"Hermione, wake up!" Hermione was dragged awake by Lavender's insistent shaking. She cracked open an eye and mumbled a complaint before her eyes fell shut once more. Again she found herself being shaken. "Wake up, Hermione, you were having a nightmare."
"I was?" she asked as she struggled to prop herself up on her elbow and rouse herself from the surreal dream world she'd been inhabiting. Lavender nodded at her and Hermione noticed her friend was shaking uncontrollably.
"Did I wake you up?" Hermione's question was voiced as an apology as she knew what shape her cellmate was in.
"I wasn't sleeping, if that's what you're worried about. I can't sleep. I was just looking out the window, watching the sun coming up over the sea and then you started to cry. You'd been tossing and turning and whimpering a bit before that but then it turned into outright sobbing so that's why I roused you."
Hermione lifted a hand to her eyes. They were damp and gummy so she sat up and spent a minute wiping the sleep out of them and yawning so wide that her jaw cracked. "Oh, bugger," she swore as she recalled what she had been dreaming about.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Lavender nudged her out of her trance.
"Not really, but I'm sure it's considered a good idea in some book or other. Give me a minute to wake up here." She swung herself off the bed and limped to the small table that housed the enchanted mirror along with a jug of cold water, a bowl and a worn hand towel. She poured some water into the bowl and dipped the towel into the water, marvelling at the bruises on her face as she washed away the sleep from her bloodshot eyes.
"You look awful, dear!" the mirror exclaimed in a horrified voice. "You should really start taking better care of yourself."
"Oh, piss off you useless thing!" Hermione snapped at it, her nerves frayed.
"There's no need to be rude," the mirror replied indignantly, which started Lavender laughing.
"You should have heard the bloody thing talking to me earlier," she gasped hoarsely when she'd collected herself a few minutes later; "I was so tempted to smash it." Her comment brought a smile to Hermione's face as she came to stand next to Lavender and stare out the window at the horizon.
"Look at that sunrise, will you," Hermione sighed wistfully, "it's hard to believe we're stuck in this depraved place when there's such a beautiful day dawning out there."
"I know. It's hard to remember that we've only been here for about six months as it feels like it's been a lifetime."
"More like an eternity in Hell." They met each other's eyes, but looked away after a moment.
"So what happened last night?"
"Torture all around," Hermione replied softly with a dismissive wave of a hand, "just another fun-filled evening at Chez Malfoy."
"Yes, all around. Draco was there. He's done something absolutely stupid from what I can gather and Daddy decided to punish him and me all at once."
"What? Draco was punished?" Lavender was stunned by Hermione's revelation.
"Muggles call it Aversion Therapy, well, at least it's the closest thing I can compare it to."
"Aversion Therapy, what's that?"
"Well, let's start at the beginning here," Hermione frowned as she turned and sat on the window sill, her back to the sunrise. She wasn't sure where to begin, "I swear that Malfoy Sr. thinks Draco is in love with me or something."
"Well, we know he's obsessed with you, but in love with you?" Lavender was incredulous, "he's not capable of love, the little bastard." She shuddered as the effects of the Imperius swept over her for the first time in weeks.
"His father thinks otherwise, and he has been acting awfully strange. Remember last week when I told you he didn't hurt me and seemed more petulant and needy than usual?"
"Yeah," Lavender nodded as she recalled the conversation, "it did seem terribly odd, didn't it?"
"I think he's jealous Professor Snape's been given priority when it comes to me. He was awfully interested in what I thought of him the other night when he did get to see me. The whole evening was bizarre." Hermione shook her head, trying to clear the recollection of the encounter from her mind. She could handle the abuse when it came to Draco Malfoy, as that was to be expected, but she had no idea what to do with this other side of him.
"But why would he be jealous of Snape? You aren't tied to Draco exclusively and you've been given to other Death Eaters to use."
"I really don't know but it did seem like there was a battle of wills going on in that room last night. You'd think Malfoy hated his father, the way he was talking to him."
Lavender frowned at Hermione's observation. "What did he say?"
"When his father told him he'd have to be punished for his obsession with me he told him 'Bring it on, old man,' and then he told him if he was looking for absolution from his sins he wouldn't find it there."
"Wow," was all Lavender could manage to say.
"Malfoy Sr. cast the Imperius curse on his son and the Cruciatus curse too," she watched her friend's eyes widen and mouth drop open, "he used me to torture him, Lavender, after he'd laid a beating on both of us just to get his jollies. He poisoned my touch in Draco's mind with the Imperius and then forced me to have sex with him while he was screaming and writhing and retching on the floor beneath me." Tears sprung to Hermione's eyes as she relived the previous night in her head. "I told him I was sorry for what his father was forcing me to do and I know he understood, I could see it in his eyes. That's funny, don't you think?"
"That you apologised?" Lavender queried and shook her head when Hermione nodded. "No, that's the difference between us and them, Hermione. Even after all you suffered at his hands you were still sorry for what you did to him, though you had no control over it." Lavender reached up and dabbed away the tears that were spilling down her friend's cheek with the sleeve of her faded robe.
"Thanks," Hermione sniffed as she tried to gather herself together, "but that's not the worst of it." Lavender stilled at her words. What could be worse? "When it was all over and Draco was a quivering mess on the floor, his father threw me onto the bed and raped me one way after another in front of him."
"My God," Lavender breathed as Hermione broke down and cried.
"And he leered the whole time he did it, keeping up a running commentary about what I was, and how it's all I'll ever be and the fact that if he didn't have other plans for me he'd have killed me outright in order to teach his son a lesson."
"Oh, Hermione, I'm sorry," Lavender drew her sobbing friend into a hug, smoothing her hair in reassurance as the tears soaked through her worn robes. She was also trying, unsuccessfully, to control her own trembling at the thought of what the coming days had in store for them.
Severus' head was pounding as he stood under the ice-cold, needle-sharp, spray of the shower. He was still having trouble processing what he'd seen and how he could have witnessed it at all, seeing he was at Hogwarts. He stilled for a moment, head tilted so the cold water could assault his face and wake him up, and concentrated on Hermione. A wave of sorrow, tinged with despair, washed over him and an unvoiced and bitter unhappiness settled deep within him, leeching into his bones.
When he was dried and dressed he went into his sitting room. Fawkes hopped out of his nesting box next to the fireplace and lurched his way ungracefully across the room to stop next to Snape. Severus couldn't help but smile as he looked down on the re-born phoenix. As if it could read his inner turmoil, the little bird puffed out his scruffy, newly grown-in feathers and began to sing. It was just a few short, sweet notes in a new and uncertain voice but it did much to buoy the headmaster's spirits and he knelt down and held out his arm to phoenix.
"Care to go for a visit, Fawkes?" he waited for the bird to hop on his forearm before moving to the fireplace and throwing some floo powder into the fire.
They stepped through into Professor Sprout's quarters and found themselves greeted by a delighted Pomona. "You're up! Did you have anything to eat yet?" Severus shook his head and Pomona clapped. "That's good, I've ordered a little something from the kitchen for us." Just as she spoke a house elf appeared and set a large tray of food down on a small table. She thanked the creature and it disapparated with a large grin on its face.
"A little something? You're either mad or you're expecting the Hufflepuff Quidditch team to join us for breakfast." Severus couldn't believe the amount of food there was on the tray.
"No, it's just the pair of us. You haven't been eating well the past couple of weeks, Severus, don't think I haven't noticed." He flashed her a rueful smile and she suddenly noticed the phoenix. "And, goodness, look who you've brought with you."
She was pleased to see Fawkes looking the healthiest she'd seen him since Dumbledore had died. It was a good sign. She tickled the bird's neck and he nipped her finger affectionately. Severus held his arm out towards the tall back of one of Pomona's armchairs and Fawkes hopped off his forearm to perch there, pulling his neck down into the warmth of his breast feathers before he tucked his head under a wing and promptly fell asleep.
"Where's Albus?" Snape asked and was rewarded with a wide grin.
"There," Sprout pointed to the picture above her fireplace. Snape looked up to find a hilarious scene being played out in the large painting. Albus had fallen asleep against the large log he'd been sitting on earlier. The wood nymph was sitting cross-legged in the lush grass next to him, weaving daisies and buttercups into his long silver beard and hair and she'd obviously been at it for some time already if the number of flowers was anything to go by. Severus couldn't contain the barking laugh that escaped him at the sight. "Thought you'd get a kick out of that," Pomona laughed as she moved to stand in front of the painting. "Albus!" she called, "he's here, wake up!"
The figure in the portrait awoke with a start and the shocked wood nymph bounced to her feet and ran into the trees, snickering and shrieking guiltily. "What's with that silly girl?" Albus asked as he stretched and straightened up. Severus and Pomona just glanced at each other, bit their lips to stifle the laughter, and shrugged.
"How are you, Severus? I've had the distinct feeling that you've been avoiding me the past couple of weeks." The great wizard known as Albus Dumbledore had been reduced to a pale two dimensional facsimile of himself but even so he still had the power to make Snape feel like a guilty little boy, the effect of a beard full of buttercups and daisies notwithstanding.
"I suppose I have, Albus."
"Something important has happened, am I right? You've always made a point of trying to avoid me when it has."
"You know there are precious few things that escape your notice," Severus answered as he turned to take the cup of tea Pomona held out to him. "Can we throw up a few extra wards before I start here?" he asked. Sprout nodded and they cast the necessary charms to ensure complete privacy before settling down in chairs in front of the painting housing the ex-headmaster.
"I've just recently found out a piece of intelligence that I should have gathered 5 months ago and I feel stupid. I should have known all of this a long time ago."
"Severus, does this have anything to do with that potion you needed ingredients for?" Pomona interrupted his self-recrimination.
"Yes," he sighed, "unfortunately, I'm afraid it does."
"Hmm, that doesn't sound good. What happened?"
"Do you remember how many bodies were missing at the end of the last battle?"
"There were quite a lot, if I remember correctly," she replied.
"Well, a score of them aren't missing anymore," Severus explained, "I know where they are. We know where they are."
"But there's a problem, isn't there?" Albus asked. It was a familiar and frustrating script.
"Isn't there always a problem?" Severus answered with a question of his own, thinking of the opening line from the old nursery rhyme, 'Here we go round the mulberry bush.'
Harry cracked open an eye and was greeted with his usual morning view of a world sharply out of focus. He thrust a hand out of the covers to quest about on the box of Tesco's tinned tomatoes he'd been using as a night table, smiling when his fingers closed around the frames of his spectacles. The room came into focus as he slipped his glasses on and he lay for a minute, studying the roughly hewn ceiling before finally sitting up and swinging his legs off the end of the bed. He stood up and stepped into the jeans he'd tossed to the side of the cot the night before. He looked down at Padma as he buttoned the waist and zipped the fly and grinned at the sight of her lying primly, covered to her chin under her tightly tucked in blanket. Harry bent over and lifted his own blanket off the floor, depositing it at the bottom of the cot. He'd transfigure it back into his cloak later, if Padma didn't take care of it when she woke up as she often did.
Harry groaned as he went to slip into his trainers and remembered that they'd bounced off in two different directions under the bed. It was too early in the day to be crawling on hands and knees. "Bugger!" he swore, groaning like an old man as he crouched down to fumble under the cot for his shoes. He stopped, head cocked to the side, puzzled, as his fingers came in contact with the smooth side of a box. "Hmmm… what's this then?" he asked himself as he pulled it out from its hiding place.
It was a plain cardboard box, out of the ordinary only because of its contents. It held all the things he and Padma held especially dear. There were photos and bric-a-brac, letters and cards as well as a threadbare, ginger-coloured teddy bear. It was the photo at the top of the box that caught Harry's attention.
The photo had been taken in the Gryffindor common room a few months before the war had begun in earnest. Creevey had snapped it and it was a portrait of all the Gryffindors in Harry's year, along with Padma, who was standing next to her sister in the photo but kept glancing over at Harry and blushing. Harry noticed that his photographic equivalent was doing the same and glancing over at Padma as all the others waved at the camera. That's when they'd realised there was something between them. Harry smiled as the Parvati in the photo turned to look at her sister and realised she was staring at Harry. The sly grin that lit up her face at that moment said it all. There had been nothing Parvati and Lavender had liked better than to play matchmakers. When he thought of all the good-intentioned mischief the pair had gotten into in order to get him and Padma together he couldn't help laugh.
"What's so funny?" Padma asked with a yawn as she swung her legs off her own cot and sat up.
"The way we were caught on film sizing each other up," Harry replied, turning the photograph around so Padma could see what he was talking about, "and the way your sister and Lavender were on to us from the get go. I was just remembering all the tricks they pulled to get us together."
"They were quite the pair weren't they?" Padma replied softly, becoming pensive as she thought about those carefree days before the war that seemed so far away. Harry noticed her mood change and sat down on the bed next to her, propping the box on his lap with one hand as he wrapped an arm around her and hugged her to himself.
"It's alright, Love," Harry murmured, kissing her forehead.
"We can't let them die, Harry," Padma told him, sotto voce, thinking of her dead twin. "We have to get them all out. I'll never be able to live with myself if we lose them too." She looked down at the box on Harry's lap and fished out another photograph, studying yet another picture Colin had taken of them. This time it was a photograph of them exchanging promises and vows in their betrothal ceremony, an event that had taken place two months ago. It had been a joyous occasion but had also been subdued and bittersweet in light of the empty spaces in the circle where friends and family should have stood, sharing their magic and love with the newly betrothed couple.
"We'll get them out. Charlie and his lot will help with the diversion and it'll buy us the time we need to pull down the wards on the brothel without the Death Eaters noticing." He handed her the box on his lap and got back down on his knees to search for his trainers. "Ah, there you are," he stretched as far as he could, but still couldn't touch either of the shoes. "Damn… accio trainers," he intoned, smiling as the shoes flew into his outstretched hand. As he sat on the floor tying his laces, he studied his fiancé from under his dark unruly fringe. She had her sister's threadbare teddy out of the box now and was hugging it tightly to herself, like she often did when she was upset.
"Shall I tell them to keep something warm for you, Love?" he asked her as he stood up.
"There's no need. I'll be there in a few minutes, you go on ahead," she told him as she swiped a tear from her eye with the heel of one hand.
"Are you sure?" Padma nodded at his question and Harry left her to go to the Hall, giving her a moment in private with her grief.
Draco woke up in his own bed at Malfoy Manor and spent a few minutes studying the heavy velvet canopy of his four-poster bed. He was surprised to find himself there after what had happened the night before. He'd been sure his father would have left him to languish for eternity in the dungeons before letting him back into the house. He moved to sit up and his muscles screamed in protest, causing him to give up and fall back onto the pillow with a groan. He could still taste the unpleasant mixture of blood and bile in his mouth. He ran his tongue over his lips to moisten them and was not surprised to find they were split and swollen. He sighed. He'd really done it this time, hadn't he? The memory of the pain that seared his nerve endings every time Hermione Granger had touched him last night caused his stomach to twist in protest. Of course, he'd gone and done the unthinkable, hadn't he? He'd fallen in love with the Mudblood whore. He wasn't even sure when it had happened, he just knew that he'd crossed the line from lust and obsession to love somehow. He was an absolute idiot.
The door to his room opened and he looked over to see his mother peering around the door, with a worried frown on her face.
"Draco?" she called out softly, as if she was afraid of being heard.
"Come in, Mother," Draco replied, surprised at how ragged his voice sounded in spite of the knowledge that his throat was raw and strained. He watched as she looked over her shoulder into the hallway before slipping through the door and shutting it quietly behind her. "I take it you're not supposed to be here?" he asked, trying for a sneer but not being able to force his ravaged mouth to comply. She shook her head.
"No, I'm not supposed to be here, but your father has gone to the Ministry to take care of some things." Draco wondered if the things that had to be taken care of had anything to do with him at all. "Why did you defy him, Draco?" Narcissa asked as she sat on the end of the bed and looked down at her beautiful son's ruined face. Tears started to well in her eyes.
"Merlin's bloody balls, Mother, it's not as if I set out to do it deliberately," Draco wheezed, lifting a hand to cradle his bruised ribs as he laughed at her question. "Have you ever known me to have such a death wish?" Narcissa shook her head. If anything, self-preservation was Draco's paramount skill.
"Then tell me why this happened? Help me understand," she pleaded.
"Understand what? Wasn't it you who spilled the beans? You've never been able to stand up to him even once, have you?" Draco accused his mother bitterly.
Narcissa looked away, unable to meet his eyes after such a bald statement. It was the truth, though. She had never, in their more than twenty-five-year long relationship, been able to resist her husband and the force of nature that was his personality. She'd found it was much more conducive to peace and quiet to acquiesce to his will and her preferred way had always been the 'Path of Least Resistance'. Bella had always said she was too soft, too complacent and she was right.
"I'm sorry, it's hard to go against his will," she explained by way of apology, "it's part of the fidelity charm he cast on me the night we got married." The charm only served to make her natural submissiveness almost all encompassing where her husband was concerned. It was the first time she'd admitted such a thing. Draco wasn't surprised at the news his father had cast that charm. It wasn't used any more as it was considered to be bordering on dark magic, but he was sure that just about all the Death Eaters' wives were bound to their husbands in that fashion.
"Then why are you here? Shouldn't you be off working at one of your charities? Isn't that what you're always supposed to do when he wants you out of the way?"
"I set out to leave the house more than once but I kept being drawn back here to you," she admitted, "I've always been more rebellious when you're involved for some reason and I really needed to see you." To make sure you were still alive. The words hung unspoken in the air between them.
"You'll be in a world of trouble if he finds you here when he returns," Draco pointed out, pleased at what she had said but not about to show it.
"I won't be here when he returns," Narcissa reassured her son.
"I take it I'm not to be healed using magic?" Draco changed the subject, knowing what the answer would be before asking the question.
"Not for the time being. It's part of the 'lesson' he's teaching you, I'm sorry," Narcissa sniffled as Draco shifted to get more comfortable and winced at the pain that accompanied his efforts. "Are you in a lot of pain?" she asked, reaching out to take his hand.
Draco laughed and pressed down on his ribs again with his free hand. He didn't answer the question and suddenly found himself thinking about Granger. What kind of state was she in today if this was how he felt? Narcissa frowned as she watched her son become pensive. She was suddenly terrified by the idea that Draco hadn't learned the lesson his father was trying to teach at all. There was something different about him today, a deeper undercurrent of defiance than there had been, perhaps? The thought triggered her usual self-defence mechanism – denial, avoidance and evasion.
"I'd better leave," she leaned over and kissed Draco on the forehead, "Rose Parkinson and Beatrice Bullstrode are expecting me."
"Goodbye, Mother," Draco answered, watching as Narcissa made her way to the door and opened it quietly, slipping back through it as stealthily as she'd come. He lay for a few moments staring at the door after it closed, but he wasn't seeing it. His mind was replaying the events of last night over again. For the first time in his life the thought of what he and his father had done to Hermione wasn't funny.
Ron, Bill and Blaise had returned from their shift on the wards to find Ginny in full 'Molly Mode' (as the brothers called it), which meant she was behaving a lot like a drill sergeant, barking directions to the different volunteers who were helping her prepare for the arrival of the prisoners being kept at the brothel. There was so much to do, what with gathering all the supplies and sundries that would be required. No doubt there'd be medicinal potions required. Ron smiled as he saw that Fred and Susan Bones had already been put to work brewing basic restorative draughts and calming potions at one of the tables in the main hall that had been converted into a makeshift potions lab. Trust Ginny to be shrewd enough to know who were the best bets out of everyone here to get each particular job done that needed doing. They might even have to pull Fred from his guard shifts if he proved to be of better use here.
Ron stumbled forward, bowled over by a figure carrying a tall pile of sheets and towels. "Bloody Hell!" he exclaimed as he ended up lying face down on the dirt floor of the cavern.
"Sorry, love," Tonks apologised as she looked down at him, cheeks in full blush at her clumsiness. Down here she never used her metamorphmagi powers to change her appearance. Here she was always her true self. Her every day face--the one she was born with--wasn't beautiful, but it was very pleasant. Warm brown eyes glanced quickly over to Fred. "Do you think Harry would let me guard Penny and Neville on their next shift if Fred's still busy making potions?" she asked Ron.
"I haven't a clue, Nymphadora," Ron answered with a shrug as he sat up and started to help gather the fallen sheets and towels, "but don't you think the real question is whether or not you can keep yourself from capsizing the boat and throwing everyone into the drink?"
"Ha ha, very funny, Ron," Tonks glared at him as she folded the towel she was holding, "I'm not that clumsy and you know what I do to people who call me Nymphadora, don't you?" She glowered and Ron grinned at her.
"You know I'm just pulling your chain, Tonks," Ron held his hands up in front of himself. There's Harry now, why don't you go and ask him?" He gestured over his shoulder to the archway where Harry stood taking in what everyone was up to. "I'll finish folding these back up. Where'd Ginny want them?"
"Oh, thanks, Ron," Tonks smiled at him and pointed in the opposite direction, "Over on that table there, with all of the other linens and things. There's a sheet and quill there so you can add them to the tally." Ron saluted her with a smile and got to work, but his face became solemn once she turned away. He was thinking of Lavender, Hermione and the other prisoners again. How badly damaged would they all be? He somehow thought blankets and potions wouldn't be enough. He wasn't sure what would be enough.
"Wotcher, Harry," Tonks greeted him as she joined him in the archway.
"Hey, Tonks," Harry replied, still surveying the activities in the Hall. "Heh, Ginny's really in her element, isn't she?" Tonks followed his gaze to where Ginny was drafting Blaise and Bill into her service, handing the exhausted duo a small list of tasks to complete before they were allowed to catch some sleep.
"She's been starving for a purpose these past few months, Harry," Tonks pointed out. "You lot have been like a clutch of mother hens where she's concerned. You don't know how much that pissed her off."
"Everyone and their granny knows how much that pissed her off, Tonks," Harry shook his head. "We're talking Ginny here and we all know she's about as subtle as a bludger to the head."
"Well, she's finally glad you've given her something to do. I'm glad too, you know, because being shunted to the sidelines is something the rest of the girls worry about."
Harry looked askance at her, "why would that be?"
"This is the first time in ages they've been assigned anything more interesting than the monthly shopping run to Tesco's. If you want to look at it figuratively, as an ex-Auror calls it, the girls have been doing the desk jobs while all you blokes have been doing the fieldwork."
"Isn't that a bit of a stretch, Tonks?" Harry retorted.
"Not really from their point of view," Tonks answered quietly. "Look, Harry, forget I said anything, all right? I'm just venting because they're always on my case about being the only one who gets regular assignments."
"Well, your innate abilities are indispensable, Tonks, you're our girl on the street. It's moot now that everyone has something to do, unfortunately. I just wish that the thing to get us all off our arses and back to doing some good hadn't had to be this."
"I know what you mean," Tonks agreed, "and while I'm glad they're alive, I'm afraid of what's going to happen."
Harry nodded, understanding, before changing the subject, "now what was it you wanted?"
"Fred's post as guard if he ends up having to stay to make more potions with Susan. I need to do something outside of this bloody warren that doesn't involve tagging around London after miscellaneous, no-name Death Eaters and ducking into doorways and alleys to hide and change my looks when I think they've seen me," she gestured absently around herself, flustered by sounding ungrateful about her previous assignments. At least she had had decent assignments compared to some of the girls.
"I'll check with Ginny to see how much longer they're going to need him for. As for the job, it's kind of cold and boring, really, and not very pleasant when the waves pick up a bit."
"Sounds good to me," Tonks replied with a grin. Harry just shook his head as he moved off to speak to Ginny.
Severus sat behind his desk in the Headmaster's Office, poring over the weekly incident reports submitted by the Heads of each House. He was behind on the never-ending paperwork that came with the job. He sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose in the hope of warding off the headache that was building behind his eyes. He had been fighting the undercurrent of anger and fear being channelled through the link he'd formed with Hermione through the potion since the moment he'd woken up. Her mood had not improved at all, not that he had expected her to be chipper.
He had spent two hours cloistered in Pomona's rooms with her and Albus, filling them in on what had been going on over the past couple of weeks. Pomona had been indignant that he hadn't shared the burden with them before now. Albus had grown more and more silent and serious with every new detail that Severus had revealed. It wasn't a good sign. With Albus no longer corporeal and Voldemort in charge of things in the Wizarding World, their options were severely limited. He knew that he could rely on Pomona to take on more of the workload for him here at the school for the next week. She'd make excuses for him and cover for his absences and strange hours. It was funny, but he never thought he'd mourn his days of spying back before Voldemort had seized power. His life, though convoluted then, had been much simpler. He felt like he was getting far too old to be playing at all this cloak and dagger stuff. For the first time in a long time, he felt afraid. He knew that Hermione's emotions were feeding his own, but he was worried all the same. There were so many lives at stake. There was far too much to lose. The fear of being tripped up and discovered was eating at his insides. He was going to have to calm down. Right now, there was only one thing that would do that.
He needed to see Hermione. For whatever reason, thanks to the Vestigium Teneo, they had become each other's balm.
A/N – Sorry this chapter is so late in coming. Real life has been a bitch for the past year. We've had more serious family health problems crop up and I worked a horrendous stint of overtime, which burned me out so much that I hadn't been able to muster up much energy for writing or art. Also, the chapter was almost done but then I went and screwed it up by writing something that didn't work so I had to backtrack and unravel what I'd done. Thanks to everyone for persevering. You're all great.
There are a number of unfinished pieces of artwork that go with this chapter. I only have one to offer up at this time. You can find it here ?id=118418