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Helix-Breaker by Aether
Chapter 3 : Making Contact
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 6


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Thanks go to emesias for being a wonderful beta!

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CHAPTER THREE: Making Contact

--

When Hermione arrived back at Harry’s apartment, she could barely make it to the couch in one piece. Ron had left her – for good this time.

She heard the door to Harry’s room open. “Hey, Hermione, are you ready to leave for – ” He stopped awkwardly when he noticed Hermione’s state.

“Yeah,” she said hoarsely, wiping away the last of her tears. “Let’s get going now, or we’ll be late.”

“Hermione,” Harry said hesitantly. He walked over to her spot on that infamous couch, crouching down in front of her. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“No, I’m not okay, alright, Harry?” she snapped, trying to keep the tears at bay. There was no reason to start crying again, or to wish for a sudden reversal of fortune. “Ron is gone, for good this time.” She took a shaky breath of air as she tried to digest this information. “He says he’ll be back on Christmas to see us again, but we’re over.” Hermione placed her face in her hands, letting them hide her tears.

Harry didn’t say anything, but Hermione felt the couch sink beside her, and an arm wrap around her shoulder, bringing her head closer to his chest. “You don’t have to come with me,” Harry said, his voice rumbling in Hermione’s ear.

Hermione wanted to let Harry go and be done with it, but this wasn’t Harry’s project. She sat up a bit, looking into Harry’s sad eyes. “I’ll go,” she said finally. Then, hesitantly, she asked, “Who exactly are we meeting?”

“He’s a friend from the Department of Mysteries. He says he has some information that might help us.”

Hermione stood, stretching out her stiff muscles and letting out her grief. She’d lost so much, but now she had a new sense of purpose. She needed to do this, to start over. She looked up into Harry's eyes, watching his tired expression with trepidation.

Harry wasn't doing so well, either, though Hermione wasn't sure she could ever fix that. Harry would always be scarred from the Second War, but he'd also never leave her side. He'd stay with her, even if her goals were, as Ron had said, 'impossible and dangerous.' 

“I’m ready.”

“I will be as soon as you can cast a Notice-Me-Not charm on me. We’re going somewhere crowded. My friend’s a bit paranoid, and he seems to think the crowds are necessary.”

--

Draco didn’t know what to expect in his debriefing room. It had been a whole three months since his last promotion, but he’d become accustomed to the old and reliably grumpy Arbela Schneider.

In the moments when he stood in front of the door, hand resting on the knob, he suspected that The Department might promote him. That would mean a whole new boss, a new purpose, and a new standing in The Department of Mysteries.

This is what Draco aspired towards these days - there was nothing he wanted more than to climb the hierarchy of the secretive organization that controlled so much of Britain's international affairs from behind a curtain. He loved the feeling of power that came with knowing what others didn't, and knowing that they could never appreciate him enough for it.

He'd been climbing the ladder for years now, and he truly believed he was nearing the top, that someday he'd open the door and find the man in charge of everything. However, when Draco Malfoy swung open the door to face his fate, he wasn’t expecting the wizard behind it.

“Surprised to see me?” asked Zabini with a smirk.

Draco’s pride had just been tossed off the edge of the Hogwart’s Astronomy Tower. He reigned in the bitterness and embarrassment that was threatening to overcome him, keeping his mind intent on staying calm. There was no need to make a scene in the world’s most secure building. There were probably five monitoring charms all watching him from different angles, and analysts whose sole purpose was to watch for agents going AWOL.

“Take a seat, will you?” Zabini said, “You’re making me feel like your new boss, which I am, really, when you think of it. Congratulations, Malfoy. You’ve been promoted, and I’m your new contact.”

Draco was losing a battle against himself. He took a seat, per Zabini’s orders. His eyes fell to Zabini’s black boots, which were propped up on the elegant wooden desk in front of him.

This is what Draco should have expected when he had joined a secretive organization like the Department of Mysteries. He had never known anyone in The Department, except those who had been his contact people. Somehow, Draco had thought that he was higher up in The Department hierarchy, but if Blaise Zabini was his boss, then he clearly wasn’t doing as well he’d thought.

“Of course, you shouldn’t be promoted, if you ask me. You didn’t even bother to Obliviate that little boy, Draco. You can never be too careful. I might’ve just left him, to be honest.” Zabini’s lips quirked at that, and Draco fought his growing irritation. “I’m supposed to rebuke you for that.

“A bit of a role reversal, isn’t it?” continued Zabini. “I certainly never expected to be your boss someday, not while you were flaunting your superiority over me on a daily basis at Hogwarts.“

“I’ve been here for longer than you! You were still in Hogwarts when I started, right after the war!” Draco had finally snapped, his anger building as Blaise’s grin widened. The man sitting in front of him had been nothing but a thorn in Draco’s side at Hogwarts. At every turn of the coin he had undermined Draco’s authority, always somehow winning out, and that didn’t even cover what he’d been reading in the paper about Blaise Zabini. “You’re not even a proper pureblood!”

“Proper pureblood, Malfoy? Really, I never pegged you for a stodgy old man, but I know what this is really about. I suppose I did enjoy messing with you a bit too much while we were in Hogwarts.”

Draco flushed. “I heard you’ve been making the rounds on the pureblood women! Can’t decide on just one? I read about how you humiliated Daphne in Diagon last week. It’s disgusting.”

Draco felt himself turn crimson under Blaise’s skeptical look, suddenly aware that he shouldn’t have said anything at all. Draco had once asked Daphne Greengrass on a date to Hogsmeade, but she’d turned him down – spectacularly. It was hard to believe that she could ever be so foolishly in love with the man in front of him.

After a moment of awkward silence, Blaise brought his hand to his chest. “Really, I’m flattered that you take the time to follow my public life like a infatuated fan girl, Draco, but we have more important things to discuss right now than my very active dating life. I’m supervising you exclusively for this next extended mission, and if we fail, it will be more than just our arses are on the line. Got it?”

Draco fell silent, regrouping his mind, which had gone to chaos just moments ago. “What’s the mission?”

Blaise smirked. “Now that would be telling, wouldn’t it?”

“Zabini,” Draco warned.

Blaise put up his hands in a feigned surrender. “Alright, you got me. It’s all very confusing – I think the people upstairs have big plans for you. They’re certainly investing plenty in you.”

Draco held back his simmering anger, putting all of it behind a grimace that was supposed to be a calm smile. “And what are they investing?”

“I’ll get to that in a moment. Merlin, this could have gone better. I had it all planned out and everything – a dramatic entrance, a heated argument, and in the end, I give you what you’ve always wanted.” Blaise grinned.

He continued, “My boss had a few targets he wanted us to take out together, but I’ve already taken care of them. Diplomacy is all well and good, but I know a lost cause when I see one. We’d have had no luck convincing them. So, though they had intended for you to help, it’s being taken care of as we speak. Hit wizards – what would we do without them?”

“Who were our targets?” Draco asked. He felt his rage building. It had become a roaring monster in his chest, and he wanted nothing more than to release it. He had never hated anyone more than he hated Blaise in that moment. Blaise had stolen his mission, not even bothering to consult him!

“Hermione Granger and Pamela Parkinson.”

“But they’re British!” Draco all but yelled at the realization. “And why haven’t I heard of Pamela Parkinson?”

“Pamela Parkinson was a Squib, renamed and hidden as Pamela Walker at age eleven. She was Pansy’s older sister, by five years. And Granger, well, I’m surprised you’re not more excited about that. You once spent a full half-hour ranting on about creative ways you’d like to see her killed. I expected more of a positive reaction from you. You’re not mad that I ordered hit, are you? You know as well as I that The Department doesn’t do direct hits. I’m sorry you couldn’t kill her yourself.”

Draco tried desperately to hide the horror he felt as he realized that The Department had murdered Granger. Why? What international mess had Potter’s Mudblood friend stepped in?

He glared at Blaise, who didn’t seem all the surprised by Draco’s repulsion. Blaise had known that Draco was bluffing all those years ago, and he probably knew exactly what was going through Draco’s mind right then. Blaise had always been able to read Draco like an open book, and that only infuriated the blond pureblood even more.

Draco calmed himself enough to say, “Believe it or not, Zabini, I’m not the child I was at thirteen. I’m also not a Death Eater like my father. I’ve changed.”

Blaise grinned devilishly. “We all change when we get older, Malfoy, but not enough to really matter. I still see that boy in you. It’s just hiding better. I know you, Draco, and I know that underneath everything, you are nothing more than a spoiled rich boy, who’s more coward than Slytherin. Think about it, Malfoy.

“Your entire life has been run by fear and sniveling subservience. You’ve killed and tortured and achieved some impressive feats, but all out of fear. You are nothing more than that spoiled rich boy I met on the train to Hogwarts eight years ago. This Department is the best thing you have, but I don’t think you’ve taken a job here because you’re particularly brave or cunning. It’s because you had no where else to turn, Malfoy.”

Deep breaths, Draco told himself. It had become easier to calm down – maybe because Zabini had stopped trying to be subtle. There was no pretending for the sake of the analysts watching – Draco and Blaise were enemies. Whoever had decided that Blaise would be Draco’s boss must’ve known that, though.

Remembering where he was, Draco relaxed a bit, calming his fraying nerves. Back to the issue at hand, then: The Department of Mysteries had just ordered a hit on Granger. “I didn’t realize that the ministry was assassinating citizens.” He really tried to come off as mild, but the anger was still there, probably glaringly obvious to Zabini. He hoped that the analysts who were observing this conversation saw only his rivalry.

Blaise raised his brow as he paged through Draco’s file in his lap. “I see,” he said warily. He took his boots off the desk, and leaned his forearms on it. “Here’s a new tidbit of information for you, Draco. The Department wants to protect Wizarding Britain, and in order to do that, they need to make sure that anyone who threatens our government doesn’t. We aren’t just about going into other countries and protecting British interests, we’re also about protecting ourselves from enemies at home.”

Draco took a deep breath as he digested this information. Just how much ‘at home’ was the Department controlling? What justified that kind of force?

When Draco worked in dark foreign neighborhoods and faraway places, it was always easier to separate himself from his missions. Now, he could feel that he was on the edge of an abyss. Follow the plan with full commitment and keep his footing, or show the least bit of hesitation – and take a fall. That’s how it worked in The Department.

His thoughts and memories were sealed tightly behind Occlumency shields that Severus Snape himself had helped him build. But his facial expressions and body language was something that Blaise could read effortlessly. Draco felt a sudden jolt of fear. What if Zabini reported his hesitance? The question lingered, picking at his already scattered nerves. Did his future depend on the man in front of him?

Draco reordered his mind, pushing aside worries and portraying a confident front. This was good. It meant they trusted him enough to give him more information. Though, the more he thought about Granger on the receiving end of a killing curse, the more he realized that the people he was working for weren’t all that different from the Dark Lord that had once haunted Draco’s every waking moment. He frowned, attempting to brush away that horrifying thought.

“Of course,” Blaise said with open arms, “never say we’re not generous. We’re restoring Malfoy Manor to your possession, and your vault has been returned. The Ministry is terribly sorry for its error. You were never a Death Eater after all, were you, Malfoy?”

Scratch that, Malfoy thought as his heart plunged in terror, these people scared him more than any Dark Lord ever could. The power they have must be astronomical! His family name had been dragged through the mud everywhere from Pureblood society to Witch Weekly. His family was the laughing stock of the British Wizarding World!

“Now let’s restore that reputation of yours, shall we? I think the front page of the Daily Prophet tomorrow morning should be good. Your task is to seduce pureblood society. Those men upstairs must have some big plans for you, Malfoy.”

Draco really wished he’d never had a promotion in the first place. He’d take the dregs of the Wizarding World any day over British Pureblood politics and an organization that apparently controlled the world.

--
--

“Quickly, take it.” A voice startled Hermione, making her grab Harry’s arm. Crowds brushed by her, causing her to lose her footing for a moment. When she looked up, she saw a small man, with pale, sandpaper thin skin and a tiny, weathered form. He held a book in two hands, his knuckles white and gleaming with a layer of sweat. “Potter, take the book.”

“Thank you,” Harry said, accepting the ancient book.

Heart thumping in fear, Hermione gripped Harry’s forearm tighter and glanced around Diagon Alley. The contact had chosen a place right in the middle of the most crowded part of the Alley. They were blocking the traffic of wizards and witches rushing through the streets. She had a feeling that Harry hadn’t been entirely honest when he said there wasn’t any danger. This man didn’t seem paranoid – he seemed scared.

“Leave before they come,” said the contact. “They’ve followed me, I'm sure, but they won't do anything with these crowds around. I was blackmailed into joining them, and then they used all the terrible things I did for them to keep the blackmail going as I learned more about them. In order to win this fight of yours, you have to bring them down. There’s no other way.”

“Who are you talking about?” Hermione asked urgently.

The man tried to speak it aloud but found he couldn’t. “Leave!” the man all but screamed, his face taking on an anguished look. A few passersby were glancing at them, startled by their urgent conversation. Hermione nervously looked at Harry. His Notice-Me-Not charm would only hold under so much attention. “Get out of here alive!”

Hermione glanced at the cover of the tome in Harry’s hands, Magical Ancestry: a Self-Updating Guide to all the Families of Old. “This book is extremely rare!” Hermione gasped. “It will be invaluable in our research. Thank you,” Hermione said.

The man shook his head. “Leave,” he begged.

Harry shrunk the book and slipped it into his pocket. He grabbed Hermione’s shoulder. “He’s breaking an Unbreakable Vow,” Harry explained gravely. “That’s why he’s so nervous. He’s going to lose his magic and possibly die. If the people that did this to him are around, we need to leave before we attract too much attention.”

“Only an idiot would attack us in the middle of Diagon Alley,” Hermione said, though she did notice that the man had already disappeared into the crowd. “This is the safest place we can be. If we go somewhere else, whoever it is will follow our Apparition.”

“We don’t know who we’re dealing with, and you’re a civilian. We’re going to the Auror Department.” Harry’s grip on Hermione’s shoulder tightened, and she prepared herself for a side-along apparition, but nothing happened.

Harry swore under his breath. “Anti-Apparition wards.”

“What do we do?” Hermione asked. Her gut sunk in fear, and she was sure she could feel her heart beating in her throat. She looked around the alley, suddenly aware that the crowds made it difficult to spot the people watching them.

“We don’t go to a less crowded area,” Harry said finally. “They haven’t attacked yet. They’re not after civilians.”

“I’m a civilian,” said Hermione.

“They’re most likely after me,” Harry said as his eyes scanned the rooftops and alleyways. “What threat do you pose? There's no way this book is worth an attack. Our best bet are rogue Death Eaters, but why not attack civilians?”

Hermione tried not to roll her eyes. “I’d be offended if I had time to be. What do we do?”

“Duck!” Harry yelled, rolling to the ground with Hermione just as a green streak of light filled the space where Hermione’s head had been. It slammed to the ground nearby, barely missing the feet of a little girl who’d moved just in time.

“That was aimed at me!” Hermione said, as Harry moved off of her. The crowd, which seemed to simultaneously turn towards Harry and Hermione, gasped.

“Harry Potter just saved that woman from a killing curse!” shrieked an elderly vender in front of Ollivander’s.

“I can’t Apparate!” yelled a panicked young mother, who was holding a baby in her arms. “The Alley’s under attack!”

Harry and Hermione stood slowly, wary of the panic that was suddenly taking over the alleyway. No more killing curses had followed the first, but the chaos of the alley remained.

Maybe they had left after the first try? Hermione looked upwards towards the roof where the curse had come from – no one was there.

“What do we do, Auror Potter?” asked a man wearing a St. Mungo’s uniform as he approached Harry, with three adults behind him. They were the same three people who had been in charge of the sudden crowd control.

“Protect the rest of the people in the alley,” said Harry after a moment. “I don’t think they’re after them. We’re going to draw the attackers away from the civilians.”

“Alone?” asked one woman, her cold blue eyes boring into Hermione, making her take a hesitant step backwards. “You’ll take them on alone?”

Harry glanced over at Hermione who said shakily, “I’ll help.”

“I don’t know,” the healer began, but the woman behind him said something in his ear. His face steeled a bit and he nodded. The three turned away from Harry and Hermione and headed back towards the crowd.

A sudden volley of color rained down from a rooftop towards Hermione. She barely managed to raise a shield in time.

She shuddered under the weight of the curses, relieved when Harry replaced her shield with a more powerful one he’d probably learned in Auror training.

“Okay, no doubt about this anymore!” Hermione yelled over the clamor of the spells slamming against Harry’s shield. “They’re after me.”

“Move!” Harry yelled, when a killing curse slipped through.

Hermione saw the green flash of light barreling towards her, and she barely had time to jerk her head out of the way before she heard it buzzing by her ear, leaving the hair on her neck standing on end.

There was no shield to stop that Unforgivable, and the attackers had it in their arsenal, whether or not they had the power to use it repeatedly. Hermione hadn’t been so terrified since the final battle, and at least then she’d known her attackers.

She could die today and never know why.

A grimy yellow curse shot towards Harry like an arrow. Harry dove to the ground, but his shield charm on Hermione broke. “Hermione!” he warned.

Hermione only had time to turn her head towards the incoming murky orange curse before it slammed into her shoulder, flipping her into the air. She felt herself soaring for seconds that felt like hours, and then she hit the ground. Hard.

She couldn’t breath.

The excruciating pain in her right arm didn’t even matter because she couldn’t take a single breath of air. Her vision blurred, and just as she was about to lose consciousness, the air came rushing back into her lungs.

She gasped and spluttered, regaining consciousness, only to find that she’d have been better off unconscious. She could hear her own screams and feel the terrible pain in her arm, but she couldn’t connect them. Everything hurt.

“No,” Harry’s harsh word broke through her haze of pain.

Through her delirium, she could hear explosions. Debris flew at her from above, sliding away from her as they hit the solid wall of Harry’s magic above her.

Beautiful colors – purple, yellow, blue, orange, splashed against the invisible dome, and she could feel the pain spreading from her shoulder, echoing through her body with each mind-numbing throb. She had stopped screaming because her voice no longer worked, and her mind was too tired to protest.

She turned her head, eyes misty at the sight of all the blood that was pooling underneath her.

Was she dying?

The spells stopped, and with a pop, the shield above her was gone.

Harry’s head loomed over hers. Tears were streaming down his dusty face, and his tangled black hair was matted with debris. “Hermione!” he yelled. “I can’t lose you.”

He drew his wand, casting a clotting charm at Hermione’s arm. It was weak, though, barely stopping the blood flow. Harry had always been terrible at healing charms.

It must’ve hit an artery, Hermione thought.

The man from St. Mungo’s appeared in her vision.

“What are you doing here?” Harry all but screamed.

“You took out all the people after you,” the healer snapped. “They won’t be going after you guys again – ever. You can’t heal her, Mr. Potter, because your magic was made to destroy. I am a healer, and I have an oath to save victims.”

Hermione shuddered, imagining how deeply those words were slicing into Harry’s core. He wasn’t like that, she wanted to say, but she found that she couldn’t even open her mouth to say it. She felt so light-headed. Woozy, even though she was laying down. She didn’t want to die.

She shuddered at the feeling of her skin suddenly healing, the pain drifting away like a bad memory. She tried to sit up, but her body was overcome by dizziness, and the healer’s hands stopped her. “You’ve lost too much blood,” the healer said. He brought a vile to her mouth, tipping its contents down her throat.

“What it that?” Harry demanded.

“A blood replenishing potion,” the man responded, and though Hermione couldn’t see his face, she was sure there was a sneer there. “You’d recognize it if you paid attention in second year Potions.”

Hermione felt a sudden ease wash over her, as her light-headedness faded away, replaced by sleepiness.

“We have to take cover,” Harry said. “More might come.”

A terrifying thought occurred to Hermione at that moment. “No,” she said. She met Harry’s concerned green eyes, recalling what Ron had said about how dangerous her discovery had been. “Pamela,” she whispered. She only had time to see the Aurors arriving and a panicked Harry grabbing her arm before she lost consciousness.

--

When she opened her eyes again, she found herself surrounded by a heavy silence. She could sense the heavy hum of magic in the air. She took a breath, grimacing at the smell of ozone and her own blood. What have you done, Harry?

She shuddered when she saw the state of her shirt. The sleeve on her injured arm was stiff with dried blood. She took a breath, wincing when she realized that she’d probably broken a rib when she’d fallen.

Shouldn’t she have been at St. Mungo’s? What was she doing in this strange house? She winced, sitting up a bit and observing the damage around her. Tables were overturned, a desk was pulverized, the remains of a computer were sparking on the floor, and there was a large crater at the front door.

“Harry?” she called out.

“You’re awake!” Pamela said, her voice carrying down the stairs as she rushed towards Hermione. She was covered in cuts and burns, but didn’t seem seriously injured. Her brown eyes were scattered and fearful.

Hermione groaned as she tried to stand, sitting back on the sofa when she failed. her shoulder felt terrible, even if the skin revealed nothing too serious. 

“Don’t try standing yet!” yelled Pamela, who was holding a pair of jeans and a blouse in he trembling hands. “Here, I brought you some of my clothes.”

Hermione was suddenly aware of how young Pamela was. Not wearing the more formal attire or make-up of a teaching assistant, Hermione could see Pamela’s small figure, round face, and the eyes of someone who’d never experienced something like this before. Hermione was overcome by regret. It overwhelmed her curiosity at how she’d come to be here or where Harry was.

“I was so scared,” Pamela said in a rush as Hermione slowly switched into clean clothes. “There was a wizard here! He just crashed in through the door. I was standing over there, see?” she ran over to the bottom of the stairs, and Hermione turned her head to follow the sudden movement. “They started cursing me! The first was a killing curse!” Her voice cracked at the end. “I could barely dodge out of the way in time. He was casting different colored spells at me at every moment!” Pamela’s eyes were wide in excitement.

Hermione could sense that there was a bit of pride behind the fear and excitement she saw.

“How’d you avoid them?” Hermione asked.

“I dodged them,” replied Pamela in shock. “I mean, I barely dodged them,” she said, pointing out the scrapes and burns from where the spells had grazed her. They looked painful. “Adrenaline! It was the adrenaline rush. My body just took over, and everything from when I was a gymnast just came back to me.”

Hermione noticed all the craters and spell burns in the wall behind Pamela. Her shoulder's pain was fading, so she sat up a bit more. “You dodged that many spells?” Hermione said finally.

Pamela tugged at her messy black ponytail nervously. “I was a gymnast in college,” she said. “I may be out of shape, but my body still remembers being agile – and that adrenaline didn’t hurt.”

“What happened next?”

“I wouldn’t have been able to hold him off forever. He was moving closer to me, and it was becoming harder to dodge the spells,” she said. “But then Harry appeared, over there, with you.” Pamela was pointing at the crater in the door.

Hermione found herself all of a sudden overwhelmed by questions. “But how’d he find you? He’s never been here! And that crater…”

“I don’t know how the crater formed, or any of that,” Pamela said with a frown. “I just remember hearing the sudden boom of his appearance out of thin air. He was holding you. I thought you were dead – you were covered in blood and unconscious.

“He put you down, and I swear, Hermione, it was so scary. I’ve never seen anyone work a wand like Harry, and I grew up in a Dark household.”

“He used Dark curses?” Hermione asked, putting aside what Pamela had revealed for a better time.

“I don’t think so,” Pamela said, “but they were overpowered. The attacker sent spells at Harry and they just absorbed into him. Harry exploded the attacker’s wand into splinters, and then he made the man crash into that wall. He sent ropes at him, from his wand, and they wound so tightly around the man I was sure he couldn’t breath. He told me to take care of you, chanted about a dozen different spells at the house, and then he Apparated away with the attacker.”

Hermione stared for moments at Pamela in shock.

“Did you know he could do that?” Pamela asked. “That he was that powerful? Is that how he defeated the Dark Lord when he was a baby?”

Hermione felt her heart thudding, overwhelmed by a sudden rush of helplessness. “I don’t know,” she said.

Hermione was a target of some very powerful enemies she didn’t know, Harry had apparently had some sort of emotional breakdown that was affecting his magic, and she was dealing with a woman who didn’t know a thing about the Second War or the danger they faced beyond Harry’s magically wild wards. Hermione very suddenly understood what Ron had been saying – but she knew it was too late to turn back now.

“Hermione!”

Harry had arrived, his Apparition barely registering in her ears. Did he just do that silently?

“Harry?” she asked, watching him warily. She stood carefully, as if he might lash out if she did it too fast. Her shoulder pain drifted away like a bad memory, and Hermione was sure that Harry had something to do with it.

Magic whirled around him like electricity, and she thought he’d faint from magical exhaustion any moment now.

“You’re okay,” he said, and the magic pulled back a bit, returning to him gradually, and taking away the suffocating energy that Hermione could feel against her skin. In seconds, Harry was in front of her, his arms wrapped around her in a gentle hug. 

“Harry, I’m not going anywhere,” she assured him in exasperation. “You need to calm down. This is dangerous. Your magic is controlling you.”

The broken computer on the floor let out a puff of smoke and then stopped sparking. Harry looked at it questioningly, and then said to Pamela, “Sorry about that.”

“Don’t worry. I can buy another.” Pamela said. Her eyes were wide and glassy, like Harry’s magic were some sort of drug.

Harry raised his wand and brought it down in a cutting motion. Hermione could feel the wards around them untangling and breaking.

“Do you know who attacked us?” she asked carefully, as if Harry were about to explode.

Harry said, “I know what they were after. I might not have proof about everything that just happened, but the Daily Prophet doesn’t care much about proof.”

An owl flew at Hermione, and she snatched the post from its beak. She had a subscription of the Daily Prophet, if only to stay informed on the mood swings of the Wizarding World.

In shock, she stared at the headline. She’d never have guessed a few days ago that the Daily Prophet would manage to ever make her happy, but she was deliriously gleeful when she stared at the headline.

Emergency Evening Edition! Hermione Granger Attacked in Diagon Alley by Wizards Fearful of the Hero’s Noble Mission: To Save Purebloods from Extinction

“How in the world did you get Rita Skeeter to write this?” Hermione finally recovered enough to ask. “It’s perfect!”

“I did some things I probably shouldn’t have done. Hermione?”

“Yes?” she said, still staring at the paper in shock.

“I’m going to collapse now.”

Hermione barely caught him with a levitation charm in time.

--
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