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Disclaimer: I currently, and frequently, and in the past, so far, have never own Harry Potter. But BOY do I wish I had!

I do, however, own Troy Malfoy, his daddy Lucifer Malfoy and Cassidy, or Cassie Valeska. So far, that's about it.

Now, I think it's best we move on with the story?


The October Hollow
By Darkwing731

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((--Chapter Twenty Two--))
Aftershock


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November 15
Fifteen days later


The cold, crisp air of October finally blew itself into the fierce, angry bitter winds of November. The chilly air held massive, swirling clouds that already threatened to sprinkle snow on the students of Hogwarts. On a few occasions, little flurries had touched upon the ground, accompanied by frost the morning after.

Quidditch now was a dreaded sport because of burning wind; the Seeker made a dive, or the Keeper fumbled a catch, each movement was haunted by the freezing cold knife of the wind. On November 15, such a day on the Quidditch field took place. Harry Potter sat on his Firebolt and scanned the game nearly fifty feet below him. Many haunting thoughts troubled his mind, but at the moment, he was forcing himself to focus on the snitch as it winded its way effortlessly through the numerous players. He couldn't afford to keep thinking about recent events.

At last, Harry spotted the heavenly glint of gold out of the corner of his eyes. He turned sharply on his broom, keeping stationary in air; the Ravenclaw Seeker was now diving for the snitch as it dashed to escape. The Seeker reached out to catch it and missed by inches. The snitch made a wild turn and once again, disappeared into the fierce November winds.

Harry sat motionless on his broom, unaware that Gryffindor had almost lost the match, for his mind had drifted elsewhere. He watched how the Seeker dived and the snitch fled the scene almost fearfully, not seeing the dive, not caring for the game suddenly. Without knowing how it happened, he felt a tear slid down his cheek.

He was instantly brought back to the present day as the cold air pinched his cheeks. Feeling almost disgusted with himself, he wiped the tear away. No news had come yet, they could be hopeful. He shouldn't cry when he knew she was coming back. He told himself as soon as Christmas, he would have no reason to ever cry again.

And yet, the situation he was in was a terrible one. After being rescued from the mountain, they had all been haunted by the events that had taken place. But Harry was not worse off than Ron. The Weasley, who had endured only minor injuries, was excused from school for what he had witnessed. Whatever it was, it was bad, Harry knew that much. Ron had become utterly silent for a few days, locking himself up. Harry could only be there for his best mate as best he could, unable to sympathize with the horrors he had seen. But he could imagine…

When Ron had started talking again, it was brief and dark, and he was very easily angered. Despite Dumbledore's reassurance that there was still a chance, that Hermione could potentially be alive, Ron had shut himself down. Nothing could convince him.

It was with this thought that Harry forced himself to be interested in the game; he turned and halfheartedly dove for the snitch, which he spotted near the base of the Ravenclaw hoop. He swooped down and almost caught it had it not been for the Bludger that had been sent his way. Dodging it easily, he sped back up to his spot above the crowd.

He watched Ron closely now; sitting in the stands, Ron watched the game glumly, glaring at the Keeper that had taken his place. Next to him were all the Gryffindor boys, cheering and clapping Ron on the back, trying to cheer him up. But nothing would work. Harry had tried his best to cheer his friend up, even blatantly saying that Hermione was going to come back, even though in the pit of his stomach, he knew there was something terribly wrong. He felt guilty, though; Ron was in such a desperate, vulnerable state that anything positive about Hermione would make him feel better.

Five minutes later, Gryffindor beat Ravenclaw 230 to 170. Gryffindor had been playing badly, and whence Harry caught the snitch and scored one hundred and fifty points, the game had been won. There was a small party in the Gryffindor Common room that night before dinner. The Gryffindors gathered inside the warm cozy common room; people were yelling and acting rambunctious. Girls were flirting and giggling, boys clutching onto butterbeer as they attempted to catch a date to Hogsmeade.

Harry had not been in the best of moods for the past two weeks since Halloween, but he assured himself that everything was going to be all right and fooled himself into fake cheerfulness. It was an action that had to be repeated for the party; Harry slid on the couch and put his arm around Ginny, his girlfriend. Ginny, who had been feeling the same way as Harry, tried her best to act normally despite the fact that she cried whenever she was alone.

"Hello," she greeted; he grinned in response.

"That was an excellent pass you made during the last five," Harry complimented. Ginny blushed, tapping his nose in affectionate response. The couple looked at each other, and they could both see the grief in one another's eyes. It had to be stopped, and now, or else they would both break down. Without further reasoning, she leaned in and kissed him on the mouth to distract them both.

Ron watched sullenly as Ginny and Harry began kissing. Although it did bother him that his little sister was snogging in front of the whole common room, he lacked the energy to do anything about it. Sitting at a quiet table away from the crowd, Ron was tipping a butterbeer to and fro as he observed the common room. Nothing could get him out of the depression he was currently in.

Nothing except her.

There was really no end to match how much he missed Hermione and how much he would sacrifice to get her back. He replayed that fatal night in his head, wondering what he could've done to save her, wondering how he could've stopped her, wondering how she could give herself to Voldemort so easily—

Calloused hands cupped his face, tears dripped between his fingers. Ron looked up when a hand clapped him on the back. It was Dean, who looked slightly embarrassed to have disrupted Ron crying.

"Everything will be alright, mate," Dean said, throwing Ron a halfhearted smile. Ron simply sneered at him, wiping the tears from his cheeks.

"Just think about the good times," Dean suggested. "She would want you to be happy."

"Easier said than done," Ron grunted, trying to picture Hermione's face in his mind. Each time he dreamt of her, she was more beautiful, more perfect, more innocent than he had ever imagined before.

"Well, what were some things she used to do? I remember you two fought a lot," Dean said, his voice dropping off at the end, sounding awkward.

Ron smiled ruefully. "She always got the better of me. Always right, she was. And she used to do this stupid thing— S.P.E.W.! Do you remember that? Dobby was always so fond of her after she started it…"

Suddenly lost in all the vivid memories of her, Ron's nostalgic smile was choked by tears. Hands cupped his face once more, and Dean patted his back with an uncertain, sympathetic hand. Wanting desperately to change the subject, Dean pointed out Harry and Ginny.

"Well, they certainly are… public," he said with a grimace. Ron shot him a withering look, but there was a small grin on his face.

"I sort of want to punch Harry," Ron admitted.

"Only natural, considering your sister is really—"

"Don't," growled Ron, eyeing the grin on Dean's face angrily.

"Don't lose your head, I'm only having a go at you," Dean laughed. The black boy eyed Harry and Ginny for a moment, and after giving Ron a mischievous look, Dean snatched Ron's butterbeer, approached the couple, and suddenly poured the liquid all over them

"SEAMUS! I'M GOING TO KILL YOU!" Ginny screamed, popping up from the couch. She plunged into the crowd, soaked in amber, frothy substance. Snatching up her wand, she scrambled to throw her infamous hex at Dean— the Bat-Bogey Hex.

Dean, grinning at Ron's honest laughter, suddenly screamed and dove under the table as the Hex flew at him. Most of the common room was roaring with laughter at Dean when he emerged, because his face was covered in great flapping wings.

Whipping out his wand, Ginny and Dean circled each other, much to the general amusement of the common room. Ron arrived at Harry's side, and both boys were chuckling.

"What is going on in here?" snapped a stern voice. Half of the common room scrambled to escape at the sound of McGonagall's voice, while the rest stood and awaited further instruction.

McGonagall came walking up to the crowd, looking suspiciously at each and every one of the Gryffindor students. Then, her eyes landed on Harry and Ron, and next Ginny, who was looking innocently at the ceiling. Lastly—

"Mr. Thomas!" she cried. "What happened to your face?"

Dean gave Ginny a sour look, who returned a smug smirk. "Nothing," Dean said bitterly. "I accidentally hexed myself, is all."

And for some reason, the Transfiguration teacher turned and looked at Ginny, her eyebrow arched. Ginny gave McGonagall a cheeky, innocent smile. McGonagall pressed her lips together and pursued her original intent.

"You three—" McGonagall clipped, gesturing to Ron, Harry, and Ginny; "Come with me."

Normally, there would be a simultaneous groan of oh no, what did I do now? But they had done nothing wrong. And if so, that could only mean one thing… Ginny and Ron looked at each other in a fleeting, scared look. As one, the three Gryffindors followed their Head of House into the hallway.

Professor McGonagall turned sharply once they were in the hall. Her eyes were unusually bright; not with happiness, but with tears. She looked incredibly sad, and one look for at the Weasley children was enough to tell them.

Although she began speaking out going to Dumbledore's office, not one of them heard her words. They were unaware of protocol; they were unaware that they were being beckoned. They were unaware of everything now. When she finished speaking, McGonagall gave each of them a long, regretful look. The silence screamed in Harry's ears; McGonagall looked into his eyes, and an awful shock went through him.

The silence was spiraling horribly; Harry felt the tension in the corridor become so tense that he could slice it in two. A tear dripped out of the teacher's eyes and she smiled sadly at them. Harry's body went completely rigid; his eyes shone with a mute, desperate plea for her to lie to him, to tell him nothing had happened, to tell them it was all a dream, a nightmare. The truth just made everything worse.

"I'm so sorry," she whispered, her voice oddly quiet. Her stern tone was lost in the sorrow in her heart. Without another word, she turned and left them, just as heartbroken as they were.

Harry was numbly aware that his cheeks were now stained with tears, and a furious howling was fighting to get out of him. He stumbled back into the wall, slowly sinking down to the floor, his head upon his knees. Everything he would miss about Hermione flashed before his eyes; her cunning, clever ways, her intelligence, her beaming smile, how she grudgingly let the boys copy her homework. Her face, so wonderful and bright and kind, loomed in his mind, etching its eternal spot, reminding him that she was gone forever.

His shoulders fell and rose with his sobs, tears falling freely and dotting his trousers. He let out an anguished cry and pressed his head to the wall, sobbing openly, the noise echoing off the corridors. A strangled wail ripped itself from his body and made his throat scream in agony.

He was not aware of Ron and Ginny standing perfectly still, holding onto each other, quietly remembering the girl they were so sure would return. Ron was completely past tears; the hollowness of his soul, the utter emptiness, was so incredibly vast, so bottomless, that the new sadness only deadened him further. He had known all along, after all…

But even in the depth of his icy heart a part of him broke further, a part of him cry out in misery. Yet he had to remain strong, just as Hermione had told him. Ron had to be there for his little sister, had to be there for his best friend, and he had to be the driving force when others fell behind. Holding Ginny closer than he ever had before, he let her quietly sob into his shoulder, tears soaking through his shirt.


Ron put aside everything he could to be there for Ginny, but one thing remained: it was the reminder that day Hermione Granger died was not only the end of the world— but of his world.

-x-x-x-


Many students of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry initially questioned the reason for the black drapes, but it was not long before they realized the drapes were out of respect. The forlorn curtains hung sadly behind the staff table from the enchanted ceiling, a morose reminder of the tragedy recently faced. The Gryffindors had the saddest, palest faces in the hall; all those whose lives had been touched by Hermione wept, theirs tears unfiltered, their grief very real.

Harry had not stopped crying since McGonagall had revealed the truth to him. Ginny Weasley buried her face in his shoulder, her body shaking in anguish; she had lost her best friend and her sister, and felt no shame in crying. People wondered why Ron Weasley wasn't crying, although his face was set in a deadly, murderous look. He was seething and tormented at the same time, his eyes dark and secured, hollow and glittering with hate. He had made up his mind; he wasn't going to let anyone in now.

Ron glared at a certain Slytherin across the hall, who was looking particularly pale and panicky. Hurriedly whispering with those around him, Draco Malfoy looked shocked, uncertain even. A boy with dark hair sitting next to him replied, and Draco Malfoy paled even worse.

Malfoy had been in the hospital wing for thirteen days and had only just left two days before. His arm had been severed violently; he had been telling people who asked that he got in another fight with a Hippogriff over his short vacation. His arm had been carefully wrapped and put in a secure sling, and people knew that this time, the wound wasn't a lie.

Almost as if he felt Ron staring at him, Malfoy turned to the Gryffindor table, making eye contact with Ron Weasley. Without hesitation, Ron mouthed the horrible, dangerous truth to Malfoy: You killed Hermione. Disregarding the newly curled lip, Ron went on. I'm going to kill you, he mouthed, blue eyes now reduced to slits. Ron raised his finger to his throat and made an obscene gesture at Malfoy, his entire body quivering with utter hatred. Then he ripped his eyes away, anger burning in his throat, fighting the urge to scream at the pale-haired Slytherin.

"The cold month of November has finally arrived upon us," Dumbledore said quietly, rising from his chair. There was no need to call the great hall to attention, for it had been eerily silent to begin with. "Although many recent events have happened since the start of the year, one thing calls our precise and unmoving attention." The Headmaster's gaze turned to the Gryffindor table now, his old face mournful. "Before we begin our nightly feast, I would all of you to acknowledge the missing presence of a certain Gryffindor who should be here amongst us. I would like every one of you to stand and raise your glasses to the once Head Girl, Hermione Granger."

There was a simultaneous scrape through the hall as everyone stood, clutching his or her glasses and murmuring her name. When everyone sat, Dumbledore continued. "Hermione was an excellent student who excelled in all of her classes. She contained and demonstrated the fine attributes of the Gryffindor house with pride. She was an excellent friend and considerably kind to others around her. She was responsible, loyal and caring to anyone in need. Her death has made some impact on your life whether you realize it or not. For many of us, the thought of killing another person is unbearable. Yet… yet… her death was made without a second thought. Lord Voldemort has taken another student from these halls, and we can only hope it will be the last."

His clear old voice rang perfectly through the hall, and was met by numerous gasps and horrified noises. Dumbledore pressed on. "Hermione was innocent in many different ways. Because of this, Lord Voldemort hoped to corrupt her, knowing that her many academic talents would be a superior weapon to have. Being the person she was, however, Hermione refused, and was killed. She stood up for the name of what was good against the most powerful evil being upon the earth. Her death was made bravely and courageously, and saved a great number of lives whether she knew it or not."

Many of the people in the hall who had known Hermione very well were now crying as much as the Gryffindors. Sobs echoed through the great room from the many devastated and sad people who had befriended the Head Girl. How is it that a student could be taken from their masses? How is it that an innocent girl with such potential could be killed so effortlessly? How is it that Hermione Granger, the brightest witch of their age, was dead?

Ron stared down at the table, feeling disgusted and worthless, hating himself with every one of Dumbledore's words. Hermione was wonderful and perfect and all of these things, and Ron had just— had just abandoned her. No matter what his beloved had said to him, the weight of her death would forever rest upon his shoulders. Each and every moment alive would be wasted and fetid with misery, for his entire life would be a lie. Ron Weasley loved Hermione Granger more than anything… but she was dead. And what was left for him to live for?


-x-x-x-


November 16


Even if they had attempted to forget about the gut wrenching truth of Hermione's death, they could not. Everywhere they went there seemed to be a constant reminder of her absence, a void left unfilled, and the whispers of what used to be.

As Ron, Harry, and Ginny at their breakfast silently, they were apathetic to the daily owl post. With a great swooshing sound, hundreds of owls entered and hall, dropping parcels at their respective owners. The newspaper fell in front of Ginny, who sighed dejectedly as she unraveled it and paid the owl. But it was hardly a moment later before she clapped a hand to her mouth as if she might vomit.

The headline of the Daily Prophet was titled "The Body of Hermione Granger is Found". A moving photograph depicted several ministry wizards carrying a sheet covered body through a rural scene. A limp arm with a large, gaping wound on the hand slipped from beneath the sheet and hung there. Hermione. Harry took it front Ginny immediately, who had lost all color in her face. His eyes scanned over the words, their curves and ridges flashing through his mind, information passing through him uselessly, his heart seizing up.

Ron tried his best to keep his focus on the oatmeal in front of him, knowing that even seeing her name in the Daily Prophet might send him spiraling into an irreversible, miserable, self destructive rampage. He clamped his eyes shut as Harry began to utter words, horrified, just as Ginny was.

Harry was choking on his words, and neither Weasley had to look over to realize that he was about to cry. "They said… they said… she was found at the bottom of the mountain we were on. And— and there were wounds all over her—"

"Stop reading it," Ginny said firmly, still ashen faced.

"They said it appears she committed suicide," Harry whispered, a jagged, gasping sort of noise escaping his lips.

"That's not true," Ron growled at once; Harry and Ginny stared at him, unnerved. Ron had not spoken about what happened to either one of them. "Suicide is a selfish act," Ron hissed, glaring at both of them. "And she died for us. Not for her."

Neither Harry nor Ginny said anything, although Ginny began to tear up. She took the paper from Harry, folded it in half and ripped it so violently several people turned at the noise. Little pieces of paper floated down gently into her porridge. Tears welled up in her eyes as she released a strangled cry. A quick glance around the hall revealed that several other people were shocked at the front page.

The three of them had endured an enormous amount of tragedy in such a short time. They were confused, terrified, and miserable. Their best friend had been taken from them, a girl that they had all loved, and so violently had she been taken from him. Even though rage and grief ran deep in their veins, they were listless, immobile, and helpless. But what could they do if nothing would bring her back?

When Ginny finally looked up at Harry, she noticed that he looked awful; there were deep, purple lines under his eyes, his face unusually pale and etched in sadness.

"What are we going to do?" Ginny asked him, her lip trembling.

"We fight," Ron answered her, his face looking stormy.

"Ron's right," Harry agreed quietly. "She died for us, right? We can't let that rest in vain."

"What do you mean?" Ginny whispered, large eyes marked with fear.

The image of Hermione's lifeless face swam before his eyes, and he tried to block his heart from the horror of it.

"It means… the second war has just begun."



FIN

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-X-X-X-
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Author's Note:
so hey there. There is supposed to be a sequel. I have about nine chapters of it written, but like this story, I want to rewrite them before I post. Also, the sequel spans over a period of ten years, and much like this story, I fear that all chapters will come with great delay. For that, I apologize.

Thank you all so much for reading this and reviewing this! I'm on my way to becoming a published author, I promise you!

It was lovely writing this for you guys.
I appreciate all of your feedback and your support!
Sincerely,
Minnie

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