The hallways were noisy as a festive mood had replaced the sombre air after the clock struck four in the afternoon. Nearly everyone was excited for the scheduled ball in three days time. The prefects felt the pressure of a different kind now, that of delivering an unforgettable party. They huddled together in the Prefects’ classroom despite the roaring fire near the grate.
“Has anyone seen Hermione?” Terry asked with a sigh, wondering where Hermione was. This was the first time she had ever been late. A few of the other prefects shrugged. Some yawned.
Hermione walked into the room right after Terry asked for her. “Sorry, I’m late. I had to take care of a few other things.”
She didn’t mention that she had spent the last few minutes mulling whether she would attend the meeting or not. She slipped onto a chair as Terry opened the meeting rattling on with reminders and whatnot. Hermione had thought Draco wouldn’t be there. She was right. Draco’s face wasn’t part of the prefect crowd. Terry called the names of the prefects and their duties for the ball.
“Where’s Malfoy?” Terry said testily.
Nott raised his hand. “He’s under the weather.”
Terry raised a brow. “Aren’t we all? Well, since you’re from the same House, remind him of his duties please.”
Nott bobbed his head. “Will do.”
Hermione blinked. Under the weather? Like he was sick? Or was it just some lame excuse to relinquish his duties? Nott had his arms folded across his chest, not once looking at her. Hermione almost frowned as she tried to keep up with the meeting. She saw Ginny looking concerned across and she gave a small smile to ward off Ginny’s look of unease. The meeting rambled on until five in the afternoon.
“Well then,” Terry said, closing the meeting. “Have a good time looking for something to wear in three days with this schedule.”
Some groaned and some laughed. Ginny quickly approached Hermione and held her arm around hers.
“So…have you found some frock to abuse this Saturday?” Ginny asked, laughing.
Hermione shrugged. “I’ll find something.”
“Ever the optimist,” Ginny told her.
Ginny then proceeded to harass Hermione into accompanying her to Hogsmeade for an hour the following day. Of course, Hermione agreed despite her presence being needed almost every day for the remaining three days.
Hermione and Terry and a few other prefects walked for the Great Hall. It was quite empty as everyone was busy for ball preparations.
“Right,” Terry nodded toward Susan Bones and the rest of the Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw prefects. “You guys know what to do.”
The group of prefects began discussing the various props and where to place them. The Slytherin prefects stood still.
Terry turned to face them. “Well?”
“We’ll be heading for Hogsmeade tomorrow,” Daphne spoke up with arms crossed. “Drinks.”
“Ah...”Terry’s voice trailed and he frowned. “Weren’t you supposed to do something else?”
Susan passed by. “They were supposed to be in charge of gathering dead wood for the entrance, remember, Terry? Paint it in white then hang snowflakes in red and white all over?”
Daphne grit her teeth and rolled her eyes. “Oh sod it,” she muttered, leaving with Nott and the other Slytherin prefects to find branches and the like. “Bloody goody-two-shoes...” she was heard to mutter.
Susan sighed and Padma patted her shoulder.
Terry huffed. “Don’t mind her. She’s at it again with her snooty ways.”
Hermione said nothing and excused herself, saying she needed to catch her breath and might have the need to go to Madam Pomfrey’s. Ginny had wanted to accompany her, but Hermione insisted she would manage.
Hermione had lied of course and felt bad about it, so she quickly walked away from the Great Hall, past Hagrid’s cottage, heading for that little spot she and Draco used to sit by during Christmas break. She was alone again and she conjured a few flames to keep herself warm. She stared at the lake; it was dark and ominous, despite the day being clear. It had been the second time she had sat in the same place, lost in her trail of thought.
She shivered, despite having the pocket sized flames around her. She heard footsteps crunching in the snow and before she could turn, she found someone placing a coat on her shoulders. She looked up and saw Draco standing beside her, not looking at her, but at the lake.
The quiet dragged on for several minutes until Draco broke the silence.
“Are you still mad at me?” he asked her in a low voice.
“Mad...” Hermione repeated. “I was. Now...I’m just...disappointed.”
Draco winced. “That actually hurts far better than anger.”
Hermione sighed deeply. “It does, doesn’t it?”
“I’m sorry,” he breathed out slowly.
Hermione suddenly held his hand as he stood. He looked down on her and saw her eyes, forgiving and kind. He felt weak. He sat beside her and clutched her hand tightly for a second.
“Merlin, you get me all flustered,” Draco laughed nervously.
Hermione looked at him and pinched her lips. “Is Nott-?”
“What? Alright?” Draco huffed. “I think he’s alive.” He saw Hermione’s reproaching eyes. “Yes, he’s fine. He’s just...not used to us- you know...”
“I know what you mean,” she said, not fully perceptive of Nott’s hidden feelings for her.
“Hermione,” he began, wanting to steer the subject into more important ground.”I’m just curious. Where did you get the pendant you gave me for Christmas?”
Hermione blinked. “Why? And you’re changing the subject.”
“I just...look,” he said, taking a deep breath.”I’ve been having hallucinations or dreams...”
Hermione’s head snapped up. “Bad ones?”
“More or less.”
Hermione looked worried. “I got it off Hogsmeade. That tiny store adjacent the Shrieking Shack, well not exactly adjacent, but before the path that leads to the shack... the antique store...is it that horrible? I should give it back... I saw it in a corner, tucked away and hanging on a little jewellery rack. I didn’t mean to-“
“I’m fine. It’s just...the dreams are a bit unsettling.”
“I asked the shopkeeper where it came from. He said it was bought by his grandfather from a traveller back in 1920...” Hermione looked even more worried. “He said it was hex free, he was sure. I’m sure, I checked it myself-“
“I’m alive. No hexes. Maybe this came from someone important. Did he tell you anything else?” Draco asked her, determined to sound nonchalant.
“Nothing else. Just that he thought this was a charm of sorts, that it brought his grandfather luck on the day he bought it. Are you sure that’s all you’ve been having? Those bad dreams?”
“Yes,” he said.
Hermione laid a head on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. Maybe that’s why you couldn’t sleep...I’m so sorry I rushed into assuming things...shouldn’t you take it off now?”
“It’s fine, let it stay. At least I know where you got it. For a moment there, I thought you were out to get me.”
“I am out to get you, but only in the most pleasant way possible.”
Draco laughed outright and kissed her head. “So...are you really going to wear what I gave you?”
“It wasn’t easy getting that,” he said with a raised brow.
Hermione smiled. “I will, then. And don’t laugh at me.”
“Laugh? I’ll beat up anyone who does. Say...how would you like to hang out for awhile? Play truant?”
“And where do you propose we hang out without getting caught up with revelry preparations?”
Draco winked at her, stood up and held her hand. Hermione laughed and took it. As they walked away from the little cliff, someone else stood across the distance, eyeing them, wondering if following them would reveal anything else. A few seconds after Draco and Hermione’s profile disappeared; the person sped to the same direction.
Hermione came back to the Gryffindor Common Room past seven-thirty in the evening. The room was empty as it was dinner time.
“Where were you?” Harry’s voice broke out as he descended from the Male Dormitory.
Hermione blinked. “I fell asleep. In the uhm, library.”
Harry frowned. “Really? I thought you wanted to go to the infirmary? Are you sick?”
“I just...felt a bit under the weather. Then I thought I could rest...”
“In the library?”
“Somewhere Ron won’t be interested in.”
Harry laughed. “He wants another chance with you, you know.”
Hermione grimaced. “Please...no need to make me feel sick again.”
Harry smiled and was about to turn when he suddenly let out a gasp of pain and fell to the floor with a bang, as if suffering from a seizure or from an unforgivable spell. Hermione gasped, running for him as he lay shaking on the floor.
“Harry! Harry!” she cried out. “Is anyone here? Help me! Help us!”
Harry’s pupils had been then disappeared; the whites of his eyes seemed to bulge out. Someone else ran from the male dormitory and another person came from the female dormitory. In less than a second, Seamus Finnigan and Faye Dunbar were beside Hermione and Harry. Hermione held Harry sideways as the two hovered over worried.
“Get someone! Get help!” Hermione said.
Seamus ran out and in a minute, was back with Professor McGonagall who had bent down across Hermione, casting a spell to calm him. It didn’t work. Harry was now foaming in the mouth, shuddering for a few more seconds until his body quieted down.
Hermione trembled and was on the verge of crying as Professor McGonagall held Harry’s wrist and then his forehead. She avoided Hermione’s eyes but told her in a low voice that Harry seemed cold and that he was by all accounts alive. Hermione breathed out and stroked Harry’s hair, whispering to an unconscious Harry that everything would be alright and that they were getting him help.
A stretcher conjured by McGonagall carried Harry solemnly up to the infirmary; thankfully, no students were present in the corridors. Seamus excused himself, no doubt to inform Ron. But at that moment, Hermione didn’t care.
Arriving at the infirmary, McGonagall turned to face Faye Dunbar and excused her off, thanking her for her assistance. Madam Pomfrey’s eyes widened, seeing Harry on the stretcher.
“What happened?” she asked, bustling into immediate action.
“The boy had some sort of seizure,” McGonagall explained quickly as they transferred Harry to a bed.
Madam Pomfrey checked up Harry’s eyelids and his pulse. She quickly pulled a bed sheet until his chest area. “Did he eat anything, drink anything, Miss Granger?” she asked.
Hermione shook her head. “I don’t know. I just entered the Common Room, spoke to him a little and then he suddenly dropped to the floor,” she trembled.
“Well, he hasn’t been poisoned, that’s for sure,” Madam Pomfrey said.”Stress, perhaps?”
“Harry- he sort of gave a gasp, like he wanted to touch his forehead...” Hermione recalled.
McGonagall blinked. This was probably the work of- oh dear Merlin! Dumbledore was gone. How would she manage this? She paced around the edge of Harry’s bed. She could call for Aurors to work on his protection and that of the other students, as well. She had heard of news from the Ministry, that something dark was astir once more, less than a year after Dumbledore’s death by Snape’s hands. Of course, rumours always persisted, but she had been anxious about the real come back of the Death Eaters and their leader. Was this it? Harry had been known to be sensitive to He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. Every little cruel action from him resulted in Harry’s pain. Was there some painful action inflicted on the Dark Lord himself?
She turned to face Hermione and then saw the doors to the infirmary open, Ginny and Ron Weasley entered and walked hurriedly for the bed. Hermione took a few steps back to give the siblings some room.
“What happened?” Ginny croaked, holding Harry’s pale hand.
“We don’t know yet, Miss Weasley,” McGonagall said gently. “Miss Granger was quick enough to call for help and I only partially witnessed a convulsion. Now if you’ll excuse us, Madam Pomfrey and I have to discuss something.”
They quickly walked for Madam Pomfrey’s desk at the end of the infirmary.
“Hermione?” Ginny looked at her. “Why? What could have-?”
Hermione took a breath and told her what had happened less than ten minutes ago. Ginny’s face flinched as Hermione described Harry’s body convulsing. Hermione left out the part where Harry’s mouth had foamed.
“It’s He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, I know it. He almost collapsed on the way back from the holidays. He had this dream while on the train...” Ron’s voice trailed off. He sat down an empty bed beside Harry, his hands nervously brushing against each other.
“If he’s out to get Harry again, why did this thing- this seizure happen only now?” Ginny demanded. “I know he’s passed out, but to have this kind of fit-!”
Hermione said nothing. She stared at her friend’s pale figure and then she saw Ginny’s watery eyes. Ron stared at the floor.
“Maybe,” Hermione began. “He’s done something new or planning something too big for himself to cause that pain on Harry. Harry always complains of his scar hurting if He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is up to something.”
Ron nodded. “Could be. Or...Harry saw something too painful for his mind.”
Ginny slowly nodded.”These are possible... but- oh, I don’t know anymore.”
Hermione hugged herself as she stood. She looked outside and saw the snow furiously swirling into the night. The wind nearly howled, as if it were some portent envoy. She shuddered.
A/N: Thank you for reading again <3