Chapter 1 : Chapter One
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“Harry, you have to keep practicing!” Hermione insisted.
“I am, Hermione,” Harry sighed. “Honest.”
He refused to meet her eyes and she glared at him furiously. She wasn’t sure if he just wanted to have those funny dreams or if he was honestly having trouble blocking his mind. Why, Hermione thought, couldn’t Harry understand that it was dangerous to have his mind open for Voldemort to see? He had seemed so scared of the time he had seen Voldemort’s snake attack Ron’s dad. It only made sense that he should be taking his Occlumency seriously but instead he was doing the exact opposite.
“Lay off him already, if he says he’s doing it then he’s doing it,” Ron said. He and Harry glanced at each other and then quickly looked away. If that wasn’t a confirmation that Harry was lying, Hermione didn’t know what was. She huffed and stabbed at her dinner irritably.
“Just look at her,” Harry growled a few minutes later, glaring up at the head table. Hermione followed his gaze and her eyes narrowed at Umbridge who was sitting at the center of the table acting as if she were a queen. No matter what havoc a student brought into the corridors, she was always able to make it to meals in order to sit in that seat as if to remind them who was in charge. If Fred and George were still at the school they probably would have done something about it. It had only been a few weeks since the twins’ brilliant escapade and the talk over it was beginning to die down, as were the ridiculous amount of pranks. Of course, it had been fun to watch the members of the Inquisitorial Squad get picked off one by one, but the enchantments they had been forced under were steadily becoming more violent and thus, something Hermione disapproved of.
At the thought of the Inquisitorial Squad, Hermione turned to the Slytherin table which was where most of the members had come from. Slytherins were extremely favored by Umbridge so they were a bit more careless with their behavior and none of them seemed to mind that Dumbledore had been driven out of the school. Hermione bit her lip in thought, wondering why none of them seemed to have turned against each other. Surely they didn’t all agree with Umbridge’s rules? Maybe it was a Slytherin thing.
At the center of the table was Draco Malfoy eating and conversing with a boy Hermione believed was named Blaise Zabini and a girl, Tracey Davis. There were two noticeably large empty seats on his left and right where his lackeys, Crabbe and Goyle, usually sat. When Blaise and Tracey eventually went off to talk to someone else, Draco looked around the Great Hall (for Crabbe and Goyle perhaps?) and left the table.
“With the way she sits there you’d think she thought that the whole school worshipped her,” Ron said, drawing Hermione’s attention back to her friends.
“The Slytherins love her, apparently that’s enough,” Harry said bitterly. His hands clenched and Hermione could see the scar on the back of one of them. How could a foul woman like her get away with so much? Hermione wished she could find some dirt on Umbridge, something big that even the Minister couldn’t ignore. But with Fudge’s state of mind, it wasn’t possible. He was too paranoid and would think she was trying to pick off his supporters one by one or something ridiculous like that.
“I don’t think it matters who likes her or not. Her only goal is to please Fudge and stay in a high position of power,” Hermione said. “No matter what everyone throws at her, she stays here. Not even the teachers like her.”
“When you say it like that, it sounds admirable,” Harry said, frowning at her.
Hermione sighed. “I mean that it will be extremely difficult to get rid of her.”
Harry grunted, pushing some peas on his plate around. He abruptly stood up. “I’m going to the library,” he muttered.
“Who are you, Hermione?” Ron asked with a small laugh. Hermione rolled her eyes, and then stood up as well. Ron gave her a startled look and added quickly, “I didn’t mean it in a bad way!”
“It’s fine, Ron, I just want to go to the library as well,” she said, a bit pleased Ron actually thought about her feelings. She didn’t miss the small twitch Harry did when she said she would be going. That most likely meant he hadn’t been planning to go to the library at all. She hated it when he tried to do something on his own without telling her or Ron.
“Oh,” said Ron. His ears turned a little red. “Should I go too? I mean, you two are going…” He looked at his lemon pie longingly and Hermione bit the inside of her cheek to stop herself from laughing.
“You can stay, Ron,” said Harry.
He turned around and walked out of the Great Hall, Hermione right behind him. The walk to the library was unusually silent. When they were just down the corridor to the library, Hermione took it upon herself to break it.
“What did you plan to look for in the library?” she asked Harry.
“Er, I didn’t do that Potions essay. It has to be good.”
“Because he’s been grading you harder than usual?” Hermione asked lightly, knowing that Snape was beginning to become a dangerous topic. Something more happened in their last Occlumency lesson, something that Harry simply refused to tell them. She was sure Harry wasn’t lying when he said Snape ended the lessons, but she didn’t know if it was really because Harry could already defend himself.
“I never said that,” Harry snapped. Madam Pince shushed them both when they went inside the library.
“Which Potions essay are you going to do?” Hermione asked in a whisper after they had chosen a table to place their bags on.
Harry looked up at her, alarmed. “There’s more than one?”
She rolled her eyes. “Don’t worry, I’ll get you the same books I used.” She knew the library like the back of her hand so brought said books to the table in what must have been less than three minutes. Harry looked both grateful and annoyed. Well, Hermione thought, that’s what he gets for lying and saying he was going to do homework at the library.
Hermione had already started in her Arithmancy homework when she noticed Harry was still standing. She looked up at him with an impatient glare. He was holding a book up and pretending to read it but his mind was obviously elsewhere.
“Do you need help?” she asked politely.
“You haven’t even pulled out a sheet of parchment.”
She scowled. That was his “stop nagging me already” tone that he had picked up from Ron. “Alright, fine.”
Hermione worked in silence for only a minute more before noticing again that Harry wasn’t doing any work at all. “Harry, the only way to stop having those dreams is to practice your Occlumency. Even if you already know it, it will only help you and make you stronger agains-“
Harry slammed the book he was pretending to read down on the table, making Hermione jump.
“Snape says I can handle myself, why can’t you accept that? I know what I’m doing, Hermione!” Hermione winced and he glared at the ground and then at Madam Pince who glowered at him from across a few bookshelves. “Sorry,” he grunted. His voice softened. “I know you’re looking out for me, Hermione, and I really appreciate it, but really, I’m fine.”
“Please, Harry,” Hermione whispered. “It’s dangerous. At least… at least look for a few books to read on the side to help you out.”
He shifted uncomfortably and then sighed. “Alright, just a few books then. Do you know where to find some?”
Hermione nodded eagerly. “Yes, I think so! Come on, we can look at them together.”
“I’ll wait here,” Harry said, sitting down. “I really do need to work on that Potions essay.”
Pleased that she succeeded, Hermione was practically skipping on her way to a section of the library she was sure there would be some books on Occlumency. However, as she began to brush her finger across the spines of the books as she read each title, she slowly began to realize there were not so many books at all. She pulled a few of them out of the shelves, but although some mentioned Occlumency, they did not have instructions on how to accomplish the actual skill. All she found were theories and cases where it was used.
Of course that would mean the books she wanted would be in the Restricted section. Occlumency and Legilimency was probably not something the school would want its students to learn in case they snuck answers right out of their teacher’s head. Hermione summoned the log of books in the Restricted section and read it. It really wasn’t a surprise when she saw The Art of Occlumency followed by about four other books on the subject. She pulled out a quill to write the titles down in order to ask one of the teachers (probably McGonagall) for a signed permission slip when she read at the very top of the list:
Any Items Checked Out From the Restricted Section Must First Be Inspected and Approved By the Headmistress (Professor Dolores Umbridge).
“This is ridiculous,” Hermione whispered to herself. Where would she get the books she needed now? The next best thing was the Room of Requirement, but she couldn’t go there; it wasn’t allowed. If Umbridge ever caught her near there, she would probably get expelled and Harry would get blamed. And besides, just because the room provided books on Defense Against the Dark Arts didn’t mean that it would have books on Occlumency. But if it was for Harry against Voldemort…
It was a risk she had to take.
Hermione marched out of the library, quickening her pace a little when she saw Draco coming towards the exit as well. To her surprise, he hardly glanced at her and just strode past her to go outside. Perhaps being alone without Ron and Harry made bullying her less appealing. He always did seem to look forward to their reactions.
“Crabbe, Goyle, what are you doing?” Draco asked. He had been looking all over the castle for his two friends and after searching the library, decided to look on the grounds. They were throwing rocks into the lake for whatever stupid reason.
The two quickly turned all of their attention to him. Draco marched forward and crossed his arms, looking out to the lake and then back at his friends. “Well?” he pressed.
“We’re trying to get the giant squid’s attention,” Goyle explained.
“Why on earth would you want to do that?”
They shrugged. Draco rolled his eyes and gestured at them to follow him back inside the castle. He smirked when he heard the unmistakable thuds of their heavy feet behind him. Having those two with him made it so much easier to taunt others since they were the bite behind his bark. Crabbe and Goyle didn’t even bother to ask where he was taking them, they knew better than to ask a question that stupid.
To be perfectly honest he wasn’t sure what they were going to do either. Usually he would be hanging around Pansy at this time of day but she had developed an annoying habit of looking at herself in a mirror and going through her hair to check for antlers and hardly paid any attention to him. He supposed he could find a few first year Gryffindors to torment and take points away from, they deserved it after what they did to Montague; he was still babbling nonsense and the next Quidditch match was only two days away.
Draco slowed to a stop and turned around in what he hoped was an impressive way to face Professor Umbridge. Crabbe and Goyle turned around as well, quickly going to his sides to flank him. All in all, Draco was sure he looked pretty intimidating.
“Professor?” he said, nodding once in acknowledgment.
She strutted towards them as fast as her short, fat legs could carry her and stopped just a few feet in front of him. “Have you checked the Owlery for anybody sending out letters?” she asked.
He struggled not to grimace. If there was one thing he didn’t like about being part of the Inquisitorial Squad it was checking the mail. There were hundreds of students in Hogwarts and only so many students to look through the mail. Monitoring what was being sent out of the castle just doubled the work. Luckily, he was able to come up with a way out of it.
“No, ma’am,” Draco replied, looking at her innocently. “We were just going up to guard the seventh floor corridor.”
Her eyes bulged. “You’ve seen students performing prohibited activities?”
He kept his face as straight as possible. “There has been an increase in the number of students grouping together in the library, Professor. I’m sure it’s nothing to worry about, but I just thought about how much of a danger it was for them to gather around like that considering what happened last time…”
“Are you saying that I am not monitoring my students hard enough, Mr. Malfoy?” she almost shrieked.
He blinked. Something must have set her off before she came to talk to him. “Of course not. I just don’t want anybody to try to revolt against our Headmistress or the Ministry. That corridor is a potentially dangerous place; I just thought it could use some guards. I didn’t even think about the mail. I apologize, Professor.”
Umbridge took a deep breath. “No, no, that is fine. You’re right. That corridor does need guards. We will organize it during tomorrow’s meeting. On your way, then. I’ll find another member to sort through the mail.”
She shooed them away. Draco was pleased to get out of mail screening, but annoyed that he had just added another job to the work schedule.
“Why do we need so many floors in this castle?” he asked as they made their way up to the sixth floor. “There are only about fifteen classes in the whole school and two are outside. You don’t need this many floors.”
Crabbe and Goyle shrugged. Draco wrinkled his nose at the lack of an intelligent response. They didn’t have to go to the seventh floor corridor. He exited the Grand Staircase onto the sixth floor and searched for a place to sit.
“I thought we were going to the seventh floor corridor,” said Crabbe.
Draco rolled his eyes. “We aren’t really going to guard that floor. We would be sitting ducks, you fool. That’s the same floor as the Gryffindor common room and dinner is over. A flood of them will be coming through and would love to attack a few members of the Inquisitorial Squad,” he said. “Besides, Umbridge won’t bother coming all the way up here just to make sure we’re on guard duty.”
They went to the middle of the corridor and Draco chose a stone bench next to a window to sit on. “If you’d like, you can go ahead and guard this corridor. I have a passage to write for Ancient Runes and I don’t want to be disturbed,” he said as he pulled out his supplies from a small bag around his neck. He scowled and looked up when one of them nudged him.
“Who’s that?” Crabbe asked, pointing down the corridor.
Draco turned his head just in time to see the heel of someone disappearing around the corner to the moving staircases. “Probably a Gryffindor going back to its common room,” he said with a shrug. He didn’t see any reason to go after it at the moment, especially if he was so close to the Gryffindor common room with only Crabbe and Goyle as support. Before, those two would have been enough, but now that everyone was after the Inquisitorial Squad… it wasn’t safe.
“Looked like the Mudblood,” Goyle grunted.
Draco frowned and looked at the corner again. “You mean Granger?” He recalled seeing her at the Great Hall and then leaving the library like him a while ago. She had not been with her friends and he had a feeling she was still alone because he was sure he would have noticed if Harry and Ron were with her, even if he had been focused on finding his friends. He slid off the stone bench and had Crabbe and Goyle follow him through a short cut Filch had shown them to the seventh floor. The three of them waited behind a statue for Hermione to reach them. When she did, they watched as she went passed them straight to the place Draco and a few of his friends had caught most of the members of some stupid club led by Harry.
“It is Granger, she’s going to the seventh floor corridor again,” Draco sneered. “Come on, let’s go after her. I’d love to send that Mudblood to detention myself.”
“Isn’t she a prefect too?” Crabbe asked.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Yes, but we’re part of the Inquisitorial Squad. I just told Umbridge we’d be guarding this corridor. How will it look if someone else catches her up here? Honestly, you two…”
“I didn’t say anything,” Goyle whined.
Draco had already gone ahead of them, moving quickly but quietly and taking care not to get caught by Hermione who would look around every few steps. He wanted to catch her close to the door that their club had been caught in so that she would get in even more trouble than she would have for just wandering the corridor. From the corner of his eye he could see Crabbe and Goyle hiding behind a few suits of armor across from him. Hermione had finally reached a seemingly blank wall. Draco stood straighter, ready to strut over to her when she was pacing back and forth in front of it.
Somebody giggled and all heads turned toward Draco ─ or at least behind him ─ to look at a painting of a little girl in a pink dress. Draco cursed when he realized he must have brushed against her and tickled her or something. Hermione’s eyes widened in horror when she saw him and she finished her third passing of the wall, grabbed the handle of the door that appeared, and ran inside.
“Hold it right there, Granger!” Draco shouted. He waved his wand and shot a tripping jinx at her before the door closed and she fell over, her legs accidentally kicking the door open enough for Draco to squeeze through.
He stumbled in as Hermione was scrambling to her feet and he tripped over her, crashing on the ground. They both wrestled and rolled around before Draco managed to push her away on her face and stand up, chest heaving and his hair a mess. He pointed his wand at Hermione threateningly and she froze, biting her lip and glaring at him furiously. The sounds of Crabbe’s and Goyle’s fists pounding on the door behind them slowly faded away as the door sealed itself and presumably disappeared on the other side. Draco let out a shuddering breath, almost at a loss of what to do. He was sure he could exit the room at any time, but what to do with Hermione? He hadn’t planned this far. The girl could be very hostile if he let his guard down for a few seconds. Just thinking about it made his cheek sting. However, the look of uncertainty in her eyes gave him confidence and he puffed out his chest.
“You know, Granger, I was going to catch you outside in the corridor because I wanted to give you a detention,” Draco drawled. He smirked maliciously and summoned her wand into his hand and pocketed it. “But since you’ve actually gone into the room, I think it’s about time you‘ve been expelled. I’m quite certain our new headmistress will agree.”
“This isn’t the same room,” Hermione snapped.
“What are you talking about? Of course it…” Draco faltered a little when he looked around and saw only shelves and shelves of books, nothing like the room that he and the rest of the Inquisitorial Squad had been sent to. It looked like a personal library but he couldn’t make out many of the titles from where he was and he didn’t want to wander too far from Hermione in case she tried to attack him the Muggle way.
Not that he thought he couldn’t take a girl on in a fight or anything.
“I just came to get a book, Malfoy,” Hermione said shakily.
He snorted. “Whether this is the same room or not, your kind is not supposed to be here. You’ll still get a few detentions for this. Besides, I could tell Umbridge you were in the other room; who do you think she’ll believe?”
Draco frowned, and then realized she probably thought he was referring to Mudbloods rather than all of those in their stupid club. Whatever. “Professor Umbridge might let me choose what you’ll do for your detention. You try so hard to catch up to us real wizards that you actually like work that involves writing so I can’t make you do anything involving that. I suppose it will have to be something containing physical labor.” He twirled his wand a little, faking deep thought. “Or I could dock a few points and hex you a couple of times and leave you here. Potty and Weasel King will probably find you eventually.”
He looked around at the books again, making sure to keep one eye on Hermione as he did so. Was it possible that this room would have books that would be useful to him? There had never been a reason for him to try and use this room on his own before so he might as well do it now.
“There aren’t any Defense Against the Dark Arts books here, are there?” he asked conversationally, knowing the change of topic would throw her off.
She stared at him, obviously suspicious of his tone. “I just asked for books.”
Draco bit the inside of his cheek. Just for books? Any books? “Tell you what, Granger, stay here until I’m done looking around and I might let you leave with only one hex as well as whatever you came here for.”
Her jaw clenched but Draco was convinced she would do what he said since she couldn’t leave without her wand. To his left were a few neatly aligned books that seemed to be about Dark Magical Creatures. Luckily that meant that there was some form of organization in the room so it wouldn’t be too hard to find a book on O.W.L. subjects. Professor Umbridge may be a good ally but that didn’t mean she was a good teacher. He had O.W.L.s to pass and her “secure and safe environment” could kiss his-
Hermione couldn’t believe she was in this situation. And with Draco of all people! Apparently those D.A. lessons were no use against teenage Slytherins if he was able to get her down so easily. Perhaps she shouldn’t have tried to run and stayed to fight him instead. Then again, she probably would have gotten in more trouble if she had injured Umbridge’s favorite and it wasn’t like fighting a teenager in school was the same things as fighting a Death Eater in the real world.
“Associating Yourself with the Art of Occlumency? Have something to hide, Granger?” he asked her tauntingly. She glared at him just as he looked over at her. She was a little surprised that he had put it together that she had asked for those kinds of books and that he knew what Occlumency was, but it wasn’t really important. From what Harry said, Draco’s father was a strong supporter of Voldemort so if he knew Harry was learning about Occlumency then it might be a problem, but all Draco knew was that she had been looking for a book.
“It’s none of your business,” Hermione said.
He sneered and went back to exploring the different shelves. As she watched him, she noticed that he was slowly looking over his shoulder less and less and his wand was beginning to lower as his other hand went up to examine the titles of the books. Now, Hermione wasn’t a violent person, but that didn’t stop her from plotting exactly where to attack Draco in order to disarm him long enough to retrieve her wand and immobilize him.
At the exact moment his wand went down and his other hand began to rise up towards a book, Hermione lunged. He yelped and grabbed her, dropping his wand so that it rolled halfway into a wand shaped hole in the wooded floor that’s sole purpose was to be inconvenient. With a growl, Draco shoved her off of him and braced himself against a bookshelf, glaring at her. Hermione grabbed a book from the shelf and lifted it behind her to throw it at his head.
“You’re going to throw a book at me? I’m shaking in my frilly pink knickers,” he sneered.
She couldn’t think of a good comeback for that so she chucked the book as hard as she could at him. Draco ducked and dived for his wand. The next book she threw hit him right in the eye and he recoiled with a hiss of pain. However, he had managed to grab his wand and waved it at her as she picked up a dusty book on a table and prepared to throw it.
“Expelliarmus!” he shouted.
The book shot out of her hand and he jumped up to snatch it out of the air. Hermione had expected this and lunged at him for her wand. Unfortunately for her, it seemed that Draco’s spot on the Slytherin Quidditch team as Seeker was well earned rather than bought as he had already caught the book before she even reached him and swung his arm down to shove her away with a triumphant smirk. His victory didn’t last long, however, since she grabbed the arm he has pushed her with and they both fell down.
“Stupid Mudblood!” Draco spat, pinning her down beneath him.
The book had fallen out of his hand and opened right next to them. With a groan, Hermione kneed him in the groin and he tumbled to the side, shouting out a string of curses. Quickly, Hermione went on top of him, shoving her hands in his robe pockets for her wand. From the corner of her eye she saw Draco scoop up the book and swing it at her. Instead of ducking out of the way, she grabbed it to slow the attack.
Both of them froze when they felt the book pulling at their hands. Forgetting that they were fighting, they tried to pull their hands away from the book frantically, each growing more desperate as the book began to glow.
“Drop it, Granger!” Draco shouted, his voice high with panic.
“I’m trying!” she squealed, shaking her arm violently and practically swinging Draco around the room.
“That’s it-” Draco raised his wand with his free hand and pointed it at the book. He looked prepared to blast it off.
“No, Malfoy! Try using the-“
But what Draco should have tried using, he would never know because with a flash of light they were both gone.