Chapter 2 : Chapter 2: Back to Hogwarts
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“Hey! Watch where you’re go—“A scraping of metal was heard and a jolt jerked her and the trolley to a stop, taking down her and the stranger along with their luggage. Hermione immediately turned her attention to a hissing Crookshanks in his cage that had toppled off the top of the cart. Hermione quickly jumped up, retrieving the woven case.
“I am so sorry! I should’ve been paying attention,” Hermione said fervently as she hurriedly began to straighten up the cart and replace the luggage back on the rack.
“You’re bloody right, you should have been paying attention you filthy little Mudblood,” Draco spat as he raised, brushing himself off, and began restacking luggage on his own trolley.
Hermione directly looked up at the platinum blonde haired boy shoving his luggage on the trolley and scowled harshly, wishing she had not even apologized. She stood behind her cart, both hands gripped on the sleek, metal handle tightly. Her eyes focused in crudely on Draco.
Draco finally finished fixing the trolley’s contents, turning sharply towards the bushy haired Gryffindor. He looked from her to his clothing with disgust, “do you know how long it’ll take to wash your disgusting filth off my robes?”
“You know, everyone is entitled to be stupid, Malfoy, but you abuse the privilege,” Hermione said, not breaking eye contact with her counterpart, hands still gripping her trolley in a vice.
“Well, you know what? At least I’m not—“ Draco quickly retracted his words, as he stared into the angry grirl’s cloudy, light gray orbs. Something clicked in the recesses of his mind to just moments before, when he had locked eyes with fiery Gryffindor. Her dark, brown eyes had shot daggers into his pale ones. Her brown eyes… Draco stood with his mouth agape as he tried to process the occurrence.
“Point taken,” Hermione affirmed herself, easing out of the hard line her face had been set into and gave an almost indistinguishable smirk. Draco had watched as she did so. The second before her harsh face and changed into the hidden grin, right after she had blinked allowing herself to gain more composure, her eyes were once more a deep brown. There was no mistaking.
I must be going insane… But, Draco quickly closed his mouth and scowled slightly at her. He knew what he saw. He would remember this.
Draco remained thin lipped as he turned and pushed his trolly towards the train to board the Hogwarts Express. Dragging his luggage on board, he slung it into the closest rack and trudged to find the compartment that he, Pansy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Blaise Zabini sat in every year. Of all people, how could Hermione Granger be destined for anything concerning the fate of the war? Let alone a prophecy concerning the Dark Lord…
“Draco! Over here! Draco!” Draco could her Pansy’s squeals coming from the seating compartment in the corner. He entered and closed the door shut.
”Hermione! There you are! We’ve been looking everywhere for you,” Harry slid open the door allowing Hermione in as Ron grabbed her trunk and sat it in on an upper rack.
“Thanks,” Hermione mumbled to Ron, “I had a little bit of a run in, but I’m fine.” She closed the door and took a seat across from Harry next to the window. “How was your summer?”
“Alright, I spent the last few days at the Burrow with Ron.”
“Yeah, I thought you were coming down for the end of summer?” Ron asked as he took a seat next to Hermione.
“I thought so too,” Hermione sighed while opening the cage to let a frazzled Crookshanks crawl out, “but I had a meeting with Dumbledore close to the end of summer, so I had to stay.”
“A meeting? Probably just Head Prefect stuff,” Ron shrugged, propping his feet up in the seat next to Harry.
“Not really…” Hermione stood up and closed the blinds over the compartment windows.
After placing a silencing charm on the room such as Dumbledore had done, she told Harry and Ron everything he had talked to her family about. A flabbergasted looking Ron and Harry plopped back to their seats from their original anxious positions of being leaned in. “I know it sounds crazy… but do you think it’s true?”
“I have no idea, Hermione. I’ve never heard of that kind of magic before…” Ron’s eyebrows were furrowed together.
“But, it must be the truth if even Dumbledore is concerned…” Harry stated plainly. If anyone knew Dumbledore better, it was him.
“Do you think You-Know-Who knows?” Hermione asked quietly her brows knitted together in confusion and worry.
“I dunno, Hermione, but even if he did we wouldn’t let any—“ Ron stopped short as something slid aside the door.
“Granger, Weasleby! Prefect meeting now in the front compartment. Unless you’d rather stay here and discuss how much money Weasley has in Gringotts. Go ahead, it shouldn’t take very long,” Draco Malfoy sneered as he leaned the door frame.
“Who are you to tell me of the meeting? You’re not a pre—“ Hermione started, but stopped as Draco pulled at the front of his school robes, which he was now wearing, in a showing manner. A patch with the letter “P” in silver and green stood out against the dark cloth. Hermione huffed to herself more than her companion, “come on, Ron. We’ll meet up with you later Harry.” Hermione stood up grabbing Ron by the wrist cuff of his old sweater as they followed suit behind Malfoy out of the door.
The meeting lasted until the train was almost to Hogsmeade Station. It had been a rather interesting session. To everyone’s surprise, there had been some changes made to the previous years’ prefect system. Although Hermione and a dark-haired Ravenclaw, were made Head Girl and Boy, Angelina Johnson and Ernie MacMillan returned as what were now known as Ground Prefects. As they had explained, Ground Prefects now spend their patrolling times outside of the castle with many of the other off duty teachers to look for suspicious activity. All other prefect duties will remain as they previously were, but only with extended patrolling hours. The patrolling areas and hours of the Head Prefects and Ground Prefects would switch on occasion, so there would be no unfairness between the two. Because of the new prefect positions, two new prefects were instituted into the system. Unfortunately these two happened to be none other than Draco Malfoy and Cormac McLaggen.
Draco had sat uncaringly, seeming to barely pay attention as information was given out. How on Earth did he become a prefect? Hermione didn’t understand. Being a prefect was an honor given to the students held at high esteem… but here sat Draco, blatantly ignoring everyone. And then there was Cormac McLaggen, who flirted unabashedly with a group of Ravenclaw prefects—occasionally flashing an upturned smile to Hermione. She would immediately look away and act as though she hadn’t noticed. Cocky.
Angelina finished her duty of explaining with a smile, but the rest of the prefects sat angrily picking at the cotton on their seats or sitting mutely. Inside, Angelina was just as upset as everyone else, but she knew that Dumbledore had good intentions on setting the rules differently.
After quickly changing into her school robes Hermione quickly dashed off the train to meet Harry and Ron—who had dressed more quickly—on the carriages. Rain was already falling from the sky. As she ran, mud began to coat the tail end of her robes and dotted up to her arms on occasion. She arrived just in time to jump in the carriage that was already being occupied by her best friends, Neville Longbottom, and Luna Lovegood—all whose robes were also drenched with mud. Immediately the carriage began to pull itself down the muddy path through the forest.
“Hello Hermione, did you know you have a bug in your hair?” Luna said dreamily not removing her eyes from The Quibbler.
“Er… no,” Hermione said awkwardly as she began running her fingers through the mess of her soaked, frizzing curls.
“I got it,” Ron said as he leaned in closer. Separating her curls, he gently pulled an small beetle out of her hair.
“Thanks Ron,” Hermione said as she turned to face him. Ron’s face reddened discreetly at the proximity of his face to hers.
“You’re welcome.” Ron then threw the insect over the side of the carriage, trying not to be noticed.
“Er… so how was your summer, Luna?” Harry asked distracting everyone from Ron’s reddening face.
“Oh it was very good. Father had to call the Magical Creature Control Services to come rid our house of nargles twice, though. A very nasty scene it was.” Luna said distantly before returning to reading.
“What about you, Neville?”
“It was okay. My grandmother spent most of the summer at the newest hat shop in Hogsmeade, unfortunately I had to spend the remainder of my summer modeling her new hats…” Neville trailed off in embarrassment and looked down at the wooden boarding on the carriage.
The conversation no longer continued and they rolled up to the castle. Hogwarts… There is no place I’d rather be… Hermione couldn’t help but smiling to herself as she looked up at the brilliantly lit towers of all shapes and sizes.
After the soaking wet and muddy passengers arrived and the Sorting was done, the Great Hall flooded with continued chatter among the students about their summer events. But surprisingly, Dumbledore did not stand up for his beginning of the feast speech. Instead glorious mounds of foods filled the table as the students began to help themselves.
Hermione looked up at the staff table. The teachers had begun filling their plates. She watched as Professor McGonagall chatted enthusiastically with Professor Sprout. Her eyes traveled to Hagrid. He loaded his plate with an entire chicken, all the while grinning sheepishly and occasionally bumping the table—jostling the drinks slightly and mumbling a sorry every time. Severus Snape looked at the half giant in annoyance and scanned the room, eyes mimicking the diligence that of a hawk. He narrowed them as they encountered the messy, black hair of Harry Potter. His eyes met hers, squinting in a cold and calculating manner—almost as if he were trying to bore into her mind by means of her eyes. She snapped her gaze down quickly, and then averted them to the Headmaster. Instead of eating, Dumbledore was leaned back in his seat, his chin perched atop his hands that were being supported by his elbows on the arms of the chair. He looked off into the crowd in deep thought.
“Oi Er-my-nee, ar’n you goi’n to eat sumf’ing,” Ron asked, his mouth full of chicken and mashed potatoes. Turning her attention back to her friends, she smiled and heartily filling her own plate.
Soon the desert portion of the meal passed and Dumbledore got up from his chair and stood in front of his golden, owl pedestal. “Welcome back to another year here at Hogwarts! Once again Mr. Filch would like me to tell all the students that all Weasley products are forbidden. Also, Professor Sprout asks you to acknowledge that the Whomping Willow has come down with a nasty cold and to not come within twenty feet of the tree unless you wish to risk your very life. Prefects will lead the rest of the students to their dorms, while the Head and Ground Prefects begin patrol. Now off to bed and goodnight to you all!” Dumbledore waved his arms lavishly towards the Great Hall doors.
Hermione, Angelina, Ernie, and the Ravenclaw boy who she learned had the name Luke Arkes, stood in the now empty Hall waiting for instruction as they watched the Prefects lead their respective houses to the dorms. Dumbledore made his way down the raised platform where the staff tables were, and approached the waiting officers.
“Miss Johnson, Mr. Macmillan, you may begin your patrol of grounds with the rest of the staff. Mr. Arkes, you may begin your patrol of the West wing. Miss Granger, I would like you to patrol the East wing. That will be all for tonight. If you have any questions, please, do not hesitate to ask,” Dumbledore said to the students he gave their own affirmatives. He then parted with a slight nod and a smile, heading off to attend to his own duties as Headmaster of Hogwarts.
The top prefects went their respective ways, patrolling the halls of Hogwarts. Hermione’s route would lead her to circle the corridors of the Ravenclaw tower and Slytherin dungeons. Over the course of her six year at Hogwarts, she had seen plenty of the old castle’s mysteries and passages, but never had she explored the surrounding areas of the other houses’ dormitories (save for Hufflepuff when she, Harry, and Ron snuck into the kitchens).
She made her way up a collection of winding staircases, patrolling all the while and keeping a keen eye on the lookout for any mischief. She continued to climb staircase after staircase—seemingly to never end—but soon she reached the highest tower in Hogwarts: the Ravenclaw dormitory.
She passed by the portrait of a woman who seemed to be asleep—the dorm’s keeper—she assumed, and went on into the entry hall. Blue and bronze were apparent in the room; coloring the rugs, curtains, and statues. She looked up at the ceiling of the tower. It continued to spiral in a peak at the very top. It seemed so much larger than what Hermione had once believed it to be. She crossed the hall and looked out of the stone-arched window. A cool breeze tickled her skin as she could hear the wind whipping at the tower due to its height.
Out in the near distance, she could see the Owlry. Looking below, she saw owls, of all sizes and colors, spreading their wings in flight. Hermione could clearly tell that the owls were glad to be free from the cages of their masters. She watched the owls in contentment. Only at Hogwarts. She smiled to herself, easily catching sight of a snowy owl that she easily depicted as Hedwig, Harry’s owl.
Come on, Hermione. You’ve wasted enough time bird watching. She raised her chin from resting in her palm, removing the elbow leaning on the windowsill. She had always found the flight of a bird a magical thing—especially as a child. There had been many times when she had wished to be as carefree as the birds above her. Soaring the skies as rulers of the Heavens. Protectors of the clouds. Songstresses of the night. The fascination had never completely died with age.
Hermione continued to walk with her head in the clouds (almost literally), and let her feet carry her on down the halls to the opposite stairwell to exit and continue her patrol.
She made her way down the winding stairs, and took the right leading toward the Slytherin dorms. The level of the floor seemed to slowly sink as she made her way through the long passage—and deeper into the Earth. Unlike the free, cool breeze that had blown in the drafty Ravenclaw tower, the coldness as she descended into the entry way of the dungeons seemed to creep on her skin. A musty smell hung thick in the air. It wasn’t an unpleasant smell, but it gave her a sense of suffocation and confinement—unlike the Ravenclaw or Gryffindor towers.
She pulled her robes closer to her, shielding out some of the cold. The after a small set of steps, the hall finally leveled off. The shadowy outer hallway of the dorm was eerily quiet. She couldn’t understand how the Slytherin students could find comfort in a place like this. The ghostly feeling of the empty hall led Hermione to retract her wand from the inner pocket of her robes in which it had been stashed for safe keeping.
“Lumos,” she whispered, allowing a small amount of light to illuminate the dank passage. She continued on her way, her shoes clacking on the stone-flagged floor all the while, causing echoes to bounce off of the walls.
Absentmindedly, Hermione allowed her hand to trail against the wall ever so slightly. Her initial thoughts had been that the walls would feel slimy and slippery. But, as she let her hand glide against the rock, she found they weren’t. The rocks were smooth and cold to the touch—not to mention damp.
Everyone knew that the Slytherin dormitories were present underneath the Great Lake, but it seemed as though the lake was almost a part of the castle dungeons. The water seemed to effortlessly drip slowly from the walls.
Hermione felt a wisp of cold hit the back of her neck—almost like a breath. She turned around quickly, her wand pointed towards the giver of the source. But she saw no one. Her face paled and her stomach dropped slightly. She had expected to see someone standing there. She stood frozen for a moment before calling out.
“Hello?” She received no response. Oh, this is ridiculous. Snapping back to her calm, straight-backed self, she let her voice ring through the corridor, “As Head Girl of Hogwarts, I am issuing that all students return to their dormitories at once.” She waited. When no response—not even footsteps—registered, she swallowed hard.
Turning on her heel, she walked—quickening her pace. What some may have seen as a diligent, purposeful stride was actually a slightly fearful Hermione.
She came to the end of the hall, in hopes of quickly exiting the dungeons, but saw nothing but a fork in her path, leading to two other dark corridors. She groaned inwardly before remembering a secret passage Harry had told her about.
She recalled listening to Harry and Ron recount the events of their second year when they had spied on Malfoy—having suspicions that he was the Slytherin Heir, wreaking havoc among the students. When the polyjuice potion began to lose its effect, the boys had told Hermione they snuck through a passage Fred and George had told them about for a quick getaway.
The portrait with the sleeping dragon. She looked down both halls, squinting her eyes in the darkness—trying to distinguish the paintings. “Lumos Maxima.” The hallways were illuminated even more, giving her more relief. She pointed her wand into the right hallway, immediately seeing the sleeping dragon painting.
The dragon’s dark, red body moved silently up and down in his deep slumber. Hermione carefully placed her fingers behind the edge of the painting, slowly opening it as to not startle the resting beast. When she pulled the painting apart enough to climb in, she stepped through the hole in the wall, gently pulling the painting back to its original state.
Oh, just great. She encountered an even more narrow, passage. Thankfully this one is quicker. Hermione had never been one to sneak around Hogwarts by means of secret passage particularly, but she felt this time could be the exception.
She made her way through the dark pass as quickly as possible, but came to a halt as she approached a painting hung on the wall. There had been no other paintings or decorations within the vicinity, but this lone portrait hung on the wall.
She edged closer to it for examination. The picture was hanging slightly crooked, in a cracked, golden frame. In the portrait, a man with light, determined eyes stared back at her—a small grin on his face. His dark, shoulder length hair hung down, rivaling the unruliness that of Harry’s. He was without a question an attractive man, but she had never seen his portrait mentioned in her favorite book, Hogwarts: A History.
Hermione then noticed another thing that startled her slightly. Unlike the rest of the portraits in Hogwarts whose occupants move, talk, and even visit one another for afternoon tea, this said painting mirrored those of the Muggle world. It did not move.
Dust coated the outer edges of the painting, covering a lot of the frame design. But just below the man’s portrait, she saw a small, golden plate hiding under the dust. Using her other hand that was unoccupied by her wand, she rubbed the rusting plate until she could distinguish the words underneath.
Alphard Corvus. The name did not ring a bell. Mentally she repeated the name to herself. She had no quill or parchment at the moment to right down the name for research in the library later. She began to walk ahead.
Giving one final glance over her shoulder at the silent man, Hermione’s mantra in her head had turned into audible words, “Alphard Corvus.” She then turned for the last time, walking down the dark passage to the exit as the Bloody Baron watched her from the shadows—a look of curiosity and confusion plastered on his translucent face.
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