By: Laverna Sage
Disclaimer: I don't own anything you recognize in the Harry Potter books.
Chapter I: The Book
The wind carried the sound of the twitter of birds as the rays of the sun struggled through the veils of the dark clouds that silhouetted the cragged peaks of the mountain. A figure in black robes glided through the beautifully decorated hallway. It was Christmas break and Hermione was walking down the empty halls of Hogwarts towards the library. Most of the students are off for the holiday and the trio, along with a number of their friends and some other students who decided to stay for the holidays, had the castle to themselves.
She wasn't going to the library just for studying, though it is part of the reason. She was going there to cool off. God knew she needed the peace and solitude of the place. She and Ron had another one of their spats and at the moment anything vaguely resembling the cad would be blasted to oblivion. And thus, the sanctuary of the library: not only would she be too noble to mar any of her beloved books, there was also the fact that there was slim-to-nothing chance that anything there that would be able to remind her of him.
She sighed as she finally reached her destination. The place had never failed to humble her. The bulk of knowledge she could and would be able to gain, knowing that it had taken hundreds, even thousands of years for them to be amassed, and that she, bookworm that she was, wouldn't be able to fully encompass it all. Ah, the wonder of it! And of course, there was nothing like a bit of reading to take your mind off of things.
After allowing Madam Pince a small polite nod, Hermione headed for the Restricted Section (as she was allowed in this story. Don't argue!). She was surrounded by her beloved once again. Lovely.
She started to grab for the first one that caught her interest when she saw the ring on her finger. She was wearing the object that would most remind her of Ron after all.
The ring was gorgeous. Sure it was a bit big for her. She hadn't gotten around to fixing it for she was in fear of damaging it. Better leave it to an expert. But the jewels adorning it were obviously real, and along with the craftsmanship, the ring was obviously expensive. And no one, not even one of her best friends had the right to comment that she liked Krum because he was rich and famous and could give her anything she fancied. How dare he!
"I'll make him pay," she muttered savagely. Grabbing the book, she sat where she was between the shelves of books to soothe herself with reading. She sometimes did that, when she wanted to hide from the world. Barely starting, a glimmer caught the corner of her eye. She lifted her head and saw it: a fairly typical book–green and leather-bound–except for the fact that strange silver writing was glowing on it. It was definitely worth a poke. Not only was her innate curiosity urging her on but it was as if the book was calling to her. She reached for it.
Hermione's quick reflexes saved her from having her face make intimate contact with the floor. She grunted as her arms took most of her weight. Her sporadic clumsiness helped her bump her head as she was raising it and a couple of books fell and inch from her head.
She stood up, still feeling a little dizzy and turned to look if Madam Pince was coming towards her because of the noise she made, but there was no librarian in sight. Come to think of it, there was no library in sight! Where was she? She turned towards a not-so familiar window and what was supposed to be a snow-covered Quidditch field was a very stunning and enchanting garden full of statues, fountains and flowers of every kind, shape and color she'd ever seen, without even a flake of snow.
Perhaps it was charmed, she considered, though the strangeness of the… dryness of the place was the least of her worries. 'This definitely isn't Hogwarts,' she thought as she continued to stare. She was mesmerized, you could say. But then, realizing where she was, or where she was not, she started to panic. Trying to calm down, she scanned the room, which was relatively large for a study. There was a desk and a chair at the center of the room, a couple of sofas, a bookshelf against one wall and a display cabinet on the other.
Hermione walked over to the cabinet and looked through its clear glass, and immediately took a step back as she saw an eyeball staring at her. Swallowing the lump that was her heart that had somehow lodged itself in her throat, she scolded herself for being startled by… eyeballs. Well, she still was a girl, after all. But then, she'd handled worse stuff in her Potions class. She studied the other contents. Several were quite familiar. There were Boomslang skins and Vampire fangs; yet, there were some that she had only read in books.
"Troll eyes… Troll liver… Troll brains?" she enumerated disbelievingly. Must be the troll section.
Then she noticed something move a little way to her right, two rows higher from the troll organs. She took a stride toward it and examined the contents of a jar. It moved again. It was a heart! And it was still beating. It was labeled as 'Black Dragon's Heart in Black Dragon's Blood.' This gooey semi-transparent purple stuff is Black Dragon's Blood? Hermione had read about Black Dragons once and knew enough to be certain that slaying such creatures is punishable by law. 'I wonder how long it has stayed like this and how long it's going to,' she thought curiously. She watched as the heart rhythmically beat. She pitied it.
At that time, she recalled the lesson Hagrid gave them about Black Dragons:
"They're really big an' look extremely scary but in truth, they're gentle creatures by nature," Hagrid said.
"That's what he always says," Ron whispered to the three of them.
"But it's true, Ron," Hermione said matter-of-factly. "But bec…"
"Bu' because of their magical properties," Hagrid continued, "bein' a powerful panacea for various illnesses an' havin' other undiscovered uses an' all, they've been hunted down almost ter extinction. Good thin' the Ministry of Magic created a law against dragon poachin'. Bu' still, nowadays, on'y a small number still exist. These few can be found in secluded, mountainous areas, which have been charmed ter keep 'em from muggle eyes an' are very hard to spot. Even witches an' wizards have trouble findin' 'em," Hagrid added knowingly.
Then he showed them a real Black Dragon Egg, which he had carefully taken care of for safekeeping, by the request of Professor Dumbledore. It was its last day at Hogwarts and the lesson that day was in its honor: "the only Black Dragon Egg to be born in the care of humans." The Ministry of Magic approved Dumbledore's suggestion of sending it to Charlie to be taken care of until it is ready to find its home with the other Black Dragons, and hopefully with its mother. Hagrid even invited the three of them to meet Charlie when he came to fetch the egg.
That afternoon, Charlie, to Ron's annoyance, expanded their knowledge of Black Dragons a bit more by giving them a little lecture: "They're extremely powerful creatures. It would take a great number of powerful wizards to bring down a strong adult one. But they are awfully reluctant to fight back when being attacked, which makes most of their magic quite unknown. I reckon we know only less than a quarter of them, to tell you the truth."
Then he turned to a very watery-eyed Hagrid and said, "You did a good job, Hagrid. I'll make sure this dragon will return safely to its family."
Hagrid replied by blowing his nose on a gigantic handkerchief.
Hermione snapped back from her train of thoughts when she heard footsteps from the corridor outside the room. The footsteps gradually got stronger. Who could they be? Hermione didn't really want to find out as she hurriedly looked for a place to hide. In her panic, she accidentally tripped over the books that fell a while ago.
"Did you hear something?" a cold voice asked.
"Nnno sssir," a tiny squeaky voice answered.
'Poor thing,' Hermione thought, 'they must be oppressing her' (assuming it's a female basing on Winky's high tone.)
The doorknob moved. Someone was coming in. Scrambling up, Hermione quickly hid inside a utility cabinet and watched from a crack.
"Seemed to be coming from in here," the cold voice said as his head peered into the room for a look. Hermione watched as the man fully entered his whole body. She noticed that the man had neatly combed brown hair and green eyes, slightly tanned skin beneath black robes and an ugly frown which went with it. Hermione could tell, even from that distance and the size of the crack she was peeking through that the face was not familiar. He scanned the room and his eyes fell upon the fallen books. "What are those? You're doing a poor job at your housekeeping chores, you filthy elf," the man shouted at the owner of the high-pitched voice following him.
The elf was only able to answer with an inaudible stutter. Hermione was gritting her teeth and trying her best not to leave her haven and stand up for the elf. Nevertheless, feeling guilty herself for dropping the books. But then, her guilt was quickly replaced by fear as the man looked at her corner and started to come toward it. The man barely made the first step when the house-elf spoke: "I'll ccclean now, sssir, if you don't mind."
"Right. Make it snappy then. But your master will still hear of this," the man said, turning for the door.
Must mean he isn't the owner.
The man left, leaving the house-elf to pick up the books and Hermione to think about a plan to return to Hogwarts. 'The book,' the thought suddenly sprang. 'It must have something to do with me being here. But where is it?' She looked to where the house-elf was fixing up and was relieved to see her miss the green one. It was partly hidden by the shadows. The house-elf then began dusting and was about to leave when her large brown eyes fell upon the book. She walked towards it and Hermione, sensing that it was time for her to make a move, tried hastily to open the door, which haha, managed to get itself jammed. Cursing her luck, she saw the elf just as it touched the book and disappeared.
'Must have been a portkey or something,' Hermione thought already going to pieces at the thought of not being able to go back to Hogwarts. She stayed in the closet for another few minutes until her discomfort pulled her out of her trance. Why, she was a witch! She should've blasted the blasted the door out of the way. But then, would she have stopped the elf in time?
After pointing her wand and muttering a quick spell, she opened the closet door warily, went out. Determined to find a way out, she repaired her mess and stretched to relieve her body of its aches from staying cramped inside too long, and resolved to explore the place first.
Ok, so exploring the place, on foot, with an empty stomach wasn't such a good idea. The place was really large and though she was really careful, she hadn't encountered a living soul. She didn't know if she should have been relieved or frustrated. After all, with all her walking, she hadn't discovered anything useful. She could have been in the Death Eater's Quarters, for all she knew.
She cautiously rounded another corner. Halfway down the corridor, she heard voices about to turn the bend ahead her. Upon impulse she hurriedly entered the room closest to her.
"Whew! Close call," she whispered relieved after the voices passed the room and were a good distance away. She took her time to wallow in the relief, and starting pacing and muttering to herself—"What had I gotten myself into?" "Maybe I'm just dreaming"— which is a bit too farfetched. "What am I supposed to do now?"—when she realized that somebody else was in it, staring at her. She turned to look and her brown eyes enlarged with astonishment.
"Oh my God! Please let this be a dream."