In Silence Sealed
"Why are you following me?"
His faded purple cloak was pulled low over his face, but Hermione knew that bright beard and had seen those thick shoulders. Near as she was he was nigh unmistakable- it was Gideon Prewett, hunkered down heavily in his seat, his brow set to narrow and his jaw pulled tight with irritation. He looked at her only a moment before turning his attention back to his murky mug of flat tap.
Hermione bristled like a hedgehog when she realized he'd just rolled his eyes at her. "I said-"
"Can't a man drink in peace?"
Hermione's mouth parted in shock. The… absolute nerve. There was something rising up within her, something that she'd not felt in a long time. Gideon had been standing outside the bookstore because of her; had slowly walked down the alley because of her; and he had not sat himself here, doing nothing but staring stupidly at his drink for the past two hours for any reason other than her.
Her glare was a force of nature, and even this silly, stubborn man couldn't possibly be unswayed.
Gideon looked up, down, and then up again, as if he expected her to disappear between one moment and the next, but Hermione's stare only grew fiercer. He awkwardly hockeyed his mug from hand to hand over the table before he let loose a quiet groan. "I'm not following you."
"Then you're just watching me?" For hours, her eyes tacked on.
Gideon gnashed his teeth and turned his head away once more. Hermione politely waited for him to say his piece, but of course, he didn't say a word.
"Who gave you the orders?" She demanded.
"Who says I had any?" He muttered obstinately.
"So you're stalking me on your own time?"
He snorted. "You think I have any time?"
Ah, yes, she was beginning to remember what the feeling was called. It wasn't that she felt threatened since she was sure Gideon would not hurt her. It wasn't irritation, either, or even anger. It was absolutely righteous indignation, and somewhere, deep inside of her, the flowering of a tiny seed of embarrassment, because… because...
No, not right now. Later. Because there had to be another reason, right?
"You- ugh. Stop answering my questions with questions!"
Gideon leaned back in his seat, letting his arm lay long across the back, and finally -finally- looked at her. The two of them observed one another for a moment, and Hermione knew he was thinking about her just intently as she was of him. Surely he would realize that she was not to be trifled with, that she meant business.
"You're uppity today."
Hermione had no idea where this great neanderthal got his presumption, but she was of a mind to find the source and smash it. Her mouth pinched tight and her head lifted high. "I am not uppity, I am-" She wracked her mind for a suitable alternative, before she realized no one had ever given one. Honestly, she'd usually gotten worse. Still. "It doesn't matter what I am. If you won't deign to answer me, then I will simply find out on my own."
He doesn't say a word. Hermione considers that he may be too stupid to form any. She huffs haughtily and stands to leave, and of course, that's when Gideon speaks.
"It's not what you think it is."
"And what do I think it is?" Hermione scoffed. Gideon rolls his eyes and she doesn't have the energy to be proud of it, "No, not very fun, is it? If I see you, or your brother, any sooner than Friday I will be very cross." Her teeth clenched but she didn't want to be too rude, so she sighed and finished with a half-hearted, "Good evening."
She moved to leave but his fingers drummed down on the table, and so quietly she wondered if she'd imagined it he said, "You should speak to him."
She blinked. "Who?"
"I'm afraid I don't," She said, though she was starting to catch his meaning. "As I said, Prewett, good evening."
She felt his eyes on her as she left, but he didn't get up. Hermione's ears popped as she passed through his corner -he'd warded them?- and wondered if she knew even half as much as she thought she did.
Hermione walked out over the cobbles, stepping lightly over old snow streaks and half-frozen puddles. The evening was getting older; the sky was purpling and the shop windows were hazing the street in orange and amber.
Her first stop was the tiny second-hand store which had the misfortune of being stuffed in the basement beneath Eeylops. She sold one of the etched silver rings Dumbledore had given her for less than it was worth, and the lady behind the counter exclaimed over how pretty it was and asked where she'd gotten it. Hermione handed her the patented lie- a relative from France. With the money she'd received, Hermione bought a gray cloak, old enough to serve her purposes and lined liminally in faded provençal blue.
Slug and Jiggers is nearly empty when she enters, save for the shop girl and a few old patrons, which she considered a stroke of luck. Hermione scooped a few ounces of dried wormwood into her paper packet beside a man measuring bottle green wings into a snuff box. Deliberately, she snatched a bottle of sloshing black eyes, a few spikes of pointed yellow asphodel, and a copper scale, before heading out once more into the dusk.
The sun hadn't quite set yet so she wasted some time in Flourish and Blott's. In a moment of sagacity, she did a quick costume change between the stacks, switching her black cloak for the gray and fixing her hair with her fingers. She left before she could buy anything, her finger sliding longingly down the book spines as she goes. She had things to do.
By now it was nearly late, and all that were left in the alley were stragglers hugging the eaves. Hermione walked slowly towards the bend in the way. She stopped and looked back once, no, twice, before pulling her hood high and descending into the depths of Knockturn Alley.
"Stop taking my pawns." James said like a snot.
Sirius crossed his ankle, pillowed his cheek upon his fist, and flashed his best 'smug ponce' smirk -which James had once said made him uncomfortable for all the wrong reasons- and said, "Then stop leaving them out in the open."
"James! Language!" Mrs. Potter scolded, somehow managing to make the simple gesture of placing her teacup back on the platter seem threatening.
Honestly, Sirius wouldn't be surprised to hear that Mrs. Potter had corralled the Death Eater threat with just that little lift of the eyebrow. She was prim and proper in the way they didn't make them anymore, and with just enough bite to keep her terrifying. Sirius had a hunch that all the authoritarian vibes had to do with her hair- she had this massive spool of gray hair that she piled so high on her head that you nearly forgot that the woman was actually five foot nothing. James, on the other hand, fondly claimed that it was because she was born under a bad star.
James threw his hands up in disgust. "What he said was worse!"
"Well, Sirius has the face for it." Mrs. Potter said with one of her holier-than side eyes, "It sounds a bit silly coming from you, darling."
"Wow, mum, thanks..."
Sirius flashed Mrs. Potter a winning smile, and Mrs. Potter nodded daintily in return, the lid of her left eye lowering so subtly no one would blame you for missing it. Sirius didn't, and neither did James. James gave his mum a snippy look, nose scrunched and cheeks puffed, but ended up breaking character with a snuffy snort which sounded so stupid Sirius ended up sniggering behind his fist.
Mrs. Potter fluttered away their laughter with an imperious wave and turned back to Mr. Potter, "As I was saying, love, that new Professor is simply outrageous. We've already allowed him longer planning periods- of course, he did start so late in the year, you know, so it made some sort of sense. But now he's come calling upon the board insisting that he needs an assistant! The presumption of it all!"
Mr. Potter absently twisted the page of his evening paper -honestly, what was so fucking important that they needed two in a day?- and shuffled his fuzzily-footed feet beside the warmth of the fire. "He'll be gone by the end of the year, I reckon."
"Oh, I know that, but he's here now, and I'm here now…"
"Do you mean that Defense professor? Tattings?" Sirius asked after lazily taking James' Queen.
"I really shouldn't say…" Mrs. Potter said as she set her tea on the side table. Sirius, who had spent enough time with his cousins and their girlfriends to know that that actually meant they were dying to tell you, just leaned forward and waited. "Oh, but I suppose I already spoke of it. Yes, it is that… that man. None of his peers have them, what makes him think he's the exception?"
"He's a bit barmy, mum, might has well give him the boot." James swung his legs over the arms of the burgundy chaise, his face squishing in rage when he looked back at the chess table, "You bastard, I told you to leave them alone!"
"Mum!" James flopped back like a fish.
"You told me to stop taking your pawns. Never said a word about your Queen," Sirius grinned, sleek as dragon scales, and turned to hit his full charm on Mrs. Potter- smile crooked and eyes creased he said, "I think you'd make a wonderful professor yourself, Mrs. Potter. You've got a way with words, you know, and I'm sure you'd have half the student body at your heels."
"Oh hush, Sirius." Euphemia said with a laugh, waving her hand in front of her face and pretending -badly- that she wasn't blushing. Mr. Potter chuckled from behind his paper and murmured some silly, gentle teasing to his wife that only made her turn redder.
"Disgusting, the lot of you." James fiercely proclaimed, before throwing a pawn at Sirius' face and smirking when it smacks him in the eye. "Anyways, where's dinner? I'm starved."
"He hasn't any patience, love." Mrs. Potter said to her husband, "Where did we go wrong?"
Mr. Potter finally puts down his paper and asked, "If we tack on the nine months, would that make it eighteen years ago?"
The path was sheltered from the snow by the thick thatch of shingled roofs and swinging signs. Water, as ever, managed to find a way to drip, drip, drip down the slopes and through the slats before it spilled, ice hot, onto the tip of Hermione's nose.
"Lovely cloak." A twisted beggar hissed, her black fingers catching like barbs on the satin hem.
Hermione shuffled around her in a snap, her muttered thank you cutting absurdly through the alley's natural miasma.
She shuffled quickly through the winding stairways with their claustrophobic walls, determined to be unmolested, and let the dirty, leaning storefronts pass her like a picture book- a tavern with green tinged windows; displays filled with blinking eyes and twirling, hanging creatures; husky singing and echoing laughter behind a red painted door.
It seemed to take a million years, but eventually she found her destination. The window was blocked by thick black curtains, but she could read the sign clearly enough. The door jangled with bells when she entered, and the smell of mildew and mothballs hung as heavily as perfume.
The store's bookshelves stretched from floor to ceiling but their selection was sparse, and though the books that were available looked near to disintegrating, they were laid out as carefully as a king's jewels. The elderly man manning the counter was fast asleep, his golden monocle hanging haphazardly down his chest. There was only one other person in the store, but he was too slender to be who she was waiting for and she paid him little mind, save for where he hid the outline of his wand.
Hermione waited, and she browsed.
These were the types of books Hogwarts had kept behind locks and wards, lest too-smart boys with penchants for dark arts grab hold of them and read what cannot be unlearned. Dark curses, incurable poisons and destructions of the soul. She found herself before a tarnished glass case, the top irresponsibly left open, and placed her hand on the glass.
"Don't touch that."
She knew that voice, didn't she? She'd heard it's like before, dark and smoky, but this time it was different, raspier and yet somehow… primmer. Hermione twisted her head, just a little, and was startled despite herself.
It was Regulus, of course. Why wouldn't it be?
"I'm not." Hermione replied dryly, letting her hood hang low and her hair fall like a curtain between them.
She sees his face pinched between her dark curls, cold and condescending. "It's Montague's Mask of the Twelve." He said, like this was something everyone should know, and Hermione had a sudden insight into how she'd alienated herself as a child. "It's a powerfully cursed object. You'd never wake up."
"Yes, I can read." She gently closed the display, pressing until they both could hear the resounding click, and ran her fingers over the bumps of the bronze placard holder.
His eyes rove from the yellowing paper beneath her hand, up her arm, to the coils of her hair spilling out of her gray cloak. Hermione was sure he couldn't see her, let alone recognize her, but his eyes narrowed a by a fraction, a hair too aware to keep her comforted.
The door swung open, the bells rung jollily, and Antonin Dolohov arrived.
"Young Master Regulus and… Mlle. Gremillion. I wasn't aware you two knew one another."
"We don't." Regulus said, "I was just leaving."
"Hm. Well." Dolohov pulled down his black hood. His mouth smiled but his eyes were dark. "Send your mother my good regards then."
"Yes, I will. Good evening." Regulus said with cold precision. He cut Hermione one last long look, mouth twisted like his brother's did when he was trying to puzzle something out, and stormed out the door.
And then they were suddenly alone, and Hermione realized that all the planning in the world couldn't make her feel prepared.
Dolohov took his time to speak, a lackadaisical swagger in his step like he had all the time in the world. He wiped a finger along the shelves, examined the thick fuzz of dust, and asked, "Have you been admiring the wares?"
She sighed and looked back to the case, "They're interesting enough."
"I'd thought you'd find it so." He said, and she didn't need to look up to hear the smirk in his voice.
"Yes, well." She looked up, 'Get on with it' splashed plain across her face. She was relieved when he laughed. Perhaps she was playing this right after all?
"I'm glad you read my letter. Was it the gift that convinced you?"
"No." Hermione scowled, "And I did not come here to bandy words, Mr. Dolohov. You said you had need of me and I am here. If you won't tell me, then I have other places to be."
"Very well then. I would have us speak somewhere more… private. If you would follow me?"
me: haha next chapter should be out in the next few days!1!
also me: *one month later*
TO BE FAIR... I've been doing some Dragon Age stuff, as well as outlining a new project. If any of you are into weird AU's and Tomoine then you should keep a tab on my profile over the next few days (or next month? lol). Anyways, sorry for the wait, and sorry it's so short! That's just... where it wanted to end? These things happen haha.
I've also mildly revamped some of the earlier chapters, and am looking to fix up some of the newer ones as well. It's nothing drastic, just some extra foreshadowing I forgot to put it because I'm a loser who posts her first draft. Thanks for reading, byeeee!