December 20, 2014
Author's Note: This story was written for Interhouse Fest 2014. The prompt will follow at the end of the chapter.

It looks like I'm returning to my roots! This prompt jumped out at me during the fest, and I was inspired to give Draco/Hermione another try. I haven't written DHr since I finished Dark Skies in 2009, so we'll see how it goes. I hope whoever reads this likes it, and if you do, please leave a review! For my Draco/Ginny followers, I still have plenty of DG in me. New updates and brand new stories are still in our future. ;)


Haunted

Chapter One


The torchlight flickered against the walls, casting agitated shadows every ten feet or so down the corridor. Outside, Hermione could hear how the wind beat against the side of the castle, howling like an angry beast intent on entering the walls even if it had to bash its way inside. The air whistled through every corridor Hermione encountered, and as she entered the second hour of her patrol, she feared the ghosts of Hogwarts were following her.

Not ghosts like Nearly Headless Nick or the Bloody Baron, disconcerting as their sudden appearances and disappearances naturally were. The ghosts that haunted Hermione were the ones that held no form and made no sound. They were the memento mori of a battle waged inside the walls of the school and the students and friends who had fallen victim to tyranny as they sacrificed their lives.

For what?

That was the question that plagued Hermione as she stalked the halls, conducting her rounds as Head Girl.

When she'd returned to Hogwarts to make up for her ruined seventh year, she'd never imagined the grief and anger that would linger from that final, fateful battle. And when she'd accepted the position of Head Girl—a position Headmistress McGonagall had thought appropriate considering Hermione's seniority and experiences during the war—she'd never imagined how out of her depth she would be. As usual, Hermione had considered her options logically and then acted in the best interests of everyone, but she always forgot about the human element when she made her decisions. That was her tragic flaw. She'd just wanted to help, but for what?

Hermione heard a creak like a cabinet opening and paused, tilting her head to listen over the sound of the storm. She approached a door and opened it cautiously, remembering her first patrol as Head Girl nearly two weeks prior.

The sounds of crying had echoed through the second floor corridor from the girls' toilet where Moaning Myrtle resided. But if Myrtle had been the lone crier, Hermione might not have found herself in her current hated predicament. Myrtle was nowhere to be found and Hermione had discovered a sobbing fourth year instead.

Peering inside the stall with caution, she'd called out, "Hello? Are you all right in there?" A silly question, that, and the occupant must have thought so as well because the girl was suddenly overcome with a case of overwhelming hiccups. Then, when she saw who it was disturbing her grief, the fourth year's eyes had grown wide with shock.

What Hermione had said next could have won a prize for least comforting words ever spoken in the history of mankind: "It's nearly curfew. If you aren't injured, you really need to return to your common room." True enough words, but tactless in the current situation. The fourth year had run out of the toilet, crying with renewed vigor. The next day, her sixth year brother had tracked Hermione down and informed her with impotent rage that their mother had died in the battle that past May, taking Hermione to task for her lack of sympathy. The story had spread, and now Hermione's presence was met with glares wherever she went. Not what she had hoped for when she'd returned to Hogwarts and accepted her Head Girl badge from McGonagall.

Hermione knew suffering. She understood loss and grief and anger, but she didn't know how to relate to people. She'd wanted to be Head Girl because she'd hoped to shepherd the students of Hogwarts through their mutual grief, and instead she'd only hurt them further.

She wished she could say the fourth year girl had been the only casualty of her tactlessness, but there were plenty of other students that she'd managed to offend in some way or another, just by sheer lack of understanding. The only people to continue to grudgingly support her were the core members of Dumbledore's Army: Ginny, Neville, and Luna. Had Harry and Ron returned to Hogwarts, Hermione doubted they would have taken her side in the disputes. They had never seen her side of things when they'd argued throughout the years; why would this situation be any different?

Frowning with bitterness, Hermione entered the empty classroom and discovered the source of the creaking sound she'd heard, which had, in fact, belonged to a cabinet rustled by the wind surging through an open window. Closing both the cabinet and the window, Hermione banished thoughts of Harry and Ron from her mind, as she usually did. It hurt too much to think of their abandonment. Especially Ron's.

She continued on her patrol of the fourth-floor corridor, slowly making her way down to the lowest levels of the castle to complete her duties for the night.

In the dungeons, the storm outside Hogwarts did not exist, and the eerie silence of the underground corridors exacerbated the unease in Hermione's mind. Voices, muted through the stone walls but still discernable, accosted her when she turned a corner, and she sighed. It was after hours, and she was still on duty, so she had to investigate.

She turned another corner to see a student standing in front of a portrait halfway down the corridor, his body strained with tension and his fists clenched at his sides. He was an older student, and the patch on his school robes placed him in Slytherin.

"My parents are not traitors, you mangy hypocrite!"

Hermione couldn't hear the portrait's response—or see the painting's occupant—from her stance at the end of the corridor. When she made to move closer, the sound of her feet hardly made a sound, and yet the boy was alerted to her presence and drew back from the wall in haste. He'd already been tense before, but he froze up even more upon seeing Hermione.

"Never mind," the boy spat at the portrait, and then he backed away from Hermione, his hands in the air. "I'm leaving, I'm leaving. Don't take any bloody points for Circe's sake."

"I wasn't—" she started, but he suddenly stopped and cut her off, his jaw clenched in stubborn defiance of her supposed authority.

"You think you're so important, but you're an idiot for thinking any of this even matters anymore. Everyone thinks you're delusional. And mean."

With a disgusted sneer, he took off down the corridor before Hermione could respond. Not that she would have known what to say.

She knew how the students felt about her. Hostility followed her wherever she went, and part of her had wondered if maybe they were just channeling their anger from the war onto the easiest target. Harry and Ron weren't there to stand up for her, and even though Ginny, Neville, and Luna commanded a lot of respect from the student body, their defense of Hermione went ignored.

Still, even if the students weren't really angry at her, their treatment of her still hurt. Hermione didn't think she was more important than anyone else, and she enforced the school rules as strictly as she did because she didn't know what else to do. She'd heard what Hogwarts had been like under the leadership of Snape and the Carrows, but she hadn't lived it, so maybe she didn't really understand where the students were coming from. Still… she thought they would want to return to something that resembled normalcy at Hogwarts, and part of that normalcy was keeping to school rules about curfew and acceptable behavior. Any deviance from those rules naturally resulted in the loss of House points. What else was Hermione supposed to do?

She swiped at her eyes with an angry gesture, and then quickly wiped her hands on her robes. The end of her patrol and the oblivion of her bed were just in sight when she reached the last corridor of the dungeons, only to be stopped by the sight of a mob blocking the stairs up to the first floor. That's exactly what it was, she decided as she hurried down the corridor, for a group of six students had cornered one student against the wall. The aggressors were of various ages and, based on their uniforms, represented the Houses of Gryffindor, Hufflepuff, and Ravenclaw. They were also armed, the tips of their wands sparking with errant magic.

The identity of the student they had cornered became clear as Hermione approached the group. The glint of the platinum blonde hair in the light of the torch above his head gave her pause, but she had her responsibilities, so she was spurred back into action.

"Break it up!" she called. "You are all supposed to be in bed right now. I could give you detention for dueling!"

As she broke into the center of the group, she realized they weren't actually dueling—fairly, anyway. Draco Malfoy stood against the wall, his hands balled into fists at his sides but otherwise empty as far as she could tell. A Hufflepuff girl took a step back, and a strange scraping sound accompanied the movement.

"Accio!" Hermione called, pointing her wand at the ground. The girl wobbled as a wand zoomed out from under her foot into Hermione's hand. It was Malfoy's. Disgusted, Hermione scowled at the six students, and they met her glare with impertinent glares of their own. She didn't know the names of all of the students, but she recognized Thea Hastings, a new first year Gryffindor, and Dennis Creevey.

"When I tell your Heads of Houses—"

"Sod off, Granger!"

She spun back around to meet Malfoy's glare, which was the worst of all, his whole face full of contempt and his jaw clenched tight like he wanted to rip her throat out with his teeth. His body shook with the force of his derision. He swept his gaze down her body and then back up, and then he snorted as if to dismiss what he had seen.

"No one asked you to butt in, you stupid Mudblood," he said with a dry, scoffing laugh.

Hermione took a step back. None of the other students rushed in to defend her. Instead, they looked at her with defiance in their eyes, as if she were interrupting and they expected her to leave them to it.

She straightened her spine and steeled herself. It was time that she take control back from the students of Hogwarts. She was the Head Girl here, not them!

"Fighting is strictly forbidden and it is after hours. If you do not return to your common rooms at once—"

"Mind your own business and leave," Malfoy spat, taking an unsteady step away from the wall.

The light from the torch shone on him better now, and Hermione saw why Malfoy was trembling. His robes were ripped in places, and a large, bleeding gash striped his thigh, from the inside of his knee nearly all the way up to the outside of his hip.

"You need to see Madame Pomfrey," she said, her eyes fastened on the blood-soaked material of his robes. A puddle had formed under him, and the blood seemed to absorb the light, reflecting the inky shadows of the corridor instead of the torchlight. The sight made her stomach roil, reminding her of how she had splinched Ron when she'd Apparated them away from the Ministry of Magic to Grimmauld Place and then to the Forest of Dean in quick succession earlier that year.

"How many times do I have to say it? Fuck. Off."

Hermione gasped as he closed the distance between them and grabbed her upper arms, shoving her with such force that she fell onto the ground. She looked up at the seven students in front of her, all staring at her with creased brows and angry wrinkles at the corners of their mouths. She didn't see a single glimmer of concern or recognition in their eyes. She could have been a Death Eater for all they cared.

Malfoy pushed to the front of the group to sneer at her. "My aunt should have finished you off when she had the chance," he said. "You don't know how to keep your Mudblood nose out of other people's affairs."

Her breath sucked in in a sibilant hiss that seemed to echo in the corridor, though the echo must have only been in her mind. The cold steel of a knife ghosted across her limbs, and for a moment, Hermione was transported back several months to Easter weekend. She could still hear Ron's voice screaming her name in between her own screams as Bellatrix Lestrange pierced her skin and let blood run free. This past summer, when Hermione had thought about her torture, Ron's voice had brought her pleasure. That he had cared so much for her to beg to be taken in her place had made her flush with unbridled joy. But now there was nothing remotely pleasurable about the memory. Maybe Ron had meant it when he'd screamed it, but he was off with Harry training to be an Auror now. She'd been so stupid to think he would have chosen her over Harry.

She shivered at the memory of the knife and rubbed the inside of her forearm where the word 'Mudblood' still lingered as a faint scar. Her screams and Ron's disappeared as she returned to the present, to Draco Malfoy and six other students staring at her in contempt.

Hermione had suffered too much to be treated this way by anyone. No, she hadn't been at Hogwarts under the Carrows, but she'd fought her own demons, people like Bellatrix Lestrange and Voldemort himself. The weight of the entire war had rested on Harry's shoulders, and she'd put her lot in with his, so she'd carried some of the burden, too. For anyone to dismiss her because she didn't understand what they'd gone through was foolishness. It was stupidity.

She picked herself up off the floor and straightened her spine as she met Dennis Creevey's eyes. "Filch is patrolling the Great Hall. He should be down here any minute now," she said, her voice hard and cold like steel. "Don't get caught."

He nodded, instantly understanding her meaning as she turned around to flee the scene.

The sounds of knuckles beating flesh followed her up the stairs, and it wasn't until she'd arrived back at Gryffindor Tower, dazed, lost in memory, and—most of all—hurt, that she realized she was still holding Malfoy's wand.


TBC


Original Prompt

Pairing(s): Draco/Hermione
Prompt: Soon after they return to Hogwarts for their eighth year of schooling, Hermione comes across Draco being taunted and tortured by a mob of students of all ages. All the horrible memories of her own torture in Malfoy Manor come flooding to the forefront of her mind. What does she do?br
Preferred rating: Any
Squicks: None
Other comments: Go dark or as hopeful as you want.