Between the first quidditch match of the season (Gryffindor Vs. Hufflepuff) and the newest romance, the Gryffindors had a lot to talk about over the next week. Parvati Patil was telling everyone who would listen that Ginny and Harry were the "Dark Couple". She had only begun telling a second year that both Ginny and Harry had encountered the Dark Lord, when Hermione came up behind her and glared at her. The glare, which Ron so loathed and adored at the same time; He had to smile at Hermione's power. She was the only one he knew who could shut Parvati up. He knew what it was that was bothering Hermione, for Padma had been nailing him non-stop all week with questions about Ginny and Harry. He watched as Hermione caught his smile and scowled at him before retreating to her favourite armchair, a large leather bound book tucked under her arm. He supposed this meant they still weren't talking. The last time she'd said a word to him had been when they'd been looking for Ginny but he supposed that was just an exception the rule. He'd had to admit, Ginny had been taking up most of Harry's time in between class, and their conversations at breakfast, lunch and supper were just too much for him to handle. As Ron sat at his table, struggling to finish his homework in time for Quidditch practice, and staring at Hermione's long curls he realized that he missed her.
"I can't believe you just handed Ginny over to him on a silver platter," Seamus muttered pulling on his robes.
"She was in love with him from the beginning," Dean muttered as he tightened his shin pads, "I mean who doesn't love the great Harry Potter,"
"Well no wonder why he is the star of the Gryffindor Quidditch team, and he's one of the only reasons why we ever beat Slytherin." Michael Corner said closing his locker door with a bang.
"He is a brilliant wizard; I mean you should see the things he can do with his wand," Seamus reminded him, "With power and an infamous name he must be pretty impressive,"
"And I read in the Quibbler that his godfather was Sirius Black, you know the escaped prisoner?" Michael piped up.
"Seriously? I thought he died," Seamus asked.
"He did, and word has it that now Harry not only has his parents fortune, but the Black family fortune as well."
"Merlin's beard!" Seamus cried, his voice echoing in the empty changeroom, "That's a lot of gold."
"Well I guess we don't have to wonder why Gin's with him then do we?" Dean said slyly, "I'm sure he pays a pretty penny."
With that the three boys laughed. They stopped abruptly however, when they heard the door swing open.
"Look Ron," Harry was saying, "Why don't you just tell her, it made things so much easier for me,"
"If I hear one more thing about you and my sister I think I am going to be sick," Ron muttered, coming around the corner of the tiled walls to face his three other team mates.
"Hi," Harry said brightly to all of them.
"Mon Capitan" Michael muttered as Harry walked by.
He was heading for the double doors that lead to the quidditch pitch. He was only gone for a few moments before he came back in declaring that the weather and pitch looked perfect for and easy game against Hufflepuff. Though nobody their knew, Harry sounded an awful lot like his old captain, Oliver Wood. The four other boys nodded nonchalantly, each slumped against his locker.
"So what's Weasley's problem?" Seamus asked, watching Dean turn his back to Harry.
"Well, you know..." Harry sighed, opening his own locker.
"Again? Merlin you guys fight like a married couple, what did you do this time?" Michael asked throwing a dirty towel in Ron's direction.
"I embarrassed her in front of Vicky," Ron told the guys batting his eyelashes.
"Oh bloody hell Ron," Dean cried, "You mean to tell me that the hottest girl in school is sitting in the bleachers, wearing your robes and scarf and screaming your name while jumping up and down, and all that you can think about is some fight with Hermione?"
Ron didn't reply.
"Come on guys, it's time," Harry said pulling Ron up with one hand and grabbing his broom with the other.
Gryffindor won the match as easily as it could be achieved. Of course the house had to throw a party afterward. Hermione had just come downstairs from returning her scarf and hat to her dorm, and already Harry had returned from Hogsmede with candy and Butterbeer for all. Harry caught her attention for a few seconds and grinned at her as a group of third years talked in wonderment over how Harry had obtained all of the candy. She knew of course that he had used the path hidden under the One-eyed witch's hump. She frowned slightly at him.
"Oh come on Hermione," Harry said edging over to her, "Have a butter beer,"
She took the butter beer out of his hand, and looked stealthily around,
"Harry, you know you shouldn't be heading into Hogsmede."
Harry frowned, "Hermione,"
"Don't you Hermione me..." She began, but soon broke out into a smile.
Ginny approached them linking her arm in Harry's proudly.
"Do you mind if I steal this remarkably handsome boy away from you Hermione?"
"No, no go right ahead," Hermione laughed, "If you need me I will be in the library."
Hermione idled the whole way to the library, her mind set on replaying the quidditch game in her mind. She wasn't quite sure why she had found today's match so incredibly interesting, for the most part she often found games boring. Today's had been different. Ron had been exceptionally confident and she'd used focused the dial on her omniculars to his face. She sighed remembering the look of concentration, the thrill that was dripping off of his face. She'd seen that look before. Hermione paused, bathing in her thoughts as she stood before the library's heavy oak doors. The question she must ask was where exactly was it that she had seen that look? As she passed through the doors to the empty library she finally realized where she'd seen the look. He'd worn the same look the night they walked out to the creek and talked about Sirius...the night she'd come so close to admitting how she felt, the night that she'd ruined any chance between them.
She chose a table far from the doors in the dusty back corner of the library. She sat there for a long time, her parchment remaining blank. She was not quite sure why she had come to the library. She let out a sigh and stood, walking to the window. Night was falling rapidly and the first stars began to shine in the distance.
She turned around, surprised to hear her name. Nobody, it seemed was around. Her eyes narrowed. Was she hearing things?
"Hermione!" it called again.
She'd heard this voice before. It was a deep feminine voice. A voice that could send shiver's down your spine the very moment it reached your ears. Paranoia overtook Hermione, and she began looking past shelves and over her shoulder for somebody standing near by. The thing was she couldn't quite tell what direction the voice was coming from.
"Hermione..." it was but a whisper this time.
Hermione looked straight up into the rafters.
"Oh!" she cried out as a pair of hands grasped her arms.
"Hermione are you alright?"
It was Neville. She sighed, her tense body relaxing at the sight of his pale face.
"Yes, yes I m fine," she muttered stepping away from him and sitting back down.
"You looked frightened, is there something up there?" Neville asked looking up at the rafters himself.
"No, no – I am fine."
"So why aren't you in the common room?" he asked pulling a chair beside her and sitting down.
"I had some homework to do," she explained, pulling hastily at the blank parchment and putting it back inside her bag.
"Oh," he said leaning forward and staring into her eyes.
Did he not believe her? Had he noticed the blank parchment?
"Yea, but I just finished," she said quickly glancing at her watch, "It's getting late, I should be heading back to my dorm."
She got up, gathering her books. She was reaching for the last one when Neville reached out and grasped her hand.
"Hermione, wait I need to talk to you."
"What is it?" She asked pulling her hand from his and collecting the last book.
"Do you love Viktor Krum?" he asked looking away from her.
"I am not sure, why?" she answered uncertainly.
"Well listen, I've heard some awful things about him...having other girlfriends."
She stared down at him. He shifted uncomfortably in her gaze. She was fighting the urge to laugh or scream. Ron was very clever - Sending Neville to ask questions for him. God he was so stupid sometimes.
"Neville," Hermione sighed, "Did Ron put you up to this?"
"Well then why would you ask me a question like that?" she asked, her temper rising.
"Because I wanted to make sure that you know what's going on."
"Neville those are rumours, I can assure you that I am Viktor's only girlfriend and I care about him,"
Neville looked back at her, his eyes glossed over.
"As long as you are sure..."
"I am positive." Hermione said firmly, "You can tell Ron that to."
"Why can't you tell him yourself?"
"We're not speaking."
Monday of the next week was cold and wet. The long corridors were damp and Hermione shivered as she turned a corner. She had just seen the boys off after Defence Against the Dark Arts, which had gone well. Tonks had taught them a knew charm that could help them break through walls and other barriers. She'd been paired with him. She hated the awkward tension that always rested between them, but she knew that there was nothing she could do. Although charms were never his strong point, Ron had picked up on it very well. Hermione had be assigned extra homework since her own charm was lacking, shall we say flair. Ron had gloated about it for the rest of the class. The boy's had gone to find their girlfriends for the spare minutes between class well she was left to find her own way to Arithmancy.
She was walking down the hall slowly when she saw Ron straight ahead walking hand in hand with Padma. Although she wanted to look the other way it was all she could do to stop from staring at him. They locked eyes as they came closer to one another. Even after he had past her Hermione turned to watch him. She felt sick to her stomach. How could he parade around with Padma like that? Suddenly Hermione bumped into something rather hard and took a topple to the floor. When she opened her eyes she saw Draco Malfoy sitting directly across from her scowling.
"Watch where you are going next time Mudblood," Draco hissed.
"Oh shut it Malfoy," Hermione responded irritably standing and picking up her books.
"Maybe you should stop staring at your lover."
"Clearly he is not my lover Malfoy."
"I suppose you're right, if he were your lover he wouldn't be kissing Padma right now,"
"What?" Hermione asked, turning around quickly, following Draco's gaze.
The hallway was empty. Draco's laugh rang out.
"Aw don't tell me the little Mudblood is in love..." he cooed.
She was just about to retaliate when he reached out and grasped her wrists forcefully.
He twisted her arm as she let out a gasp and threw her against the wall. He leaned towards her until all his body weight pressed her tightly to the cold stones. She turned her head to the side, clamping her eyes shut as his face neared hers. She could feel her heartbeat pounding against her rib cage savagely.
"Are you afraid Hermione?" he hissed.
"You should be."
She could feel his breath against her cheeks.
"Do you know what I am?" he asked.
She did not respond.
"Answer me!" he cried his grip tightening around her small wrists.
Tears filled her eyes. She knew he was referring to the burning tattoo on his arm. She knew he wanted her to say he was a death-eater.
She gasped, her eyes flying open. It was that voice again. That voice from the library.
It was coming from just down the dark hall. She turned her head quickly. Perhaps it was her guardian angel.
It was just above her. She looked up. Fingers grasped her cheeks, pushing hard into the bone. Draco moved her face so she was looking at him again.
"She's calling you isn't she?" he asked with a grin.
Hermione narrowed her eyes.
"You hear her don't you?"
"Who is it?" Hermione whimpered.
Draco's laugh rang out. He stopped abruptly, letting go of Hermione wrists, crying out in agony. What had happened? He slouched against the wall, and Hermione looked for any signs of a perpetrator. Draco reached for his cloak and drew up it's sleeve. The skull was burning red. Draco breathed heavily with the pain and looked up at her with dark eyes. She stared at him for only a few more seconds before she ran as fast as she could. She didn't know where she was going, but it was as far away from him as she could possibly get. Hermione ran to escape the fear he had installed in her, but the voice she had heard was inescapable.