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Chapter 31: Travesty
Hermione woke up to the sounds of the very identifiable voice of Draco Malfoy cursing under his breath and his hands shaking her shoulders. She opened her eyes slowly, the memory of falling asleep on his bed coming back to her as she turned to look at him wondering why in the world he was rousing her so violently.
“We have to go, shit, I’ve been trying to wake you up!”
Why does this feel so familiar? “It’s the middle of the night. I know I’m in your bed but you can’t expect me to wake up now, I’m exhausted…”
“Merlin’s beard, will you get the hell up already? Shit!”
“The Forbidden Forest is on fire, this isn’t time for sleeping!”
Hermione burst out laughing and sat up, dangling her feet over the side of the bed. “You’ve said that before! I knew it, this must be a dream, I can’t believe I’m having it again!” She rubbed her eyes and smiled dreamily.
Draco rolled his eyes and grabbed his Quidditch socks off the floor, beginning to slip them onto her feet. “If you want to go ahead and pretend that you’re sleeping and that you can’t die from the fire that may or may not spread to the castle, then go ahead. I however don’t want you to di- STOP KICKING YOUR FEET SO I CAN PUT THESE SOCKS ON YOU.”
If Draco Malfoy was on his knees putting socks on her feet, it had to be dream.
“My feet are ticklish, stop it!” Hermione whined.
Draco exhaled furiously. “Fine. GO BAREFOOT. Just get out of bed and hurry the hell up, we really have to go!”
Hermione stared up at him and saw how angry and worried he was, making her wonder if maybe it really was happening this time. “Are you serious?”
He had enough. “Christ Hermione!” He grabbed her arm and pulled her out of bed. “We’re going now whether you’re ready or not.”
Hermione stumbled after his long strides as they swept out of his bedroom, down the stairs and out the portrait hole, but she managed to grab the robe lying on the couch closest to the exit. Students passed her in groups all running towards the Astronomy Tower or crowding the windows lining the hallway facing the forest. It was like de-ja-vu but with little twists – like the fact that she wasn’t wearing slippers, or pants for that matter, and she had been sleeping in Draco’s bed not her own. She followed behind him, their hands still intertwined, as he ran through the halls and up the spiraling stairs to the top of the Astronomy Tower where they could see the back grounds and the Forbidden Forest clearly.
It was dancing in flame, on fire just as he said.
Draco looked down at her and quickly released her hand, but he realized that students had probably already seen that and the fact that she was barely clothed. He stared at her intensely until she turned her head towards him.
He glanced down quickly at her body then back out the window a few seconds before turning and disappearing into the crowd that was forming. She watched him leave before looking at her fellow students. The sight of hushed whispers and downcast eyes was a sight she had grown all too familiar with over the past few months and it instantly brought her back to the present, where she realized she was in nothing but a male’s button up shirt. Hastily she threw the robe on and squeezed her arms around her body, the heat of a bright blush already spreading from her cheeks.
“LOOK! THERE ARE PEOPLE DOWN THERE!”
As suddenly as the attention had turned to her, it turned away and was on the figures emerging and moving on the outskirts of the forest, close to the fire but not enough to get burned. Their shadows looked like monsters as the flames illuminated them against the black night and caused such a commotion to the eyes that no one could tell if the spells flying through the air were hitting anyone or anything at all. Out of thin air, a tidal wave or realization hit her.
She was Hermione Granger, she was part of The Golden Trio. Her place was alongside Harry and Ron, fighting whatever came their way, not watching from the safety of a tower after waking up on a boy’s bed. She was the brightest witch of her age, the top of her class. Something in her gut told her it was Harry and Ron down there fighting, because who else would manage to find their way into danger at just the right moment? Had they even tried to get her before rushing off to face whatever was going on? Had she really been so absorbed in her own little world of boys and seduction that she had failed to notice there was still a war going on? What was wrong with her?
Students sidestepped and hurried out of her way as she plowed through them, kicking into a jog down the stairs then a full run when she hit the hallway. Everyone she passed look scared or confused, all of them in pajamas and clustered into groups for support. Where were the teachers? Where were the prefects? Where was the Head Boy? She knew she should stop and try to contain the hysteria, or at least try and find a teacher, because that was what the Head’s were supposed to do when things like this happened, but she didn’t care. Harry and Ron needed her and she had let them down, but maybe if she got there in time she could still help…
When she reached the great doors leading out of the castle she was happy, yet surprised, to find them neither guarded or locked – instead the door to the right was barely cracked open but just enough for a single person to slip through, so she did, and ran straight into the back of a hooded figure.
“QUIET!” The figure turned around and the hood fell revealing the face of Remus Lupin.
“I’m not your Professor, Hermione, do I still need to remind you of that?”
His tone was rough and slightly condescending but Hermione knew he hadn’t meant to upset her. “What are you doing here?”
Lupin glanced around wildly before grabbing her arm and hurrying off the path and onto the grass in the direction of The Forbidden Forest. “The Order is here, I was standing watch but Kingsley should be there any second to take my place. We have to hurry.”
Hermione followed obediently even though she didn’t have a choice as Lupin was still holding on to her arm. She could smell the distinct scent of burning leaves and hear the cracks and fizzles of spells as they drew closer to the battle. They were almost upon it when all of a sudden a bright green flash filled their eyes and all the commotion stopped.
Lupin’s hand dropped from her arm. Hermione felt around blindly trying not to whimper as she stepped gingerly forward with arms outstretched and groping. The electric green that had blinded her was beginning to fade as she continued to inch forward until her feet collided with a rock and she fell to her hands and knees. What happened to all the sound? What happened to all the fighting? As she blinked rapidly to clear her eyes of the spots that had formed from the absence of the bright light, she heard the familiar sound of disapparating and the angry shouts of someone she could only assume to be Harry.
“Harry? Ron?” She tried calling out but for some reason her voice was harsh and the names barely came out. “Professor Lupin?”
Hermione pushed herself up and rubbed her eyes. “Ron? Ron is that you?”
The tall redhead emerged from around the corner of the castle, where she had been separated from Lupin, and looked her up and down. “You don’t look hurt…”
They both turned and saw Harry running towards them with a slight limp. “Harry I’m so gl-,”
“WHERE WERE YOU?”
She dropped her outstretched hands and clutched at the robe. “I was here,”
“No you weren’t!” Harry came to a stop in front of her. “What in the name of Merlin’s beard are you wearing anyway? Do you even have a wand on you?!”
She moved her hand to the inside pocket but stopped midway and knew that her wand wasn’t there, after all, it wasn’t even her robe. “You should have come to get m-,”
“We shouldn’t have to go find you! You’re supposed to be part of this team!”
Approaching in the background behind Ron was Tonks holding on to Lupin’s hand, and behind them coming out of the scorched trees she could barely make out the neat bun on Professor McGonagall and the red hair of Arthur Weasley.
“Harry I’m sorry…”
Harry clenched his hands into fists and shut his eyes momentarily before opening them and staring at her long and hard. “You told Ron and I during First Year that we needed to sort out our priorities, and now it’s about time you sort out yours before you get all of us killed.” With that said he glanced over his shoulder angrily at Ron before storming off towards the castle.
Hermione watched in desperation as Ron passed her with his eyes downcast then as Lupin, Tonks and Arthur all apparated. Her hands and legs were trembling hard when Professor McGonagall finally approached her and laid a bruised hand on her shoulder.
“I need to find Dumbledore to make sure we get the protective spells back up around the school and grounds before anyone else decides to apparate in. It would be best if you found Mr. Malfoy before joining us in the Headmaster’s office.”
Hermione nodded weakly. “I’m sorry Professor…” she whispered.
Professor McGonagall sighed before offering a weak smile. “We all make mistakes. But maybe Potter was right. I haven’t seen you with either of them recently, I’m not saying I doubt how seriously you view things,”
“Professor.” Hermione had never interrupted a teacher before but all these accusations were getting to be too much. “I know the severity of the situation we’re all in! That hasn’t changed!”
Minerva squeezed her shoulder. “For the sake of all of us, I hope you do.”
Hermione didn’t turn to watch her leave, instead she stared blankly ahead at the dead trees until the sound of footsteps died away and she was left alone in the cold; she had been so preoccupied with helping and saving that she had forgotten it was already Winter. Snowflakes began to fall lightly as she slumped against the stone wall of the castle and hung her head in her hands. How had everything turned out so wrong? She tried to let the tears fall but after a few minutes of nothing but frustration, she gave up and made her way inside.
The hallways were mostly clear as she walked up the Grand Staircase on her way to the dorm she shared with Draco Malfoy. It didn’t matter that her hands and feet were shaking from the cold or that she wasn’t wearing pants or even that a good majority of the students who were supposed to look up to her had seen her barely clothed – all that mattered was the fact that she had let down the people who needed her. And how could she have left her dorm without her wand in the first place? Maybe all the doubts and questions she had tried so hard to not think about were finally forcing their way to center stage – maybe it was time to take a good look at what she had done, who she was, who she wanted to be, and what all of that meant.
To her surprise, Draco was slumped against the wall across from the portrait into the Head’s dorm when she arrived. He looked incredibly tired or extremely concerned, she couldn’t tell which.
His head snapped up and when he saw her he pushed himself up and extended his arm where her robe was cradling. “You uh, left your robe and it has your wand in it. I checked.”
Hermione nodded before slipping off his and exchanging it with him. “I saw Professor McGonagall, she wants to see us in the Headmaster’s office.”
He nodded and swiped his hand across his forehead nervously. “I heard some students talking about how you raced off when you saw the fighting. Are you… I mean to say, you were... But you’re not…”
She laughed nervously. “I’m not hurt if that’s what you’re asking.”
Draco echoed her nervous laugh and held out his arm. “Should we be going?"
They were silent as they made their way down the now empty corridors, an eerie sort of silence settling over them that came with a chilling cold – though that might have been completely unrelated. Hermione had so many things on her mind that she wanted to talk about with someone but could she trust him? Without even seeing the people involved in the fighting, it was obvious they were Death Eaters because who else would attack the safest place in the Wizarding World? How had they managed to get in anyway? It was common knowledge you couldn’t apparate in or out of Hogwarts no matter what level of skill you possessed, and while Harry had told Ron and Hermione about the night in the Astronomy Tower when he had side-along apparated out to The Cave with Dumbledore, it was obvious that was an exception. Was Voldemort really a step ahead of them now?
She was so wrapped up in her thoughts that the feeling of the moving staircase leading to the Headmaster’s office made her jump. When they arrived at the top Draco knocked politely, and when they were welcomed in, he clasped his hands together tightly as he sat down in the seat next to where Professor Snape was standing.
“Mister Malfoy, Miss Granger, thank you for joining us,” Dumbledore welcomed.
Hermione nodded. “Sir,”
The old wizard held up his hand. “There will be a time for questions but first I have some very important news to share with both of you.”
Hermione looked over at Draco but his eyes were downcast – Snape’s however, were staring right at her and when they made eye contact he narrowed them and jerked his head in the direction of the Headmaster. She blushed in embarrassment and snapped her head back towards the front of the room but… What’s wrong with him?
Professor McGonagall, who had been standing off to the side of the desk next to Fawkes’ cage, took in a sharp breath and looked between Hermione and Dumbledore. “Is it wise Albus?” Her eyes moved over to Draco and Snape but for such a fleeting moment Hermione was unsure if she had really done it or not. “Is it wise to-,”
“It’s quite alright Minerva.” Dumbledore smiled at her reassuringly but even Hermione could see the sadness and worry in his eyes.
Professor Snape cleared his throat. “Headmaster, we should really be moving this along.”
Dumbledore nodded and faced the two Head’s he had selected. Had he made the right choice picking two students he knew didn’t get along? With everything they knew about the Malfoy’s involvement with the Dark Lord was it really a well thought out choice to pick the son of one of his highest ranking Death Eaters to be a leader in the school? He hardly ever questioned the choices he made, and when he did he never let the other teachers or his students see it, but now he was wondering if he truly had done the right thing. Something in his very core told him that this was fate but he had been wrong about that before.
He sat down and placed his hands on his wide desk. “I will be sending every student in Hogwarts home in a matter of hours.”
Hermione’s eyes grew big. “Headmaster you can’t be serious! It’s the middle of the night!”
He nodded once sadly. “I am aware it is inconvenient, especially to the younger ones, but this must be done. I cannot risk the lives of innocent people, we cannot risk it.”
Hermione slumped back in her chair. She had realized the situation was troublesome but she had been naïve to think that fighting in the forest would be the end of it, especially if Death Eaters were able to apparate in and out as they pleased. But Professor McGonagall had said they were going to put the protective charms and spells back up so they would be safe, hadn’t she? Or was that not enough now?
“What about Ha-,”
Draco looked up. “Yes Headmaster?”
Dumbledore smiled kindly. “You seem to be extremely troubled. Why don’t you retire and begin packing?”
“Packing for what?”
“Were you not listening Mister Malfoy? All students will be leaving the castle tonight!” Professor McGonagall responded.
Draco’s eyes widened as he looked from her to Hermione then up his Potions master. “Is that true?”
Dumbledore nodded. “I’m afraid it is.”
Draco nodded and ran his hand though his hair nervously. “I should go pack then…”
The Headmaster tipped his chin. “That is a great idea.”
Hermione watched as Draco stood and awkwardly paused in silence as if he wanted to say more but he thought better of it and turned on his heel to leave the office.
Professor Snape bowed his head. “Headmaster?”
“Could you please inform the other Professors of this decision? And see to it that the Head’s of House begin waking their students and moving them to the Great Hall for the announcement. Professor McGonagall will assist you.”
Snape bowed his head again before turning on his heel as Draco had and gliding out of the room, McGonagall following behind his long strides at a hurried pace. Hermione had questions for Professor McGonagall – did she really think Hermione didn’t know how precarious their situation was? What did her parting words mean earlier? – but she knew now wasn’t the time or the place for petty arguments, especially when she had been left alone with Dumbledore.
Hermione turned her eyes back to him. He rarely called her by her first name, that was something he only did with Harry, and when he did she knew it was to be followed by something very, very important. “Yes sir?”
He sighed sadly. “I’m certain you want to know how this whole travesty began as well as how Death Eaters managed to apparate into Hogwarts as well out of it?” She nodded. “I cannot begin to understand the second matter but as for the first, I think it’s best explained by Harry.”
Hermione had never seen the second landing of the Headmaster’s office but she looked up at it now as she heard the sound of a door creaking open. Harry appeared at the top of the stairs, cut and bruised with his left arm in a sling, and descended it quickly. Instead of sitting in the seat Draco had been in only minutes ago, he stood next to Dumbledore’s chair.
He still looked to be angry with her.
“At the end of the last term, before the summer holidays, I had some very important matters to discuss with Harry about Tom Riddle that pertained to what we had been doing the whole year.”
“Collecting the memories?” Harry had told Ron and herself about it.
Dumbledore nodded. “I asked Mister Potter to not speak of the last memory we collected, the most important one. The memory was, and still is, a very crucial part of our plan. I had hunches, if you will, about what the memory would contain, and I’m sad to say that I was correct.”
As Dumbledore was talking, Harry had opened a drawer in the desk and pulled out a collection of unrelated objects – Tom Riddle’s diary from Second Year, a gaudy ring that looked as if it had charred by magic and a large locket.
“Do you know what these are?” Dumbledore asked.
“They look like a collection of unrelated objects sir…”
Harry rolled his eyes. “Each of these is a Horcrux, Hermione, not that I’d expect you to know what that means.”
Hermione’s eyes fell sadly but she turned away from him and looked at Dumbledore instead. “Horcruxes sir? Are they really?”
The Headmaster nodded sadly. “I trust you know what that is?”
Hermione’s eyes narrowed. “They’re pieces of dark magic created by splitting the soul. But Herpo the Foul was the only known wizard to ever create one, and it’s believed that he’s been the only one to ever do it, some say he even created the process himself. There aren’t any recordings of the process that I know of though, if there even are recordings of it.”
“Is that true?” Harry asked.
“I am once again surprised by the extent of your knowledge, Miss Granger! But yes, Harry, it is all true. There are, however, recordings of the process to make a Horcrux. Or I should say, there is one.” Dumbledore leaned down and produced a very old and worn black leather bound book from a drawer at the bottom of his desk. “This book was once held in The Restricted Section of our library, but because of the overly dark nature of it, I removed it when I took the position as Headmaster and have kept it locked in my own personal library since then. It is titled Secrets of the Darkest Art and it is the only book to contain the specific instruction of how to create a Horcrux.”
Hermione felt a lump rise in her throat as she contemplated what she had just learned. “So… If this was previously in the library, he would have had access to it while he was here at school, wouldn’t he?”
Dumbledore nodded. “It seems he had done research about what a Horcrux is, and with the last memory we collected, it’s been confirmed that Tom Riddle asked our very own Professor Slughorn about them when he couldn’t find information on how to create them. It’s highly likely that soon after their conversation, he found this book and the details inside.”
“I can’t believe Professor Slughorn would tell him how to split his soul!”
Harry shook his head until Dumbledore laid a hand on his arm before speaking. “He did not explain the process, he only mentioned that to create a Horcrux, you must split your soul and hide it in an object. Professor Slughorn is not our enemy.”
Hermione bit her lip. “So Voldemort… He made 3 Horcruxes… But now that you have them, we can destroy them, right?”
Harry sighed. “These are only half of the Horcruxes he made.”
Her eyes went wide again. “You have to be joking…”
Dumbledore shook his head. “I can tell you no more on this matter, and even if I could, it would have to saved for a later date. Right now I must inform the students that they will be leaving the castle in only a matter of hours. Our prime concern right now is the protection of innocents.”
Harry gathered the Horcruxes and placed them back in the drawer they had come from, locking it up when he was done with a key Hermione hadn’t noticed before. After Dumbledore dismissed them, Hermione followed Harry out in silence until they reached the bottom of the moving staircase.
“Harry we should talk about what to do…”
Harry sighed and turned to face her. “You should have been there tonight, Hermione, there’s no excuse for you not being there. If we can’t trust you to be a part of this team when we need you, why should I trust you with information on the destruction of Voldemort?”
That seemed a little harsh but nonetheless true. “I’m sorry Harry, I know there’s no excuse… But you know you can trust me. And, well…”
“Do you really think you can do this alone?”
Harry glared at her. “I’ve been alone my whole life Hermione and in case you hadn’t noticed, I’m The Chosen One, I have to do this alone. I’m tired of everyone making it seem like I can’t do anything without help! Where were all of you when I had to face him First Year?”
“Ron and I had been with you until the last room…”
“No one was with me when I faced his memory in the Chamber!”
“Ron was, until the ceiling collapsed… And Ginny was there too-,”
“She was unconscious, she didn’t help me! What about Third Year?”
“Harry, I was with you that whole night even when you were casting your Patronu-,”
“But did you cast one? No! And I faced Voldemort alone in Fourth Year in the graveyard!”
“Because Cedric was killed!”
“It wasn’t my fault!”
“I wasn’t saying it was!” Hermione sighed and tensed her fingers up. “God Harry, Ron and I have been doing nothing but supporting you since we were 11, you’ve done all of the things you’ve done because of friendship! What’s wrong with that? What’s wrong with wanting to help you because we care about you? We don’t do it because we don’t think you can’t do it alone…”
“You just asked if you thought I could do it alone!”
The sound of silence enveloped them as tears rose to Hermione’s eyes but instead of comfort her like he usually would have, Harry turned away from her once more.
Hermione reached out and placed her hands on his shoulders as tears began to slowly trickle down. “We all just want to support you, we want to protect you because we care about you even though we know that this journey is yours to bear. I love you Harry, I just want to help…”
Harry sighed and turned around to squeeze her hands. “We’ll talk when we get home. Ron needs to know everything you just learned.”
She nodded and hugged him tightly. “We should go down to the Great Hall for Dumbledore’s announcement, if we haven’t missed it.”
They jogged awkwardly down the length of the corridor and the stairs, their entwined hands making it difficult to keep up a normal pace. Students were streaming out of the Great Hall when they arrived, all of them sharing confused and scared looks. There was no doubt that a good amount of them wouldn’t return after the holidays, it would be like all the years previous – when bad things began happening at Hogwarts, even if they weren’t actually at Hogwarts, parents began pulling their children out. Hermione looked at Harry and could tell by the expression on his face that he was thinking the same thing and blaming himself for it.
They both turned. “Draco?”
Harry looked between the two of them. “Since when do you call him by his first name?”
Hermione shrugged and tried to keep the blush down. “It was bound to happen with Head’s duties and everything…”
Harry narrowed his eyes at Malfoy and squeezed Hermione’s hand. “I have to go find Ron. We’ll see you on the train.”
After Harry left it was just Hermione and Draco standing in the doorway of the Great Hall as the chill reverberated off the large stone walls and wide tiles. “Did you need something?” Hermione ventured.
The intensity Draco stared at her with made her feel like she was walking out of his bathroom in just his shirt all over again, which made her remember that she was still in only her robe and his socks and shirt.
He took a step forward. “Are you hurt?”
She shook her head. “No I’m alright, just a little shook up.”
He nodded but the intensity in his eyes never faltered. “We won’t be coming back to the castle until after the Christmas break.”
That long? “Oh.”
He had been inching closer and was now just a breath away from her as he had been when he had tried handing Duchess to her outside his room. “Be careful. Things will only get worse from here.”
Hermione stared at him as he turned and left, confusion drilling holes into the back of his shirt. “Do you… Know something? Something that’s going to happen?”
“Just be careful.”
He never turned around.
Alright alright, I’ll admit the wait for this chapter must have been an excruciating ordeal but it was really hard to get it out! I was in the hospital twice, my college Professor is so vague that doing assignments for her is ridiculous, my friends have been needing me (I’m always happy to help no matter what I’m doing!) and there’s been all sorts of family and boyfriend drama! It’s been really busy guys! But hopefully the extra long chapter will make up for it a little bit