My nerves were on edge, the hearing was only hours away. I lay awake in bed for hours, unable to close my eyes, unable to find peace enough to actually fall asleep. I just lay there thinking about why they wished to question me, what they wished to question me about. It seemed almost frightening that I intended to waltz into the Ministry in less than fourteen hours time and lie directly to their faces. That I had actually planed this lie down to the very finest and most precise of details so there seemed to be almost no gaps in my story. It would be difficult for them to question what I was telling them due to their lack of knowledge as to where my actual parents really were, when they left or how it was that they actually managed to slip out of their constant surveillance. I was sure to be questioned upon this also. I had been called to Professor McGonagall's office earlier, to run over the story several times and to examine it for any possible gaps. Draco was also invited to be present for this, a presence I was not entirely sure I was comfortable with.
After several hours of repeating the same story, the same family tree over and over again each time with minor alterations it was deemed suitable enough to pass off as my real tree, surprisingly by Draco. He claimed that if he was one of the examiners he would take this as the truth, although this was the opinion of a seventeen year old I highly doubted that it was a fair judgement of what a fully grown adult would presume from my story. When it was deemed acceptable I was finally allowed to leave Draco not saying a word directly to me and leaving as quickly as possible claiming he had homework to complete before his Quidditch match the next day. I thanks Professor McGonagall for her time and left the office walking to the library before its closure to find an explanation for the strange visions of Harry and Ron I was witnessing. Several hours later I had found nothing.
After pouring through various books such as: Ghost, Spirit or Insanity? and So you think you're seeing things? – A guide to the world of ghosts and spirits. I had yet to find any answers that fit the situation I was experiencing. I could not find a book that even remotely described anything similar to what I was actually looking for. I sighed in defeat closing the final book and placing it back upon it's shelf before retiring to the Gryffindor Common Room. The only people still awake were Ginny, Neville and Seamus. I looked at them all sitting comfortably around the fire. I sat down with a thud next to Seamus and Ginny and glanced into the flames as though almost expecting to see someone I recognised appear amongst the flames. I carefully placed my head on Ginny's shoulder still gazing into the fire which was crackling away merrily.
"Are you scared?" Ginny asked quietly.
"Yes, terrified." I replied.
"You're going to be alright, I know you are. If you aren't going to be alright in all of this mess none of us are."
"I hope you're right… I just worry that there is something I haven't been told yet…Something that's you know not quite right."
"I don't want to scare you Hermione, but you know who is most likely going to be presiding over the hearing don't you?" She asked quietly. "Because if you don't I think I better tell you before you go."
"Who is it?" I asked quietly, I could see the fear in her eyes it was not the most comfortable and warm and happy of all the moments I had shared in this friendship.
She paused for a moment before speaking, almost as though she too was struggling to come to terms with what it was that she was preparing herself to tell me. "Umbridge. Umbridge is the Head of the Muggleborn Registration Commission; she'll be interviewing you tomorrow."
I felt my jaw drop uncontrollably, as though there was nothing left to hold it shut any longer. I felt my hopes sink and the sad feeling in my chest appear once again. Those words had changed everything, everything I had planned, everything I had hoped, and everything I wanted to happen. There seemed to be even less of a chance knowing this now. I sat up straight looking at the fire almost able to see her face within the flames. My lip trembled and my body shook. It only made the realisation that I may never be coming back here again even worse, that this really could be the last time I saw the castle and the people I loved. At last Harry's warning made sense. He would have known, breaking into the Ministry he would have seen her, and according to the headlines he had disrupted a hearing. He would have also seen my name upon the list of those being interviewed, which is how he would have known that he had to warn me. That potentially I did not know yet.
I felt Seamus and Ginny wrapping their arms around me whispering that it was going to be okay. I was not going to cry, I was not going to allow this woman to make me feel so weak and insignificant. The Slytherins and the Carrows already did a fine job of this. For once in my life I was not going to allow her to frighten me, I was going to be brave for my friends and for Harry. Who was being even braver than the combined power of all of us. No-one outside of Ron and I knew the exact details of what he was doing, or the sheer danger involved in such a mission. Others assumed he was tracking Voldemort or hunting him down. In a way they were correct. Yet there were others who attempted to spread fear, they tried to claim that Harry was in hiding, that he was running from Voldemort. They tried to make him seem weak and afraid, alike any other human would be if in the same situation. But Harry was not any other human.
Harry was brave, courageous and above of strong enough to be able to even consider beginning to hunt down the remaining Horcruxes. I admired his courage and willpower. I doubted I would be able to make such a decision, that in a time of such great need I would be able to place the hopes and fears of an entire world upon my back and continue doing what I knew to be right. I imagine I would run in fear unable to move or even think let alone being able to consider infiltrating the Ministry. I placed my head on Seamus's shoulder and whispered ever so quietly to myself "It's going to be okay, everything's going to be okay." Seamus all the while holding me in his arms as if shielding me from the thoughts that was scaring me, until the panic had passed away entirely. Leaving only nerves and the unknown of tomorrow.
I did not end up sleeping at all, the sun rose in the sky before I even dared to get up. I got up and dressed in the neat skirt and shirt I had laid out the night before pulling my hair back into a long plait. I pulled on the cloak I had decided to wear and walked down to breakfast. It seemed to fit the situation I was facing and made the story seem almost more believable, or least I hoped it seemed more believable if I did not seem to turn up looking like a poorly dressed muggle. No-one had noticed but I had packed my trunk, everything I had brought with me to Hogwarts lay packed away so that if I could not return it would be easy to have my possessions sent to me if need be. I did not want to think of that possibility however. I wandered almost joyfully down to breakfast, trying desperately to pretend as though there was really nothing wrong.
I took my seat at the Gryffindor table and ate slowly, savouring what could very well be my last meal. I had decided to sit facing the Slytherin table which remained empty save for one person, who of course was Draco Malfoy. He looked rather concerned about something. Noticing that we were almost entirely alone within the Great Hall I picked up my plate and went an sat opposite him, looking deeply into his bright grey-blue eyes. He looked up at me sadly as though alike me he knew there were hundreds of things he wanted to say, but knew he could not.
"I'm sorry." We both blurted out at the same time, evidentially we had been thinking thoughts that were along the same lines.
"Shall I go first or shall you?" I asked.
"How about I go first? I really need to say this." He replied almost kindly.
"Sure I'm all ears." I replied.
"I'm sorry, so very sorry. Almost more sorry than you can believe for how I have treated you. It has been entirely unfair of me, and it's a poor way to pay you back when technically you never did anything wrong. I guess it took Astoria dumping me in front of the entire house in the Common Room, for what ever was left of my already shattered dignity to vanish and for me to realise that I never really even liked her half as much as I love you. No even that would be incorrect, it would be that I didn't like her at all compared to how I feel about you and that is me being brutally honest."
"It's too bad we couldn't have had longer…" I whispered taking his hand comfortingly; almost to show him that in some crazy way I actually returned these feelings. "I'm going for my hearing today and I'm scared beyond belief, I have no idea what is going to happen to me or what I'm going to be asked but it's comforting to know I have at least made my peace with you. That at least the last thing I ever though about you was 'perhaps he didn't love me.' I guess I'm trying my hardest to tell you that I really like you also and that if things go to plan, I'll be waiting for you. That at least I have something to hope for as I sit there speaking of my 'relatives' in front of an entire court."
"You always guard you're emotions so carefully, I always tried to. But around you I let my guard down. I can't do that with anyone else. I'm worried for you, that if everything does not go according to plan that I might never see you again. I too was concerned about the last thing I ever did or said to you. That the last thing I ever did to you was think only of getting revenge against you and not of how much I love you. I'll be waiting for you to return, hoping that we did enough to save you from the same fate as all those Muggleborns before you."
"Thank you Draco. I appreciate you help more so than you could ever imagine, I wish I could stay forever, but I must go. I have a hearing to be present at." I whispered releasing his hand.
"I did mean it you know. I do… love you." He said taking my hand softly before releasing it. "Good luck." He whispered.
"See you around sometime." I called walking away from the Slytherin table towards the doors, his eyes still upon me as I glanced back. "I love you…" I whispered so that he could see my lips move before walking alone along the corridor towards the Entrance Hall.
I breathed calmly as I walked alone, my footsteps echoing behind me. I heard a rushed set of footsteps echoing in the distance behind me, I did not even bother to see who it was. I felt a hand grab me softly from behind, turning me around slowly to face them. I looked up to see Draco staying down at me, his eyes showing the sadness I felt. He cupped my face in his cold hands and ever so softly pressed his lips to mine. I softly returned his kiss wrapping my hands slowly behind his back. He pulled away softly after a minute which seemed like an eternity away, and whispered softly in my ear, his breath tickling my skin "Let that be an incentive for you to return…" He said with a smile before turning and walking away.
I was left standing alone in a daze in the corridor wanting more than anything to return now; wanting to return so I could return the favour to Draco. I walked to the Entrance Hall where Professor McGonagall stood wrapped in a travelling cloak. I followed her out onto the grounds and into a carriage where we sat in silence the entire journey to Hogsmeade. Instead of catching a train we walked to the Apparition point. I felt the soft tingling sensation fill my body as I closed my eyes in Hogsmeade, reopening them standing in the foyer of the Ministry of Magic, with Professor McGonagall standing by my side. I could see why Harry's warning was necessary, there were Aurrors everywhere, and all manner of dark object detectors were being waved over and poked into all those who alike me were entering the building. I could see why Harry was concerned, and I was in no situation to wish to disobey his request. Yet I could not help but think of Draco with a smile, his request was very tempting, tempting enough to give me hope that I might actually survive to return to Hogwarts.
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