Hermione awoke groggily, residing on the Gryffindor rug. For a single passing minute, today was just like any other. She rose to her feet, her legs wavering between Bed and Hogsmeade.
Hogsmeade. Reality poured itself into her amygdale, and fear rained on the Common Room. She stumbled towards the obnoxious, golden-framed mirror mounted between the two staircases with liquid desperation weighing heavily on her limbs. Pursuing to tame the mess of curls about her face, she scrutinized her reflection, pulling at the anemic skin she seemed to inherit over night on her cheeks. She looked like death. She felt like death.
“You look like death, Hermione.” Harry coasted down the stairs easily, vividly light.
“Ha ha,” she said sarcastically, now bunching her spiraled hair together to repress the frizz.
As Hermione prepared, Harry sat composed on the chaise lounge, folding and unfolding his Invisibility Cloak. He stuffed it into his robes at once along with his wand as Hermione descended the stairs freshly dressed, feeling much more suitable.
“Ready?” he asked holding his hand out for her to grasp.
The two departed the Head’s Dorm, hands joined. Harry took a sweeping single glance back at his personal dorm, never to see its regal appearance again.
When they came upon the courtyard, it was massively packed with students, each linked to one other. The pairs were filing off with their Heads of House towards the awaiting carriages, bundling close together to avoid the nipping wind. Ron and Ginny were still absent, and the anxiety on Harry’s face was not disguised.
Hermione and Harry followed McGonagall to the empty carriage, flanked by Neville and Luna. The four stuffed themselves inside, Neville watching Harry frantically look among the Gryffindors’ faces.
“Hi Harry,” he called to him rather cheerfully.
“Hey Neville,” Hermione meagerly waved.
“It’s great, isn’t it, Harry? We get to miss Transfiguration today.” Neville swept his plain brown hair from his eyes, his round face gleaming.
“Yeah…” Harry replied while his eyes scoped the students nervously again.
“They’ll be there, Harry. Don’t worry,” Hermione whispered into his ear.
Harry removed his glasses and wiped them clean on his robes, eliminating the slight fog created by the chilly Autumn air. The trees towering the path to Hogsmeade swayed kindly above them. A red sycamore leaf separated from its branch and floated swiftly into the moving carriage, resting serenely in Harry’s lap.
“Could you please stop it, Harry?”
Hermione eyed him as he put his hand in his robe for the twentieth time, no doubt checking his cloak had not fallen astray. She looked about The Three Broomsticks timidly and then drained the last sip of butterbeer from her mug.
“Where are they? It’s been fifteen minutes already!”
She couldn’t help but feel a little worried herself but made sure not to let Harry on to that. Sighing, she stood from their table in the pub and evened the wrinkles on her jeans.
“I’m going to get another butterbeer. Do you want one?” She tipped her empty glass towards him.
As Hermione had erected her position, Harry’s eyes flew around the room and rested on none other than Draco Malfoy, who seemed to be watching Hermione from two tables down. Something lying in his expression was magnetic. Harry cocked his head a bit and continued to survey Malfoy’s visage.
“Harry? Do you want a butterbeer?” she asked again, growing antsy.
“N-No,” he stammered.
She turned on her heel and headed to the counter where Madam Rosmerta had been busy refilling glasses for Hagrid and Professor Flitwick. Draco’s eyes had followed every inch her feet took her, incapable of looking elsewhere. As he bit his lower lip, staring at Hermione’s backside, Harry’s heart skipped a beat with understanding. He hastily arose from the table and valiantly walked up to Draco’s; his booth was empty all but for him. Before he could retort at Harry’s unwanted presence, Harry sat down across from him and booted him hard in the knee. He whipped out his wand, placing it under the table at the Slytherin boy’s lower half.
“Potter!” Draco yelled with disdain. Anger had not crept up his throat this harrowingly in months. He felt at any moment his body might explode with contempt, firing the Killing Curse at his former enemy.
“I know what you’re doing.” The words slipped off Harry’s tongue like a smooth liquid, harsh enough to spit at the most evil.
“What the hell are you talking about?” Draco said stoically.
“Stay away from her,” he warned, baring his teeth in a snarl. He was taking in every perfect feature of Draco’s; everything he hated.
“Even if I had the damndest idea who you were talking about Potty, what makes you think I’d stay away on your orders?” His eyes flashed menacingly to Hermione once again, toying with Harry. He examined the muscles in Harry’s neck as they tensed, feeling satisfied now.
Harry whipped his hand in a semi-circle under the table. “Stupe–”
But Draco had felt Harry’s wand brush against his injured knee. He grabbed Harry’s wrist abnormally fast under their booth and twisted it unnaturally until his wand fell to the floor with a clink, before Harry could wish to finish his incantation.
“One more thing, Harry, if you ever try to threaten me like that again, rest assured it will be I who is killing you on that battlefield. And you will be begging for the simple wrath of The Dark Lord.”
Harry swelled with hatred and bent down to collect his wand. He slid from the booth, abandoning thought of reasoning with Malfoy and keeping his priorities in line. He noticed Hermione returning to their table and quickly retreated back to her.
“Hermione, we need to talk,” he started.
“It’s almost time, Harry.”
“Hermione listen. I was just talking to Mal–”
“We’re just going to have to do this without them,” she interrupted.
“But I – I won’t get to say goodbye...”
“She’ll be alright.” Hermione was conscious of his problem, even when he said nothing about Ginny at all.
The two of them made their way to the pub’s lavatory, quickly disappearing behind the door together. Harry’s movements were subtle, but professional. He was breathing heavily as he pulled the Invisibility Cloak from his robes. An immense amount of respect for his bravery was amplifying in Hermione’s body, and she found herself unable to move, wanting only to latch onto her best friend in the bathroom and never let go. He was slipping away as the seconds drew forward, unhinging her responsibilities.
He threw the cloak over the two of them, hunching over awkwardly to cover their feet and slipped back through the door. Draco watched the door open by itself, no one visibly there. Harry guided them swiftly through the crowd, all the while Hermione and Draco’s eyes were locked, as if he could see right through the cloak.
Hogsmeade streets were bountifully crowded with students and Aurors. Teachers stationed themselves outside each shop, patrolling. Hermione had to wonder who exactly was left at Hogwarts guarding the castle. They weaved in and out of people, careful not to startle someone by hitting them.
“It’s just right up here, Harry.” Hermione nodded her head towards the Shrieking Shack, and a heap of sorrow plummeted in her stomach as she thought of Sirius Black.
As they sluggishly clambered up the steep mountain side, their shoes boring into the unsteady terrain and crunching on the colorful leaves, two red-haired heads were just barely clear on the other side. Hermione tore herself from underneath the Cloak, and Ginny let out a cry of relief, sprinting towards Hermione and invisible Harry. He wrenched the Cloak off at the sight of her, his green eyes frenzied, and fled to Ginny as equally fast.
Hermione paused to pick up his discarded Cloak and joined them moments after Harry had embraced the petite girl. She was blubbering uncontrollably, and he wiped the tears from her face. He freed one arm, wrapping it around Ron in an awkward hug.
“Harry, I uh–”
“Yeah I know, Ron,” said Harry. “I uh you too.” Harry took both girls into his arms one last time before placing a sweet kiss on Ginny’s sodden face.
“I love you,” she said, tears dripping imperceptibly into her mouth.
“There they are! Oh, thank goodness!” McGonagall yelled many yards away. She was followed by Professors Slughorn and Burbage, apparently out of breath from the mountain climb.
Hermione shrieked. “Harry! You’ve got to get out of here!” She tossed the Cloak back to him, and he briskly hid himself completely with it, detaching from his former girlfriend.
“Harry?” cried Ginny, her hand searching in the air for his mass.
He didn’t respond, perhaps having apparated already, or thinking it best not to give in to Ginny’s cries.
“Harry!” She made her way further out into the hazy atmosphere, waving her arms frantically for him.
“Ginny, c’mon,” Ron said cautiously. “We’ll be caught if we don’t go now, Ginny.”
The teachers were darting towards the place where Harry had disappeared seconds before, but the defensive blockade Ron had cast was holding them at bay.
“Who was that?” shouted Slughorn.
“Harry Potter!” McGonagall barked, half-answering, half-calling him back.
Hermione took Ginny’s hand and proceeded to drag her along to the Shrieking Shack, but Ginny pulled it back with immense force.
“HARRY!” Ginny screamed into the sleeping air.
But nothing called back. Nobody came.
McGonagall disengaged the barrier; the teachers were now darting for them. Ginny fell forward, her body collapsing onto the rocky earth. Hermione and Ron could do nothing but watch as she pathetically rocked herself back and forth in Hogsmeade Village, tears staining her beautiful face.
Hermione couldn’t help the nerves in her figure to stiffen as she thought of herself in Ginny’s position: calling after Draco, with no response, for what may be the rest of her life.
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