Disclaimer:I do not own, nor do I claim to own Harry Potter in anyway, shape or form. He belongs to JK Rowling, Warner Bros. and numerous other franchises. No copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
By Bellatrix Black
Chapter Eleven: Consequences Pt.2
No one can prepare himself or herself for death, no matter what they think. The pain, the grief, of losing someone you knew or perhaps even loved, isn't something people are able to bear all of a sudden. Especially when you're alone. And especially, when it's your fault.
Hermione turned over in her sleep.
"Miss Granger, I'd appreciate it if you'd wake up," the voice came again. Hermione stirred, before opening an eye a crack and looking at the woman standing over her.
"Professor McGonagall? What're you doing here?" she asked, sitting up in her bed. The old woman looked tired and pale, which caused the sleep to leave Hermione's eyes quickly.
"Miss Granger, there is not much time to explain. The other students will be awake soon, please, change into your school robes and meet Mr. Weasley and myself down in the common room."
Hermione nodded and the woman left her to change. The young girl quickly jumped out of bed, retrieved a handful of clothes from her dresser and threw them on as fast as she could before she grabbed her bag and headed downstairs. Professor McGonagall wasn't there yet and had no doubt, gone to wake up Ron.
That would take awhile, Hermione mused. Ron loved to sleep in late. Her heart sagged as she thought of the angered look Ron had had the previous night in her dormitory. God, how could she have let them walk away? She sighed and watched as Professor McGonagall soon appeared from the Boy's Dormitory.
"Mr. Weasley is on his way. He was rather reluctant to wake up," she muttered.
"Professor, what's going on? Something hasn't happened to Harry has it?" Hermione asked fearfully. Professor McGonagall shook her head.
"No, Mr. Potter is still asleep in his bed. I'm afraid what's happened is something…" she trailed off, obviously still too deterred from whatever had happened to explain it to the student next to her. A few minutes later, Ron came trudging down the steps of the boy's dorm, a half asleep expression on his face. Her didn't so much as look at Hermione before turning to the Professor.
"So, what's with the early wake up call?" he yawned.
Professor McGonagall clasped her hands together, raised her chin and gave them both a very serious look.
"Both of you, as Gryffindor Prefects, must guard the portrait this morning. Professor Dumbledore has issued that no student is to leave his or her common room until further notice. I trust you two will adhere to this command as well?"
"Of course Professor," said Hermione.
"What's happened? It's not something with You-Know-Who is it?" asked Ron in surprise.
"No, Mr Weasley. From what I know, it has nothing to do with You-Know-Who. But that's not the point. I want both of you to promise to not leave this room until Professor Dumbledore says you can, OK?"
Ron hesitated, but eventually agreed. A relieved look passed over Professor McGonagall and she gave them both the smallest of smiles. "Thank you both, but now I must be off. Watch the portrait. No-one goes out, remember that."
And without waiting for another word from each of them, she turned and hurried out of the portrait hole, leaving both Hermione and Ron to each other and the empty common room. Ron went over and sat in front of the portrait hole. Hermione sat herself down on one of the long couches, unsure what to do or say really.
The minutes ticked by and neither of them spoke. Ron checked his watch to find that it was only a little past half past six, Hermione began counting the burn stains in front of the fireplace. Eventually, Ron reached into his pocket and retrieved a deck of Exploding Snap.
"Do you want a game or not?" he asked lazily. Hermione nodded and sat down in front of him as he shuffled the deck.
"You do realise why Harry's so upset, don't you?" Ron asked and she sighed.
"Yeah, I guess I do."
He stopped shuffling for a minute and looked her in the eye. "Why can't you just tell him then?"
"You mean why can't I just tell you both?" Hermione questioned, knowing it was Ron's own curious nature that was seeking out this information.
"Yes. Why can't you just tell us both?"
"Ron, you know that if I could tell you both, I would. But I can't. I don't know how you and Harry would react if I did…"
"It's not a girl thing is it?" he asked quickly, his ears turning a slight shade of pink. Hermione furrowed her brow, a small grin on her face. Of all things, how on earth had Ron jumped to that conclusion?
"God no Ron. And even if it were, it's not like I'd have Malfoy help me with a girl problem," she retorted as Ron began dealing out the cards. He merely shrugged.
"That's the bit that hurts him the most you know. The fact that you'd rather go to your worst enemy rather than your best friends when you have a problem…" said Ron wearily.
"Too true," Harry's voice echoed from the stairs. He was standing there, still in his pyjamas with a look of deep contempt at the two as they sat there playing cards.
"Care to join in?" asked the red head, hoping that Harry wouldn't jump to conclusions on why he was down in the common room with the girl that Harry had broken out into an argument with the previous night. It wasn't like they were there on purpose; Professor McGonagall has issued for them to be there.
"Fine," Harry muttered, surprising both Ron and Hermione. Harry wandered down and sat cross-legged on the floor between his friends – well, one was a friend. The other was a backstabbing traitor (in his mind at least). Ron regathered the cards and began reshuffling them.
"So, tell me Hermione. How long have you been friends with Malfoy? Before or after his mother told Voldemort the secrets Kreacher spilled to her?" Harry asked calmly.
Hermione shot him a dark look as Ron started dealing the cards out again, though he made no motion to stop the two – in fact he did seem eager for answers as well.
"One; I'm not friends with Malfoy. And two; Seeing as how I'm not friends with him, the time span shouldn't matter," she retorted as she threw down a king of hearts. Harry shook his head, throwing down a card after Ron.
"Right, so the reason you wrote an essay concerning him was because you're just occasional enemies?" He muttered, waiting for his turn to come once more. Hermione could have slapped him for being such an arse. How could simple words make him turn against her so suddenly?
"Listen to yourself, Harry. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that you've taken a leaf out of his book and become a complete and utter biased arsehole," she muttered as she threw down her cards and stood up. She so wanted to return to her dorm, but instead she sat herself back down on one of the couches. She wasn't going to just abandon her post because Harry had a superiority complex.
"You're the one who's keeping secrets, Hermione," hissed Harry, as he and Ron continued the game of cards.
"And its not like you've not kept secrets from us before, is it?" she barked at him as she straightened her robes and dusted off the couch.
"When have I kept secrets? When?"
"Well for one thing, what about last year when Mr. Weasley was in the hospital? You didn't tell us you had embodied the snake in your dream!"
Harry and Ron both stopped their game. The trio was silent, for it would seem that Hermione, possibly the smartest student at Hogwarts, was indeed correct. Ron swallowed, Harry sat with his mouth ajar and Hermione almost regretted saying those words. They all loved Mister Weasley and it had been quite a shock when the details of his attack had been revealed.
"That was different," Harry coursed, breaking the odd silence.
"How so? You don't even know what I'm keeping from you, so how can you say that it's different?" Hermione almost whispered.
She realised now, that she was not in a very much different position than Harry had been at the time. He had not wanted to tell anyone about that part of his dream because he was afraid that blame would be associated with him and that perhaps, he might have even committed the horrific act the snake had done. Here, she had unintentionally released Luis and because of him, he'd killed a woman. If Hermione had never opened that book, then Madame Rosmerta would still be alive.
"For one thing, I wasn't fraternising with the enemy," Harry mumbled. "That's the difference Hermione. I wasn't in kahoots with Voldemort."
"And you wonder why I couldn't tell you. You obviously don't trust me now anyway, so what does it matter?"
"It matters because we worry about you Hermione," piped up Ron, glancing back and forth between both his friends. He had obviously had enough of playing the spectator. "And Harry, don't say you don't because I know you do. We worry about you and we don't want anything to happen to you and you know what, something will happen to you if you keep hanging around with Malfoy,"
"You don't get it Ron, Malfoy is the only one who knows how to get rid of him! He's my last chance!"
Harry glanced over at Hermione, a confused look on his face. "Get rid of who?"
Hermione clasped a hand over her mouth. Wonderful, she had basically let the cat out of the bag. Or the cats tail. But why couldn't she tell them? It's not like it mattered now anyway. Luis would be binded soon, but would she still have her friends left? Suddenly, the portrait slid open and in stepped Professor McGonagall. She glanced down curiously at the boys who were sitting at her feet.
They promptly stood up and retreated to the couches, to give the Professor some room to move.
"Well," she murmured. "It would seem that the situation is under control and Professor Dumbledore has agreed that students will be allowed out for breakfast."
Hermione and Ron nodded, whilst Harry looked back and forth between them and the Professor. "What situation Professor?"
Professor McGonagall gave them all a long, hard look, as if she were sizing them up. She sighed, obviously very tired and worn out, but she nodded. "I may as well tell you, though the Headmaster wished to address all the students together, I feel it might be best if you three were told together. It may help … with the shock. I trust you all to keep it to yourselves before the announcement."
"I'm sorry Professor, but you've lost me. What's happened?" Ron asked anxiously. He had been secretly contemplating all the little scenarios ever since he had been awoken, a lot of which had concerned You-Know-Who but apparently he had been wrong about it.
"Well," Minerva hesitated. "Early this morning, Nearly Headless Nick found the body of a Hogwarts student outside the Charms classroom. Needless to say… the body was not alive."
Hermione's heart stopped for a minute and she gasped loudly. She sat there, staring at the woman in front of her as she watched for their reactions. Ron was speechless, his face downcast and pale whilst Harry held his own head in his hands.
"It was Voldemort, wasn't it?" he asked softly. Minerva choked slightly at the Dark Lord's name, but shook her head.
"No, Mr Potter. It would seem our presumption that the vampire attack in Hogsmeade was not a mere one time incident. The student had two small puncture marks on his neck and the Madame Pomfrey has confirmed that it was a lack of blood that killed Mr. Macmillan."
"Ernie?" Ron almost shouted. "It-it killed Ernie?"
"Hush Mr. Weasley," McGonagall ordered, casting a nervous glance in the direction of the dormitories. "And yes, I am sorry. I am just as deeply saddened as you are. Mr Macmillian was indeed a fine student and a decent child."
It didn't take much looking to see that the Professor was attempting to keep her own tears at bay. Harry sat there, his head still in his hands whilst Ron gripped the couch tightly, trying desperately to digest the latest news. Hermione however was not as fortunate as the others were. She kept her head bowed, feeling a warm tear trace itself down her face.
"Dear god Luis," she whispered under her breath. She looked up to face the Professor, sniffing and blinking away any signs of the deepened guilt and remorse she felt.
"Are you sure that it was a vampire bite that killed him?" she asked lightly. Professor McGonagall nodded a curious expression on her face.
"Why Miss Granger?"
Hermione shook her head nervously. "No real reason."
Now unfortunately, as well as being a bad liar, Hermione was just as bad an actress. And as she attempted keep her demeanour calm and deny that she knew anything, Professor McGonagall realised that there was indeed something that was being unsaid and decided to take charge of the situation.
"Mr. Potter, I'd advise you to get changed and prepare yourself for breakfast. Lessons have been cancelled, so you needn't worry about preparing your school bag. Mr. Weasley, perhaps you'd better go with him, I'm sure there are things you wish to discuss, just remember that I don't want this news spilling to other students before Professor Dumbledore can address them."
Ron and Harry nodded silently, standing up and giving both Professor McGonagall and yes, even Hermione, looks of silent reassurance as they headed back to the boys dorm.
"Miss Granger, I think it would be wise if you came with me," Minerva said clearly. Hermione stood up slowly, cleared her throat and exited the portrait hole behind her Professor. They fell into step and Hermione nervously glanced around her before she realised where they were going. A few minutes later, they arrived outside a large stone gargoyle, which she knew guarded Professor Dumbledore's office.
"Sugar Quill," the Headmistress said and it jumped aside to reveal a large staircase. She instructed Hermione to wait there, while she herself mounted the steps. Hermione sank down to the floor, leaning against a nearby wall as she waited. 'Dammit Luis!' her mind hissed. How could he do this? How could he kill someone here, of all places? She placed his face in her hands and had to use all of her self-control to keep from sobbing.
Luis had been here because of her. If he had never come to the school, then Ernie would still be alive. How could this happen? More importantly, how could she let this happen? She should have known that Luis wouldn't just leave. No, he was a vampire. He wasn't a human being. He was… he was evil.
"Miss Granger?" Minerva's voice came from the staircase. Hermione slowly looked up and the headmistress gestured to the staircase. "The headmaster will see you now."
Reluctantly, the young Gryffindor stood up and trampled up the large stone steps until she found herself at the ajar door to Dumbledore's office. She heard the Headmaster beckon her in and she promptly walked and sat herself down in one of the chairs in front of his desk.
"You're probably wondering why Professor McGonagall has called you to my office?"
Hermione nodded slowly. The old headmaster, with his silver beard and hair smiled down at her from behind his desk. His hands were placed neatly in front of him as he observed her through his small round spectacles.
"It would seem, Miss Granger, that she feels you may know something about the events concerning Mr. Macmillian's death," his calm voice said, his eyes held not the slightest glimmer of suspicion and Hermione gulped, clasping her hands together nervously.
Should she tell him? Should she tell the most powerful wizard she had ever known and befriended? Surely he would understand that it wasn't her fault, that she never meant to release Luis and most certainly never meant for Ernie, Madame Rosmerta and goodness knows who else to die. She shuddered, glancing up at those crystal blue eyes of her headmaster and she decided that she'd had enough of this secret burden.
"I know something… concerning the nights events."
Professor Dumbledore raised his eyebrows, leant forward in his seat and placed his chin on his stippled fingers. "And what is it that you know?"
Shaking slightly, Hermione struggled to find her voice as she wondered just how much to reveal.
"I know who killed Ernie…" she whispered.
"And who is it Miss. Granger?"
"Someone who I cannot reveal, I don't have the right to reveal it and I made a promise that I do not wish to break."
Professor Dumbledore did the very uncanny thing of stroking his beard, before removing his spectacles and cleaning them with a small piece of cloth. He silently contemplated whether to push any further for information from this almost distraught girl.
No wonder she seemed so close to tears. The death of anyone, including a student she had known and studied with was obviously a very trying situation. He knew that she was not lying, for Legilimency proved handy in situations such as these and his instincts told him that Hermione was not doing anything wrong per-say, yet she was feeling guilty over what had happened.
"Can you assure me that you are not doing anything wrong or bad that will not end up harming any more students here at Hogwarts? And that you were not behind this attack at the school?"
Luis would be binded soon, she told herself. He would be binded and this would all be over. Life would return to normal. Life at Hogwarts would go back to way it was. The only difference was that Ernie would not be around to see it…
"I promise you Professor, I had nothing to do with the attacks. It's not like I have vampires around who suffice to my every whim. I liked Ernie and he was a friend, I swear I didn't do anything-"
"I'm not blaming you Miss. Granger, on the contrary, I believe that you were not directly linked to Mr. Macmillian's death. But whatever does happen, please, if it becomes any more dangerous I want you to come directly to me. My door is always open."
And with that, he dismissed her, telling her to head down to breakfast and have something to eat. She breathed a sigh of relief as she padded down the last step of the spiral staircase and headed towards the Great Hall. This wasn't right, today had been so wrong… How could he do this? How could Luis do this? She considered not going to breakfast and just crawling back to her bed, throwing the covers over her head and letting the world pass her by as she wallowed in self pity.
But she was a prefect and she watched as she saw a Ravenclaw prefect leading some of their students to Breakfast. Of course, Professor Dumbledore wouldn't want anyone to miss the news, he wanted to keep them calm and reassured and hearing it in some everyday gossip would not suffice. So grudgingly, she headed back to Gryffindor Tower.
Ron was already trying to handle the few Gryffindors who were annoyed that they had to wait for the others to arrive before they could fill their stomachs.
"Where'd you go?" he asked as she stepped in from the portrait hole.
"Professor McGonagall needed help with something," lied Hermione.
The announcement hit Hogwarts pretty hard. As all the students sat at their respective tables and Professor Dumbledore revealed the details of Hogwart's loss; Hermione couldn't help but feel guilty as she silently mourned with the rest of the Gryffindors.
Many of the Hufflepuffs and even some Ravenclaws broke out into tears, while others seemed more afraid for their own safety. Dumbledore, however, merely assured them that it was unlikely the vampire would still lurk around Hogwarts and many of the teachers had checked the passages and classrooms as dawn had broken.
Classes had been cancelled for the rest of the week, though no one seemed to be in a celebrating mood. Harry and Ron merely store down at their empty plates. Many students had finished eating already and those who hadn't had suddenly lost their appetite. So with solemn, down turned faces, the students began piling out of the Great Hall.
Hermione stayed in her seat though, unmoving as even the teachers left the high table and headed off to the Staff Room for another top secret meeting. Finally, only a handful of students were left in the Great Hall. One of which was Draco, who was observing her from the Slytherin table.
He inclined his head towards the exit and she nodded, walking out and waiting for him. A minute later, he arrived and without a word, took her hand and hurriedly guided her along through the corridors until they arrived in the Dungeons. He glanced over his shoulder on occasion, but kept going until he and his companion were both inside their dusty old storage room. Closing the door behind him and locking it, he turned to face Hermione.
"Terry Boot of Ravenclaw saw you exiting Professor Dumbledore's office this morning," he said plainly. Hermione blinked in surprise, but nodded.
"Professor McGonagall took me to see him, apparently she had the feeling that I knew something."
"I'm guessing, from the fact that Dumbledore hasn't questioned me, that you didn't decide to leak our little secret," he asked as he sat down in front of the barren fireplace, lighting it to give the dark room some illumination. The only fault about being in the dungeons: There was no sunlight.
"I told him that it wasn't my business to tell, he accepted it at that," she said, sitting down on her reserved stool and observing Draco cautiously. It was always hard to tell what kind of mood the young Slytherin was in, for he seemed to have mastered the ability to keep them hidden until the very last minute. Then of course, he'd just explode.
"Thank you," said Draco softly, leaning forward in his seat as he spoke.
Hermione was shocked once more that day. Never had she heard Draco Malfoy, the selfish Slytherin prat, thank anyone. But then again, this wasn't Draco Malfoy, the selfish Slytherin prat. This was Draco, the same boy who had stood by her as they watched Cassius torture Luis. The same boy who had reassured her that the memories in the journal were just memories whenever she had felt so close to tears.
"For what?" she asked, confused.
"For not breaking your promise. For not telling Dumbledore when an able opportunity presented itself," he said calmly, looking over at her with an expressionless face.
"Well your welcome, I guess…"
Draco stood up and began pacing around in front of the fireplace.
"Don't be so surprised Granger, it's not like I'm not capable of than-"
"Hermione," she said plainly, causing Draco to stop and furrow his brow. "My name is Hermione. And I'd appreciate it if we got off of the last name basis; we're past childish grudges at the moment… Draco."
"Fine, OK Hermione," he muttered as he resumed his pacing. "But you do realise why I've brought you here don't you?"
"No, and I'm guessing your thanks wasn't worth the chance of a public rendezvous. So please, feel free to enlighten me."
Draco ran a hand through his silver-blonde hair, which was rather scruffy as he had been abruptly awoken earlier in the morning by Professor Snape and hadn't had enough time to fix it. He sighed, his footsteps on the stone floor echoed through the room and he turned back to face his companion.
"I think it's rather obvious now, that Hogwarts is no longer safe for either of us."
Author's Note:I am so deeply sorry for all fans of Ernie MacMillian. I just couldn't resist killing him off. It was a choice between him, Justin or Terry and I've disliked Ernie for a rather long time. I didn't want to kill off anyone from Gryffindor or Slytherin and no one else in any of the houses seemed to be known enough to make a realistic impact on the school.I'd like to thank my lovely reviewers, especially those who mentioned Dark Souls over at LJ as it reminded me to post up the next chappie. *waves*
So yes, another Hufflepuff bit the dust. Sorry people, but it was a rough choice. Anyway, please review and let me know what you loved, hated and who you wanted to die, just for my own amusement.In the next chapter: A snog! Finally! Plus, we get to visit a suspicious Snape, I finally unleash Ginny and angst galore! Hoorah for angst!