Hermione had known that she wasn’t getting enough sleep, but she didn’t actually know how deprived she was until Ron ordered her to bed. She had thrown herself onto it frustratingly and had lain down. No sooner had she put her head to her pillow did her eyes close and she began dreaming. When she finally awoke her body felt refreshed –more so than she’d felt in a long time.
Ron had been right. The last thing that she wanted to feel was self-conscious when she revealed Draco, and Hermione meticulously took her time as she showered and dressed. Near to an hour later she found Ron in the kitchen who had taken it upon himself to wash the dishes in the sink. Hermione made herself known by a simple clearing of her throat and he smiled.
“Feeling better?” Ron asked as he turned off the faucet. Hermione nodded.
“Yes, I do. Thanks for that. Have you…felt Draco around?”
“From time to time, yeah… He was in here a few minutes ago when I started in on the dishes, but I think he saw that I was about to freeze to death so he left.”
Ron dried his hands on a nearby hand towel, stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out the piece of paper that Hermione had been denied only a few hours earlier. “It’s a Latin incantation, that’s all. Say it three times and you’ll be able to see him. Owl me later on, okay?”
“Wait, you’re leaving?” Hermione said perplexed, but Ron quickly explained.
“Far be it from me to like taking orders from a Seer, but Madame Giana said to go. Something about everyone has their own ghosts and other things following them. You don’t want to reveal everything.”
Hermione nodded in comprehension. She knew very well what he was talking about through general reading. A human being was never alone really with Muses and guardian angels hanging about. And no one ever had an inkling that they were there –just a happy feeling that maybe, just maybe, there was someone looking over their shoulder.
After Ron left Hermione went upstairs to her bedroom. She closed and locked her door and moved to stand in the middle of the room with the incantation in her hands.
“Draco?” She called. “Draco, where are you?”
Hermione’s teeth chattered when she felt a cold breeze side-sweep her. Yes, Draco was there, and now she was unfolding the paper Ron gave her and examined the words neatly written. Ego ostendo sum vos quod vos volo…
She took a deep breath and said it once. She said it a second time and then a third. On the third try Hermione had closed her eyes. She didn’t want to be disappointed. She had started out saying the incantation with a vision in her head that Draco would suddenly appear in a dazzling white light. She didn’t want to repeat the incantation for the third time only to be met with nothing but silence and the same bedroom she had become numb to. It wouldn’t be fair. And so she stood there, paper in her hands, nearly crumpled, and afraid to open her eyes and see what she’d find.
With a jerk within her, Hermione snapped her eyes open. She was met with her bedroom window and curtains which brought on her inconsolable urge to cry. It didn’t work. Her hopes had been raised to an all new zenith only for everything to fail. Immediately she turned on her heels to flee the bedroom and sob relentlessly when she stopped.
There he was. Draco, someone Hermione thought she would never be able to see again, was standing in front of her like he had never died. Her breath caught in her throat and she could no longer remember how to breathe. She merely stared at Draco in disbelief –him standing in front of her and smiling with all the joy in the world. Hesitantly, Hermione took her hand and raised it to Draco’s cheek. Instead of feeling warmth her hand went through him. She frowned, as did he. He looked real, but he wasn’t. He was merely a ghost –a haunting spirit that Hermione had revealed; and all at once instead of feeling sadness, she felt rage.
“I wish I could hit you.” Hermione snapped. Draco stared at her bemused as she repeatedly tried to touch him, but failing each time. She retracted her hand and brought her angry eyes to his confused ones. “Ron explained it to me. It made sense and I understood but still I can’t… Sixteen years, Draco. Why didn’t you tell me that it was you all this time? Do you realize the hell that I was put through?”
“Yes, and I’m sorry.” Draco apologized. He reached out to touch her, but recoiled quickly. “But it had to be done; I didn’t have a choice.”
Hermione snorted and crossed her arms. “There’s always a choice, Draco.”
“Not this time. Think about it, Hermione. Think about after Cat was born and how many Aurors came up to you asking questions about me and about ‘Chris.’ Keeping you in the dark was the only way to keep you safe. Had I been found out again there’s no doubt in my mind that the Ministry would’ve gotten you too, and the charges would’ve stuck that time. Cat couldn’t lose the both of us. It had to be done this way.”
Hermione wanted to be furious with him, but logic stopped her. Instead she let herself smile and let her arms fall to the rim of her pants’ pockets. “No doubt in your mind, huh..? What happened to those loopholes you used to preach so much to me about?”
Draco grinned. “Those loopholes turn into risks once you have kids.”
Hermione Owled Ron, Harry, and Ginny. She was waiting for them in the living room and all she could do was give a huge smile as she looked at their faces as their gaze lingered on Draco. He was standing next to Hermione, dressed in what he had died in: a pair of black pants and a dark blue button-up shirt tucked in. He greeted them and made a joke to Harry that he still owed him ten galleons for the bet they had made on a Quiditch match.
Harry rubbed the back of his neck and gave a short, low whistle. “Um…yeah, sure… I’ll give it to Hermione I suppose.”
“Still can’t bloody believe it.” Ron said as he became the first to sit down. Harry and Ginny quickly followed suit. “What’s it…-? Wait, no. I shouldn’t ask.”
“What’s it like being dead?” Draco asked for him. Ron’s face tinged some, but he nodded. He sighed and then shrugged. “Kind of like feeling empty… Here I am in the house I’ve lived in for fifteen years and I can only do a fraction of what I used to. But it’s better than not being able to do anything at all.”
“…Hermione told us that you thought that you were in danger.” Harry spoke. “In danger from what..?”
“I don’t know.” Draco frowned. “All I know is that I am; and all of you by extension I’m sure.”
“Do you remember what happened the night you died?” Ginny asked. Draco shook his head and clenched his teeth in frustration.
“Nothing... It’s all a blur to me. And even if I get flashes of that night, that’s all it is to me: flashes. None of it makes any sense.”
“What are the flashes of?”
“St. Mungo’s… I’m walking, sometimes standing still. I see faces but they’re fuzzy. At one point I’m hovering over a bed, a patient I suppose. Next thing you know I’m somewhere I don’t recognize and I…” Draco stopped for a moment, frowned at Hermione’s concerned gaze and continued. “I feel like I’m having a heart attack.”
“That’s what it said, the coroner’s report.” Hermione told him. “It said that you died of a heart attack.”
“But that can’t possibly be right-”
“But you just said-”
“I know what I said. But if there’s one thing I remember indefinitely about that night, it’s that I felt like someone was trying to kill me. The pain in my chest wasn’t natural. Living a life deeply rooted in magic told me that. That’s why I stayed behind. To find out and to protect you,”
Hermione frowned. She played with the hem of her sleeve for a moment and then spoke. “I guess it’s obvious what we have to do then. Go to St. Mungo’s. Try to find some clues as to what was going on.” She stood and then turned to Harry. “You’re coming with me. I’m going to need a distraction, and what’s better than having a famous person standing in front of you?”
Hermione and Harry headed to St. Mungo’s immediately. Hermione’s first thoughts about this were that this task was going to be difficult. Not because she nor Harry didn’t have any idea of what they were looking for, but because almost everyone in the hospital knew her. It was hard not to walk through the place without getting stopped by someone expressing their hellos along with their sympathy. Only seven minutes in St. Mungo’s and already Hermione had heard “Chris was the best Healer we had” at least five times. To that she could only laugh and wondered if an education in Healing was part of Draco’s father’s necessities as was Wizard Law School.
What Hermione thought would be the best place to start was the employee records. From what Draco had told her, they always kept a record of the patients that the Healers attended to at the main desk where the receptionist was. The plan was simple. Get the receptionist’s attention, lure her away with Harry’s help, and see what she could find.
Harry stood afar off and hidden while Hermione walked up to the front desk with a smile on her face. It was there for a false sense of security as well as a mask of her annoyance because she knew the receptionist personally.
“Oh, Hermione, I haven’t seen you in forever!”
“Hi, Colleen…” Hermione greeted. “I know it’s been a while. With Chris gone…I haven’t had the time to come visit.”
“In retrospect that’s quite the good thing.” Colleen smiled. “You are just here for a friendly visit, aren’t you? Nothing’s the matter, is it?”
“Oh no, not at all… In fact I have a friend who’s here and I wanted to check on her.”
“Well, I can get that sorted out for you. As you know, you need a visitor’s pass. What’s your friend’s name so I can find out her room number and put your visit into the system?”
Hermione was smiling more than was necessary. This conversation wasn’t supposed to be going this far. By now Harry should’ve already come to her rescue, asked something of the receptionist that only she could solve, and lead her away from the desk. To kill time and to hide her reluctance to answer, Hermione coughed and glanced down the hall. Sadly Harry had gotten cornered by a patient who was tremendously excited at meeting the famous Harry Potter.
“Your friend’s name..?” Colleen asked again.
Think of a common last name… Think of a common last time… “…Davidson,” Hermione said as nonchalantly as possible. Colleen went on to ask for a first name and Hermione blurted out whatever came to her mind first. “Jackie… Jackie Davidson,”
“I don’t see a Jackie here… Did you mean Jacqueline?”
Hermione held in her sigh of relief and gently nodded. “Yes, that’s who I mean. Her other friends and I always call her Jackie.”
“Completely understandable,” Colleen said as took out her wand and pointed it as a small structure to her right. “This will make your visitor’s pass in a quick second.”
As soon as Hermione saw Colleen with her wand out, she took hers out as well and very subtly. With a minor movement the visitor pass maker began to smoke. Colleen stared at it confusedly as Hermione smiled broadly and hid both it and her wand before Colleen could see.
“I’m so sorry about this, Hermione, but it seems that the pass maker is on the fritz. Darn thing is always messing up. What good is magic if machinery still doesn’t work? I’m going to have to head into the back for your pass. I’ll be right back.”
“Take your time,” Hermione told her and once she was gone she quickly got behind the desk and prayed to Merlin that no Healers decided to walk by and see what she was doing. Luckily Colleen hadn’t logged herself out of the receptionist area when she left the desk. Doing so would’ve prevented Hermione from getting behind it which was why it was St. Mungo’s protocol to do just that, but Colleen had trusted Hermione enough not to go snooping. Stupid mistake…
“…I’m so sorry.” Harry came after a minute or so after Hermione began looking through various folders kept for Healers in the desk drawers. “I couldn’t get away without more patients coming up to me.”
“It’s okay. Colleen’s gone for now and… I think I just found what we need!” Hermione smiled in triumph as she took Draco’s file from among the others and opened it. But as soon as she did her face fell and her heart raced with anxiety.
“What? What is it?”
“…Draco’s last patient.” Hermione looked up at Harry and turned the folder over to him. He found what Hermione had and turned his eyes to her in a flash.
“Thorn..? The guy who ran Aurors versus the Condemned..?”
Hermione nodded. Matthew Thorn, the one who had started the chain of dominoes falling was the last person to see Draco alive and Hermione found that to be no such coincidence. Draco had the right to think he was in danger. And now Hermione couldn’t remember the last time she had ever felt so vulnerable.