Chapter 50

The next morning Cormac and Hermione rose out of bed. They spent half an hour complaining that they didn't want to leave the Croatian sea coast and head back to Camp Craig. The weeklong vacation had been too perfect.

"Maybe they won't need us," Cormac said leaning on his side looking in Hermione's direction.

"You know that's not true. Everyone probably misses you too much," Hermione reminded him.

"Yeah, but I don't care about any of them. I just want to stay here with you," Hermione wondered if that meant that he cared about her.

"Well, we already have our tickets booked," Cormac reminded her.

"What do we need tickets for? Are you a wizard or not?" She teased him.

"I was just traveling like a Muggle to maintain appearances. Why would I want to travel for hours when we could get there instantaneously?"

"Well, traveling with you isn't too bad," Hermione let him know.

Cormac smiled before he rolled over on top of the other Gryffindor. He rested his nose gently on hers and nuzzled it side to side.

Hermione smiled as she looked into Cormac's face. She craned her neck so that she could reach up and peck his lips, but before their morning could be started off with anything more than that one kiss, there was a knock on the door.

Cormac had a confused look on his face. He sat up still sporting that quizzical expression.

"Is that Ante with more coffee? He's so sweet for thinking of us!" Hermione pushed Cormac off of her as she rolled to her side.

Cormac put on a smile. He allowed Hermione to rotate him off of her and allowed her a head start out of the bedroom, but in no time, he was right on her heels as they were running down the stairs together. Both of them stopped at the first floor landing. Ante was outside the glass sliding door that connected the kitchen to the outside, but he was not alone.

There was a short and stocky man that was probably six or seven years older than Cormac. Cormac had never seen this man before. He raised an eyebrow in the two men's direction. Hermione was also frozen on the spot. Cormac pulled her closer to him possessively.

"What's this?" Cormac asked rhetorically. He slowly followed his feet toward the door.

Hermione didn't know the answer to that question, but she had a horrible sinking feeling in her stomach.

On the other side of the glass door, the unnamed man waved with a somber smile.

"Do you know this guy?" Cormac turned to look at Hermione.

The red hair and freckles should've given him away immediately. Hermione had met Charlie Weasley only on a few occasions, but it was unmistakably him. She nodded in response to Cormac's question.

"Who is he?" Cormac asked, but Hermione didn't have any time to answer the second question, because they had reached the door.

Cormac undid the lock and slid the door opened.

"Hey, Hermione," Charlie said with an awkward smile. She was still in her pajamas, which was covering less than Charlie had ever seen and Cormac was still completely shirtless.

"Hi," she felt like she was outside her body.

"Hi, I'm Charlie Weasley," the redhead introduced himself to Cormac.

"Cormac," the teenager replied. Next, Cormac looked at Ante with a questioning look.

"Mr. Cormac, I was heading out to start work in the garden when I saw this guy lurking around the premise-"

"I was not lurking," Charlie tried to defend himself.

"So I approached him," Ante continued, "He said he was looking for Ms. Granger. He said it was urgent. When he accurately described her, I let him onto the compound," the McLaggen's caretaker finished.

"So what are you doing here, Charlie?" Hermione asked. She was beginning to think that she would be sick.

"I received an owl from the Order and all I know is that I'm supposed to get you back to Headquarters. I didn't ask. Dumbledore said that Harry was going to arrive before the end of the week, and that you are needed to be there," Charlie explained.

"Wait. What? What is the Order? Dumbledore - like Professor Dumbledore? What's going on?" Cormac had so many questions from that one statement.

"How'd you find me?" Hermione asked ignoring Cormac's protests.

"Ron said he received a letter from you saying that you were in Dubrovnik, and once I had a general idea of where you were, I used the Trace that you have and tracked you." Apparently, the Trace wasn't just to monitor when underage wizards used magic – it was also possible to locate underage wizards when they were out of their home country.

"So I have to go with you? Now?" Hermione was worried of the answer.

"The request came directly from Dumbledore, and I'm not going to question anything that that man says," Charlie told her.

"Right now?" Hermione felt like all the blood had drained from her face.

Charlie didn't say anything. He just nodded his head once.

Hermione's sense of duty kicked in. Without looking at Cormac, she turned on her heels and headed back to the stairs.

Cormac was frozen. He had so many unanswered questions. But one thing that was not unanswered was that he wanted to be with Hermione. Before she was too far, he sprang to action.

"Wait here, Weasley. We'll be down in a minute," he said before he turned to catch up to Hermione who was already on the first step.

The attitude up the stairs was somber. Neither exchanged a single word. It was silent until they reached the top of the stairs. Never one to overthink, Cormac reacted. He placed his lips gently down on Hermione's and she silently begged him to kiss her fuller by wrapping her arms around the back of his neck. She pulled him closer to her.

"I love you," Cormac whispered for the first time.

"How dare you say that?"

That was not the reaction Cormac was planning on receiving.

Hermione was on a fragile, emotional cliff. She was trying to remain composed. But hearing those three words sent her over the edge.

Rage seemed to consume Hermione. Cormac didn't know what he did to receive such a reaction.

"You can't do that!" Hermione exclaimed.

"Can't do what?" Cormac's voice was raising in defense.

"Say stuff like that," it didn't make sense, but it was what came to her mind, "Do you honestly think that this is the right time to say that?"

Cormac's emotional side collapsed into a shell for protection. Was that the kind of reaction he would get for being 'honest'?

Hermione was feeling distraught about having Cormac revealing that kind of information to her at the moment that she was being dragged away from him.

"Better to say something at the wrong time than to never say it at all." Cormac told her.

"Don't you understand how this is making me feel?" Hermione wanted to rip her skin off.

"I'm sorry for being honest," he shouted ironically.

"It's not your honesty that I'm mad about," Hermione almost screamed.

"You're not mad at me. So why are you yelling at me?"

Hermione's heart was breaking. It was no fair that this was happening. She would never know this, but the same exact breaking was happening to Cormac.

In order to put up a wall to protect himself, Cormac stormed into their bedroom. He was done discussing the topic anymore. He removed his emotions from the situation. He hastily threw Hermione's things into her bag. Hermione was on the verge of tears. Cormac extended the bag to her, "Here take it."

The briefest hesitation swept over both of them. Nothing mattered. There was a moment where both of them wanted to apologize. Cormac felt the words rising to his lips, while Hermione wanted to shout that she was sorry. But the words and apologies didn't come. Hermione's sense of duty to the Order - and to Harry and Ron overcame her. The moment for "I'm sorry's" passed.

Hermione was already at the second step before Cormac knew what hit him. "Fine, go."

Hermione stopped dead. She squeezed her fists so that the knuckles were showing bone white.

"I got all I needed out of you, anyways!" Cormac had opened himself up to Hermione at a different level than he had ever shown anyone. This putrid behavior was his only way of coping with his first heartbreak.

"You are," Hermione turned and tried to think of the appropriate word, "VILE! You are a vile creature, Cormac McLaggen!"

"Well," Cormac said unlistening to her words, "I can live with that. Oddly enough, your opinion of me doesn't matter very much." There was a pause. Neither of them moved for a second, "Weasley is probably waiting for you - and I don't mean the one downstairs."

"You're vile," Hermione said shaking her head, looking at Cormac with hate. She had given her heart to a boy for the first time, and here he was stomping on it and showing her the door. It would take years for her to be able to open up to another person like that again. She was outside before she knew it. She didn't even realize that she had the first signs of tears streaming down her face.

Under different circumstances, hearing Cormac confess his feelings to her would send her over the moon with happiness, but somehow with the decision of being dragged away from him decided for her, it made everything seem like a nightmare.

"I'd appreciate it if you didn't mention that to anyone," Hermione asked of Charlie before heading up the outdoor steps that led off the McLaggen compound. Charlie didn't say anything. He just nodded and picked up Hermione's bag for her. Once they were a little way from the house, Charlie took Hermione's hand and they Apparated the necessary distance to the Romanian dragon refuge that Charlie called home. From there, he could arrange for Hermione to get back to London easily.

From inside the house, Cormac heard the snap of the two wizards teleporting. A rage swept over him. There wasn't a single object left in the house unbroken. The plates were smashed, mugs were shattered, patio furniture was tossed into the pool, dressers were thrown down the stairs and splintered. The entire home was left in shambles. When there was nothing left for Cormac to take his anger out on, he collapsed. Tears - real human tears - streamed down his face. At seventeen years old, Cormac hadn't cried since he was a child. The sting of a first heartbreak burned sharper in Cormac than the fiery core of the earth. He cried and cried. He sobbed wishing that things could be different.

He cried out in frustration thinking it would help - it didn't. His voice carried hundreds of yards. He smashed his fists on the floor. It hurt. He did it again and again. When he broke the finest bones in his hands, he continued once or twice more before the pain became too much. Broken bones could be fixed, but for now, he would deal with the pain. It almost helped to numb some of the pain of seeing that beautiful young woman - inside and out - walk out that door.

Yes, they would see each other at school - Merlin willing - but things had been said that couldn't be taken back. And the time apart would only set those words more deeply in the two students' minds.

It was only now that Cormac wished that he could run after her. Say he was sorry. Beg her to stay. Plead with her to side with him rather than her oldest friends, before it was too late. One more shout was the last thing that he remembered of that day. His brain was on overload and refused to log any more details.

Cormac made the journey back to Camp Craig alone. Somehow it felt like an eternity compared to the opposite trip. When he got there, he was confronted by Mr. Craig. "Cormac, we're sorry to hear about Hermione's grandfather's passing. If you talk to her - because we understand you two are kind of 'close' - tell her we are sorry and we understand that she won't be able to return this year. But also tell her we hope to see her next summer."

So that is how this mysterious 'Order' operated, Cormac thought to himself. "I'll do that. How'd we do in the Camp Cup last session?" From that moment on, Cormac refused to allow himself close to anyone again. Cormac finished his summer with something he was quite familiar with - Bri Craig.

The time with Bri was meaningless, but it was a Band-Aid for the hurt. It was a Band-Aid for a bullet wound. It looked like it helped on the outside, but there was too much damage done on the inside to help him heal.

When he returned to Hogwarts, he didn't bother to look in Hermione Granger's direction - because he assumed that she would do that same thing. He wasn't disappointed. It wasn't until an invitation from Horace Slughorn that they were put in the same room together. Cormac tried to look in Hermione's direction to see if there was any memory of their history left intact, but he was returned with a look of utter repulsion.

So that was how it was going to be, he thought.

If she wanted to pretend like they had never met, he could play the same game. From then on, he would change from Hermione's white knight to the anti-hero black knight. From across the table, he gave her a knowing smirk. Hermione flashed around the table to make sure no one caught what he was doing. When she knew the coast was clear, she glared at him with revulsion. That look burned him to his center, but it was easier to do that than dwell on his summer heartbreak.

A/N: Alright everyone AVHS has come to an end. I apologize to those that really enjoyed it, but I was getting the sense that not many readers were having the same fun with it. I'm sure most of that comes from the long hiatus that I took this summer and I apologize.

Now that the apology is out of the way, I really enjoyed writing this story and for those of you that stuck through the 50 Chapters, I hope you enjoyed it as well.

For those of you that are big fans of my writing (the longer fics – not the oneshots), I will be posting a new story starting next week. Keep an eye out for the Prince of Darkness.

Best and happy holidays,

jrb2009