The next few minutes were so chaotic that it would be hours before Hermione could properly remember what had happened. Screams and shouts echoed through the street and down the alleyway; rushing footsteps announced the arrival of Professors Flitwick and Sinistra who had been in the Three Broomsticks; Hermione clung to Theo, who wrapped his arms protectively around her and watched the commotion around them with a blank, detached expression.
“What happened?” Professor Sinistra asked the Head Boy and Girl quietly.
Theo shook his head, watching as Professor Flitwick conjured a white cloth to cover Terrance’s body.
“We arrived to this scene…” Theo murmured as an answer.
“Did anyone see the murd—what happened?” Professor Sinistra asked, cringing at her own slip up.
“I don’t think so…” Theo replied, tightening his arms around Hermione as he felt her shake with silent tears. “A man and woman…” he paused and pointed to the couple on the other side of the crowd, “they were the first people to find him…”
“Thank you,” Professor Sinistra turned to talk to the witnesses just as Professor McGonagall hurried up with Professor Slughorn.
“Please, Professor…” Theo murmured when the headmistress looked as if she would interrogate them. “Please…we don’t know what happened. Hermione’s really upset…I think I should get her back up to the castle.”
The headmistress nodded, pressing her lips together.
“I’ll call the both of you to my office later to discuss this, Nott. Thank you for staying here until the situation could be put under control.”
Theo nodded and turned from the scene, steering Hermione through the crowd. Behind him, he heard Professor Slughorn:
“Nothing like this in the old days…a member of my own House…in broad daylight, Minerva? What’s the world coming to?”
Theo shook his head. What a wonderful question…
Back in the Heads’ Dormitory, Hermione slumped onto the couch, staring at the carpet beneath her feet, her tears used up, but her heart still aching.
“Ace…” Theo murmured, sitting beside her and taking her hand.
She turned to look at him.
“It’s okay to show that you’re hurt, Theo…” she replied, just as quietly. “You were much closer to Terry than I was…I know you aren’t okay.”
“You’re right; I’m not okay…but I’m worried about you, on top of my heart shattering for my friend who’s lying in the street back there,” his voice broke and he swallowed hard. “How could this have happened?” he whispered.
Hermione shook her head and leaned against him.
“We’re at war, Theo…we just never thought it was this close to home…”
Theo clenched his hand that wasn’t holding Hermione’s into a fist.
“I swear to God…I swear to God…if Malfoy had something to do with this…”
Hermione looked taken-aback—she hadn’t even considered Draco as a suspect.
“Theo…” she murmured, about to point out that Draco didn’t seem like he would have killed Terry about their argument. Theo interrupted her.
“He was going to kill Dumbledore, Hermione,” he said angrily, taking his hand out of hers to run it through his tossled brown hair. “I don’t doubt he could’ve killed Terry. He was like a brother to me! And now…he’s gone.”
Hermione took his hand back in hers, her eyes welling with tears again.
“We should find Garrett and the others…you should be with them right now…”
“Okay…let’s check the trophy room. I used to hang out with them in there all the time…”
As Theo predicted, Sam, Garrett, and Mandy were huddled on the floor in a corner of the trophy room, their heads bowed in silence. Garrett looked up when Hermione and Theo entered and nodded once. The Slytherins shifted to make room for the Heads to join them.
“Professor McGonagall wouldn’t tell us anything,” Mandy said quietly. “What happened Theo? Who could’ve done this?” Her face was tearstained. Terry had been her yearmate, she had spent more time with him than any of their other friends.
Theo sighed and ran his hands through his hair restlessly.
“I honestly don’t know more than you do,” he replied, his voice low and hoarse. “I’m sorry…Hermione and I were probably the last people to see Terry alive though…”
“Was he acting differently?” Sam asked, tears still spilling from her eyes. “Did he look like he thought he was in danger?”
Theo shook his head.
“Hermione and I broke up a fight between him and Malfoy, then Terry headed back to the school alone…he was barely gone for five, maybe ten minutes, when someone found his body…”
“Malfoy?” Garrett hissed, looked up from his hands. “Malfoy was there? Have you told the headmistress?”
Hermione shook her head fervently.
“I don’t think Draco could’ve done this,” she said quickly.
“Hermione,” he said simply, as if explaining something to a child, “he was going to kill Professor Dumbledore last year. Everyone knows that. Who’s to say he wouldn’t kill Terrance?”
Hermione shook her head again.
“I don’t think he would have, and we have no proof. Yes, I admit he’s a bit creepy and might have something to do with all the other strange things going on this year…but I don’t think he’s a murderer. And he didn't have time, anyway...I was with him up until a few moments before they found Terry...”
The Slytherins looked skeptical.
“I have some homework to do,” Hermione said reluctantly, really planning on going to the Heads’ Dormitory to take a nap and hopefully forget about the horrible events of the day. She didn't feel like she belonged here among the grieving friends. She hadn't known Terrance nearly as long as them. They needed time alone. “I…I’ll see you all later.”
She stood and placed a hand on Theo’s shoulder.
“I’ll probably be in our dormitory if you need me.”
The Head Boy nodded and turned back to his friends as Hermione made her way from the Trophy Room. Behind her, she could her Mandy or Sam crying into someone's shoulder while the others began talking again quietly. Their spirits were broken, and Hermione understood that. If there was anything she could do to help, she would.
As she walked through the empty hallways, Hermione tried not to think about Terry’s death or the Slytherins’ suspicions about Draco. She didn’t want to worry about any of it—it was still too shocking to process. What she really needed to do was talk to Ron and Harry, she decided, and changed her course for the Gryffindor common room. It was unlikely that the boys would be back from Hogsmeade yet, but she would wait until they arrived. After giving the Fat Lady the password, Hermione entered Gryffindor tower and slumped into one of the armchairs by the fire.
How could this have happened? she thought, her eyes welling with tears again.
It was hard for her to understand what was going on—true, she didn’t know Terrance that well and they hadn’t been close friends, but he was Theo’s friend and that made him okay in her eyes…and now he was dead. That was truly the worst part, she had realized: not just that he was dead, but that he had died in Hogsmeade, practically on the doorstep of the school. Her thoughts were interrupted by the portrait hole opening to admit several Gryffindors, including Harry, Ron, and Ginny.
“Hermione!” Harry exclaimed, leading Ron and Ginny to join the Head Girl by the fire. “We heard that someone was killed! What happened?”
Harry’s eyes were wide in horror.
Hermione swallowed hard, a few more tears leaking down her face.
“It was Terrance…” she replied quietly. “In Hogsmeade…we were some of the first people to see his body…Theo and I.”
“What?” Ron choked, his jaw dropping in surprise.
Ginny let out a strangled sort of sob.
“Death Eaters in Hogsmeade?” she asked, turning to grab Harry’s hand for support.
“We don’t know yet…” Hermione replied. “But Terry’s dead…and all Theo and the others can think about is that Draco fought with Terry right before he died…”
Ron clenched his fists.
“Malfoy! I should’ve known!”
“No, Ron,” Hermione said, shaking her head. “I don’t think it was him.”
“You…don’t think it was him?” Harry asked, disbelief in his voice. “Why not?”
“I just…I talked to him right after Theo and I broke up his fight with Terrance. He didn’t seem angry enough to hurt anyone. He was a bit annoyed, maybe, but Terry was much angrier, and you don’t see Draco lying in an alleyway…” Hermione bit her lip and sighed. “I just don’t think he’s a killer…”
Ron, Harry, and Ginny had the same skeptical looks the Slytherins had when Hermione made a case for Draco Malfoy’s innocence, but Hermione didn’t mind. She knew that no one else believed her, but something in her gut was just telling her that it couldn’t have been a seventeen year old who killed Terrance in broad-daylight in the middle of Hogsmeade.
“I’m going back to the Heads’ Dorms, I think,” Hermione said, at last. “I want to check in with Theo, if he’s back from talking to the other Slytherins…we have to meet with Professor McGonagall tonight.”
Harry and Ron nodded and stood to hug her.
While she was hugging Harry, he whispered in her ear:
“I know this isn’t the best time, but Ron and I think we’ve found the locket, from Sirius’s house…I’ll tell you more about it later…I just wanted you to know.”
Hermione nodded as they broke apart, even the Horcruxes didn't seem overly important right now. Her emotions were everywhere; she couldn't focus on something like the locket right now.
“Thanks, Harry,” she murmured. “Bye, guys. I’ll see you later.”
Hermione took a slow route back towards the Heads’ Dorms, walking through the hallways at a pace that allowed her to think about everything that had happened in the day.
Why would someone want to hurt Terry? she thought sadly. What had he ever done to anyone? Were the Death Eaters really in Hogsmeade? Was the war really going to come to Hogwarts? Hermione shook her head to clear it. I don’t want to think about this, she thought, biting her lip. It still hurts too much.
Arriving at Sam’s portrait, Hermione spoke the password and entered her common room.
It was very obviously, empty.
Hermione sighed and curled up on the couch, tucking her feet beneath herself and hugging a pillow. Part of her really wanted to search for Theo—she was worried about him, knowing he couldn’t be nearly as calm as he had been pretending to be. She knew he was hurting and wanted to be there for him, but she couldn’t even begin to guess where he’d be. She hoped he was still with his friends, though. They had known Terry the best; they would know how to comfort Theo and cope with the loss of their friend.
Suddenly, an extremely loud banging noise issued from the other side of the portrait—someone was knocking to be let in, someone very persistent.
Hermione leapt to her feet and hurried to the portrait, wishing she had a Muggle peep-hole to see who was outside. She took a deep breath and opened the portrait, leaning her weight against it to push the person on the other side away from the door. Tumbling out into the hall, Hermione glanced around to see who had needed her attention so very desperately and was shocked and horrified to come face-to-face with Draco Malfoy.
“I didn’t do it!” he shouted, his eyes wide. He looked like he had run here, his jacket still zipped and his blond hair in complete disarray. “I swear, I didn’t do it!”
Hermione simply stood there, facing him, blinking in surprise. She didn’t need to ask what Draco was denying doing—that was obvious enough.
“Draco, I didn’t accuse you…” Hermione muttered, trying to make sense of his outburst.
Draco leaned forward and gripped her upper-arms tightly in his hands. Hermione yelped in pain and Draco immediately loosened his grasp on her.
“I’m sorry…” he muttered, but he didn’t release her. “Granger…Hermione…you have to know. Someone has to know! I didn’t do it! I know how it looks. I know that I fought with Williams right before they found his body…I know how it looks, but I didn’t do it!”
Hermione found herself nodding and Draco let go of her arms.
“I know you didn’t,” Hermione replied, not doubting him for an instant, “but it’s going to be a hard time convincing anyone else of that…”
Draco nodded, running his hands through his hair and beginning to pace nervously. Hermione watched his shadow ripple on the wall behind him.
“I know. If Nott had been the one to come out here when I knocked…he’ll never believe that I’m innocent.”
Hermione bit her lip, forcing herself not to argue with his choice word of “innocent.” Compared to whoever really had killed Terry, Draco was innocent.
“No one’s going to believe me…” Draco finally murmured, running his hands through his already messy, blond hair again. “It doesn’t matter what I say…I’m damned if I do, damned if I don’t…no one cares for the testimony of a Death Eater.” He spat the last two words, squeezing his eyes shut as if he were in pain.
“Thank you, Granger,” he finally said, “for believing me.”
Hermione nodded slowly, stunned to hear Draco Malfoy apologize to a "Mudblood."
“You aren’t a murderer, Draco,” she replied carefully.
“Maybe not in your eyes,” Draco said, trying to smile and failing. “Goodbye, Hermione.”
He turned and walked away, leaving her standing alone in the hallway.
Author's Note: So here's chapter ten! :o How do you like it? Please leave a review. I'd love your opinions of Draco, Hermione, Theo, and everyone else. Thank you, I love you all!
Also: If you have additional questions that you would like answered, please feel free to go to my "Meet the Author" page on the forums. There's a link on my author's page!