Author's Note: I've been yet again, very busy. Lately it's been mostly my love for tv that has kept me from writing and updating. Although now that the final chapters have formed themselves in my mind and I quickly wrote a chapter today I decided I needed to update to let you guys know. I do want to finish this before the summer is over so I can focus on other things seeing as College will most likely keep me busy. I keep thinking of new plots to just throw around and write a story around. But, anyhow, here is ch. 31. Enjoy. Please review. And thank you for reading.
This chapter I must admit is a little filler, but there's also a lot going on the background. Some development and such happening. I also couldn't think of a title, so that's what I came up with. Anyhow, enjoy.
Three months have passed since that fateful night when Dumbledore was killed and Harry vowed to kill his murderer, and it's been a year since Harry found out Severus Snape was his father, but this time it is not the worries of making a relationship work that cloud Harry's mind but how he will deal with the war that has now become all too clear, how he will find the Horcruxes in solitude, and how to distract himself enough to not think about his father. But how can he accomplish all of this when he's worried sick about his best friend and he has no idea where to begin searching for the pieces of Voldemort's soul.
Chapter Thirty One
The Comfort of Friends
October 26, 1998
It was dark out. Harry had known it was dark out, but he hadn't connected this with the fact that Imogen, Ron, Lavender, and Regulus had gone to bed. Faye, Hermione, Draco, and he alone had been awake, and Faye had probably gone off to bed by now too. Draco had gone to the library and was reading, but Harry didn't want to spend time with him when he reminded him so much of Lucius. Harry wanted to destroy the horcruxes. He wanted to go into the library with Regulus and Imogen and begin the ritual, and destroy them. He didn't want to go to sleep. He was too hyped up, but Hermione had pushed him into his room and told him to go to sleep before she too went off to her room. Harry turned in his bed and pressed his cheek against his pillow.
It was no use. He couldn't close his eyes without imagining his father in pain, and truthfully he wasn't tired. He had gotten a nap, sort of, earlier when he was in his father's mind and now Harry could only think of destroying the horcruxes.
He heard the creaking of floorboards out in the hall, and then a door opened. Draco, Harry thought, going to bed. The door opened again and then someone walked towards his door and pushed it open. Hermione's head peaked in.
"Harry?" she asked. "Are you asleep?"
She pushed the door wider and stepped inside letting in the light from the hallway.
"No," Harry said. "Although it's a funny question to ask someone that could be asleep."
Hermione closed the door behind her and stepped further into the room, now in the dark. "I couldn't sleep," she said. "I can't stop thinking about the horcruxes and my...well, my being one."
"If it helps, I can't sleep either," Harry said.
"Your father," Hermione whispered.
"We can just hang out all night until they get up," Harry offered. "Come on, get on the bed."
He shifted away from the middle and patted his bed. Hermione grinned and slipped into bed with him. "Thanks," she said. "I think I couldn't handle being alone tonight. I went to find Draco, but I don't know where he went."
"Library," Harry said and tried to ignore the pang it gave him to know that she had looked for Draco first.
They were silent for a long moment, and then Hermione sighed. "I don't want to die," she admitted. "It's inevitable, I guess, but I don't want to die."
"You shouldn't have to," Harry agreed. "I could never ask that of you. There has to be another way. If it moved itself into your body, what's to say we can't take it and then destroy it?"
Hermione smiled at him "I don't know if we could accomplish that, but it would be worth trying."
"Let's talk about something else," Harry said, then. He didn't want to think about Hermione as a horcrux or his dad, captured by Voldemort.
"Like what?" Hermione asked.
Harry shrugged. "I don't know...did I tell you what happened with Ginny when I was leaving?"
"Well, I told you how I wanted to go to Godric's Hollow and start my search there - it was a stupid plan - but the morning I was leaving Ginny was waiting for me. She had suspected I wanted to leave. I didn't notice anything all the time she was here. She was...I don't know following me around or something. The twins did mention she had a crush on me one night. I just wanted to ignore it."
Hermione stifled her laughter behind her hand and nodded for him to continue.
"So, then I came down," Harry said. "I was trying to be as quiet as possible and she comes out of nowhere and she started talking to me...and then she kissed me..."
"She kissed you!" Hermione exclaimed. "But what happened? I mean...Ron said later on she had become obsessed with you."
Harry laughed. "I pushed her away, and I desperately wanted to say something but words just weren't...I ran away. I just ran out the door."
Hermione was laughing now. "You ran out the door?" she asked. "No wonder that girl ended up so messed up later on."
Harry glared at her playfully. "What was I supposed to do, oh wise one."
"Not run away. Poor Ginny, and now she's off with Charlie I think trying to get over you. It was a love potion that intensified it, but still the feelings were there. I hope she will one day lead a normal life without the inclination to become your stalker."
"I shouldn't have told you what happened," Harry said.
"Fine. I'll stop talking about it, but you have to admit it was funny. Alright...um...I slept with Draco."
Harry didn't know what to say. He didn't know how he was supposed to react to that.
"I'm sorry," Hermione said. "I should have just kept that to myself..."
"No. No...it's alright. I was just shocked. I didn't think you would say something like that. I don't know what to say. What to ask. Did you enjoy it?"
Hermione laughed and buried her face in his shoulder, and Harry could see her red face. He began to laugh too and Hermione pulled her face back.
"A little," she said in between laughs. "It was awkward and uncomfortable and...I don't think I felt anything." Now, it was a humorless laugh that escaped her. "The next morning. Oh, Harry...I didn't know...and now I have to die and..." she trailed off, and Harry didn't know what she meant exactly.
She was suddenly crying against his shoulder, and Harry gathered her up into his arms and just held her there until she stopped crying and began to laugh again, and they continued talking, trying to ignore the things that would pain either of them. Eventually Harry fell asleep, with Hermione at his side, and she soon joined him in slumber.
As soon as breakfast was over, Harry led the others to the library. Ron and Lavender sat down and watched on, as Regulus explained what they were going to do, in detail. Draco sat near them and listened intently with Hermione, holding her hand as if to be reassuring. Imogen and Faye stood together, and Faye's hands rested on Imy's shoulders. The twelve year old looked up at Faye from time to time and only tried to listen to the part of the ritual that involved her, at other times she tried to engage herself in looking at other parts of the room.
"Just a drop of her blood on the Horcrux, with the spell, and then the other incantation. It will draw a lot of your power which is why we will have Draco next to you and he will be able to read your power and then give you his own if you need it to complete the ritual. In the meanwhile Faye and I will worry about the other incantation to make sure the blood is accepted and it destroys all other protections. This spell we will be incanting from the moment the blood is placed. You must wait for our signal to begin the other incantation but the first spell must be said at once."
Harry nodded. "Alright. This shouldn't be too hard, should it?"
Faye grinned. "That's the spirit," she said.
"It will take a lot out of you," Regulus warned. "You must accept help when you need it."
Harry nodded. He knew this. Although Draco would not have made his first choice for someone to take magic from, Harry would accept it. This was too important to think of old feuds. He and Draco had come to an understanding.
It took only a few minutes for them to prepare. Hermione, Ron, and Lavender stood aside at a good distance. He, Faye, and Regulus made up a small triangle and Draco stood at Harry's back. Faye had Imogen next to her and was talking to her quickly.
"You just need to let the blood fall on the locket, and then back up and join the others over there."
Imy nodded quickly.
"Hermione will heal you, alright."
She nodded again, and then they were truly ready.
Harry watched as Faye's wand flew across Imy's palm, creating a cut like a knife would. She gasped and Harry watched as the blood rolled down her hand and fell to the locket held up by magic that Regulus had set in place earlier. Imy ran back to Hermione as Harry focused on the spell. He waved his wand in the way Regulus had thought him and whispered the spell. The horcrux glowed green, and then Harry heard the combined voices of Regulus and Faye as they recited the spell. He watched them closely, waiting for their signal, and then Faye nodded and Regulus met his eyes and Harry started the end of the ritual.
Magic thrummed through his body, as Harry continued on. It was exhilaration as the locket cracked open let out a bunch of dust that Harry thought could have made him sneeze. It began to drift off, but Harry pushed farther with his own magic, stopping this. Faye and Regulus finished their own spell and then the Horcrux was surrounded by more of that green light. Regulus, Harry thought, levitated it, as Harry felt Draco's hand take his and push magic into him. He finished the spell in a few more breaths and then the locket burst. There was a scream, loud and shrill and then the locket, broken, almost as if something had crumpled it up.
"Thanks," Harry said to Draco who nodded and let who of his hand. He knelt down and picked up the destroyed Horcrux. "One more down," he said.
October 27, 1998
Hermione watched as they destroyed the tiara. She was sitting aside with Imogen, Ron, and Lavender again, just watching and wondering if they would be doing this to her in the day to come. It took so much out of all of them, that they could only do one each day, and now only she and the Snake - Nagini - remained.
They finished the spell, and Harry nodded gratefully at Draco, who said something back although Hermione didn't catch it. Then Faye picked up the tiara and she and Regulus tried a few spells on it.
"Two more," Regulus said, and although he didn't look in Hermione's direction, she knew that he was thinking about her and not Nagini.
"Lunch," Faye announced. "We all need it."
Hermione stood up and joined Draco and Harry who walked together. Sharing magic, had made them closer and Hermione was glad for this. Draco, she knew would never admit admiring Harry's magic, but he did. It was something that called to him, and being able to fuel it amazed him.
"I never did apologize," Draco said to Harry suddenly.
Hermione listened in, but remained quiet, walking behind them.
"What for?" Harry asked.
"A little incident in a certain bathroom."
Hermione didn't know much about what had happened in the bathroom, only that it had strained Harry's relationship with his father and that Draco had somehow been involved, so she listened.
"That," Harry said, "is past. I should be the one apologizing, not you. The spell I used..."
"Snape explained," Draco said. "I've been thinking about it, a lot. What I did. I didn't understand when your father got angry at me over it. I knew it had been wrong. I didn't understand the intent. The reason...what I needed to cast that."
Harry shook his head. "It didn't hit me, and I shouldn't have used the spell I did. I didn't know what it would do."
Draco didn't respond. Hermione walked behind them in silence and waited for them start talking again, but they didn't and instead walked in a comfortable silence.
"My boys," Hermione said and threw an arm around their shoulders each.
Harry laughed and Draco glared at her halfheartedly.
"I am not to be classed with the likes of Weasley and Potter."
Hermione snorted. "You always wanted to be Harry's friend, from what I remember."
"Perhaps," Draco said and looked at Harry.
"Obnoxious as you were back then, you have changed for the better and I think now we can be friends. As Hermione pointed out once, we are very much alike." He smiled.
"See. My boys," Hermione said. "I can claim that and have neither of you glare at me."
They continued into the kitchen, and Hermione felt a carelessness about her that had left her when she learned she was a horcrux. It was like being back at Hogwarts before Voldemort came back with only the worries of her classes before her. For a moment she could forget and just watch Harry and Draco as they began to talk. Hermione thought she heard Harry refer to Draco as a ferret, and Draco was laughing.
Regulus had explained to them exactly how every spell worked to destroy the Horcrux, how the soul had to be encased just as they lifted the protection with Imy's blood. How then they had to destroy the soul, while simultaneously fighting any other protections that it might bring up. It was the lack of fight against the defenses of the ring, that had led to Dumbledore's mistake and eventually the Horcrux's taking of his hand.
"Dumbledore kept the ring intact," Regulus said. "He did not destroy it, but he destroyed the Horcrux within it at the cost of his hand and had it not been for Severus, his life. We cannot be sure, even if we do it his way that Hermione will be unharmed."
"She'll be in excruciating pain...it could drive her mad. Her mind is already frail."
Harry frowned in thought. "The Horcrux could attack her, even, instead of us."
"And there is no way of removing the Horcrux, putting it back in the cup. I mean, if it left the cup and claimed Hermione...then can we do the same in reverse?"
Regulus shook his head. "It would kill her first before being moved. We don't know the extent of the hold the Horcrux has on Hermione. You told me of the diary, how it was killing the Weasley girl to take over...that will be the end if we don't move fast. It is not strong enough yet, but it will be, and it will have attached itself to her so that we cannot remove it."
Harry hadn't thought it would be easy, but he hadn't wanted to consider it impossible, and what Regulus and even Faye were saying was that it was. He didn't know what to do, how to solve this problem, but there had to be a way. Hermione couldn't die. Harry didn't know what he would do if she died.
"There has to be a way," he said and stood up.
"We must prepare for there not being anything for us to do. We can try, but we must prepare for the worst. I know you care for her, Harry, and so much has happened to her already, but if there was any other way..."
Harry nodded. "I understand," he said and couldn't help but think of just not doing anything about it. He couldn't kill his best friend, but with his wand he could rescue his father.
There was no way they would destroy the last two Horcruxes anyhow. No one would do anything to Hermione, and how were they to get Nagini without going near Voldemort. They could do both. And maybe...maybe there was a potion, or Severus could have an idea. They could practice on Nagini - after all the snake, too, was alive.
"Harry," Ron said from behind him.
Harry turned. "Hey," he said.
"What's going on?"
There had been a separation, Harry thought, between himself and Ron. He had felt it earlier when it was just himself, Draco, and Hermione. Ron had Lavender, it was true, but Harry couldn't think back to the last time he and his best friend had truly had a conversation.
"They said nothing can be done about Hermione," Harry said. "I want to think otherwise but all the facts, everything...anything we could try might lead to her dying anyway."
"Oh," Ron said. "I thought it might even be easy."
Harry sighed. "I guess it's not. But, enough about that, how is everything? You about screamed bloody murder when Lavender was being tortured. You obviously love her."
Ron blushed as if he hadn't expected this to come up. "I do," he said. "She's just...I don't know. She's the only girl that has ever understood me. All of me. She knows what to say in any occasion. She loves to cook."
Harry laughed. "I really am happy for you," he said. "I meant to ask earlier, but everything was so hectic, have you heard from Ginny...or about her?"
Ron shook his head. "To be truthful, I haven't even asked mum about her, last I talked to her. I should have. Why?"
"Oh, nothing. I just...I mentioned what happened the day I left to Hermione the other night."
Ron laughed. "I still can't believe she's with Malfoy. I mean, what does she see in that guy? I always thought...well, the two of your are so alike...I always thought it'd be the two of you. For a while I did like her, but we argued too much. The two of you though..."
Harry rolled his eyes. "I think I'm alright with Hermione and Draco dating. I never liked her that way anyhow."
"Hmm...if you say so. It's just even now. She's always holding your hand, or watching you. Sometimes I think Malfoy is seriously jealous of you two. And then, when she was petrified or whatever you visited her more than anyone else."
"And had Malfoy known she was there, or could enter Hogwarts he would have been there every day," Harry said back.
Harry didn't understand why he didn't want Ron to think that he liked Hermione so much. He had never bothered so much before with what his best friend thought, but this bothered him. He didn't like Hermione. She was his best friend and nothing more.
"She's my best friend," he said to Ron. "That's it."
"Alright," Ron said and put his hands in front of him as a gesture of peace. "How about a game of chess for old time's sake."
Harry grinned and nodded.
Draco had been living in Grimmauld Place long enough that he knew that at any time someone was bound to be in the kitchen. So when he stepped into the kitchen at midnight, he wasn't surprised to find someone in the kitchen. He was, however, surprised to see it was Faye.
"Hi," he said, and stood awkwardly by the door for a long moment.
"Come in," she said. "I promise I won't hurt you or anything."
Draco grinned. "What are you doing up so late. I expected Weasley to be in here, not you."
She shrugged. "Couldn't sleep. It's just..."
"Hermione?" Draco asked.
She nodded. "That and Lucius, and just the war in general. I can't help worrying that we are all going to die."
"I wanted to run," Draco admitted. "To go back to Malfoy manor and hide with my...with Narcissa. I knew I couldn't but the idea was there. But Potter...and then Hermione...they need us. And we have to find a way to destroy the Horcrux without hurting her. There has to be a way."
Draco walked across to a cupboard and began making himself hot chocolate. He had come down here for this and hoped it would help him sleep, but as he finished, adding a bunch of mini marshmallows into his drink, he sat down across Faye.
"We have to do something," he repeated.
"Sometimes there isn't anything for us to do. This may be the case now, and I do not want her to die, but it might be inevitable. Regulus, as much as I might dislike him, might be right on this one. He has researched this topic for years."
Draco didn't want to give up hope. Hermione meant so much to all of them and he didn't want her to die over this war, purposely. And if they would stand and watch this, then it would be murder and Draco would not consider it anything otherwise.
He picked up and took a sip of the hot liquid.
Faye stood up. "I should head to bed," she said, and walked to the door, but paused there and turned back to him. "I did hope we could have a good relationship perhaps as just friends for now rather than anything else, but everything's been pretty busy. I still would like to try. For years I spent my time wondering who you were. What kind of person you turned out to be. What you looked like...and knowing you. I don't think I could have been happier at how you've turned out. Good night."
Draco sat in the kitchen, motionless for a long time, before he picked up his hot chocolate and he walked up to his room. She loved him and seemed to want only the best for him. Draco had never realized before how. He had always wanted to put up having any sort of really important conversation with her. How had Harry dealt with it, finding out that his father was alive? That he was his potions professor? Draco could not have handled that. He could barely handle this, and Faye hadn't been in his life before his finding out or made his life miserable. But he had to give Faye a chance. She was his mom, after all. And while he was at it, he would find a way to save Hermione.
Draco brought his hot chocolate to his mouth, and took a large gulp, letting it warm him. He sighed and continued drinking, ideas forming in his head.