She was fuming still, her hair astray and her cheeks flushed. Draco Malfoy was a prick! He had a knack of making every nerve in her body throb in pure unadulterated anger. The pace of her heart beat was rather erratic from the encounter. She’d let him manipulate her, hadn’t she? Every point he’d put through had felt like a stab, but on the contrary none of her pathetic statements managed to ruffle him. Save for a couple.
Good biting comebacks. That’s what she should have come up with. But that necessitated her to be calm and not let her emotions override the common sense. She knew her anger was justified. Nightmare or not, it was too much to be in the presence of Malfoy.
Thinking back, she felt that perhaps she should have let the emotions supersede her after all…and readily given into the urge of punching him.
It'd have helped rid her frustration. ‘Beat the bloody pulp’ like Ron would’ve said.
Somehow the thought of Ron stung. It brought her back to the reality. They weren't here with her. How was she to find them, to inform them? She broke into cold sweat as she was again harshly made to realize that she was unaided. Her walking had almost slowed to a mere dragging of the feet. Tears filled her eyes as she looked around at the empty surroundings.
Vision blurred and overcome by the feeling of loneliness, she almost missed the change in the air around her. Slowly her body sensed the sudden chill which bit at her warm body. Hermione shivered and wiped her eyes, looking around, puzzled. Was she hallucinating?
Get a grip. You're being paranoid.
She could hear the roar of waves which brought a frown. Inching towards the lake, she witnessed its transformation from a mere line of blue-green to angry ocean-like water. A tiny gasp escaped her mouth at what she witnessed. Her mind was screaming to her, to run, to move away for lakes ordinarily didn’t have waves so ferocious.
Something was terribly wrong, and yet she found her legs move on their own accord towards the source of what she thought was danger.
At the very center she could see the water turning into a glacier. Her legs froze before buckling and throwing her to the ground. Crawling closer, she watched in amazement as the water rose upwards before freezing into a statue.
A human form.
And just as fast as it had begun, the lake stilled into an innocent river bed, with only the circle of glacier in the very centre, an evidence to what had happened before. Lost for words, she sat there for what seemed like hours, but in reality was merely a few seconds.
A loud clap of lightning raked the ground and struck the ice. The sound made her jump. Slowly, the glass broke and something fell forward on the hard water which remained still.
Or rather someone.
The ‘someone’ had red hair and a lanky body, which was now frozen to the roots.
He didn't move, he wasn’t even breathing. Hermione's breath hitched, and she felt like a ton of bricks had hit her chest. It suddenly seemed too much to even look.
A distant sound of sobbing could now be heard - clear and sorrowful cry of a troubled soul. It felt like someone was persistently stabbing her heart. Her eyes moved while her legs betrayed her. There...she saw him. Another shock rippled through her body when she found the person who sat weeping.
Dragging herself now, she moved closer to him. If there was one person who needed some consolation more than herself, it was him.
“It was all my fault,” she heard him whisper. She wanted to reach forward, to pull him into a hug, to tell him he couldn't blame himself, but words failed her as he looked up at her.
His eyes were tormented, his spectacles broken; dry blood remained on his robes and his face was slashed. The scar on his forehead was outlined in red and blood seeped down.
“Harry, Harry,” she began when she found her voice. She tried to touch him, wanting to reassure him, but her fingers found thin air. He was transparent strangely, reminding her of a projected image.
He watched her as a bitter smile crossed his lips. “No Hermione, I killed him, if it hadn’t been for me-”
“Sssh, Harry. Please, it wasn’t your fault.”
His eyes turned distant though, and he didn't try to hide the tears that fell. And she realized she was crying too. There was another clap of thunder before their tears mixed with the pouring rain.
Ronald Weasley. Her best friend. A person she’d loved, now lay motionless. The cutting breeze no longer seemed cold enough.
Had it been just few hours ago that everything around her seemed so normal and merry? It seemed like ages ago. The tears had slowly resided until she was left with hiccoughs and dry throat. Harry, still transparent, sat beside her, silent and distant.
“Hermione?” he asked, his voice determined.
She turned to look at him and attempted a smile, failed terribly, and nodded asking him to proceed.
“This battle, without Dumbledore, is lost.”
“Don’t say that Harry,” she chided her voice sharp. “I told you…I should’ve come with you…”
“No. I would’ve just lost both of you. No thanks, Hermione. I’m happy with one dead friend, I don’t want to perform an encore.”
“What happened? How did he…” She trailed off, looking back into the lake. Strange as it was, Ron still remained where he was, with the base of frozen water supporting him.
Harry shook his head. “Malfoy.”
“Lucius Malfoy along with dozens of other Death Eaters are at their work. I do not know why the students of Hogwarts are missing.” He stopped and looked at Hermione. “They are, aren’t they?” Hermione nodded mutely, and Harry’s face tightened before he looked away.
“What does it all mean, Harry? I heard you say that you’ve found a horcrux and everything was going according to plan, even Ron seemed cheery. What happened?”
“I found one horcrux, but somehow, in the process I seem to have alerted the Death Eaters, they’re everywhere. Ron and I have been hiding. I’ve been in contact with Mr. Weasley, who wasn’t all that happy that I was going all by myself, right? But he helped me get back into Grimmauld place. I’ll explain all that later. But at the moment, there is one threat, Hermione. I don’t know how you survived, but I’m very sure that Draco Malfoy is still here for a purpose. Maybe he already knows about it. Maybe he doesn’t.” He stopped for a minute, allowing her to absorb all that he'd said.
Realization dawned. “You think Malfoy might be used against me?”
“Not just you, he could be the main tool. I don’t think you’re the only two people here, there might be others also. I wish I knew what they were all planning. But I have one request to put forth-”
“Ginny! Oh God!”
Confused, Harry questioned, “What?”
"Ginny has been missing! I just realized. I didn’t spot her around since…a long time now. I thought maybe she wanted to be left alone after you guys..." She trailed off, "but come to think of it, none of us had any clue about her whereabouts! Oh God, Harry…”
It was as if someone suddenly enlightened him before Harry realized that it was Ginny who was missing.
“Oh…” he said a little…baffled?
“I’m sorry, Harry. I know you two…”
That’s when it happened. A realization hit and he almost fell back. “Merlin…” he breathed.
“Maybe we’ll find her, Harry. Just…what were you about to say?”
There was a silence which followed before Harry gathered himself and his voice turned emotionless. “I can’t physically be here, Hermione. It’s complicated. But one thing is for sure, I need you to do me a favour,” he said, looking straight at her.
Something stirred inside her and a chill ran down her spine. Harry…it was as if he’d transformed into a cold distant animal with the fire ignited within, the flames of which she could see churning in his eyes.
“What?” she whispered croakily.
“I want Draco Malfoy dead.”
Author's Note: Yes, I know you probably find it to be a little confusing, or more, but I promise it'll all fill in perfectly by the end of it. And! Just like some of you requested, this chapter has been lengthened! By almost twice the first chapter! ^_^ Yes, so now, please me by REVIEWING! I love you all for your awesome feedbacks! As always, criticisms and appreciations if any are WELCOMED! I hope you liked the chapter too ^_^ Thus begins the unfurling of the plot ^_^