Chapter 1: Snitch
Hermione Granger has run out of luck.
And this time, no knowledge she’s memorised; no spell she’s learned; no logical reasoning she’s practised could save her.
She isn’t challenged by potion riddles, secret chambers, or the fabrics of time — all of which seem like child’s play to her now.
For the first time, Hermione Granger is running from fellow human beings who are actively hunting her. Not mythical creature; not bewitched objects — very real wizards and witches made of flesh and bones, bleed the same colour she does, and have decades on her.
Who also know far more than she; hold a plethora more spells; and are driven by prejudice, hatred, and cruelty.
Who want to do to her what they are doing to the Robertses.
And so she does the only thing she can: what she, Harry, and Ron push each other to do when facing impossible odds.
“Keep that big bushy head down, Granger,” sneered Malfoy.
If that bully Draco Malfoy thinks his words would somehow trip them up, he’s learned nothing since they first met on the train. His schadenfreude only works to fuel her steps, her determination to escape strengthened by the look of his face when his parents get caught.
Her legs start to tire, and she thinks about nothing else but putting one foot in front of the other. Regulating her breaths. Avoiding areas with loud bangs. Making sure the boys are with —
Where are the boys?
Oh for Merlin’s sake.
She recognises Ron’s tall figure among those surrounding a few Veela, with Harry pulling at his sleeve. She turns to head in their direction, when someone — or something — yanks her aside.
As she looks up at a masked face, Hermione Granger knows this is it.
Too many close calls now. Malfoy’s told someone.
A few spells whizz past them and she spots a hint of blond from the light — fuck it’s Lucius Malfoy. She knew it; knew the git had tipped off his father. Well, his father sure heard about it this time.
But she would be damned if she gives in just like that. She takes a deep breath before opening her mouth —
— which is promptly covered by a firm hand.
“What in Salazar’s name do you think you’re doing?”
That’s not Lucius Malfoy. It’s low and breathless, but it is definitely the voice of a witch.
She’s jolted out of her shock by the sound of someone approaching them — thinking it’s Harry and Ron, she reaches out, only to be pushed back onto the ground.
“Idiot girl, don’t you know what they’re looking for out there?” The witch whispers harshly, holding her still.
Amidst the quiet, the footfall proves the witch right — the consistent snapping of twigs and crunching of leaves tell her it’s too heavy to be borne by sneakers or made by teenagers.
There’s also the hyena-like laugh of the wizards.
“I know they’re around,” says one of them. “She never goes anywhere without Potter and that blood traitor of a weasel.”
Focus on something. Anything, Hermione.
She starts with the witch’s hand on her knee, feeling the heat that emanates from her palm. And when she hears Lumos from one of the Death Eaters, the weak light reveals manicured nails, intricate patterns of the witch’s wand, and for one second — alert, wide, and striking blue eyes behind that golden mask.
The grip on her knee tightens. She follows the stare and sees a boot a few steps away from her head. Turning her head to face the other direction, she shuts her eyes and thinks about everything but the Robertses. The faint scent of perfume, mixed with perspiration; her ankle that’s starting to throb really hard, she must have sprained it when she fell —
“Bah, let’s look elsewhere. Maybe there’s some fun left with those muggles.”
The witch’s sigh of relief mirrors hers.
She sits up and dusts off the sand from her clothes. Without the distraction, she now feels every bit of the bruise that’s forming on her arm, and the pain that’s shooting up her shin, forcing a gasp from her.
“Where does it hurt?”
Hermione points to the injury on her foot, and her captor waves her wand over it. Instantly, a chill settles, dissipating the burning feeling along her nerves.
“Who are you?” she says, and might as well have been talking to the bush.
The soothing effects of the healing, along with the post-rush of adrenaline, lures her into a lull.
Then she hears her name.
It’s the boys.
“Hermione!” Harry, yells, panting.
“I know she’s here,” Ron says. “This is where we ran into Malfoy. You don’t think he’s —”
“Idiots,” the witch mutters angrily, and Hermione’s nearly got it. The witch is —
“Go before they alert the entire campsite that Hermione Granger is very much lost and wandering around alone.”
— very annoyed by the boys’ lack of sense, it seems.
With the same strength that pulled her in earlier, she’s pushed out of the bushes and right into the arms of her best friends.
“Sorry I got distracted,” Ron says sheepishly. “Where have you been?”
“I was just here, keeping my head down.”
She doesn’t look back.
“But Mrs Weasley,” she begs, trying not to whine, “I need the materials!”
“Oh Hermione, I don’t know,” Molly Weasley frets, waving her wand distractedly at a sack of potatoes. “Everything’s a bit of a mess right now, and after what happened at the World Cup, I don’t think you should be alone, even if it’s Diagon Alley.
“Why don’t you owl them your order and have it sent to Hogwarts? That way they’ll be right there when you arrive.”
Great. Now she’s going to fall behind without the supplementary reading materials, and the next thing she knows, she’s going to fail her exams, be barred from taking the OWLs next year, have her wand snapped in half —
And it’s all her fault.
She thanks Mrs Weasley and heads to the orchard. As the boys — and Ginny — play another round of Quidditch, she flips through The Standard Book of Spells glumly, angry at herself for being distracted by the witch.
And there’s Winky, of course — how dare they treat her that way?
Harry and Ron, eager for an outing, had volunteered to go with her to Flourish and Blotts. She had turned it down immediately, citing all the possible reasons for Harry’s scar to start hurting, and none of them good.
They had left her alone quickly after that.
“Oi Hermione, heard you were looking for a date?” Fred and George plop down, flanking her.
She narrows her eyes at them, her bottom still smarting from their latest experiment. “What do you mean?”
“Heard mum said something about you forgetting your books,” George tuts. “We expected more from the girl who’s in the top of her classes.”
At her indignant look, Fred stands up and bows. “We, the ever helpful, are here at your service. Just let us know when, and mum’s the word.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea to —”
“Ah ah, there you go again, occupying your brain with the little things. Mum really gave us her word — we have the pleasure of escorting you on this fine adventure.”
“Are you sure it can’t wait? Maybe I can pick them up for you tomorrow, once I sort out Arthur’s tasks,” Molly says, tightening the scarf on Hermione.
“We’re going to be fine, mum,” Fred says, rolling his eyes. “Dad needs you more.”
“Make sure you’re back by four, and don’t let them persuade you to do any — George! ”
“Sorry, mum!” George rushes them to the chimney, leaving soot all over the carpet — and his mother. “We’ll get more from the shops!”
Mrs Weasley’s instincts are right, at least. She casts a water-repelling charm over her books and new quills to protect them from the rain.
Quality Quidditch Supplies is next. She holds up the list that Ron gave her, hoping the sun will help her decipher his abysmal handwriting.
And sees her.
Or rather, she sees a flash of blond hair before the witch pulls up her hood.
Looking around to ensure she isn’t watched by anyone, she trails behind the witch. Well made boots hit the cobblestones in a steady pace, while Hermione keeps her steps light, avoiding puddles and little streams. She maintains a safe distance between them, glad she decided to become more physically active after that incident.
They finally make a turn — right into Knockturn Alley. She leans on the brickwall of the Leaky Cauldron, trying to recall what Harry had told them of his experience in the alley before, and debating whether it’s worth putting her safety — and Mrs Weasley’s trust — at risk for someone who may not even be her.
Decides it is.
Oh God what is that thing that she nearly bumped into?! And is that glass eye staring at her? It’s no wonder The Weasley children are prohibited from going to this place — Ron would probably make a one-way trip to St. Mungos after encountering one of those giant black spiders.
She tries to look through the windows of the shops that the witch visits, hoping to catch her face. But all she sees are the vile — and yet, oddly fascinating — items. She wonders how long a poisonous candle would take to come into effect, and how…
How is it possible that she managed to lose a witch in one alley.
She rushes past Borgins and Burkes just in time to see the door to The White Wyvern closing.
Waits a respectable amount of time.
Slowly pushes open the heavy wooden door.
It’s a contrast from The Leaky Cauldron: empty, and smells nothing like a place that serves copious amounts of alcohol, fried food, and sober up potions.
In fact, it smells like it has been closed for years.
She’s certain she saw someone come in, however. She climbs up the staircase, ignoring the wobbling banister and awful creaking of the stairs. As soon as she reaches the top, strong fingers grips her arm on the same spot that’s still bruised from the other night.
She cries out in pain and falls. At least she didn’t sprain her ankle this time.
The door latches shut and she blinks, willing her eyes to get used to the dark a little more quickly. Pale sunlight streams through a smudged window, revealing the thick layer of dust that coats everything in the room — a few thin mattresses, junk, and more junk. Rainwater starts to drip from the ceiling, sneaking its way to her shoes.
Her eyes follow the trail of water to the pair of boots, and there she is.
Narcissa Malfoy, arms crossed and leaning back against the door, looking slightly less like there’s a nasty smell under her nose. At least this time she has ample reason to. Nothing about her fits the dark and dingy environment that surrounds them: not her golden head of hair blessed by the sun; her sleek and impeccable robes; or her features, sharp and regal.
“I —” she stutters.
Mrs Malfoy raises her eyebrows and smirks.
“The other night, at the campsite,” she says hotly. “It was you?”
“I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about, Miss Granger.”
But — but it can’t be. That wand; those fingers; the blue eyes, coolly fixed on her.
“So you do know who I am!”
“It’s difficult not to,” Mrs Malfoy drawls, “seeing that my son has been ranting about you since his first day at Hogwarts.”
“You — you kept me from harm’s way,” she insists.
“And if I did?”
“I don’t understand.”
“And pray tell,” there’s that bloody smirk again, “what is it that eludes the brilliant mind of Hermione Granger?”
“You —” How is it that whatever Narcissa Malfoy says, even if it seems like a compliment, sounds like an insult?
“Your son had just said you were hunting muggles. He taunted us about it!”
The hint of amusement disappears from the witch’s face. “And I am to be responsible for every word my son says? Everything he does?
“Should I hold your parents responsible for laying your hands on him then?”
She gulps, caught between shame and defiance — Malfoy may not have deserved a physical attack, but he had something coming.
”You know about it?”
“Don’t look so worried, Miss Granger,” Mrs Malfoy says, waving her wand casually. “He was too embarrassed about it to tell anyone but his mother.”
“And you still protected me?”
“There you go again, relegating me to little more than ‘Malfoy’s mum’ . I have bigger concerns than a schoolyard dispute. Speaking of which, if you have nothing useful to say, I need to be on my way.”
“But you hate muggles! What you did to the Robertses!” Regret sets in even before she finishes her sentence, but before she can even think about apologising, she’s looking at the face of Narcissa Malfoy up close.
So close they're sharing breaths.
“Now who’s the prejudiced one?” Narcissa Malfoy’s voice is low still, but there’s no mistaking the fury in it. “We are all the same to you, are we? Maybe I should have left you there, all vulnerable and young for Mulciber and Rosier.”
“I — I’m not as young as you think!”
“Then you won’t mind a few adult facts, hmm? An inebriated group of wizards who thrives on violence and humiliating others, spotting a muggle — and not just some muggle, but the girl who’s helped Potter escape the Dark Lord again and again, brimming with so much magic any one of us can sense it from afar?”
“Oh yes, you do have some idea after all,” Mrs Malfoy coos, “You think you would have ended up like that muggle family? A bit of fun, showing off for each other with some parlour tricks?”
The witch’s tone softens to a whisper, but it does nothing to stop Hermione's trembling. “If they had caught you, Miss Granger, what happened to the Robertses would have been your best case scenario.”
She doesn’t realise she’s stopped breathing until the witch backs off.
“I’m not scared of you,” she retorts, desperate to prove something.
“Are you certain?” Mrs Malfoy turns away, seeming to have lost all interest in their conversation. “False bravado only works so well against big bad muggle haters like me.
“You’re better off honing your self-preservation instincts, such as not following dark witches down Knockturn Alley, yes? Lest you taint your pure self by the evil that flows so freely from all of us.”
She doesn’t hear the door this time. Instead, she’s standing in the middle of Diagon Alley, right beside the Weasley twins.
“Blimey, where did you learn to sneak up on people like that?” Fred asks. “And what’s happened to you? They didn’t run out of the books, did they?”
“No,” she says distractedly. “Just bumped into someone — wasn’t the most pleasant encounter.”
George frowns at that. “Who was it? Do you need us to speak to them?”
“Don’t worry about it,” she reassures them, taking comfort in the protectiveness of the Weasleys. “I probably won’t see them again.”
Chapter 2: Might
Hands. Hands that have her shoulders in a death grip, holding her down.
She can’t breathe.
But she’s not immersed in water, and this isn’t a nightmare.
She isn’t lost in the Department of Mysteries, watching Harry drop from an Avada Kedrava. Feeling Ron’s hands slip from hers as he falls from a thestral. Hearing Luna scream from the cruciatus curse.
The stomping of the centaurs grow closer, angrier. Louder, louder, louder, until her heart wants out of her chest to join them.
She jerks upright, hands outstretched, gasping for air.
“Hold still, Miss Granger,” a voice, deeper than her father’s, tells her. She knows it — something to do her teeth — but struggles to place it amidst the burning pain everywhere.
“You are in a safe place,” the man says, his tone even and smooth, “you had a reaction to Dolohov’s curse, and reached out to Hogwarts. This is the worst of it.
“You are safe. Mr Potter is safe. Mr Weasley is safe. Everyone is safe.”
She makes one more attempt to push through.
Something’s nudging at her arm. Before her muscles could catch up with her brain, a soft nip follows.
“Mmm Buckbeak, no,” she mumbles.
Her eyes open to another pair that’s completely black and looks nothing like a human’s.
Yells in fright.
Someone runs into her — someone’s — room. It’s —
“You!” Guess her vocal cords have woken up too.
And Narcissa Malfoy has the gall to roll her eyes.
“You, you —”
“Someday, Miss Granger,” Mrs Malfoy straightens her robes, “we may yet have a conversation that doesn’t start with you repeating ‘you’ or ‘I’.
“I look forward to then. Meantime, however, please refrain from making me relive the visits to the Shrieking Shack.”
“But — oh god I've been abducted!”
“And here I had high hopes for your OWL,” the older witch says and approaches Hermione's bed, ignoring how she scrambles away. “Dolohov’s curse may have been strong, but it doesn’t addle memories.
“What do you remember last?”
She — she was home, having a celebratory dinner with her parents. It’s one of the few occasions they indulge in sugary treats, and she had bitten into a black forest gateau when she started to feel...something.
And then there were shouts.
“Apparently you rubbed your galleon, and someone alerted the Headmaster,” Narcissa explains, nodding to Fawkes, now perched at the windowsill. “Severus happened to be with him — just as well, because there was nothing the mediwitches would have been able to do.”
“I made a full recovery before the term ended!” She argues, trying not to gag from the memory of downing 10 potions day after day.
“You would have made a full recovery,” Narcissa corrects, “if the curse wasn’t as severe as they thought, and more importantly — if you were actually the age they thought you were when they brewed your potions.
“Dark magic affects wizards and witches of age differently.”
So they know.
“Do close your mouth, Miss Granger — it’s most unbecoming. Try not to leave your jaw behind when you take your apparition test, will you?”
She shuts it promptly.
“And they left you with me?”
“At least I have the grace to not gawp at people,” Narcissa tuts.
“That’s — they trust you?”
“Severus trusts me,” Narcissa says, and pretends not to hear the responding scoff. “And he appears to have the Headmaster’s trust.”
“But you — you passed information about Sirius to Voldemort!” she says, eyes darting around the room. Where is her wand?
At that, Narcissa breaks eye contact and busies herself with the potions placed on her bedside table.
“Lucius and Bella happened to be in the room when I was comforting Kreacher. What happened afterwards was most...unfortunate.”
She snorts derisively. “How convenient.”
A bottle hits the table with a thud.
“Let us be clear, Miss Granger,” Narcissa says. “Whether you survive concerns me not. Severus is otherwise...occupied, and as you say in your world, I’m simply paying it forward.
“You, on the other hand, have a choice to make: regain your health or keep going in circles until you drop.” A tray appears on her lap, bearing several potions and 10 ¾ inches of vine wood. “While your tenacity tells me you will still find a way to reach your friends in the afterlife, I’m afraid I don’t hold them in the same esteem.
“I sincerely hope the pragmatism shown in the witch who rebelled against Umbridge wasn’t a fluke.”
She picks up the potions.
Suppresses her gag reflex.
“Where are we anyway?” Apart from her bed and an armchair next to it, the rest of the room is sparse and feels just like their potions classroom. The view from the window, however, indicates lush greenery around them.
“Severus’s other home. Your parents are receiving daily updates on your condition.”
“Wouldn’t anyone notice you’re...not around?”
“Lucius is — ,” Narcissa says quietly, “and Draco is on a...field trip of sorts.”
“That’s nice,” she responds with a yawn, only to widen her eyes in horror after realising what she had just said.
“Don’t worry about it,” Narcissa says, tucking her wand into her hand and closing her fist around it.
She slowly nods off. Maybe, just maybe, it will be different this time.
She never managed to find her copy of Numerology and Grammatica, but there isn’t anything she can do now. Dipping her quill into the ink, she settles down to draft her response as text starts to appear on the parchment.
- Describe 5 reasons to pardon a hippogriff that had endangered a student.
She looks around in confusion. Nobody else seems to have any problems — even Neville, who had just thrown up his lunch, winks at her confidently. She rubs her tired eyes and reads the next question.
- On a scale of -50 to 0, rate your capability to think on your feet. Provide examples wherever relevant.
This can’t be —
- Answer this as if you were under the effects of the veritaserum: should you even be here?
“I need a dreamless potion,” she mutters from under the covers a few days later.
“It counters the effects of the others,” Narcissa replies without looking up from her book.
She has been prohibited from reading or practising magic while healing. One day, out of desperation, she had snatched up Mrs Malfoy’s book when the witch left her room. Ready to devour every word, she opens it —
— to find blank pages after blank pages after blank pages.
“And the lack of sleep won’t?” she says sullenly. At Hogwarts, Madam Pomfrey had been surprised at the lack of side effects from her treatment. She had beamed with pride then, attributing it to her excellent health.
As she feels every one of them this time, she knows why now.
And without any distraction, her mind has nothing to do but to curl around and start cannibalising itself.
“Still?” The older witch asks, waving her wand over Hermione’s head.
Yes, still, Mrs Malfoy. Twenty points to Slytherin for your exceptional observational skills. Did you learn that from your empty books?
She’s pulled upright — crap, does Mrs Malfoy know Legilimency?
Relief hits her when Narcissa says: “There isn’t anything wrong with your mind. Let’s get you on your feet.”
Her muscles protest and she groans along with them. “If there isn’t anything wrong with my mind, why can’t I just read instead?”
“You don’t just read, Miss Granger,” Narcissa says, propping her up and leading her to the door. “We tried that for one evening, and I’ve seen less possessed behaviour from witches in need of a good exorcism.
“Giving your mind a rest will improve it, I assure you. You do intend to use it in the future, yes?”
“It’s hardly going to make a difference,” she mumbles.
Not quietly enough, apparently.
“Really, Hermione Granger conceding that she does have limitations after all?” Narcissa gasped mockingly. “Surely you jest.”
She doesn’t take the bait, focusing instead on the surrounding plants and listing the ingredients as well as the potions that could result from them. Mrs Malfoy transfigures a large bench to a few stools, and they start weeding and harvesting in silence.
They only stop when the sun is directly over their heads, and Narcissa forces a gallon of water on her. It does seem better, feeling her worries shrink and melt away from the hot rays.
Enough to give Narcissa a different answer when the older witch asks if she wants to go back indoors.
“I don’t appreciate it when people mock me like that,” she says quietly. Gesturing at the older witch, she adds, "I wasn't born into this world. And I'm not as smart or talented as others claim, so I work extremely hard to catch up.
“Being teased about it undermines my effort and things I’ve given up to achieve that I have.”
She shreds the weeds in her basket, picking them apart. “And everyday, as soon as I wake up, I have to prove that I deserve a place in this — your — world. And still, it finds a way to show me it’s not enough.”
“Miss Granger, I do apologise for my actions,” Narcissa says, her tone contrite.
Hermione shakes her head. “It’s not that.” Narcissa’s curious hum prompts her to continue.
“The day we were...I begged Harry, pleaded for him to check that Sirius wasn’t home. Told them how unlikely it was that Voldemort had Sirius.
“And then everything happened so quickly — Umbridge, the forest, and Harry got so angry with me that I crumbled.”
“If I had been firmer, held myself well under pressure” she says, holding back her tears, “Harry would still have his remaining family member.”
“Miss Granger — family or not, Mr Potter still has many people who love him greatly,” Narcissa reassures her. “You knew it was a trap, could have led to your demise, and yet you followed him.”
“And why do you?”
“I beg your pardon?”
“Why do you follow him?” Narcissa’s expression tells her she’s crossed about a million boundaries, but she stares at the older witch stubbornly.
“In your mind, is it not possible for people to have different goals, different motivations for doing something?” Narcissa doesn’t back down either. “Or do you actually think all of us are most keen on obliterating muggles — magical or not — off the Earth?”
She can’t believe this. Is she, is Narcissa Malfoy attempting to —
“That is his goal! What other motivation could you have to follow someone who started a war, who — when he was even younger than I — unleashed a serpent to get rid of children whose blood he perceived to be impure!”
“And you certainly have never done anything against those who can’t defend themselves, have you?” And just like that, Narcissa has resorted to that tone Hermione absolutely hates.
“What are you talking about?” She retorts hotly.
“I heard what had happened to the Edgecomb girl,” Narcissa replies with a piercing glare. “And with the house-elves. Tricking them into giving up the only thing they’ve known their entire lives, which would certainly have not boded well for them.”
“They don’t know anything else because you’ve kept them that way! And Marietta, she —”
“Yes, yes, tattled on your merry little band of Dumbledore’s elves,” Narcissa sneers. “And you think you are the right person to mete out her punishment — permanent disfigurement? That you should make decisions for elves because they don’t know any better?”
“Are you — are you comparing my actions to a genocidal megalomaniac?”
“Hardly. I am however, curious how you’re perceived by Ms Edgecomb or, say, the centaurs.”
How dare she — “That’s nothing compared with what he’s doing!”
“He wasn’t the subject of our discussion, and as delightful as it was, you are due for your potions,” Narcissa replies coolly. “And maybe it’s time to think about means and ends. Yes, we read muggle authors, too.”
“Are you still having trouble sleeping?”
She shakes her head, avoiding eye contact with the older witch. Even Fawkes had given up on her today, flying off a few hours ago.
“Oh, come now,” Narcissa cajoles, snapping her book shut. “Lying doesn’t befit you, and neither does being mired in morosity.
“You haven’t been out at all — the night air will do you some good.”
She shrugs, but does let Narcissa help her out of her bed.
They are immediately hit by a blast of cold air, and somehow she feels more alive than she has since they left Hogwarts.
Both of them shiver slightly on the bench, borrowing body heat from each other. At Narcissa’s nudge, she gazes upwards and is greeted by a sky full of stars.
She can’t remember the last time she had looked at the sky without worrying about what she had included or hadn’t included in her essays.
Realises she doesn’t miss her telescope at all.
“How come you weren’t named after a star or constellation?” She asks, trying to recall what she had seen in the Black family tapestry.
Unable to resist a smile, Hermione hides it with her scarf.
“I don’t think I’ve ever received a straight answer for that either,” Narcissa says. “The boys received those names probably because they were male.
“I’m sure my father was most disappointed that Bellatrix wasn’t born one; not that it lowered his expectations of his firstborn.”
She senses Narcissa glancing quickly at her at the mention of her sister, and indicates to the older witch that she’s content to just listen.
“All the knowledge in the world and we still don’t know whether it’s magic that leads our names to determine our destiny, or if it’s so because we strive to live up to it,” Narcissa mutters.
“Bella grew to fight for — well; Dromeda’s love was too large to be confined by our world; and I...remain on the ground.”
Hermione clears her throat. “Maybe you simply haven’t been discovered, Mrs Malfoy.”
“Why, coming from you, I may just be convinced that greatness awaits me still,” Narcissa teases.
“For someone named after Narcissus, your humility certainly knows no bounds.”
“Anything to get you out of your rut.”
Hermione doesn’t respond.
“I realise I was perhaps too harsh with you,” Narcissa says. “After all, you’re still so young. I merely wanted you to think about how you wield that brush when painting others.
“One thing is certain: your brilliance is undeniable. And sometimes, we all do extreme things to protect those we love.”
“What’s this? Another potion?” Hermione takes the mug from the older witch, letting the steam warm her up.
“No, just tea.” Narcissa smirks, settling in her armchair. “Heard it works wonders for any occasion, including sleep.
“Now, what do we have here? Ah, yes.
“Founded around 990 AD by two wizards and two witches: Godric Gryffindor, Helga Hufflepuff, Rowena Ravenclaw, and Salazar Slytherin, Hogwarts was…”
Chapter 3: Obliviate
Lilies. Orchids. Tulips. Bluebells. Gerberas.
She counts the number of stalks included in each bouquet and basket outside of Floriblunders’, noting them on the dusty window with her fingertip. The urge to rub the pin — again — rises, and she starts to come up with custom arrangements, and how much each would cost.
She’s at the deluxe bouquet — 11 galleons and 6 sickles — when she hears the click.
She keeps her gaze on the street, watching out for anyone who could have followed them. But even without looking at the older witch, Narcissa Malfoy’s exhaustion was palpable in the three syllables uttered. It wasn’t as if she expected anything different: in the Order’s latest briefing, Mundungus had told them that the Death Eaters who were captured at the Ministry, including Lucius Malfoy, weren't faring well in Azkaban.
“I’m thinking about relocating my parents,” she says. Y’know, before your Lord decides to to hunt them down.
Before her mind drifts to what the older witch would do then, Narcissa hums her agreement. “That would be wise.”
“Where would you recommend?”
Her heart skips a beat when Narcissa doesn’t answer. So they are planning to —
“Somewhere where they wouldn’t stand out would be your best bet. Goes without saying that it should be as far as possible, of course.”
“I convinced them I needed a break in Australia, to celebrate my OWLs and to recover from what happened,” she says.
“It’s good that you’re going with them,” Narcissa responds.
“And they’ve agreed to leave without you?”
She’s somewhat comforted by the disbelief in Narcissa’s voice, knowing the older witch doesn’t think the worst of muggle parents, after all. She takes a deep breath, still unable to look away: “They haven’t.”
Seconds pass. Across the street, a young wizard’s just bought a bouquet, spilling coins on the streets in his hurry to rush off. She wonders if he’s managed to disappoint his mother yet, and if not, what would he do to evoke it in the future.
“Miss Granger, why don’t you tell me the purpose of my presence.”
“I need your help.”
“Going by our past interactions, I gathered as much,” Narcissa says. “And how may I be of assistance this time?”
“I need you to help me...persuade them.”
“I’m afraid I don’t understand,” the older witch replies, a hint of impatience in her tone. “Would’t Molly Weasley have a better chance of succeeding? After all, you need someone whom they kno —”
Onions — the yellow ones. Chicken — any part but wings. Rice. Rooibos — fair trade. Crisps — crinkle cut, salt and vinegar.
“Your definition of persuasion here has a... special touch.”
And winces at the resounding crack when the other daffodil pin hits the wooden floorboard, bouncing until it lands beside her feet.
“Am I right to assume that along with mastering the protean charm, you have achieved the same proficiency with the Imperius?” Narcissa prods.
She shakes her head.
“Out with it, Miss Granger, before I leave.”
“T-th,” she curses herself, you’ve rehearsed this a thousand times, Hermione, “there’s a memory charm.”
“Ah, a memory charm,” Narcissa mimics Hermione’s tone. “The one cast by wizards on muggles at the World Cup? So they wouldn’t remember what the Death Eaters did to them?”
She doesn't answer.
“You met the family the morning after, and that was one night. I am certain, as you concocted this plan in your brilliant mind, that you've realised the difference between that and your current situation.”
“I found a m-modification.”
“Oh, you found it! Seems I underestimated you,” Narcissa says. “For if there’s a spell out there that meets her needs, Hermione Granger is bound to find it, examine it to within an inch of its life, and own it.”
“I haven’t — not this one. It — it’s why I need you. In case it goes wrong.”
“I beg your pardon?” She finally turns to the older witch.
“I said you have the wrong sister,” Narcissa hisses, the intensity of her gaze forcing Hermione to step back. “You want someone to witness, to condone, something as heinous as this, Bellatrix is whom you should have asked.
“Salazar, even Andromeda would have been a better choice!"
“It’s you I need,” Hermione says stubbornly.
"You need a lesson, Miss Granger, if you have indeed learned nothing from our last encounter,” Narcissa rounds on her, retrieving her wand from her silk robe. “For all your proclamations of how you despise and abhor dark magic, you want to do this?”
Backing herself to the wall, she keeps her palms flat on it, confident that Narcissa Malfoy wouldn’t harm a defenseless witch.
“I don’t have a choice.”
“You do,” Narcissa growls, “you want to deprive your parents of one.”
“I don’t,” she insists, gritting her teeth, “you know they won’t leave without me.”
“As they should! They’re your parents!”
“Then you know exactly what's going to be done to them,” she says. “You’ve coined a term specifically for people like us — your son’s certainly used…”
“What if this were Draco?” she challenges, cowering at the murderous look on Narcissa’s face. Strikes anyway. “If your family were to fall out of favour with Voldemort?”
The tip of Narcissa’s wand meets her chin and tilts it up — with force. “Don’t you dare bring my son into this.”
“If you haven’t noticed, he’s already in,” she counters. “If he were in danger, wouldn’t you do the same?”
“I would have found another way, any other way than to remove his memories of being loved, or of those he loves!” Narcissa waves her hand in frustration, sparks from her wand flying around the room.
She keeps her gaze steady and slows down her breathing. “If you think there is any other way, that all of this is unnecessary, leave now and you can forget we’ve ever had this conversation.”
And Narcissa Malfoy does. Turns around without another word. As soon as she lingers at the door, however, Hermione knows she’s got her.
She slumps to the floor in relief, moving to soothe the throbbing pain behind her eyes.
Tiny dancer. Every little thing she does is magic. Sweet child o’mine. Mickey. Down Under.
“I’ve thought of everything,” she moans, her voice muffled by her hands. “I’ve made lists longer than our essays for Binns, and I haven’t got anything.
“Sixth year is starting soon, and I’m useless to Harry like this — I can’t think about anything else until they’re safe. It’s just a matter of time, and you know it.”
“You may not be aware, Miss Granger,” Narcissa says, still facing the door. “Acts like these, though not dark in nature, come with a price.
“I’m not sure you can afford it.”
“I will, Mrs Malfoy.
Chasing after the hat at the beach. Breakfast in bed: a birthday surprise. Being top of the class at primary school. That Christmas with nana. Cleaning up spilled cereal on a Saturday morning.
“And how do we know each other again?” Narcissa says.
“I’ve been tutoring Draco at Hogwarts,” she says, ignoring the indignant look from the other witch. “We bumped into each other at Diagon Alley, and you’re keen to get some materials that would help him.”
When the older witch doesn’t relent, she adds hotly, focusing on the path ahead. “Look, that’s the most plausible excuse I can come up with. It’s something that’s happened often enough in the past.”
“Bringing witches your parents’ age home to meet them?”
“Peers getting my help with their homework!”
“Alright, alright — settle down,” Narcissa drawls. “Bringing undue attention to ourselves would defeat the entire purpose of this...disguise.”
She really does have to give credit to Narcissa. Despite being a stranger to ‘muggle-wear’, the witch still managed to dress like a Malfoy. She might stand out just a little — the neighbourhood isn’t exactly filled with the upper echelons, but hey, Hermione is attending a boarding school.
“Just stick with the plan, please,” she mutters. If she weren’t so anxious and upset, she would have appreciated the impressed look on Narcissa’s face when she demonstrated the spell at The White Wyvern.
I know, Mrs Malfoy. Which is why it scares me when I’ve haven’t got anything.
She nods to her house, quickening her steps. But Narcissa grabs her arm and —
— her eyes widen with panic. No, Narcissa Malfoy can’t bloody go back on her word now. It’s — they’re already here; it’s just a few steps away —
“Calm down, I’m not changing my mind,” Narcissa reassures her. “I only want to ask this one last time: are you sure about this?”
It’s not like she hasn’t experienced this before. She’s walked into countless classes knowing what’s they are about to learn, the exact movement of the wand, and what Harry and Ron’s reaction will be.
The moment before they took their first steps into the Great Hall; when they returned to the hospital wing after freeing Sirius; when she successfully goaded Umbridge into insulting the centaurs…
She’s no stranger to going into a situation being the only one knowing that everything is about to change.
So why is she trembling as soon as she sees her parents in front of the television?
Why are they greeting her with enthusiasm and affection?
Why is it she, and not Narcissa Malfoy, who wants to walk out the door and surely they could find another way, there must be one if she could only think harder, be smarter, and —
“Hello, you must be Mr and Mrs Granger,” Narcissa’s introducing herself to her parents and it’s too late. “I’m Narcissa — Hermione’s been tutoring my son and I’ve come to pick up some books.”
“Oh yes, welcome! You've come just in time, we’re about to take off,” Mrs Granger says. “You must have come a long way, could we get you a cup of tea?”
“That would be lovely,” Narcissa says, nodding to her.
Sits on her bed trying not to pass out from hyperventilation.
Picks a few books from the shelves — The Tale of Peter Rabbit, Adventures of the Wishing Chai—
Shoves them back and grabs a few empty notebooks from her table instead.
“I’ve always found your work fascinating — dentistry, was it?” Narcissa says smoothly.
This was their cue. Developed to distract her parents as they provide the A to Z of Dentistry by the Grangers to anyone from the wizarding world.
She raises her wand when they get to B for basic cleaning.
“My apologies, Mrs Granger,” Narcissa interrupts and Hermione watches in horror. What —
“Your passion for your work reminds me of Hermione when she talks about school work,” Narcissa continues, “I’m sure you’re extremely proud of her.”
“We definitely are blessed,” her mother replies, reaching over the table to squeeze her father’s hands. “We weren’t sure about sending her to Hogwarts, as we didn’t know anything about the magical world.
“But hearing about her progress from Professor McGonagall, and seeing how she’s grown over the years, we know she'll be alright.”
“That is, if she can stop getting herself into trouble,” her father teases, but pride was prominent in his voice.
“Oh, think nothing of it,” Narcissa says, pouring all of them another cup of tea. “It’s practically a rite of passage in the wizarding world. My Draco is the same — all I can do is be there for him.”
“He’s very lucky to have you," her mother says. "I hope Hermione knows that whatever happens, she can always come home.”
What in Merlin’s name is Narcissa Malfoy doing? None of this was supposed to happen...is this some kind of sabotage, a Slytherin way to get her to quit —
— Narcissa’s eyes, over the rim of her teacup, meet hers.
Her father putting on a plaster on her knee and kissing it better. Her mother giving the headmaster a talking to for the lack of rules against bullying. Allowing her an Eton Mess after she was stood up for a date.
A special toothbrush for every tooth hidden under the pillow. Writing to her that it’s absolutely fine to leave Hogwarts if she were unhappy. Fussing over her health more than her OWL grades.
She bites hard on her fist to hide her sobs, commanding herself to get it together.
“Hermione, there you are!” Narcissa says. “Did you manage to find the books?”
“Hermione?” Her father goes to her. “Oh darling, are you crying? What’s happened?”
“I think she said something about missing her friends on our way here,” Narcissa says. “Let me get some water for you — no, please stay, Mr and Mrs Granger, you’re needed here.”
It happened when her sobs turned into sniffles, her tears almost drying up, and she still enveloped in their embrace.
She rushes to get their documents and suitcases. She’s wasted too much time and the cab will be here soon.
“I uh —” she halts her breaths to stop the hiccups, “can you go with them and make sure they board the plane? Heathrow can be a nightmare sometimes.”
Why is Narcissa Malfoy standing still instead of helping her with the things, and looking at her like that instead of just saying yes? Doesn't she know that Hermione can't afford to —
“Hermione,” the older witch says gently, guiding her to the couch. “You can still go with them. This isn’t your war; nobody will blame you for it.”
"It is my world, Harry is my friend, so it is my war as much as it is yours, Mrs Malfoy.”
Narcissa nods, and turns to leave.
“Wait!” She retrieves the scratched up pin from her jeans.
Resumes breathing when the older witch retrieves it from her fingers.
It’s dark out when Narcissa returns. She doesn’t move from the couch, holding her father’s jumper and her mother’s cardigan.
“It’s done,” Narcissa says. “Do you need anything?”
“I need you to do the same to me,” she says, her voice hoarse. “I don’t mean the entire thing — just need the details removed.”
Narcissa Malfoy laughs. Loudly, deeply. For minutes.
“Careful, Miss Granger — the way this is going, someday I might just come to collect.”
“Why did you do it?” She asks listlessly.
Narcissa sighs. “I don’t know. I’m sure there’s a saying about how it’s better to darken souls that are already blackened than it is to an untainted one, but I’m too weary to recall it.
“Could — could you do it tomorrow morning, please?” she says.
“And what do you plan to do with those memories in the meantime?”
Without responding, Narcissa moves to sit on the couch next to hers, tilting her head back.
She tries to stop the tears, she really does, warning herself that they’d change the smell of her parents’ clothes.
And yet, somehow, they’re soaked through when she finally drifts off.
Richard. Jean. Hermione.
“I have come to collect.”
Brows furrowed, she turns to the table — where they were when it happened. Ignoring the obvious hint from the older witch, she returns her focus to what’s in front of her.
Yes, I get it; gets the magnitude of what she had previously asked Narcissa Malfoy to do.
“Happy Christmas to you, too,” she replies listlessly. It’s all she has to offer: she had counted on the Slug Club Christmas party to tide her over, only to be drained by her constant need to escape from a very persistent Cormac McLaggen.
“My apologies, Miss Granger — I have forgotten my manners. Happy Christmas to you.”
It seems that nobody has told Mrs Malfoy that a television screen, when blank, reflects the actions of those it captures; such as how an older witch is looking for something subtly.
“I appreciate your meeting with me this early,” Narcissa says, her tone more conciliatory than before, “the Weasleys are waiting for your return to open the presents?”
“How long have you been h—”
“What do you need, Mrs Malfoy?”
She hears a sigh and watches Narcissa step over gingerly. Doesn’t understand why: it’s not as if anyone was going to step on or trip over the single, unwrapped present — courtesy of Harry. Nothing from Ron, of course.
Not that she had bothered with his either.
And as the older witch lowers herself to the couch where she last sat, Narcissa Malfoy is the only other indication in the house that it’s a special occasion.
Green is the colour of Slytherins, after all. The Malfoy matriarch has managed to dress for the festivities without crossing the line to tacky, and the unlit room does nothing to diminish the brilliance of her jewellery, including the ones on her ears.
Their eyes meet and she glances away, unable to bear it as Narcissa almost appraises her. Seemingly satisfied with what she sees, the older witch leans back and says: “I need you to keep an eye on Draco.”
“He’s...not doing well,” Narcissa concedes. “I am sure you have heard about him having to give up Quidditch. The pressure of being in Sixth Year, and with Lucius away...it’s getting to him.”
“Why me? Professor Snape has full access to him.” And may actually care about Malfoy.
“Unfortunately, Severus has had a...falling out with Draco. My son thinks I’m on Severus’ side on this, so he’s shut me out too.”
None of this seems right. If not Professor Snape, surely there are many others who could and would be glad to have the Malfoys owe them a favour. Why would Narcissa Malfoy ask someone who’s —
She can’t ask anybody else. Can’t tell anybody else.
Anybody else in Slytherin.
“Mrs Malfoy, is Draco about to switch...sides?”
“I can’t say anything beyond what I have, Miss Granger.”
“You can bring it to Professor Dumbledore!” she says. “He and The Order will give Malf— Draco the protection he needs!”
“I will bring nothing to anyone, and neither will you,” Narcissa snaps, and Hermione blinks. After a deep breath, the older witch adds: “I need your absolute discretion in this, Miss Granger, as you have always trusted mine. This can only be reported to me in person.”
“...fine. But if he does anything dodgy, I’m telling.”
Lets the noncommittal hum slip for now.
“And how am I supposed to see you in person? You can’t apparate directly into Hogwarts.”
“I’m not.” Narcissa rolls her eyes when Hermione shows no signs of relenting, and adds, “When you’re on the Board of the school, one can simply...walk into it.”
At Hermione’s reaction, the corner of Narcissa’s lips lift a little as she rises from the couch.
“I must get back to the Manor, I’m afraid,” the older witch says, looking around the house a final time. “Are you in need of anything?”
The gloominess returns. “No — unless you’re willing to shop where scum do.”
“You — you have need of a robe? From Malkin’s?”
“I’m only joking, Mrs Malfoy,” she responds, closing her eyes. “Don’t let me keep you from your family.”
She wakes up to an incessant tapping on the kitchen window. Two pristine-looking owls drop off a package and fly off hastily, eager to escape an increasingly heavy snowfall.
It’s a lovely throw; on top of the beige were different-coloured stars lined in an intricate pattern and outlined in gold; fine magic obvious in each stitch; light, extremely soft, and envelops her with an indescribable sense of comfort.
“My apologies for what was said that morning. Rest easy, this was not purchased at Tatting’s — nor at Malkin’s. Often, there’s a third option.
It has been spelled to adjust itself to whatever you’re sitting or lying on. Happy Christmas, Miss Granger.
Keep yourself warm.”
“Hermione, you’ve turned as white as these sheets, Merlin,” Ginny says, breaking their conversation to hug her. “He’ll be fine; he’ll be back to annoying you with his snogfest with Lavender in no time at all, you’ll see.”
She stays still, keeping her eyes on Ron.
They haven’t even been here a full six years, and have been in the hospital wing so many times they even have their favourite beds now. As the severity of their injuries grew in time, she had thought that she would be used to this sight.
She thought wrong.
Ginny continues her discussion with Harry, making him recount the incident.
“Who would want to poison Slughorn, though?”
“No idea, anyone failing potions this year?”
“Or is it someone who felt slighted for not being invited to join the Slug Club?” Ginny guesses.
“And we know one person who fits that description,” Harry says fervently.
“Oh come on, Harry,” Ginny groans. “By your own account, Slughorn welcomed Malfoy to the party and even tried to keep Snape away.”
She sees Ginny looking at her expectantly, hoping for support to refute Harry’s theory. She says nothing, fearing the thoughts that might spill out the moment her lips unseal.
The pocket in her robe has turned from warm to a consistent burn when Mr and Mrs Weasley arrive. She deftly dodges Mrs Weasley’s attempt to hug her, covering it up with a need for the bathroom, and excuses herself wordlessly.
Finally rubs the pin — still hot to the touch — and heads to the Astronomy Tower.
For the first time, Narcissa Malfoy is waiting for her instead of the other way around.
“Where in Merlin’s name have you been?” The older witch taps her wand at the banister impatiently. “I don’t tolerate tardiness, Miss Granger. I tolerate a lack of response even less.”
“Does Draco have anything to do with Ron?”
The tapping stops. “You mean the Weasley boy?”
“Yes, the Weasley boy, who was poisoned in this very sanctuary they call Hogwarts,” she says. “I heard the Board of Governors is thinking of shutting down the school, so I assume you knew that already?”
“We have been informed.”
“Does. Draco. Have. Anything. To. Do. With. It?” Hermione repeats.
“I wouldn’t know.” Hermione narrows her eyes at how quickly Narcissa Malfoy’s tone changes from snappy to lofty. “Isn’t that your task — to find out what my son is up to?”
“I’ve told you everything I’ve found!”
“All of which, if your reports and capabilities are to be trusted, are missed assignments and a lack of presence at the Quidditch pitch.”
“That I can see,” Hermione hisses with her teeth clenched. “I’m not with him all the time!”
“Neither am I, Miss Granger.”
“Was he trying to poison Professor Slughorn?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“Did he have anything to do with Katie Bell’s injury?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“What was he looking for at Borgins and Burkes?”
“I wouldn’t know.”
“When was he born?”
“I wouldn —” Narcissa catches herself, and Hermione pounces.
“You do know what he’s up to! You led me to think he was in danger! I defended him to Harry!” Oh God, she’s going to be sick.
“He is in danger. I did not lead you to think anything else.”
“I’m going to Professor Dumbledore.”
“And tell him what, exactly?” Narcissa says, raising an eyebrow. “You’ve followed my son all around Hogwarts and haven’t found anything. And — as you said — Mr Potter has his suspicions. You don’t think he would have told the Headmaster of it by now?”
“I’ll — I’ll tell The Order!”
“Who will undoubtedly verify the facts with Dumbledore, facts which you don’t possess.”
“I don’t care; I’m not doing this anymore.”
“You may not care, but you will continue to do this, Miss Granger,” Narcissa returns, tone cold – and hard – as ice. “We agreed on the terms. Unless, of course, you feel rather unsatisfied with the goods I had delivered.
“In which case, I am always happy to provide a refund. For all of them.”
“You — you can’t do that,” Hermione whispers, horrified. “You’re despicable.”
“I’ve told you before; that you wouldn’t be able to afford the price,” Narcissa says. “Do recall what you had said in response to that.”
“He’s been in the Room of Requirement,” she reports dully, her sight on the constellations.
Hermione nods. “At least a few hours every day this week,” she mumbles. “What is he doing there?”
“I wouldn’t know,” Narcissa replies, lost in thought. Hermione can tell that she means it this time.
“Anyway, that’s all I have.”
“This has been the same report for weeks. Are you sure you’re telling me everything?”
“My information comes from several sources.” She hasn’t been able to look Dobby in the eye ever since he and Kreacher started their mission, leaving Harry to relay the updates. Who knew that the elves would still be serving their former mistress?
And that she would be the one facilitating the betrayal?
“And if you’re unsatisfied with the goods, I suggest you verify it for yourself.”
“Now now, Miss Granger,” Narcissa drawls, watching Hermione wave her wand distractedly. “Still having trouble with the Patronus?”
She shrugs. Ginny – the only one she trusts with her recent inability to cast this spell – has been helping her with it. After many failures, Ginny had reassured her that it would come back when her fights with Ron wound down, “in intensity at least!”
Hermione was just happy to let Ginny assume that it was related to her brother.
“Come,” Narcissa says, rolling up the sleeves of her robes. “I have a little time to spare tonight – it might be your wandwork.”
If Hermione had any energy left, she would laugh at the incredulity of Narcissa Malfoy. As if she plays no part in Hermione’s problems.
But she doesn’t. So she changes the topic instead: “Have you seen the Mirror of Erised?”
“I have not, but I have heard father telling Bellatrix about it,” Narcissa says. “It was in the hands of the Black family for some time. What happened after that, I do not know.”
“What do you think you’ll see when you look in it?”
“Why, Miss Granger – I hadn’t realised we had gotten so intimate with each other,” Narcissa teases. “A witch does need to keep an air of mystique around her.”
“I never used to be envious that Ron and Harry got to see it,” Hermione mutters. “Sure, it would have been great to speculate how it works, but I was already certain what it would reflect – perfect grades, Head Girl, proud par—
“I am now, though.”
“How so?” Narcissa says.
“I no longer know what I’ll see.”
“What do you want to see?”
“I don’t know, Mrs Malfoy,” Hermione sighs.
“Humour me. Imagine yourself looking at the Erised.”
She closes her eyes, mostly out of exhaustion and exasperation.
“What do you see?”
“Nothing around you, or nothing at all?”
“Nothing at all.”
“You should get back to the dormitory,” Narcissa says quietly.
She stands and adjusts her robes. Before she walks off, the older witch adds: “And consider your debt fully paid.”
“Get some rest, which any mirror – Erised or not – would have told you.”
“But what about Malf—Draco,” Hermione says.
“We’ll just have to find another way,” Narcissa smiles wryly. “I don’t suppose I’ll see you for a while. Goodnight, Miss Granger.
Of course, Narcissa Malfoy is completely wrong.
After amending the mistake on her essay and thanking Professor Vector profusely for allowing her to do so, she finds herself on the seventh floor out of habit.
“Help!” the suit of armour in the corner calls out to her.
“What happened?” Her heart starts to race, thinking they’ve finally caught Malfoy this time.
“That boy, the one who’s always here!”
“Not that one! The other one! With the glasses!”
“Harry? You mean Harry Potter?” She hands him his sword to hurry him up.
“Yeah, him! Knocked me down and rushed off – makes you wonder what they teach these kids at school!
“Because it’s certainly not manners!”
She nearly shoves the armour to the ground in impatience. “I mean how did he come to knock you off, sir?”
“Oh I don’t know, young lady – said something about the boy’s bathroom. Still! That’s no excu—
“Oi! I’m still missing my shield! And no running in the corridors!”
She nearly screams when she sees Draco Malfoy lying in a pool of blood, most likely his. Harry, wand in hand, is too stunned to notice her, or hear the subsequent wailing from Moaning Myrtle.
Barely having a chance to catch her breath, she shuts the door and takes off – again.
Dinner should be over – does the wizard even eat? Or does he sulk in the dungeons, sustaining himself with thoughts of tormenting his students? Why can’t she remember anything when she needs it the most?
She decides to try his office, and is glad for it.
“Miss Granger!” The tone conveys annoyance rather than concern, but she can live with it.
“Pro—Professor Snape, i—it’s Draco!”
“What about him?”
“The boy’s bath—bathroom. Sixth floor.”
As soon as Snape rushes off, she reaches for the pin.
Hermione turns her head to the steps. She had fallen asleep against one of the globes; it was past midnight and her adrenaline had worn off.
Very quickly awakens to the state of the older witch – she’s never seen Narcissa Malfoy this dishevelled, if at all.
“Is he alright?”
“He will be – Severus tells me he was able to stop the bleeding and apply the counter-curse in time,” Narcissa says, her voice strained. “I – thank you, Hermione.”
“I won’t apologise for Harry,” she warns.
“I’m not asking that of you,” Narcissa replies, anger seeping into her tone. “I’ll deal with that myself.”
“No,” Hermione says, “if you’re grateful for what I did, this stops here. Harry tells me he’s being punished for it. And your son’s alright, so that should be enough for you.”
She returns Narcissa Malfoy’s stare until the older witch looks away. “Fine. But one more incident like that, and I won’t be so forgiving.”
“Did Draco tell you what happened?”
“Nothing more than what Moaning Myrtle confessed. Do you know anything else?”
Hermione frowns. Right back to where they started then.
“In any case, thank you again – for keeping an eye on him.”
“Wasn’t doing it for you,” Hermione says, but isn’t sure how much of that is true.
“What made you run to Severus then?”
“I don’t know – wasn’t really thinking.” Hermione says. “Doesn’t mean he deserves to…perish, I guess.”
“Really? Even if you didn’t know what he was up to?” Narcissa prods, sounding more curious than surprised.
“It’s not my decision to make.”
“My, Miss Granger – you have grown.”
Try as she may, she can’t suppress herself from beaming at the praise.
She never thought it was possible to have a wonderful day at Hogwarts after Professor Dumbledore's death, but they did.
With the exception of the dungeons and the professors’ offices, no space in the school was left unexplored. She even had an opportunity to solve a riddle given by the portrait leading to the Ravenclaw’s common room, thanks to Luna.
To make her smile, Ron had insisted a few more times to chase after Percy – even to the Ministry – to hit him, and she had obliged.
And when they were watching the sunset at the Great Lake, he had moved closer to her.
“It’s wonderful, isn’t it? He asked. “Fleur and Bill; Tonks and Remus.”
Not wanting to encourage him, she nodded cautiously in response.
“Makes you wonder…”
She had stood up then, reaching for something in her pocket. The subsequent splash had startled the boys, prompting them to call out: “Hermione! The Giant Squid is going to come after us!”
She only grinned, and Ron joined her by picking up some rocks and skipping them across the water.
Harry had groaned, lamenting the gradual loss of his “one last golden day of peace.” She was glad – so glad – to hear that her best friend was afforded some serenity.
For the ire inside her was almost burning her alive.
It increases with the sound of sturdy boots closing in. She hates herself, hates that she recognises them by heart, knows the weight of each step on each stair, is so familiar with them that her breath is timed to the tempo.
She closes her eyes, consoling herself that she can put it to good use this time.
Watches Narcissa Malfoy lose her footing from the impact and charges with another spell that resounds throughout the tower.
Minerva McGonagall herself could be running up the stairs to expel her; she does not care. The green skull from a few nights ago is not going to be the last thing that hangs over her home , tarnishing it with its serpent tongue. Nor should Professor Dumbledore’s death be diminished by the dimmed sky and dulled stars that had followed.
This is her last night at Hogwarts, and she will commemorate – and mourn – her farewell her way.
And so she advances – a strike for the late headmaster; a swish for Harry’s loss; a flick for Bill’s. Soon, the skies are filled with colours of anger, grief, and anguish. An attack for every patronus she still fails to cast; every clue she had missed; every hex she should have placed to stop Draco Malfoy.
Whose mother is infuriatingly deflecting every spell with a grace she has never seen. Sidestepping and turning as if she were in a fucking waltz. Casting neither counter nor protection spells, as if Hermione was nothing to her but a gnat.
“FIGHT BACK, GODDAMNIT!”
And still the older witch does nothing; backs away steadily as if Hermione was crawling instead of charging towards her.
“Or are you just as cowardly as that murdering family — that son — of yours?”
The steps stop. She almost smiles, standing still and catches her breath in anticipation.
Spells no longer fly in one direction. Narcissa has since lost her robe, and is no longer positioned at the edge of the tower. In contrast with Hermione’s rash and quick attacks, the older witch is methodical, purposeful. Each spell forces her to take one step back; blasts a fragment off her robe.
She begins to realise how Draco became such a skilled duellist; how he came to match Harry despite missing one year of practice under Umbridge. Soon enough, it is she on the defensive. Her lungs are burning; she almost chokes from the dust swept up by the force of their exchange, and nearly slips on the rubble from the destruction a few times.
And when her back hits the banister, Narcissa is close enough for their eyes to meet. Confident, steely, an expression that demonstrates she knows she’s won.
Always has against Hermione, and always will.
But she will never rob Hermione of her spirit and wits.
Eyes widened in surprise, Narcissa reacts with “Expulso!” , knocking Hermione on to her back.
Her vision blurs and she tastes blood. Steels herself to feel the other injuries.
But nothing else follows.
Is she even hurt elsewhere?
She coughs and waits until a concerned face hovers above hers.
The following thud isn’t as loud as hers was, but does give her enough time to clamber to her feet.
Points her wand at the older witch, who looks almost amused.
“Did you know your son was on a mission to kill Professor Dumbledore?”
“Draco didn't —”
“ANSWER THE QUESTION!”
“I did,” Narcissa says simply. “You have your answer, Miss Granger. Go ahead and hex me. Try and practice your use of crucio. There won’t be any repercussions from me, I promise.”
Hermione stares at her, wand raised. Her arm trembles — from exhaustion or nervousness, she isn’t sure.
“You think I won’t?” she threatens.
“I am most confident you will,” Narcissa replies calmly. “I assure you that I have made my peace.”
“Why? Because Draco has finally achieved his mission? His life goals?”
“Because I know for certain now that my son cannot bring himself to end a life.”
“And you think I could?” Hermione whispers, her voice cracking.
“I thought the same of you – which is why I released you from your obligations. I gave you a way out, Miss Granger, a privilege Draco certainly did not have.”
“And – and I –“ Hermione sobs, “I could have just left him in the bathr—”
“DON’T CALL ME THAT!”
“You couldn’t have done that, any more than Draco could kill Dumbledore,” Narcissa continues steadily.
The conflict and guilt edge out all of the tension from her body, pushing her to her knees.
Every tear she has held in since their first meeting at the tower slips from her palms and falls on to the older witch, who lies still.
“I truly am sorry I had to put you through that,” Narcissa says when Hermione’s crying subsides. “I too did not have a choice, I am sure you have heard. That mission, meant to punish Lucius, set Draco up to fail from the start.”
“It doesn’t change anything,” Hermione says. “I still betrayed my friends.”
“Oh, Miss Granger.” Narcissa sighs. “In the grand scheme of things, against such a powerful force, you think your actions had made a difference? That if you had attacked Draco, or left him in the bathroom, that it would have saved Dumbledore’s life?”
“Dumbledore was on his way…out. Severus –”
“Professor Dumbledore,” Hermione says. “And I don’t give a fuck what that cowardly snake says.”
“Has Mr Potter mentioned anything about Professor Dumbledore’s arm? How it eventually resembled a charcoal twig more than it did a limb?”
Harry did, but –
“I see he never lost his habit of keeping people in the dark,” Narcissa says wryly.
“He was cursed in one of his missions, and his days had been numbered since. Look beyond us, Miss Granger.”
She stares at the older witch in confusion.
She does. Somehow, the skies are clearer than what she's seen the entire year.
“Nothing has changed since the night I told you about our names,” Narcissa explains as she gets up, extending her hand to Hermione. “You and I have certainly spent enough time underneath these stars to know that we are but dust in this galaxy.
"Do you think our actions are powerful enough to affect the outcome of events as big as this?”
She refuses to accept it. “Why did you protect me at the World Cup, then? Why did you continue to help me?”
“Because you asked,” Narcissa replies, her eyes twinkling a little with mirth.
“Because there’s a difference between doing something when the opportunity presents itself, and expecting all of your actions – no matter the magnitude – to have the same impact.
“Tell me: when you saved Draco, were you thinking of how it would affect the war?”
Hermione shakes her head.
“The world moves us; we don't move it, Miss Granger. My advice remains the same: run. The best we can hope for is that our loved ones will be safe from the fallout.”
“Why don’t you?” Hermione counters, half in argument and half in curiosity.
Narcissa doesn’t respond for a while – it occurs to Hermione that she never asked if the older witch was hurt. As she traces tired eyes, a face lined by perpetual concern, she wonders what is the price she has had to pay for the war? For her husband, her son, her family?
“You asked me about the mirror of Erised,” Narcissa says. “Like you, I didn't need it, but for an entirely different reason than yours.
"For I am quite sure it would break trying to portray what I desire."
“How far does a witch need to fall; that when she wants to celebrate the fact that her son is not capable of murder, there isn’t anyone around her – not friends, not family – who shares the same sentiment?”
“We can celebrate it,” Hermione says firmly, “there will be plenty of opportunities after we defeat him.”
Narcissa smiles. “Stubborn till the very end."
“I’ll prove you wrong, Mrs Malfoy – just you watch.”
“Always, Miss Granger.”
The next morning, a brand new pin arrives in an envelope. She tucks it into the back pocket of her jeans, and continues packing up her beige blanket.
The most challenging parts of writing this chapter were fitting all of the events with canon (the book), and writing (my first) physical fight scene. Would love to know your thoughts on it!
Also, there’s a Cissamione chateau (Discord) and it has freshly baked bread and pastries of all kinds, a penthouse, otters from space, professors, horses, a buggy, bots that generate prompts, bots that generate drama, bots that generate katie gifs, a Lochness monster, amazing writers, super talented artists, wonderfully supportive readers, amateur insomniacs, mediocre insomniacs, hardcore insomniacs, fans of spreadsheets, and rare Galleons.
Most of all, you’ll be surrounded with tons of love and encouragement (and VERY cute photos of animals/scenery). There’s room for everyone: come and put up your feet by the fireplace. https://discord.gg/rAKhWJQ
My name is Hermione Granger.
I am a
I am a
I am about to start secondary school, and I am extremely excited. There’s tons to learn, I’ve already got my geometry set, and mum’s bought me a periodic table that dad’s taped onto the wall.
I hope Dennis doesn’t go to the same school, because just yesterday, he called me a —
She casts a quick charm over her notebook and looks up with a smile.
“Yeah,” Ron says. “Harry’s doing much better now, just a little worried whether Lupin will speak to him again.”
“He’ll come around,” she says. “We shouldn’t be separated from our...anyway, he should be with Tonks.”
Ron steps closer to her, seeming to have taken that as a hint. “You sure you’ll be fine, sleeping here alone tonight?”
“Don’t worry, it’s just — girl stuff, y’know?” She fakes a grimace. “You should spend some time together anyway, he’ll need you now more than ever.”
Ron nods, backing away reluctantly.
“Harry — and I, we need you too. Together, yeah?”
“Together,” she affirms with a smile.
It’s not that she wanted to lie to Ron, but she desperately wanted some quiet from the screaming portraits, the tension, and the constant clicking of the deluminator.
She doesn’t venture too far from the house, stopping around the block and staying in a dark corner. Leaning back on the brick wall, she takes a much needed breath of fresh air.
“Magic can only be passed from person to person when wizards reproduce. Where no proven wizarding ancestry exists, therefore, the so-called Muggle-born is likely to have obtained magical power by theft or force.”
A child’s cries fill the silence, and she wonders whether they possessed any magical abilities. If the newly formed Muggle-born Registration Commission was going to come after them.
She had checked in on the boys before they went to bed, and Harry had continued his rant about the eleven-year-olds would never be able to attend Hogwarts. Ron had commiserated, showing the occasional bout of indignance, but Hermione suspected it was for her sake more than anything else.
It was really sweet of Ron, but this wasn’t something he would have understood — being born into this world that didn’t seem to want anyone different — and she didn’t blame him for it.
In fact, right then, she isn’t sure if the ‘muggle-borns’ wouldn’t have been better off staying where they are.
In the dead of this night, she supposes she can indulge in these thoughts — thoughts she wouldn’t dare expand in the vicinity of the boys — for a little while. Like how she could be panicking over her A levels, having chosen more subjects than she could handle, instead of worrying for their lives. Camping with her parents instead of being on the run. Having a normal beaded bag — the only similarity being having to rummage for change from the bottom of it.
And surely there would be another cause she could advocate for in between her studies.
Meet ‘Harvey’ and ‘Robert’ who teach her the meaning of friendship. And drive her barmy with their obsession with football.
Some things might never change, she smiles in resignation and turns to head back to Grimmauld place. Only to be pulled —
“You really shouldn’t be out alone, Miss Granger.”
And who would, time after time, grip her arm at the same spot with the precision of a well-practiced surgeon?
“Good evening, Mrs Malfoy,” she greets the older witch calmly, as if they were on their weekly run-in at the supermarket. “How did you find me?”
“Your work on Dolohov and Rowle — I’d recognise it anywhere,” Narcissa Malfoy explains partly in frustration and relief. “I gather that all of you are safe.”
“Good. You’ve read the Daily Prophet, I assume?” At Hermione’s nod, Narcissa adds: “I trust you know what to do?”
“It’s funny,” she replies.
“Of all the offenses, it seems the one I’m being punished for is one I didn’t actually commit.”
“Hermione.” Narcissa’s tone implies she doesn’t find it funny at all.
“I know.” she sighs. “It’s all very real now, isn’t it?”
“Just keep yourself out of harm’s way.”
“Harry told me about Draco.”
“Well — yes,” Narcissa says. “You will understand if I can no longer —”
Can no longer attend these meetings? Stay where you stood in this war? Stop Draco if he’s tasked to perform the same Unforgivables on us?
“That’s quite alright, Mrs Malfoy — it was a long time coming.”
“It’s not,” Narcissa refutes. “It’s not alright.”
“Thank you anyway, for —”
The world shifts, and she’s standing at the door of Grimmauld Place.
Certain that she can still be heard, she continues: “Just thank you.”
She’s in heaven.
So it doesn’t matter if she’s scalding her tongue by slurping up the soup too quickly.
“Miss Granger,” Narcissa Malfoy says in dismay, with a look that conveys concern more than her disapproval at Hermione’s lack of table manners. She might as well have been talking to the tree behind her.
Tearing into a loaf of bread, Hermione is immensely grateful for whichever house-elf who had to cook the food. It’s just as good as Mrs Weasley’s; she’s sure that Ron would agr—
She puts it down.
Shakes her head with a smile at Narcissa, trying not to burst into tears. So much for ‘together’ — he’s probably scoffing down a bacon sandwich made by his mum now, all safe and warm in the burrow. He might even be in school, enjoying himself by the fire.
“Is Draco back at Hogwarts?”
The older witch nods. “That should tide you over for a while,” Narcissa says, indicating at the sack. “Now, if you don’t have any other —”
“Wait!” At Narcissa’s look of surprise, she adds, “I meant — I hadn’t finished.”
She isn’t above begging, not when she and Harry haven’t spoken to each other for days, and when their only other contact in the world is Phineas Nigellus.
A conflicted look flashes across the face of the older witch, but she acquiesces eventually. “Take your time, Miss Granger,” Narcissa says as she reclaims her seat under the tree and closes her eyes.
Hermione picks up her food again, chewing more slowly this time.
The heavy air in the tent was quickly drowned out by the smell of hot and freshly cooked food. Harry had even managed a smile when she explained how she got it: a nearby supermarket; under the invisibility cloak; and money left in an open till.
But she had been foolish to expect the euphoria to last longer than a few meals, especially when she had served them one of Ron’s favourite breakfast dishes one morning. Harry didn’t have to say it; it was all over his expression — and in her mind: why couldn’t you have secured this before Ron left?
Because she hadn’t wanted to ask for help. Hadn’t wanted to find out whether someone who’s on the other side would treat her with more kindness than their best friend had. Who hadn’t just abandoned them in the wilderness, made her pick sides when leaving their mission, and made it personal when she wanted to stay.
Still, they linger before every shift. Jump at every twig cracked outside of the tent, train themselves to pick up sounds similar to a click, stop at any glimpse of red.
The ensuing disappointment is only worsened by how they have to wear the horcrux for longer periods each. One afternoon, still bearing the residual effects of it, Harry harshly rubbishes another one of her ideas.
Hands on the locket, wanting to pull it off herself, she almost yells if he wishes it was she who had left.
That she could, she would, if it would bring back Ron.
That she has sacrificed more than they know.
That she has nothing left in her too.
She leaves the tent instead.
My name is Hermione Granger,
and I will never know how I would have fared this year.
After Professor Dumbledore’s announcement, I spoke to Professor Flitwick on whether it was possible to take the year-end exams, anyway, just to test myself. He only smiled and told me to enjoy the day off.
It’s hardly fair to those who slaved over their studies, but as usual, nobody else seems to agree with me. When I asked if anyone would sign a petition to bring back the exams, Cho Chang and Padma Patil shot me a dirty look and left the common room, muttering maybe I should have been petrified instead.
Moaning Myrtle is the only one who sympathised with me. She’s rather upset, now that Harry Potter and Ron Weasley have stopped visiting her. I saw them leaving the hospital wing with Luna Lovegood yesterday. I’m happy she’s recovered; she's certainly braver than I could ever be.
But honestly, what’s in the heads of these Gryffindors? Don’t they know they could get expelled?
Whatever. I’ll be back with mum and dad in a few weeks anyway.
Snow falls onto the words of Professor Dumbledore to Grindelwald. To make sure Harry actually rested instead of obsessing over The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore, she had taken the book with her when she left for her watch.
She looks up to find Narcissa Malfoy soundly asleep, unaware of the drop in the temperature. It appears that the older witch’s worries pursue her even in her dreams, as her features tense up, and water vapour leaves her mouth in an increasing pace.
She walks over and gently drapes the blanket over the witch, who doesn’t shift, and decides to try deciphering Beedle again.
The second brother had returned to his home when Narcissa awakes, looking a little disoriented than usual. Hermione’s cheeks turn pink when the older witch notices the throw around her and looks at her questioningly.
“It’s cold,” she says, shrugging.
Maybe it’s the weather, the warm throw, or that she’s napped a little longer than usual. All Hermione knows is how her spirits lift when Narcissa shows no signs of leaving just yet. Staying on the ground, the older witch asks Hermione if she’s done.
Even though she had stopped eating in Narcissa’s presence many moons ago, saving the food for later to avoid rousing Harry’s suspicions.
“Did you have a good Christmas?”
Narcissa only smiles in response.
She takes it that the Malfoys didn’t have a great one either, following Harry’s and her escape in Godric’s Hollow. How much of Voldemort’s wrath was taken out on the Death Eaters? Was Nagini denied a Christmas turkey for failing to capture Harry?
“Want to play a game?” She blurts out. “It’s called ‘anywhere but here’.”
“Go on,” Narcissa says sleepily, in a mood to indulge her.
“I wish to be in Honeydukes with Ginny, stuffing my face with my favourites!”
Hermione nods enthusiastically. “Sugar Quills, Toothflossing Stringmints, Ice Mice!”
“And here I thought your first stop would be Tomes and Scrolls.”
“Enough books, enough questions, enough thinking!” She pumps her fist in the air for good measure, prompting a laugh from the older witch.
“Your turn.” she grins at Narcissa.
“Hmm...why don’t you take a guess?”
She taps her fingers on her chin and says, “I’m guessing somewhere fancy. South of France, North of Italy, Central Spain?”
“And pray tell, what would I be doing in these locations?”
“Wining and dining, spoiling Draco to no end,” she returns cheekily.
“And I thought we had made progress with each other, Miss Granger,” Narcissa teases. “Except ‘spoiling Draco’ — and even that is debatable — all of your guesses were incorrect. No points for Gryffindor, I’m afraid.”
“That response certainly doesn’t help your case,” the older witch tuts.
A wistful sigh follows. “I’ve never felt this way before, but lately, I yearn to be somewhere not known to any wizard.”
“You wish to be...lost?”
Narcissa smiles. “Ten points to Gryffindor.”
She takes the opportunity to pluck it from her book. “Here, Happy Christmas.” She clears her throat.
“This is —”
“I found this in Regulus’ room. You must have been in your teens?” she says. “Maybe don’t tell Kreacher about it? Harry wouldn’t approve but I couldn’t help myself — you looked so happy in it.”
“We were all so young,” Narcissa murmurs, tracing her fingertip over the photo.
“Sorry I don’t have anything better for you. Christmas shopping this year has been hampered by, y’know.”
She steps into the tent, determined to face Harry. Steeling herself against his rising temper, she brews him a cup of tea and insists that he sits with her.
“Harry, if I haven’t met you and Ron in our first year…”
Reminds him of S.P.E.W. Marietta. The centaurs.
That caring for someone and making mistakes are not mutually exclusive.
That people change.
“The snatchers are getting close.”
A Sugar Quill in her mouth, Hermione looks at Narcissa in surprise. She had expected the news about the snatchers, after the ambush at Xenophilius Lovegood’s place. But she didn’t think it would come from the older witch: this is the first exchange they have had about the war; both of them having done extremely well in avoiding it so far.
She removes the sweet, feeling just a twinge of guilt that she’ll have to hide this treat from the boys.
“I can’t stay,” Narcissa Malfoy says. “I’ve included more dried goods in there, it — ”
“Alright, alright, we can do this.” Hermione inhales. “Mum and dad — you know where they are, I just need to give you the details of their finances.”
“And I have some letters to various people, you’ll make sure they —”
She stops reluctantly.
“I’ve given up hope that you would change your mind and run,” Narcissa says. “But are the three of you so removed from reality that you’re still playing heroes?”
“If you’ve noticed what I’ve just said to you, Mrs Malfoy, nobody is playing at anything,” she replies coldly.
“Then cease this charade immediately and seek protection from The Order!”
“You know it’s too late for any of that now. Please, Mrs Malfoy — just listen.”
Arms folded, Narcissa relents.
“If we’re — fine, when we are captured,” she rushes through the sentence, “and it comes down to — you need to keep Harry safe. Then Ron. Don’t look at me like that, please. You know it needs to be done.”
“And you know nothing,” Narcissa snarls. “You think I’d do that to a child? ”
“You know I’m of age. You’ve brewed enough of my potions to remember that.”
“And you’ll do well to remember that as well! You think I saved you again and again, only to give you up for them to — to —”
“And I’m thankful for all of it,” she says. “But this is my life, and it’s my choice.”
“Well, I certainly do not consent, Miss Granger — and I will absolutely not put the lives of Potter and Weasley above yours!”
“It’s not for them! None of this is personal. Harry’s essential to the war, the cause, and Ron —
“Harry won’t make it without Ron. Look, it’s always been the two of them, right from the beginning. If — when they succeed, you won’t have to put up with this anymore, and they’ll remember you. What you’ve done.
“I’ll make sure of that. Draco will get to restart his life. And you — you can finally go wherever you wish.”
“You’ll really give up everything for the cause, won’t you?”
“I do what needs to be done,” she says.
After a long pause, Narcissa picks up a flower from the ground. “It’s been a long winter.”
Hermione retrieves it from her and gently brushes frost off the petals. “They will bloom just as beautifully after.”
“Not if they don’t survive it first.”
“There will still be others that bloom,” she says firmly. “I believe in it.”
“How?” Narcissa flings her arms in exasperation. “How do you persist, after witnessing the extent of monstrosity and ugliness in us — of those who do it, those who help them, and those who stand by and do nothing? What possible reason do you have to believe?”
She looks at the older witch.
“She’s standing right in front of me,” she says simply.
Narcissa turns away and silence befalls them once more. A soft breeze nudges a snowflake off a branch, and the crystal falls on to the robes of the older witch, joining the tears that flow from her face.
“Someday, Miss Granger,” Narcissa says quietly, without looking at her, “perhaps you will ask something of me that isn't beyond me.”
Hermione smiles. “Perhaps in another life, Mrs Malfoy.”
“And I shall hold you to that.”
The Sneakoscope breaks; the lights go out; and a raspy voice, sounding like the Grim Reaper himself, gives orders.
She jumps to her feet — no time to think — and points it at harry.
Lowers it only when she hears Harry yell in agony.
And then she feels hands.
Hands that are gripping her in all the wrong places, dragging her out of the tent. A particular furry pair runs over her body, uttering words used to describe food, and she almost sicks up at his foul breath.
She holds it in, praying that Harry and Ron remember their other names.
She says hers — “Penelope Clearwater” — clearly and confidently, and announces her house — “Slytherin, of course”.
Hope almost abandons her when Scabior points at her picture in the Daily Prophet, and she cries from relief when Fenrir Greyback decides to take them to the Malfoys’ instead. They’ll be alright. Narcissa will save her once again — surely she will find a way, even if Hermione’s mind is completely blank right now.
Not even Greyback’s taunts and licking of her tears scare her now.
“What is this?”
Narcissa Malfoy doesn’t spare her a glance, focusing on Harry. She panics when the older witch calls for Draco — this isn’t how it’s supposed to go.
They weren’t supposed to target Harry.
And then she remembers what she had asked Narcissa. Amidst the chaos, her mind clears; her resolve strengthened by Ron’s hand tightly wrapped around hers.
Narcissa will keep her word.
She always does.
She stands still when Lucius Malfoy examines Harry up close and urges Draco to do the same, desperation practically seeping from his voice.
“We had better be certain, Lucius,” the older witch calls to her husband and warns him in a cold voice, one she’s heard a thousand times. One that had taunted her, confronted her about her actions, demanded that she betray her friends.
Read Hogwarts: A History when she couldn’t, finished an abominable spell for her, changed her perspective forever.
Harry is shoved to the ground, Greyback growls, and the light falls on her.
She squeezes Ron's hand.
Looks up to meet Narcissa’s eyes.
The older witch doesn’t hesitate in identifying her, emphasising ‘The Granger girl’, and neither does Draco. She’s wondering whether he’s a part of this when Bellatrix Lestrange shows up, and she screams in her head for someone to stop Lestrange from touching the Dark Mark.
Breathing again when Lestrange spots the sword, she sends a silent thanks to Narcissa for sending Harry and Ron to the cellar — having read up on all of the Unforgivables since she last met Narcissa, including first hand accounts, she can’t bear for them to see the rest.
Lestrange starts to question her about the sword, and she gives the deranged witch an honest answer: she doesn’t know.
What she does know, however, is that she’s not Penelope Clearwater. She’s not a Slytherin. Or a Ravenclaw. Or a Hufflepuff.
Her name is Hermione Granger, she is a witch — the brightest, of her age — from Gryffindor, and she has been destined to follow Harry Potter and Ronald Weasley to the depths of hell since the night they faced a troll for her.
“I’ve never stolen anything I didn’t end up paying for, not even eggs,” she spits at Bellatrix Lestrange.
And then she knows nothing.
One more chapter to go! Thanks for sticking with it thus far, would appreciate your thoughts on it, but no pressure :)
Oi come join the Bellamione/Cissamione/Andromione Discord https://discord.gg/rAKhWJQ
Chapter 6: 'Dead'
Welp, here it is. Never thought I’d write a Cissamione fic, much less a multi-chapter one that’s 20,000 words long. (There are so many great ones out there, I didn’t see the need to.)
A sincere thanks to everyone who has left a kudos, comment, or note in any form — at one point it felt like I was writing into the void, and your encouragement made it feel less so. As always, no pressure, but would love to know what you think of the story as a whole.
My gratitude to Antonius and Arcamenel_alatariel for helping me sort out the issues with this chapter and dealing with my angst of wanting to rage quit XD. And to Ded for telling me this idea wasn't 'completely insane'.
Their work is AMAZING. Check them out at:
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
“Why does she look like she has dung under her nose?” A voice whispers.
Hermione shoots a sharp glance at the group before the remark progresses into a round of jokes and sniggering.
One night, in between drunken laughs and songs, Ginny had told her they should capture The Glare and place it at the entrance, and next to it a ‘thumbs up’ from the animagus form of Professor McGonagall.
It was not one of their best nights. Especially when said professor found them on the floor the next morning.
Nonetheless, the expression is effective, and as always, it buys her a few seconds until —
“Is that Hermione Granger?” One of the children nudges the other to take a closer look.
Here it comes.
Unlike Ron, who has a real knack for ‘PR', she doesn’t bask in the admiration and gawking as much. But she does understand the importance of having someone to look up to, and does her best.
She throws them a warm smile and waits for the typical barrage of fans to begin.
“They said you had stopped coming as often!”
“You look really different in the Chocolate Frog Card!”
“Your adventure in the Pacific Islands was so exciting!”
Taking out her quill, she signs every card and book, answers all of the questions with patience, and nods at ideas shared with her. A mess of brown curls appears in the corner of her eye, and she saves her for last.
The crowd finally disperses, and she crouches to match the girl’s height.
“Miss Granger?” brown eyes ask, clutching a stack of books.
“I’m muggle-born too,” the girl says solemnly, a hint of pride in her voice. Instead of raising her hand enthusiastically to every question Hermione had asked the students, the girl had silently mouthed the answers to most of them, only volunteering to answer when it was clear that nobody else could.
She relishes these moments. This is a world she had fought for — a place where muggle-borns can declare their heritage without an ounce of shame or fear, and where they don’t have to prove themselves as much.
“That’s good to know,” Hermione returns encouragingly.
“And I’ve read all your books on magical portraits,” the girl says. “I have some questions. And some thoughts.”
“And I look forward to reading them.” She demonstrates a spell that bears her magical signature, one she invented for owls to locate her anywhere.
The class, along with other visitors, has moved on to another hall. The girl, however, is content to stay with her. Sitting beside her on the bench and sucking on a Sugar Quill, of which Hermione gets a lifetime supply for her ‘endorsement’, the girl works on her homework and asks the occasional question.
She points to it.
“Why does it say ‘dead’?”
She wasn’t there.
She hadn’t been since the moment Bellatrix Lestrange moved her wand — and then later, her knife. Hermione drifted with the waves, letting them carry her in and out of consciousness, backwards and forwards in time, closer to and further from reality.
As soon as she could walk, she had begged Harry and the Weasleys for a moment of solitude. Harry, having spent hours alone out here since their arrival, had understood and relented.
“Call for us if you need anything, yeah?” Ron had held onto her arm — the unmarred one — for a little longer. His expression was so sincere and intense, Hermione knew he would hear her even if she whispered for help. She could only squeeze back, her other hand around a pin that had turned into nothing more than scrap metal.
But it was still warm to hold, unlike the body of Dobby or the sand that surrounded him, and the stone that bore the words ‘free elf’, which her fingers traced absently again and again.
Could he see them then? Did he feel the tears of humans who had loved him, useless as they were? Were beings still segregated by their difference from one another where he was?
Definitely not, she assured herself. Never would Dobby stay in a realm so unjust and unfair. She was sure of that.
When her hand felt the heat, she heard it.
“Don’t turn around,” A hoarse voice calls out.
She heard it, felt the injuries through the voice. Fearing the worst, she turned anyway.
“She hurt you.” Hermione gasped at the sight.
Narcissa Malfoy shook her head. “You bore the brunt of it, unfortunately. This was the work of the Dark Lord.”
“He — he — but you didn’t do anything!” She knew it was a futile argument, that another escape — and one so close this time — was ample enough reason to invoke his wrath. The lack of response from the older witch told her that much.
But if everyone had ended up here anyway, what was the damn point?
“Don’t be,” Narcissa said. “I should be the one to apologise for what had happened to you.”
She shook her head. “You were only doing what I had asked. Dobby, though…”
Narcissa bowed her head. “I...did not expect that.”
“There was something in her vault, wasn’t there?" At the Manor, even through Hermione’s pleas and begs for the torture to stop, she had been able to sense it. Sense Lestrange’s fear from the slightly more hysterical laugh, saw the glint of desperation when Lestrange looked at her handiwork with glee.
“I had never seen Bel— my sister so out of control,” Narcissa said. “Knowing for certain that you didn’t break into her vault was the only way I could convince her so.”
“And now she’s going to increase the wards around it,” she said, frustrated at how close, yet far, they were.
“Do you still believe?”
Did she? When she felt that her heart was going to give out any second, unable to withstand another crucio? Did she believe when they unwrapped the bandage on her arm, revealing a slur meant to define her forever? When her nightmares wouldn’t leave until Fleur held her tight and sang her to sleep?
She looked over at Narcissa, at the barely concealed pain, the shivering, and how the older witch, just like she, was hanging by a thread. All of the injuries, however, paled at the resolve shining through blue eyes.
“I do," Hermione says.
Narcissa nodded. Hand trembling still, she removed a box from her robe. Hermione resisted the urge to still the tremors with her own hand, and wrapped her fingers around the lid instead.
In it lay a strand of black hair.
“It’s — this is —” Hermione spluttered.
“Hermione?” Someone was calling for her from the cottage.
“Go now — we’re running out of time,” Narcissa whispered, pushing her towards the house gently. “Don’t look back.”
She didn’t. With an accuracy and precision she had practiced all her life, she brewed the perfect Polyjuice, which — judging from their reaction — met the approval of the boys. The next thing she knew, they were hanging on to a dragon, her arm burning from the deadly tight grip of Ron.
They sprinted forward, forward, and forward, one foot in front of the other, until they were in Hog’s Head, stuffing their faces and half-ignoring Aberforth’s advice to give up. She was particularly unfazed when he remarked that people were better off being left alone by Professor Dumbledore, and Aberforth gave her a look that was both shrewd and curious.
She looked away, wondering if he knew about their sixth year, and the guilt she still carried for the late Headmaster — and a free elf.
And then she was engulfed in hugs and heat. First from members of Dumbledore’s Army, then from Ron when he suggested they move out the rest of the house-elves from Hogwarts. The third time was when she was stuck between Ron and Goyle, literally fleeing for their lives because that idiot of a Crabbe had cast a Fiendfyre in a bloody room. If she weren’t so terrified, she would have laughed at how Draco couldn’t get it right even when he tried.
She thought she heard Narcissa’s voice, clear and loud from the forest, and she felt everything change. Before she knew it, it was all over. No more close calls, no more warring. The past hour had whizzed by — the crying, the screaming, the fighting — Harry had survived, and Voldemort was finally defeated.
The three of them held each other close, watching the Malfoys cross the bridge to leave Hogwarts. Narcissa didn’t look back, and Hermione was too exhausted to do anything but smile, knowing they would meet again. Soon.
Then the bridge exploded.
“We will now begin to count the votes.”
They had ten days until the opening ceremony, and the committee was still fighting about things such as colours. Her scar had throbbed — as did her head — every time someone raised some frivolous and non-consequential issue, because she knew.
Knew that everything was brought up to stall the voting process ever since she had put in her request.
“Albus Dumbledore, Severus Snape: unanimous.”
After nine weeks of searching for the bodies of Lucius and Narcissa Malfoy, the Ministry had given up and declared their demise. The official report stated that the explosion was set off by multiple curses that hit it, but had not revealed when the curses were performed.
Sitting at the kitchen table of her parents — both of whom had returned with their memories intact — Hermione had written to the committee of her nomination immediately.
That Narcissa Malfoy’s be one of the eight portraits featured in the main hall.
“Sirius Black, Remus Lupin: large majority.”
Draco, miraculously surviving the incident, had held a quiet funeral. Before she could speak to him about which portrait he had in mind, Professor McGonagall had steered her aside, urging her to return for her seventh year at Hogwarts. The then-official Headmistress along with herself, Harry, Ginny, Kingsley, and Andromeda, were the only six people present, and Draco’s eyes had shone with gratitude.
She had fidgeted impatiently when Kingsley cornered her next, saying, “Right before the Ministry fell, someone from Hogwarts had sent me an essay of yours.”
Her attention still focused on locating the Malfoy heir before he disappeared, she nodded distractedly. “What was it about?”
“Five things to change in the Wizarding World,’ Kingsley replied. “I had held on to it, and I am saving it for the day you graduate from Hogwarts, Miss Granger.”
She had nearly laughed at that. Getting a small committee to agree on Narcissa had already been a constant battle, escalating to a point where it had been leaked to the press.
“Fred Weasley. Charity Burbage. Dobby: narrow majority.”
It had become serious then: the committee sent her a list of alternative nominees that filled four scrolls of parchment, first ranked by achievements, then by deeds. She had been impressed by how they knew to appeal to her; she only wished they knew no logical or rational thinking could change her mind on this.
The men hadn’t understood either: Harry had decided to stay neutral, but not before pointing out that Narcissa Malfoy had probably lied as a self-serving act, to protect Draco or Lucius. Ron, having noticed her increased interaction with Draco, had asked outright if there was something going on between them.
She told them nothing, jealously guarding her history with the older witch to herself. After all, all she was left with were a broken piece of metal, a blanket, and the letter that came with it.
“Narcissa Malfoy: minority. Two votes.”
She stood up.
Kept her gaze on the table and ignored the eyes on her.
“Harry James Potter, you know I would give you anything you need — and I have. And I‘ve never asked for anything in return from you or The Order, even when my parents were in danger.
“If you value my contributions and sacrifices, or me as a friend at all…”
She walked out of the room alone.
Whoever had insisted on this colour was actually right — the deeper shades of red was a great complement to the mahogany walls. They also marvelled at the lights that had been enchanted to adjust themselves to the weather or occasion.
The official entourage left the wing of the First Wizarding War, looking away as Harry wiped his face discreetly.
Everyone paused their steps when they stepped into the main hall of the second wing. The rain had just stopped, and sunlight streamed through the transparent glass ceiling as well as the full length windows. The eight portraits, each the size of the windows, surrounded the room in a perfect circle. A pensieve and curtains accompanied each painting, giving visitors privacy if they wished for it.
Right before they unveiled the last portrait, Hermione stepped back, motioning Draco to join the group. He was more subdued than she had expected when she brought him the good news, and she had attributed it to grief.
Harry and Ron looked at her questioningly, indicating that they could make room for her, and she nodded to reassure them that it was alright. She preferred to be alone when she lay her eyes on it — their interaction always took place when the world stilled, quieted, and shrunk to fit just the two of them, never under any other circumstance, and she wanted to keep it that way.
She stepped forward when the crowd moved to the smaller halls, and looked up.
It was magnificent.
This was Narcissa Malfoy in her glory, painted by one of the finest portraitists galleons could hire. It must have been commissioned before the war, because not a single line that had later graced the face of the older witch could be found.
It was everything Hermione had imagined, and yet — nothing she recognised. As she stared at it, she realised why: the portrait had captured all of the arrogance, the aristocratic features, and the captivating smile of the Malfoy matriarch.
But none of her vulnerability.
This wasn’t a witch who had agonised over the possibility of sacrificing young adults to Voldemort; kept a mudblood fed through winter; and ensured that a muggle couple navigated their escape safely.
Did this Narcissa wonder if she would ever live beyond her namesake? Realise she would come to perform acts that change the outcome of a war? Keep her promise to a young witch that she would prioritise the cause over the Hermione's life?
Would she even know Hermione?
It was alright. She remembered enough for all of them.
Her eyes trailed to the golden plaque beside the portrait, on which Narcissa’s achievements were encapsulated with a single word.
And the following descriptions —
- Saved Harry Potter from Voldemort at The Battle of Hogwarts (1998).
Witness: Harry Potter
- Saved Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley at Malfoy Manor (1998). Witness: Aberforth Dumbledore
She spun around.
Her loud and hurried footsteps echoed across the hall, scaring several jumpy wizards into thinking Voldemort was back and going after Hermione Granger.
She reached the memorial cafe and grabbed the sleeve of Aberforth Dumbledore. He stilled her hand, half-jesting, “Miss Granger, I have only one decent set of robes — one I have kept for half a century, and I intend to keep it that way.”
“You — you were the other vote,” she panted, catching her breath.
“Yes, I assumed you knew that much.”
She shook her head fervently. “I thought it was Ron’s.”
“Yes. Rather disappointing, wasn’t it? I expected more gratitude from him.”
“But she didn’t!” she said. “She didn’t save us!”
“Miss Granger,” he said, his expression turning somber as he caught on. “She most certainly did. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Narcissa Malfoy utter something that wasn’t a command or insult, much less beg for help.”
“Tell me — please, tell me everything!”
“It’s much easier if you use the pensi — oh alright then,” he said, giving in. Insisting that she first took a cup of tea for herself, he guided her out of the building.
He told her how Narcissa had apparated into the Hog’s Head, looking for Professor McGonagall, then resorting to asking him for help.
“It would be quite a coincidence if I had looked into the mirror right when you were captured, wouldn’t it?”
“She sent — she made you send Dobby?” she asked, horrified.
“That she did not do, Miss Granger. In fact, nobody had expected that — I had little confidence in getting Mr Potter and Mr Weasley out unscathed, much less you, as you were already in the hands of Lestrange,” he said apologetically.
“Mrs Malfoy offered her knowledge and skills of an ancient ritual that would secure the lives of all of you, and needed my assistance and ingredients.”
“An ancient ritual…” she swallowed. “A price was involved?”
“Indeed.” Aberforth nodded. “A life for a life — Pettigrew for Mr Potter, Lestrange for Mr Weasley, and —”
“Hers for mine,” she whispered.
“Dobby was never meant to be it. But if you’re familiar with dark rituals, they never turn out exactly the way you want them to.
“Lucius Malfoy being another example.”
“What do you mean?”
“He certainly perished.”
Her eyes widened at the implication. “Why didn’t you bring it up —”
“— to the Ministry? I did,” he said. “But they had a multitude of problems following the war, and it is possible that it was caused by Death Eaters that had escaped. Maybe she took it as an opportunity to disappear, to protect those she loved. After all, her betrayal of Tom Riddle was rather public, wasn’t it?”
She remained in the garden until the memorial closed. Aberforth had patted her shoulder before leaving, saying he would make her excuses for her.
And when night fell, she walked towards the pensieve.
Her knuckles hurt from the impact.
“Did Aberforth — did you know that your mother could be...still here?” she asked even before Draco could open the door fully.
“I did. Granger — let me finish!”
“She told me, told me not to go looking for her,” Draco continued, “That wherever she is, she would be free.”
“Dead or alive?” she asked quietly.
“Either — that she would be free, dead or alive.”
“And you just — obeyed?”
“You weren’t there!” Draco started to sob. “You weren’t the one she almost forced to make an unbreakable vow, just because I hesitated for one second!
“What was I supposed to do?”
She put her weight into the punch.
She watched the hooded figure from behind the tree, only moving when the squawking of the birds was loud enough to fill the forest.
Once they were out of her sight, she scurried on to the site, searching for clues on how long it had been inhabited. Her frustration grew as she realised she would have to go into the tent.
Right after she decided to go ahead, sharp talons clutched her shoulder, prompting her to jump.
Dear Miss Granger,
Apologies for using this method of communication, as all of our letters to your address have returned to us.
As we prepare to launch your latest book, the orders and demands are fast exceeding that of Gilderoy Lockhart’s (right before that unfortunate injury).
We urge you to reconsider attending at least one signing and photo session. It would greatly boost the sales and publicity for it — not that you need it — and give your fans a chance to meet you in person.
Angry at the disruption, she burned the parchment with a wandless spell. Before she could wave off the persistent owl, it fell to the ground with a thunk. A burly figure crashed into her, pushing her to join the dead animal.
“Looking for something, mudblood?” Greyback rasped, his hands all over her.
She cried out when the werewolf pressed on a wound that hadn’t healed completely. She had run out of the special ointment that speeds up the process, but was still too embarrassed to ask Andromeda for it. She hadn’t been sure if the healer wanted to see her after their last exchange.
“I was always relieved that you got over my similarities with Bellatrix so quickly, Hermione. But whatever else you keep searching for in me, it isn’t there.”
She had placed Teddy back in his chair and left their house without saying a word.
“Not as young or unblemished as I remember, but you’ll do,” Greyback continued, flinging her wand out of her reach. “It isn’t often that the one that got away gets lured back in so easily.”
She fought back then, channelling the fury she felt at herself — and the disappointment that it was yet another dead end.
And Greyback just laughed. “You think you were being secretive about it, girl? Everyone knows. Maybe we had killed her, hmm? Maybe I’ll owl you her bones, piece by piece, instead of anonymous notes this time?”
“Fuck. You." She spat on his face.
“Oh you most certainly will,” he taunted, grabbing her by her collar. “No Hogwarts, no Potter, and no Malfoy to save you this time.
“Who’s going to come for you now?”
Saliva dripped onto her face and she shut her eyes.
At least she would know for certain if the older witch was there.
She opened them to see Greyback’s teeth flying out of his mouth from the impact. Red flashed before her face — first from blood, then from a head of hair.
"This is for Remus,” Ron said, his fist meeting Greyback’s face at every syllable. “This is for Bill. This is for — maybe I’ll let the lady do the honours.”
She took his hand and got to her feet. The werewolf was nearly unconscious, his face a mess of raw flesh, but no more disgusting than when she first met him all those years ago.
She stepped away and whirled back with a kick.
The crack resounded through the woods.
“This is for Lavender,” she said, walking off.
It was all a lie; she didn’t know why she had even bothered to hold out hope. Leaving the aurors to collect what she had found when tearing apart the tent, she trudged to the nearest stream to quench her thirst.
Resisted the urge to submerge her face in the water.
Collapsed on her back instead.
“Are you alright? Did he hurt you?”
She shook her head, covering her eyes with her arm.
“Why are you here?” she asked tiredly.
“To help you in your quest,” Ron said, patting his knapsack. “Lav and the kids are with mum and they’re all having the time of their lives.”
“You don’t even know what my search is for.”
“Don’t care," he said, shrugging. “I abandoned you once; not doing it again.”
She sighed. “Ron…”
"No, Hermione,” he said, surprising her with the conviction in his voice. “I never meant for you to go through this by yourself. George needed me, then Lavender, then the kids…
“I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you, and I’m here now. I don’t fully understand why you’re doing this, but I don’t need to to support you.”
“You’re in charge of cooking this time.”
“Good, the training during my bachelor days with George will come in handy. Oh, Harry’s coming too.”
“RON! Ginny’s seven months pregnant!”
“More the reason you can’t yell at her for agreeing to this, then.” Ron said, pulling her up.
They all agreed that their second stint in the forest was a lot less stressful, having the privilege of being on the hunt rather than the hunted.
It felt the same, but different. The slight change in Harry’s posture, the way his shoulders lifted, showed he only carried his son, and no longer the weight of the world, on them. He also stopped ruffling his hair, and displayed mannerisms that were definitely more Harry than James.
And after that phase of trying to be his late brother, Ron has recovered his wit — his and not Fred’s. She was pleasantly surprised when he used it on himself, and how he seemed a lot more relaxed when she and Harry had laughed at his mistakes.
Where had she been? She was present in all of the weddings, birthdays, celebrations; had seen them regularly at the Ministry; discussed plans and gifts; and yet she had missed all of this.
The men, however, did not seem to share her revelations. They hardly batted an eye whenever she reached for her flask, said nothing when she wandered off for long periods without a word, and never held her back when she rushed into the situation before anyone, including herself, was ready.
They only followed.
“Well, that’s the last of them,” Harry said, waving for the aurors to haul off Dolohov. While he and Ron usually stood aside when she was a bit more brutal than they needed to be, they joined her this time, each relishing the chance to settle their personal grievances.
It was dark by the time they woke up from their nap.
“So, where’s next, cap’n?” Ron poked at the fire while Harry poured out the celebratory drinks.
“Back home for you is next — I can’t believe Lavender and Ginny actually put up with this.”
“Oi, you say it like they don’t love you too,” Ron argued. “Every letter it’s how’s Hermione, is she eating enough, is she still having nightmares, has she stopped sipping from that bloody fla —”
Harry cleared his throat and nudged her, “Speaking of which, share the good stuff with us, will you?
“And as the brightest witch of her age, you should know by now that the answer to that is always no.”
“Yes,” Ron agreed hurriedly, “so what’s next? More field research on magical portraits? I hear Egypt has some new information.”
“Boys. Go home.”
“Well here’s an idea,” Harry replied quietly. “Why don’t you come with us?”
She looked away. “You know I can’t.”
“Hermione...do you even know what you’re looking for?”
“Of course I do — would have been a tad foolish to be out here risking my life if I didn’t, wouldn’t it?”
“Tell us, then,” Ron encouraged her softly, gently.
How did she even begin? How could she verbalise what she felt if she hadn’t even allowed that for herself?
She started with what had happened instead.
Leaving out parts that she still felt belonged only to her.
“All because I got distracted by the Veelas at the World Cup?” Ron said, pained.
“Hey, if you want to put it that way, she saved us because of that,” Harry said consolingly. “And the last time you met was when she handed you Lestrange’s hair…”
“She told me not to look back,” she muttered, reliving that moment, that push, as if it had just happened. “Since then, even stopping to breathe feels like a betrayal to her.”
“So is living like this,” Harry retorted.
"I beg your pardon? ”
“Hermione, she wouldn’t have wanted this for you.”
"Don’t tell me what she wants.”
“But I can tell you what Sirius would have wanted for me,” Harry persisted.
“And Fred for me.” Ron added. “And what Dumbledore, Remus, Tonks would have wanted for all of us.”
Why were they doing this?
“I have something to tell you — both of you, too,” Harry confessed. “I wasn’t ready to share it then, and then the time had passed.
“At King’s Cross, when I was with Professor Dumbledore...he gave me a choice. I could board a train — move on , or I could turn back — to the forest.”
“But you came back because of Voldemort,” she said.
Harry shook his head. “I came back because those who loved me were still here. That was enough reason — whether it was to fight with, protect, or just to be with you, it didn’t matter.
“Hermione, I’m not asking you to stop. Just come back to us sometimes, won’t you?”
“Let’s go home.”
She points to it.
“Why does it say ‘dead’?”
“Well,” Hermione says, “the memorial is about to close, so I’ll have to tell you the story another day. But in short, she lied.”
“...to all of us.”
The girl nods, trying to understand what Hermione had said.
“Did you know each other?”
Did they? Does the Narcissa in this portrait, unrelentingly silent despite Hermione’s initial taunts, threats, and pleas to say something, anything, know her? And even if she did, would she recognise the Hermione Granger now, who’s probably as much of a stranger to the portrait, as it is to her?
“In another life.”
A tap on the window jolts her from her memories.
She smiles, marvelling at how the wizarding world seems to just know whenever she returns — maybe they really had cast a protean charm on ‘her’ bench in the memorial. She takes the letters and hands a few treats to the owl.
One from Molly, inviting her for tea and booking her for the rest of the week. One from Draco, doing the same, only with the addition of thinly veiled threats on how she had better bring gifts for Scorpius. One from Professor McGonagall, confirming the name for the new star Hermione had discovered.
She would have appreciated it — as would Mr Malfoy, Hermione.
One from Hagrid, telling her The White Wyvern was kept the way she wanted — empty and untouched. One from Egypt, saying they were closed for the foreseeable future due to a natural disaster, but looked forward to hosting the Golden Trio when they reopened.
She had saved the sixth for last.
Dear Miss Granger,
We regret to inform you that we are halting our search for the Mirror of Erised.
After multiple discussions, the committee deems it unethical that we continue to use your resources — as generous as they are — on a mission that seems fruitless.
We thank you for all the assistance you have lent us, and hope for your continued support.
The committee of Ancient Magical Objects
She lets the letters slip to the floor, and stares into the vast hall.
The portraits in the main hall are unusually quiet tonight. Even Professor Dumbledore, who occasionally drops a kind word to her, is fast asleep.
Everything comes to a stop. She holds her breath, trying to hear something other than her increasingly loud heartbeat.
At the verge of a panic attack, she gets up and treads toward the portrait, focusing on putting one foot in front of the other.
Fearing that it’s once again the effects of intoxication, she waits for it to wear off before looking up. Fixes her gaze at the portrait beneath the very stars that once sheltered them, at the face that each day replaces a little more of what she remembers, and at the lips that had uttered her name the way nobody else does.
Her face crumples and she closes her eyes, once again feeling herself tip-toeing on the fine line between relief and disappointment, hope and bitterness.
Hermione Granger has run out of places to go.
And this time, no Death Eaters that have escaped; no curse she’s broken; no wizard or witch she knows could help her.
She can’t find Narcissa Malfoy in the realm of the living, the spirits, or magical artefacts.
For the first time, she is lost.
And so she does the only thing she can.
An insistent tapping on the window — probably an owl from the young girl — prompts her to glance at it.
And there she is — reflected on the glass, arms crossed and leaning back against the mahogany wall, looking nothing like there’s a nasty smell under her nose. The soft lights add to the golden shine on her hair; her robes a little tattered; but her features remain sharp and regal.
The flask slips from Hermione’s hand. Startled by the noise resounding across the hall, she looks down at the spillage.
“I have come to collect.”
Ignoring that voice coming from behind her, Hermione keeps her eyes on the alcohol that’s slowly pooling around her shoes. Her walking staff skids a little in the puddle, worsened by her inability to stop shaking.
For the first time, the hardwood floor of the Wizarding War Memorial is splattered with the tears of war heroine Hermione Granger, whose emotions burst from her, flowing as freely as it did a lifetime ago.
And on this night, the main hall is filled with the quiet sobs of the witch. She cries for the seventeen year old who decided to follow an older witch one rainy afternoon, unaware that she would end up chasing after her for life, forever trailing behind.
For the nineteen year old who naively declared she could pay the price of acts she committed, not realising what had cost her initially was only a fraction of it.
For the witch who had fallen for the idealistic talk spewed by a child who didn’t know any better; didn't know that the older witch would believe in them, so much, that she would find a way to both keep and break her promise to her.
Who didn’t know that Narcissa Malfoy, like she, was stubborn till the very end.
“Where the hell have you been?”
This fic is dedicated to anyone who has been in Hermione’s shoes, chasing those who have gone where they can’t follow.
On a lighter note, I started writing this fic with the title ‘Hermione and Narcissa make each other do bad shit that goes against everything they believe’ XD
It soon became ‘A love letter to Hermione Granger’ :/
Join the Bellamione/Cissamione/Andromione Discord at: https://discord.gg/rAKhWJQ