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Chapter 7 : Hot
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The silence was soothing to her, a welcome escape from the horrid sounds that were becoming all too familiar. The library was her solace, and it had always been a place where she could come to think clearly and strive for greatness. The Hogwarts library was her personal favourite; it held the sweet, distant memories of her time at school, flanked on each side by Harry and Ron as they stumbled through yet another assignment. She still remembered the homes of her favourite volumes, especially those hidden deep within the restricted section.
She had pulled several dusty books from the shelves and lined them up chronologically on the table. More than any other time in her life, she was having a difficult time focusing on the strings of words on the pages. It had always been in her nature to run and bury herself in books when life had given her more than she could handle, yet tonight even they could not break her thoughts.
Hermione wondered briefly about Rose and Scorpius. When had they become a couple? How long had her only daughter been hiding their relationship? Rose didn’t seem too bothered by the fact that she had failed to tell her mother, but this was probably due to her relief at seeing Scorpius during the terrible scene outside the Hogwarts gates. Lost completely in her thoughts, oblivious to the words lined on the page and the flicker of the small candles around her, she drifted away from the room, away from the pressure to come up with an answer for the zombie crisis.
Voldemort had created horcruxes to keep himself from dying; was it possible that zombies could do the same? That had been the original thought that had brought her sprinting into the cavernous library, but she had been aimlessly researching for hours against her better judgement. Of course there wasn’t any literature on the nature of horcruxes; she’d known that all the way back in her sixth year as a student. It had been a stupid thought, but she was clinging to anything that made sense to her, and as disgusting as the thoughts sounded rattling around in her over stimulated brain, horcruxes were something she knew all too much about. But Harry couldn’t be making horcruxes, the zombies he turned simply could not be horcruxes because he wasn’t using a wand to make the kills, nor was he using conscious thought. Regardless of the answer, what she did know was that Harry was getting stronger with each person he turned, and that the time for answers was running out.
The distant sound of footfalls startled Hermione out of a continuous loop of destructive thinking, and she glanced around desperately for the source of the noise.
“Hello?” she called, startled by the sharp echo of her voice through the stacks of ancient literature.
“Baby.” It was a statement, simple and soft, that met her loud declaration of revelation. The word rolled off his tongue like velvety chocolate, like something he had practiced a million times before to elicit a specific response in a woman.
Hermione felt goosebumps erupt on her arms, felt her breath catch painfully in her throat as the familiar tones caressed her ears. The steady cadence of her heart quickened as tears prickled in the corners of her eyes.
“No,” she told herself firmly. “You are so exhausted you are hallucinating now. He is not real.”
“Baby. Look at me.”
Oh Merlin, it was him.
She stared down at the table, willing herself not to look, bracing for disappointment. It was not possible. People didn’t rise from the dead, she knew that more than anyone else.
“Look at me, my sweet girl. My Hermione.”
What a mess she had become, tears streaking down her dirty cheeks, crying for what seemed like the millionth time that day. She dared not believe it.
“You aren’t real. People don’t rise from the dead,” she replied pointedly to the book laid out in front of her.
“Look at me.” The voice was inches from her, a gentle whisper, warm against the soft fuzz near her ear. Breathing shallowly, she slowly rotated her head to meet the figure next to her. His blue eyes sparkled triumphantly, passionately, so gloriously familiar, as clear as they had been when she first realized she would be his forever.
“Ron,” she choked.
He did not reply, but instead took her exhausted, emaciated frame into his arms. He appeared to be just as she’d last seen him, hair peppered with gray, laugh lines etched deeply around his eyes.
“How?” She managed to verbalize before being silenced by his lips crashing against her own. His kiss was hungry and fervent, begging urgently for the entirety of her being. And she had always been his, even before she cared to admit it to herself. He smelled of freshly cut grass and pine wood, and she was enraptured and bewitched by his presence.
“I love you,” he whispered against her, wrapping her in an intimate hug. She felt her hair stand on end, but still she was unable to turn off the logical side of her brain.
“This doesn’t make sense,” she said quietly. “How can it be?”
“Promise me you’ll never leave,” Ron whispered, pushing her against the table and pinning her with his hips. Hermione’s eyes widened in shock as she glanced into the endless ocean of his eyes that had always served as her safe haven, her home.
“I have never left you, after all these years, and I never will.”
Feeling drained and dizzy, she closed her eyes, trying to comprehend what was happening. Her mind was playing tricks on her. The lie twisted itself in her brain, embedded itself deeply within her emotions, and forced her to believe it was real. Hallucinations, falsities. He could not be real.
“This is a dream.”
She felt his warmth drift away as he released her, and she knew with foreboding finality that she had been correct. Sighing, she opened her eyes, feeling the hope that had blossomed in her heart only moments ago wither to nothingness.
Except he was still there, in front of her, standing several feet away now, his head buried in his hands.
Slowly, he removed his hands from his face. Instantly she noted that his skin had adopted a sickly gray pallor.
“No...” Hermione trailed off, instantly feeling sick. “No. No, no no no.”
She took a step backward, grabbing her wand from the table as she watched him wretch awkwardly. His skin hung loosely from his bones, deteriorating in front of her like a piece of spoiled fruit. A low, menacing growl issued from his lips as he sputtered, his eyes clouding over before fading to black.
Knuckles white on her beloved wand, Hermione pointed her weapon at the zombie that had once been her loving husband. She stared at his ruined face as he began to creep toward her, the familiar scraping of his feet the final indication of the completed transition. Hand shaking, she glanced quickly around the room, hating every single ounce of her being for what she was about to do. Tears leaking freely from her brown eyes, she whispered the word that, once again, would destroy everything that she held dear.
Flames erupted from her wand, swallowing all of the books and history in its path. Her shadow danced wildly amongst the scorching heat, a demon against the backdrop of chaotic destruction. All of the books, all the memories of her adolescence, everything that helped her to find her true identity, gone in seconds.
Ron zombie roared in anger as the flames licked at his legs. Falling to her knees, she watched as the fire consumed the last shred of happiness she had left.
Hermione jumped, the entirety of her body drenched in sweat. The cavernous library was nearly silent, her laboured breathing the only exception. There was no sign of the blasphemous inferno she had created, no sign of the zombie that had claimed and shattered her quivering heart. Her eyes were wet from the most potent nightmare she’d ever had. Her own unconscious meanderings had viciously betrayed her.
Clearing her sticky, restricted throat, she didn’t even bother to shelve the books that she’d been perusing before rushing from the library.
Her research had been futile, but she was too exhausted and mentally drained to feign disappointment. The corridors outside the library were deserted and the only sound that accompanied her was the sound of her feet smacking the floor violently.
She stared down at her shoes as she maintained her brisk pace, determined not to let anyone glimpse her tear stained cheeks. Finally, she reached the familiar blank wall that appeared n more than ordinary to the average passerby. When a person was in need however, it morphed into protection, a place of solitude and peace. Hermione needed it now more than ever. Before she entered the room, her children’s faces unexpectedly flashed into her memory.
“Hugo,” she said aloud. Her Hugo, her only son, still sleeping soundly in the Gryffindor common room. His light brown hair would be tousled, his blue eyes heavy and watery with sleep, his expression startled and surprised by his mother’s random appearance. She couldn’t wake him like that. Sighing deeply, desperate to see his face, she entered the room of requirement and was instantly greeted by the rumble of voices.
The room had been styled as the four houses of Hogwarts and appeared very much like the respective common rooms. A shared bathroom with a toilet and shower was tucked off to the side. There were twin sized beds for each person- three in Gryffindor for Hermione, James, and Albus, one in Ravenclaw for Rose, one in Hufflepuff for Lily and one in Slytherin for Scorpius. The beds were sectioned off by their house colours. Near the entrance to the room was a small common room with a fireplace and a few chairs and couches. There she found Rose and Scorpius huddled close together. Her fingers were interlaced with his, and her eyes we closed as he absentmindedly stroked the tender skin between her thumb and index finger.
Hermione felt like an intruder as she watched them spring apart at the sound of her entrance.
“Mum!” Rose squeaked.
“Hello,” she greeted mildly, ambling slowly toward the couple. Rose smoothed down her curly auburn hair while Scorpius moved an arm’s length away.
“Mrs Weasley,” Scorpius nodded politely as she joined them next to the fire.
“Please, call me Hermione.” The boy flushed, so different from the man his father had been at that age.
“Mum, have you seen Hugo yet?”
“No,” she admitted unhappily, "but I do plan to see him in the morning. I have to say though, I've been wondering something. The two of you? When did that happen?”
This time it was Rose who blushed crimson, as though she suddenly just realized her secret relationship was now out in the open.
“Since... since 6th year.”
“Rose!” Hermione gasped dramatically, shocked by her daughter’s lengthy deception. Rose dropped her head, clinging to the arm of the sofa. Concern flashed across Scorpius' countenance before he turned to Hermione.
“Well... it’s getting late... I should probably sleep.” He started to rise from his seat.
“Sit,” Hermione firmly commanded.
“Mum, Dad would have killed me! You know he would! And when he died I just couldn’t... I couldn’t tell anyone.”
Hermione’s mouth formed a small o as she watched her daughter start to lose control of her emotions.
“Oh, Rose,” she sighed quietly. A horrid glimpse of the dream she'd had not thirty minutes ago flashed through her head, but she extinguished the thoughts as quickly as they'd come. Turning to Scorpius, she asked, “Does your father know?”
“Well you should tell him, if...” she couldn’t bring herself to finish the sentence the way she’d intended. If he’s still alive.
“I will. We will. I love her. I would let nothing harmful in this world come near her. She literally means everything to me.” Scorpius reached across to squeeze Rose’s hand tightly, and she looked at him with stars in her eyes, as though the man sitting next to her could do no wrong.
“I know that, especially now,” Hermione replied firmly.
“You’re not mad?” Rose choked.
“Of course I’m not. You are old enough to decide who to love. And for the record, your father may have been angry at first, but he’d have gotten over it when he saw what a fine young man you have chosen.”
“Thanks Mum.” A broad smile swept across her full lips, and for only a moment, she looked like the little girl she'd been once, sitting quietly in a chair while her mother twisted her long, unruly locks into a French braid.
“I love you, Rosie. I hope you’ll tell me things in the future.”
“Of course I will. So... what is our plan of action then? Are we just going to hide here and never leave?”
Hermione bit her lip until she felt bite marks form painfully in the soft flesh.
“I don’t know. I intend to use this time to do some thinking. The most important thing is: we need to find a way to let all the survivors know that Hogwarts is still okay. I’m not sure how we’ll do that yet, but it’s going to be a necessity to keep people safe.”
Rose and Scorpius’ head bobbed in unison. The conversation fell silent then, and Hermione felt like an intruder into their world once more.
“I think I’m going to go to sleep then. I want to see Hugo as early as possible tomorrow. Don’t stay up too late, ok?”
“Ok, Mum,” Rose smiled. Hermione walked slowly to the beds in the Gryffindor section, feeling every second of her age. She took the last unoccupied bed, as Albus and James had already fallen asleep. Her eyes were heavy with thoughts of impending unconsciousness, and minutes after pulling the soft down comforter up to her chin, she was asleep.
Hermione rose early the next morning, feeling a lazy stupor deep in her joints upon standing. Looking around the room, she noted that the rest of the wayward travellers were still sound asleep in their beds. After showering and donning some freshly laundered clothing, she suddenly felt ravenous.
Hogwarts looked brilliant in the mornings, with sunlight pouring into the wide corridors. Hermione skirted along the wall as she dodged a gaggle of students, all dressed in school robes. As she neared the Great Hall, she could smell the delicious aroma wafting from behind the doors. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d eaten a proper meal. More than anything else, though, she was excited at the prospect of seeing her son, and she had no doubt that she’d find him at the head of the Gryffindor table, head boy badge pinned to his chest, stuffing his face with breakfast pastries and pumpkin juice.
As she reached the large wooden doors, she smiled and raised her hand to the brass handle when a low, rumbling sound interrupted her. Turning abruptly, she was instantly terrified at the thought of a breach of the perimeter. The doors to the entrance of the castle shuddered violently, as a creature on the outside attempted to gain entrance. Hermione noted the students gathering around her, and started to prepare for the threat the best way she knew how.
“Students, into the Great Hall. Close the doors behind you, hurry now!” Wide eyed with small, panic stricken faces, the children heeded her orders quickly and without complaint. No doubt they had been briefed on the dangers that lie outside the castle walls. The doors groaned once more, and Hermione clutched her wand with purpose. Creeping slowly toward the threat, she took a deep breath before deciding that dealing with the monster on the other side was the only way to keep everyone in the castle safe. Who better than her to exterminate the first crisis invading their safety. With an expert slice through the air, she opened the door and assumed a defensive stance.
A body smacked the floor with a loud boom, its limbs completely still. Hermione used her wand to turn the body over and gasped as realized who the victim was. Draco Malfoy’s glassy eyes stared straight up, unblinking. His skin was thin and white, his chin covered with thick stubble. Several bleeding lacerations decorated his translucent face and forearms, some of them quite deep. He was completely alone, his wand dangling loosely between his bloody fingers. Desperately, Hermione glanced around the corridor as a fresh crop of students descended the main staircase. Her voice didn't even sound like her own as she yelled.
“I need the hospital wing! Please, send for the healer! He’s dying!”
A/N: I just wanted to quickly say a few words of thanks. Of course, as per usual, thank you to AccioHPFF for swiftly beta-ing this chapter, britishifying it for me (because it was hopelessly American beforehand) and generally being awesome!
Also, to Weasleytwinmom (Momotwins on the archives) for making this KICK ASS chapter image! WHOOO!! It's so lovely, one of my favorites so far. Gurl, you a genius with graphics.
I'm pretty excited about the next chapter, as this was mostly filler but I feel like i needed to switch it up JUST a hair, if only for one chapter :) Catch y'all later!
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