Breakfast was silent
. Defense Against the Dark Arts was tense. Studying in the library afterward made Hermione want to scream. She paced through the aisles, snatching up books as she went. She grumbled under her breath, mutterings that were dark and angry. She turned a corner, nose down, skillfully sidestepped someone, and continued on her way.
“Filthy, vial, ignorant, self-absorbed pigs?” someone repeated from behind her, and she careened to a halt.
“I certainly hope this isn’t a result from last night,” Blaise Zabini smirked as she turned, “Though, watching you almost hex Ronald across the room today might explain it. Don’t worry,” he added, putting up a hand, “He didn’t tell anyone but me, the same way you’ll tell Ginny. She’s dating Potter, right? Pity. She’s so beautiful.”
He stopped, allowing her to speak. However, when she opened her mouth, tears flowed in her eyes.
“Hermione,” he cooed, quickly going to her, “It’ll be alright,” he promised, touching her cheek, “Please don’t cry, okay? They’ll come around, assuming I’m on the right track.”
“You are,” she sighed, turning away, “Would you like to sit with me?”
He nodded, smiling warmly. She told him all of her worries, and he gave her his best advice. In turn, he confided in her about this girl that made his heart stop, that made him want to fall to his knees and recite beautiful things to her, this Emily. They talked for almost three hours until Blaise’s stomach growled, and he escorted her to lunch.
“Just remember to be strong,” he whispered as they approached the Great Hall doors, “Everything will be okay, right?”
“Right,” she confirmed, nodding and smiling.
They entered together, something that she should’ve regretted had there been two watching eyes to scoff at her. Except they weren’t there.
“Ginny,” Hermione hissed, sitting down across from her redheaded friend, “Where are they?”
When Ginny looked up, Hermione sucked a thin breath in, quickly composing herself and shoving every worry she had away.
“What’s wrong?” she asked after a few moments, watching Ginny shake her head and turn her puffy red eyes back down to her plate.
“I can’t tell you,” she mumbled, and Hermione could hear the tears in her voice, “Not here. Just eat. Slowly. Act normal.”
Hermione did as told, and, after a few minutes, Ginny lifted her eyes again and took a deep breath.
“How was the library?” she asked, trying her hardest to look interested.
“I had a long conversation with Blaise,” Hermione began, watching her closely, “We exchanged advice and worries. It was nice."
Ginny nodded, managing a smile.
“Have you written home since you got here?” she continued.
“I haven’t. I was thinking about—”
“Do it. As soon as you’re done, write home. Tell them you love them.”
And Ginny was getting up.
“Ginny!” Hermione exclaimed too loudly, trying to follow, but she was suddenly forced down by a spell.
“Eat slowly. Act normal,” she repeated before disappearing.
She watched Ginny leave in shock. She’d never before seen her so upset, so forceful. She’d never before been forced back into her seat by magic
. She tried to reason in her brain, but nothing made sense.
“You’re Hermione Granger, right?” a voice interrupted her thoughts.
She nodded, looking up slowly. A young girl stood there, nervous-looking.
“I was told to give this to you.”
She dropped a folded piece of paper in front of her as if it burned her skin and hurried away. Hermione quickly lifted the paper into her hands, tore it open, and nearly screamed.
My mother is at Mungo’s. I have to go. I don’t know if my father will be there, but if he is… I love you. I’ll try to find you again.
There was no signature, and the handwriting was rushed and frightened. Hermione looked up, and was shocked to find Dumbledore hurrying down the steps where the staff table resided.
“You and I are about to be best friends,” Blaise’s familiar voice whispered in her ear before she was pulled up out of her seat and tugged away.
“Don’t look back,” he demanded, keeping her tight in his grasp with his arm tucked around her shoulders, “Just keep walking.”
“Miss Granger!” Dumbledore yelled as the Great Hall doors closed behind them.
“Don’t, Hermione,” he begged, continuing around the corner.
She didn’t protest as he led her through the halls, down corridors she didn’t recognize and around far too many corners. He stopped her at one corner, walked across a wall three times, and then reached for her hand. They entered the Room of Requirements where Hermione gasped.
“Ginny!” she shrieked, running forward to her friend.
“Let her go, Nott!” she screeched, pushing Theodore away, who surprisingly obliged.
“Ladies, we have a problem,” Blaise began, “Ginny, I apologize for capturing you, but there was no way you’d come willingly, especially after you threatened to stun us and drag us to Dumbledore’s office. And no,” he began, pocketing his wand, “We are not
Death Eaters,” he finished, pulling up both of his sleeves. Theodore reciprocated the movement, showing off his arms.
“However,” Blaise continued, “Draco is. You know this, Hermione, though I doubt you’ve ever seen his mark. And don’t even tell me you saw it last night because heavens know he charmed it and you didn’t look for it. Would you like to explain to Ginny?” he paused, nodding once toward the redhead.
“We slept together,” she barely whispered, and Ginny just shook her head, crossed her arms, and turned away, “Gin, I can explain—”
“Save it, Hermione. We’ll talk about it later. Go on, Blaise.”
“Draco’s mother is not
at Mungo’s. Theo was in Hogsmeade when Draco found out. Poor bastard ran into our dear Theodore here on his way into the village, only had a moment to explain, and disapparated. Because Draco can’t think ever
, Theo apparated to the Malfoy Manor, to the kitchen, only to shock Mrs. Malfoy. Yes, she’s at her house. Therefore, Lucius is at Mungo’s and Draco is in trouble. Hermione,” he warned, putting up a hand and, suddenly, Theo’s wand was at her throat.
“Play nice,” he crooned, smirking.
She nodded, relaxing.
“Theo and I are going to apparate separately to the Manor and to Mungo’s. As for Harry,” he stopped, turning to Ginny, “I know he’s looking for something
, something that Dumbledore put him up to, and I know it’s against the Dark Lord. I won’t ask what or why, but I just need to know that he’s being wise. I can’t have you in tears.”
She blinked, gaping at him.
“I don’t know who you think you are,” Ginny said tightly, shoving Theo’s arm down as he turned toward her, “But you will not speak to me in such a tone that Harry would. You
are nothing in comparison to him.”
“I understand you’re angry. I’ll ignore that for now. Though my tone
was inappropriate, I also meant that you need to be strong so that Hermione doesn’t fall apart. Look at her. She needs you. So. I think the two of you should go find Dumbledore before he thinks I kidnapped and killed both of you, find out what’s going on, and, Hermione, I think you should go to wherever Harry and Ron are. I don’t care if that means you have to fix things. They’re your best friends. They need you, and you need to be strong.”
“Why did you tell me to write to my parents?” Hermione said, disregarding Blaise and turning to Ginny.
“She can’t go to Harry and Ron,” Ginny mumbled, not meeting anyone’s eyes, “Because they’re protecting her house. A message arrived last night that Voldemort had been spotted in her neighborhood. After their first class, Dumbledore sent them off with very specific instructions. He didn’t send them last night because of the danger of the situation. However, this morning, McGonagall went, quickly, to inspect the area. He wasn’t to be found, but they’re working on charming the house. After they’re done, Voldemort will never know. They’ll be speaking with her parents, as well, though, so that’s why they’re not back yet.”
Hermione’s world was suddenly dark.
Blue eyes spun, no warmth left to bring life to them. His body convulsed in pain, muscles tensed against the white hot agony that pulsed through him. His fingers were clenched into fists, one tightly wrapped around his wand. There were voices speaking over him, but he couldn’t make out any of the words. A groan escaped his lips as someone touched him, and the soft fingers instantly recoiled.
“My mother,” he heard himself gasp, and someone was suddenly at his side.
“She’s inside, being healed. She’s safe.”
“My father?” he asked, feeling coming back into his face and making it easier for him to speak.
“Stunned, at the Manor. Theodore is busy charming the house. You’re safe here.”
“Hermione,” the name finally fell from his lips, and he screamed in pain as he tried to open his eyes.
“Draco, be still,” the female voice cried, holding his shoulders, which only worsened the pain in his back.
“It’s Blaise,” a rough voice said from behind him, “Just lay there. We’re going to levitate you. We’re at the Tonks’. Okay?”
He didn’t respond, didn’t know if he could. He felt the ground leave him, and he liked it so much more in the air.
“Put him on his back on the table. I’ll fix up his front first.”
He started to fade again as his Aunt Andromeda sighed and muttered a healing charm.
When Draco awoke next, there were black silk sheets covering him. He opened his eyes warily, wincing a dull throb awoke near his left eye, and he reached up a long-fingered hand to touch his face. A scar ran diagonal, jagged, and he instantly knew it was his father’s handiwork.
He sat up delicately, body tensing as his back moved. He reached behind, and ghosted his fingers over the healed wounds. Whipped
, by his father, no less. He sighed, and decided he could walk. He slowly got out of his bed, recognizing the familiar Heads’ dormitory, and he disregarded the idea of a shirt as he headed toward the door.
Blaise and Theo were relaxed on the couch and armchair, both fast asleep. Ginny was bent over Blaise, tending to some wound that he couldn’t see from his doorway. He leaned against the frame, noticing Hermione’s form, slouched against a desk, a map beneath her, her wand in her hand, and out cold.
“What happened?” he asked aloud, and Ginny didn’t immediately respond.
He watched her, how she capped a vial, stood, smoothed Blaise’s hair away from his forehead, and slowly turned.
“A lot of things. Where would you like me to start?” she returned snappily.
“I deserve that,” he admitted, moving away from the doorframe and going down the stairs leading into the common room, “My mother wasn’t at Mungo’s. I only remember very vague things after that.”
“It was a set-up. Your father found out she’d been contacting you, just not how. He forced your mother to write that letter of distress you got. She’s fine now. Andromeda fixed everyone all up, for the most part. After you disapparated, Theo went to your house and found your mother, so he ran back to grab Hermione, Blaise, and me. Hermione passed out, so she was useless, and, therefore, I had to stay behind to take care of her. From what Blaise told me, it seems the two of them got to your house just in time. They gave you enough distraction to apparate to Andromeda’s before they did, but they had to fight off your father a little. From there, it’s pretty self-explanatory. You were only there for a few hours. It’s not even tomorrow yet.”
“Thank you,” he murmured after a moment of silence settled around them.
“What happened to you?”
Draco arched an eyebrow, frowning.
“The marks on your back, the scar on your face. It won’t be permanent, Andromeda made sure of that, but, it’ll be nasty for a little while, at least.”
“I was… whipped,” he finished, looking away in shame, “Among other things. My father is vicious, ruthless. That’s why I was so worried about my mother.”
Ginny nodded, straightening and sighing.
“Get some rest,” Draco mumbled, nodding toward her, “You look exhausted. I can look after them.”
“No, you can’t. Not in that condition. Go wake Hermione. I’m assuming you two have been sleeping in the same bed, so I’ll just steal hers.”
“Ginny, about that—” he began, but she swiftly cut him off as she lifted her hand.
“Another time, Malfoy.”