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Chapter 11: The Dark Lord
Mione watched Harry fall to the ground only moments after Draco shouted, "Imperio!". She had no idea exactly what that curse did, but she could tell it was powerful.
"Don't linger," said Draco, pulling her away.
"Where exactly are we going?" Mione asked.
"For now, Hogsmeade," he replied. "By the way, that's avillage not far from Hogwarts."
Mione nodded and followed him.
Once at Hogsmeade, they met up with a familiar face: Snape.
"Oh no!" said Mione. "That's Snape! What do we do?"
"Nothing," said Draco.
"Finally here, Draco?" said Snape after seeing the two of them. "I dare say, it took you long enough! I see you have Miss Granger, too, and willingly. Well done. The Dark Lord should be pleased."
"Oh yeah, Snape's on our side," Draco added to Mione who was utterly confused.
"Oh," said Mione. "Well then, what are we waiting for? Let's go. And exactly how are we getting wherever it is we're going?"
"Side-Along Apparition," Snape replied. "Don't ask me to explain it, just grab my arm."
After a rather torturing sensation, Mione found herself somewhere unfamiliar (however, she was getting used to this).
"Where are we?" Mione asked, nearly jumping as her voice echoed.
"Ah, you're finally here," said a hunchbacked man, who most acted like a rat of sorts.
"Yes, Wormtail. See to it that the Dark Lord is made aware of our arrival," said Snape.
The man called Wormtail shook his head. "The Dark Lord's ordered otherwise. He wishes to see you, Severus. I'm to take these two."
"Very well, Wormtail," said Snape, who then walked off alone.
"You two, follow me," said Wormtail, who led them into a large, empty room. "The others will be here shortly." With that, he left.
"Are you going to tell me where we are or not?" Mione aske.d
"This is the Dark Lord's Underground Headquarters," Draco replied. "...For now at least. I think he likes this place, he's stayed here all year. I was taken here over the Summer; that's when I was initiated. My father's been a Death Eater for ages.
The room began to crowd with people, all of whom were wearing black robes and cloaks. Then a man -- if you could call him a man; he hardly looked human -- appeared at the head of the crowd. He was bald, and had red eyes, slits for nostrils.
"All hail the Dark Lord!" rang throughout the room, and everyone fell to their knees, except the disgusting man-like being and Mione.
"Mione, kneel!" Draco hissed, and Mione quickly obeyed.
"Today is here at last!" called out the hideous man Mione assumed must be the "Dark Lord". "It's not every day that someone joins our ranks, but quite rarer is it that we obtain such a prize as we do today! Draco Malfoy, please come forth with Hermione Granger."
Draco brought Mione to the Dark Lord.
Mione linked hands with the Dark Lord (they were very cold) and made an Unbreakable Vow with him, Draco binding their hands with his wand. She swore to obey any and every command given her by the Dark Lord. After The Vow was nadem the Dark Lord jabbed his wand into her left arm. "Morsmorde!" he shouted, and the image of a skull, a snake curling out of its mouth was etched -- burned into her skin.
Mione gritted her teeth. If this was 'the right thing to do' then the right thing was painful. However, if Draco was right, then Harry Potter's army would face far worse.
"To break an Unbreakable Vow would be to, so to speak, kill yourself," said the Dark Lord. "You would die of your own accord. So, I would not consider it wise to try and deceive me. But if you do, I will know before your attempt, and then you will die of my accord. Also, you should note, lying to me would be useless, for if you do that, again, I will know. Do you understand?"
"Yes, My Lord," Mione rpelied.
"Then I have a mission for you."
Harry got help from Hagrid to get Ron to Madam Pompfry. Now, Madam Pompfry wasn't one to ask many questions, but McGonagall was.
"How did you say this happened?" she asked Harry, who was sitting across from her in her office.
"I told you, Hermione did it," said Harry.
"Mr. Potter, your story is illogical to say the least," said McGonagall. "I fail to see any reason that Miss Granger would so such a thing. Once Mr. Weasley is better, I shall ask him, but Potter, your story isn't reasonable!"
"That's what I thought too, at first," said Harry. "I thought, 'Hermione wouldn't do this. I mean, Ron's been a git to her a few times, I won't lie about that, but she -- she wouldn't hex him, she wouldn't dare! Being a prefect meant so much to her! But then I remembered Ginny in her first year, the Chamber of Secrets was opened, and the muggleborns kept getting attacked. When Tom Riddle -- well, his memory anyway -- when he told me Ginny did it, I couldn't believe it. Because she wouldn't do something like that. She wasn't that violent in nature. But he said... he said she didn't quite know what she was doing. He was controlling her, possessing her."
"You're suggesting that Miss Granger was under the Imperious Curse?" McGonagall asked.
"I dunno, maybe it has something to do with her amnesia or something," said Harry. "But... but wait! I can prove to you that I know what I'm talking about. Shortly after Ron was petrified, Hermione and Malfoy left the grounds. Go ahead, check the castle, you won't find them."
"Miss Granger and Mr. Malfoy were both seen at the breakfast feast this morning."
Harry went immediately to the Great Hall, where sure enough, Hermione was sitting at the Gryffindor table, not seeming to be doing much eating. Usually, if Hermione wasn't eating at the table, she was reading, but Hermione didn't seem to be doing much of anything. Harry gave himself a mental slap in the face; of course Hermione wasn't acting normal -- this isn't the same Hermione. Thanks to that goose egg on her head, she's a comletely different person.
Harry half-wanted to go talk to her and figure out what was going on last night, but then he also wanted to go up there and petrify her with the same carelessness that she had cursed Ron with. But the urge to completely ignore her, give her the cold shoulder, overpowered both of Harry's wants, and he went to sit down with Ginny.
"How come you aren't sitting next to Hermione?" Harry asked Ginny.
Ginny glared at him. "You're either an idiot, or nobody tells you anything."
"No, I know," said Harry. "Or at least, I think I know. Tell me anyway. Everything going on lately's been so confusing I'm not sure what's what anymore."
"Tell me about it," said Ginny. "You heard what she did to Ron, didn't you?"
"Heard it?" said Harry. "I saw it; I was there. Whatever twisted version of what happened that's going on 'round here's probably got an ounce of truth in it -- maybe."
"She petrified him," Ginny answered simply.
"Okay, so maybe the truth hasn't been stretched that much," said Harry. "Things sure have changed around here. What ever happened to Lavender and Parvati? I thought they always got this sort of news and gossiped about it and blew it totally out of proportion. What ever happened to that?"
"You're not saying you actually miss that, are you?" asked Ginny.
"I dunno," said Harry. "Everything's changing so drastically, though. I guess I just want something normal. Something I can count on. Something that I know won't change."
"You've got me," said Ginny. "That won't change."
Harry sighed. "So you're not speaking to Hermione either?"
Ginny shook her head. "For goodness sake, Harry, she petrified my brother! And I don't see you too keen to talk to her either!"
"Yeah," said Harry. "But you always said Ron was a git. Ron was my best mate."
"Was?" asked Ginny. "Could you quit talking in past tense? Gosh, you'd think he was dead instead of petrified, the way you talk about him! And so what if I said he was a git. All my brothers say Percy's a git, but if he got injured or really sick, or died or whatever, don't you think the whole family would be right next to him, nursing him back to health?"
"Hmph," said Harry. "If you say so, but quite frankly, I can't see it."
Ginny stood up from her seat, as though she had just decided on something and thought it was brilliant.
"What are you doing?" Harry asked, wondering if he ought to be scared.
"I'm going to go give that girl a piece of my mind," said Ginny, as she strode off toward Hermione. She was almost within arm-reach of Hermione when Harry came to his senses and held her back.
"Harry," she said. "This is really not the time that I want you holding me back."
"Ginny come here," said Harry, leading her back to the spot where they had recently been sitting. "I know Hermione's... been a git lately." Harry didn't like saying that, but it was the truth, like it or not. "But you can't just go and beat her up about it."
"Oh really?" said Ginny. "And just why not?"
"Ginny, don't you remember what started this all?" Harry asked. "You got mad at Hermione, like now, and you went and beat her up." Harry was sure to say this bit quietly, for no one knew what exactly had happened to Hermione, causing her head injury. "And look at her now, she's hanging out with Malfoy. She's not acting like herself at all. Do you want to start the process over? Ron'll probably end up just getting cursed again. Isn't once enough?"
"You know, Harry, you have a really weird way of making sense," said Ginny. "I mean, at first, that sounded like complete rubbish, but I suppose I get where you're coming from. What do you suggest we do, then?"
"I... I dunno," said Harry.
"Harry," said a voice from behind the two of them, which they instantly recognized as Hermione. "Mind if I have a word?"
Ginny glared at her for a moment, though Harry was pretty sure it was unintentional, and that she probably was trying to be pleasant (though it wasn't working very well).
"Uh... Now really isn't a good time," said Harry, still mad at Hermione.
"Hermione, excuse us for one second," said Ginny, who then pulled Harry aside. "Harry, she seems to be acting rather nicely. Maybe you should see what she wanted to talk to you about."
"No," said Harry stubbornly. "I don't feel like talking to her right now."
"Don't mean to interrupt," said Hermione, again behind them. "But Harry, I really do want to talk to you. And I understand you're probably furious with me, and you don't really want to talk to me at all. I'm not asking you to. Just give me a minute of your ear-time, okay?"
She didn't give Harry time to respond, for she must have known that Harry would have refused if she had. She walked with Harry out of the Great Hall.
"I know you must be furious with me," she said. "I wouldn't blame you if you did. In fact, if I were you, I'd probably be furious with me too. I mean, I... I petrified Ron, that was pretty inexcusable. By the way, how is he? Never mind, tell me about it later. No, better than that, I'l go check on him. But not right now. Right now I've got to explain to you what happened last night."
"All right," said Harry, though feeling that he would regret this decision later. "What really happened last night?"
"Well, as you know, I got the letter from Draco--"
"--You mean Malfoy," Harry interrupted.
"Of course," said Hermione. "That's what I said. Now, please let me finish, Harry, I want you to hear me. I got the letter from Malfoy asking to--"
"--to make things official between you two," Harry interrupted.
"Yes, Harry," said Hermione. "I was full aware that you and Ron would understand the letter to mean that; that's why I didn't want you to see it. But you did, and found it to mean exactly what I expected you to. I guess you two are just pretty good at deciphering notes."
"Don't try to butter me up, Hermione," said Harry. "I won't be easily flattered right now."
"I'm not!" she insisted. "You all were right on your first guess, don't be modest! Now, where was I? Right, Malfoy. Anyway, before I got that letter, Malfoy and I, we'd -- we'd been going out for -- well, since a little after you and I made peace. Now, you may not have guessed this, but he isn't the greatest boyfriend in the world."
"Really?" said Harry, feeling sarcastic, and also annoyed that their conversation was going nowhere. "I never would have guessed. You should tell Pansy, though, she--"
"--Harry, I'm never going to finish my story if you don't stop talking," said Hermione.
For a moment, Harry was taken aback, but soon remembered that he was ready for this conversation to be over as soon as possible. After all, he didn't want to talk to her anyway, he reminded himself (for a moment he had forgotten).
"So," said Hermione after earning her silence. "I decided I had to end it with him. Don't interrupt, Harry, but I know what you're thinking: why would I end things with him just as he wanted to make things 'official'. And quite frankly, I think the two of us felt very, very different about the whole situation. In fact, it was when I got his letter that I decided we had gone far enough with the whole affair, and it was time that things came to a definite halt.
"But see, then you came along before I got to say anything to him, and I had to keep him on my side until I had him right where I wanted him. I know it's no excuse, Harry, but I really am sorry."
Harry crossed him arms. He wasn't in a very forgiving mood.
Then again, she did have the excuse of her head injury that had lately been messing up her life.
But she did curse Ron.
And she says she had her reasons.
That's a pretty lousy excuse.
Harry's brain went back and forth numerous times before Hermione spoke again.
Harry looked at his friends. She did look like she was sorry, but something was amiss. Her eyes looked sorrier than they ever had, but something behind them was greater than this. Was it fear? Worry? Anxiety? Perhaps it was a mixture of the three, but it was definetly there, lying just beneath the sorry look on her face.
"Hermione, is something wrong?" Harry asked.
"Yes, Harry! What's wrong is that you won't bloody forgive me!" A tear slipped down her cheek.
That did it for Harry. He wasn't in a mood to deal with waterworks. "No, Hermione. Hermione, it's okay, I... I forgive you."
"Oh," she said, wiping the tear from her face. "Oh, Harry, thank you. Thank you, Harry. You're... you're not going to regret this. Oh, thank you, Harry."
There was an awkward silence, and then Hermione excused herself to go get her books together for class.