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Chapter Twenty-Two
Ah, How Sweet!

On the second day that they were there, the new intake had been ordered out of their hut at the crack of dawn and led down to a building on the far side of the camp, where they had had their hair cut short.  On the way over, Hermione had taken the opportunity to have a look around.  The paths leading between the rows and rows of wooden huts were made of gravel, making her feet sore after a while.  All around the camp was a tall barbed wire fence, with guard towers set up every now and again.  A line was marked out on the ground about a metre from the fence.  If it was crossed by a prisoner for any reason, the guards in one of the towers would shoot them.  About half way to their destination, one of the soldiers walking next to the group stuck his foot out, making one of the women a few feet in front of Hermione stumble.  As she was regaining her footing, the man pushed her away from the group.  As she fell across the line, one of the tower guards shot her in the head.  Hermione couldn't bear to look at the body as she walked past, but deep down she knew she would be seeing more of the same from thereon in.  What made her feel sick, though, was the laughter coming from the soldier in front of her.

After the incident with the shooting, Hermione continued to look around.  She could see the huts where the men were kept, and tried to think of a way she could go and see Ron.  Nothing sprang to mind, and her thoughts took a completely different direction when she spotted a patch of open ground with a noose hanging from a wooden post.

After their hair had been cut off, the new arrivals were taken to where the other prisoners were stood for inspection.  Yanika whispered to her that they would have to line up like this every morning in front of the main gates.  Just as she finished speaking, the doors of the gate tower were thrown open and a tall man of obviously high rank strode out and stood in front of the assembled prisoners.

“ Guten Morgen, meine Damen und Herren.”

The man continued on with a long winded speech about discipline aimed at the new arrivals.  Yanika was listening intently, as if memorising it.  Hermione didn't understand, so she took the opportunity to discreetly look around the crowd for Ron.  A few times she spotted a patch of short red hair, but it was never her friend.  She was saddened to think he too had had his hair cut.  He had been growing it long like his brother Bill since the summer after fourth year.  It was a shame to have it cut off.  Before she could locate her friend, the crowd started to move off and she quickly started whispering to Yanika.

“ What was all that about?”

“ He was just telling us some of the rules.  He was speaking mainly to us new prisoners.  We will be receiving our orders when we return to our hut.”

“ Orders?”

“ Yes.  This is a labour camp after all.  We will be told what our jobs will be.  He also gave us the opportunity to volunteer for medical research.”

“ I don't like the sound of that.  Did he say when we would be having our meals?”

“ We will eat in the morning and the evening in the dining building.  We don't get to eat this morning, as we will be wasting time getting to know our jobs.  He explained that Grossrosen is a self maintaining camp.  The men mostly work on the far side in construction, building new huts and expanding the camp itself.”

“ So the prisoners build their own prison?”

“ Basically, yes.”

“ How awful.”

“ I know.”

They had to be quiet after that, as they had reached their destination.  They waited quietly while the soldier in charge of them read out their names and their assigned tasks.  As soon as Yanika told Hermione what she was to do, silent tears started to fall down her cheeks.


By April 18th, Hermione had gotten into a routine.  The camp was her idea of hell on earth, but she was coping with it as best she could.  Over the last few weeks she had lost a lot of weight due to continuous labour and hardly any food.  Looking at her gaunt features, she was hardly recognisable as the girl she had been before.  She had also been given what she thought of as the worst job anyone could ever get.  She worked in the camp crematorium, the place where people who were shot, or hanged, for disobeying, trying to escape, or for looking at one of the guards funny, were sent.  Bodies of people who had died from disease, illness, malnutrition or some horrific experiment care of the scientists were also sent to the crematorium for burning.  Hermione was one of those chosen to bring the bodies from the cellar on a cart to be put through the furnace.  She hated the acrid smell of roasting flesh that filled the building when the furnace was lit.  The black smoke billowing out of the chimney was a silent reminder to all prisoners that they had to abide by the rules.

Although she despised her job, Hermione felt sympathy for Yanika.  She had to make soap for the captives, produced from the fat of dead comrades.  It always made Hermione shudder when they were herded into the large shower rooms and handed the rotten soap.  The very idea of cleaning herself with a piece of someone she may have met was beyond disturbing.

Hermione had little joy in her life any more.  Endless days of carrying and burning, and the perpetual view of barbed wire, machine guns, and blue and white striped clothes was taking its toll.  Her spirit was well on its way to being broken.  The only highlights were the brief glimpses she caught of Ron.  Although she only usually saw him from a great distance, just knowing that her friend was still alive gave her hope.  On the other hand, it also made her heart ache in longing, knowing she could see him but couldn't talk to him.  She worried, knowing she had Yanika, but not knowing if he had made any friends.

The one time the girl came to breaking point was early one April morning.  It started off like any other day, the inmates just leaving from the meager meal they called breakfast, when Yanika started yelling her head off.  Looking back to where her friend was, she could see a soldier had his arm around her.

“ Komm mit mir!”

“ Nein!  Warum soll ich?”

“ Ich möchte gern…Spaß haben.”

“ Nein!  Hermione, help me!”

The young girl started making her way over to the struggling pair.

“ What's going on, Yani?”

“ This man wants me to go with him, to have some `fun'.”

“ What can I do?”

By this time Hermione had drawn the attention of the guard.  He leered down at her, reaching out his hand to the trembling girl.

“ Sie können vielleicht mitkommen…”

“ Hermione, run!  I think he wants you too.”

Hermione stared at the grinning man, and to the pleading eyes of her friend.

“ I can't leave you, Yani!”

“ Just go!  No point in both of us suffering.  I have an idea, anyway.”

Seeing the determined glint in her friend's eyes, the younger witch turned tail and ran back to the group disappearing into the hut.  Had she looked back, she would have seen Yanika trying in vain to cast a spell on the hapless guard.  She would also have seen the gypsy being knocked unconscious and dragged off to the laboratories to be studied.


Ron wasn't having the best time, either.  None of the people in his hut spoke English, or anything else he spoke.  Granted, he wasn't expecting to find anyone who spoke Anglo-Saxon in the middle of Poland, but he thought someone might at least know a bit of Latin.  Because he had been stuck with no-one to talk to in English, he found himself listening to the conversations of the others in his building.  He was starting to pick up a little German, but not enough to start a conversation.  His life, like Hermione's, had become an endless routine of getting up, eating and working all day.  As he was a young man, he was part of a construction team.  The only positive result of his imprisonment was the skills he had gained in carpentry.  He found he had a talent for it, which was beneficial in keeping him from being punished, and was perhaps the only thing keeping him alive.  

He had had a rather unfortunate problem not long after being brought to the camp.  Unlike Hermione, he had nobody to translate for him.  The rules dictated on his second day there meant nothing to him, so he had to try and copy the behaviour of the other prisoners as best he could.  That proved a bad idea when he chose a deaf man to copy.  As the man had not heard the rules either, and the other people in the hut were too concerned with their own welfare to try and communicate them to him, he had made some mistakes.  Mistakes that Ron had then copied.  One time he had been caught doing something he wasn't supposed to, and had only avoided the noose by proving he was a capable carpenter.  Instead, he had spent three days locked in a room so small he couldn't sit, stand or lie down in.  He had to crouch for three days straight without food or water.

One thing Ron missed more than anything was Hermione.  He missed her more than Hogwarts, more than his best friend, more than his sister, and more than his freedom.  He had caught brief glimpses of her in passing, and noticed she was working at the crematorium now.  He shuddered just thinking about it.  He was somewhat glad that he had the task he did.  At least it didn't involve death.  He lay awake at nights, though, just thinking about what he would say to Hermione if he ever got to see her again.  It was that thought that kept him going.


Ron got his wish on the 12th May.  The crematorium had broken down the previous day, and the influenza making its way around the camp meant that the bodies were starting to build up.  All of the crematorium workers, as well as Ron's group of builders, had been enlisted to build a mass grave.  The men were to do the digging, while the women brought out the bodies from underneath the furnace building.

Around noon, while he was hard at work digging, he suddenly felt a soft touch on his shoulder.  Dropping his spade and whirling around, he looked into familiar tear filled eyes.

“ `Mione?”

“ Ron?”

The redhead pulled the pale girl into his arms in a bone crushing hug.  Both were openly weeping, so glad to see each other again.  After a few minutes, they let each other go.

“ I see you work at the crem.”

“ I do.  I take it you're on construction?”

“ Yeah.  It's not so bad.  How have you been?”

“ It's been awful, Ron.  I thought I was doing alright, but then Yanika had one of the guards trying to take her away to rape her, and she fought back.  I haven't seen her since.  Oh, Ron, I've missed you so much.”

The pair embraced again, relieved to see the other still alive, both knowing that if one died, the other would soon follow.  Their emotions were a roller coaster of relief, joy and a terrible fear of losing each other again, just like they had lost Harry and Ginny.  Before they knew it their lips met in a soul searing kiss.

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