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Chapter 7 : Metamorphosis
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October, Hogwarts, Scotland. 1997 A.D.
"Hermione, have you been listening to a word I've been saying?" No response. "Hermione?" Ginny leaned across the table, putting her hand ontop of the journal and snapping her fingers. "Hello?"
Hermione blinked, slowly dragging her eyes away from the journal. "What? Sorry, Gin, I was just sort of... distracted for a moment,"
"A moment?" Ginny repeated. "That was hardly a moment, Hermione. You'd been staring at that thing since we sat down an hour ago. You haven't even opened your textbook or taken out any parchment,"
"Have I?" Hermione inquired. She stroked the cover with her fingertips, for about half a second, before it was snatched out from beneath her fingers.
When she looked up, Ginny was dropping it into her bag.
"This isn't healthy Hermione! You've been obsessing over the thing ever since I told you that you needed to get rid of it," she told her. "Speaking of which," Ginny put down her quill, "why haven't you gotten rid of it yet? It's been nearly a month -"
"I've been busy!" Hermione shouted back.
She leaned back in her seat and folded her arms over her chest, looking away from her friend and out the window. She hated to admit it but Ginny was right. It had been almost a month since she had suggested that she get rid of Chione's journal, for fear that it would reveal its true intentions sooner rather than later. And yet, she just could not bring herself to do it.
Chione's voice would come to her whenever she contemplated throwing it into the hearth, or destroying it by magic, cleverly persuading her that against it. But if she ever did succeed in ridding herself of it, the journal would reappear in her room, on her desk the next morning.
How, or why, she did not know.
But she knew better than to tell Ginny, because it would only ignite her suspicions of foul play even further. The bell rang suddenly, and Ginny stood up, packing away her things. "Come on, then," Ginny said when she noticed Hermione staring at her. "It's lunch time," With a nod, she followed suit and they left the library together.
The corridors were flooded with students as usual, some milling aimlessly about while others made their way through the crowd in every direction. Ginny led the way, forging a path as they headed for the stairwell.
Hermione was just vaguely aware of all the eyes watching her, looking on with intent.
Eventually, they made it to the Entrance Hall, and by then the staring had become accompanied by whispers. Hermione began to feel more and more self-conscious with every step she took. As they approached the open doors to the Great Hall, someone called out.
"Ginny! Hey, wait up!" Ginny turned around to see who'd called her name, and her cheeks flushed.
"Neville," she gasped as the person hugged her, "it's good to see you again." Neville let go of her then. "How was your summer?"
He shrugged. "Alright, I guess," he told her. "Just the usual two months helping out around the house for Gran, and checking up on my parents. Yours?"
Ginny averted her gaze, and exhaled quietly, rubbing the back of her neck awkwardly.
"Well, it wasn't boring," she admitted with a half-hearted laugh.
"That's -" Neville began, before stopping when Hermione turned round to face them. "Hermione? Wow, I didn't even recognize you!"
"Really?" She asked, slightly confused.
Ginny took the opportunity to look around. Everyone was still whispering, and watching them. "Er, 'Mione? Why is everybody staring at you all of a sudden?" Ginny inquired, looking at her herself.
Neville raised an eyebrow. "Haven't you noticed?" He said. "She is much tanner now, and her hair is darker and -"
"It's longer," Ginny pointed out. "How'd you manage to grow it out so fast? I swear to Merlin that it was just to your shoulders last week,"
"And her eyes are lighter," he added, leaning in for a better look.
Hermione suddenly felt like she was being viewed and scrutinized under a microscope. This was all making her feel self-conscious. She took a step back. "W-What're you on about? There is nothing different about me,"
"Au contraire, Mudblood," said someone behind her just as she ran into something. Hermione spun around. It was Astoria. "Like I said before, no matter what you do to yourself you will never fit in, not really. You're just an old dog that needs to be put down," Astoria began to saunter away and Ginny put her hand on Hermione's shoulder sympathetically.
"She's just a jealous cow,"
Yes, said Chione's voice venomously in Hermione's head, as she narrowed her eyes and clenched her fists at her sides. She really, really is. Hermione closed her eyes, the image of a cow flashing behind her eyelids for a moment, before disappearing. And then -
She heard someone gasp, a few people scream, and someone vaguely familiar ask "Have you seen Astoria?" With a shaky finger, Ginny pointed at the cow that was now standing right in the middle of the entrance to the Great Hall.
"If I'm not mistaken," she said, "that's Astoria."
Then Hermione collapsed.
The first thing Hermione saw when she woke up again were the fluorescent lights hanging high above her from the otherwise blank expanse of white ceiling. Everything was really blurry for a brief moment, until she found the strength to blink a few times to clear her vision. To her left, Hermione found Madam Pomfrey writing on a clipboard while measuring out a cup of something magically.
When she noticed her, Madam Pomfrey smiled. "Ah, there she is," she said cheerfully. "Welcome back, Ms. Granger. You sure took a nasty fall yesterday afternoon,"
"W-what happened?" Hermione inquired weakly.
"You passed out dear," explained Madam Pomfrey as the bottle of medicine returned to its place on the beside table, and she took the cup from the air, "and, bless your soul, broke the fall with your head."
Hermione reached up to touch her head and found a bandage wrapped around it. She winced as she touched a tender spot at the back. "Ouch," she muttered.
"Yes," said Madam Pomfrey, "here, drink this. You should feel quite a bit better once you have."
She handed the cup to Hermione, who took it gingerly, and sipped from it a bit. It had a strong peppermint taste that tingled as it went down. She looked up at Madam Pomfrey, who ushered her to finish it all. With a sigh, Hermione drank the rest and handed the cup back. As Hermione pushed herself into a sitting position she could feel the tingling in all of her limbs, right down to her toes; it was her strength returning to her.
Madam Pomfrey smiled, before turning and pushing back the curtain. Draco stood on the other side. "Oh, Mr. Malfoy," she exclaimed, giving a sudden start, "did you need something, dear?"
"Just a moment," he replied, looking directly at Hermione.
She glanced over her shoulder, understanding. "Of course," Madam Pomfrey said, nodding before walking off to tend to another student and leaving them alone. Draco walked over and sat down in the chair beside Hermione's bed, his eyes never leaving her face.
He leaned down to her ear and breathed, "I know it was you who turned Astoria into a cow."
"I didn't -" she began.
"You did," Draco countered, sitting down. "Don't try and deny it. She provoked you, as she often does, and you took action," the corners of his mouth pulled down as he looked away. "If given a chance, I probably would've done the same,"
Hermione pressed her lips together seriously, "Why are you here, Draco?"
Draco looked taken aback for a moment, as if he hadn't seen that coming. He stared at her steadily, their gazes locked for a few seconds before he looked away again, running a hand through his hair. "I don't know," he admitted, standing up, "Maybe I should go -"
"Wait!" She said, her hand on his arm. Draco stared at her hand, wondering how it got there. She was wondering the exact same thing. "I mean... that's not what I meant. You can stay," she said quietly, "if you'd like." Hermione retracted her hand, tucking both of them under her thighs as she chewed on her bottom lip.
Why had she said that?
She was supposed to hate him, not offer him a place by her bedside. He'd probably come to poison her or something. He cares for you, Chione told her. I can see that. Why can't you?
"Because it's not right," Hermione told herself.
Draco's eyebrows furrowed.
"What's not right?"
"Hermione! I heard you were awake and came as soon as I -" Ginny came running into the hospital wing, her cheeks flushed and a bright, relieved grin on her face. Well, until she saw Draco that is.
"I should go," he muttered, shoving his hands into the pockets of his trousers.
"Yeah," Hermione breathed back, "that would be smart." Draco made a beeline for the door just as Ginny stormed across the hospital wing, her eyes livid and her smile gone from her face.
She furrowed her brows as she reached Hermione. "Can't he take a hint?" Ginny demanded. "What is with that bloke?"
Hermione stared off the way he went thoughtfully.
"I have no idea,"
After a moment of glaring off into the distance, Ginny let it go with a dismissive wave. "Nevermind him," she said, "how are you feeling?"
"Better," Hermione sighed. "I think Madam Pomfrey gave me a -"
"Was that Draco?" Someone inquired suddenly. "Draco Malfoy?"
It was Neville.
"Yes," Ginny confirmed bitterly, looking at Hermione pointedly. "He was paying a visit to Hermione here. Isn't that sweet?" Her sarcasm was getting on Hermione's nerves, but she remained silent.
"What?" Neville asked, his brows furrowing skeptically. "Why would he be visiting you?"
Hermione leaned her head back.
"I don't know," she groaned. "Can we just... change the subject?"
"Yes, let's," agreed Ginny as she turned to Neville. "I thought I specifically told you not to follow me. How did you manage to get Binns to let you leave class anyway?"
Neville smirked, "Who said anything about him letting me?"
Ginny rolled her eyes, turning away as she shook her head. "Bloody hell," she muttered, dropping down into the chair that Draco had vacated earlier and burying her face in her hands.
"Since when are you such a rebel, Neville?" Hermione inquired, raising an eyebrow and chuckling.
He shrugged one shoulder. "Since fifth year, when Harry started up Dumbledore's Army, and we broke into the Department of Mysteries and went up against dozens of Death Eaters,"
Hermione smiled, "Fair enough,"
A minute later, Madam Pomfrey pushed aside the curtain and looked around at Hermione's new visitors. She clapped her hands together and Ginny looked up. "All right, visiting time is up. Ms. Granger needs to get her rest now,"
"She's been sleeping all day," Neville pointed out.
"Yes, but she's just taken a Strengthening Potion, and needs to rest for its full effects to kick in, so out," said Madam Pomfrey firmly, waving him along.
Ginny raised her hand. "I'd like to stay with her for a little while longer, if that's alright,"
Madam Pomfrey considered her for a moment, before sighing heavily. "All right, fine," she agreed, "but do not disturb Ms. Granger. Rest is absolutely vital for her to make a full recovery,"
"Hey, what about me -" Neville tried to say, but then the curtain shut infront of him.
Hermione looked at Ginny curiously as she pulled her legs to her chest and rested her chin on her knees. "Go on then," Ginny told her, "you heard the woman. We'll talk some more in the morning,"
That seemed like a promise.
Reluctantly, Hermione lay back down and rolled over so that her back was to Ginny, tucking her hands under her pillows as she closed her eyes and exhaled deeply. As she relaxed, she felt the sleepiness weigh in. She no longer felt strong. She felt... tired. Hermione yawned wide and, just as she was falling asleep, her fingertips grazed something under her pillow.
Something that had not been there before.
Something leather-bound and worn.
Hogsmeade Village is beautiful when it's blanketed with snow, with gleaming icicles hanging from the overhangs of the various shops, and the shop windows half frosted over. I have never seen anything like it. It's all so breathtaking. I tighten my grip on Godric's arm once we start walking again down the cobbled street. I look up at him. He's smiling smugly.
"What is so funny?" I inquire with mild confusion.
He glances at me briefly. "The look on your face," replies Godric. At this, I cannot help but smile back, rolling my eyes.
Children dart in and out of the various shops lining the street, but each and every one of them is filled to the breaking point with bodies trying to escape the cold air. I am more accustom to the warmth of my home in Cairo, but the cold does not bother me much. I'm not sure why this is.
"Fancy a pint?" Godric asks as we stop again, gesturing to a pub to his left with his thumb. As he awaits my response, he breathes into his hands and rubs them together.
I shrug, looking up at the sign above us. "Why not?"
He smiles, before leading me to the door and holding it open for me as I walk into the pub. Each person looks up when I walk in. I blush. The inhabitants of this establishment are predominantly male, young and old, and their eyes rove my body hungrily as Godric leads me to a booth near the back.
"Ignore them," he breathes into my ear as he walks past me to get to his seat. "They are just jealous that I've come here tonight with such a beautiful woman,"
I raise an eyebrow questioningly as he waves over the barmaid. "Is that so?" I inquire.
He nods, "Yes."
"Well, as flattering as that might've been, I do not require it," I tell him firmly as he orders our drinks. "I am not your trophy to show off to your pals. And I am certainly not your plaything,"
"Would you like to be?" Godric replies cheekily, leaning across the table towards me and biting his lip. My cheeks burn and I avert my eyes. "Tell me something," he says, "Why did you come here with me tonight?"
I gaze steadily out of the frosted window, watching as the tiny flakes of snow continue to flutter down to the ground. "You invited me," I remind him.
"Yes, I did," he confirms, "but you didn't have to agree."
"Well, you wouldn't have come if I hadn't agreed to accompany you," I point out. "Which would have been a shame, as it's such a beautiful night out tonight."
He chuckles, and I can feel his eyes on me. "It is indeed," Godric agrees softly.
"Tell me something, Godric," I say, turning to face him again. "Why have you been so persistent with me?"
"Well," he begins, "because you're not like the others. There's something about you that keeps me wanting to know more, which is not to say that I know very much about you as it is."
I sigh, looking down at the table. "I'm a very complex being," I murmur. "There are things about me that, if I told you, it would change the way you look at me, the way you think of me. I can't have that," I chance a glance at him.
To my surprise, I find him smiling.
"You care what I think of you?" Godric says, shocked.
I manage to smile back.
"Yes, I suppose I do,"
He starts to lean towards me, his eyes beginning to close. I think I'm ready for him to kiss me now, so I start leaning towards him, too. But just as my eyes begin to close, someone moves out of the corner of my eye. A flash of blonde hair and grey eyes. I straighten up, and Godric stumbles. "Wha -"
"I need some... air," I tell him quickly, standing up. "I'll be back in a moment," I turn and hurry through the crowd. No, this can't be right. Perhaps I've just been seeing things.
But still, I have to know...
Through the crowd, I see the top of his head - his blonde hair's cut short and rippling in the wind as he pushes the door to the pub open and rushes outside. I quicken my pace, pardoning myself as I squeeze through close-knit groups of people and past the barmaid working the room.
My heart is beating fast.
What if he's really here?
I push my way out the front door and a blast of frigid air hits me square in the face, stinging my eyes as I run out into the middle of the street and look around for him. No one's out here now, save for a few teenagers messing around by the joke shop down the road.
My heart slows back down as realization comes crashing down. Maybe I'm just seeing things. No. I am seeing things. He couldn't have been here. Mark Antony is dead.
"Chione!" I hear Godric calling to me as he runs to me from the pub. "Chione, is everything alright? You ran out of there so quickly I thought I'd done something wrong -"
"I'm fine," I tell him. "Everything's fine. Just... just thought I saw someone I knew,"
He looks around, before putting his cloak around my shoulders. "Chione, there's no one out here," he says to me. I look around again.
Even the suspicious teenagers have disappeared now.
I nod, "You're right."
"Come on," Godric insists, "let's go back inside." Reluctantly, I let him lead me back to the pub, but as we reach the door, I look back one last time, and when I do, I swear I see two stormy grey eyes watching me from the alley beside the joke shop.
Hermione woke up with a gasp, her entire body drenched in sweat as she shoots up in bed, jolting Ginny out of her sleep as well. She seemed to have fallen asleep in the chair next to the bed.
"What is it, 'Mione?" She asked, rubbing her eyes as she sat up straighter.
Breathing heavily, she gradually turned her head to look Ginny right in the eyes. "I think... I think Mark Antony is alive," Hermione said.
All Ginny could do was gape at her in disbelief.
AN Chapter seven! Sorry for the long wait, I was having trouble trying to figure out where I wanted the story to go after the last chapter but here's the final product of what I managed to come up with. How'd you like everything? I'm not too concerned with anything in particular, Perhaps, how did you think the bit about Mark Antony went? Did you like that twist, or was it odd? I'd really just like general feedback/comments/concerns/questions/etc on the chapter as a whole. Thanks for reading, as always :)
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