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Chapter 30: Correspondence
beautiful CI by visenya. @ TDA!
Chapter 30- Correspondence
It was a long time before Hermione let her arms fall and stepped back from Draco. Her eyes were still red from crying and her hair was tangled. She looked down and swallowed hard. It still didn’t seem real that Draco had forgiven her. She didn’t feel like she deserved it.
“How have you been?” Draco finally asked.
“I’ve hated not talking to you,” Hermione replied immediately. It didn’t answer his question, but it was what she needed to say. She turned away again and walked to the portrait hole to pick up her fallen wand and tuck it into her pocket once more.
Behind her, Draco smiled.
“I’ve hated not talking to you,” he agreed. “It’s been…lonely.” It sounded like it was hard for him to admit, but Hermione was glad to hear it. She turned back to him and gestured towards the couch questioningly. Draco nodded and they both walked over and sat down, far enough apart to not be touching.
“So,” Draco repeated, smiling a bit, “how have you been?”
Hermione smiled back at him.
“I’ve been…busy, I guess. Harry, Ron, and I have been trying to…” she paused and Draco nodded. He knew she couldn’t tell him, “and things with Theo have been a little difficult. Plus, I’ve been trying to study for NEWTs.”
Draco nodded in understanding.
“Herbology is going to be the death of me,” he admitted, choosing the least-dangerous topic to pursue. “I can’t remember half of what we’ve learned in that class…I probably should have paid better attention.” He shrugged nonchalantly and Hermione rolled her eyes.
“I’ll help you study beforehand,” she offered. “Herbology isn’t what I’m worried about. I’m more focused on Arithmancy and Ancient Runes. I’m fine with the basic core, but I can’t seem to convince myself to sit down and study for anything.”
Draco’s eyebrows shot up.
“Is everything okay? Is this about Potter and Weasley’s…thing?”
Hermione wished she could tell Draco about their search for the Horcruxes, but instead she simply shrugged.
“I’ve had a lot going on,” she explained, not meeting Draco’s eyes.
“Can I help?”
Suddenly, a conversation that she’d had with Harry rushed back to her.
“Yes!” she exclaimed unexpectedly, making Draco jump a bit. “Yes, you can! Can you…I have a question for you. You’re one of the only people who might actually be able to answer it. It will help…everything. It will solve so many things…I can’t explain, but will you answer it?”
Draco’s mouth was hanging open in confusion, but he nodded slowly all the same.
“If I can help, Hermione, you know I will.”
“Okay…and remember I can’t tell you why we need to know, but…who are You-Know-Who’s closest Death Eaters? Who does he trust, for lack of a better word?”
Draco looked incredibly taken-aback. Whatever he thought Hermione was going to ask, this wasn’t it.
“Hermione…what you have to understand,” he began, “is that I’m not trusted. They don’t tell me things. I’ve avoided the Dark Lord’s calls for months. I don’t think I’m the one to ask…”
“Draco, please, you don’t understand how much this could help.”
Draco sighed and put his face in his hands. Hermione pressed her lips together in concern, but stayed quiet, silently hoping that this conversation didn't put her relationship with Draco back on the rocks. After a few moments of silent, Draco finally began to speak:
“He talks to the Lestranges a lot, especially Bellatrix. My father used to be one of his most trusted generals, but he’s since fallen out of the Dark Lord’s favor and has now abandoned the cause. Snape is very close to the Dark Lord…other than that…maybe Avery, Nott, Dolohov…but the ones that I would focus on if I were you would be Bellatrix and Snape. They’re the closest to the Dark Lord…They’re the ones he would tell things to if he had to confide in someone.”
Hermione blinked—could Draco possibly know about the Horcruxes? If she could ask, she would, but it was too risky. If someone used Legilimency against him, they would find out everything.
“Thank you, Draco. That helps a lot. It really does.”
Draco nodded, his face very white. Hermione could tell he didn’t like talking about this.
“Let me write a letter to Harry and Ron and we can change the topic,” Hermione said, forcing a smile. Draco nodded again, but stayed quiet. If Hermione wasn’t mistaken, he looked as if he was going to be sick. She frowned and stood from the couch, hurrying to the table in the corner and yanking a spare piece of parchment out from under her textbooks. Hastily, she dipped her quill in her still-open ink-pot and jotted:
I’ve talked to Draco—details later—and he says you should focus on Bellatrix Lestrange as the Death Eater You-Know-Who trusts the most. He also mentioned Snape, the other Lestranges, Avery, Nott, and Dolohov. Let me know if this helps with what you need to know.
She scrawled her name and turned back to Draco.
“I need to send this as soon as possible. Are you okay waiting here while I run to the owlery?”
Draco nodded again, still silent and Hermione folded her letter carefully. She walked briskly to the couch and placed a quick kiss on Draco’s forehead.
“Thank you,” she murmured. “You don’t know how much this helps.”
Turning, she dashed from the common room and made for the owlery. Being the Head Girl meant she didn’t need to worry too much about getting in trouble for being out past hours, but she still hoped she didn’t meet anyone—she needed to hurry.
The journey to the owlery in the West Tower was a quick one, partially due to Hermione’s pace; she practically ran the entire way. When she skidded into the circular room panting, several pairs of eyes glanced down at her from the rafters. Hermione beckoned to the closest owl, waving her letter imploringly. The barn owl swooped down from its perch obligingly and held out its leg.
“Take this to the Burrow,” she murmured. “It needs to reach Harry Potter. Don’t stop anywhere beforehand and make sure he replies. It is absolutely urgent that he receives this as soon as possible.”
The owl hooted dolefully in what Hermione hoped was acknowledgement. She carried it to the window and let it take flight into the open night air. As it grew smaller and smaller, Hermione found herself praying that it wasn’t intercepted. So many things could go wrong…
Shaking her head, Hermione turned away from the window and made her way back towards the Heads’ Dormitory at a much slower pace. The hallways of Hogwarts were dark. The very few students who had stayed behind on the holiday were abed. Hermione swallowed hard as she crept back to the third floor. Her trip to the West Tower had been frantic, but her trip back seemed nerve-wracking. The gravity of the letter she had just sent was pressing down on her, heavy and terrifying. They could be one step closer to another Horcrux…
“The Black Lake,” Hermione murmured to the portrait outside the Heads’ Dormitory. The soldier nodded and the portrait swung forward. Hermione hurried inside and pulled it shut behind her. At last, she felt like she could breathe. “Draco?” she called. The fire was guttering and the candles had gone out. For a moment, no one responded, then Hermione heard a mumble from the couch.
“I’m here,” Draco said quietly.
Hermione’s eyebrows knitted together in concern as she walked to where he was sitting. From the looks of it, he hadn’t moved at all from the time she had left. He still sat in the center of the couch, his head in his hands. Hermione squinted at him in the darkness.
“What’s wrong?” she asked, her voice just as quiet as his.
“It’s a bad idea, Hermione…” he murmured. Hermione had to lean closer to him just to hear the words. Slowly, she sank to her knees in front of her friend.
“What’s a bad idea?” she asked, trying to peer through Draco’s hair that had fallen in front of his face. She wanted to see his eyes, but he was looking determinedly at the floor.
“You shouldn’t have asked me…”
“About the Death Eaters?”
“About any of that,” Draco replied quietly. “They’ll come after you if they think you know something.”
Hermione swallowed hard.
“They’re already after me, Draco,” she reasoned slowly. “I’m friends with Harry. I’m close to the Order of the Phoenix. I’m a Muggleborn. I was never safe.”
A sound like a sob ripped its way from Draco’s throat and Hermione leaned forward quickly to comfort him.
“I would have kept you safe,” he said honestly, his voice hoarse. “I would have done everything I could to keep them away from you.”
Hermione reached forward and took one of his hands, gently pulling it away from where it was buried in his hair and holding it tightly in her own. She didn’t reply to his words. Her throat had gone tight and she thought she might cry if she tried to speak. For a long time, they stayed silent. Draco was now watching her closely, and Hermione couldn’t have looked away from his eyes if she tried. Unspoken words and promises were crossing between them, things they wouldn’t be able to acknowledge later, things that weren’t safe to think outside of the late hours of the night.
Carefully, Draco slid off the couch to kneel beside Hermione. He watched her closely as he leaned towards her and wrapped his arms around her. It was an awkward embrace, but one that they both needed. Hermione slumped into his arms gratefully, letting him comfort her. They weren’t safe. They knew that, but they also knew that things hadn’t been safe for a long time and they wouldn’t be safe for some time to come.
“Get some sleep, Hermione,” Draco finally murmured against her hair. “I’ll stay. I’ll be right here if you need anything.”
Hermione nodded and made to stand, her knees protesting from being bent as long as they had.
“I’ll see you in the morning,” she said as she pulled Draco to his feet.
He nodded and Hermione turned away. She didn’t look back as she closed her bedroom door behind her.
Hours later, Hermione was sleeping restlessly in her bed when the sound of an owl rapping on a window awakened her. At first, she was disoriented and confused. She stumbled into the common room, rubbing her eyes.
“It’s your reply, I think,” Draco said as he let the owl back out the window. He seemed wide awake. Distantly, Hermione wondered if he’d slept at all. As Hermione walked towards him, she couldn’t focus on the letter from the owl. Instead, she was watching Draco’s eyes. They were bloodshot, even in the darkness.
“Are you okay?” she asked blearily. Her mind was still trying to catch up with what was happening. Draco only shrugged and held the letter out to her. Hermione didn’t ask him again. Gingerly, she took the letter and went to sit on the couch. It sank in beneath her and she wished she was still asleep. Why was Harry writing to her in the middle of the night?
“He’ll have told you the plan,” Draco said as he sat beside her. “Go ahead and open it.”
Suddenly, everything from earlier in the evening rushed back to her. How could she have forgotten just by sleeping for a few hours? The sun still hadn’t risen, and the sky outside was still pitch black.
“Oh God,” Hermione murmured. The trepidation that came with opening the letter made her hands shake. Slowly, she unfolded it, ready for something terrible to happen, even though she knew it was from Harry and it would explain everything she needed to know.
Written in Harry’s untidy handwriting was a one line message:
We know where it is. Come quickly.
A roaring sound filled Hermione’s ears as she looked frantically at Draco. He hadn’t read the letter, but he was watching her with concern.
“Are you all right?” he asked. His voice sounded distant, as if it were coming from the end of a tunnel.
“I have to go,” Hermione replied honestly, swallowing hard. Her own voice sounded choked and afraid. “They need me.”
Draco nodded immediately and stood.
“I’ll help you pack,” he offered, lending her a hand to pull her to her feet.
Hermione couldn’t reply, but nodded all the same. Her stomach was churning. This could end with one of their deaths. All she could hope was that Harry and Ron had a plan and that they would fill her in when she reached the Burrow.
“You’ll be apparating?” Draco asked as he held the door to Hermione’s room open.
“Yes,” she finally replied. “Will you grab the rucksack from the top of the wardrobe?”
Draco nodded and Hermione began pulling things out of drawers—spellbooks, potion flasks, anything that could be of use. As she moved to grabbing clothes, Draco began to pack her bag, keeping things as organized as possible and mercifully not asking her any questions. It only took them a few minutes to have everything ready to go.
Hermione ducked into the bathroom and quickly changed clothes and tied back her hair. Her reflection in the mirror looked nervous and unsure. She quickly looked away.
“I’m ready,” she said as she reentered her bedroom.
Draco seemed to take a deep breath as he watched her approach him.
“You’ll be careful, right?” he asked as he handed Hermione her bag. The concern in his voice nearly brought tears to Hermione’s eyes.
“I’ll do my best,” she replied quietly, shouldering the bag.
“Come back to me in one piece,” Draco responded. He pulled her into his arms and hugged her tightly. “I don’t want to lose you.”
Hermione swallowed hard as she fought back tears. Draco knew what she would be doing was dangerous, but he knew better than to tell her not to go. She would never know how to thank him for that.
As Draco released her, she looked into his eyes one last time and nodded resolutely before hurrying out of the room. The portrait hole closed behind her and Draco’s eyes fluttered shut in despair.
Author's Note: Yay, chapter 30! Things are heating up! I hope you enjoyed this. Please let me know in a review. I would love you forever. :] Again, thanks for reading! Take care!
Also: If you have additional questions that you would like answered, please feel free to go to my "Meet the Author" page on the forums. There's a link on my author's page!
(Edited as of 10-20-13)