A/N: I know this story has been sad so far, but after this chapter things get MUCH better. I couldnt just rush into the happy-go-lucky stuff right away, because it would make the whole story feel hurried and fake. This is the last really sad one, so hang in there, the end will be worth it. Thanks!
The group had made its way back down from the two dormitories, clipboards full of suggestions.
“Alright everyone, we are going to continue going upward through all the houses, and classrooms. Along the way we will also pass lavatories, which need to be evaluated as well. We have a lot to do, so let’s get to it.” I said, directing them through the Slytherin portrait hole again and back into the castle corridor.
“Now, for general information, right now we are still in the dungeons and sublevels, but we about to move into a different division of the dungeons, where the kitchens and Hufflepuff common room and dormitories are located. If you would…” I turned my back on them and started off towards the kitchens.
“Had some time to explore the dungeons while you had this place to yourself, didn’t you?”
Ugh is he still following me? Well… I mean of course he’s supposed to follow me, but not follow me.
“Draco, I have known theses dungeons better than you since our third year.”
“Oh? And how did you manage that, almighty Headmistress?” He mocked.
“You can go anywhere you please as long as no one sees you.” I kept walking, my eyes dead ahead, but I could see from the corner of my eye that he was really mulling that one over.
“You stole Potter’s invisibility cloak?” He said with an amused laugh. I raised an eyebrow and stayed quiet. I hadn’t stolen it, he had let me borrow it for my nighttime raids of the restricted section in the library. I just… took a detour back to the Gryffindor tower.
“Seriously?” He asks, still not believing me. Honestly, I don’t see how difficult it was to believe that I was a very curious one in school. It seemed all quite normal to me. I shot him a look that said, very clearly, ‘Duh’. He laughed. I mean, really laughed. His head was back and he was laughing. I’m sure to all the others it looked like we were having a private joke-fest, but when I looked back at the group they all had their own side conversations going, not paying a lick of notice to me or Draco. It occurred to me that I had never heard him laugh before. I had heard him scoff, mock, and occasionally chuckle, but never laugh. Oddly enough, for someone so dark, his laugh was friendly and easy, and I couldn’t help it when the corners of my lips began to curl upwards.
The air around us was becoming warmer, and there was a faint but growing smell of food. The sound of pots and pans clanging together, knives chopping, and water boiling could be heard, and the closer we got, so could dozens of little voices.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we are approaching the kitchens. If you would be so kind as to not disturb the house elves at this time, as they are busy preparing our lunch, that would be wonderful. However, if you would like a drink or a snack then you are more then welcome to ask Pinkey, who I will introduce you to in a moment, and she will get it for you.” As we rounded the corner, we were greeted by Pinkey who was standing in front of the giant portrait of fruit.
“Everyone, this is Pinkey. She will be glad to get you whatever you need, but please remember that house elves are our helpful friends, not our servants.” There were a few laughs from Pricilla, Edward, and Draco. Did they think I was joking? Because I surely wasn’t.
I swear, some people are so rude.
“To open the kitchen portrait, all you need to do is tickle the pear like so,” I reached up and ticked it right underneath the stem. It began to giggle before transforming into a door handle. “And the pear will change into a handle, and all you have to do is pull.” I pulled it open and stepped aside so that everyone could see past me to the inner workings of the kitchens. I released the handle and let the portrait swing shut. I few groans of disappointment met my actions, but we didn’t have the time, and I didn’t have the patience to sit and wait while everyone stuffed themselves full of food.
“Now moving on,” I led them through a few corridors and up one small set of stairs to the Hufflepuff common room. Opening it up and ushering the small herd inside, I observed the state of the common room, whist the others checked dorms.
“You know, I shagged every seventh year Hufflepuff girl and I was never able to find it.” Draco marveled. I rolled my eyes.
“Why am I not surprised? I just don’t know how you got all those nice, innocent Hufflepuffs to fall for someone like you.”
“Well I wasn’t just them you know, they were the easy ones. The Gryffindors were the hardest.” He said nonchalantly while wiping some dust from an old desk.
“Yeah. I shagged every seventh year girl at Hogwarts. Well, all but one.”
“All but one?”
“Yes. All but you.”
Well I didn’t see that one coming…
“…I…” I wasn’t really sure how to take that. I mean, how do you?
“I didn’t even bother with you. It would have been a waste of time, because I knew that while you would probably be my best conquest by far, you had Potter and Weasley as body guards. Those two were the tightest chastity belt ever. I bet you never had a boyfriend in school, did you?”
Damn the mist. Damn my overactive tear ducts. Damn Draco for saying their names.
Harry, Ron. Gods above I miss you two.
I sniffled and blinked rapidly, trying to chase them away. Too late. He spotted them.
“Damnit Hermione. You better not be crying. I don’t handle crying girls very well.”
“Shove off you heartless git. It’s only the dust. I’m allergic.”
“Yes, and Longbottom is a potions whiz. I know you miss them, and I’m sorry I brought it up. But it’s been four years Hermione, don’t you think you should-”
“Draco Malfoy, you do not want to finish that sentence. I have been trying. I’ve been really… really trying.” I said coldly. How dare he try and tell me to get over it?!
“Look, it’s not easy to be in this castle for me either, okay?”
I couldn’t help it, I had to laugh. What could have been so bad for him here? Was kissing up to Snape really that tiring? Did he run out of first years to bully? Was his Quidditch broom not fast enough?
“Oh? And just what horrible trama happened to you that was worse than losing all of your loved ones? What is worse than having to be locked up so you can’t help your friends that are dying?!”
“Never having them to begin with.” He said. There was something strange about the way he said that. It confused me. It wasn’t soft or compassionate, or sorrowful, but kind of like… disappointment or remorse.
I can see how that would be lonely, but those boys were my world. My friends, my family, and I needed them.
“I’m not going to get into this with you, of all people. I don’t want to talk about it right now.” I turned my back to him and straightened a crooked painting on the wall.
“You are never going to feel like talking about it. You just let their deaths mull around inside you until eventually its going to eat you alive. No one can even say their names without you crying like a baby about it.”
“Oh yeah? Well since when did you become the expert? Hmm? Because that last I checked you were on the side that killed them! The side that took them away from me!” I hissed. I would have yelled, hell, I would have SCREAMED at him right then, but the others would have heard me and come down to see what the commotion was. And that would have been very inappropriate for the new Headmistress to be yelling at a professor so soon.
“I know plenty about what it is to lose a loved one Hermione.”
“Try losing an entire family in less than two years, then come to me and tell me you know what it is to feel pain. We are finished here.” The others trooped down the stairwell not long after I said that, and I did my best to hurry them along.
“Now to the ground floor… we have the Great Hall, the chamber where the first years are kept until sorting, the staff room, classroom eleven where our Divination Professor conducts his lessons, caretaker’s office…”
“… First floor. Muggle Studies, Defense Against the Dark Arts, and History of Magic are all taught here. There is the Hospital Wing, and also Miss Carmichael, your office is off to the right there…”
“…Second floor. This bathroom has been out of order for many years, and there is a ghost in there that likes to make sure we keep it that way, and Monsieur Sardou your office is down that hall…”
“…Third floor. Charms classroom to the left, Trophy room on the right…”
“…Fourth floor. The library and a few empty rooms used primarily for storage nowadays…”
“…Fifth floor. The four prefects bathrooms, one for each house, are directly down the West corridor and on the left hand side…”
The group was getting tired by the time we reached the sixth floor, and so was I. In fact, if it hadn’t been that we were halfway done with the tour of the castle I probably would have collapsed and asked Draco to finish it, except that I wasn’t speaking to him at the moment. I still could not believe the nerve of that man, it was… well, unbelievable. I don’t know why he thinks he bloody knows everything. He didn’t have all of his friends murdered, he didn’t have to let his mother die, and he was not about to run an entire bloody school.
“… Sixth floor. Nothing much to see here really…”
“…Seventh floor. The Charms office, which would have been mine should I not have been chosen Headmistress is to the right, but will be used for storing charms equipment instead. The second Divination class room is on this floor but can only be accessed by a ladder, and the Gryffindor common room is right this way. If you would go through the portrait of the Fat Lady in the pink silk dress, it will lead you right though.”
This was what I was dreading. This was the place that I did not want to go, the last place that Harry, Ron, and I were together alone. Our last real conversation was here, our last group hug, our last promise to stay friends forever, no matter what crossed our paths, or no matter how much distance was between us. At the time I had never imagined that the distance that separated us would be this great, but death really is the greatest distance.
Just breathe, don’t think about it, just breathe.
The group looked at me expectantly, waiting for me to lead them. I nodded to them and opened the portrait that as of yet did not require a password. As Lavender passed by me, she reached out and gave my hand a comforting squeeze and a “You can do it” smile. But I was far from being comfortable. The portrait creaked on its’ hinges, and I slowly walked into the dark common room after the last person had stepped through. The air was heavy with dust, as every other common room and classroom we had seen before was, but this one held a different kind of heaviness. This was the room that we held our ground in. When the war broke out, students rushed here, thinking it was safe. It was so quiet that I could almost hear the hysterical sobbing of the terrified first years that clung to the older students for some kind of comfort. I could see the pale faces of students who tried fruitlessly to apperate home. I was even more scared now than I was then, seeing and feeling the ghosts of my deceased classmates . This time when the tears came, I let them. The other professors were already upstairs taking notes on the state of the dorms. Books had been left open from where kids had been studying. I pulled out a piece of paper that was sticking out of one of the couches and flattened it out.
“Why I deserve to pass potions; by Seamus Finnigan”
My hand rushed to my mouth and I held in a sob.
The fucking Ministry! They said they cleared it out! They said there was nothing left! They promised… they told me it was empty of all the things I…
I don’t know what possessed me to do it. I don’t know why I did it when I knew it would only cause me more pain, but a part of me just had to know if it was there… if any of it was still there. Running up the stairs of the seventh year boys’ dormitories, and brushing past Draco, Neville, Edward, and Jacque, I burst into their room. There is was. Their beds, still unmade from the last time they slept in it. Their dirty towels from the bath hanging on the bedpost. Their trunks… still unlocked with their shirts hanging out. There was a photo album on Harry’s, and an orange Chudley Cannons hat on Ron’s.
I shattered again. Staggering forward, I grabbed hold of the ugly orange hat and a fistful of Harry’s sheets and I fell to the ground in a tight ball, sobbing harder that I ever had in my entire life. Harder than I had when they died, harder than I had the first night I spent alone in this castle. I wanted to slip out of consciousness, I wanted to be gone from this place. The room even still smelled like boy. On the floor not too far from me was the bottle of cologne that the pair had doused themselves with before graduation, thinking it made them smell more “manly”. I picked it up and pulled off the cap, sniffing it cautiously. The scent tickled my nose and I felt as if I was going to sneeze, but instead I just cried my heart out. It felt like an eternity alone up in that room, but in reality I was probably only up there for about three minutes before Draco came in, crouched down beside me and pried the items from my arms.
“Stop doing this to yourself.” He whispered to me. I waved my arms out, trying to reclaim what he took, but I only succeed in throwing myself into him. When I tried to pull back, I discovered I couldn’t because he had his arms around me tight, keeping my face pressed to his chest. Seeing this, it only made me cry harder, but I supposed I needed to. I needed to cry. All the time and effort I put into not crying had really worn me down. So that is how I found myself mourning the loss of my best friends. In the arms of the enemy, which felt closer to home than anything else I had felt in four dark, sad years.
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