Chapter 1 : A New Connection
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Desire and Demise
A New Connection
Ah, winter at Hogwarts - nothing could compare to its beauty and majesty. It was as if the heavens had been brought down to earth for six months, coating everything in brilliant white. The very ground seemed too perfect to walk across, covered in a smooth layer of snow. The trees showed their strength by holding up the snow that clung to their branches, contrasting with the deep brown hue of their bark. Oh, and the lake - a breath taking sight. A thick layer of sparkling, clear ice had appeared in place of the never-ending blue water.
Not to mention the joy it brought to the students.
Students at Hogwarts absolutely adored the holidays. It gave them a nice break from their stressful workload, of course, but the most appealing part of the break had to do with the sentimental value of the season. That is, well, throwing snowballs at your best friend; sharing a butterbeer with someone special; treading through Hogsmeade to find the perfect Christmas gifts; sitting beside the fire with a blanket wrapped around yourself for extra warmth; and, of course, stuffing your face with the delectable feasts served in the Great Hall. However, this year was different.
The Dark Lord was back.
Those five little words were enough to change the cheerful Christmas atmosphere into a fearful scene. Witches and wizards worldwide were preparing themselves however possible incase the Dark Lord showed up on their doorstep. They knew nothing could stop him, but by taking precautions they could pretend they were safe. Strangely enough, this worked for some people.
Hogwarts students were arguably the luckiest of the lot. But Dumbledore had taken some of Hogwarts’ security with him to the grave.
Hermione had always been an avid reader, but with the news of the Dark Lord’s return, she was reading twice as much. However, instead of her usual History books, she could now be found with her freckled nose in a Defense Against the Arts book. She, like many others, found comfort in preparing for the worst. Perhaps she took it a little too far… spending hours upon hours in the library, hidden behind piles of books. Some had even confronted her, accusing her of being too paranoid. Her reply was always the same, “When you’re face to face with You-Know-Who, and you don’t know how to counteract his curses, then you’ll regret that you hadn’t prepared enough.” Hermione’s wit was intact despite the chaos that had enveloped the wizarding race.
In fact, at the very moment, Hermione was in the Gryffindor Common Room, hands tightly gripping ‘One Hundred Deadly Curses.’ Her brown optics scanned the pages with such intense concentration, much like a hawk eyeing its prey seconds before swooping down to capture the helpless creature in its claws. The words soaked into her brain, and she was completely unaware of her surroundings, mind and soul so engrossed in her book that Voldemort himself could have walked into the room and sat down next to her without her acknowledgement.
The fire before her glowed brilliantly in its grate; its yellows, oranges and reds were entrancing. The light emanating from the blaze cast gloomy shadows across the floor, and created dancing patterns on the cold stone walls. Hermione involuntarily shivered and pulled her blanket tightly around her small frame without moving her gaze from the book she held. Its old, withered pages pulled her in; she clung to its leather binding as though life itself was inside that very book.
A large, white owl had been perched on the mantel for nearly a half an hour now, cleaning its feathers with delicate care. A letter was tied tightly to its right leg. The red ribbon which was tied neatly in a bow was a bit frayed at the end; the bird had been pulling at it with its beak restlessly. The elegant owl seemed to finally make up its mind that the girl was not going to budge, and it swooped off of the mantel and onto the girl’s leg.
Hermione let out a small shriek and involuntarily swung her arm out at the bird. She missed, thankfully, but the owl let her know it was displeased by pecking at her skirt.
“Hedwig!” Hermione exclaimed, excitedly. “I’m sorry, I didn’t know it was you…”
Hurriedly, she untied the ribbon and snatched up the letter carefully in her palm. Fingers shaking slightly, she unrolled the parchment and began to read with growing anticipation.
Dear Hermione and Ron,
I hope you both are doing alright at Hogwarts. I’m doing alright here. I’m still with the Order, but I can’t tell you where we are incase Hedwig is intercepted. We’re still searching for signs of Voldemort. He’s left the Riddle residence without a single clue as to where he was going next. We're trying to find him before he finds us. We’ve uncovered some information about his plans, however. Ron’s old rat has decided to help out the Order, which I’m not exactly happy about. But, any information we can get is helpful, I suppose. I do hope I can see you both very soon. I miss Hogwarts as well.
Hermione could feel a twang of pity in the pit of her stomach. Harry was working with the order, and his two best friends weren’t even there to support him. Perhaps it was best that way; they were safer at Hogwarts, after all. A sigh escaped her rosy lips as she tucked the letter away in her bag. She needed to find Ron so he could read the letter as well. Considering most students left Hogwarts during the holidays (a significantly greater amount had left this year due to the circumstances), Hermione decided finding Ron wouldn’t be too difficult a task.
She was wrong.
After searching through the corridors and select rooms, Hermione decided that her efforts were in vain, and resorted to returning to the Common Room. As her feet carried her back to the dorms - they certainly knew their way back to the Common Room after years of this routine - her mind began to wander. She thought back on the first time she had met Harry and Ron. They had been so young and carefree. None of them had seen this coming. The pain. The destruction. The death all around them. Horror hid around every corner, and Hermione wondered when it would be her unlucky turn to stumble upon it.
A rush of emotion overcame her as her feet came to a halt. The cold stone floor stretched out in front of her like a never-ending sea of despair. She could not escape. Her legs were heavy, she couldn’t move them another inch. How much longer could she stand there? She knew not. Biting her lip to hold back the tears, Hermione urged herself onwards.
Each step forward felt like a step in the wrong direction. How she longed to go back. Back to the beginning, before Voldemort’s return, before everything got so confused and complicated. Events fresh in her mind haunted her. She could hear her feet collide with the stone, echoing in her brain. The sound was deafening. To stop would be to give up, however, so she continued her struggle, knowing whatever she had to face was nowhere near the obstacles Harry was facing.
A muffled whimper reached her ears. It broke the fluidity of her motion, throwing her off balance. Staggering to regain her footing, she glanced around the room to find a huddled figure in a black Hogwarts cloak. White blond hair shone on top of the figure’s head, its face buried in its knees. Yet another whimper sounded, tearing through her flesh.
Taking a step towards the whimpering figure, the feeling of dread that was hanging over her head vanished. She no longer had the strange feeling that she was headed in the wrong direction. In fact, she felt as though this was the path she needed to walk down. It was as though this huddled person was her destiny.
Stopping just feet away from the figure, she froze. It had picked up its head, icy gaze staring straight through her. For the second time that day, she felt as though her flesh was papery thin, and easily punctured. Stumbling backwards, she stared in the eyes of Draco Malfoy.
“What are you…” she began.
“Granger!” Draco yelled, standing up abruptly, horror and embarrassment coating his words. “What do you think you are doing? Leave!”
Draco wiped his face dry with a swift movement. Hermione remained silent, unsure of what to say, and a bit hurt. Something in her gut told her that this boy needed her help. But the hatred coating his expression convinced her that this inkling was false.
“Did you hear me?” Draco persisted. “I told you to leave me alone!”
Hermione fought to hold back her emotions. She wanted to scream, to resist. But she couldn’t. Turning around unsteadily, Hermione returned to her journey back to the Common Room. Before she had even crossed the room, the familiar feeling that she was going the wrong way had found its way back into the pit of her stomach.
It was a solitary trip. The only sound was the collision of her feet with the stone floor and her heart beating faster and faster with each step. When she reached the Fat Lady, content in her portrait, she felt as though she had overcome an obstacle.
Upon entering the Common Room, Hermione immediately spotted Ron. The sight of his deep red hair and warm smile suddenly gave her encounter with Malfoy a dream-like quality. She began to question if it had even happened. How could she possibly be so choked-up over Malfoy?
“Ron,” Hermione called cheerfully. “I’ve been looking for you.”
Ron stood up to create a spot for Hermione to sit down. Once she had, he sat down next to her on the large, brown couch.
“I was sleeping, Hermione.” he said, yawning. “It’s only 8 o’clock.”
How could it possibly be 8 o’clock? Had she stayed up all night?
“Oh.” she answered. “Well… Hedwig brought a letter from Harry. He’s doing… alright.”
She dug in her bag for the letter. It was buried by several books. Cursing silently, Hermione pulled the paper from the depths of her bag. Frowning, she unfolded the note and handed it wordlessly to Ron.
Taking the paper in his hands, Ron began to read. Hermione watched his face for his reaction. When his eyes bulged and he let out a small gasp, she knew he had just finished reading the news about Wormtail. A laugh escaped her mouth before she could quiet it.
Ron looked up. “I don’t trust him.”
Hermione knew who he was referring too.
“Me neither,” she agreed. “But he wants to help, and they can’t exactly refuse information about You-Know-Who.”
Ron nodded, but his expression displayed his reluctance to accept the fact that his old rat, who was really Peter Pettigrew, who had betrayed Harry’s parents and Harry himself years ago, was now working for the Order.
A moment of awkward silence was broken when Ron stood up to retrieve a roll of parchment and a quill. Hermione looked over his shoulder and saw him write Dear Harry near the top of the parchment. He wrote with rapid jerking motions which resulted in rather sloppy, almost illegible penmanship.
“I’d better take this to the Owlery,” Ron told her, finishing his note and rolling it up in his palm.
As soon as he stood up to leave, the image of Draco returned to her brain.
“Ron,” she called to him, standing up, “I need to tell you something.”
Ron stopped, and turned around, a look of confusion present on his freckled face.
“Yes…?” he asked, eager to hear what she had to say.
“I saw Malfoy earlier.”
She could see him fidget, as though he didn’t particularly care for the subject of this new conversation.
“He was different, though. I saw him in the Entrance Hall… he was crouched in a corner. He was crying, Ron.”
Ron had been examining the state of his trainers (they were rather dirty and there was blue spot on his left shoe) but he looked up at the mention of Draco Malfoy shedding a tear.
“Malfoy was crying?” Ron asked, obviously amused.
“Ronald.” Hermione said sternly.
Ron’s gaze returned to his beat-up trainers.
“Why do you reckon he was crying?” Ron asked, genuinely wondering why Draco Malfoy could possible have something to cry about.
“I’m not sure.” Hermione said. “I felt bad for him, like he needed my help.”
Ron gave her an astounded look. Hermione looked away.
“Help him?” Ron asked, repulsed by the idea of helping Draco. “I’d rather take on an angry hippogriff than help that bastard!”
Hermione let out a sigh of despair. Of course he didn’t understand. He hadn’t been there to see the look of confusion in Draco’s eyes, or the tears falling freely from his eyes, washing away his emotions. He seemed numb, unable to communicate the fact that he needed help... desperately. Perhaps he was unaware of this fact.
A legacy had been thrust at him the day he was born, and he could not escape it. He was raised to believe that he was better than everyone else. Hermione believed it was this idea that drove him to believe that help from anyone would do more harm than good.
Ron could tell he had offended Hermione. Her lack of a comment sent him walking comfortingly in her direction. Hermione wanted to walk away, leave him alone in the Common Room, but her feet wouldn’t move. She didn’t know which direction to go next, so she allowed herself to collapse onto the couch where she was joined seconds later by Ron.
“Hermione?” Ron asked, worriedly. “Is there something you want to tell me?”
At first, Hermione was confused. But then his meaning became clear.
“I’m just worried about… Harry,” she lied, quickly changing ‘Malfoy’ to ‘Harry’ at the last minute to avoid an argument.
“Me too, Hermione.” Ron said, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Me too.”
Author’s Note: Well, that's that. Please review if you've read the chapter, I'd like to know how others respond to my writing. It helps me out a lot. Anyway, thanks for reading, and I'll have chapter two up quick. I know this chapter wasn't all that exciting - it was more of an introductory chapter. More action awaits.