Chapter 8 : Home At Last
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Chapter Eight: Home At Last
The Dark Lord was very angry. Once again the mudblood had slipped out of his grasp while his Death Eaters stood by and watched. A bright light was no excuse for doing nothing as Potter and the mudblood sat defenseless.
His wand twirled in his long pale fingers as Voldemort watched Malfoy and the other Death Eaters recover from their punishment. He flicked his wrist and he smirked at the renewed screams of his followers. This punishment was for forcing him to come up with another plan to get his hands on the mudblood.
“Wormtail,” he called out. The little man crawled to his feet.
“Yes my lord,” the rat whimpered.
“I want my Seer.”
“Yes-Yes my Lord. Right away my lord.” He scurried away without a glance at the others screaming and writhing in pain.
Voldemort flicked his wand again and the cries stopped instantly. “Next time,” he hissed, “You will die.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Harry woke in a panic, unable to breath, and trapped. A blurry white light surrounded him. His scar was on fire.
He thrashed to get out of his prison, frantic for air. His arms struggled against his binds.
He took great gulps of life-giving air and suddenly felt the ground open up beneath him. His bonds were still gripping to his legs as he fell further down. It felt as though he would never stop falling.
He had crashed to the bottom of the pit. He opened his eyes once again. The blurry white light was gone replaced by blurry grey light. He squinted, hoping to focus on the object in front of him.
A table leg?
Confused he looked around and realized his mistake. He was on the floor next to a bed. The blurry white light had been the sheets. He had been trapped by the sheets that were still twisted around legs. That was what was suffocating him.
Harry detangled himself from the remainder of the sheets and stood up. Where were his glasses? He felt around the nightstand and found them next to what he could only guess was the base of a lamp.
The room came into focus and Harry realized where he was: Grimmauld Place. When did he go to bed? The last thing he remembered was…
his scar ripping his forehead open while being surrounded in blinding light. And there was a fight.
The memories were like a fuzzy dream. Who were they fighting?
Death Eaters. They had been fighting Death Eaters.
And then it all came back like a flood of images: diving for cover as spells were sent his way; Hermione screaming and covering her eyes in Diagon Alley; Death Eaters demanding the he hand over Hermione; Ron lying on the ground, his side gaping open from a Death Eater’s spell.
But how did he get back to Grimmauld Place? He blacked out from the pain of his scar. So how did they get from a dark corner in Diagon Alley to the safety of Grimmauld Place?
His scar was still prickling and he suddenly remembered why he had woken up in such a panic.
Voldemort again, but what were the details?
Wormtail was there…Voldemort had asked him to get something…but what was it? Harry sat at the edge of the bed and ran his fingers through his sweat-soaked hair. He lightly hit his temples with his fist trying to knock the memory back into place.
What was it that he asked for?
The sound of his door opening brought him out of his thoughts. “Ah, Harry,” said the smiling form of Professor Dumbledore. “You’re awake.”
“Professor?” Dumbledore sat next to him. “What happened? The last thing I remember was Diagon Alley. How did I get here?”
A slight frown crossed the Headmaster’s face before answering. “As I wasn’t here when you arrived I cannot give you a first hand account. Molly found you and immediately contacted me. She told me as soon as I arrived that she found you along with Mr. Weasley, Miss Granger, Remus and Tonks…”
“They’re alright?” Harry interrupted. Dumbledore smiled.
“Yes, Harry, everyone is fine.
“As I was saying, Molly found all of you outside unconscious across the street. And from what I gather from your question, you have no idea as to how you came to be lying on the curb of a street.” Harry nodded.
“Yet another mystery for me to solve,” he sighed to himself. “Might I ask for your version of what happened?”
Harry told him as much as he could remember. Dumbledore listened patiently while he finished before asking his questions.
“Has your scar hurt before this, Harry?”
“Yes,” he admitted.
“Once, right after you brought Hermione back.”
“Did you feel any emotion with the pain?” Harry nodded.
“He was angry. But not as angry as he is right now,” he added. Dumbledore looked at him sharply.
“Did you have another dream, Harry?”
“Just now,” he answered motioning towards the bed.
“Why is he angry?”
“That’s what I have been trying to remember, Professor. All I remember is seeing Lucius Malfoy shouting in pain as Voldemort tortured him. Then he asked Wormtail to get him something, but I don’t remember what it was.”
They sat in silence a few more moments before Dumbledore spoke again. “I need you to remember what he asked for, Harry.”
“This is very important, Harry. What he asked Peter for could very well explain his current activities.”
“Like why he wants Hermione?”
“Perhaps,” he answered. Another frown briefly touched Dumbledore’s old features.
“Do you know how Hermione knew that we were going to be attacked?”
“I don’t, but I have yet to speak to her about it. And I can assure you that this question, among others, will be asked.
“Now,” he said grasping Harry’s bare shoulder. “I suggest that you get dressed and come down for some dinner.”
“Sir? What time is it?”
“It is near six on the fourteenth of August.” Dumbledore gave him an eye twinkling smile before shutting the door.
“At least I have only been out for a day,” Harry said out loud to himself.
Ron, Tonks and Remus were already in the kitchen when Harry got there. When Harry asked how long they had been awake, Remus told him all three of them had woken up with the last hour.
“How is your side, Ron?” Harry asked reaching for some mashed potatoes
“Perfect.” Seeing the look of doubt on Harry’s face Ron continued. “I mean it, Harry. Perfect. It is as if nothing ever happened. When I asked Dumbledore if it would leave a scar he didn’t know what I was talking about.”
“What happened to you two after we left?” Remus swallowed a bite of roll before answering.
“We got a few families into Magical Menagerie before we spotted what we thought was a Death Eater heading back towards Flourish and Blott’s where we knew a lot of people were hiding.” Remus took another bite of his roll.
“But when we got there,” Tonks continued, “The person just disappeared. Like a wisp of smoke. Poof, he was gone.”
“By that time,” Remus began again, “The Alley was mostly deserted, so we ran back to where we had left you. And then…”Remus trailed off.
“We were surrounded by a bright white light and then nothing. We must have blacked out. The next thing we knew we woke up here.”
“Did Hermione ever tell you what was wrong with her?” Tonks asked.
Harry and Ron shook their heads. “No. We didn’t really have chance to talk. We were trying to get away from the Death Eaters.”
“And trying to not be killed by them,” added Ron.
“Is she up yet?” They all shrugged.
“I haven’t heard anything, but Dumbledore could be with her right now.”
“He is.” Harry and Ron turned around. Mrs. Weasley was carrying several large bags full of what seemed to be….
“Our school supplies?” Harry cried out in surprise. “How…”
“They were lying right next to the five of you on the curb.” Mrs. Weasley pursed her lips. “If only I had pushed Dumbledore more on not letting you go. And after what has already happened to Hermione…”
“Albus is not at fault, Molly,” Remus told her calmly. “He explained to me the precautions he set up so that no one would know we arrived. They found out, but not by any fault of Dumbledore. All that matters is that we are alive and well.” Mrs. Weasley didn’t respond and placed their bags on the table and left again.
“Let’s hope Dumbledore can get more out of Hermione than we were able to,’ said Remus.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hermione watched Dumbledore leave and ran her hands through her tangled hair. Had she done the right thing? She suddenly had the feeling that everything just got a lot worse.
Someone knocked on the door.
“Come in,” she called as she quickly slipped on a robe. Harry and Ron walked in.
“Hey Hermione,” Ron said as he sat next to her. Harry voiced his greetings and took a seat to her other side.
“Hermione what is going on with you?”
“Nothing,” she answered quickly.
“Come on, Hermione. You can’t honestly believe that after all that has happened, we are going to believe that nothing is going on with you.” She didn’t answer right away.
“Ron...” she sighed.
“Hermione,” Harry began softly, “We’re just worried about you. First you disappear without a trace. You were nearly dead when you came back, and now…”
“I know, Harry,” she whispered. “But it’s complicated.”
“Complicated is what we do best, Hermione. We’ve had seven years of it.”
“This is a bit different, Ron.” She left their side and walked to the empty fireplace.
“What are you afraid of Hermione?” Hermione bit her bottom lip refusing to face them. What was she afraid of? That was a loaded question. It was the right question. It was the same question Dumbledore had asked her only twenty minutes ago.
Harry covered the space between them in three steps and said, “Hermione, whatever it is, we can help.” She turned to face him, and those same sad eyes that he had seen by the fireplace were looking at him again.
“Not this time, Harry.” His eyes hardened. He didn’t like being told that he couldn’t help.
“Why not, Hermione?” His tone was sharp. It was this tone that she had backed down to for so many years, but she couldn’t this time. She had to stand her ground.
“Because it is my problem, Harry. It has nothing to do with either you or Ron, so just leave it.”
“Has nothing to do with us?” Ron interjected. “I wouldn’t call what happened in Diagon Alley ‘having nothing to do with us,’ Hermione.”
“That doesn’t mean you can do anything about it, Ron!”
“Alright!” Harry shouted before they could start arguing. “So we can’t help you with it, Hermione, but you can at least tell us what is going on with you!”
“I CAN’T!” She tore herself from his grasp and turned her back to him. Tears were stinging her eyes, threatening to fall.
Harry moved to her again and was about to say something when she held up her hand. “There isn’t anything you can do, Harry. Please,” she pleaded when he was about to reply, “don’t ask me again.”
His eyes locked with hers, and he knew it was the end of the discussion. Someone knocked at the door. “Yes?” Hermione bid them.
Professor McGonagall stepped into the room. “I found something of yours, Miss Granger.” Hermione looked at her with a curious expression on her face as McGonagall unwound her cloak from a lumpy object.
A lumpy object with ginger fur.
“Crookshanks!” Hermione shrieked. “Where did you find him?” she asked snatching the disheveled cat from the professor.
“He was skulking about the street a few blocks away.” Hermione buried her face into his matted hair.
“Thank you, Professor,” Hermione said, her face still buried in the cat’s fur. Professor McGonagall nodded in reply and left.
“Oh, Crookshanks,” she sobbed. “I thought I’d lost you.”
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
Three days before the 1st of September Harry and Ron watched Hermione pack for Hogwarts. They had both tried to reason with her saying she still had three days to pack and she would only have to pack everything again on the first, but her glare stopped them before long.
Neither of them had mentioned Diagon Alley since the fourteenth and Hermione gave no sign that she as willing to discuss it.
Hermione was still looking for her transfiguration book that night as the three of them waited for the Order meeting to end so they could have dinner.
They left the door open so they would know when it was over at the earliest possible moment.
All three of them looked towards the door when they heard the murmurs of Order members two floors below. The meeting was over. One look to each other and the three of them were at the end of the hallway on the first floor within a minute. But when they got there, only Dumbledore and McGonagall were left. This was odd, as the two of them were usually the first to leave.
The three of them stayed perfectly still.
“Is she coming then, Albus?”
“I believe so. I received word from her a few minutes before I left Hogwarts.”
“Did she have any explanation for him being sent last time?” It finally clicked with Harry as to what they were speaking of: The cloaked figure.
He glanced at Ron and Hermione to ask them if they remembered seeing who the man was when it struck him that not only had they not been there, but he still had not told them about it.
“…one thing I am truly concerned about,” Dumbledore was saying. “Harry has yet to mention what it was Voldemort asked Peter for.” Both Ron and Hermione stared at him in question. Harry shrugged and refocused his attention to the conversation.
“Did you ask Severus?”
“Only in passing, and he did not know.” Professor McGonagall gazed at him, concern etched all over her face.
“Do you have any ideas at to what it could be?”
“Many, Minerva, each more disturbing than the last.”
“Do you think the he may know about her?” Dumbledore shook his head.
“Anything is possible at this point, Minerva. But I am inclined to believe that he still doesn’t know. Right now I am more concerned with what he wanted from Peter.”
“Could she know?” Professor McGonagall asked him. Dumbledore didn’t answer right away.
“It is possible, but we won’t know until I speak with her,” he said simply. Professor McGonagall suddenly narrowed her eyes.
“You aren’t telling me something, Albus. You do have an idea as to what it is, and it’s no shot in the dark guess either.”
A smile graced his face before answering. “No, Minerva, I don’t. But I do fear…” he trailed off.
“What is it, Albus?”
“My fear is that he has a way to know the future. It would explain some of his recent actions.” Professor McGonagall muffled a gasp with her hands.
“It is merely one fear among many, Minerva,” he consoled. “Come, we have places to go.”
Harry watched them leave in a stupor. A way to know the future…my fear…
Harry just remembered what Voldemort had asked Peter for.
“WHAT DO YOU THREE THINK YOU ARE DOING???!?!!!” Mrs. Weasley shouted at them.
Brought out of his shock by her shouts, Harry only had one thought: Catch Dumbledore before he leaves.
He ignored the shouts of his friends and the reprimands of Mrs. Weasley as he practically jumped the whole flight of stairs and burst through the front doors.
A breath of relief washed over him when he spotted Dumbledore and McGonagall only just down the street.
“Professors!” he called. “Wait!” He sprinted to them and without waiting to catch his breath, he told them.
“Are you sure, Harry?” Dumbledore asked when he finished. Was that fear in his voice?
“Hogwarts, Minerva,” he instructed her. She was gone in a crack. “Thank you, Harry,” he said sincerely. “You have given me vital information.” And he was gone.
Harry continued to stare up at the sky where Dumbledore’s face had been. How could he have forgotten something as important as that?
He didn’t know how long he’d been standing at the curb, but he was brought back to real time when he felt someone grab his arm. He turned towards the hand. It was Hermione.
“Harry?” her eyes were questioning.
“Don’t ask,” he told her. “We’ll eat, then we’ll go to your room and I’ll explain.” She nodded and twenty minutes later, he, Ron and Hermione were sitting on her bedroom floor leaning against her bed.
“What happened, Harry?” Hermione asked. He took a breath and started at the beginning.
After twenty minutes or so of explaining everything he knew about his overheard conversations and about his dream, Ron and Hermione sat in silence.
Finally, Hermione spoke: “There’s just one thing I don’t understand,” she said.
“One thing?” Ron asked incredulously.
“Where did McGonagall, Dumbledore and the hooded man go during those 24 hours?” Harry stared at her.
“What 24 hours?” he asked.
“The 24 hours between him coming and leaving, Harry. You said that you saw Professor McGonagall escort the man in at around six-thirty in the morning on the 30th, but he didn’t leave until after 3am on your birthday. So what happened to the three of them during that period of time and, where was the man when Dumbledore and McGonagall were here with me?”
Harry couldn’t help but smile at Hermione. She always did come up with the brilliant questions. And her questions made him wish that he had told them both about it before now. He might have at least remembered to eavesdrop more often. As of now, they probably wouldn’t be able to hear any more conversations at all.
“I guess we can just add this to our list of ‘mysteries to solve this year’,” Rod said.
“Right,” Harry agreed, jokingly. Hermione, it seemed, didn’t think it was a joke. She got up and began to rummage through her trunk for some parchment.
“Be careful, Hermione,” Ron teased, “you might mess up your trunk and have to repack.” She didn’t even bother to glare at him and continued to look for her quill and ink.
“Alright,” she said sitting back down between them. “Our first is who Harry’s mum’s friend is. The second is…”
“Who Dumbledore is looking for,” Harry finished for her.
“And the third…”
“Who the hooded bloke was,” Ron put in.
“And the fourth is where they went for those missing 24 hours.”
“So we’re keeping a count this year?” Harry asked with a smile.
“After the numerous mysteries we faced last year, I would like to keep a record of how many we manage to solve.”
“Last year was a bit mad, wasn’t it?” Ron said. Harry agreed. Last year was crazy.
“Let’s not think about last year,” Hermione said quietly. “Too many awful things happened last year.”
“We won’t, Hermione,” Harry said after a bit. “We have enough to worry about this year.” Including you, he mentally added.
* * * * * * * * * * * * *
September the first came quickly. Mr. and Mrs. Weasley, Remus, and Tonks took them to King’s Cross Station by taxi. Fred and George met them at the platform to wish them luck and to remind them to make sure their advertisements didn’t get torn down by Filch.
Hermione backed out of the group and walked towards the front of the train. The platform was still quite empty, but the sight of parents saying goodbye to heir children only reminded her that hers weren’t there to say that they would miss her and to remind her to write to them the moment she arrived.
She felt alone again. Just like she had at the funeral.
More and more students began to arrive. More and more parents.
Hermione reached the very front of the train and stared out at the tracks. Her eyes followed their path until she couldn’t see the iron anymore.
There would be no letters this year. No words of wisdom. No assurances that all would be fine in the end. No letters expressing their worry or confusion as to what was going on.
“Excuse me, Miss!” She turned around to find the Conductor holding up a letter addressed to her. He looked at her strangely. “Are you alright, Miss?” Hermione suddenly realized she had been crying. When did those tears fall?
“Yes, I’m fine. Is this for me?” she asked quickly wiping them away.
“Yes, miss. I have orders from the Headmaster to give this to the Head Girl.” His eyes glanced down to the badge on her chest.
“Oh, thank you.”
“The first compartment is open for you,” he told her. He gave her a slight bow and climbed back up to the engine. She opened the letter and began to read.
It only took a moment before Harry noticed that Hermione was missing from their group. He looked up the train and saw her silhouetted against the sunlight leaning against the train engine reading.
“Hey, Ron, find a compartment for us and put my stuff in would you?” He didn’t wait for an answer before heading towards Hermione.
“What’s in the note?”
“Instructions from Dumbledore,” she answered him, handing him the letter. “Ten minutes into the ride, I’ve got to brief the prefects on their duties with the Head Boy.”
“Who’s the Head Boy?” he asked skimming through the letter. “Oh, Ernie.”
“He’s a bit pompous, but at least it isn’t Malfoy,” she said. “Could you imagine the way he would prance around as Head Boy?”
“It’s bad enough he’s a prefect,” Harry scowled. To his surprise, she smiled.
“Not anymore. Look at page two.” He flipped the page began to laugh. Malfoy wasn’t on the list of prefects.
“Malfoy isn’t a prefect!!” he laughed loudly. Still laughing, He grabbed up Hermione in a crushing hug; her arms pinned to her side.
“Harry!” she shrieked. Her feet finally touched the ground and when she looked up she found two green eyes not more than an inch from hers. “Um…” she pulled back from him. “I’m glad you’re happy about it, Harry, but really, get a hold of yourself!” She laughed and pushed away from him.
“How long will you be in the Head car?” he asked. There was something in the way she pushed away from him. Something in her eyes, if only for a moment, that he had never seen before.
“I’ll try not to make it too long. But, if Ernie stays true to his character, it may be a while.”
“All right. I’ll make sure your stuff gets with ours. Ron can show you where our cabin is after the meeting.”
“Oi, Hermione!” She looked over Harry’s shoulder and saw Ernie Macmillan waving at her from the entrance to the Head car. He was already dressed in his school robes.
“I’ve got to go. I’ll see you in a bit.” She gave him a small smile and brushed passed him. He watched her climb into the train and remained in that spot for some time watching the other students meet up with old friends and say goodbye to their parents.
“Hello, Harry?” Someone tapped him on the shoulder.
“Ginny? Where did you come from?” He had not heard her approach.
“I’ve only been standing here for two minutes trying to get your attention,” said Ginny, smiling. “Off on a trip?” He shrugged.
“Right,” she smirked. “Ron’s been looking for you. He wants to show you where our cabin is before the train leaves and we have to go to the Head meeting.” She led him down to the second cabin in the third to the last car. Ron, Seamus, Neville, and Luna were already sitting down.
It was going to be a cramped ride.
“Anything wrong with Hermione?” Ron asked as he sat down. Harry shook his head.
“No. She was just reading the instructions from Dumbledore for the ride to Hogwarts.”
“Who’s Head Boy?” Neville asked.
“Ernie Macmillan.” Ron groaned.
“That pompous windbag? Head Boy? Dumbledore must have gone off his rocker!”
“He isn’t entirely off his rocker,” Harry replied.
“True,” said Seamus. “He could have made Malfoy Head Boy.” He sneered when he said the name.
The conversation turned to more pleasant topics and Harry found himself staring out the window completely unaware of the topic of conversation. What was that look in Hermione’s eyes before she pulled away?
He felt the familiar jerk of the train as it pulled out of Platform 9 & ¾ and watched the buildings fall behind. He didn’t hear Ron and Ginny tell him that they would be back soon.
Leaning his forehead against the windowpane, images of Hogwarts began to fill his head.
“Home at last,” he whispered to himself. And he fell asleep.
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