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It was raining when Ron, Hermione, Harry and Ginny boarded the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 ¾ the next morning. It was Mrs. Weasley who escorted them to King’s Cross Station, as Mr. Weasley had an urgent call into the Ministry.

“We’ll miss you,” she blubbered as she hugged everyone goodbye, making sure to pick some lint off of Ron’s sweater before letting them all clamber onto the train.

“See you at Christmas,” Harry called out the window as the massive steam engine pulled away from the station.

It was unnaturally quiet with the four of them being the only passengers on board. Hermione actually liked it that way. She was looking forward to getting a good amount of reading done in her newest book.

The four of them lugged their trunks along the middle hall, wanting to get their usual compartment in the back, but when they finally arrived and slid open the door, someone was already there.

“Luna?” said Ginny, surprised. There was Luna Lovegood, her wand tucked behind her hears, reading an issue of none other than The Quibbler.

“Oh, hi everyone,” she said in a casual tone of voice, her protruding eyes poking out over the page at them.

“What are you doing here, Luna?” asked Harry, setting down his trunk on the nearby bench, and reaching over to hoist Ginny’s up onto the luggage rack.

“Oh, well, I was visiting my dad for a few days,” she said, gazing out the rain-streaked window.

“Your dad? What happened?” asked Hermione curiously.

“He was attacked,” said Luna, returning to her magazine as if it was nothing.

“Attacked?” Harry, Ron and Ginny said at the same time.

“Luna, who attacked your dad?” asked Hermione, taking a seat next to her.

“Why, a Death Eater of course,” she responded. Now Ron, Harry and Ginny took seats too.

“Wait a minute. This is pretty serious,” said Harry, with a look on his face that implied he was a bit annoyed Luna was acting so calm and unconcerned.

“How did it happen Luna?” asked Ginny consolingly.

Luna grudgingly put down her magazine and started to explain. “He was on his way to work in London and a Death Eater jumped out and cursed him.”

“With Avada Kedavera?” asked Harry.

“Yes. But he’s not dead. The curse didn’t hit him, but it hit a window on the building behind him and all of the shattered glass and a few bricks came down on him and he was knocked out.” She returned to her magazine. The rest exchanged bewildered looks.

“Who was it?” asked Ron.

“I don’t know,” said Luna. “The explosion caused a bit of commotion, but who ever it was disapparated before the Ministry got there.”

“Why would anyone want to attack your father?” asked Hermione, to no one in particular.

“Come on Hermione, you know Death Eaters don’t care who they try to kill,” said Ron. “They were probably bored. I mean there hasn’t been a murder or anything for awhile now. Not like that’s bad, or anything,” he added quickly.

“Yes, but still. It just seems odd,” said Hermione. She wrinkled her forehead in thought. Then it came to her.

“Luna! Is that the latest issue of The Quibbler?” she asked, pointing to the magazine in Luna’s hands.

“Yes,” she said apprehensively. “I haven’t read it all yet.”

“Can I see it?” asked Hermione.

“Okay,” said Luna, handing it over. “There’s a good article on Snivelling Nemblacoots on page twenty-three.”

Hermione ignored her comment, searching feverishly through the pages until she came to what she was looking for.

“Aha,” she said, pointing out the two-page article to the rest. “‘Mission of The Death Eaters – Cold Feet?” she recited. “By Rita Skeeter.”

“Oh no,” said Harry. Hermione continued to read.

“‘If You-Know-Who thinks he’s got a skilled group of followers under his wing, then he better take a better look at their recent failures. The last recorded killing of either muggle or wizard by magical means was of last June. The victim was the former murderer and twelve year prisoner of Azkaban, Sirius Black.’”

Harry made a disgusted grunting noise at that. Ginny patted his arm as Hermione read on.

“‘Not only has there not been a single reported murder for over five months, but there haven’t been any signs of magical terrorist attempts or public attacks. In fact, the entirety of the Death Eater mission has seemed to arrive at a complete stand still. Why the sudden halt in action? Perhaps You-Know-Who’s supposed loyal followers are getting cold feet? Especially after the mass capture of Death Eaters after the attack at the Ministry, when Black’s murder took place, this is a probable theory.’”

“Well, now we at least know why your dad got attacked,” said Ginny. “That article probably offended the masks off of the Death Eaters.”

“The last thing they want to be seen as are cowards,” said Hermione, as Ron reached for the magazine.

“Look at this!” Ron said with a grin as he read with interest. “She goes on to describe Bellatrix Lestrange as ‘a pig-headed dipstick’ and says that Goyle ‘wouldn’t be able to catch a pig in an alleyway’.”

“She’s got a point you know,” said Ginny, leaning over to read with Ron.

“I can’t believe Rita Skeeter would have the nerve to write that though,” said Harry.

“I think she just wants to get the Ministry all worked up and worried. I mean after all, they banned her from writing in The Daily Prophet,” said Hermione.

“But still, to go on and talk trash about Voldemort’s Death Eaters,” said Harry. Luna shuttered at the usage of the name. “That’s a one-way ticket to instant death.”

“Well, maybe she thought that not as many people would read the Quibbler compared to The Daily Prophet,” said Ginny.

“Actually, we have quite a large fan base,” said Luna, shooting her a reproachful look.

“Well, I guess she was wrong. And Luna’s dad got punished for it,” said Hermione. “Is there anything we can do?” she asked Luna.

“Actually, there is,” said Luna. “I’m having a convention in the Ravenclaw common room next week promoting the research and tracking of Crumple-Horned Snorkacks. I would like very much if you all came.”

The other four gave each other apprehensive looks. Ron was about to make up an excuse as to why he regrettably would not be able to make it, but Hermione turned to Luna and smiled kindly.

Before he could get anything out, she said, “Of course we’ll come, Luna. That sounds really interesting.”

“Great,” said Luna. “I’ll remind you about it when the convention approaches. Could I have that back now, Ronald? I was in the middle of the article on Nargles.”

“Oh, um, here,” he said, handing it back to her. She settled back down without another word.

* * * * * *

Hermione knew that Ron had especially been looking forward to some “alone time” on the train, however he was quite annoyed when she refused to leave Luna’s compartment to find their own.

“We can’t just leave her in here by herself, Ron, especially after what just happened,” she hissed quietly at him from behind her book, so that Luna couldn’t see.

“Harry and Ginny left,” he shot back, leaning back into his seat and pouting. “Going for a little stroll my arse,” he added bitterly, folding his arms.

Hermione couldn’t help but grin at him. He did have a point. It was obvious that Harry and Ginny had no intentions of walking anywhere. They had been gone for two hours.

“I think I’ll take a nap,” Hermione said finally.

“You’re tired?” asked Ron. “We all went to bed early last night. Didn’t you get any sleep?”

“Of course I did. All this reading has made my eyes tired is all,” she lied. The truth was, she had only gotten a few hours of good solid sleep the night before, because she couldn’t stop thinking about the Malfoy situation back at Hogwarts. These thoughts started to cloud her mind again, but she shoved them out, only wanting to rest.

“Wake me in a bit,” she said to Ron, leaning on Ron’s shoulder and shutting her eyes. He stroked her hair for awhile. She liked it when he did that. Soon she drifted off.

She awoke in a lying position on the bench, to the sound of the compartment door being slid open. She looked up in the now dim room. It was Ron, in his school robes.

“Hey. I didn’t want to wake you, you looked so peaceful,” he said. “We’re about twenty minutes away.”

“Where’s Luna?” she asked, getting up and stretching.

“She just left to change,” he said with a mischievous grin. “Which means…we have a few minutes to ourselves.”

Hermione giggled as Ron came over and wrapped his arms around her, placing a sweet kiss on her lips.

“Any word from Harry and Ginny?” she asked between kisses.

“What about us?” came Harry’s voice. Hermione hastily peeled Ron’s arms from around her waist.

“Where have you two been this whole time?” she asked, stepping in front of Ron and placing her hands on her hips.

“Oh well, you know…” he said, scratching his head. Ginny was smirking behind him, a reddish tinge to her cheeks.

“You might want to change,” he said, switching the subject.

“Right,” responded Hermione, delaying to get her robes out of her trunk in order to shoot both Harry and Ginny knowing looks.

* * * * * *

Fifteen minutes later, Hermione, Ron, Harry, Ginny and Luna were getting off the train at Hogsmeade station, and were greeted by Hagrid holding a lantern, and Fang.

“Hi, Hagrid!” said Ginny enthusiastically.

“I’ve been wond’rin’ when you lot would be comin’ back,” he said. “How’s Charlie doin’? I heard a dragon got him? He alrigh’?”

“He’s fine,” said Ron, as the six proceeded toward the carriages.

“I didn’t know your brother got attacked by a dragon, Ronald,” said Luna. “Did they check to see if it was bitten by a wooberknoot?”

“A wooba-what?” he asked.

“A wooberknoot. They’re tiny little creatures in the air and when they bite you, you get really aggravated and hostile,” she responded seriously.

“Er, no, I don’t think it was bit by a woobicoot…”

“An’ how’s yer father doin’ Luna?” asked Hagrid.

“He’s alright. He’s still at St. Mungo’s though,” she said.

“Now tha’s just a darn shame,” muttered Hagrid. “Seems like th’ Death Eaters are at it again. Another attack jus’ this mornin’.”

“Another attack?” asked Hermione. “On who?”

“Some muggle woman near Bristol,” he said grimly. “She ‘ad no chance…caught her righ’ as she was leavin’ for work I s’pose. Well, here we are.”

A single carriage awaited them, and they all climbed in.

“See you later Hagrid!” Ron called out the window as Hagrid waved and then headed off in the direction of his hut.

“I wonder how much work we’ve missed today,” Hermione fretted as the carriage bumped and rolled up to the brilliantly lit castle.

“I don’t care, I just want to eat,” said Ginny, clutching her growling stomach. “Do you suppose we’re at dinner now?”

“I think we missed it,” said Hermione. “Didn’t you eat on the train? There was a house elf there, you know.”

“Oh, really? I didn’t…notice,” she said, blushing again. Harry was desperately trying to keep a straight face next to her.

“Oh well. We can get Dobby to get us something from the kitchens when we reach the common room again,” he said.

It turned out they had indeed missed dinner as the Great Hall was dark and empty. Hermione, Harry, Ron and Ginny parted with Luna at the stairs, but not before she reminded them once again of her Crumple-Horned Snorkack convention.

“Gingersnap,” said Hermione as they approached the Fat Lady.

“I’m sorry, but that’s not the password,” she responded.

“What? When did it change?” she asked.

“Two nights ago,” said the Fat Lady, checking her curls in a silver hand mirror.

“But we’ve been away!” said Ron. “You can’t just expect us to - ”

“I’m sorry, but without the new password, I can’t let you in.”

“Oh come on, you piece of lard, you know who we are! We come in and out of this bloody common room ten times a day!” shouted Ginny. The Fat Lady looked utterly offended.

“And how am I supposed to know you’re not a bunch of Death Eaters using Polyjuice Potion, Miss Fancy Pants?!” she said. Harry let out a sigh of annoyance.

“Come on, let’s just go to Dumbledore, he’ll know the new password. Besides, he’d probably want to see us anyways,” he said. He grabbed Ginny’s arm and steered her away from the portrait as she was sticking her tongue out at it.

The four were approaching the gargoyle in front of Dumbledore’s office when they saw Professor McGonagall coming down them.

“Oh – there you are. Dumbledore is gone right now, but I assume you need the new Gryffindor password – ”

“Dumbledore’s gone?” asked Harry. Everyone exchanged confused looks.

“Yes, yes an urgent call from the Ministry. Now, it’s late and Filch will box your ears if you’re outside any longer. The new password is gobbledygook.”

Once at the portrait again, Ginny was the first to say the password. “Gobbledygook, you toad. Gobbledygook, alright?”

The Fat Lady grudgingly opened for them with a final glare at Ginny. Once inside, Harry called on Dobby for some food for everyone, but Hermione wasn’t hungry. She bade everyone goodnight, kissed Ron and then climbed the stairs to her dormitory.

It was already dark and quiet in the room. After changing into her jimjams, she hopped into bed and felt something crinkle underneath her. Confused, she felt around and found a now wrinkled envelope.

“Lumos,” she muttered with her wand, so she could read. It said:

Where the hell have you been these past few days? You haven’t been in any classes today and I know for a fact that Miss goody two shoes Granger would never miss a class for anything. Plus you haven’t been at meals. Write back if you get this.

Great, she thought. Just what I need to think about right now. She turned the parchment over and scribbled:

Long Story.

She stumbled through the dark to the window where Parvati’s tawny owl sat. She had let Hermione use her whenever she needed to, so she blindly attached the parchment to the bird’s leg, latched open the window a crack to let it out, and then closed it once it had gone.

“Hermione?” she head someone whisper. It came from the bed nearest her – Lavender’s.

“Yeah, Lavender?”

“Where have you been?” she whispered.

“I’ll tell you in the morning, it’s kind of a long story,” she whispered back.

“Okay, goodnight then.”


And with that, Hermione plodded over to her bed, hopped in, pulled the covers over her, and tried to focus on all of the schoolwork she would need to make up over the next few days.

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