Hermione and Anna walked in silence out of the South Wing. Hermione wished Anna could take some initiative and try to start a conversation. Hermione took a deep breath to calm herself down a bit. Malfoy was there… She was going to school with Draco Malfoy again. She knew deep in her heart that she ought to give him a second chance, but the rest of her begged her to kill him and dump his body in a filthy ditch. She was so tempted, so tempted… But she would not be the one with no self control. If she saw him again (which was very likely since they even lived in the same building) she would simply ignore him. And if he tried to make contact with her she would ignore him. And if he tried to mock her or touch her, she would kill him. As simple as that.
“So…” Hermione said. Anna looked at her and smiled. “It sounded like you have been here for longer than me. I arrived today and my first class is now, with you, but Nora had a free period and you had just gotten back from Quidditch.”
“Well, Nora and I have actually lived here at the school since we were fourteen,” said Anna. “We went to school at home in Norway until we turned fourteen, and then we were shipped off to this place. We were two out of ten chosen kids to participate in some kind of project. The school wanted to see how younger students would make it here, because they considered making the Magician a school open for younger students too, and not just graduates.” Anna smiled again and picked up an apple from her small bag. “So Nora and I have studied here for four years now, and we plan to finish our education here as well. And since we are not freshmen, we started earlier with out classes.”
“I see,” Hermione said. “So you first came here when you were fourteen?”
“But wasn’t it sad to leave your friends behind?”
Anna let out a short laugh.
“Well, I had Nora,” she said. “And the ones back home weren’t really my friends. They didn’t want me to leave, but only because then I would get a head start to my Quidditch career. We all played Quidditch back home and going to England is like walking straight into the arms of some agent or manager. I’ve gotten two offers already, but I said no.”
“Why? If you came here to play professional Quidditch, why did you say no?” Hermione asked. Anna shrugged.
“I guess I wasn’t satisfied with the terms,” she said. “I don’t say yes to every single offer I get if the deal is shit. And I want to finish my education first. Who knows if I’m going to play Quidditch for the rest of my life? Maybe I find it boring to do for a living, and then what do I do? If I have no education, I mean.”
“That’s true,” Hermione said. She liked Anna. Anna had a brain that functioned instead of just taking up space. “But you like Quidditch?”
“I love it.”
“Then you should do it for a living,” Hermione said. “I think that nowadays people should do things they really love and fill their lives with something worth living for. And I’ve heard the payment is good.” Anna raised her eyebrows.
“And where in the world did you hear that?” she said. “Quidditch pays just about as much as any job. I hear you earn more as a secretary at the Ministry.”
Hermione didn’t know what to say. Honestly, she thought Quidditch was a stupid choice of career. Where were the skills you needed to fly a goddamn broom? It was like football. Only people with shit for brains played sports for money, because that was all they could. But she had a feeling that Anna could do more than just Quidditch. And she also took into consideration that Krum was not an idiot. But she bet the rest of them were.
“I won’t play Quidditch for the money, Hermione,” Anna said.
“What would you want to do besides Quidditch, then?”
“I don’t really know… I take History of Magic and Art in addition to Quidditch, because I thought it might be fun,” Anna said, “I never thought about my future before the previous year, with the war and everything. After the war, I suddenly became aware of my own life and what I had to do with it eventually.” Anna stopped in her tracks and looked Hermione in the eyes. “It’s not a game to me anymore. My life is not only Quidditch and Exploding Snap. I have a purpose of my own, and if I end up playing Quidditch, I will do some charity on the side. Do not take me for a dumb, blonde and careless witch, because I am not.”
“I didn’t think you were,” Hermione said and smiled. Then something caught Anna’s gaze. Hermione followed it and her eyes widened. A boy was waving at them, and Anna was waving back. When he got closer, she saw that it was none other than –
“Elias?” she called. It seemed like hadn’t seen her, ‘cause now he squinted and then he smiled widely. Anna raised her eyebrows.
“Do you know him?” she asked. Hermione shrugged.
“I met him at audition. How do you know him?”
“He’s one of my third cousins that I actually know,” she laughed and smiled. “His entire branch of the family lives in Australia, though, so I don’t get to see him as much as I would like.” Elias reached them slightly panting and grabbed Hermione’s hand and shook it.
“You made it!” he beamed.
“So did you,” Hermione laughed.
“Of course I did,” he joked. “None of the judges could resist my good looks!”
“Well, it’s good to know you won’t be much of a challenge in class, since you obviously only got shit for brains,” Anna said and smacked him over the head.
“Which classes have you applied for anyway?” Hermione asked. She silently begged for him to have at least one class with her, so that she could have somebody she knew for company. She hated befriending new people. She had dreaded her first day at Hogwarts, although the joy was bigger than her fear.
“I have Potions, Music and Combat,” he said after some thinking.
“Then we have Combat together!” Hermione beamed and clapped her hands.
“Don’t be too sure of that,” Anna said and pulled out her schedule. “You might have the same subject, but you might also be in different classes. Combat is a popular subject.”
“Let me see,” Elias said and snatched the schedule. He pulled out his wand and tapped it at the parchment, and Anna’s schedule instantly changed into his own. He looked closely at his own before he tapped his wand at the parchment again and found Hermione’s. Then he smiled. “We’re in class together!”
“I’m so relieved,” Hermione laughed and pulled some of her hair behind her ears.
“Class is starting soon guys,” Anna reminded them. “We should get going, especially you two if you don’t want a bad start. These teachers don’t fuck around…”
With this as her last word Anna sprinted away. Hermione then remembered that she was in Anna’s class and followed with a wave of goodbye to Elias. Elias remained standing and just laughed after the girls.
Hermione had gravely misunderstood and miscalculated the workload and the level of interest concerning Magical Law and Order, and also in History of Magic. Combat didn’t give her much homework, but after her Combat classes she was exhausted.
She had absolutely no surplus of energy to do her homework on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday! Mondays were bad because of the five hour long session of History of Magic (where the professor expected everyone to have finished their homework during the weekend – and no excuses were allowed!) and on Fridays the pile of homework had built itself up to the roof by the lack of effort the previous days, and then she was completely stuck with her books the entire weekend. At least this workload kept her from having bad dreams.
In Hogwarts this had been an ideal situation; and excuse for her to read as much as she could, but this was just too tiresome. Both Anna and Elias had suggested that she dropped or changed one of her classes, but she didn’t know if that was the way to go. She didn’t want to give away her classes with Anna or her classes with Elias, so then it all came down to if she wanted to drop Magical Law and Order or not.
She was not willingly giving up this class, be it boring or not. She needed this class to become a high member of the Wizengamot, and she didn’t want to give up that dream just so she could ease her workload and have a day off.
“Come on, Hermione, give yourself a break!” Elias complained when the three of them sat under a cluster of cherry trees reading homework in the evening. “It’s Friday and you’re worrying about the weekend! You should look forward to it, not worrying about it. You shouldn’t make plans for the weekend that concerns homework.”
“I know, but I have so much homework!” she said and turned a page without looking at the others. “I cannot let the new professors think I’m stupid or a slow learner or anything like that. I want to make it through this year with good grades!”
“Then you should change one of your classes, ‘cause now you’re in deep shit,” Anna stated and started eating an apple.
“Thank you for the enlightenment, but I need no reminder that I’m in over my head.”
“This is only the first week, and you’re already planning Monday!” Elias whined. “Didn’t you say that you were busy this weekend, too? With that engagement party?”
“Oh, Merlin’s beard!”
“You forgot?” Anna said disbelievingly and raised her left eyebrow.
“I’ve been so busy that I haven’t had the chance to even think about the party,” Hermione said with a high pitched voice, dangerously close to tears. “I… I don’t know if I can make it to the party! I have a serious load of homework to do, and I can’t just skip that.”
“Of course you can’t skip it,” Anna said and took a bite of her apple. “But you are allowed to have a life, you know. A social one.”
“But I don’t know what to wear,” Hermione whined. “I don’t know what to give; I don’t know whom to take with me… I can’t go there alone! Harry will be there with Ginny if she isn’t too moody and Ron…”
“I’ll take you!” Elias said before Hermione could finish her thought.
“But Ron –” she started, but Elias shushed her firmly.
“Do not ruin my dream of going to an engagement party,” he said and winked.
“Besides, didn’t you mention that you haven’t received any congratulations or letters of any kind from either of them?”
“Yes,” Hermione said and gave it a thought. She hadn’t thought much about the fact since she had had so much to do the first few days, but now it all hit her at once. She hadn’t spoken to Harry since her floo call and she hadn’t had any contact what-so-ever with Ron since before summer! She had to write to both of them before the party, just so she knew if they came or not. She didn’t know if she was particularly happy about seeing Harry again, but it would be nice to see Ron’s sweet face again.
She thought about Harry’s words about Ron.
Ron is very upset these days… By every letter you send he gets worse. He can’t even answer your letters himself anymore… By keeping himself busy with Auror training, he doesn’t have the time to think about the past. He doesn’t have the time to think about Fred or Ginny or Molly. Or you, for that matter… I cannot stand by and watch you break him, Hermione.
It was heartbreaking even just thinking about it. She suddenly felt sadness turn into anger, and she pictured herself blowing Harry’s body to pieces (but right afterwards she gasped at her own brutality and apologized to the little Harry in her head). Would she be able to face Harry and Ron at the party? How would she react when she saw them happy together like they always had been, but without her? She had to send those letters quickly!
“I’ll just go and… Get some more books,” she said and bounced off the grass. She didn’t know why she lied to them, but she had a feeling that they would advice her to forget about the two boys and move on. And she just wouldn’t do that. Not to her best friends. Because Harry and Ron were still her best friends - no doubt about it.
She ran away from Anna and Elias and out of the little garden and through the arcade by the main building. The sky had started to cloud and it was getting dark, but she knew she would make it to the Owlery before curfew. She reached the little tower at the other end of the small island and climbed all of the stairs to the top. She was quite tired when she reached the top, and took several deep breaths before she started writing her letters.
She didn’t know what to write.
It’s been a long time since we last saw each other… Just stay strong, Ron. Hold on like you’ve always done.
I just want you to know I love you still.
She knew she should’ve written more, but she didn’t know what to write. She guessed Harry was going to read the letter first anyways, so no point in complaining about Harry’s gossiping. She sighed heavily and called down an owl from the high ceiling and attached the letter to its foot. Then she began writing Harry’s letter. She held the pen a little harder this time.
I was just wondering if you were to show your face at Luna and Neville’s engagement party.
She hoped the letter was as venomously short as it looked like. He deserved nothing more but rudeness from her after all he’d said. And with this she attached the letter to another owl and sent it away with the wind.
The sky had become quite dark whilst she had been in the Owlery, and when she reached the school again, she saw that it was only a few minutes until curfew. She hurried down the arcade and jumped in alarm when someone grabbed a hold of her upper arm and pulled her into the shadows.
“Hello there Granger,” a sleek voice said close to her ear. She shrieked and pulled away immediately, and the arms that held her let go.
“Get away from me!” she screamed and turned around, only to look straight into the pale face of Draco Malfoy. Her scream made his face twitch in irritation.
“Hush now you little freak,” he hissed. “You wouldn’t want to wake up the entire faculty?” he grabbed her hands again as she tried to run off.
“Are you here to kill me?!” she whispered and tried to twist herself out of his grasp. He just looked at her with a disbelieving look. It looked as though he was about to laugh.
“What? Are you out of your mind? Of course I am not! Do you think I’m an idiot?”
“I prefer not to answer,” she retorted. To her surprise he just shrugged.
“You can insult me however you like, Granger; I’m not going to hurt you if you call me Death Eater or even traitor. I couldn’t care less what you think about me.”
“Are you sure about that, Malfoy?”
“Pretty sure. Hit me. Give me your best.” Hermione stopped struggling. Was he really serious? Had he pulled her into a dark corner past curfew just to let her insult him? It seemed way too stupid and reckless.
“Really? This is why you are here? To give me an opportunity to mock you?”
“Are you really that stupid?” he snapped annoyed. She felt a sting of anger as he named her. She was not an idiot! She may be many things, but stupid wasn’t one of them. He didn’t seem to have noticed her irritation, or he just didn’t care, because he continued to talk.
“I am here to study like everyone else here. I just want to get this idiotic habit of ours out of our system before we start school for real.”
Hermione just stared at him. Was she supposed to laugh or cry?
“Are you seriously proposing this? You of all people,” she said and then something hit her. “I should be the one suggesting this!”
“And why didn’t you?” he said with a smirk, obviously enjoying her anger.
“You beat me to it, you evil bastard,” she fumed and tied her fists. “You want to seem like some sort of hero and reformed villain, but I know better. You are still the same person as before. I do not believe people can change that quickly, especially not you with your entire childhood, infected with insane believes and ludicrous opinions of your fellow men. How do you expect me to leave all of these years behind us, when I know for a fact that you murdered three of my friends in cold blood? Tell me how I should deal with this Draco fucking Malfoy!”
He just stared at her and – to her enormous irritation – shrugged nonchalantly.
“I was freed of all charges,” he stated. “There is no proof that links me to their murders, and you certainly don’t know for a fact that I killed them – which I didn’t. I do not commit murder.”
“What about Dumbledore?” she said after a while, shaking with both fright and fury. She expected him to turn remorseful, but she was wrong.
“What about him?”
“Are you fucking serious with me!?” she roared and twisted out of his grasp.
“Yes I am fucking serious with you! And keep your bloody voice down.”
“I want someone to hear us, Malfoy,” she bellowed and waved her arms. “Maybe somebody can save me when you try to kill me like you killed my friends. Like you killed Creevey, Corner and poor professor Trelawney!”
“For the last time Granger, I did not finish them off,” he said through clenched teeth. “For crying out loud! And even if I did, I would never confess.”
“What you said now is practically a confession,” she said and pointed a finger at him.
“Haven’t you learned that it’s rude to point, Granger?” he huffed and pushed her hand away. “I didn’t say I killed them. I said that if I had killed them… And if I had killed them, don’t you think that you would be an easy target too, Granger?”
“Exactly…” she said a bit nervous. He was right. She was an easy target. Her first injection was to scream at the top of her lungs, but he managed to speak before she did.
“So why haven’t I finished you off yet, then? Because I like to chit-chat with my victims before I rip them apart? Please, give me a break.”
“I don’t believe you, Malfoy.”
Malfoy sighed and rubbed at his temples.
“As I said, I couldn’t care less about what you can think about me. What you wish to believe is up to you. What I wish to believe is that I after this, I won’t have to live through another episode where you accuse me of murder and then faint. It was quite embarrassing for both of us. And I would hate to go through that every fucking time we meet in the hallway.”
“Are you seriously suggesting a truce between us?”
His eyes went wide with disgust.
“Oh no, for Merlin’s sake! I’m not suggesting peace,” he looked at her like she was the most stupid human being he had laid his eyes upon. “I am suggesting that we do not speak with each other, about each other or seek each other’s attention. For the next three years.”
“Fuck off Malfoy,” she said and crossed her arms. “I’m not buying your shit. Not today, not ever!”
“Have it your way. I’ll just ignore you,” he said and shrugged. He pushed past her, but she grabbed a hold of his upper arm.
“But I will not ignore you,” she hissed. “I will not be satisfied before you are far away from here! I won’t stop not ignoring you before I’ve had you thrown out of this school.”
“I warn you, you little dense gormster,” Malfoy growled and pushed her arm away. “Do anything of the sort, and I will hurt you.”
“You can sure try, you criminal,” she spat, but behind her tough façade she was rather nervous. “It’s not like you’re not familiar with torture…” Just as she said it the dream came back.
… She felt her body go numb as she helpless listened to Bellatrix’ insults.
Then she saw his face. It practically shone with light in the back of the room. His skin was so pale, his eyes so cold, and his body was shaking. His mother came into his light and held him hard and she looked just as cold. They just stared empty at her. She could hear somebody in the room snicker. She couldn’t catch the words that were spoken, but she recognized his voice. She felt her body twist in pain as another curse attacked every nerve in her body. She could see him clearer now – he was closer.
“Help… me…” she cried for him, but he just ignored her…
She couldn’t believe it. It was him. He had been there. He had been there and done nothing to help her! His sharp voice snapped her out of her trance.
“Granger, what’s wrong with you? Hey! Granger!” He had grabbed her shoulders and was now shaking her. She looked at him with tearful frightened eyes and shook her head.
“I need to get away from you…” she whispered and backed away. She took a few slow steps backwards before she turned around to leave, still a bit light-headed and scared.
“We are not done here!” he yelled after her, no longer afraid that someone might hear them.
“Oh yes we certainly are, Malfoy,” she said more confident and continued to walk away. He let out a growl of frustration and came after her.
“Get back here, you filthy little mu-”
“What!? You filthy little what?!” she snarled and turned on the spot. He stopped a few inches away from her and he looked as he was dying to finish his sentence. After a few short seconds he let out his breath and shot her an ugly glare.
“You know what? Fuck you. Fuck you and your brainless skull.”
Then he turned his back to her and walked away from her. She stood alone in the dark arcade and waited until he was gone before she let a single tear fall. She didn’t know why she was so surprised by the fact that Malfoy had enjoyed her being tortured. What she was confused about was the fact that she hadn’t remembered it until now. She had had this particular dream only the last couple of times, and before that his face hadn’t turned up at all. But he couldn’t be imaginary. He had to have been there.
She didn’t know how long she had just been standing there, but the night owls were hooting and the cold ocean night breeze was threatening to give her a cold. She started her slow walk back to her dorm and all the while her mind was empty. Apathy had taken control over her, and she hadn’t noticed. She thought of nothing. She let her body guide her back to the door with the wise Minerva, and her lips automatically spoke the password. She didn’t feel the warm air that surrounded her the moment she entered the common room, she didn’t recognize Anna’s worried voice and her legs just carried her into her room.
She locked the door behind her and went straight to bed with her clothes still on. She ignored the small vials of potion on her bedside table and just stared into the ceiling. Some thoughts came back. When had her life turned out empty and pointless? She had no real life any more. She feared what could lurk around every corner, she had no real friends left, she could trust no one, she couldn’t sleep and her school work didn’t go as well as before. She had faltered and become a shadow of herself.
She had had the exact same thoughts in the beginning of the summer, and then she had thought that perhaps going to school again would fill her everyday with something meaningful. Perhaps school would give her some sort of purpose. But now that she was here after so much trouble and hard work, why was she experiencing the exact same emptiness as before? She felt nothing about nothing. She wasn’t interested in anything anymore. Nothing could engage her, not even equal rights for magical creatures. And why was that? Perhaps because she had seen that the war concerning equal rights and the right to be alive had never been won. True, Voldemort was dead, but had they really won? Had they won the war when most people were more afraid than ever, more paranoid than during the war?
With these as her last thoughts, Hermione Granger fell asleep with a small tear in the corner of her eye. Tomorrow will be a better day. It had to be.
But as soon as she closed her eyes the dream returned, and as soon as she opened them –
A letter was lying on her bedside table. It was addressed her room and it was typewritten. She opened it with trembling fingers, already knowing what the small note inside would say.