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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 within 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 crudely on Draco.
Draco finally finished fixing his trolley's contents, turning sharply towards the bushy haired Gryffindor. He looked from her to his clothing with contempt.
"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 calmly, 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 at the angry Gryffindor. Something clicked in the recesses of his mind as he saw her eyes flash from a steely gray to brown as she blinked repetitively at him. He looked at her mouth agape. If he had forgotten his mission, this caused him to remember it quite well.
Suddenly, gray irises shot daggers into his pale ones once more. Draco stood with his mouth hanging open as he tried to process his next course of action. Should he contain his harsh words? Would it even matter? It wasn't as though he was going to attempt to befriend her just because of the forced mission.
"Point taken," Hermione affirmed herself, easing out of the anger on her face and giving him a triumphant smirk. Draco had watched as she did so. The second before her harsh face had changed into an amused grin, right after she had blinked allowing herself to gain more composure, her eyes were once more a deep brown.
Draco, despite questioning his sanity, quickly closed his mouth and scowled slightly at her. He knew what he had seen and it would appear that Lord Voldemort would be getting a notice sooner than he had expected.
Draco remained thin lipped as he turned and pushed his trolley towards the train to board the Hogwarts Express. Dragging his luggage on board, he trudged to the compartment that he, Pansy, Crabbe, Goyle, and Blaise Zabini had sat in every ride since their second year. He slid the door open and slung his luggage on top of the the closest rack before closing it behind him once more and taking a seat beside Blaise. He couldn't help but imagine how Hermione Granger of all people could be destined for anything concerning the fate of this ongoing war. She was plain, uninteresting, and only concerned with how much information she could cram into her head. How could she be part of a prophecy that concerned the Dark Lord; a powerful, frightening being?
Draco could her Pansy Parkinson's squeals coming from behind the door of the seating compartment. She slid it open quickly and sat on the other side of him, latching onto his arm, stroking it gently. She started to tell him about her summer as a starry-eyed fourth year boy drug her luggage into the compartment, struggling to heave it atop the rack. After successfully placing her things in their proper place, the Slytherin student left disappointingly as he caught a glance at where Pansy had placed her attentions.
Draco Malfoy couldn't care less what the foolish girl had to say. He rested his head in his hand as his elbow sat atop his leg. He grew deep in thought about Hermione Granger, dissatisfaction and stress aging his young face.
"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 hefted it upon an upper rack within the cart they had chosen for the journey.
"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, holding a now calm Crookshanks and his cage in her lap. The train whistled and lurched forward nearly causing Ron to fall over. She looked out the window, watching the waving families pass by. She suddenly wished she hadn't told her parents that she was fine enough to go ahead on her own; she wished they had been there so she could have someone to wave back at. They platform soon shrunk into the distance as greenery began dotting the view. Pulling herself from her thoughts Hermione turned to Harry.
"How was your summer?"
"It was all right. The Durselys were hardly bearable as always, but I managed to spend the last few weeks at the Burrow," Harry said as he scratched the back of his head, further messing up his already disheveled hair.
"Speaking of which, 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 setting the cage on the floor and opening it to let Crookshanks out to stretch his legs, "but I had a meeting with Dumbledore close to the end of summer, so I had to stay."
"A meeting? What sort of meeting?" Ron asked, propping his long legs up in the across from him next to Harry.
"It's... complicated." Hermione stood up and closed the blinds over the compartment windows.
After locking the compartment door and placing a silencing charm on the room such as Dumbledore had done, she told Harry and Ron everything he had talked to her and her parents about. She recited the prophecy the best she could from memory and expressed her concerns after running into a frazzled Draco Malfoy not but moments earlier. She told them that Dumbledore was unsure if Voldemort knew of the prophecy and that the magic mentioned within it was nothing she had ever ran across while reading in the past. She cradled herself slightly as unease settled in her stomach from the conversation. She knew far too little about the ordeal than she liked to for sure.
A flabbergasted looking Ron and Harry plopped back into their seats from their original anxious positions of being leaned in once Hermione stopped her pouring of information. They were both wide-eyed and silent.
"I know it all sounds absolutely insane… but do you think it's true?" Hermione spoke slowly.
"I have no idea, Hermione. I've never heard of that kind of magic before…" Ron's eyebrows were furrowed together as he tried to process what she had just told him and Harry.
"But, it must be the truth if even Dumbledore is concerned," Harry stated assuredly. If anyone knew Dumbledore, it was him. Hermione found some comfort in that notion at least.
"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, Weasley! 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 on the door frame.
"When a door is locked, that often means stay out, Malfoy, or at least have some civility to knock first," Hermione said hurriedly in panic and anger. Not only was she stressed from the current topic at hand, but she was worried that he might have somehow been listening in. Draco didn't move and instead pulled annoyingly at the fabric on his dark school robes that held a sewn in patch of the letter "P" in silver and green. Hermione huffed to herself more than her companions. If Draco had already changed into his school robes they must be getting close to Hogwarts. She began to wonder how long they had been talking.
"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 the strutting Malfoy and 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 and many of the other students, were made prefects in the past year, they had been promoted the title of Ground Prefects. Angelina Johnson and Ernie MacMillan returned as Head Girl and Head Boy. As they had explained, Ground Prefects now spent some of their patrolling time outside of the castle with many of the other off duty teachers to watch 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; a shy Ravenclaw girl and an eager Hufflepuff boy.
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 with Pansy Parkinson clinging to him like dryer lint. She couldn't help but assume that perhaps he was trying to ignore the chatty prefect that kept trying to garner his attentions. Draco occasionally stole glances at Hermione, making her uncomfortable, but she settled with pretending not to notice.
Angelina finished her explanations with a smile, but the rest of the prefects simply sat picking at the cotton on their seats or sitting mutely, simmering on the thought of longer hours of duty. Inside, Angelina was just as confused as everyone else, but she knew that Dumbledore had good intentions on setting the rules differently.
After quickly changing into her school robes Hermione dashed off the train to meet Harry and Ron who were already waiting on the carriages. Rain had begun falling from the sky, dampening the ground below. As she ran, mud coated 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 rainwater and mud. Immediately the carriage began to pull itself down the sodden path and 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-despite it appearing to have been wet and soggy for some time.
"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 a 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.
"It's not a problem," Ron stuttered before throwing the insect over the side of the carriage, trying not to be garner attention.
"Er… so how was your summer, Luna?" Harry asked distracting everyone from the awkward exchange and 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. Hermione's mouth twitched slightly in response, wishing to giggle. The only people to have ever "seen" nargles were Luna and her father. She imagined the scenario played out with the Lovegoods doing much arm-flapping and wailing as they pointed to the floating nargles-leaving the service workers confused and frustrated at their inability to see the small beings.
"What about you, Neville?" Hermione asked after finally pulling herself from her musings.
"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 conversations no longer continued as they rolled up to the castle. Hogwarts… There is no place I'd rather be. Hermione couldn't help but smile to herself as she looked up at the brilliantly lit towers of all shapes and sizes.
After the soaking wet and muddy passengers arrived, magically cleaned and dried themselves, 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 year 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 who 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. Hermione knew that had the students not much to say in returning from their summer holidays, that they all would have been quizzical at the Headmaster's actions.
"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 filled her own plate.
Soon the dessert 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 Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes 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.
Quite often Dumbledore would have given the students some bit of quirky advice, short lesson, or something practical, but the Headmaster had barely greeted them before ushering them to bed. Hermione wondered if he had simply been lost in thought, or if he had been trying to discern what to tell the students-a first, if so.
The students filed out of the Great Hall loudly and began following their house prefects up to their respective dorms. After a few lingering students and first-years dashed off, the remaining prefects waited to begin their shift duties.
Hermione, Angelina, Ernie, and the Hufflepuff boy who she learned had the name Luke Arkes, stood in the now empty foyer waiting for instructions. Surprisingly, it was Dumbledore who made his way out of the Great Hall, and approached the waiting officers with instructions.
"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 as they nodded with understanding. He then parted with an inclination of his own head and a smile, off to attend to his own duties as Headmaster of Hogwarts.
The Head 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 years 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 had 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 as they seemed to never end, but soon she reached the highest tower in Hogwarts: the Ravenclaw dormitory.
She passed by the door holding a shiny, slumbering knocker—the dorm's keeper—she assumed, and went on into the entry hall. She looked up at the slanted 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 to the other side of the hall and looked out of the one of the stone-arched window. A cool breeze tickled her skin and she could hear the wind whipping at the tower due to its massive height.
Out in the near distance, she could see the Owlery which held a faint glow inside. In its shadows, she could see owls of all sizes and colors spreading their wings in flight preparing themselves to nest for the night. Hermione could clearly tell that the owls were glad to be free from the cages of their owners. She watched the owls in contentment. Only at Hogwarts. She smiled to herself, easily catching sight of a snowy owl that could only be Hedwig, Harry's owl.
Come on, Hermione. You've wasted enough time bird watching. She raised her chin from resting in her palm, removing her elbow that had been leaning on the windowsill. She had always found the flight of a bird a magical thing—especially as a child. She had harbored a crippling fear of flying from high up for as long as she could remember, but there had been many times when she had wished to be as carefree as the birds above her. Soaring the skies as with the 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 hallway that would eventually lead to the dungeons and 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 upon 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 when inside the Ravenclaw or Gryffindor towers.
She pulled her robes closer to her, shielding out some of the cold. After a small set of steps, the hall finally leveled off. The shadowy outer hallway of the dorm entry way was eerily quiet. She couldn't understand how the Slytherin students could find comfort in such a place. 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—if slightly damp.
Everyone knew that the Slytherin dormitories were settled beneath the Great Lake, but it seemed as though the lake was almost a part of the castle dungeons; water seemed to effortlessly drip slowly from the walls, but no source could be found.
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 none. Her face paled and her stomach dropped slightly. She had expected to see someone standing there. Standing frozen for a moment, she hesitated 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 a prefect 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 her brain went to work. She remembered a nearby secret passage Harry had told her about. The tilted passage provided entryway to the two floors above, resting midway between the Slytherin commons and the stairs leading to the Ravenclaw dorms.
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 Marauder's Map, no doubt. She rolled her eyes at their "cleverness."
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 further, giving her relieving the nipping fears that had been growing. She pointed her wand into the right hallway and immediately saw 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.
Hermione groaned inwardly as she encountered an even narrower 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 she could be allowed the exception.
She made her way through the dark pass as quickly as possible, but came to a halt as she approached a painting that hung on the cobwebbed wall. There had been no other paintings or decorations within the vicinity, but this lone portrait.
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 even with a completely list of the portraits and paintings, she had never seen his mentioned in her favorite book, Hogwarts: A History.
Hermione then noticed another thing that startled her slightly. Unlike the majority 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's 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. She had no quill or parchment at the moment to right down the name in case she forgot it, so continuously, she mentally repeated the name to herself. She wished not to forget; she wanted to inquire about the name in the library later. She began to walk past the portrait and up the slanting floor toward her destination.
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 spoke almost questioningly, tilting her head slightly.
She then turned for the last time, walking up the dark passage and to the exit as the Bloody Baron watched her from the shadows—a look of curiosity and knowing ghosting his translucent face.
A/N: Thanks for reading! I'll be posting the revised versions of each chapter before updating with the new one. Hoping there won't be too much backlog! Feel free to review or message me with any thoughts or opinions. Until next time!
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