Chapter 1 : Old Faces
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“Sorry, Harry,” she said with a sheepish look, “I was daydreaming.”
With a roll of his eyes, Harry sighed and returned his attention to the matters of the meeting. Having already been here for well over an hour, Hermione’s thoughts had begun to drift elsewhere, as they usually did these days. It was becoming a common occurrence in her life for people to comment on her unusual lack of concentration, which was so unlike her old self. As Harry continued to ramble on, Hermione gave up altogether and stood up, heading for the door.
“Where do you think you’re going, Hermione? We haven’t even begun going over the plans for tomorrow’s raid yet and you’re the only senior Auror who will be present,” Harry said exasperatedly, trying his hardest to keep his temper under control. He just didn’t know what had gotten into Hermione lately.
“I have a migraine coming on. You know how I feel about using potions to treat them, nothing is as effective as a muggle remedy so I’m going home. Please owl me with any important information I might miss,” she said, exiting the large room without waiting for Harry’s response. She figured it wouldn’t be an accepting one.
Hermione rushed down the corridor towards the lifts and cursed as she dropped the pile of parchment she was carrying. Sighing inwardly to herself she began to collect the seemingly endless notes strewn across the floor when she heard running footsteps approaching her.
“Here, let me help,” a strangely familiar voice slurred as Hermione scrambled about the floor, eager to just get to the fireplaces and Floo home.
“Thank you but I’m sure I’ll be-“she began and stopped mid-sentence. Dread swept over here as she recognised the trademark blonde hair that accompanied the familiar voice. “Oh, it’s you,” she mumbled, looking in any direction but at him as she finally picked up the last piece of parchment from under a nearby table. “I must be going now.”
“Granger, wait!” the man called as Hermione scurried along the corridor and into the adjourning lift. She hadn’t given a backward glance as the golden gates closed behind her. Breathing a heavy sigh, the blonde man turned to set off again when he noticed something poking out from beneath an office door to his left. Picking it up, he saw her name neatly scripted at the top of a piece of parchment: Hermione Granger, Senior Auror, Department of Magical Law Enforcement.
“What the bloody hell am I supposed to do with this?” he said quietly to himself. Granger and he had been enemies for their entire duration at Hogwarts due to her extremely close friendship with that arse Harry Potter, amongst other things. Given their frosty encounter of a few minutes ago, he was quite certain that nothing had changed. Debating whether to discard the parchment or let his secretary owl it back to Granger, he turned on his heel and walked slowly back to his office.
As she stepped out of the fireplace onto the rug her mother had recently sent for her birthday, Hermione breathed a sigh of relief as she inhaled the familiar scent of her apartment. Crookshanks gave a tired meow from the armchair he had apparently been snoozing on and hopped over towards her.
“Oh I’m so glad to see a friendly face,” she whispered as she cuddled the cat to her chest and walked towards the kitchen. Although it was as spotless as ever, Hermione rested Crookshanks on the table top where she had eaten breakfast this morning and took out the antibacterial spray from under the sink. In the past years she had come to learn that muggle ways of cleaning were much more fulfilling than using magic. It had become just another way for her to forget, which was exactly what she hoped to do now. The encounter she just had with Malfoy had caused too many memories to resurface, memories which she had spent so long trying to supress.
Tears sprung to the brunette’s eyes as she remembered the last time she had seen him and began shaking so fiercely that she dropped the cloth she had been cleaning with. However she was forced to cast these feelings aside as she heard the familiar sound of the fireplace crackling, meaning she was no longer alone. Attempting to pull herself together, Hermione dashed towards the living room.
“What the bloody hell is your problem recently, Hermione? You’re my best friend but walking out of a meeting like that and undermining me in front of my Aurors really isn’t on,” Harry stepped from the rug and brushed the ash from his cloak as he paced over to Hermione. Putting his hands on her shoulders, he said “Please talk to me. After all we’ve been through I thought you could at least let me know if something’s going on”.
Seeing his anger dissipate made Hermione feel all the more guilty at hiding her problems from Harry for all these years. Still, she was not about to cast aside years of hard work keeping her problems to herself by spilling the truth to him.
“Like I said Harry, I just have a migraine needed to come home to rest. I really don’t know what you’re talking about, there is absolutely nothing going on,’ she said as she began absentmindedly rearranging the cushions scattering her sofa whilst avoiding Harry’s gaze.
“I know you think you can deal with everything by yourself Hermione, but I thought the last two years at Hogwarts would have taught you that you, Ron and I are a team. We just don’t work alone. So please, tell me what is going on!” Harry had begun to raise his voice, causing Hermione’s face to redden as she became angrier with every word he said.
“We are not at school anymore Harry! You are my boss now, and whether you like it or not, things have changed. They changed long ago so please stop comparing our whole life to the past!” Hermione yet again felt the sting of tears in her eyes as she continued, “We have grown up and I have learnt to deal with life by myself. We can’t always rely on each other, or hadn’t you noticed that yet?” Hermione exclaimed as she looked across at Harry.
He knew exactly what she was talking about of course, as the absence of Ron hung over them. They rarely heard from him these days as he was usually away with his brother Charlie in Romania. Surprisingly, Ron had grown fond of dragons and begun studying them upon the end of the final battle five years ago and didn’t often find time for his best friends.
“I know you think Ron has abandoned us Hermione, but after the war and losing his father and Fred, you have to understand that he needed space,” Harry muttered.
“Space?! I understand space Harry but five years?! Hell, I’d call that more than space!” The tears were running freely now, causing tracks to career down Hermione’s face. She did not like to talk about Ron.
“I’m sorry Hermione, okay? I miss him too,” Harry soothed as they both sat down on the sofa, opposite the roaring fireplace.
“I’m sorry for shouting Harry, it’s just difficult for me to talk about him,” she said. She missed him so much, and he had left in her hour of need.
“I know. But like I said, he’s still our best friend. If you ever need either of us, you know we’ll be there,” he said sincerely and put his arm around Hermione.
“I suppose you’re right. But honestly Harry, I really am fine other than feeling a little ill. Would you mind if I just go and sleep now?” she asked, feeling rather rude.
“Of course, I shouldn’t have intruded. I only came over to check that you were okay and to let you know that I’ve arranged for Dean Thomas to lead the raid tomorrow. I think we both know you could do with some time off,” Harry said, and Hermione nodded in agreement.
“I think that’s a good idea. Sorry for letting you down Harry, I’m just feeling under the weather recently and you know, with Ron not here, I feel pretty lonely,” she said as Harry stood up to leave.
“I understand. Have until Monday off work and then you can come back. Maybe you could go away for the weekend? It’s been ages since you had a holiday,” Harry said.
“Maybe, Harry. Say hi to Ginny for me and let her know I’ll call round next weekend to help her with the wedding plans,” she smiled as Harry’s expression changed to one of happiness.
“That would be great. And Hermione? Please let me know if there’s anything we can do. I know things are hard. I’ll see you on Monday,” he said as he picked up a handful of Floo powder and threw it into the fire. “Ministry of Magic!” he exclaimed, and with that he was gone and Hermione was alone once again.
With evening fast approaching, Hermione changed into some comfier clothes and picked out a book from her vast collection in the bookcase lining the far wall of her small bedroom. Aside from this and a photo of her parents taken last year during her visit to them in Australia, the room was bare but for the double bed and wardrobe on the other side of the room. Hermione had never liked clutter and since living alone, she found she needed little other than books to keep her company.
Closing the door to her room, she once again headed towards the living room and fell down onto the sofa as her thoughts drifted to her argument with Harry. She didn’t like lying to him, but letting him think that she was upset about Ron was far easier than the truth. Yes, she did miss Ron, but since the war she had become a different person and Harry did not understand that.
Deciding not to dwell on this matter, Hermione went to the kitchen to feed Crookshanks. As he ate, she stroked his ears affectionately, whilst once again staring into nothingness. She was overcome with a numb feeling that had become so familiar these past years as her thoughts yet again wondered. Draco Malfoy’s face swam into her head and as much as she tried to shake it, the thought of him wouldn’t leave her alone. Before today, the last time she had seen him was the final day of the war. All her efforts at forgetting this day had been in vain, but at least not having to see Malfoy had been a blessing. Until today, she had not once bumped into him at the Ministry, nor anywhere else. Her eyes glazed over as she remembered that final day for the hundredth time that day.
As the walls of the Great Hall shook from the numerous curses being cast against it from the Death Eaters, Hermione shuddered at the thought that they would eventually penetrate the protective spells cast around Hogwarts. With a final blast, noises began to fill the air like no other that she had ever heard as the Death Eaters cackled and jeered as they burst through the doors of the Entrance Hall. Springing into action, Hermione followed into the crowd of witches and wizards preparing to fight for their lives. Harry could be seen duelling with Bellatrix Lestrange with a look of hatred upon his face, intent on revenge for his godfather’s life. Hermione ran up the great staircase in an attempt to find Ron who she had lost an hour or so previously, saying he was going to the Room of Requirement.
Heading towards the Room whilst nonverbally stunning a Death Eater along the way, she glanced around and caught the eye of Draco Malfoy, who simply stood as though his feet could not carry him. As much as she wanted to kill him for being responsible for so much evil, her main priority was Ron and she hurried faster towards to room. Turning down a second floor corridor, she came across Professor McGonagall struggling to duel against two Death Eaters. Hurling hexes and jinxes as fast as she could, Hermione joined the throng and McGonagall and herself used all their strength to bring them down. With a nod, McGonagall continued down the corridor as Hermione continued on her pursuit for her best friend.
Finally reaching the corridor where the room was located, Hermione was surprised to find it so deserted in the midst of the battle. Casting a nervous look around, Hermione crept towards to room but was suddenly grabbed around the throat and dragged down a passageway.
“If you scream and struggle, I will kill you in a heartbeat,” a rasping voice growled in her ear.
Turning her head slightly, Hermione came face to face with the Death Eater she recognised as Thorfinn Rowle who she had seen photographs of in the Daily Prophet. Trembling with fear, she resisted the urge to fight him off, figuring it would be best to comply.
“The Dark Lord wants you all killed, particularly filthy little mudblood rats like you. But I’d rather play with my prey first” he sneered with a horrifying gleam in his eye.
“Please don’t hurt me, please,” Hermione pleaded as tears ran down her face, but Rowle simply sniggered at her and pinned her against the wall.
With a filthy hand over her mouth, Hermione could only stifle a scream as he forced himself on her whilst she cried. She wished for it to be over, for anybody to come down that corridor and find her, for Ron to appear and save her. It was only as she was about to collapse in pain that she spotted Draco Malfoy at the end of the passageway, a blank expression on his face. She widened her deep brown eyes at him, urging him to help her. He looked on as Rowle gave a final grunt and dropped her to the floor. With one final leer at Hermione, he bellowed “Petrificus Totalus!” before turning on his heel and catching up with Malfoy and running back towards the battle.
Hermione was pulled out of her daze by a tapping at the window behind her. Glancing over, she was shocked to see a small tawny owl with pristine feathers sat on the ledge. With a look towards the clock telling her it was almost midnight, Hermione was curious as to who would owl her at this time. Pushing open the window, she took a small package from the leg of the little bird, who then trotted inside. Ripping open the package, Hermione could barely believe her eyes as she saw the neatly written letter contained within the package:
After our encounter earlier, I found this stray piece of parchment which seemed to have escaped your clutches. Please find it enclosed in the package.
It’s been five years and much has changed. Please meet me in the Leaky Cauldron at 7pm tomorrow evening. Send your reply by this owl.
Hermione let out a sob as she read the letter and stumbled over to her armchair. Why, after all this time, would Malfoy contact her? After so many years of turmoil, she was being forced to face it all again. Pulling out a piece of parchment and her quill, she quickly scribbled a reply and attached it to the owl, before curling up and sobbing for hours into the night.
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