Thinking back, she hadn’t meant to approach Draco the first time she saw him vulnerable – she knew it was dangerous. But the events at the Ministry had shaken her too.
She had been shocked at how unorganised the side of the light had been. Granted, everyone would have considered the defeat of the Inner Circle by school-going children as a huge success, but not her. She wasn’t affected by the glamour her peers’ age seemed to bestow upon everyone else. They were the next generation of warriors. This was their war; in this, they would fight or die. The fate of the world rested on their shoulders.
Harry had been praised as the Chosen One once again. With the return of Voldemort out in the open for everyone to see, the public had turned their eyes to place their faith and hope on the product of a prophecy. But they had not been there that night. They had not seen the chaotic manner with which he led, emotions clouding his judgement, unintentional arrogance making him reckless. Whether he knew it or not, he had believed himself invincible from the rest of the world bar Voldemort. After all, he was the Chosen One; a final confrontation with Voldemort was his destiny. Until then, he was safe.
He was young. She wouldn’t say he was a child like the others who fought that day. However, he had not been ready. Not in the slightest. None of them were. She had the scar to prove it.
Whilst battling the ruthless Death Eaters, she had noticed the precision with which they threw every spell, their experience giving them the clear upper hand. The children’s hesitant and clumsy responses were nothing compared to them. It had been sheer luck that they had all come back alive that day. She knew it, but others seem to forget it.
No one came back unscathed that day. Everyone had cuts, bruises and injuries from Dark curses that needed to be healed. She had been the worst – only Madam Pomfrey knew how close to death she had come. She had taken down half of the Death Eaters though. And that was without even revealing her true capabilities.
If there was one thing everyone knew about Hermione Granger, it was that she was no fool. Often titled as the 'Brightest Witch of her Age,' her intelligence was well-known, even amongst the dark side. She had been clever enough to understand that this was going to be a war fought by children who had been forced to grow up too early – she was one of them. She had the common sense to realise that it would not come naturally. No. Warriors were not born, they were trained.
And so she had trained. Her over-achieving nature had helped but it was not enough. Ever since Voldemort’s resurrection, she had started preparing for the inevitable bloodshed and war. Whilst she had known countless spells, charms and curses far more advanced than the average 7th year, she knew that would not be enough.
She had trained her magic, learning far more spells than even the average Death Eater. She had trained her mind, meditating daily in hopes of someday attempting to guard her secrets. She had trained her body, dealing with the stress and demands of duelling.
And she had done so in secret. Not that she wanted to. She had tried to persuade Harry and Ron to do the same. After all, Harry was the instrumental cog in their war effort. Without him, all hope would be lost.
But Cedric’s death had shaken him. His pure heart had him swimming in guilt that could not be overcome. Her protests to prepare further had fallen to unheard ears. Ron had been convinced that pretending that everything was fine was the way forward to prevent Harry from drowning in his sorrow.
So it had started. Her boys acted like boys, when she had turned into a woman, the reality of war sobering her. Already almost two years their elder from her use of the Time Turner in their third year to double up on lessons and homework, she had hidden her determined planning behind her know-it-all character. She played with them, as if nothing had changed, allowing them to act as kids for a few months. She had made sure they learnt their spells – some more advanced ones as well – and subtly did her best to prepare them for a war they were hiding from.
She had spent all of that summer, between her fourth and fifth year, learning more about anything that could give them the advantage in this war. Aware of her officially underage status, she had researched everything that did not require an outward release of magic to circumvent the Ministry’s detection spells. She had organised her mind, training with the discipline required to control her thoughts. Occlumency was not a skill easily learnt or mastered, but she had been determined not to let any spies for the dark side steal her secrets from her mind. She would never betray Harry, not even unintentionally.
She hadn’t known entirely what she was doing: she had no one to teach her. Knowledge from books could only take one so far when learning such a practical skill. Having meditated since her first year to help with the stress of exams, calming her mind had come naturally. Organising and defending had been another story entirely. However, she had been determined, and after 4 long months of mental exercises, she had managed to erect her first, albeit week, mental wall.
She could already cast the majority of shielding and defensive spells till the seventh year curriculum in her third year. Her offensive spells were only a little poorer – that had become the first task on her to-do list for her fifth year.
Overachieving as she was, a month into her summer vacation, she had set her aims higher than even she would have dreamed of in her younger years. She started preparing for her Animagus transformation. Her mental preparation with her Occlumency and her almost 6 years of meditation had helped. However, Hermione had always been a controlled individual. She was thoroughly organised in her work-ethic, she planned diligently, and she felt more comfortable when keeping with rules. Whilst spending four years being Harry Potter’s best friend had improved her improvisation skills dramatically, she was not a raw, instinctual individual like Harry. She was definitely not animalistic.
Her first task had been to go through the necessary mental exercises – her experience had been enough to shorten the year long process to a meagre two weeks. The next task was the hardest. Whilst she could calm and organise her mind, she could never let go completely. She could relax, but she could not become one with nature, letting her magic interact with the energy of her surroundings. She could not let her instincts rule her.
The rest of the summer holidays had been concentrated on making progress on her transformation. It wasn’t until her last week that she could even feel her magical core. She had a long way to go.
Her progress in Occlumency had been better. Her one mental wall had been reinforced, becoming strong enough to withstand a weak surface Legilimency attack.
Hermione Granger was smart. She was bright and diligent. However, she was not a miracle worker. Although she had far over-stepped her abilities to that of a well-trained, highly experienced and powerful adult, she could not master such demanding and time-consuming skills in a summer. Even if she had been laying the ground-work since her first year.
With the start of fifth year, came the tyranny of one Dolores Umbridge. The sub-standard DADA teaching had provided the perfect excuse to train Ron and Harry. Dumbledore’s Army was created, allowing her to push her friends to their limits. Even if they didn’t achieve a level of offensive excellence, she had made sure that they could at least defend themselves well.
It had been a great idea: she had managed to motivate the rest of her trio quite well. Harry had sunken into his role as a leader splendidly. She had noticed that he was maturing, having finally dealt with the guilt left over from Cedric’s death. He had used his feelings as a driving force.
His experience with death had changed him. He carried a new weight around his shoulders – the weight of a soul lost in the crossfire. DA was his first step to accepting his destiny; being the Chosen One meant being the leader of the war effort. He was the catalyst, the beacon of hope that was the driving force for the light.
As Harry taught and the DA learnt, Hermione had stood in the side-lines, participating as required to keep from suspicion. Not many had questioned the ease with which she cast spells; she was the over-achieving brainiac after all. She had still made sure to hold back the true extent of her talent. It would not have helped anyone to undermine Harry’s authority or abilities, especially when he was progressing so well.
She had not let her academic studies interfere with her extra-curricular training though. Every night, she would sneak out, cast a Disillusionment Charm perfectly, and run laps around the castle, silencing her feet and lungs to hide the evidence of her activities. When cooling down, she would try to locate her magical core and interact with the nature around her. Every morning, she would quickly run through all the Occlumency exercises mentally.
After all, she was the brightest witch of her age. It simply wouldn’t do to let her generation down.
Throughout the year, she had observed, with great satisfaction, her Occlumency skills improve. Her one mental shield had doubled into two reinforced barriers of steel, guarding her thoughts with sufficient competency. She was nowhere close to mastering the science – Master Occlumens raised dozens of barriers, each of different kinds, and sustained them subconsciously. However, she was improving – at a much faster rate than ever heard of before. And for now, that was enough for her.
To her surprise, she had also made progress in her quest to become an Animagus. She had noticed how she was always aware of her magical core. She had learnt how to immerse herself into the magic of nature, even if she couldn’t interact with it as effectively as she had hoped. Her instincts were becoming stronger – her schoolwork showed that. Her intellectual brilliance, that once lacked the spark of a trailblazer, was complemented with educated speculation that gave rise to great researchers. Her teachers and friends had noticed and thought nothing of it. Just another thing for her to be great at.
When Harry had started learning Occlumency, she had tried to help. She had given him copies of all her notes and research. She had even surreptitiously slipped in a few tips that she had learnt from her own experience. He was simply too occupied with Professor Snape’s torturous teaching to think anything of it.
But he did not have the discipline. Whilst Animagi gained from their instincts, Occlumency was all about control and organisation. You could not have asked for a more ill-suited task for the Boy Who Lived. She had been disappointed when he gave up; she realised the importance of having at least some control over the anomalous connection he shared with Voldemort.
Her instincts had been right, as they increasingly were. His had been wrong.
And that was how they had landed in the Department of Mysteries that night.
The Boy Who Lived had one famous weakness and strength: his love. It motivated him and gave him the strength that he required. Once manipulated, however, it also forced him to act in a rash and obtuse manner. Once Harry was convinced that Sirius could be in danger, nothing could have stopped him from rushing to save the day. And nothing could have stopped his friends from following blindly.
They had been so close to losing someone that day – excluding her of course (she had practically begged Madam Pomfrey not to reveal the severity of her injuries for the benefit of Harry’s mental health).
Harry’s stupid saviour complex had prevented him from thinking logically. His hare-brained thinking had almost cost him his godfather’s life. When Sirius found out that Harry had rushed into battle, nothing could have kept him from emulating his godson’s reckless actions and rushing in right behind him. At least he had come with reinforcements in the form of the Order. Thank Merlin that Professor Snape had informed them, or she was sure the Hogwarts’ students would have suffered a thoroughly unpleasant fate.
She remembered that moment very clearly. It was what had almost cost her her life.
Everyone had watched as Bellatrix had taunted her cousin, all the while pushing him back, taking the clear offensive in their duel. Whether it was intentional and the notoriously crazy Death Eater had meant for him to inch closer to the Veil, she didn’t know. However, she had watched with horror as she saw him unknowingly retreating towards the Veil of Death. Her curse had been fired right before Bellatrix could do the deed; the silent Protego creating an invisible barrier behind him. Rebounding off her defensive wall, he had been able to easily counter his attacker, who fled with the arrival of her master.
Casting her Protego to protect Sirius instead of her had given Dolohov the opportunity to surprise her. The Dark slicing spell hit her right on the chest, slashing a clean cut down the middle of her torso, rivers of her blood flowing out of the wound. The Dark magic had made it notoriously hard to heal – she had exhausted a quarter of the Hospital Wing’s Blood Replenishing Potions simply bleeding out.
She had spent a week recovering from the blood loss and residual Dark magic. No one but Sirius knew of her actions; she had pleaded with him to keep it a secret. He hated to do so – he didn’t understand why – but since she had saved his life, he complied. In return, she tried to free him of his Life Debt. After spending 12 years in Azkaban, he didn’t deserve to be imprisoned any longer, she had said. However, his repayment had been too small to be accepted by the binding magic. He had left her, promising to help her through anything she wished, and thanking her profusely for saving his life.
So that’s what had brought her to the lake on that night – the night she met her friend. After she had recovered from her injuries, she had been even more determined than ever to throw herself into her preparations. Recent events had provided her with inspiration and she was determined to reduce the bloodshed of the oncoming war. The need to train had never been higher.
It had been at the end of her run that she had seen him. When she had connected her magical core with her surroundings, she had felt the magic bleeding away in sorrowful waves at a distance. Unable to calm her curiosity, she had walked towards the source of the conflict.
Before her had been Draco Malfoy, head leaning on a tree trunk, staring across the distant lake with unseeing eyes. Although his face had remained a regal emotionless mask, his magical energy had been turbulent.
The Prince of Slytherin was changing.
Quietly, she sat down beside him, sensing that he required a friendly presence. Nothing that could cause such a great disturbance in someone’s magical core could be taken lightly.
She had expected him to react when she took his hand, at the very least recoil in disgust for being touched by a Mudblood. Wiping his hands on his trousers was pretty much a necessity. However, none of this had occurred. He had simply stared at her with the same unseeing eyes, and turned back to the lake in indifference.
That was when she knew that the prince had needed her.
She had been happy to help.
He was worn; too tired to even care of her worthlessness. With the break of dawn, she simply squeezed his hands again and walked away, knowing that it was exactly what he needed.
If she had acknowledged this arrangement – spoke of it or even expected anything of him in return – it would become all too real. With his eyes closed, he could pretend she was someone else – someone acceptable – that cared about him.
So she had let the charade continue. Every night, after her daily run, she would calmly sit down beside him and take his hand. She would continue her Animagus exercises at his side. For the first time in her almost year of training, she had felt it. The Animal. Back then, she couldn’t quite place what it was. All she had known was that her magical core, animalistic in form, was connecting to the magical energy rolling of the Slytherin Prince. It was reacting to his presence. She could feel the animal almost stroking Draco’s core, comforting it magically, without him even knowing.
But none of it had mattered at that moment. All that mattered was that she, a witch, was sitting next to him, a wizard, in his time of need.
She had known he would talk when he was ready to. Until then, she had been perfectly content letting her animal run wild in the darkness of the night.
AN/: Hope you enjoyed that chapter - it was meant as a little insight into the inner workings of Hermione's mind and a glimpse to her motivation for such drastic actions. It also introduced the beginning of Hermione and Draco's friendship - Draco will be the focus for the next chapter.
I promise, Severus will be coming soon. I thought it would be better to lay at least a little more groundwork before throwing his confusing personality into the mix. :)
Please review and let me know what you think. It's always lovely to hear back and motivates me to write faster :D
I'd be more than happy to answer any questions or worries as well.