Author's Note: Hello and welcome to a new story! This one has been in the works for a while now, and though it isn't complete, I have much of it mapped out. I hope you enjoy, and thanks so much for reading! If you like it, please drop a follow or a review! xoxo cait
This story has been fully revised and re-posted as of March, 2019. Original Author's Notes have remained.
Rated M for language, minor violence and sexual content.
Disclaimer: I do not own any part of the Harry Potter franchise.
Hermione Granger was in the library. It had most certainly come to characterize her existence at Hogwarts over the duration of her time as an eighth year student. Stationed at her favourite table, books, parchment, and other assorted oddities spread across the surface, Hermione found herself completing a potions essay, in an effort to avoid falling behind in her work.
Which of course, by her standards, would mean she was no longer a full week ahead of her assigned deadlines.
She glanced at her beautiful, colour-coded homework and NEWT revision schedule, feeling a twinge of anxiety. She was due to have completed this essay the night before.
Now that she was well into January, the year almost half gone, Hermione found it difficult to focus on much else other than her schoolwork.
While it was technically only her seventh year at Hogwarts, given she had missed her actual seventh year, Hermione had been classified an eighth year student with the others from her year who had returned. There were around a dozen of them in total.
Many of her former classmates had chosen to pursue various forms of employment instead, including Harry and Ron, already deeply entrenched in their Auror training, having been granted an exception to the NEWT requirement.
But Hermione had never been particularly interested in becoming an Auror. The dreams she chose to venture after were with the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures. The department was in dire need of some modernization in policy and Hermione felt she was the best for the job. Or would be, anyway, once she completed her school year.
Though she had always loved Hogwarts, she had felt disengaged since returning in September. For one, it felt bizarre going to classes and eating her meals in the Great Hall without Harry and Ron nearby. She had a handful of other friends who had returned, including Ginny and Neville, but it just wasn't the same.
She had owled back and forth on a regular basis with the pair of them at the start of the year but by October the post had begun to decline, until the few letters she did receive were stilted and rushed.
That said, things between her and Ron had been awkward since they had decided to remain friends, following a brief and uncomfortable three weeks in which they had attempted to be more. It had turned out that the circumstances around being on the run had exaggerated anything that may have existed between them. That flickering flame had been doused with efficiency once things had returned to normal.
For another, it was unsettling to remember the things which had occurred in those halls, only months before. The way Hogwarts had been under the control of Death Eaters and to recall that Albus Dumbledore had died on school grounds.
At least, returning to Hogwarts had been a distraction. Following the end of the war, Hermione had been advised by numerous mind healers that she could stand to cause permanent damage if she were to attempt to reverse the memory spell she had cast on her parents.
It seemed as if they were to remain in their alternate existence in Australia forever. It had been a bitter pill for Hermione to swallow, who had clung to the tiniest sliver of hope that she may have been able to bring them back home.
Following that revelation, staying in London had become a stifling and painful reminder.
She had opted not to stay at the Burrow, and while Harry had been excited for Hermione to stay at Grimmauld Place, after a short time, she felt as if she were constantly interrupting him and Ginny, who seemed to be there more often than not.
So while things at Hogwarts no longer felt as they always had, Hermione appreciated being there nonetheless.
At a quarter to ten, Hermione returned to her dormitory in Gryffindor Tower to drop off her bookbag. With a heavy heart, she made her way to the third corridor where she was to meet the other seventh and eighth year prefects for patrols.
Hermione had been placed with Malfoy back in September, who had returned to complete his schooling; she hadn't been the only one surprised by the decision. It wasn't until two weeks later she had learned that finishing his education at Hogwarts was a condition of his acquittal by the Ministry.
While Hermione had initially been of a mind to protest being partnered with the blond Slytherin, she soon noticed he no longer held a place within the hierarchy of the school. Treated as a traitor in Slytherin and a pariah by the rest of the school, Malfoy had spoken less than ten words to Hermione in the past month.
And although she would have preferred a more friendly prefect partner, Hermione was relieved to find he was no longer interested in ridiculing her for her blood status and the company she chose to keep.
With a sobering thought, she realized she had probably been paired with him because no one else would have accepted him. She had decided not to say anything to McGonagall and went along with the imposed silence on their nightly patrols.
For a brief few weeks early in the year, Hermione had attempted to make conversation, which he had rebuked with consistency. It had become apparent that while he no longer chose to instigate arguments between them, he had no interest in her friendship or her empathy.
Doing her best to put the past behind her, Hermione had come to accept it.
She quickened her pace, realizing she was running behind in arriving at their designated meeting point. Hermione was of a mind that the sooner they began patrols, the sooner she would be able to leave his presence.
"You're late," he said, haughty and aristocratic as always.
Indignant, Hermione looked at her watch. She was late by a minute. Rolling her eyes, Hermione turned to tell him so, but he had already left to begin their route. Shaking her head, she followed along in his wake.
Their patrols had been more quiet than usual. Hermione found herself grateful for the relative ease of the task, having had an arduous study period in the library. She hoped they might even be done quicker than that to which they were accustomed.
Malfoy trailed behind her, making it evident he had no interest in forced conversation.
Hermione paused, hearing an ominous sound coming from a dark classroom further ahead. She walked towards it, pushing the door ajar. A shiver passed the length of her spine.
"It's just the Bloody Baron," she informed Malfoy who shrugged, his expression blank. She walked back towards him, falling into step once more as they continued their rounds. "I always thought he was creepy, but now that I know the circumstances around his death, it's so much worse."
Malfoy continued walking in silence, not sparing her so much as a glance.
"Do you know the story?" she questioned, turning to him. "About the Bloody Baron and the Grey Lady?"
"No," Malfoy said with a huff, "and I don't particularly care to."
Sighing, Hermione carried on in the uncomfortable tension that had come to characterize their time spent together. As if after four months of working together as prefects he still had no interest in breaking the silence. Hermione really did prefer this to the intentional goading and antagonistic name-calling, but still. At least no one could say she wasn't trying.
"Did you hear that?" Hermione asked, freezing on the spot. She was certain she had heard a buzzing sound. "Coming from the courtyard, I think."
"And what was I supposed to have heard, Granger?" Malfoy drawled, arching a pale brow.
Hermione held up a finger to silence him as she inched toward the sound, the snowy grass crunching softly under her feet. Malfoy rolled his eyes but followed along after a brief hesitation.
"Yes," he said after a moment, his expression that of mild surprise. "A buzzing, right?"
"Yes," Hermione whispered. She came to a narrow alley running away from the courtyard, lined with cobbled stone. "It's coming from this passageway."
"I've never seen that passage before," Malfoy said, his grey eyes narrowing. "I'm not going into it but you can do as you please."
"Oh come on, Malfoy," Hermione said, disgruntled. She grabbed his arm, ignoring the slight recoil. "Reach deep down for your inner Gryffindor, will you?"
"No, thank you," he sneered, withdrawing his arm from her grip with distaste. "Unexplained corridors which appear out of nowhere do not bode well. But go on, then."
"I will," she huffed, folding her arms across herself as she crept forward into the entrance of the passage, lighting her wand with a muttered 'lumos'. She felt a shiver creep down her spine as the strange sound grew louder. She glanced back at Malfoy who was looking at her with extreme annoyance. Then he sighed, the sound drawn out and exaggerated, and followed along.
"If I die tonight, you're responsible, Granger," he snapped, his jaw clenched.
"You're overreacting," she hissed, shaking her head. "But if you die, chances are good I'll die too, so I won't be bothered over it, will I?"
Malfoy did not grace her with a response. He merely sighed again and trailed after her. The width of the corridor closed in narrower as they walked, the walls increasingly overgrown with vines and lush greenery, so thick they blocked the light of the moon. The air became damp and heavy; the buzzing sound grew ever louder still. Hermione didn't say so out loud, but the sound had begun to feel as much a part of her as it was around her. As if she felt it within herself as she heard it.
"It's a dead end," Hermione said with surprise as she came to the end of the long corridor. "I can't say I was expecting that."
"Granger," Malfoy said, his voice soft and tense, and she turned to where he had stopped a few paces back. She noted he was standing in front of a heavy stone door that looked so ancient it had almost blended into the stone walls around it, vines woven across the vast majority.
"Open it," she whispered, her mouth feeling suddenly dry.
"That's a hard fuck no, Granger," he responded, aghast. "I'm quite certain that's the sound of a chimera."
"A chimera?" she asked, alarmed. "Why would there be a chimera in Hogwarts? Where did you hear that?"
He shrugged, eyeing the wall with distaste. "For the same reason there was a basilisk I would suppose? Gryffindor and Slytherin wanted a pet together? Part lion, part snake." He smirked. "And it's widely known the sound a chimera makes."
"Part goat," Hermione added but she had backed away from the door and found herself pressed against the cold wall on the opposite side of the passage, her heart racing. "And a chimera does not make a buzzing sound."
"Of course it doesn't," Malfoy said, rolling his eyes. "But I convinced you all the same."
"You're incorrigible," Hermione huffed, rolling her eyes. She supposed she should have been grateful he was in a talkative mood, but she was beginning to feel fatigue tug at her eyelids. She found herself wishing they had skipped this particular area of the castle. She walked towards the door again, inspecting the old, rusted latch. "Open it, then, if it isn't a chimera."
"I'm not opening it," he stated, folding his arms.
"The sooner we find out what this is, the sooner we can finish our patrols, Malfoy," Hermione said, rolling her eyes.
"You do make sense," he stated as if surprised. "Fine. Just so we can leave this damn corridor. That sound is annoying as hell."
He drew his wand to unlock the door and Hermione's smug expression dropped from her face. The moment the door came open the buzzing intensified tenfold – coupled with ferocious gale-force winds and a stunning, bright light.
"What the fuck, Granger!" Malfoy shouted over the wind, clutching his wand with white knuckles.
"I don't know!" she returned, eyes wide with terror as the light expanded and surrounded them, pulsing. For the first time in her life, Hermione found herself wishing she had listened to Malfoy. She reached into her pocket, grasping her own wand defensively.
They watched, helpless, as the light came in from all sides, carrying the buzzing with it, and encapsulated them both so that all they could do was wait…
Then as if a switch had been flipped, everything ceased. Hermione blinked several times to adjust her vision to the sudden darkness as her ears grew accustomed to the silence once more and the wind dropped to nothing.
"Malfoy," Hermione whispered, frozen to the spot.
"I'm here, let's just get out of here." His voice came from the darkness, sounding uncertain. Hermione nodded, hastily backtracking down the passageway as he followed. "What in the name of Merlin's balls was that?"
"I have no idea," Hermione said, her voice sounding small. Her hands trembled as she walked, each step back toward the courtyard uncertain.
"That is the very last time I am ever doing something you ask," he informed her, the irritation returning to his voice.
"Malfoy," she hissed, stopping on the spot as the greenery began to thin out once more. Behind her she heard him come to a stop as well, his breath hitching. "Why is the sun out?"
"I've no idea," he said, "it's half ten at night."
"Is it?" she asked, unsure. "It was." She crept with caution to the edge of the courtyard, finding it empty as it had been. Something felt wrong as she looked around.
"Has the courtyard always been so... lush?" Malfoy asked from behind her and it clicked what felt wrong.
"No," she said, shaking her head. She paled, eyes widening. "And there were a few skiffs of snow here. Let's just get back inside… or something."
They made their way through the courtyard and back into the castle, stopping to take stock of the situation.
"Why is Hogwarts different?" Malfoy drawled, eyebrows raised with interest. "But… the same."
"We're definitely still at Hogwarts, right?" Hermione returned, not wanting to discount anything. That room had been one of the most bizarre things she had ever experienced and she had experienced a great many bizarre things.
"Seems so," Malfoy responded. "But yet, it's somehow daytime."
"Something feels wrong," Hermione agreed, looking around. She ran a hand along the rough stone of the interior wall. She took a few steps, walking toward the empty classroom where she took Arithmancy. Her eyes widened in shock as she looked inside. "Malfoy, the furniture - the room's different. Everything feels… new."
"What the fuck," he hissed as he peered through the doorway. Then he froze, perking up. He grabbed Hermione's arm, shoving her ahead of him into the classroom. "Someone's coming."
"Malfoy, we're prefects doing patrol. We're supposed to be stopping people," Hermione said, realizing even as she said it that if it wasn't after hours, that wouldn't be the case.
"We aren't sure of our circumstances anymore," he said, voice quiet. He left the door ajar, peering through the crack. "Four people. Dressed quite… elaborately."
"What are they saying?" she said, gazing around the room when a thought struck her. She reached into a deep interior pocket of her robes, realizing with a pleasant jolt she had yet to clear her pockets of the items they had raided from a pair of fifth years the night before. In silence she handed Malfoy the Extendable Ears they had confiscated. His eyes widened as he dropped the end beyond the threshold of the doorway, handing her one of the fake ears as he inserted the other into his own.
"Another year at Hogwarts," a woman's voice was saying with an idle sigh.
"Yes, it is just wonderful! Another new crop of students to sort," a jovial male voice boomed.
Hermione met Malfoy's confused expression with her own as they both listened in. She didn't recognize either of the voices as professors - and beyond that, it was January. The new students had been sorted months ago.
"Perhaps the group this year will have brains in their skulls," another male voice drawled, sounding displeased.
"They need not arrive full of knowledge, Sal, that is why we teach them," a fourth voice broke in, a woman's voice with a thick Scottish brogue.
"Sal," Hermione whispered, eyes wide. On instinct she reached a hand to grasp Malfoy's arm and he merely stared back, his brow furrowed in alarm.
"Salazar," he returned. He swallowed heavily. "Granger… I don't think the question is 'where are we'."
Hermione nodded, her racing heart lodged in her throat.