Disclaimer I (sadly,) do not own any of the characters or settings pulled from the world of Harry Potter. Naturally, all of the credit for them goes to JK Rowling.
Chapter IX October, Hogwarts, Scotland. 1997 A.D.
"Hermione, how much longer are you going to keep this up?" Ginny demanded, leaning across the table. "We've been searching for hours, and have yet to find... well, whatever it is you're looking for,"
Across the table, Hermione paused flipping through the textbook open infront of her to look up at her friend. She glanced at Neville next to her, who was fast asleep, and drooling on his arm as he snored softly. Hermione sighed, looking down at her book again.
Ginny leaned back in her chair. "What is it you're looking for, anyway?"
Hermione shook her head and shut the book that she had been looking through, pushing it aside and pulling another from the stack. "I'm not sure, exactly," she admitted, "but I've been getting the feeling that something's not been right lately. There have been signs -"
"Like your sudden change in appearance," Ginny offered.
"And Draco's scar sending me into a new memory,"
Ginny pressed her lips together. "You know, I still don't understand how you found that scar in the first place -"
"And we can't forget that whole Bloody Lotus development in Divination," Hermione pressed on, pretending like she hadn't heard Ginny. Truth was, she didn't feel like talking about Draco much lately. He'd been showing up everywhere since their moment of bliss in that empty classroom - and then abrupt awkwardness after Hermione had seen Mark Antony's memory.
She had been trying to avoid him, but with no such luck.
Suddenly, Ginny leaned her elbows on the table, and pointed her half-eaten biscuit at her. "Now you're talking. I thought that I'd understood what you were going through, what with the whole journal madness and all, but this... I have no idea," she shook her head. "Frankly, it scares me,"
Hermione stared at Ginny. She didn't think those words would ever come out of her mouth before today, but they had. Fearless, tomboyish, rebellious Ginny was scared. And it was all her fault.
"I never meant to drag you into the middle of this, Gin," she said quietly.
"Hey, don't worry about it," Ginny replied. "Just think of it this way: the boys are off saving the world, so why can't we have a bit of our own excitement here without 'em?" She smiled warmly, and Hermione instantly relaxed a bit but the tension was still there. She could still feel Chione's presence in her mind, silenced but there.
She closed her eyes and exhaled, before managing a small smile back. Hermione opened her eyes again and tucked her hair behind her ear as she flipped through the pages of her new book. "Well, I suppose I've been trying to find out as much as I can about Mark Antony's life,"
"Hm," said Ginny as she flicked through the pages of her own book. "So far all I've read is that he had a couple of children with various women, including Cleopatra, fought in as many battles, and then commited suicide."
"That doesn't help us, though, does it?" Hermione muttered.
The corners of her mouth turned down slightly in disappointment as she continued to search. It was silent for a moment, save for the quiet murmurings of other students scattered throughout the library on Saturday afternoon and Neville talking to himself in his sleep. About what exactly, neither of them could be sure.
But, as Ginny was sitting closer to him, and judging by the occassional flushing of her cheeks, it was safe to assume that he was talking about her. Hermione decided that it would be safer not to ask.
Ginny grabbed another biscuit from her bag lying on the table. "It would be so much easier if we could get a look at their tomb," she mused quietly. As Ginny took another bite out of her biscuit, scanning the page infront of her, Hermione stared at her.
"Ginny," Hermione said.
"Hm?" She replied without looking up.
"You're a genius,"
This time, she did look up. "What?" Ginny inquired, her eyebrows pulling together in confusion and her biscuit hovering infront of her mouth.
Hermione shut her book, leaning across it. "Getting a look at the tomb ourselves? That's a brilliant idea!" She exclaimed. "Then we would have solid evidence, and we'd be first-hand witnesses,"
"Yes," agreed Ginny slowly, "but I sincerely doubt that Headmistress McGonagall will let us just waltz off grounds because we want to take an impromtu trip to Egypt for undisclosed reasons,"
"Fair point," Hermione replied, slumping back into her seat again.
Ginny shut her own book and put it back on the stack, before standing and gathering them up. "That's not to say that we shouldn't give it a shot, though," she explained. "Although, we may have to wait a while. Until the holidays, maybe," Hermione nodded, grabbing the book she had been looking through and following Ginny's example.
As she approached where Ginny stood in the stacks, a silhouette moved out of the corner of her eye. Hermione spun around to see who was there, but there was nothing but the sound of a few girls laughing near the back of the library.
"Hey," someone said suddenly, making Hermione jump back and knock a few textbooks from the shelf. Behind her, Neville stood with his hands raised defensively. "Sorry! I didn't mean to scare you. I just saw that you guys were putting up the books and figured that I should put mine up, too,"
"It's fine. You probably should've warned us first," Ginny glanced at Hermione as she knelt down to pick up the books that had fallen, "but it's fine. Although you, Hermione, look anything but."
"No, I'm fine. I just thought I saw..." she subtly peered around the stacks, "something."
Ginny stood up again, arranging the various books in her hands so that they were all facing the same way. "Something," Ginny repeated, "or someone? Your answer makes all the difference in the world you know -"
"Hey, Ginny, you dropped something," Neville rushed forward and picked something up from the floor at her feet.
It was a folded up piece of parchment.
Her eyebrows pulled together in confusion as she set down the books in her hands on a nearby table and took the parchment from him. "I did...?" Ginny glanced at Hermione as she cautiously opened it. A moment later, her eyes widened. "Oh my God." She looked up again. "You're never going to believe this,"
Neville took the parchment from her, scanning it just as quickly.
"No way," breathed Neville. Hermione snatched the parchment out of his hands then, curiosity overwhelming her. Immediately, she recognized Headmistress McGonagall's penmanship.
Mr. Ronald Bilius Weasley,
It is my abundant pleasure to inform you that, due to your exceptional performance in school as well as outside of it, you have been chosen to represent Gryffindor house in the prestigious, and widely respected position of Head Boy this term. Please be aware that this position of Head Boy is by no means a right, and can therefore be revoked as easily as it had been given...
Hermione stopped there. She was afraid that, if she read any further, it would become more and more real. She looked up at her friends helplessly. "Do you really think this is -"
"It has to be, Hermione," Neville pointed out. "If he had turned up this term, he would've been in his seventh year, and he was a Prefect before. It's more than likely. There is no denying what is right infront of our eyes,"
"He's right," piped up Ginny.
Hermione shook her head, before closing her eyes and leaned her head back against the shelf. "I hate to admit this," she said, "but you -" Hermione inhaled deeply, "You were right about Draco."
They sat there in silence for a long moment, and this time, it was really quiet. Not even the giggling girls in the back were having their occassional round of guffaws. Even the books sorting themselves high above their heads were making their ways to their respective shelves in silence. Ginny stared up at them for a while, just waiting for one of them to go rogue and fling itself at her.
Then she shut her eyes and shook her head, before opening them again. When she did, she saw something pass behind Neville. "Holy -" she blurted suddenly. "Did you see that?"
"What?" Neville frowned, turning round. Hermione opened her eyes, straightening up and finding Ginny pulling out her wand as she slowly made her way toward the end of the stacks.
"Ginny, what are -"
"Shh!" Ginny hissed, pressing her finger to her lips as she looked back over her shoulder at them.
Hermione and Neville exchanged a look, before looking back at Ginny in silence. She crept to the edge of the bookshelf, counted to three with her fingers, before jumping out with her wand held out before her. She scoffed, reaching forward and pulling someone into sight. "Well, well," Ginny said, "look who's decided to join the party."
She was holding the collar of a thin, lanky, mousy brown haired boy with a gray newsboy cap on low over his eyes, but Hermione recognized him instantly. It wasn't difficult, seeing as he had his trusty camera hanging around his neck for the entire world to see.
"Colin! This is seriously getting out of hand!" Hermione shouted. She walked right up to him and yanked the camera's strap over his head, holding it out of his reach.
"Hey! That was a birthday present from my grandparents!" Colin yelled back, his eyes wide and pleading. "D-don't break it, please! My mum will murder me if she finds out, and my grandpa will seriously be devastated! You don't understand!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Oh, I think you should have thought about that before you decided to pledge your allegiance to that wench of a journalist Rita Skeeter,"
At that, he stopped struggling against Ginny's hold on his shirt.
"Wait, what are you talking about?" He demanded.
She glared at him. "Don't try to play dumb, Colin," Hermione told him. "It's too late for that now -"
"I am serious!" Colin shouted, watching with horror as she pulled out her wand. "I've never talked to the woman in my life! You're right, she's horrible, hence why no one, not even me, would want to work for her! You've got to believe me!"
"Then why are you following me?!" Hermione shouted back. She had already forgotten that they were in the library. Any minute now, Madam Pince would be back there to kick them out.
Ginny let go of his collar and Colin's knees buckled, sending him to the floor. "I was paid, alright? I was paid off to follow and take pictures of you, as many as I could! I'm a terribly crap person! I'm sorry!"
Hermione and Ginny exchanged a shocked look.
She couldn't seem to find her voice.
"What?" Neville managed to say for her. "By who?"
Colin was shaking.
"I - he - his name was -"
"What in the name of Merlin's trousers is going on back here?" Madam Pince appeared then at the opposite end of the aisle. She gave the scene a quick once over, her eyes lingering on Colin, who remained curled up on the floor. "All of you, out! Out! You have been making way too much noise to be just studying!" She scoffed. "What d'you think, I was born yesterday?"
"Sorry, Madam Pince," Hermione murmured, grabbing Neville's arm and dragging him down the aisle toward Ginny. "We were just leaving,"
They hurried through the library and then out into the corridor. Ginny shook her head in disbelief as she leaned against the wall outside the library. She slid down it to the floor and put her head between her knees.
"This is mad. No," she admonished, "this is completely mental. With a capital M," Ginny clenched her teeth together. "You find this odd journal, you hear the voice of an ancient princess talking to you in your head, you get this sudden change of appearance, Draco starts to fancy you out of the blue, you get a deadly omen from some tea leaves, and now you've got a stalker," she leaned her head back. "I mean, what the fuck is going on, Hermione?"
"I think Ginny's pretty much summed it up," Neville agreed. "What's been up with you lately?"
Hermione groaned and dropped down on a stone bench across the corridor, burying her face in her hands. "Don't you think that's what I'm trying to figure out?" She demanded. "I am the one living all of this. It's not as cavalier and peaceful over here as you think,"
Ginny ran her hand through her hair.
"We know," she sighed. "That's why we're so worried: because we don't know what's coming. Any of us. But what we do know is that it's nothing good,"
"Trelawney pretty much made sure of that," Neville added with a bitter nod, sitting down next to Hermione.
Hermione frowned. This was more than she could take. She looked down, and found that she still had Ron's letter in her hand. He had been the original Head Boy. They would've ended up together after all, but maybe fate had other plans. Maybe that was why he had decided to skip out on this term. Maybe that was why Chione was pushing her towards Draco.
But maybe there was something else going on altogether...
"What are we going to do?" Ginny exhaled finally. Hermione looked down at her, only staring for a moment, thinking. Then she clenched her fingers into a fist around the piece of parchment.
Hermione stood up. "We have to speak to McGonagall,"
Once they reached the Headmistress' tower, Hermione gave the gargoyle at the entrance the password ("treacle tart"), and then they hurried up the spiraling staircase to the office at the top. The door was open, so they knocked hesitantly as they pushed it open to its full extent.
Headmistress McGonagall's office was the same as it had been the last time Hermione had visited, with its tartan drapes over the various windows, and the shelves stuffed with thousands of books on every subject one could imagine. Except it seemed as though her office was less... tidy today, like she had been searching for something, but in a neat way.
At the farthest corner of the room was the Headmistress herself, high up on a ladder with books hovering all around her as she rearranged the ones on the shelf. "Um... Headmistress?" Hermione cleared her throat loudly as she took a step towards her.
She gave a slight start, and peered down her nose at them.
"Oh!" McGonagall said, snapping a book shut. "Miss Granger!" She waved her wand, and all of the books in the air flew back into place on the shelf, as her ladder shrank to the floor. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"Are you... looking for something?" Neville inquired, glancing around at the mess of things as McGonagall approached them.
She made a face.
"Yes, well," she began, "I have been getting the feeling that I'm forgetting something very important, but I haven't got any idea what," McGonagall shook her head. "It's maddening,"
"Right," Hermione replied. "Well, we've come to ask you a question about the selection process for the positions of Head Boy and Girl,"
McGonagall stopped searching through the drawers of her desk to look at Hermione skeptically. "Weren't you made Head Girl this term, Ms. Granger?" She inquired, raising an eyebrow questioningly. Hermione swallowed and nodded.
"Yes, but -"
"I thought so," she continued, going back to her searching. "How is Mr. Weasley? Staying out of trouble, I hope?"
Hermione glanced at her friends.
"Don't you mean Mr. Malfoy?"
"What?" McGonagall asked.
"Malfoy," she repeated, taking a measured step towards the Headmistress' desk. "Draco Malfoy is Head Boy this term, not Ronald Weasley,"
McGonagall looked up at her, and blinked blankly. "Isn't that what I said?"
Ginny shook her head. "No, I'm pretty sure you said -"
"Oh! Won't you all look at the time," the Headmistress said suddenly, cutting across her as she rushed around her desk. "You three had better be going or you'll be late!" She started ushering them towards the door.
"But, Headmistress, we haven't got any classes today," Neville protested.
"No matter," she replied. "You should still get going," McGonagall was practically pushing them now. "What a beautiful day? Why waste it in this stuffy old building?"
Hermione turned to face her when they got to the door, holding up the parchment. "Can't you just read -" Slam. The door to McGonagall's office shut in her face before she could finish her sentence.
Reluctantly, they turned and retreated down the stairs back to the corridor.
"I'm not sure about you," Neville said, "but that was really weird to me. McGonagall's never put anyone out so rudely, or even as quickly,"
"I agree," Ginny added.
They stopped just outside of the entrance to the Headmistress' tower, watching as the gargoyle returned to its place in the arch concealing the staircase behind it. Its cruel face glared down at them, its mouth twisted in an evil scowl. Neville was right. Something weird was going on here.
"It's like we're all apart of someone's little puppet show," Hermione told them quietly, "each of us marionettes bound to the strings forcing us to play along with their game,"
"So you think someone's confunded the Headmistress?" Ginny hissed in disbelief. "That's hardly possible -"
Hermione looked at her, raising her eyebrows.
"Isn't it?" She extended her arm towards the entrance to the tower. "You saw her, you heard what she had said about feeling like she was forgetting something important. She didn't even remember who the Head Boy was, and she had probably been at the meeting herself! That is exactly why we went in there, Ginny. We needed proof that Draco wasn't to be trusted, and we've got it. Isn't that what you'd wanted all along?"
"I did, but..." she trailed off, looking away.
Hermione frowned. "But what?"
Neville stepped up, coming to stand between them and looking from one to the other. "I think what she's trying to say is that, even though she had, and probably still has a grudge against Malfoy," he explained, "this is much bigger than all of us."
AN Alright, there was Chapter nine. We've almost made it to chapter ten :) I'm really happy and grateful for everyone that's supported this story from the beginning, you all are absolutely wonderful, as well as everyone that's helped me on the forums! Thanks so much!
Well, sorry for making it a bit shorter than usual, but that's where it naturally came to a stop, so I left it. How did you like everything? Any new conclusions you've come to? How about Colin Creevey? Have you now come to any realizations about his madness? He's not working for Skeeter, surprise, surprise. And what does that make you think of Draco?
Hm... excitement brewing?
General feedback/comments/concerns/questions/suggestions/criticisms are welcome and appreciated as always! Thanks for taking the time to read! :)