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Hermione Granger sighed as she neatly scratched out notes on her ink-splattered parchment. History with Professor Binns. It was never a pleasure, but with sixth year starting he might have livened up the dull monotony. Haha, she thought, Liven up. I’m rapidly becoming a stand up comedian, she thought sarcastically.

She shook her mane of bushy golden brown hair, reordering her mindless thoughts and concentrating at the lecture at hand. It wasn’t an easy task, considering the professor was a ghost, not to mention a mind-numbingly boring teacher.
  
She flashed a look at her best friends, or the two lovable slackers she liked to think of as hopeless cases, Harry Potter and Ron Weasley. They were intent, not on the lesson, but on a scrap of parchment containing a game of hangman. Harry was turned completely around in his desk, snickering with Ron. The other students, all dressed in identical black robes, were in various states of unrest: sleeping, doodling, and idly looking out the window. Lavander Brown and Parvarti Patel were braiding each other’s hair, fastening butterfly clips that glinted gold in the weak October sun.

Hermione rolled her eyes as Ron leaned earnestly to the paper, a shock of red hair dipping into his pot of ink. Definitely hangman, she decided. Ron was terrible at hangman, and she could make out Harry smirking triumphantly as he drew a crying stick figure.

She turned back to her lengthy notes and jotted down a fact in neat penmanship. She paused and admired the glistening ink that informed her that Selma the Sorceress had been arrested in 1032 for Muggle hunting.
  
A normal day in the life of a teenage witch. That was, except for the nagging feeling of unrest that was rapidly creeping into Hermione’s stomach.

It was a feeling of a bitter potion and little by little, second by second, a sense of nausea and fear was overtaking Hermione. It was the type of feeling she experienced when she had forgotten an answer to a test, except the feeling had now been multiplied in a hundredfold.

Hermione slumped in her seat, for once completely ignoring her studious notes. What was wrong with her? She had all her homework, she had just gotten a test back marked a hundred. Nothing was amiss, except for the feeling of leaden dread rapidly pumping through her veins.

“Hey,” Harry whispered, altered to Hermione’s change in posture, "What's wrong?"
  
Everything was in order. The students snoozed under the sulfuric weight of the ghost’s teaching; nothing was out of place.
  
" I.... Nothing. I just felt strange,” she answered hesitantly.
  
"Are you sure?" Harry pressed, one eye on the game. "You look sort of sick. Do you have that flu-thing?"
  
"Harry, I'm fine,” she hissed, annoyed with herself. Now she was acting like a paranoid ninny and missing Binns’ lecture. "Now stop whispering to me! I'm going to miss the notes.”
  
Harry looked at Ron, who shrugged, clueless as usual. He has long ceased to question the inner workings of Hermione’s mind. They turned back to their game as Hermione turned back to her parchment.
  
Or tried to.
  
She couldn't shake the feeling of dread. Not dread, exactly, but an innate premonition that something was wrong. The pearly teacher, oblivious to the drama in his classroom, continued to talk.
  
Even as she concentrated on the superfluous witch burnings of the Middle Ages, a deep feeling of unease weighed down Hermione’s slight frame.

Pull yourself together, she thought irritably. There’s a quiz tomorrow. She managed to scribble a few notes, but the normal sense of vigorous concentration she possessed wasn’t there. 
  
A half an hour later, the creaky wooden door of the classroom opened, and Professor McGonagall stepped into the room, clad in dour black robes. She was missing her customary witch’s hat and without it the fine lines on her forehead and graying hair were visible as her hawk eyes took in the sleepy class.
  
“Forgive me for interrupting, Professor,” she said somberly. Her eyes came to rest on Hermione, a small furrow forming between her brow.
  
“What?” mumbled Professor Binns, vaguely startled. “Oh, not at all.”
  
“Hermione Granger,” Professor McGonagall beckoned, waving a pale hand, “Please come with me.” 

Hermione gathered her notes, quill, and bag. A hundred reasons pushed through her mind for why the teacher was summoning her, none of them making sense. Don’t be a ninny, she berated herself, It’s not as though you have a sixth sense. Nothing’s wrong; she’s just going to talk to you about…about a schedule mix up. That’s all.

Harry and Ron shot her confused looks as she walked passed them, clearly bewildered. Even Lavander looked up from her hair as Hermione was ushered out of the class. Hermione gave them all a little shrug indicating she was clueless as they as she stepped out of the room.
  
“Miss Granger, please follow me,” Professor McGonagall instructed quietly as Hermione entered the stark marble hall.

“Professor,” Hermione squeaked, her suddenly high-pitched voice echoing throughout the hall, “Did I, er, do something wrong?”

A curtain of sadness fell over Professor McGonagall’s face, but she quickly masked it with a look of calm composure. “Of course not, Miss Granger. If you would please follow me to my office,” she said, gesturing to the hallway.
  
Hermione’s anxiety grew with every step she took. The constant tapping of shoes echoed in the deserted hallway, heightening her senses. Not even Peeves was there to break the tension. She wished the professor would reprimand her in the hallway. Almost anything was better than the frigid silence. Silence had too many possibilities.  
   
At long last, the pair reached Professor McGonagall office. The professor slowly took a seat at her desk, covered with books and quills. In a weary voice she bid Hermione to take a seat. Timidly, Hermione perched on a worn scarlet armchair as her head of house took off her severe wire glasses and pinched the bridge of her nose.
  
“Hermione, I have some, some horrific news to tell you,” Professor McGonagall began. “Your parents—“ She faltered, her eyes glinting with sadness.
  
Hermione looked at the professor and mentally shook her head. No, no, no, her mind protested. There is nothing to tell. Nothing had happened, nothing at all.

Hermione’s bit her lip hard, feeling the dry skin crack beneath her teeth. The air was still, filled only with her own subdued breathing and Professor McGonagall’s hushed words.

“There was a…a mass Muggle killing. In London. Your parents were on a train. Death Eaters attacked it and murdered eighty-seven passengers on the London Underground. Your parents were among them. Hermione, I am so…so sorry. Your parents died at eleven o’clock this morning.”
  
Hermione stared at her, uncomprehending. No, that couldn’t be true. Professor McGonagall must be thinking of a different Hermione. Her parents weren’t dead. She relieved mail from them this morning, reminding her to write out a Christmas list. She was wrong.
  
“No,” Hermione whispered, willing it away.

Pity filled every aged line etched in Professor McGonagall’s face, with a look that conveyed a muted, ageless sorrow. She had given too many messages of this kind.

 The teacher reached out a wizened hand to clasp Hermione’s clenched fists. “I am so sorry. We’re all here for you, Miss Granger.”

Hermione wrenched her hands away from the teacher’s, her face deathly white. The teacher knew nothing. No one was there for her, her parents were dead. Dead underneath the ground, killed for no reason at all.

Her gasping sobs lingered like broken butterflies in Professor McGonagall’s office as she fled away, as far away as her feet could take her.


~ * * * ~




My parents are dead.

Dead, dead, dead.

Murdered.


The mantra etched itself into Hermione’s brain as she slipped down the stone steps of Hogwarts. My parents are dead. She flew down into the grounds, possessed. Murdered.

She had no idea what she was running to, only what she was running from. Beneath her, grass soft with dew welcomed her pounding feet at she darted into a courtyard. A statue of a smiling witch seemed to mock her as she collapsed next to a cold bench, her heart pounding.

Shock and horror silenced her for a moment, until the fatal wave of comprehension forced Hermione under. Never again would she experience Mum’s soft hugs that smelled of sweet perfume and mint, with a hint of dark coffee. Never again would Dad smile his crinkly smile at her and ruffle her hair in a way she pretended to hate. Never, never.

She thought of all the holidays she didn’t come home, closing her eyes to her parent’s forced cheerfulness and promises that there’d always be the next holiday. She had always pushed the guilt aside, deciding next Christmas, next summer, she’d be a good daughter and visit her parents. Never there would never be a later.

For a moment, fate was kind. It allowed Hermione to be a child, just for a second, feeling her parents hands in each of her own as they tugged her and twirled her on the pier at Newcastle. The sun was shining, she had a lollipop, and she was with the two people who loved her best in the world. A perfect snapshot in time. Too soon it faded, leaving Hermione gasping at the black loss that threatened to consume her.

Far away, she heard crying. Deep, wrenching, gasping sobs that hurt Hermione’s ears. Who was crying? The sobs were like a badly tuned radio, tuning in and out. Too late, Hermione realized the sobs were her own. She scuttled into herself, letting the tears come freely.

Time passed.

Deep inside her grief, Hermione barely heard the cold, drawling voice that blew across the courtyard, cold as the October wind.

"What's wrong, Granger? Got a nine out of ten?" Draco Malfoy snickered to himself, looking at Hermione's curled figure facing the brick wall. His robes, as always, were pristine, and his face expresses curiosity mingled with malice as he casually observed Hermione.

Hermione stood up slowly, stiffly, her silent sobs subsiding. I will not cry in front of Draco Malfoy, she thought, her anguish intensified by fury.  She wouldn’t give him that satisfaction.

"What?"

That one word, so filled with hurt, anger, and most of all, hate, startled Malfoy.

"Oh, I..." he trailed off, shocked by Hermione's appearance. Her hair, normally bushy and gleaming, was matted down and dull. Her complexion was pale, with splotches of red on her face. And her eyes, her eyes were bight with fury and sorrow, red rimmed by tears.

"Don't," hissed Hermione. "Don't say one word. If you say anything, I swear I’ll curse you to hell.” But her wand hand was empty and shaking, making her threat hollow.

"Sorry." Malfoy smirked at the end, souring any sincerity he might have had.

"Shut up, Malfoy,” she said, a sob catching her voice. “I don't need to hear anything from anyone, especially not a Death Eater like you.”

Hate began to consume Hermione, poisoning her words. “If your wonderful father wasn't rotting in a prison cell, I'm sure he happily killed them. After all, Muggle deaths were his specialty, right? Are you going to take over your dear dad's occupation? Because if you are, why don't you start with me? One less filthy Mudblood in the world would be a good thing. Wonderful, even."

"Who's dead?" Malfoy asked dispassionately.

Hermione's face crumpled. She buried her face in her hands, sagging against the resolute wall.

"Get away," she cried brokenly. "Just get away." She wanted to smash him. How dare he stand there arrogantly, sneering? The tips of her fingers tingled with hatred, inviting violence.

Malfoy took a step toward her, indecisive.

She raised her tearstained face and stared at him disbelievingly. What? 

Before she knew what she was doing, she flew at him, all magic forgotten. All she understood was that she wanted to hurt him as badly as they had hurt her.

The last picture her eyes captured was Malfoy, his eyes wide with surprise, his wand out.



……………………………

Author's Note: Thank you for reading my first fanfiction! If you could type a comment or two into the little box below, it would make me quite happy. (:

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