Chapter 27 : Cover Me
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She was walking quickly know, past stone walls filled with portraits and tapestries. The flames from the torches cast lonely shadows all over and Hermione felt a sense of foreboding. She didn’t have any sense of direction but she found herself walking on the path towards the lonely turret on the eighth floor, the one with four empty rooms, well three actually. The fourth one was closed...Hermione stopped at the first step of the staircase. She recalled the night that Draco found her there.
"Why don’t we get out of here? This place is giving me the creeps…” he had suggested.
She laughed a bit. “You’re actually scared of this place?”
“Actually, I’m more concerned for your well-being. The drafts are pretty strong here.”
“It’s the broken windows-“
“You’ve been inside the rooms?” he asked.
“Just the three, the last one’s locked,” she pointed out to the door that had remained unopened.
Draco eyed the door and turned to face her. “There’s a reason some have broken windows or that some are locked. Its best we leave, Filch might catch us here and accuse us of abusing our ‘powers’.”
She ran up the flight of stairs, suddenly determined to open the last door. The turret was dark and Hermione lit one ball of flame from her wand, kneeling down on the door, reading the riddle. Runes... It had to be a simple riddle that people took for granted. She read it once more.
whitest of grain;
it is whirled from the vault of heaven
and is tossed about by gusts of wind
and then it melts into water
Hermione laughed, realizing what it was. It was so simple.
“Hail,” she said to no one in particular.
The door didn’t open though. She probably had to write it down. Like the entrance to the cave...She swished her wand to write down the rune character for ‘hail’. The handwriting glowed and the door slowly opened, creaking at the hinges. The ball of flame followed her inside the room, flooding it with a bit of warmth and light.
It was a cold room, Hermione thought, as drafts came through from a broken stained glass window near the ceiling. She shivered. Walking around slowly, she marvelled at the debris surrounding her. Antiques from Hogwarts’ previous occupants were here, from the heaps of books and furniture, even a chandelier.
Hermione spied a table with a book and a rectangular box over it. Frost had covered parts of the items and Hermione brushed them off, wondering what was contained within the books pages first. She opened the hefty book, unable to understand anything. Surely these were runes. But they looked so strange, Hermione couldn’t decipher them. Upon closer look, she gasped.
The characters seemed to be swimming around. Where did this book come from? Surely she hadn’t seen this in the library before, or perhaps she didn’t bother to. But why was it here? She stared at the cover, knowing it was a banned book.
Gingerly, she placed the book down and reached for the old elongated box. It was empty. There were decorations all over it though, of vines, an empty circle and a faded out crest, with what seemed like dried blood over it, too.
Hermione frowned, trying to make some impression out of the box. She put it down, figuring she could have an outline of it later. There was a notebook near it, looking newer, bound in black leather. The first few pages of parchment were empty and then she spied in hastily scribbled writing, a single paragraph.
“The Floor is wrought by Frost, immeasurable depth, take heed... The Torch known to man by its pale, bright glow; it always burns where princes sit within… The ocean seems interminable to Man…and the waves of the water terrify all…She, the guiding star and the spherical light that comes from the darkness... the covenants are broken…the princes are to be where they are…”
Hermione read over it again. Was it some sort of riddle too? Or a prophecy? And what was some new looking notebook doing here in such an old room? Hermione’s heart pounded as her fingers slid over initials on the back of the notebook. D.M.
She gasped, dropping the notebook on the floor, staring at it like it had poison dripping out of the pages. Hermione began to tremble as she bent down to pick the notebook up. She read it again. And again. What the bloody hell was this? She had never read about this prophecy and had never heard of it. She felt stupid; unable to understand something with such simple words...
Hermione began to search her pockets for a piece of paper. She found none. Slowly, she tore off one page from the notebook and grabbed the pencil in her pocket, not noticing something that fell out. Placing the paper on the wooden box, she began to scribble all over the paper until an outline began to appear. She now had a clearer look of the crest. She stuffed it into her pocket and grabbed the heavy book, trying to read through it, to no avail. Hermione pinched her lips, feeling more cold creep into the room.
She looked up and saw the wind blowing in from a broken window near the ceiling. Realizing she had been gone too long, Hermione quickly bolted out of the room, placing the objects in the same way she had seen them. Draco. Draco actually planned something. Something unknown, something dodgy and something based on a prophecy she couldn’t understand...she felt like crying, unable to understand what it was exactly, but she knew it was something disturbing.
She almost felt like she couldn’t walk straight, she felt sick as she headed for the prefects’ room. Opening the door, she saw Harry and Ron with Kingsley and Williamson.
“Did Moaning Myrtle disturb you again?” Harry asked her and she knew it took her long enough to get back from using the lavatory.
She nodded and slipped in, forcing herself to stop the trembling that was welling from inside.
Harry had already begun to tell Kingsley of his suspicions, aided with Ron’s fervent theories. They spoke in hushed tones and Hermione felt deaf all of a sudden. She saw mouths talking and heard nothing, saw Harry’s zealous look while explaining his thoughts and Kingsley nodding along with Williamson who chipped in to fill some gaps. But Draco...he had actually planned something without her knowledge. Was it related to his family issues again? How could a prophecy like that be related to family issues?
She suddenly felt betrayed. Didn’t he trust her enough to tell her of his problems? But what if, just what if, his secret plans were for the Death Eaters and Lord Voldemort’s greater gain? She nearly shuddered, nodding absentmindedly to Harry’s interjections as Kingsley spoke.
Was Draco still an active member? How could he, when he had changed? She thought he had changed. Their talk continued and Hermione meekly excused herself again, mumbling about her duties as Head Girl and the need to check on the Great Hall and the other prefects. Harry nodded distractedly and continued to talk.
As she walked for the Library fervently hoping that no one would be there, she suddenly felt sick. Slipping into the dark library, she made her way to the lineage section, reaching for a leather-bound thousand page book in minute handwriting. Scanning the pages she looked for families related to the Malfoys. Sure enough, she found the crest that she had copied on that torn piece of paper matched the family crest of a family related to Slytherin himself.
She gasped, realizing the enormity of what Draco had been hiding. She stumbled along the corridor, afraid she would gag. Hermione stifled a sob, recalling Draco’s words. It flashed through her mind like bolts of lightning.
You trust me, right?
Why don’t we get out of here?
I can’t sleep, so there.
Are you questioning my other activities now?
I’m just curious. Where did you get the pendant you gave me for Christmas?
The pendant! And Hermione knew that the gift she had gotten Draco for Christmas had some horrible connection to all that she had just discovered. She stopped in place and leaned against the cold wall, it seeped into her body and she shivered and her knees buckled and she nearly collapsed. Someone ran for her and held her by the shoulders. Hermione looked up weakly, the scent of someone familiar held her. It was Ron.
“What’s wrong?” he asked her and his voice seemed far away.
She blinked, trying to get a hold of herself. Somehow, the world was swimming around her, waves of light and shadows cast all over. She heard herself take a breath, wanting to explain what she had discovered but was unable to. How could she betray someone like him? When he had been nothing but- what had he been? Was his kindness and love for her a joke?
Ron heard footsteps and he saw Draco standing across. Draco’s eyes had narrowed. He stared for a full five seconds before taking a step forward. Hermione began to shiver uncontrollably causing Ron to hold her tighter against his warm body. She was staring at Draco, her eyes looked confused.
Draco opened his mouth and Ron looked insolent. “Is she- alright?”
Ron was unable to reply, the initial shock of it had rendered him silent. He had actually asked if Hermione was alright. Ron nodded, protectively shielding Hermione with another arm wrapped around her.
“Harry!” Ron called out down the corridor. “Harry!”
Draco stood there for a few seconds, and then he turned his back and walked the other way, slowly, his footsteps echoing down the hall.
Harry came after Draco had gone, along with the other Aurors, thinking there was need for alarm. One Auror checked Hermione and said she looked fine, but pale and suggested she be brought to the hospital wing. Ron hoisted her up, much to her feeble protest, happy to be able to play the part of hero for Hermione.
“What happened?” Harry asked her as they walked for the hospital wing.
“I thought she looked funny, kind of unwell. So I followed her, you know how she is, never one to lose face in front of other people,” Ron whispered as Hermione closed her eyes.
“She fainted?” Williamson asked.
“Nearly, if I hadn’t been out to catch her,” he said as Harry opened the door to the hospital wing.
Madam Pomfrey was immediately at their side, escorting them to the end of the room. Ron put Hermione down gently and she slept on. Ron explained what had happened, mentioning it was probably from fatigue or stress.
“Best we let her sleep, then,” Madam Pomfrey said, arranging Hermione’s bed sheets about. She walked across to grab something from a large oak cabinet.
“I saw Malfoy. He actually asked if she was alright,” Ron told Harry as Williamson spoke to Madam Pomfrey who was preparing a hot compress.
“He did what?” Harry said, unable to believe it. “You’re not kidding?”
“He didn’t hex her, right?”
Ron shook his head. “I got there first.”
“He didn’t look suspicious?”
Ron looked thoughtful and then bothered. “Strangely, no. But you know what’s funny? It seemed like he was genuinely concerned for Hermione.”
Draco had wanted to run after Ron, and take Hermione away from him, so he could care for her. Just like those bloody romantic witch novels. He fidgeted about, wondering what had happened to Hermione, if someone had discovered their secret affair, if Pansy- but it couldn’t be Pansy. Did Nott do it then? Nott was in his quarters, he was sure. Who else? Perhaps Hermione had worked too hard and had not had sufficient rest from the examinations? His mind was filled with the most absurd reasons for Hermione’s collapse.
And he hated Ronald Weasley at that moment, immensely. He could have held her, cared for her in the hospital wing...who the bloody hell was he kidding with? Madam Pomfrey would raise her eyebrows at the sight of Draco Malfoy carrying Hermione Granger into her ward! He was standing in front of the fourth door inside the turret. He sighed and wrote the character over the door with the use of his wand. The door opened and he stepped in, his wand alight.
He looked down at the table, seeing the items just as he left them. Then he blinked. The notebook, his notebook was supposed to be beside the wand’s box. Now it was on top of the book. His heart pounded. He flipped through his notebook, found the prophecy and felt relief until he saw a torn portion of parchment. He felt terrified that else someone was in the room. Surely it wasn't a ghost...he looked around wildly for any sign of the intruder. Had the person figured out his interests? Had he been that careless?
Glancing at the floor, he spied on something clean, white and crisp with a silver monogram. He picked the object up. His handkerchief! The one he had given Hermione!
Draco pocketed the notebook and book immediately, along with the wand encasement in his satchel. He quickly bolted out of the room, running down the flights of stairs, never stopping until he arrived at the passageway that led to the hospital wing. He stopped to take a breath. Hermione had somehow known, the extent of it, he was going to find out now.
He wondered how he could enter the wing without the doors creaking. He wondered if Madam Pomfrey was still awake. He knew that Madam Pomfrey had another separate room inside the wing...should he take the chance?
He slowly entered the door, it creaked for a second. He took a breath and slipped inside, the room was in semi darkness and a few lamps lit the corners of the wing. He saw a figure at the end of the room in one bed, the rest were empty and he knew it was Hermione. Quietly, he tread across the floor to reach her. He saw her lying down, her eyes closed and looking troubled in sleep. He bent down closer and placed a hand over her mouth.
Her eyes opened instantly and he stifled her scream. For a moment, her eyes looked frantic then it was replaced with fear.
“I won’t hurt you,” he whispered imploringly.
She nodded once, her heart screaming inside her chest. He let go of her mouth and she edged to the other corner of her bed, gripping the sheets tightly.
“What-?” Hermione began, unable to talk further.
He took out from his bag the handkerchief he had give Hermione nearly two months ago. Hermione gave an inaudible gasp and her eyes bulged out, as if she had seen the most damning form of evidence yet, of her sneaking around in a place not meant for her, a place only meant for Lord Voldemort’s devoted servant.
He said nothing, but for a moment, Hermione thought she saw murder flash in his eyes. Then he shook his head and sighed, sitting on the bed beside her. Hermione trembled slightly as he did. A strange silence grew and they both looked at the white bed sheets under the dim light.
Finally, Draco spoke.
“What have you found out?”
Her lips quivered. “Nothing.”
“Please,” he said, nearly gritting his teeth. “What have you found out?”
“You’re plotting something...”
“I don’t know what you’re really up to, but please, get away from me,” Hermione said looking defiant, although her voice shook.
He glared at her and shook his head. “I don’t intend to-“
“Kill Harry?” she whispered.
Draco sighed and stood up. He towered over her and Hermione thought he would lose control and slap her face. Instead, he gave a curt nod and he started to walk away. Hermione stared at his back for a moment and without realizing it, she found she had walked up from the bed, running after Draco.
Draco spun around, hearing bare footsteps running across the quiet hall. He saw Hermione standing in her school uniform, knee high socks kept her feet warm, but barely. “What are you doing?” he asked her, his eyes widening.
“I’m sorry. I can’t let you kill Harry,” she whispered, stifling a sob.
“I’m not out to kill him Hermione,” he said in a low voice. “I’m out to actually safeguard his arse.”
“You- you are?” she said, feeling lightheaded again.
He nodded and saw her looking uncomfortable again. She shifted and held the end of another hospital bed. She shook her head once, as if to relieve herself from the stupor of dizziness.
“Are you alright?”
She nodded and Draco quickly held her close to his chest. He hoisted her up in his arms and brought her back to bed.
“Everything will be alright, I promise you,” Draco whispered, kissing her forehead. She nodded, disoriented. Her eyes began to close.
He sat beside her for a few minutes, to ensure that she would be sound asleep. Draco stood over Hermione as she slept, watching her as her brows creased once in awhile. As she slept on, he raised his wand and pointed at her, quickly muttering a memory charm. That would take care of things for now.
He suddenly felt a stabbing pain from his hand that radiated through his heart. He looked at his bandaged hand and clenched it once. He had said his part and would do his part. The question was how. Without much of a noise, Draco left the infirmary just as Madam Pomfrey came out to check on her patient.
A/N: Love it? Hate it? There's more coming anyway. lol. Do be kind to leave me a review. Happy New Year!
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