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Disclaimer: I claim no ownership of Rowling’s work. I own only my OCs,

Chapter Eighteen The Trouble with Coincidences

It was during the hour after dinner that Hermione decided to go for a walk. She had been feeling restless all day and was unable to gather her thoughts into coherent thread despite her almost frantic efforts to do so.

The castle halls were entirely quiet, seemingly bewitched by the starkness and solemnity of winter. Hermione wondered if it had anything to do with the Dementors lurking in Hogsmeade.

Without meaning to, she shuddered and tucked her hands into the pockets of her robes.

Things weren’t going well. Not well at all. Her class schedule was becoming impossible to deal with, even with the aid of the Time-Turner, and Ron was acting unusually cranky, blaming Scabbers’s ill health on Crookshanks presence.

And then there was the threat of Sirius Black. Harry’s attitude towards the escaped convict terrified her. He was so determined to avenge his parents’ death and she knew he was infamously irrational when angry.

A muted sigh parted her lips and she blinked her eyes, which had begun to tear. Truly, she felt as though she had no one to turn to. Ginny was much too young to rely on for sound advice and the rest of the girls in her year were annoyingly silly. She couldn’t imagine them taking her problems seriously.

Hermione briefly contemplated writing a letter home to Mum, but then again, she didn’t want to worry her mother with all the chaotic going-ons of school life. Her parents fretted enough with her away at a strange place called Hogwarts, and she couldn’t stand to excite their concerns further.

All in all, Hermione realized that she was totally alone.

The thought made her want to cry, but she wasn’t childish enough to start sobbing like a baby. Instead, she clenched her jaw and climbed the staircase, ending up somewhere by the Hospital Wing.

The torches cast eerie long shadows against the walls and she watched the patterns they formed when joined with the cracks in the stone.

Her worries, of course, weren’t limited to her friends and schoolwork. Ever since the Halloween feast, she had been filled with nagging suspicions. At first, she had put it down to paranoia, although it wasn’t in her nature to be mistrustful. Rather, she thought herself discerning and observant, although lately her attentiveness had caused her trouble.

All of Hogwarts seemed preoccupied with a sort of hidden hysteria and accusations were masked behind cautious glances.

Everyone had secrets. Everyone. And one person in particular was not especially good at hiding them.

Professor Fotherby.

Hermione liked her, liked her very much, but she couldn’t help wondering after her curious nature. The teacher seemed increasingly nervous and rundown and often, during lectures, she would find herself staring at Fotherby with confusion.

What was she hiding?

She hoped it was nothing sinister. It couldn’t be. Fotherby wasn’t a sinister sort of person.

But then again, she had been friends with Quirrell. And she had been absent at the Halloween feast when Sirius Black had broken in.

The coincidences didn’t entirely add up, but still, Hermione felt her skin prickle with fear as she remembered how she had seen Fotherby dozing fitfully in the library and had overheard her talking desperately to McGonagall.

What could be wrong with her?

Hermione did not like mysteries.

She stopped and leaned against the wall opposite the door to the Hospital Wing.

Everything was quiet, quiet…then….

She heard a clatter within the infirmary, a noise too frantic to have come from the purposeful movements of Madam Pomfrey or a bedridden patient.

And Hermione was curious.

Carefully, she tiptoed across the hall and ducked within the shadow of the door to the infirmary. There was only a single candle lit within and it made the empty beds look like reposing skeletons.

Another chill touched her spine.

There was a figure by the cabinets, a figure garbed in robes much more elaborate than the typical, everyday wear of the students.

The person was searching through Madam Pomfrey’s jars and potions, lifting one into the light and then setting it down with a disgusted sigh.

Glass jars glinted sharply in the glow from the candle. It took a moment before Hermione realized exactly what the person was doing.


It happened quickly. Madam Pomfrey came out from one of the adjoining rooms and entered the infirmary.

The figure by the cabinets stealthily hid one of jars in the folds of his or her robes and then took a nervous step backwards.

“Ah, professor,” Pomfrey said. “Can I help you with something?”

Hermione did not hear the person respond. She had stepped back across the hall in shock.

It couldn’t be!

After a moment, the door to the Hospital Wing swung shut and out into the corridor came none other than Professor Fotherby herself.

Increasingly, Freddy found herself more beholden to instinct and less to reason. It was as if her body had rebelled against her mind, turning her into a helpless puppet bound by tight, unforgiving strings.

Her very flesh was rejecting her spirit.

By all means, she should have gone to the Hospital Wing straight after exiting the pensieve. But even as she moved down the staircase to the infirmary, her lungs seemingly torn open and begging for air, Freddy began to second-guess herself.

It’s probably just a panic attack, she thought and forced her steps to slow. Madam Pomfrey will laugh at me and tell me to take a shot of whiskey. And…and by morning the entire staff will know that I’m falling apart…falling

No, she had to keep herself together, even if her insides were crumbling, even if some spiritual disease was rotting her organs.

She wouldn’t let them see how weak she was, how vulnerable.

Because…because she had been vulnerable once. And stupid. And they would all find out…

Before she knew it, Freddy had arrived outside the Hospital Wing. She didn’t really want to go inside, but in peeking around the door, she noticed the room to be empty. No patients dosed fitfully in the narrow beds.

Madam Pomfrey must be in her office.

Well, as long as she was here, it wouldn’t hurt to look for something to help her breathing. It didn’t occur to Freddy until later that she was stealing. Rather, she reverted back to the innocence of childhood, remembering how her Mam had been quite a potion brewer and had made her elixirs from the fresh herbs she grew in the vegetable garden. Freddy was always nicking something from her stores, harmless things of course, to feed to the cows to see if it would make them fly.

She didn’t see the difference now, in going through Madam Pomfrey’s stores.

A quick look and that was all.

Checking the infirmary once more for occupants, she ducked within and skirted around the edge of the candlelight.

Madam Pomfrey’s cabinets were in the far corner and she went through the bottom drawers first, where the school’s healer kept the simplest of potions, pepperup and infused honey for sore throats.

She recalled enough from her Mam’s stores to tell the jars apart by color and smell. After a few minutes of rummaging, she found a thick, royal blue liquid in a tightly corked vial. It was commonly used for asthmatics.

But Freddy didn’t have asthma, she had…

And then Madam Pomfrey came out of her office.

It was sudden, oh so sudden and Freddy jerked away from the cabinets, palming the vial.

“Oh, professor.” Pomfrey smiled, crow’s feet making her eyes look tired. “Can I help you with something?”

Lie. Lie. LIE. 

“Umm, you know,” Freddy panted nervously, “I have such a migraine and I just can’t get rid of it. I thought maybe I’d dash down here and see if you had anything on hand.”

Pomfrey nodded sympathetically, her white cap slipping forward on her nest of grey hair. “Not on hand, no, but I can make you a poultice if you’ll wait a minute.”

“Oh, I don’t want to put you through all that trouble.”

“It’s no trouble at all, really-”

“No, I’d really hate to bother you. I’ll go lay down and if it doesn’t go away…I’ll…uh come back.”

Despite her generally nurturing nature, Pomfrey seemed relieved that Freddy wasn’t bothering her for a silly poultice.

“If you are certain,” she said.

“Definitely.” Freddy smiled once, a tight, shaky grin and then hurried from the Hospital Wing.

The vial she dropped into her pocket.

Stupid, she thought of herself. I’m so stupid, so very useless…

A short figure stepped out into the corridor and planted itself directly in front of Freddy.

“Professor!” a slightly shrill voice exclaimed.

Freddy stopped dead in her tracks, a horrible sinking feeling making her stomach threaten to revolt.

It was Hermione Granger.

And the girl had seen her!

“Hermione,” Freddy said slowly, closing her eyes for an instant against her shame. “Shouldn’t you be in the Gryffindor Tower by now?”

“Curfew is not for another half hour,” Hermione replied firmly.

Freddy thought the girl look terrified. But terrified of what?

There was only one way to find out.

Carefully, Freddy extended her mind as she had learned to so many years ago and began to probe Hermione’s thoughts.

Even Professor Snape said I had a talent for Legilimency.

But oh, she hated to use it.

Only mistrustful people practiced Occlumency and Legilimency. And she was not so paranoid. Or was she?

Hermione’s thoughts did not lie. She saw flashes of the child’s suspicion interspaced with the dark threat of Sirius Black. And, in all honesty, Freddy knew her behavior had been less than innocent.

Two and two were dreadfully easy to put together.

“Oh Hermione,” Freddy sighed, sinking against the corridor wall between two dozing paintings. “I’m so sorry.”

Hermione flushed. “Professor, I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“You’re a good friend to Harry. It’s only natural that you would think me capable of hurting him.”

For the first time in many months, Freddy was being truthful with herself. Her taint, although hidden, was not entirely washed away.

“I never suspected you.” Hermione looked close to tears now and she turned her face away quickly, hiding behind her bushy hair.

“You did and it’s perfectly all right. I understand. Professor Quirrell, he…he betrayed so many of us.”

How to explain this? Freddy didn’t know. But perhaps she could show Hermione.

“Do you have time to come to my office?” she asked softly. “I have something I’d like to show you.”

Hermione looked torn, embarrassed by her own suspicious, no doubt and still frightened.

At length, she swallowed hard and nodded.

“Of course I’ll come.”

“Good.” Finally, Freddy felt a surge of relief. She might not be able to explain her nightmares to herself, but perhaps she could at least earn the trust of one student.

It would mean the world to her if she was trusted again.

Freddy led Hermione to her office on the first floor and as they walked, she noticed her breathing slowly begin to even.

Probably a panic attack after all, she thought grimly, pushing the door to her classroom open.

The firelight from her office filtered into the darkened room and Freddy maneuvered her way around the empty desks with a somber Hermione on her heels. Once inside, she showed the girl the pensieve sitting serenely on her desk.

“Do you know what this is?”

Hermione screwed up her face, curiosity now taking over confusion. “I think so. Is it a pensieve? I’ve read about them. Did you find this one on your travels? It certainly looks old.”

“No.” Freddy touched the edge of the runic bowl with delicate fingers. “This one belongs to Professor Dumbledore. He lent it to me, you see. I’ve been…well, I’ve been suffering from nightmares for quite some time. I thought this might help me sort through them, although I haven’t made much progress so far.”

“Nightmares?” Hermione’s eyes widened.

Freddy could almost see the gears clicking in the girl’s feverish mind.

“You…professor, I saw you reading a Divination book, it was on your desk one afternoon. I’m not trying to be nosy, I just…” Hermione trailed off and stared at the pensieve.

“Yes, I was reading a Divination book, several in fact. They too, however, were not much help.”

Hermione’s head suddenly snapped up. “Professor, are you a Seer?”

Freddy glanced at her quickly, denial rising to her lips at once. “Not everyone believes in Seers.”

“I don’t, necessarily,” Hermione replied slowly. “But I’ll admit I don’t understand the whole process of divining.”

Freddy sighed. “And that’s where the trouble lies,” she said. “In order to be a clairvoyant, one must be able to successfully interpret the signs they divine. Otherwise, looking into the past or the present has no use. No, I’m not a Seer, Hermione. I can see, but I cannot comprehend.”

A flicker of emotion made Hermione’s face darken.

Freddy, for once in her life, knew what needed to be said.

Leaning over the desk, she braced her hands on the lip of it and reached her torso over the empty pensieve to look Hermione in the face.

“Hermione,” she said, “I would never do anything to hurt Harry.”

Hermione stayed silent for a time. At last, she lifted up her eyes and smiled faintly.

“I believe you.”

“I’m not asking you to, you have a right to be suspicious of me.”

“I know, but,” Hermione paused, ‘”I don’t want to be.”

“Thank you.” Raw sentiment coursed through Freddy, leaving her numb.

Hermione, clever witch that she was, seemed to sense her gratitude.

“Now it really is almost curfew,” she said lightly. “I better be off to Gryffindor Tower. Thanks for showing me the pensieve, Professor.”

“You’re welcome.”

Hermione was half-way out the door when Freddy called out to her.

“I almost forgot!” she said and from the top drawer in her desk, she pulled out a small paper back and tossed it to Hermione. “A few classes ago you told me you wanted to read more on the hauntings at the Muggle tuberculosis sanatoriums. I found this on my bookshelf.”

Hermione glanced once at the creased cover of the book and nodded in appreciation. “Thanks, Professor,” she said and hurried away through the dark classroom.

Author’s Note: Well, we’re getting to the rising action. The next chapter is IT, when all the big, exciting secrets are revealed. Hopefully, when you read it you’ll go “ah ha!” as opposed to “what?”.

This chapter has not yet been beta’d, so if you encountered some typos, it’s completely my fault, not RenFair’s. She’s been nothing but awesome.

Thanks so much for taking the time to read! I’m still in awe of all the fabulous and encouraging feedback I’ve received. We’re finally getting there. Yay! Chapter Nineteen should be posted no later than July 8th. I hope you have a great week!

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