Chapter 15 : The Great Lake
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Why exactly am I running to Malfoy? All he’s been to me is vile and cruel. I don’t owe him anything! And, I might get caught! So why am I even bothering? What is wrong with me today?
After convincing herself it was simply her cold getting to her head, even though she was not sick anymore, Hermione decided it was best to return to the common room where she could get a nice, long sleep in her comfortable bed with no worries about the Malfoys.
Smiling to herself, Hermione spun on her heel to face the portrait she had just left. About to start walking towards it, her eyes widened with shock as she noticed that Sir Cadogan wasn’t even there. The empty portrait was staring at her in a mocking sort of way as if it was some sort of punishment for her compassion getting to the better of her.
“Oh, great!” Hermione shouted in frustration a bit too loudly than necessary. She immediately placed her hands to her mouth and inwardly kicked herself for screaming like that when she could get expelled for what she had gotten herself into.
Like she always did when she was nervously thinking up a plan, Hermione spun in frantic circles with her fingertips placed to her temples. Clearly, she was not going to be getting any sleep in her dormitory for a while. That option was out.
What if she simply stayed outside of the portrait hole, waiting for Sir Cadogan? That could take ages! Who knew what he was up to, anyway! That option was out.
She could go and try to find Sir Cadogan, but she had no idea where he was. He could be having a nice chat with the Fat Lady for all she knew. Plus, someone might catch her lurking about for hours on end, anyway, which would definitely ruin her good record. That option was out.
That left her with one option left. Hermione hated to admit it, but she needed to go find Malfoy. She had no idea what he could do, maybe find Sir Cadogan on his own while she hid behind a statue as to not get caught outside past hours, but it was the only option left to consider. That was the reason she came out here in the first place, anyway. Plus, she could do with some fresh air. By then, Sir Cadogan might have come back to his portrait, too.
Sighing loudly, Hermione walked slowly towards the entrance hall. As much as she wanted to get this night over with, she also knew that Malfoy would be extremely annoyed with her if she disturbed him in such a state. She needed to give him at least some time alone. She was tired and definitely not in the mood for one of their notorious, seemingly endless fights.
Twisting and turning down long, endless hallways, Hermione passed many sleeping portraits as she tip-toed down the moving staircase. Thankfully for her, the staircases did not usually move at night considering students are not allowed to be out this late.
Once she finally reached the entrance hall, Hermione opened the large wooden doors that lead to the outside. All of the snow that kept Hermione stuck in her room for the past few days had melted into rain. The trees looked more menacing than ever with their bare, swaying branches due to the breeze outside.
Making her way down the narrow trail, she strolled towards the famous Great Lake, eying the Quidditch field in her peripheral vision from afar. The Quidditch hoops looked the size of regular people from this distance.
Suddenly, Hermione found herself mesmerized by the few twinkling stars and full, illuminated orb that silhouette the black sky. No matter how nervous she was, it slowed down her heartbeat in an instant. She felt a sensation of tranquility and relaxation; something she had not experienced in a while now. She never wanted this feeling to go away and deeply wished that she could join the moon and stars and be able to escape from the reality in which she hated at the moment.
The soft sound of werewolves howling in the depths of the Forbidden Forest brought Hermione back to reality in an instant.
She shivered slightly, finally noticing how chilly it was outside and regretting wearing only pajama pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Hermione wrapped her arms around her chest in an attempt at warming her body as she fastened her speed.
The trail to the Great Lake is a lot longer than I thought it was, Hermione realized after ten minutes of speed walking.
As she got closer and closer, Hermione could make out the shape of the Whomping Willow all the way to the right, and eventually, the Great Lake came into view. It seemed as if the lake were glowing as it stood absolutely still. There were no signs of waves due to the Giant Squid swimming about or even the faint whispers of the mermaids in the depths of the enormous lake. The lake as well as its residents was sound asleep.
Hermione was about twenty yards away now. Squinting her eyes slightly and tilting her head to one side, she noticed a figure illuminated from the lake’s soft radiance. Their stiffness and enlightenment from the bright moon made the figure resemble a sculpture from far away.
For a few seconds, Hermione was awestricken by the figure seated in front of her. It took her awhile to figure out who it was.
She could not believe Malfoy of all people could look so vulnerable and not at ease.
How could one be so still and picturesque? He was sitting on the edge of the Great Lake on his side with his knees curled into his torso; the perfect shape of a statue. Coming closer, Hermione noticed at once that he was agitated and in deep thought; as if he were contemplating something. His hands covered his entire face and pulled slightly at his now loose, pale hair, which was draped over his long fingers.
Finally realizing that this was indeed Draco Malfoy, her mortal enemy, Hermione hid behind a nearby tree and waited in silence. The Whomping Willow was a distance away now, so the only noise that could be heard was the cooing of the birds in the trees surrounding the Great Lake.
Maybe this was a bad idea to come here after all, she thought to herself after a few motionless minutes flew by. I suppose it’s too late now, though… or, is it? I can walk back to the common room very, very silently. He wouldn’t hear a thing! Sir Cadogan must have come back by now!
Making up her mind, Hermione tiptoed her way back towards the castle. She wasn’t very worried about him seeing her considering how dark it was and the fact that it seemed he would be in his state for quiet a while, but she was concerned that he would hear her since it was so quiet outside. Why didn’t I bring my wand?! What is wrong with me today?
Hermione was only a few yards away from the tree she hid behind when she all of a sudden tripped over something large and fell forward. She let out a somewhat loud, echoed screech as a reflex, but luckily managed to break her fall with her hands.
Gasping, Hermione quickly stood up and picked up what she had fallen over. It was a five foot long, very thick twig that she must have foreseen. Dropping it silently to the ground, she looked over her shoulder towards Malfoy. She knew he must have heard her because even the birds had scattered away due to the echo of her voice and the thud of her hitting the ground.
He was looking frantically about with a confused look on his face. Malfoy stood up in an instant and called out.
“Who’s there?” his voice echoed in the night sky.
“I know there’s someone there. There’s no point hiding,” his voice was more forceful and hoarse than before. Hermione could hardly recognize it but could tell that he had been crying, or at least on the verge of it.
Hermione speed walked towards the Great Hall as quietly as she could, looking over her shoulder every once in a while. It didn’t help. Malfoy had his wand drawn out, had muttered “Lumos,” and could now see the figure running away from him. Hermione gasped slightly from the blinding light, but covered her mouth with the palm of her right hand quickly enough not to be heard.
The figure was a fair distance in front of Malfoy, yet he knew he could still outrun them nonetheless. There was no point in trying to curse them. It would be impossible to hit them with a curse, especially at midnight, and when they were running so fast.
Giving up on speed walking, Hermione jolted into a run, the palms of her feet hitting the ground hard. She knew she would have blisters the next morning. Why did I have to forget sneakers, too?!?!
Malfoy was gaining up on her and was easily breaking the distance between the two. His own shoes were hitting the ground more rapidly and hardly than her own feet. Hermione was getting tired but was nevertheless determined to get out of his sight.
Glancing around, she had no clue where she could go other than the glowing Hogwarts and hide inside a classroom or something. Heart and lungs pounding hard in her chest, she could see her own breath in front of her since it was so cold outside. She had no time to look back, so that was why she had no idea Malfoy was only a few feet away from her, pulling up the sleeves of his shirt, and ready to attack his observer.
Hermione felt something hard push her forward. She didn’t have time to stop her fall with her hands, so she instead fell flat on the side of her face and skidded forward another foot from the sudden force, causing her cheek and bottom lip to bleed.
Malfoy’s wand flew out of his hand and fell on the floor in front of her. His entire weight was on her back and the back of her legs, crushing her into the cement ground below. He placed his hands on the sides of her to balance himself, turned her over to face him with one hand, and pinned her down with both so that his face was but inches from hers.
The light of his wand had gone out right before he toppled her over, so he had to squint his eyes slightly to make out the outline of the figure.
Her bushy, tangled brown hair was the first thing he noticed. He could make out the outline of her slender face and her pale skin. The stars and moon above as well as the light of Hogwarts told him that it was a girl around his age. He had a hunch who it was, but reached over her for his wand to make sure.
He muttered “Lumos” once again and pointed it at the figure below him, blinding her yet again.
He was right.
Hermione Granger, blood dripping down the side of her face and pale with shock, was the spy.
“Granger…” he said hoarsely yet hesitantly, his cold breath sending chills down her spine. She shivered and whimpered slightly.
His deathly eyes locked with hers and were colder than they ever were. His face was flushed pink with rage. He gritted his teeth together and it seemed like he would break his wand into two pieces he was holding it so tightly with his free hand. Hermione had a feeling he was about to curse her into oblivion.
“How did you know I was here?”
“HOW?!” His wand touched the bridge of her nose slightly.
“Please… don’t… I won-won’t tell an-anyone…a-as long as it doesn’t do anyone any ha-harm…” Hermione’s voice was shaking hysterically.
Tears sprang from her eyes; cascading down her cheeks and mixing with the large amass of blood, causing her skin to sting even more.
She noticed that his eyes were bloodshot with unshed tears. His hold of her wrist was so strong, and she could see his veins popping out of his forearms. She struggled desperately to break free from his grasp but was too weak and tired.
Malfoy seemed to contemplate what he should do for what felt like an eternity, staring into her eyes the entire time as he tried but failed to hide his vulnerability. He knew she had read the letter. It was clear in his eyes.
Giving up on trying to get away, Hermione turned to one side, away from his illuminated wand in order to break the strong gaze. She awaited her dreadful fate.
Finally, Malfoy lowered his wand slowly and placed it on the ground. It surprised, yet inwardly relieved, Hermione greatly.
He grabbed her chin with his free hand and turned her face so that she would have no choice but to face him.
“Tell this to anyone, a-n-y-o-n-e, and I will make you wish you were never born.”
Hermione did not respond, but instead stared back at him with nothing but pure hatred.
“Do you hear me, you filthy Mudblood? You have absolutely no idea what I am capable of doing, do you?”
“I have many resources. I can get you humiliated in front of everyone or even expelled from this stupid school. You think this is pain?” Malfoy laughed coolly, pushing his fingers into her skin even more, “Oh… I am fully capable of far worse. For the last time, do you hear me, you scum? DO YOU HEAR ME?”
“Yes,” she finally stated matter-of-factly with a cold, mocking tone.
“Good,” Malfoy replied.
For a split second, he was slightly taken aback by her bravery. He brushed the feeling off in an instant.
“And if you’re worried about your little friends, don’t. They’ll be safe… at least for now.”
Hermione glared at him with all of her mite, trying desperately not to show that he had just found her weakness.
With that, he let her go and grabbed his wand, stood up, and brushed off his shirt. Malfoy walked swiftly towards the large, haunting castle without glancing back once, leaving Hermione alone on the dark ground with her hands covering her face, knees bent in towards her as she lay on her side, and tears streaming down her face uncontrollably as if it were the end of the Wizarding World.
Limping and twitching with pain, Hermione opened the large front door that lead to Hogwarts’ interior. Dry, crisp blood occupied the area underneath her left eye. She had a swollen lip, making it very difficult for her to open and close her mouth.
At first thought and despite herself, Hermione knew Malfoy did not intent to harm her. The flicker in his eyes when he found out it was Hermione he had attacked told her exactly that. It wasn’t his fault directly that she was bleeding.
She had absolutely no idea how much he must have been going through with his father. Hermione wondered what would happen to him if Malfoy Senior found out that she knew about the “item.” She shivered at the thought.
On the other head, could the item harm anyone at Hogwarts? Why did Malfoy Senior give it to his son? What was it?
And, most importantly, what did he mean when he said “At least for now”? Are her friends in mortal danger? Hermione was suddenly full of rage at Malfoy and unconsciously twisted her fingers into a fist at the mere thought of it.
Many contrasting emotions ran through Hermione, mentally and physically, as she felt half upset with Malfoy yet half pitied him at the same time. Hermione clasped her forehead with her hand, suffering a severe headache at the moment.
If Malfoy used the item for evil, Hermione would never, ever forgive him, no matter what the circumstances were. That’s all she was certain about right now.
Finally, Hermione reached the hall to her dormitory without even realizing it at first. She had completely forgotten about Sir Cadogan and his whereabouts.
But, it wasn’t enough for her. Hermione had to find out what could, or was going to, happen at Hogwarts.
Turning a sharp corner, Hermione once again was face-to-face with the portrait leading to the Heads’ common room. However, to her utter surprise, there was a hole smack dab in the middle of the portrait with ripped paper surrounding it. It looked as if someone had punched the portrait in order to try and get in.
“What in Merlin’s beard…” Hermione asked herself dubiously, not even realizing that she was speaking.
“Ye boyfriend there almost killed me!” Hermione heard a familiar voice sounded behind her.
She spun on her heel and noticed that none other than Sir Cadogan was taking the spot of a sleeping man in a portrait.
Hermione’s silence led Sir Cadogan to speak again.
“The fellow flew in here with an absolutely bitter expression on his face. I challenged him to a duel, of course. I wasn’t meaning to do any harm! And he… he punched my portrait, nearly hitting me right in the face! Luckily, my dodging skills came to use, and I managed to flee into another portrait! And then he comes right back out with a bunch of clothes and such! Oh… I’m going to have a talk with ye Slytherin Head about this!” Sir Cadogan was fuming and utterly shocked by his actions.
Hermione, however, wasn’t surprised in the least.
“I guess he’s just having a bad day, Sir Cadogan. Don’t take it personally.”
“And to think… I could have avoided this whole situation if I had just stayed with Barnabas the Barmy!”
This caught Hermione off guard.
“Wait… is that where you were?” she asked, opening her mouth unbelievingly despite the severe pain it caused her.
“Of course I was! Where else would I have been?” Sir Cadogan replied.
Hermione groaned loudly. Her headache increased even more. How could she have forgotten about that? He was always with Barnabas the Barmy.
Sighing, Hermione knew there was nothing she could do about it now.
“Listen, may I please enter the common room? I am not in the mood for a duel right now…” Hermione pleaded.
Sir Cadogan seemed to just notice that Hermione was standing right in front of him, at midnight, in her pajamas. He skimmed her appearance, taking in the messy hair and swollen eye and lip.
“Yes, ye may, ye may… I’m in no state to duel right now… and neither are ye, by the looks of it!”
Hermione thanked him, gave the password, and entered the common room sullenly.
The fire had gone out completely and the only light in the common room came through the window.
Heading upstairs towards her own dormitory, Hermione thought she wouldn’t be getting any sleep tonight, even though she was more tired than she ever was in her whole life.
At least she was in the safety of her own, cozy room. Hermione could tell that from the absolute silence of the common room and Sir Cadogan’s statement, Draco Malfoy was definitely not in his dormitory right now.
That was the last thought that Hermione had when she fell on top of her bed and dozed off into a restless sleep.