Summary: "That's what I like about you," He told her, his fingers pressed against her pulse, "You don't believe in fairytales," His thumb traced the curve of her jaw and she watched his eyes flash red for a single, dream-like moment, "Do you believe in nightmares?" Tomione.
Hermione's parents died two weeks before Christmas. Car accident. And the train ticket that bought her a trip from Brighton to London, carefully tucked away in her top dresser drawer, saw her dressed in black to an empty house to sort out a funeral, rather than to her parent's happy smiles and waiting arms and Christmas cheer.
It was a horrible Christmas, that year.
She put off dealing with her parents home which she now owned—rent free, passed down from her mother's mother, to her mother, now to her—put off moving back to the bustling city of London and the childhood memories it brought, put off her plans of university. She was happier to forget it, happier to shut herself away in her little Brighton flat with her two best friends, working in an office that she hated, paying rent that was too high and spending her days coping with the death of her only family by sitting at the seaside because at least that looked nothing like London, nothing like all the little things that reminded her of her parents.
"They're in a better place now," Harry told her once, because while he was certainly no saint he had always been the most religious of the three of them. Hermione wanted to believe him, wanted to pretend that there was a place where they would go, where her parents watched over her, but as hard as she tried, she couldn't.
"I know," She told him instead of arguing, because she was too tired to argue. She was too tired of everything.
She comforted herself by reading, in the months that followed. Reading classics, modern fiction, poetry, academic journals, every moment spent outside of work or just staring at the sea as if it would make her forget, she read. It wasn't altogether unusual, not to her nor her friends nor her colleagues, because she often read anyway, but her old battered copies of dearly loved novels weren't enough to distract her anymore.
It was the subject matter that, inevitably, began to worry people.
"Hermione," Harry and Ron sat her down one evening, brows puckered, Ron was picking at the loose threads on his jumper and Harry was running his hand through his hair again and again and again, "We understand you're going through a lot right now, but we're a bit worried about…" weakly he gestured to the book sitting on the kitchen counter.
She wanted to roll her eyes, to scoff and say they were overreacting, but truthfully she had expected this reaction when she bought the book. "Calm down," She told them, directing most of the statement toward Harry because he was running his hand through his hair again, "I'm not worshipping the devil."
"You have a book that's literally called 'The Satanic Bible,' but you're not worshipping the devil?" Ron griped, his eyes jumping from her, to the book, back to her.
"It's not really a bible," She explained, "And it's not really satanic, He just uses the idea and the name of satan as an antithesis of god and organized religion, he—just, please stop worrying." She turned away from their faces pinched with worry to eye her pasta on the stove, "I just find it interesting."
"Alright," Harry agreed carefully, "Then could you maybe just…not read it in public?"
Hermione scoffed, "I will read it wherever I please."
"Hermione—" Ron groaned, but as she turned her eyes to glower at the two of them she saw Harry hit Ron in the stomach. They looked between each other, like they were struggling to bring something up, and she cautiously turned toward them.
"What?" She asked, equal parts suspicion and trepidation.
"We were thinking," Harry started, "About you, and everything—"
"With your parents and all—" Ron added, then winced, as if the very subject of her parents was too sensitive and issue to breech. Given the way she usually reacted to the mention of her parents, it was a fair response on his part.
"And you know, you always said that one day you wanted to—well, we thought—"
"We should all move to London!" Ron finally blurted out, throwing his hands up in some sort of celebratory gesture. Hermione stared incredulously between the two of them.
"That's ridiculous," She said, when both of them failed to elaborate, "Why would we move to London? I don't want to move to London."
"Well, we know you tend to deal with things better if you have a distraction," Harry explained, "And we know you've been planning on going to university so you don't have to work in an office job forever—"
"Or at least work in an office job that you like—" Ron corrected.
"And student loans would cover tuition—"
"But rent would be—"
"So if we stayed at your parents house—"
"Then you can deal with their death and get your degree at the same time! Two in one!"
Their words overlapped, their message clumsy and hard to decipher when they were both speaking over each other, but she understood the gist of it, understood that what they said was out of concern and a desperate attempt to help her, but she felt something like anger build up in her chest regardless.
"Are you out of your minds?" She snapped, turning fully away from the stove and placing one hand on her hip, "I don't want to live in my dead parents house and attend university. That's the stupidest idea I've ever heard—"
"It's not the stupidest idea you've ever heard—" Ron began to disagree, but she cut him off.
"I am dealing just fine," She insisted sharply, "As fine as to be expected of someone who just lost both her parents in a night, just before Christmas."
"Hermione, it's been three months and you still refuse to talk about it," Harry insisted gently, "You can't just…avoid it forever." When he approached her, she couldn't find it in herself to be truly angry at him, not when he was looking at her with wide, green eyes, carefully reaching for her as if she might break. His hand met her shoulder, and she still hadn't found it within herself to snap back or pull away. "I know what it's like to lose your parents," He said quietly, "And you can't just refuse to face it."
"You just told me to distract myself with University," She pointed out.
"Well, I meant," He corrected himself, taking a pause to choose his words, "That we don't expect you to just…drown in the memories of your parents. University would be a good…outlet," He squeezed her shoulder, "And we'll be there. They always need teachers in London, so I'll get a job, and Ron'll find a job somewhere."
Hermione felt something well in her throat, speaking so candidly about her parents death, so she turned away form him and back to her pasta on the stove. "I don't want to." She told him.
But she thought about it, and they went in the end.
By August of that year, Hermione had improved quite a bit, and when she packed up her things and prepared to travel back to London, to the house that hadn't been touched since December of the previous year, she was even ready to face it alone for a week before Harry and Ron joined her. They helped her pack, helped her carry her things into the boot of the car, even rode back to London with her to help her unpack in the house, help her settle in, even though they wouldn't be moving until the following week.
"You don't have to move with me, you know," She had told them, months ago, when she first came around to the idea, "You don't have to change your lives for me."
"I always wanted to live in London," Ron shrugged, a lopsided grin on his face,, "This is for me, not you. Maybe it's about time you get over yourself."
She appreciated the flippancy, appreciated the fact that they didn't push it, didn't try and make her talk about it, and that they didn't question her decision when she said she wanted to move to London a week before they did. The truth of the matter was she wasn't sure how she would react when she moved back home, and she didn't really want them to see her reaction until she knew what to expect.
The truth of the matter was, the more she thought about it and the closer they got to moving, the less she wanted them to go with her. She felt somewhat territorial over her childhood home, over the memories it held. The thought of sharing it with anyone other than her parents made her feel uneasy, irritable. It was a feeling she hoped would fade with the week she spent on her own, because as odd as she felt about sharing her home with them, she truly did like living with Harry and Ron. She didn't want them to stay behind, she just also didn't want to have them stay in her house.
She hoped that would go away.
"I see you brought your devil worshipping shit with you," Ron said dryly when he tore open the box containing some of her books. That book had become well read, thoroughly annotated, and Ron and Harry never seemed to completely reconcile themselves with the fact that she actually found it fascinating. She laughed, rolled her eyes, and plucked the book from his hand.
"Yes, I'm just rereading the part about human sacrifice," She joked, placing it on the living room table. "I'm debating whether it should be you or Harry."
"Definitely Ron!" Harry piped up from the kitchen where he was setting Crookshanks's carrier on the ground, letting him out. Immediately Crookshanks started pawing at the back screen door, so Hermione hurried over to let him out. Harry threw a grin over his shoulder from where he could see Ron in the doorway, "Virgin blood and all that."
"Oi shut the hell up!" Ron snapped, his cheeks flaring, "I'm not—"
"Right, because you fucked Lavender Brown," Harry drawled disbelievingly, "She'd be out of her mind to settle for you—"
"You know, I think you've been spending too much time with that prat Malfoy—"
"Stop!" Hermione snapped, but without any real anger. She rolled her eyes, a smile playing on her lips, and she started toward the door to get the last box out of the car, "Do not start with that again,"
"Mind if we look around?" Harry called after her, seemingly content to drop the pseudo-argument him and Ron had been in the middle of. She wanted to say no, wanted to tell him to keep his nose out of her stuff, but she reminded herself that this would be their home soon, too.
"Knock yourself out!" She called over her shoulder instead, stepping barefoot out onto the warm pavement and making her way to the car. It was hot, the last month of summer and the city seemed to hold onto the heat with every ounce of its strength, and she could already feel the sweat collecting at the back of her neck and at her forehead. She piled her curls on top of her head in a bun, before hoisting the last box into her arms out of the back seat, kicking the door closed as she made her way back to the front door.
It was a quiet street, though close to the city, only about a five minute walk from the nearest tube station. She paused on her trek toward the open front door to peer up at the house, and just the sight of it looming over her in the thick summer heat made her feel uneasy, overwhelmed by the memory of it, the knowledge that everything was different now.
She shook her head, cleared her throat, and entered the house.
"Mione!" Ron called when she entered, and he waved something over his head. At first she thought it was a piece of cardboard, or a sign, or part of a box. "You ever used this before?"
She set the box down, padded over to where Ron was knelt in front of the cupboard under the stairs rifling through the boxes of things that had remained untouched since she was a child, probably before then. "What is it?" She asked, taking it from his hands. She recognized it before he answered, but let him answer it anyway.
"Ouija board," He told her, "One of those things you talk to the dead with," Hermione scoffed, rolling her eyes at the notion and handing it back to him, rising to her feet and returning to her box on the floor. Once it was hoisted in her arms, she started toward the stairs, planning to drop it off in her bedroom.
"No, I haven't used it," She said, "A bunch of bollocks, anyway."
"You could use it to talk to your Dark Lord!" He called after her, his loud laughter seemed to follow her up the stairs. When she pushed open the door to her bedroom—her old bedroom, the one she always stayed in when she visited home—she felt her chest tighten. How many nights did they tuck her into bed here, how many times did her mother sit on that bed with her and read her a story or talk to her about her studies or lecture her for forgetting to brush her teeth? How many times did her father check her closet for monsters as a child or lecture her on the mess she left all across her floor? He nails dug into the cardboard of the box in her arms.
"What's that arsehole laughing about?" Harry said from behind her, and she jumped, nearly dropping everything on the floor. Harry laughed, catching teh box before she dropped it, taking it from her and setting it on her bed, "Sorry," He apologized for scaring her.
"He found a Ouija board," She answered, ignoring his apology because it was her fault for getting so wrapped up in her thoughts. Harry's eyebrows jumped up high on his forehead.
"A Ouija board?" He asked incredulously, "You own a Ouija board?"
"I don't know," She laughed, stepping next to him to open up the box, "He found it under the stairs. My family hasn't touched any of that for ages."
"That's hilarious," Harry commented, a bit dryly, "Maybe you can go over all your annotations with the author," She narrowed her eyes, knowing exactly what he was referring to without even needing him to elaborate.
"You are both so irritating," She told him flatly, and he laughed loudly in response as he turned toward her door, likely planning on joining Ron, "The devil didn't write it!" She called after him, "The devil doesn't exist!"
"Agree to disagree!" Harry called back, already out of sight. She sighed, turning back to glance around he room. The ache remained, but she didn't want to dwell on it now, not while her friends were downstairs rummaging through her house. She moved toward the window, pulled the curtains open to allow the sunlight in, opening up the window to try and allow the breeze in as well.
When she returned downstairs, Ron and Harry had moved on to the liquor cabinet in the kitchen.
"Oi, Hermione!" Ron bellowed, waving a large bottle of wine over his head as Harry shuffled through the spirits, "What do you say we celebrate a little, huh?"
"Celebrate what, Ron?" She asked, her hands on her hips as she eyed the both of them.
"Rent free living in London!" Harry answered, finally deciding on withdrawing a bottle of whiskey from the cabinet and turning to Hermione with a grin.
"Don't you two need to drive back?" She asked.
"We can get a train," Harry said dismissively, "We got most of the stuff down here already, so we won't need a car coming back." He withdrew three glasses from the cabinet, holding them in one hand by the rims of the glasses and brushing past her into the living room with a grin, Ron following and dragging her behind him by the arm.
They sat in the living room, Hermione sandwiched between her boys on the couch that was truthfully only meant for two people, chatting and laughing and drinking and she was pleased to note that her home didn't feel as desolate with the two of them there. It was different, and it was different in a way that she couldn't tell if she liked, but she appreciated it just the same. Her home was already different without her parents there, even more different now that it was her and her two best friends. It was just different.
She stopped drinking after a glass of wine, fearful that if she got too drunk she would get too emotional, but Harry and Ron continued until they were suitably tipsy, cheeks flushed and laughs too loud. They drank until that wasn't enough anymore, wasn't fun enough, and in an attempt to find something to occupy their time, they decided it might be a good idea to retrieve that Ouija board from the cupboard.
Well, Ron thought it was a good idea.
"This is so stupid," Harry piped up at Hermione side while Ron retrieved the board from where he had left it, but he was laughing, seemingly at ease, "You don't mess with this shit, my friend."
"Shut up, you tosser," Ron laughed as he came back around the couch, laying the board on the table and sitting just in front of the couch to be nearer to it. He tugged on Hermione's ankle to try and sway her to sit beside him, and she only raised an eyebrow in response. "Oh, come on!" Ron griped, "It'll be fun! We're christening the house!"
"Did you just use the term 'christening' to refer to using a Ouija board?" Hermione laughed, "Don't people usually do this stuff at night, not at Four o'clock in the afternoon?"
"You two suck the fun out of everything," Ron groaned, "Come on! I've never used one of these."
"Well," Harry shrugged, sliding on the floor as well, pulling Hermione a bit harder than Ron did in order to pull her off the couch, "I'm not gonna piss on the fun."
"This is stupid," Hermione rolled her eyes. "But I'll do just about anything to shut you up."
"Anything?" Ron waggled his eyebrows and Hermione shoved him hard enough to make him fall over.
"Isn't there a thing?" Harry asked, gesturing vaguely to the board. Ron pushed himself back up into a sitting position and looked from the board to Harry once before answering.
"A what?" He asked.
"You know, a thing?" Harry answered vaguely, making the shape of a triangle with his fingers and pointing at the board, "A thing to do the—the thing—"
"What?" Ron asked again, this time a bit harsher, as if he thought Harry was being an idiot.
"The planchette," Hermione clarified. Ron's face screwed up in confusion.
"It's the thing with the hole and it does the thing!" Harry snapped, pointing at the letters on the board again, and Ron's face lit up with understanding.
"Oh!" He started with a grin, setting his hand on Hermione's head and using her to push himself to his feet. "Of course you know what it's called," He joked as she smacked him in the leg, "Our little satanist."
"I'm not a satanist!" She snapped.
"Yeah maybe she's actually the devil," Harry joked, his words somewhat slurred together, "This is her plan to trick us into something so she can drag us into hell."
"Neither of you need me to drag you into hell, you will get there all on your own," Hermione rolled her eyes, stretching her legs out under the table and crossing her arm as Ron rifled through the space under the stairs to try and find the planchette.
"Ooh!" Harry crowed, "That's a good one. I'll have to use that on Malfoy."
"Oh, right, let's just talk about Malfoy again—" Ron griped form behind them.
"Shut up, you prick!" Harry called back with a grin, slinging his arm around Hermione's shoulders. Quietly, so that only she would hear, he asked, "Are you alright?"
She was startled by the question, mostly because she had assumed in their drunkness they might've forgotten that this was the first time she had set foot in this house since she had returned to London for the funeral. But she was also a bit startled because, at the moment, she truly did feel alright, didn't feel weighed down by the loss of her parents. She felt it, surely, in every moment she spent in that house without them, but she didn't feel suffocated by it like she thought she might.
So she nodded, offered a small smile to make sure he knew she meant it.
"Found the bloody thing!" Ron said, a bit louder than what was necessary, as he plopped down on the floor next to her. He held the planchette in his hand, "This is it, right?"
"Yeah," Harry nodded, removing his arm from Hermione's shoulders, "So now what do we do?" Ron shrugged. "Well are there any instructions—?"
"I am not going back and going through all that shite for instructions—"
"Calm down," Hermione rolled her eyes, "I'll look it up on my phone."
"I'll set the mood!" Harry announced, jumping up and moving toward the large windows at the front of the house and pulling the curtains shut, so that hardly any of the sunlight made its way into the room.
"For someone who said not to mess with this stuff, you sure seem excited," Hermione commented dryly, pulling up an article online on how to start the game. She thought it was all rather silly, but she had long since gotten used to going along with Harry and Ron's stupid ideas, because god knows if she didn't they would get themselves into trouble. Harry shrugged in the dim light of the room as he sat beside her once more.
"Never done one before," He commented, "Gotta do it at least once, right?"
"Maybe we can talk to your parents, Mione," Ron said at her other side, and her head snapped up to send him a furious glare. He jumped when she did, startled by the anger, and turned his eyes down to the board.
"That's not funny, Ronald." She snapped.
"Sorry," He said quickly. She hesitated for a moment, considering just stopping the game altogether before it even started. But his apology sounded genuine, and it certainly wasn't the first time he had said something stupid while drunk—it certainly wasn't the worst thing he had said while drunk—and he did look quite contrite, staring down at the board like a thoroughly scolded child.
"It's alright," She conceded after a moment, not wanting to give up the comforting distraction that her friends offered. If she had to play a stupid game—what was likely a silly attempt on their part to frighten her—in order to keep up the lighthearted atmosphere that they offered to this house, then she would play it.
She plucked the planchette from Ron's hand, setting it on the board on the 'G' as her phone instructed her, tugging them both closer to her on either side so they all sat in front of the board. They each placed a hand on the piece, while Hermione read the instructions on her phone in her other hand.
"I guess you just ask it questions," Hermione muttered, locking her phone and setting it by her side, "Who wants to ask?"
Neither Ron nor Harry said anything.
"Do you two honestly believe in this stuff?" Hermione asked, glancing between the two of them who had suddenly fallen rather quiet, considering their previous boisterous, drunken behavior.
"Well, yeah," Harry shrugged, and Ron nodded on her other side.
She rolled her eyes, "Alright, I'll start," She said, "Are there any spirits here?"
Silence, and no movement on the board.
"Do we have to say something else, to start it, or—?" Ron asked.
"No," She interrupted "We just start asking questions."
"Maybe they didn't hear," Harry offered.
With a long-suffering sigh, Hermione rolled her shoulders and asked again, "Are there any spirits here?"
Still nothing, still no movement on the board.
"Maybe they don't like the word spirits," Ron suggested, "Maybe that's derogatory—"
"Oh for god's—Is there anything in this room with us."
"This is ridiculous," Hermione sighed, ready to move her hands away from the piece when it suddenly moved, her fingers following the movement of the piece until it hovered over the word 'yes.'
Hermione turned to look at Ron, who looked just as gobsmacked as she did, before looking at Harry who burst into excited laughter.
"Harry—" Hermione began reproachfully.
"It wasn't me, I swear!"
"Ask it another question!"
Hermione looked between them, her eyebrows coming together in annoyance, but she sighed and turned her eyes back to the planchette which remained over the word 'yes' on the board. She didn't really like this anymore, knowing that Harry or Ron were playing some sort of prank but wouldn't admit it, but she also wasn't about to pull her hand away. If she did that they would think she believed it, that she stopped because she was scared. She gritted her teeth.
"Alright, um…" She thought, shaking her head as she did, "What is your name?"
There was a brief hesitation, before the piece moved across the board, slowly, stopping on the 'm,' then the 'a,' the 'n,' and finally the 'y.'
"Many," Hermione echoed, rolling her eyes.
"Many?" Ron echoed as well.
"It has many names, I presume," Hermione sighed, "What do you prefer to be called, then?"
The piece moved quite quickly this time, decisively, and Hermione muttered the letters under her breath as it moved, committing them to memory, until it finally stopped. "Voldemort?" She snorted, turning to give Harry a look because that seemed like exactly the type of ridiculous name he would come up with.
"What?" Harry demanded, looking decidedly ill at ease. Hermione rolled her eyes.
"Sounds like a storybook villain," She muttered, "Are you at least a nice—" She almost said spirit, but it didn't seem to like that term, so she said, "Whatever you are?"
The piece moved slowly, until it hovered over the word 'no.'
There was a beat of silence. "Okay," Harry said, drawing out the word, "Maybe we should put this away—"
"Oh please," Hermione scoffed, absolutely positive at this point that it must be Harry who was messing with them, if not both Harry and Ron messing with her, "Are you evil, then?" She clarified.
It moved, looked as if it was headed toward the word 'yes,' but it stopped hallway there and doubled back to the word 'no.' She wasn't sure what the point of that was, to be honest. If they were trying to scare her, one would think they would move it to 'yes.'
"Ask it why it's here," Ron suggested, at the same time that Harry said, "We should probably put this away now—"
"Why are you here?" Hermione asked, indulging Ron, watching the planchette shift about the board to spell 'you.'
"You?" Ron sneered, "What does 'you' mean?"
"Let's just—" Harry started.
"What do you want?" Hermione clarified, and despite herself she was starting to find this whole scenario rather intriguing. It was a bit early for this sort of thing—October was still a month and a half away—but the idea of it was interesting, the idea of conversing with a spirit. And it certainly was creepy, especially the way it, once again, spelled out the word 'you,' as if she was supposed to know what that meant.
"Honestly, can we put this away now?" Harry asked again, and Hermione was surprised to see that he looked genuinely unnerved by the whole thing. She couldn't find even an inkling of evidence that he was faking it. Not Harry then, she thought, it must be Ron. Turning back to him she raised an eyebrow before turning back to the planchette.
"When I was eleven, I spent the entire year reading through one book trying to memorize it, what book was it?"
"What the bloody hell kind of question is that?" Ron demanded, and she turned to him with a sort of victorious smile.
"Don't know the answer to that one, do you?" She challenged. He wrinkled his nose.
"No, I bloody well don't—what's the point of that question—"
But the planchette moved beneath their fingers, upsetting their conversation, and Hermione's smile fell with the surprise of the motion. When it hovered over the 'b,' briefly, she felt something was clutching at her chest, stilling her breath. It continued, stopping over the 'i,' back to 'b,' the 'l,' the 'e.'
"Bible?" Ron asked a bit skeptically, and Hermione couldn't breathe.
"I—" She stuttered, "I went to catholic school and the nuns were always quoting the bible at me, I wanted to be able to quote it back to—neither of you knew that, though." She looked between them, feeling increasingly uneasy, that weight in her chest remaining as both boys looked at her in equal parts confusion and discomfort.
"Let's just say goodbye—" Harry started, but Ron cut him off.
"Ask it to do something, make a noise or—"
"No, that is a bad idea—" Harry interrupted.
"What do you want?" Hermione asked instead, forgetting in her discomfort that she had already asked that once before. Still, it paused over three letters, y-o-u, and feeling a bit panicked she asked, "You? What is you? What does that mean? Which one of us?"
It moved quickly this time, not the slow movement it had been doing before, started at the 'h,' moved to the 'e'—
"Oh for god's sake—" Hermione finally snapped, pulling her hand away from the planchette and snatching the board up.
"Hermione!" Harry called after her as she practically charged into the kitchen, "You're not supposed to do that, you're supposed to say goodbye or—"
"Stop, Harry!" She called back, shoving the board into the bin and dropping the planchette in as well, "I'm done with this, it isn't funny, it's stupid, and I'm done!"
"End of discussion!" She snapped,
"But I didn't do it!" Harry protested, looking to Ron.
"I didn't do it either!"
"Obviously one of you is lying," Hermione insisted, crossing her arms in the doorway of the kitchen. Harry had turned to face her when she spoke, but he turned back to Ron with an accusatory glare.
"I didn't do it!" Ron insisted.
"Enough!" Hermione snapped, "We're not talking about it anymore!"
They dropped the subject, moved on, the three of them forgot about the Ouija board without any of them admitting to faking it, but they weren't quite able to work their way back to the pleasant, relaxed atmosphere as before. Hermione felt the loss of it immediately, the sudden tense atmosphere in the room, the way the house suddenly felt inundated with something dark and unsettling and she wondered if it was the grief over her parents, creeping back into her head now that the camaraderie had faded away. They ignored the shift, though, turned on the telly and watched some shit program together until the late evening.
They had to leave, eventually, still a bit tipsy but sober enough to make their way to the station and grab a train home. She hugged and kissed them goodbye at the door, with promises to see them in a week, and whereas a few hours ago she would have been happy to see them leave, happy to have her home to herself, not sharing it with anyone, now she wished they would stay.
She hadn't been able to get rid of that strange feeling in her chest all evening, the one that settled over her the moment they arrived at that house. For all the hours she spent with them, it remained like a weight against her chest, and it only seemed to get worse from the very moment she shut the door behind them. Alone, she left the telly on, sat on the couch with her knees tucked to her chest and the curtains open so the sunlight of the late evening could fill the room.
She didn't cry, which she was thankful for, she had spent quite enough time crying when her parents had died nearly a year ago. But that feeling remained, heavy on her shoulders, like everything was wrong and couldn't be fixed. She sat there in silence, hardly watching the television, lost in thought, and she could remember where her father always sat, could picture him across form her in his chair that still sat there now. He loved to watch those game shows in the evenings, trivia shows, and he would get all the questions wrong and still maintain that he should go on one. Her mother would sit beside Hermione on the couch, muttering the correct answers under her breath and laughing at her father's attempts.
Before Hermione realized it, the sun had set and the light had abandoned her, the only light in the room coming from the flickering of the TV. She stretched her legs out in front of her on the couch, wincing at the cramping of her thighs, and she took a deep breath before rising to her feet.
She moved through the kitchen, stopping at the box Harry had set on the kitchen floor containing Crookshanks's things, his food and toys that he ignored and the scratching post he also ignored for the sake of ruining all their furniture. She grabbed a cup from the cupboard, dipped it into his food, and slid open the sliding glass door. She shook the food in the cup, calling his name. "Crookshanks!" She called, remembering all the times she had done this before she moved to Brighton and brought Crooks with her—she was lucky he adapted to new environments well, although he had never quite gotten used to being an indoor cat when she wouldn't allow him outside the flat in Brighton—she shook his food and called for him again. "Crooks!"
She lowered the cup of his food with a groan when he still refused to show himself. She had forgotten how difficult it was to lure him in once he got out.
She heard something in the house, jerked around to peer over her shoulder into the dark room. She hadn't turned the lights on yet, had planned to leave them off since she as going to head upstairs to bed soon. It sounded distant, not anywhere near her, likely from upstairs. It could be nothing, she knew, something falling over, but then she thought she heard something else—a whisper or a breath or—she whirled around to face the inside of the house completely.
Nothing was there. The whisper she thought she heard was probably the wind.
Carefully, she stepped in and shut the door behind her, turning the lock and setting the cup of food on the counter. She didn't realize until that moment that she hadn't spent a night alone in years, always having Harry or Ron or her parents or someone, and she chalked it up to that and the strange moment of hysteria she had with the Ouija board that made her heart pound in her chest.
She was being irrational. She needed to calm down. No one was in her house.
Still, she pulled a knife from the drawer and held it in her hand, held her phone in the other poised to dial the police if she needed to. There was no one in her house, she knew that, she kept telling herself that, but she remembered pulling open her window when she first arrived and she just kept thinking that somehow that meant her worries were valid, pictured someone climbing in and waiting for her.
She quietly crept up the stairs, switched the lights on as she went, uncaring that it would alert whoever was there—if anyone was there—that she was coming up the stairs, she just needed to be able to see. She didn't know why she had the knife, wasn't sure she would actually use it, but she kept it on her anyway just to set her at ease.
She checked her room first, the window still open. She switched her light on and glanced around, walked toward the window and shut it, careful not to accidentally call the cops as she used that hand to lock the window. She was being paranoid, she knew she was, but it didn't make her stop as she crept toward the closet and threw the door open.
Nothing except her old clothes she had left behind. She thought her parents had gotten rid of those.
She sighed, her shoulders sagging, and she knew how ridiculous she was being. She checked the other rooms without her phone poised to call the police and with the knife held loosely at her side, leaving the lights on as she went, just checking so she could prove to herself that there was nothing to worry about.
Once everything was checked, she pocketed her phone in her shorts and rubbed her forehead tiredly. "Don't go losing your mind now, Hermione," She chastised herself.
All the lights went out.
She jerked violently, her heart leaping into her throat as she glanced around in the dark. Catching her breath, calming herself a bit, she muttered a couple expletives under her breath. Had she paid the electric bill? She was certain she had paid the electric bill.
She felt her fingers curling around the knife in apprehension and she couldn't even stop it, couldn't stop the fear welling up in her throat. She slowly made her way down the stairs, intent on getting her keys and just getting the fuck out of her house and anywhere else, anywhere out of this house that for some reason terrified her. There was a logical explanation for this she knew. No one was in her house, the noise she heard was in her head, something hadn't been communicated right with the electric company and that was why the lights went out, the Ouija board was a stupid prank that Ron and Harry didn't want to admit to because they feared facing her anger. She was grieving. She was afraid of being alone and she was grieving, she didn't need to be afraid, nothing was wrong—
She reached the bottom of the stairs and it was so dark she couldn't see anything except for silhouettes. She reached for the place they always hung their keys when she lived there and swore under her breath when she didn't feel them there, recalling tha tHarry drove there and probably just set the keys down whoever he first set a box down. She lifted her phone out of her pocket and used the flashlight to make sure she wouldn't trip over anything, moving the light around the room so that she could search any flat surfaces for the keys.
She reached the kitchen, shined her light on the counter to her right, and it felt like her blood turned to ice.
The keys were there, on the edge of the counter, but what caught her attention were the ripped pieces of the Ouija board scattered across the counter. She remembered stopping the game, the unease she felt when the piece started spelling out what she was certain would be her name, she had dumped the board into the trash and left it there, and it had still been there when Harry and Ron left. Now, the pieces were ripped out of the board, torn out somehow by someone, and they spelled her name on the counter. Hermione, in a jagged line of torn and worn letters.
She felt hands on her shoulders, heavy and startling, but the feeling of them was gone the moment she whirled around. She dropped the knife on accident, her phone clutched in her hand to shine the light in front of her and all she saw was blood. Blood on the floor and on the screen door and she saw the bloody matted fur of her cat hanging in front of the closed screen door and she screamed.
She grabbed the keys and ran, stepping on the knife on the floor with her bare foot on accident but not slowing down, hurrying out the front door and unlocking her car, getting in and slamming the door shut, locking it and checking the back seat and the boot once she was safely inside to make sure no one else was there. Sitting down in the backseat, she turned her flashlight off and dialed 9-9-9 with shaking fingers. Jesus Christ, someone was in her house, someone had killed—
She dissolved into panicked tears the moment the operator answered the phone, barely able to choke out that someone was in her house and they killed her cat and no, she didn't see them, no, she isn't in the house, please, please hurry. They stayed on the line with her, trying to clam her down, but Hermione thoughts were already running away with themselves, telling her that coming back to London was a mistake, all of this was a mistake, she was an idiot, she was—
Her foot hurt like hell, and she hoisted it up in her lap to examine the wound. It wasn't deep, she had barely caught the edge of the knife on her foot as she scrambled away, but it still bled quiet a lot and it had stained the floor of her backseat where her foot had been resting.
When she lifted her eyes from her foot, gradually calming down and responding to the operator's questions, she saw that the TV had turned back on. She could see it through the window where she was sat in the back seat of her car, so she crawled forward into the drivers seat to see the upstairs light had turned on as well. The electricity was back.
And her bedroom window was open.
When the police arrived, Hermione threw herself out of her car and hurried toward the two police cars, ignoring the wound on her foot, ignoring the bloody footprint she left along the pavement, and she reached the flashing cop car before they even got out of the car.
"Ma'am!" The officer climbing out of the drivers seat huffed in surprise when Hermione went barreling into him, "Are you alright?"
"I'm fine," She said breathlessly, panicked, "There's someone inside, they—they killed my cat—in—in the kitchen—"
"Alright," He soothed, turning to the other officer in the car as well as the ones climbing out of the second cop car, "McLaggen!" He barked, "Stay with the girl," He turned back to her and assured her gently, "Don't worry, you're going to be fine, we'll go in and make sure it's safe."
She nodded, allowed him to turn her into the arms of the other officer—McLaggen—who offered her a wide smile as the other three officers went in. She watched, her eyes wide and her breath shaky. The officer at her side patted her back and left his hand there as a gesture of comfort.
"It'll be okay," He assured her. She didn't quite see the necessity of the statement—it wouldn't be okay, she would be safe for the time being, but the fact remained that someone got in her house and killed her cat, so she didn't really think that qualified as 'okay'—but she just nodded in agreement.
"Name's McLaggen, by the way," He told her. She turned to meet his eyes, confused at the introduction.
"Right." She agreed. She had heard the other officer call him that.
"Cormac McLaggen." He clarified.
She hesitated. "Hermione Granger." She introduced herself blankly, wondering if he was trying to distract her or calm her, his hand was still at her back for comfort and she had her arms wrapped around her waist. She noticed his eyes dip down in what she thought at first was in order to make sure she was uninjured, but due to his complete ignorance of the wound on her foot—which was still bleeding—she figured he was most likely just looking at her bare legs.
Not comfort, then.
She was getting ready to tell him to get his hand off of her back and cease from speaking to her when one of the officers emerged from the house, approaching the pair of them with a strange look on his face. His brow was furrowed, but he was lacking the stern, serious expression that he had a moment ago when he passed her over toe McLaggen. He looked confused now, concerned.
"Uh—Miss, what was your name?" He asked first as he approached her.
"Hermione Granger," She told him, "Did you find them?"
He cast a glance at McLaggen, one that held too much judgmental concern for her to feel comfortable with the exchange. "Miss Granger," He said, meeting her eyes again, "What did you say you saw in there?"
Hermione hesitated. "My…my cat…" She stuttered, confused at the expression on his face. Hadn't he seen it? Shouldn't he know what was in there? "My cat is dead."
That look passed between McLaggen and the unnamed officer, and she felt herself getting more and more frustrated with it. "Miss Granger," The officer in front of her said slowly, "I'm very sorry to hear that. Did your cat die in the house—" She shoved past him, ignoring the call of her name and the pain in her foot, hurrying into the kitchen.
Nothing was there. No blood, no torn pieces of the Ouija board. Her knife had fallen to the floor, and it remained where she had left it, but everything else was exactly the same as the way it was before the power went out. She moved to the bin, pulled the Ouija board out only to see that it was perfectly intact, nothing torn out, all the letters exactly where they should be.
Then she heard a meow—more like a yowl, really—and she turned to see Crookshanks pacing impatiently outside the screen door. She gasped out his name, sobbed as she moved to the door and unlocked it, slid it open so she could scoop up the irritated feline in her arms and she refused to let go even as he squirmed to try and get away. She buried her face in his fur, sniffling, crying, thankful that none of it was real but terrified because how could it not be real? She had seen it, how could it not be real?
She turned and saw the two police officers watching her, joined now by the other two—a man and a woman she hadn't spoken to—watching her carefully. Crookshanks briefly stilled in her arms when he noticed them.
"Miss Granger?" The older officer whom she had spoken to outside said gently, prompting an explanation.
"I'm—I'm so sorry," She said, "I—I suppose…" She took a deep, calming breath, trying to find her words, anything to get them to stop looking at her like she was crazy, "I just lost my parents," She said, hoping the grieving excuse would stop them from assuming she was playing a prank or losing her goddamn mind, anything to keep them from dragging her away to a mental hospital or— "This is my first time staying in the house alone and I think…I freaked myself out."
The older policeman frowned, but it wasn't disbelieving, it seemed like more of an understanding expression. She avoided their eyes, bring her face in Crookshanks fur when he started squirming again. "Are you going to be alright?" He asked her.
"Yes, I—" She set Crookshanks down and he bolted away, dashing through the police offers' legs and hiding under the couch. "I'm so sorry for wasting your time,"
"We just want to know you're alright," The woman piped up, eyeing her with concern. Hermione nodded stiffly.
"I'll walk you out," She said instead of assuring them, because as much as she wanted them to stop looking at her like she was about to have a mental breakdown, she couldn't find the words to set them at ease. She had seen the kitchen, the blood, her name on the counter. She had seen it.
"Are you sure you're alright?" The older policeman insisted once she had ushered them outside. She nodded again, offering a terse smile.
"I'm—my friends will be living with me soon, I just—" She shook her head and lied, "I'm alright. I'm sorry for the false alarm."
"It can be hard to lose family." He said comfortingly. It seemed like he was waiting for her to say something, but she didn't, so after a moment of silence he nodded and patted her once on the shoulder. "Don't be afraid to call if something happens."
She thought they were being awfully considerate considering she could be a prankster, for all they knew. She must look like a right mess for them to believe this had been a genuine mistake. He gestured down to her foot, "Is that going to be okay—?"
"Fine," She assured him quickly, robotically, "It's just a scratch."
"Alright." He nodded, "We'll get going then. Have a good night."
He turned away, started toward the police cars as the others followed him. McLaggen hovered for a moment before he reached out for her, a hand at her arm in what she couldn't tell was supposed to be friendly or flirtations. When she caught sight of his smile she figured flirtatious was a safe bet. He handed her a slip of paper, and scrawled on it was his name and a series of numbers. She gritted her teeth, raising her eyes back up to meet his and not even attempting to disguise her annoyance. "Just give me a call if you get scared alone," He told her, and it might've been sweet if it weren't for the rather suggestive glint in his eye when he added, "Or if you need anything."
"Thank you." She seethed, and his grin grew even wider before he finally released her arm and sauntered away. She wasn't sure it was entirely appropriate to be picking up women on call as a policeman, and his partner didn't seem to think so either as he thwacked him upside the head when McLaggen reached them. She waited for them to drive away, waving at the door.
Then she grabbed the throw blanket off the couch, quickly retrieved the first-aid kit from the kitchen, swept up Crookshanks and the cup of food on the counter and hurried out to the car, struggling with getting the door open and dumping all of her things in, ignoring Crookshanks meow of protest as she slammed the door shut behind her.
She set Crookshanks food in the front seat, and he contented himself with eating while she ripped open an alcohol wipe to clean the cut on her foot. Once it was clean and bandaged, she shut the first aid kit and slid it under the driver's seat.
She looked up at the house. All the lights were still on, the TV too, and when she leaned forward she could see her window was still open. She was being silly, she knew she was, there was nothing in her house, she knew there wasn't. Whatever happened must've happened in her head, and she chalked that up to loneliness and unease about her parents' death—she had never truly dealt with it, after all, had she? She had only ignored it these past few months—maybe she had even dreamed it, day-dreamed it, or—
But it didn't matter. The image of it remained in her mind and she couldn't for the life of her force herself to go back in there.
She wrapped herself up in her blanket and slept in her car for the night and she hoped she wasn't losing her mind.
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NAUTICAL PARAMOUR GAVE ME THIS IDEA SHE SENT IT TO ME IN A PROMPT AND I LOVE HER SO MUCH
i haven't really written horror that much, so idk how this comes across? idk it seems kind of jagged rn and i know tom has barely made an appearance other than to be a creep on the ouija board and then fuck with hermione's head but he'll be much more present soon, also things will get a bit more horror-movie-esque with lots of running around and screaming so lmao we'll see how tf i write that
IDK! ! ! ! ! ! I LOVE THIS IDEA I THINK ITS SO FUN AND NAUTICAL PARAMOUR IS SUCH A BABE EVERYONE GO CHECK HER OUT SHE'S AMAZING SO LIKE IDK I JUST HOPE I DO IT JUSTICE! ! ! ! idk how long it'll be. I have all the events already plotted out so I'm thinking probably three chapters, maybe four, and I want to try and get it done before Halloween? ? ? ? We'll see! ! !
Anyway I hope you guys like it, omg please let me know and send Nautical Paramour some love because this was all her idea! ! ! ! ! ! she's amazing! ! ! ! ! ! ! I love her! ! ! !
please review! let me know what you think, I now this is a lot of words for not a lot of action but…..? ? ? ? ? AHHH IDK JUST LET ME KNOW WHAT YOU THINK