Chapter 16 : Condolences and Cotton Wool
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Cedric’s funeral was a private affair, held at the family home. Hermione was invited by Mr and Mrs Diggory, but politely declined. She could not bare to see him again, to see his family. Hermione had been invited to take the following two weeks away from her classes. She would usually sit in her dorm, trying to study and would occasionally get a visit or two from Ginny.
Hermione had heard the news about Professor Moody being an impostor and this did not make her feel very safe in the castle. Reluctantly, she re-entered her classes for the last week of term to awkward glares and soft stares. Every time Hermione walked the corridors, people would mutter consolations at her and spread their messages of condolence. She was so sick of it. Even Cho was trying to reap the benefits. She was crying in the hall with Harry by her side, moping about she and Cedric still being good friends, but Hermione had not seen them talk to one another all year since their break-up.
“Are you coming to the hall?” Ron asked. He had his hand on her shoulder as she was still sat in the Astronomy classroom ten minutes after the lesson had finished. Professor Sinistra had given her all the time she needed.
“But Dumbledore’s going to talk about -”
“Ron, just leave it,” Harry said. “We’ll see you later Hermione.”
She smiled at Harry. She had almost forgotten what he had been through. He did look terrible though and he must have been so brave having to stand up to Voldemort.
“Harry,” she called.
She strode over to him and gave him a long hug, squeezing him tightly. “Thank you.”
He held onto her lightly. “I didn’t do anything.”
“You brought him back. And you got yourself out alive.”
Harry shrugged and let her go, so that she could hug Ron also. She did not have a reason for it, but he did not complain.
“You can stay with us if you like,” Ron said, his cheeks simmering down. “At the Burrow in the summer.”
“Really?” Hermione croaked, trying to hold back her tears.
“Yeah. Mum won’t mind. She likes you. I think it’ll be good to spend some time with Ginny. You know…after all that’s happened.”
“Thanks Ron.” She gave him another hug and left the boys at the stairs to go to the hall, while she walked to her dormitory to pack her things and send her parents a letter, telling them that she would not be going home this summer.
“How are you holding up?” Ginny asked over the dining table at the Burrow.
Hermione had been there for a month and was continually being mollycoddled by Mrs Weasley in every way. She would bring her a steaming cup of hot chocolate whenever she would burst into tears and tuck her into bed every night making sure that she was okay and did not need a Sleeping Draught. Hermione did not mind because it would only have been one hundred times worse had she stayed at home. She had not even told her parents that she had a boyfriend and if she told them he had been killed they would wrap her in so much cotton wool she would not be able to breathe.
“I’m okay now. Seriously.” Hermione opened an Arithmancy book and leaned back in her chair. Hermione used to cry a lot. She guessed that it was because Cedric had died on her but it was also because she did not have Draco any more - she just did not realise it.
“It’s okay if you’re not,” Ginny continued.
“I am. I’m fine. There’s nothing I can do about…about Cedric and I’ve accepted that.” Hermione gulped and tried to rid the hard lump in her throat. She blinked back a tear.
“Okay,” Ginny said. “What about Draco?”
“Do not talk to me about him.” Hermione’s face hardened before she shrunk behind her book.
“You still haven’t told me what happened.”
Hermione shook her head and happily let a loose tear cascade down the front of her face. “Where do I begin?”
Hermione told Ginny absolutely everything about everything she knew of Draco Malfoy. She told her about how they met, their trials about their blood status, the way he had kissed her cheek in the carriage nearly three years ago and how he had hurt her so much that she hated him.
“You don’t mean that, Hermione,” Ginny pleaded. For once, she was not taking Hermione’s side. She actually understood why Draco was acting that way.
“The hell I don’t,” Hermione walked up to Ginny’s room and she followed silently until the door closed behind them.
Ginny took Hermione’s book from her hand, threw it down on her bed and said, “He was just jealous, Hermione. Who isn’t? I was jealous about Cho. I still am.”
“But you didn’t insult Harry and tell him that he was unattractive. You didn’t hit Cho. You didn’t wish that she was dead!” Hermione laid down on her bed facing the ceiling.
“He loves you, Hermione.”
“I don’t care. Besides…he’s never said that.”
Ginny shook her head, but decided against trying to convince her that she was being stupid. Hermione was too stubborn, so she would leave it for another night.
Harry arrived in four days time, much earlier than anticipated. He strode into the kitchen while the others were waiting for their morning meal.
“I decided to leave early,” he told the Weasleys and Hermione. “The Dursleys were getting on my nerves. I took the Knight Bus to the Leaky Cauldron and got Mundungus Fletcher to apparate me here.”
“Harry, you shouldn’t have done that,” Mrs Weasley uttered. “What if something happened? We hadn’t sorted out any security yet.”
“I’m sorry Mrs Weasley, but they were just so unbearable.”
Mrs Weasley forgave him easily - as Ron knew she would - and started feeding all of them their breakfast before they went to Diagon Alley. Ron shrugged and tried to focus on something else rather than his mother’s evident favouritism.
Hermione sat cross-legged on her chair, clutching at her mug of tea while the others ate a Full English Breakfast. She sipped.
“How have you been?” Ron asked Harry.
Harry rolled his green eyes and grabbed a plate. “I had to end it with Cho.”
Ginny’s ear suddenly pricked up eagerly while Ron’s mouth fell open (pieces of sausage available for everyone to see) along with the fork in his hand, crashing down onto his plate.
Harry sighed. “She sent me a howler, threatened me.”
“What? Why?” Ron asked.
Harry leaned closer to his best friend and said, “Well, Hermione told me something earlier in the year that got me thinking.” He paused. “Cho still liked him. A lot.”
“Cedric?” Ron asked loudly.
Hermione turned to him and looked into his eyes, then after a second, resumed staring into the bottom of her cup as if she were reading tealeaves.
Ginny stood up. “Hermione, why don’t you go upstairs and I’ll meet you up there in a minute.”
Silently, she removed herself from the table. Her feet hit each step sadly; she still had the empty mug in her hand, clutching it in between her fingertips as if it were the threads of her own life.
Ginny stormed beside her brother and slapped him on the back of his head.
Ron threw himself forward exaggeratedly. “What was that for?!”
“What were you playing at, saying his name? Do you have any consideration for her feelings?”
“Of course I do,” Ron justified.
“I’m sorry Ginny, it was my fault,” Harry said. “I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”
“No, Harry,” Ginny said, smiling. She was so happy that he had ended his relationship with Cho that she could have danced. “It really wasn’t your fault.”
Ginny scooped up the plates and threw them in the sink, then skipped upstairs to join Hermione.
“So...?” Ron said, once she was out off earshot.
“I sent Cho a letter saying that I think we should stop seeing each other because I knew that his death affected her. Then she sent me a howler because she was mad at me, saying that I shouldn’t think that she loved Cedric more than she loved me. I never said that, Ron, so that confirmed it. I think I knew all along.”
“So she just decided to drag you along for a ride, did she?”
“Who knows how these girls minds’ work?” Harry speculated.
“I don’t think I want to, to be honest,” Ron said while nibbling on a piece of toast. “Having a girlfriend seems like hard work.”
“Hard work which I don’t have time for.”
“Has Dumbledore said anything about You-Know-Who?” Ron asked curiously.
“He never says anything Ron. He just dances around a subject maybe hoping I’ll understand what he’s talking about.”
“He hasn’t explained all of this?”
“A little. But seeing as the Ministry don’t believe us, I think that will take priority.”
Harry, Ron, Hermione and Ginny abandoned Fred, George and Mrs Weasley to look around Flourish and Blotts for their books. Harry gave Ginny all of his old materials, at which she blushed and said thank you.
Ron helped Hermione carry her books down the busy streets along with his own. He hauled the books higher in his arms, sweat beginning to form on his brow. He wiped it with the back of his hand.
“How are you feeling?” Ron asked her.
She shrugged as the four of them walked towards the Apothecary. “I still miss him, but…” Hermione swung her bags full of quills lightly between her fingers.
“There’s nothing wrong with that, Hermione.”
“I know.” She exhaled loudly. “Can we change the subject?”
“Weather’s nice today,” Ron said absently.
Hermione giggled. “It was really warm this morning actually. Now, it’s so cold.” She hunched her shoulders and stood closer to Ron.
The air had turned frosty and not just because the weather had changed. Two tall and rattle-breathed dementors had swarmed the streets, parents and children running all about the place, screaming shouts and warnings.
Never had Hermione seen Diagon Alley in such a terrified state. Screams echoed loudly and Hermione felt Ron grab her and push her towards the closest shop to them. Hermione flung her books to the ground before crouching beside Harry, Ron and Ginny behind the counter of the Quidditch Store.
Hermione shivered and had a terrible flash of her last encounter with a dementor. That time, Draco was with her and she never wanted to remember that time - ever. That was a time when they were happy, friends.
“Ginny?” Harry called.
“What is it?” Hermione asked. In the dark, she leant across Ron and felt for Harry and Ginny.
“She’s passed out.” Harry lifted her up onto his lap. “Listen, we need to get back to the -”
“LOOK OUT!” Ron shouted. The windows of the shop blew out of their frames, each shard flying in their direction. Hermione ducked to the ground, covering her books while feeling Ron’s arm above her and Harry close by holding Ginny.
Hermione brushed her hair from her face and looked up. A dementor had crept through the window searching the room for a sign of sadness. Hermione closed her eyes and tried not to think of anything. But how could she? Her best friend loved her, she loved him back, but it would never work. Her boyfriend had just been killed by the world’s darkest wizard. If those things did not fill her with dejection, what would?
“No,” she told herself. “No. Pull yourself together Hermione Jean Granger.”
“Stand back,” Harry said. Hermione scrambled back while Ron pulled Ginny. Harry jumped up with his wand out and shouted, “Expecto Patronum!”
Hermione was amazed as a large silver stag shot out of his wand and stormed at the dementor, forcing him back outside the shop.
“Come on!” Harry shouted. Ron hauled Ginny over his shoulder and Hermione levitated all of their books with her wand. No way was she leaving them behind.
“How will we get out?” Ron asked Harry urgently, looking around.
“I don’t know!” Harry circled the shop among the scattered debris. “Maybe the fireplace…” He ran through the pile of fallen brooms and looked for any trace of scattered floo powder.
Hermione shuddered and suddenly her breath was taken away from her. The books fell to the ground in one sound plunk! and she was pulled with an awkward force upwards, her face glaring into a dark hooded hole. Each thing she saw tugged on her heartstrings:
She felt the first terror of Draco ignoring her the day he found out she was a muggleborn. She relived the moment she realised what a mudblood was. Hermione saw the basilisk’s eye in her mirror, then the dementor on the train, her boggart, Draco kissing Pansy and Cedric’s dead body.
Hermione screamed and then there was darkness.
“Hermione? Hermione, please wake up,”
She blinked and saw Ginny and Ron sat next to her bed, smiling as they saw her eyes open.
“What happened?” she asked, feeling drowsy.
Ginny looked at Ron nervously. He nodded and she said, “The dementor came back.”
“I know,” Hermione said. “How did we get out?”
Hermione’s head was spinning and her arms and face bore several cuts, as did Ron’s and Ginny’s.
“Harry got the dementor away and Ron was the first to realise we were in a broomstick shop. He hauled you onto a broom, Harry did the same with me and we flew out of there. Ron was quite good actually,” Ginny said, surprised. “Maybe you should tryout for Quidditch, Ron.”
“Nah…I’m not sure…I wasn’t really that good…”
“Thank you, Ron.” Hermione leaned up and smiled through her pain, throwing her arm over his shoulder. She kissed his cheek lightly and he blushed profusely. “Where’s Harry?”
“D-Downstairs,” Ron uttered. “I’ll see if he’ll come up.”
He left the room rather quickly and Hermione looked around not realising where she was. Her bed had archaic sheets on them and every piece of furniture had a thick layer of dust over the top of it. She suddenly felt the urge to find a cloth and dust the place down.
“Where are we?”
Ginny looked at Hermione and smiled. “This is Sirius Black’s house. ”
Hermione swung her legs out of the bed and set her bare feet down on the ground. She suddenly jumped and Ginny frowned at her. “What is it?”
“You saved the books didn’t you?” Hermione screeched.
Ginny chuckled. “Yes, Hermione. The books are safe. Never mind all of the lives of the innocent people,” she muttered sarcastically.
“I’m sorry, I just wondered, that’s all,” Hermione justified quietly.
Ginny helped her out of bed and the pair made their way down the stairs to say hello.
Sirius Black was not at all like she had remembered. He did not look as ragged as he did on the wanted posters and actually looked quite handsome. He was clean for a start, he was well-dressed and his teeth were pearly white. Hermione had to compose herself for a moment; she was quite taken aback.
“Hello,” she muttered.
“Miss Granger?” he asked smiling.
She nodded and shook his hand.
“Look what two years have done to the both of us,” he said. “How do you feel?”
“Good, thanks.” On spotting Harry enter the room, Hermione gave him a long hug and sat down at the table with the others to eat.
“How did you do that before…to the dementors?” she asked Harry, staring at his cuts and bruises.
“The patronus? Lupin taught me. He’s here actually. In the other room.”
“Wow. That’s really advanced stuff, Harry.”
Harry smiled. “Well, it got us out alive.”
“Thank you, Harry.” She hugged him again.
“You do know that Lupin…?”
“Is a werewolf? Come on, Harry. This is me you’re talking to. I knew from our second Defence Against the Dark Arts class when his boggart was the moon.”
“Oh, that’s what that was…”
“What is this place?” Hermione asked.
“Headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix,” Sirius told her as he poured himself a cup of tea. “This is my family home and it’s unplottable.”
He smiled at Hermione and she found herself staring back hazily. Finally, she turned away and asked the others for the details on what the Order was and what they did.
“…fighting for years and Sirius and Lupin have asked us to join,” Ginny finished flatly.
“Why do you seem so down about that?” Hermione asked. “This is an amazing opportunity. We could help to bring down You-Know-Who.”
Behind her, Sirius clapped his hands together. “That’s the kind of attitude we need, Hermione.”
“I’m in,” Ron said confidently.
Hermione beamed at him. “Me too.” She felt like the sun was shining brighter when Sirius smiled at her. She really was terrified about fighting against death eaters but she wanted to make a good impression. “Harry?”
“Of course. There was no doubt about it. He killed my parents and I’m going to do whatever it takes to kill him.”
Ginny nodded and Hermione knew that it was only because Harry had agreed and she wanted to make him see her in a good light.
“Great,” Hermione said. “When do we start?” she asked Sirius, jumping off her chair and knocking over the teapot.
“Calm down,” he told her. “The meeting’s about to begin.”
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