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Chapter 3 : Inked Pages
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September, Hogwarts, Scotland. 1997 AD.
Four days later, on an overcast Friday morning, Hermione found herself sitting in Headmistress McGonagall's office anxiously in an uncomfortable wooden chair with a thin tartan upholstered cushion, on one side of the nearly spotless mahogany desk before her, upon which laid a very neat stack of professional looking sheets of parchment. At the corner of the desk next to her name placard, was a tin (of cookies, she presumed) which had a few frenetic members of the Hollyhead Harpies painted on the outside, waving up at her and smiling with their broomsticks tucked under their arms.
As she waited, Hermione's left foot tapped subconsciously on the floor to a silent beat. Not only was she worried about missing Arithmancy, she was anxious to know why the Headmistress had summoned her during class, because doing so must mean that the matter was of life and death, or something along those lines. Hermione could distinctly hear the quiet murmur of the gossiping portraits of earlier Headmasters around her, speculating about why she'd been summoned, too.
The portraits, it seemed, were just as curious to know what was going on as she was.
Then there was Dumbledore. His portrait hung on the wall behind McGonagall's chair, depicting him seated calmly in his high backed chair, with his white beard flowing down his front and his eyes gazing steadily at her down his long crooked nose. The smile on his lips told her he knew something the others didn't.
Hermione's hand swiftly flew to the place where her timeturner was concealed beneath her crisp white oxford shirt, just below the second button. Perhaps the Ministry had finally found out that McGonagall had let her hold onto it, and now they wanted it back. But wait... she hadn't used it in four years, so why would they care that one was missing now?
She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, willing herself to calm down. You're overreacting, A voice inside her head told her firmly: a voice that wasn't her own. Hermione's brown eyes quickly open again, just as the door opened, McGonagall walked in, and the portraits all went quiet save for the odd greeting here and there.
Hermione glanced up at Dumbledore's portrait again, but he was looking away now.
"Ms Granger, thank you for meeting me this morning," Headmistress McGonagall announced as she lowered her frail-looking frame into her lush, high-backed chair. "It has come to my attention that your usually outstanding performance in your classes has been lacking this week. I have recieved a few letters of concern and one of complaint from your professors. It is so unlike you,"
McGonagall looked rather concerned herself, as if poor class performance was now an ailment that needed to be handled with care. She looked pityingly at Hermione from behind her round spectacles. It was hard to look away. "Pardon me for the inquiry, Headmistress, but wouldn't pulling me from class be contributing to my performance level as well?" She asked, her brows pulling together.
The old Headmistress took off her glasses with a deep exhale, setting them down on the polished surface of her desk, and rubbing the bridge of her nose. "All right, then I will try and keep this as simple as possible." She agreed dryly. "Tell me, what has been bothering you so?"
"Nothing, Headmistress." Hermione replied, adjusting her grip on the strap on her satchel. She was suddenly all too aware of Chione's journal on her right thigh inside of it.
"I don't mean to pry," McGonagall sighed, lacing her fingers together on the desktop and looking at Hermione. She looked younger and more feline with her glasses off, a rare thing anyone ever had the chance to see for themselves. "But could it have anything to do with Mr. Potter and Mr. Weasley's abrupt departure?"
Hermione's mouth went dry and her eyes promptly met McGonagall's. "Yes..." She lied, trying to swallow. "That's it." Her eyes stung just thinking about Harry and Ron.
It wasn't completely untruthful. She had been distracted by the fact that they were not there anymore to study with her and keep her company, but it had to be bigger than that. She could admit to herself that she'd had a nervous breakdown during Potions when her potion had begun to smoke and she'd flipped frantically through the pages of her book, checking and re-checking the procedure to make sure she had done everything right. She could also admit to herself that the fraction of a second where she had claimed that Draco was much smarter than herself and had prayed that he'd walk in and save the day, had actually happened and she hadn't imagined anything at all (as much as she wished she had).
But she would only admit those things to herself. Not to McGonagall, Ginny, any of her various other classmates, and especially not Draco Malfoy. He had a big enough ego as it was.
"I've been keeping an eye on them for a while now, upon Molly Weasley's request. Phineas has agreed to relay weekly updates, as long as they are at Grimmuald Place. So far, all is well, but very quiet." Headmistress McGonagall assured Hermione, with a small nod - her equivalent of a smile.
"That's really great." Hermione admitted with a small smile. It was good that they were safe and doing well, but it still didn't forgive the fact that they'd left without her. They were supposed to be best friends and they were supposed to fight side by side everytime. They'd only been doing it since they were eleven. Harry and Ron had broken tradition.
"What?" I hissed as Ron ushered me into the sitting room of the Burrow and Harry shut the door quietly behind us. My eyes flickered from one boy to the other, the heat rising in my cheeks and ears rapidly.
"Look, 'Mione, we know you've won the trip to Egypt and all... and we want you to take it. You only get an opportunity like this once in a lifetime -" Ron tried to reason, his hand squeezing my shoulder for a moment before I angrily shook it off, my eyes widening.
"Finding a way to bring down You-Know-Who is just as rare an opportunity, Ron! If I could choose that over Egypt, you know I'd choose it anyday! I'm ready!" I whisper-shouted.
Ron and Harry exchanged a look when Harry finally came to stand next to his best mate. Then Harry took a step forward, looking apologetic. I took a step backward. "Ron and I... we don't think it would be in your best interest to come with us, 'Mione. I mean, it's going to be really dangerous and we love you too much to let anything bad happen to you -"
"I don't need you protecting me! I want to fight alongside you - both of you - not stand by and watch from the sidelines." I snapped.
"Hermione, you're not understanding what we're trying to -"
"Yes, I do. You're telling me that you don't want me along because I'm a poor girl who can't defend herself, a liability. I think I understand completely." I narrowed my eyes, my nostrils flaring.
Harry exhaled deeply in exasperation, scratching his forehead where his scar was for a second before moving his hand to his hair when I noticed. Ron sighed, glancing at Harry and motioning for him to leave the room. "Could you give us a second, mate?" He asked quietly. We watched him leave, before Ron turned to face me again, crossing to where I stood a few feet away.
Then he wrapped his arms around me and held me tight to his strong chest. With one tired sigh, I melted into him, closing my eyes and listening to the beat of his heart. I knew that he meant well, but I wasn't about to give in that easily. In his arms, I calmed down considerably.
"Ron, you know you can't just leave me behind, right?" I told him evenly, pulling away to look at his face.
When he looked back at me, his face was grave and his eyes were sorry. "I don't have a choice, 'Mione." Ron explained simply, brushing my hair behind my ear. "I couldn't bear to lose you in all of... this." I looked up at him steadily, my heart doing backflips. "I love you too much," He said, before having a coughing fit and letting go of me. "I mean, you're my best mate. Besides Harry, of course -"
I smiled. "It's okay, Ron, I get it." I assured him. He rubbed the back of his neck, looking up at me through his eyelashes.
"Okay then. Well, Harry and I have to go finish up our plans, but I'll see you tomorrow before you go back home, yeah?" He smiled back, heading to the door. I nodded, my heart sinking.
Hermione blinked, her eyes finding Headmistress McGonagall again before she shifted a little in her seat. "I'm sorry I was just... thinking." Hermione explained, taking a deep breath. "What were you saying?" She exhaled.
McGonagall's lips pressed together into a hard line, before she extended her arm to the door. "I'd said that you were free to go for now."
"Oh." She blinked, feeling her face growing hot in embarrassment. She should've chosen a better moment to reminisce. Hermione stood. "Well, I suppose I should be on my way then." She turned and left McGonagall's office, hurrying down the spiral staircase until she managed to stumble out into the corridor at the very same moment the clock chimed twelve o' clock and everyone began flooding out of their classrooms.
Hermione made her way down the corridor in the opposite direction of the majority of the people heading to the Great Hall for lunch, much to her empty stomach's chagrin. After the fiasco in the common room on Monday, no more trays of breakfast had shown up in her bedroom, and she had been having trouble sleeping ontop of that. She would sleep for an hour or two, then she'd wake up from a bad dream before staring out of her window at the starry sky for a while, until she fell asleep again or the sun came up - whichever came first.
She remembered that she'd agreed to sit with Ginny at lunch today, but she was sure that Ginny would understand when she explained that she just needed to be alone for a while.
Eventually, Hermione found her way to the Head Tower, where she told the portrait of Rowena Ravenclaw the password before climbing through the portrait hole and emerging in the common room. She proceeded to cross it, removing her satchel, when she heard hushed voices coming from the corner.
She looked around. Kneeling infront of the crackling flames of the fireplace was Draco, speaking in hushed tones with someone she could not see. Hermione crouched down behind a couch against her better judgement.
"H-how is Father?" She heard Draco ask the flames, in a much more timid tone than his usual one of coldness.
A woman's voice laughed without humor. "Still bitter, as usual." She replied. "But I'm sure he will cool down eventually, dear. These things take time, Draco, there's no need to worry -"
"I'm not worrying," He snapped back.
"You just seem a bit tense," The woman admitted with a sigh. Draco's shoulders slumped slightly, his stiff demeanor slowly disappearing. "Perhaps I can get you an appointment with my masseuse when you come home. Jose's methods work wonders both mentally and physically -"
"Mother, this is serious! How can you discuss such things when my father is on the verge of disowning me for disobeying the Dark Lord, and the Dark Lord himself is out for my head on a platter?" Draco demanded angrily. "You've gone to stay with your mother in Stockholm as an added measure of safety!"
"Your father insisted that it would be for the best, Draco." Narcissa told him calmly, as if that explained it all and made everything okay.
But it wasn't.
Draco knew that.
"What if the Dark Lord gets to me before I get a chance to see you again?" He asked, his voice hitching near the end. Draco sounded like he was about to cry just from the thought. Hermione was all choked up just listening to him, so choked up, in fact, that the strap of her bag slipped from her hand and dropped to the floor with a loud thud, a bottle of ink rolling out of it.
She crawled quickly to get it, but by the time she'd gotten to it Draco's hand had a tight hold on her cardigan and he was pushing her against a wall, his wand pointed threateningly at her face.
"Were you spying on me?" He demanded of her.
Hermione's eyes widened and she started shaking her head vigorously. "No! You see, the thing is... I was just... I had walked in and -"
"You know, that's pretty low," Draco seethed, glaring daggers down at her with his steel-gray eyes. He shook his head, looking disgusted. "Especially for you, Mudblood." His eyes searched hers for a moment, for some reason as to why she would want to spy on a seemingly private, very personal conversation. But all he found was the pure innocence of two round, chocolate brown eyes.
Two round, chocolate brown eyes he couldn't seem to take his eyes off of.
On Hermione's end, she could see that he was hurt, amongst other things. It was an emotion she had never seen on him before, but it made sense, given his situation with his father, his mother's moving to Sweden, and the bounty on his head. He was alone, and she knew how that felt. She just couldn't seem to open her mouth and tell him that.
Draco abruptly pulled away and stalked away, across the common room and through the portrait hole, mumbling a quick apology before disappearing down the corridor. Not a moment later, Ginny ambled into the Tower, looking bemused. Hermione understood why before Ginny said anything.
"That looked like Draco Malfoy, but I wasn't entirely sure because Malfoy doesn't apologize for anything." She told Hermione as she approached her, and Hermione moved away from the wall.
"Yeah, that was him," Hermione confirmed, staring at the portrait hole.
Ginny looked up at her, her expression shifting. "Are you alright? You didn't meet me for lunch like you said you would, so I came to see if you were here. Plus, you look as confused as I feel." She observed, her brows furrowing. "Now that I think about it, you've been this way all week."
Hermione sat down in a scarlet armchair, rubbing at her temples and exhaling. "You're the second person today to tell me that I've been acting different lately." Hermione told her.
"I am really sorry to burst your bubble," Ginny began, sitting on the arm of Hermione's chair. "But you have been acting different lately."
She looked up at her resentfully. "Thanks,"
Ginny just shrugged, "As your best friend I'm entitled to tell you everything like it is."
"You know you're the best friend I could ever ask for," Hermione said, managing a smile as her eyes flickered to her discarded bag at the foot of the couch. "But I've got a ton of homework that I want to get started on, Gin, so I'm going to have to miss lunch. Again."
"Hermione..." Ginny warned, her eyes following her as Hermione stood up. In response, Hermione gave her a small, pretty-please-with-cherries-ontop smile. Ginny rolled her eyes with a sigh and stood up as well. "Fine. Since I'm a good friend, I will bring something by later. Ham and cheese sandwich okay?"
"That's perfect," She assured her, watching as Ginny left the common room, too.
Hermione went to her satchel and pulled out Chione's journal, flipping through it to the next page after the last one she had read, finding that the next few had been ripped clear out. She blinked, not quite believing her eyes. When the hell did this happen?
Well, her common sense told her that it must have been sometime long before she'd come across the tomb. She pulled her wand from her pocket and pointed it at the torn pieces of paper.
"Reparo." She murmured instinctively.
Of course nothing had happened, seeing as there weren't any other pieces of parchment littering the journal or anywhere nearby. Whoever had torn the pages out had made very sure to dispose of them immediately. Hermione thought for a moment, sitting down again, this time on the arm of the couch. Then, once that moment had passed, she pointed her wand at the journal again.
"Aparecium." Hermione commanded.
Again, nothing happened. Hermione groaned: that was all she could come up with at the present moment. She mentally shook herself. Of course it hadn't been written in invisible ink! Chione had been a muggle.
At this revelation, her heart sank.
Well, so much for coming up with a way to find out what had been on those pages. If the pages had simply been disposed of the old fashioned way, then there was nothing more that she could do to get that information back. With a disappointed sigh, Hermione began to close the journal, when there was a tiny flash of light and something began to appear on the page. Out of shock she jumped to her feet. In a few seconds, twelve words adorned the parchment.
Come now, Hermione. Did you really think it would be that easy?
With a strangled gasp, the journal slipped from her hands and fell to the floor. She remembered hearing about something like this happening five years ago - when the Chamber of Secrets had been reopened and Ginny had discovered Tom Riddle's diary. Hermione was way too shocked to touch the thing again, let alone look at it now. What if this had all been some kind of trap?
Maybe You-Know-Who was targeting her now, seeking information on Harry's whereabouts...
The windows smacked open in a sudden, strong gust of wind, and the pages of the old journal began to flip rapidly until they reached the blank page Hermione had been on earlier. Hermione looked down at it, taking two furtive steps forward and squinting as new words formed on the page.
I am not Lord Voldemort, and this is not a trap. It read. Hermione fought the urge to snort in disbelief. That only proved every suspicion she had correct. Did this thing really think she was that stupid? Thunder crashed outside and it began to rain. She took that as a no.
Her heart began to race and pound in her ears. How had it known what she was thinking? She hadn't written anything in it like Ginny had. Hermione blinked a few times and then rubbed her eyes. Maybe she was just seeing things and needed a quick nap before History of Magic. She exhaled deeply, trying to calm herself down before nodding.
Yes. That would be the plan. Nap for a half an hour, then wake up in time for class, refreshed and completely sane (more or less).
When she opened her eyes again, there was yet another message adorning the worn page of Chione's journal. Hermione's heart sank. So much for that nap.
Before you rest, there is something you need to see.
The words faded away the second she finished reading the message, instantly replaced by different, more distinct lines filling up the page. The lines slowly turned to figures, and figures became more defined. Hermione walked forward and knelt down on the floor infront of the journal, reaching out to pick it up again in curiosity. Her fingertips hovered momentarily over a figure of a woman in a dark cloak looking over her shoulder, whose face was very easily distinguishable: it was her. Hermione's forehead creased. It surely looked like her, but she never remembered doing anything resembling the scene on the page. She gradually lowered her fingertips to the page.
Once they made contact, the room began to spin and she was quickly enveloped in darkness.
AN Well, that was Chapter 3, and my second attempt at bringing up some of the old Draco when he threatened Hermione with his wand. But I'm still iffy about the part where he walks away, and I know there will be a ton of questions as to why. I don't know why, to be honest. Perhaps he sees something in her, knows how she feels (i.e. alone) and all that. Feel free to imagine up your own conclusions, :). I know I was supposed to explain the signifcance of the time turner in this chapter, but I switched it up and it'll be in the next chapter or two instead! Cross your fingers everyone! :P A little feedback/suggestions on the end would be wonderful. Portkey? Apparition? Voodoo spells from Ancient Egypt? I want to know your thoughts on what may have happened!
I'm probably rambling now, so thank you for reading! General feedback/comments/concerns/suggestions/criticism are appreciated as always.
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