would be conducive to finding out anything about it.

Ron nodded, and followed suit. He couldn't concentrate, though, and kept reading the same paragraph in his Transfiguration textbook again and again without realizing it. Merlin, what was going on?

After everyone was finally gone, Ron and Harry waited a few minutes to make sure no one came back in before going to where Ginny and Hermione sat. "Hermione," Harry said, "we don't mean to pry, but could you please tell us what's going on?"

Hermione started to cry. After a few minutes, she was able to tell them what had happened.

After she was done, they all sat there in shocked silence. 'I'm just having another dream, and I am going to wake up any second,' Ron thought fervently. He pinched himself to try to reassure himself of that, but it hurt. 'Merlin, this can't be happening!' This wasn't how it was suppose to be. In stories, the good guy always got the girl. In stories, if the girl was forced into an engagement, there was always a way out: there was a legal loophole in the contract, someone got the bad guy before the wedding, or the hero rescued the woman he loved and ran off with her.

"Ron," Hermione finally said, breaking the silence, "I can't go out with you anymore. Even if that bloody contract allowed me to, it wouldn't be fair to you."

She had given up. Hermione didn't think that there was any hope left that she could somehow get out of this. Even crowds of Slytherins singing the mocking "Weasley is our King" at him while he failed to block another Quaffle didn't even come close to the sinking feeling he had now. He wanted to tell her that everything would be alright like it was in the stories one day, that he loved her and that they could still be together someday even if things looked as bad as they could get right now. But what if he was wrong? If he were wrong, that kind of reassurance would only hurt her more. "Isn't there any way out?" Ron asked desperately.

"Well, one," Hermione said slowly, "if he's convicted of criminal activities, 'including, but not limited to involvement with Voldemort, Death Eaters, or any other dark wizard or witch,' I can divorce him. But that's the only way out."

"And all things considered, that isn't that unlikely," Harry mused.

Hermione turned her head to fix Harry with a penetrating gaze. "Harry, I know what you're thinking, but stop it. Malfoy can't be your focus when you become an Auror. Any other Auror could deal with him, but you have your…other duty. Nothing, and I repeat nothing is more important than that. Promise me that you won't let Malfoy become your focus."

"But Hermione…" Harry protested.

"Promise me," she repeated, a little more firmly this time.

Finally, Harry sighed in defeat and nodded. "Alright, I promise."

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