Hermione started forward, her expression concerned and confused, but Theo threw his arm out, already able to see what had scared Sam.
“Don’t, Hermione,” he murmured, relaxing his arm and gently pulling her towards him. Ron and Harry stepped around them and Hermione could hear Harry curse softly under his breath.
“Ron, you’re the fastest. Go.”
Ron nodded quickly and sprinted past them up the stairs, disappearing in a matter of moments. Fed up with not knowing what was happening, Hermione ducked around Theo’s arm to stand beside Sam and Mandy who were still rooted to the spot. At the foot of the marble staircase, a large pool of crimson liquid shone in the sunlight seeping in through the open door.
“Merlin…” Garrett breathed from behind Hermione. All she could do was nod in agreement, her eyes glued on the puddle.
“Is that…blood?” Mandy choked out, her voice breaking.
Theo and Harry were whispering quickly behind her, but Hermione couldn’t turn to join their conversation. She couldn’t even answer Mandy’s question. All she could do was stare. Finally, Terrance seemed to snap from the reverie that everyone had fallen into at the sight of the pool of blood.
“Mandy, Sam, c’mon…” he said softly, placing a hand on Sam’s shoulder—she looked ill. Terrance glanced at Garrett pleadingly and the taller boy nodded. With Garrett’s help, Terrance escorted the girls into the Great Hall and away from the spectacle at the foot of the stairs, leaving Hermione standing alone.
“Hermione?” Harry asked, his voice worried.
Turning, Hermione blinked at her friend.
“I have to go see what’s keeping Ron…I’ll be back soon, all right?”
Hermione nodded mutely and walked a few steps up the staircase before sitting down. Harry placed his hand on her shoulder comfortingly before dashing past her up the stairs, his footsteps falling silently despite the large and empty hall. Theo took a seat beside her.
“It was Malfoy,” he said through clenched teeth. “It had to be.”
Theo shook his head without replying. Hermione knew he thought that Draco was capable of murder.
“I thought he was all talk…” she whispered after a moment. Theo sighed and put a hand on her knee.
“It’s going to be okay, Hermione…Harry and Ron are getting Professor McGonagall…she’ll know what to do.”
Hermione nodded. A few moments passed in silence, Hermione wondering how many other people would see this spectacle if they emerged from the Great Hall before the Headmistress arrived...but she had no reason to worry. Professor McGonagall was hurrying down the stairs, her bottle green robes billowing around her as her eyes flashed around the Entrance Hall, Harry and Ron trailing behind her.
“Miss Granger, Mister Nott…what happened here?” she demanded, her eyes coming to rest on the shimmering puddle at the foot of the stairs. Hermione looked distraught, so Theo spoke up.
“We don’t know, Professor McGonagall…we came in from the grounds and found it like this.”
Professor McGonagall’s eyebrows rose menacingly.
“Potter, Weasley…I need to speak with the Heads. You may continue to your lunch.”
Harry looked torn, obviously wishing he could stay, but after a look from the Headmistress, he grabbed Ron’s arm and towed him into the Great Hall. Professor McGonagall produced her wand and sent the figure of a wispy silver cat flying down the hallway.
“I’ve sent for Professor Slughorn…he should know whether or not this is human blood.”
“Human blood, Professor?” she asked quietly. She hadn’t even considered that it might not be from a person.
“Yes, Miss Granger,” Professor McGonagall replied calmly. “I understand your concern though, and I’m glad you thought to contact me. Even if this is a ridiculous, elaborate prank…I need to know about these things.”
“What do we do after this?” Theo asked.
Professor McGonagall turned her gaze to him.
“Well…as Heads, you’ll need to try to keep things like this from happening anymore. You’ll have to patrol more or investigate who thinks this is a funny joke. We have to put a stop to it.”
Hermione was nodding.
“Of course, Professor.”
As they fell into silence once more, Professor Slughorn came puffing up the hallway from the dungeons. He looked sweaty and out of breath.
“Minerva, your patronus wouldn’t leave me alone until I came up here! I was dealing with something important!” he panted.
Professor McGonagall narrowed her eyes at him.
“This is more important,” she indicated the shining pool on the floor.
“Galloping gargoyles!” Slughorn exclaimed, recoiling. “What is this?”
Hermione cringed. Wasn’t it obvious? As Professor McGonagall explained the situation, Hermione looked at Theo, trying to communicate with him without talking. She bit her bottom lip and furrowed her eyebrows, glancing down at the floor before meeting his eyes again. Theo reached out and squeezed her shoulder reassuringly—he knew she was worried. Hermione’s hands shook slightly as she listened to the headmistress explain what had happened. Finally, Slughorn nodded, pulled out his wand, and crouched down. Murmuring incantations, he ran his wand like a siphon across the pool of blood. Theo and Hermione watched curiously as the blood was vacuumed into his wand. Several long moments passed as the large puddle slowly shrank. Then, finally, Slughorn stood, the floor now clean.
“Well, now we’ll see what this is,” he said jovially, though his smile wasn’t completely confident. Hermione inhaled deeply, not noticing how nervous she looked or that the headmistress and Theo were also holding their breath. Slughorn pulled a vial from inside his robes and pointed his wand into it, expelling the siphoned blood into the small glass tube. Hermione felt Theo shudder behind her—the menacing scarlet liquid was enough to turn the stomachs of even the strongest people. Once the vial was filled, Slughorn stood a bit straighter and began tapping it with his wand, muttering incantations. The vial began to glow a bright yellow-orange color as Slughorn examined it, causing the potions master to smile broadly.
“We’re okay,” he finally stated.
Hermione’s eyebrows knitted together.
“What do you mean, sir?” she asked.
“It’s not human blood.”
Theo and Professor McGonagall released sighs of relief.
“Thank Merlin,” the headmistress murmured. “What is it?”
“Dragon’s blood,” Slughorn replied, “most likely from the eight flasks missing from my personal stores.”
“It might still be usable though.”
Theo swung his arm around Hermione’s shoulders and hugged her close.
“See? It’s all okay,” he laughed, relieved. Hermione smiled back weakly and nodded.
After another moment standing where they were, Professor McGonagall dismissed them with the request that they quietly investigate possible suspects for the not-so-funny prank.
In the Great Hall, Hermione left Theo and went to sit with Harry and Ron, her hands still quivering slightly.
“What happened?” Harry asked anxiously as she took her seat.
“Did you catch anyone?” Ron added.
Hermione lifted a sandwich from the plate in front of her and sighed. The Great Hall was bustling with people who knew nothing about what had just happened. It made her dizzy to think about.
“It was a hoax,” she explained. “Dragon’s blood.”
“That had to be really expensive!” Ron said, shocked.
Hermione shook her head.
“Whoever set this up stole it from Professor Slughorn.”
Harry bit his lip thoughtfully.
“Have you considered Malfoy?” he asked hesitantly.
Hermione rolled her eyes, but nodded.
“That’s what Theo thinks…but we’re already watching him pretty closely…so I think we’ll know if it was him.”
Ron shoved a cookie into his mouth and began to talk causing Hermione to wrinkle her nose.
“Well,” he said, spewing crumbs across the table. “Malfoy was acting really shady when he came and harassed us earlier…the git.”
Hermione thought Ron’s words over.
“Do you think I should tell Professor McGonagall?”
Harry shook his head.
“Get proof first,” he suggested, tearing a roll apart in his hands. “She’s more likely to listen if you can back it up.”
The trio lapsed into silence again and Hermione found herself looking at the Slytherin table where she was sure Theo and the others were discussing “the incident.” Her gaze lingered on Theo’s face as he pressed his lips together thoughtfully.
He’s amazing… she thought suddenly.
Blinking, Hermione tried to keep the alarm from her face. She couldn’t like Theo! He was her partner. They lived together, for Merlin’s sake. She cringed and glanced back at him, only to meet his gaze accidently, causing her to blush. Hermione thought she saw Theo smile slightly before he returned his attention to the other Slytherins.
“I think I’m going to go work on some homework,” Hermione said abruptly, startling Harry and Ron. "I don't have much of an appetite."
“Oh…” Ron murmured, his face twisting into a frown. “Okay…we’ll see you later then?”
Hermione forced a smile and nodded, standing and leaving the Great Hall quickly. She hurried up the marble staircase and turned down the second floor corridor before leaning on the wall to catch her breath. Too much had happened today, she decided—first with Malfoy harassing them in the morning, then with the morbid prank someone had pulled, and now with her questioning her feelings for Theo…it was all too much. Holding back tears of frustration, Hermione began to walk again, thinking over the motive behind the prank that had shaken her so badly.
What would anyone accomplish by scaring people half-to-death? The prankster must’ve known that we would figure out that it wasn’t human blood…and this isn’t a harmless prank. Fred and George would never do something like this. It’s dangerous because it’s liable to frighten people. She stopped walking again, a look of realization crossing her features. That’s it, isn’t it? They aren’t looking for laughs…Someone just wants to make the school panic. Someone’s out to scare people into not feeling safe within Hogwarts…Who though?
As she continued with this train of thought, Hermione mounted the stairs again and continued up away from the second floor as she headed for her dormitory. The third floor corridor was lit by the sun streaming in through the windows and Hermione smiled as she looked down across the grounds. She could see a courtyard with students mingling and talking and thought she might take her homework outside to complete. As she reached Sam’s portrait, she continued to smile.
“Blue Moon,” she said, prompting the portrait to swing open to allow her to pass. In the common room, Hermione sat on the couch for a moment, collecting her thoughts once more. She didn’t want to admit that she was feeling prejudice towards Draco Malfoy as well and suspected that he was behind the day’s prank, but her thoughts kept returning to him.
“You’ll probably have a lot more on your hands soon enough,” he’d said.
What did that mean? Did it mean he was behind pouring dragon’s blood on the stairs and scaring her witless? Hermione didn’t know and not knowing who was behind it scared her more than the prank itself…She shook her head and stood from the couch, turning and hurrying into her room. She wanted to start on her homework and put Malfoy and the shining pool of blood from her mind.
Her bag over her shoulder and whistling softly, the Head Girl went back into the hallway and turned to head for the stairs. She was planning on finding a secluded corner of a courtyard to finish her Potions essay and start practice on the spell they had learned in Charms. Her mind was focused on the incantation, repeating it over and over again so she would be sure to have it perfectly mastered by class on Monday, but Hermione was snapped from her thoughts by the appearance of the only person that she was adamant to avoid.
Draco was leaning on the banister at the top of the stairs that would lead Hermione down to the second floor. His arms were crossed over his chest and his blond hair was hanging in his eyes—he looked frightening. And he was smirking, as always. Drawing a deep breath, Hermione walked up to him and looked him straight in the eye.
“I know what you did, Malfoy,” she accused boldly, not thinking about his reply. She wanted to throw him off his game, get him to admit something. She hid her nervousness behind a mask of annoyance and resisted the urge to draw her wand. Part of her mind was screaming that he was dangerous and she needed to get away from him as fast as she could, but the Gryffindor in Hermione held her in place. Draco raised his perfectly-sculpted eyebrows and scoffed.
“Oh, really?” he asked.
Hermione nodded once.
“I know that you pulled that stupid prank with the dragon’s blood and I want you to know that no one’s laughing and you need to back off.”
She knew she had no proof against him, but Hermione was nervous and scared and she felt that she had to keep talking.
If it was him, then maybe he’ll lose his nerve, she thought frantically, suddenly feeling trapped.
Draco’s eyes widened and then narrowed. He leaned closer to her, a glint behind his steely gray eyes. Hermione swallowed hard--the hallway suddenly felt very narrow.
“Granger,” he whispered menacingly, “you don’t know anything.”
With those words, Draco smirked again and swept down the corridor without looking back. Hermione gripped the railing of the stairs, wondering why Draco Malfoy always left her feeling dizzy and shaken.
Author's Note: And here's the next chapter! :D How do you like it? PLEASE review, it only takes a couple of minutes and I would love to know what you think. Any ideas on the plot? Characterization? Let me know!
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