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Hermione and the Unexpected Visitor… part two!!!

By Mena Baines

Hermione felt her dreams were getting out of hand. Now she’d had one that Ron had joined a rock band called Ron Weasley and the Gym Shorts, and dropped out of school. It had culminated with a concert in Hogsmeade, during which Gilderoy Lockhart had shown up wearing tie-dye to publicly apologize for everything he’d done. Now it was almost 5 a.m., and she couldn’t get back to sleep.

Hermione sighed and looked out the window. The ice had been melting off the trees and the rooftops all day, and chunks of it were falling loudly into the brick courtyards below. She thought about stepping outside for a bit to get some air—Hogwarts was so stuffy and warm at night, she could hardly stand it. She felt something tighten around her neck as she sat up, and yanked the tiny amethyst necklace down so she could breathe. Stupid Harry hurts me when he’s not even here, she thought sourly, fingering the crystal. She didn’t have the heart to take it off.

Rosa had spent the past three days trying to convince her that Harry hadn’t meant anything by… whatever he had done. Hermione couldn’t even put her finger on it anymore. She missed the confident way he used to smile at her, when now he just looked kind of scared and made her feel guilty. She knew deep down that she was just pushing him away so she wouldn’t be so destroyed when… or if… Voldemort… She couldn’t even finish her thought, instinctively slapping her hands over both her ears, as if to pause her brain.

Hermione’s eyes fell on Nail, sleeping under the bluish early morning moonlight shine by the window. He was so tall it almost didn’t make sense. I always took Harry for tall, Hermione thought, sitting back against her pillows, but him—HE’S tall. Hermione watched him sleeping, and felt foolish after a few minutes, quickly looking away.

Nail looked worried in his sleep, Hermione thought, taking another peek. Could it be that bad to have your parent re-marry? Hermione wondered how she’d feel if her mother married someone other than her father. She’d almost be happy…she regretted even thinking it, but she didn’t care for her father like a daughter should. What if her father got re-married? She’d feel bad for her mum, she supposed—it was really too odd to even imagine—her parents would never get divorced to begin with. They just weren’t like that. She wondered still what had happened to Nail’s mother. Rosa had mentioned something about her father being in prison… Hermione scoffed. Americans. She didn’t understand.

She saw something move on the other side of the room in the dark. Hermione’s heart froze solid in her chest. What was that? The silence in the room suddenly seemed very strange. She couldn’t hear Nail’s breathing or Rosa’s tossing and turning… her eyes scanned the room again and again for the slight of shadow she had seen. Hmm, she thought, trying to relax and pulling her covers up to her chin, must have been just a trick of the light…

Then there it was. It was the mirror! Great Wizards, Hermione thought, her terrified grip on her blankets tightening—there’s something in the mirror!

“ Rosa…?” Hermione squeaked, but she was fast asleep. She looked to Nail, but he had rolled over to face the wall.

She gasped and ducked further under her covers—there it was again! Hermione’s heart beat was rapping through her brain so hard that she shook. Whatever it was it looked hideous and unnatural—the surface of the mirror seemed to shimmer and smoke.

“ You, girl,” there was a voice beyond the mirror. Hermione wanted to scream, but she was too afraid to open her mouth. “ Come here,” The voice was soft and sing-song, but self-assured and firm. There was something familiar in the air.

Suddenly Hermione didn’t feel so scared. Her own teacher was a ghost, for crying out loud! Why be frightened of a voice from a mirror… Hermione shuddered and climbed out of bed, walking cautiously to her dressing table. She was curious, but there was definitely something evil in the air. Something cheated… something confused… Hermione felt like someone else’s emotions were pouring through her. The mirror shimmered again, beckoning. She got close enough to peer into it. Hermione squinted her eyes. Nothing.

Something! Suddenly there were a pair of green eyes staring back at her. Hermione cried out and sank to the floor. She’d never seen anything like those eyes. They were a strange kind of supernatural green—not like Harry’s green at all. They were cold and furious.

“ You there,” ruby red lips appeared below the eyes, and Hermione began to make out a face. It was that of a lovely girl—lovely, yet malicious. She seemed to be younger than Hermione, but it was hard to tell. As her hair came into focus Hermione remembered something… that long, blond hair—the girl from her dream. Hermione slowly stood. Was this a dream? She could feel an abnormal chill in the air… no, she was awake.

“ What do you want with me?” Hermione’s voice shook. The girl in the mirror laughed wickedly. She seemed to grow larger and larger, until she was standing before Hermione on her side of the mirror. Hermione cowered and backed up against Rosa’s bed. The girl stood on the floor as if she were alive, but Hermione could see through her. She was wearing a fancy party dress that was dingy, stained and horribly old. She had tiny cuts all up and down her arms… snake bites?

“ Look at me,” the girl said. “ I can help you.” Hermione looked up at the girl’s forehead as if she’d been instructed to do so, without knowing why. Get out of my brain, she thought, and then her eyes focused in the darkness on what the girl had wanted her to see.

“ Oh!” Hermione’s hands went to her mouth in disbelief. A lightening scar. Jagged across the pretty ghost’s forehead… just like Harry’s.

“ This is where he killed me,” the ghost said, watching Hermione with her eyes on her forehead. “ Where he killed all of us. I was a fool to think I was different. Only one was different.” She turned and pointed to a picture on the dressing table. Hermione saw more dreadful looking cuts on her neck as she moved her head, and her stomach turned. She looked to the picture.

It was one of she and Harry with Ron in Diagon Alley. She remembered when they had it taken, it was the week before their fifth year. Hermione’s hair looked horrible, it was back before she’d had it straightened. The ghost girl pointed at Harry, and then faltered.

“ Him!” she sounded almost pained. She turned to Hermione abruptly, “ Take me to him!”

“ What… Harry?” Hermione’s hands shook. As if he didn’t have enough to worry about, now a ghost was after him. “ But why? He’s my friend… you won’t hurt him?”

The girl narrowed her eyes. “ Take me to him!” she demanded, “ I can’t stand it any longer! I won’t!”

“ Not with that tone I won’t young lady!” Hermione said, standing. What could a ghost do? The apparition was taller than she was, but she still tried to be brave. “ You said you could help me. How?”

“ Your dreams,” she said, “ I can tell you what they mean.” It was an oddly seductive thing to say—how could this ghost know that was the one thing that Hermione desperately wanted?

“ How?” she asked, her voice small again.

“ You dreamed of him…and me,” the girl said, “ I wanted you to. Only you can help me. I have to set things right.” She lifted the skirt of her dress and Hermione saw a ball and chain fastened to her ankle. Like the old Christmas story about Scrooge and the ghost of Bob Marley! Hermione didn’t believe it for a second. She started to back away.

“ You’re trying to trick me!” she said, “ What do you want with Harry?”

“ Harry?!” she roared in surprise, and flames of ghostly, long-forgotten hatred blazed into her green eyes, “ That fool! I want nothing with him!”

“ Then why…?” Hermione shrank again to the floor as the ghost rose to the ceiling in an angry fervor. “ Why did you ask me to—“

“ I have to set things right!” she said again, “ Things end too quickly. You’ll see.” Suddenly another figure appeared in the mirror behind her. A black snake reared it’s ugly head, and then crawled out of the mirror. Hermione screamed—it was enormous! It opened it’s fangs and lunged toward the girl, snatching her in them, and yanking her back into the mirror, ball and chain dragging across the floor and over her dresser table as she was pulled inside.

“ Tell him I lied!” the girl screamed frantically as she disappeared deeper into the mirror, “ I did love him! I do! Oh, please!” she cried desperately, sounding so tragic and frightened that tears sprung to the corners of Hermione’s eyes.

The entire room began to shake. An earthquake? Hermione’s eyes snapped open. Another pair of eyes was staring into hers now, only these were deep brown and warm, not evil. Hermione sat up quickly and knocked her forehead into Nail’s.

“ Hey!” he said, rubbing his forehead. “ What’s all the commotion? Can’t a guy get any sleep around here?” Hermione tried to regain her breath. She looked out the window—it was almost 6 a.m., and the sun was just beginning to show a faint hint of it’s arrival behind the hills.

“ The mirror…she… the snake!” Hermione tried frantically to get it out, but realized from the odd expression on his face that he wouldn’t be able to understand.

“ Sure thing,” Nail said, with a condescending nod. “ That’s what I say, man. But you have to go to school in a few hours, unlike me. You better go back to sleep. Don’t worry about snakes, I’ll take care of that.”

“ Don’t patronize me,” Hermione said with a frown. She realized she was holding onto his arms and quickly let go. Her hands were still trembling from the dream… was it a dream? It had to be… but at the same time, it couldn’t be! She could still feel the ghost girl’s miserable, terrifying eyes boaring into hers.

“ If you must know,” she said, pushing her bangs out of her face, “ I have reoccurring nightmares.”

“ Ah,” Nail said, “ Well that explains it.”

“ Explains what?”

“ Why you’re always in such a bad mood.”

Hermione’s mouth fell open—she still wasn’t used to his blunt rudeness. “ I am not always in a bad mood—maybe when you’re around!” Nail laughed.

“ So tell me your dream,” he said, falling backwards across the width of her bed. His head was on her knees, and Hermione felt strange, but she hoped he wouldn’t move. She needed some comfort… and she preferred Nail’s to Rosa’s…

“ I will not,” she said, almost instinctively reaching down to smooth his hair like she did to Harry, and stopping herself, embarrassed. Harry… The ghost in her past two strange dreams had sure been interested in him… She said she loved him. Great, Hermione thought, now I have to be jealous of a ghost, along with Cho, Pavartti, and most of the underclass girls.

“ I won’t have it,” she whispered to herself. Nail frowned.

“ Won’t have what?” he asked, sitting up.

“ I won’t have him making me think about him even in my dreams!” Hermione said, “ Harry Potter is a trickster and I’m tired of his foolish games!”

Nail snorted with laughter. “ Yoouurr Fooolisshh Gaaamees,” he sang in a mock Jewel voice, “ Arree teearring us aapparrt!” Hermione shoved him.

“ What a companion!” she said, “ You think our lives are big jokes just because we’re wizards and witches? I hate Muggles like you.”

“ I don’t think you hate me.” He gave her a smug grin.

“ Then you’re mistaken,” Hermione climbed out of bed. “ I’m going to go have a shower. Wake Rosa up, will you?”

“ Sure thing,” Nail said. He jumped up and landed heavily on Rosa’s bed, bouncing high into the air, tall as he was his head almost hit the ceiling. Rosa rolled over, squinting up at him. When she saw it was Nail she grinned and laughed.

“ Thought you might like a rude awakening!” Nail cried, a little too loud for Hermione’s liking. Rosa laughed again and looked at Hermione.

“ Isn’t he great, Herm-oine,” she said with a grin, “ Everyone should have a best friend like Nail,” she uttered sarcastically, throwing a pillow at him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“ Psst!” Hermione heard someone’s sharp whisper, and looked up from her Artihmacy test. Her eyes came to the doorway of her classroom, and she gasped so loudly that the entire class turned and stared.

In the doorway, peering inside with a menacing glare, was the ghost from her dream! There’s no way I’m dreaming now, Hermione thought, her eyes wide as saucers as the ghost beckoned from the door. The rest of the class was staring at her like she was mad—they couldn’t see it! How odd, Hermione thought, getting up. She must be something other than a ghost… or this must be a dream… though I don’t know how…

“ Mrs. Granger?” her professor called, “ Are you perfectly alright?” Hermione looked at him with her terrified eyes, and he could see that she wasn’t. She shook her head quickly.

“ May I get some water?” she squeaked in a scared little voice she hardly recognized. Some of the 6th years in the class giggled. Her professor nodded and dismissed her—he certainly wasn’t worried about Hermione Granger looking at her notes in the hallway before she finished her test.

Hermione followed the ghost down the hall. The strange apparition of a girl glided almost aimlessly toward the Astronomy deck.

“ Where are you going?” Hermione hissed, “ I have a test you know—and you can’t go out there! The Astronomy class is working outside today!”

“ He is there,” the ghost said, turning it’s head, and Hermione knew it was talking about Harry. Hermione thought she saw a gash on it’s cheek that hadn’t been there when she’d seen it that morning… was that possible? She felt a shudder move through her. The ghost stopped at the top of the stairs, before the door leading to the deck.

“ I can’t open doors,” it said.

“ Good!”

“ Help me!” the ghost pleaded, “ Bring him to me. You have to help me. You’re in danger if you don’t.”

“ What?” Hermione asked, breaking into a sweat. Any mention of danger these days got her into a tizzy. “ How do you mean? Are you threatening me?”

The ghost shook her head, “ Get him.” She insisted again. Hermione got goosebumps just looking into her eyes… she seemed so evil, but Hermione trusted her somehow. She pulled open the huge door to the astronomy deck, trying to think of some excuse to pull Harry out of class. She thanked the Sages for her respectable reputation—teachers believed most anything she said. Except McGonagall, who could always see right through her.

Harry’s astronomy class turned toward Hermione as she stepped out into the light. She saw him leaning on the railing near the chestnut-haired too-tall 5th year. Hermione could feel her eyes blaze when they met his—she hoped he’d know she was only here on the business of the ghost. But if he couldn’t see it… he might not believe her.

“ Mrs. Granger,” the Astronomy teacher grinned and approached her, “ What can we do for you?”

“ Harry Potter to see Professor McGonagall please.” Hermione said, sounding rather official, and proudly so. The chestnut haired girl laughed and punched his arm playfully.

“ Potters’ in trouble with the law again,” she teased with a million-dollar smile, and the other students chuckled. Harry didn’t even grin, just stared at Hermione and walked out the doors with her.

“ Potter’s in trouble with the law,” Hermione mocked the silly 5th year as soon as Harry shut the door. “ Really, Harry, I thought you could do better.”

“ Hermione—“

“ She is pretty, though, I’ll give you that!” She felt an angry grasp on her arm and gasped. The ghost—she had almost forgotten.

“ What does McGonagall want me for?” Harry asked, trying to change the subject. Hermione looked again at the ghost, but it’s eyes were looked on Harry.

“ Tell him I’m here,” the ghost cried desperately. Hermione had never seen such longing on any living being’s face.

“ I don’t even know you’re name!” Hermione barked back at her. Harry frowned.

“ What?” he asked, confused.

“ Look,” Hermione began.

“ Ellie, tell him it’s Ellie!” the ghost said, tears dripping down her pale, scarred cheeks.

“ It’s not really McGonagall who wants to see you, Harry—“ Hermione began again.

“ Oh, Hermione I wanted to talk to you to!” he said, grabbing her shoulders. Something in Hermione heart filled with light when she saw the look in his eyes. “ I hate this!” he said, squeezing her a bit. Hermione pushed him off.

“ That’s not what—“ she tried to tell him, but Ellie interrupted.

“ Tell him about the blood!” Ellie cried, “ Quickly, before they come for me!”

“ Hey, you why don’t you just…” Hermione started to scold her and then realized something. “ What blood…? ” she asked pensively.

“ Um…” Harry frowned, “ Who are you….talking to, Hermione?”

“ Oh, shove off!” Hermione hissed at him, “ I think she knows something about our dreams.”

“ Who…exactly… Hermione… there’s, uh, no one there.”

“ Shhhh!” she waved her hand at him and grabbed Ellie’s sleeve, chills running down her spine as she touched the ghost girl. “ Tell me about the blood! My blood, your blood? Is that what you mean?”

Harry looked at her in surprise. “ What?” he asked, “ I didn’t say that!” Hermione sighed, she felt like her head was spinning.

“ I wasn’t talking to you, Harry!” The ghost grabbed her arm again.

“ His blood is the only thing that can kill his master. Tell him!” she shoved Hermione forward and started running away down the hall, disappearing as she went. Harry looked concerned.

“ Hermione?” he said, “ What’s going on?”

“ Your blood is the only thing that can kill your master,” Hermione said matter-of-factly, knowing that she sounded like a nut, but not wanting to be haunted any longer.

Harry half-laughed, “ I’m confused…” he said.

“ YOU’RE confused!” Hermione said with a scoff. “ How’d you like to be me right now? Just as I’m trying to avoid you a ghost comes out of my mirror and makes me tell you she loves you and that your blood will kill—“

“ A ghost?” Harry said, looking around, “ Where? You don’t mean… my mother?” he asked, and Hermione realized it would be rather cruel not to explain.

“ Oh, no, she’s nothing like your mother, I’m sure. She’s up to no good, I think, and no one can see her but me!”

“ That doesn’t make any sense,” Harry said, rubbing his chin. “ She said she loved me? Are you sure she meant me? Only two women in the world have ever loved me, my mother and… well…”

“ Oh, for crying out loud!” Hermione said, turning red. She wasn’t about to tell Harry she loved him before he went back outside to hang all over the chestnut-haired girl. “ She was a ghost, she was right here – you can’t see her, but she loves you and I don’t know who you master is, but apparently she wants him dead. Adieu! I have a math test to finish.”

Harry grabbed her waist suddenly and pulled her over to the wall. She started to protest, but he put a finger to his lips and pointed. Hermione turned to see Snape heading their way with McGonagall. She ducked behind a curtain near the window with Harry and listened.

“ It just doesn’t make any sense!” McGonagall was saying. She sounded uncharacteristically torn up.

“ I’m telling you, Minerva, that’s what I’ve heard. And if you ask me…” Snape paused for a moment, “ Lupin is in on it as well.”

“ No!”

“ Well where do you think he was all those years, hiding away as a werewolf? Did he ever mention what he did after leaving Hogwarts? What he left behind when he came back?” Snape asked, trying to insinuate something.

“ But it’s impossible—impossible! Oh, I can’t deal with this now… and Lupin knowing all along… that’s just preposterous, Serveus!” McGonagall hissed under her breath.

“ Believe what you like,” Snape shot back, “ But why do you suppose Dumbledore is the only one who can contact Lupin while he’s away from Hogwarts?”

“ But it would just be so cruel!” McGonagall said, “ I don’t believe that Lupin could hide it from Harry and still look him in the eye!”

Hermione and Harry looked at each other behind the thick curtain. Harry narrowed his eyes a bit. Oh no, Hermione thought, he’s going to think they’re plotting against him again… They heard footsteps walking away and let out their breath. Hermione started to walk out from behind the curtain, but Harry caught her arm.

“ You said you thought the ghost knew something about our dreams?” Harry whispered.

“ Yes, she said she did,” Hermione whispered, “ Oh, Harry, I’m hope I’m not just hallucinating!” He put a hand on her shoulder instinctively, and Hermione resisted the urge to lean up against him. Their eyes met for a moment, tugging at her heart. I should be more understanding… Hermione thought briefly, then looked away.

“ Well you should find out anything you can from it as soon as possible,” Harry said with a sigh, “ Something is going on that they don’t want us to know about.” Hermione nodded.

“ But how does she know you?” she asked, “ The ghost… she saw your picture and flipped out! Were you ever in love with a girl… with long blond hair… and green eyes… and lots of snake bites?”

Harry laughed, “ Snake bites?” he asked, “ No, you’re the only…” he trailed off. “ There’s only one girl I’ve ever loved, Hermione, and that’s you. There, I’ve said it, and you can’t run away!”

Hermione narrowed her eyes at him. “ What are you trying to do to me?”

“ Trying to…? What are you so afraid of?” he asked, shaking his head. “ All of a sudden you think I’m trying to trap you, or trick you into feeling something—anything!—for me. I don’t understand.”

“ Well for one thing, I’m afraid I’ll miss you too much… if…well…”

“ Yes I know what you mean.” Harry said quickly.

“ There’s that,” Hermione said with a sigh, “ And then there’s the fact that every corner I turn, there you are, with some… 5th year girl… or Cho… or one of her attendants, pulling on your sweater or giggling or whatever… and after everything… I just thought… you wouldn’t have to do those sort of things anymore. Oh, I don’t know—it hurts my feelings!” Harry smiled, which she thought was rather insensitive. He leaned close to her ear, “ You don’t have to fight for me anymore, Hermione,” he whispered, “ You have me.” She felt a tiny kiss on her cheek, and wrapped an arm around his shoulder.

“ Harry…” she said, pinching her eyes shut, “ I want to believe you.”

“ Look,” he said, straightening up and looking her in the eyes, “ The 5th year that’s been hanging around me is Gretchen, and she only talks to me because her best friend Kipper is absolutely in love with Ron.”

“ Great Wizards,” Hermione muttered, “ Why?”

“ Hermione!”

“ Sorry. I just don’t look at Ron that way…”

“ Precisely!” Harry exclaimed, “ And I don’t look at Cho and those other girls that way. But still… they’re my friends! What if I got jealous every time you talked to Ron?”

Hermione was a little irritated that he didn’t. “ Alright, alright.” She said, “ I have to get back to class. But afterward, I’m going to talk to McGonagall during dinner, and I think you should have a few words with Lupin.”

Harry nodded. “ Good plan.” Hermione pushed her way out from behind the curtain, and Harry followed her. Dean Thomas, who was passing by in the hall, grinned at them.

“ Hey guys,” he said, raising his eyebrows, “ Is there something behind the curtain I should know about?” he teased. Hermione turned red.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“ Want a cigarette?”

“ Huh?” Hermione asked, astounded that her Professor was advocating smoking. McGonagall’s hands were shaking as she pulled a thin white stick out of the pack.

“ I confiscated these from Rosa,” she explained, “ Thought I’d start smoking… heard it relieves stress?”

“ Stop that!” Hermione shouted, snatching it out of her mouth. “ What is going on at this school? Secret conversations… teachers smoking… hidden ghosts! Everything’s gone bonkers and I don’t quite like it! I gave up solving mysteries at Hogwarts when I was a kid.” McGonagall laughed.

“ Well dust off your magnifying glass, dear,” she said, sitting down heavily, “ ‘Cause I don’t know what to tell you. Everything’s pretty mixed up in my world right now, too.”

“ What is it?” Hermione asked, wondering how she could question McGonagall without admitting to having spied on her earlier, and before at Hogsmeade.

McGonagall sighed. “ You mentioned something about ghosts?” she asked, narrowing her eyes and looking absently out the window.

“ Yes…” Hermione said, “ Ghosts… I think.”

“ Ghosts indeed,” McGonagall said quietly, as if she were speaking to herself.

“ Has Professor Lupin done something horrible?” Hermione blurted out, “ Because… that’s the rumor with the students.”

McGonagall laughed. “ I doubt it,” she said, “ Lupin… he was never very… bright. About those sort of things. But, Great Wizards, I hope he has…”

“ What?” Hermione asked, her heart rate rising. The sun was going down outside, casting an odd orange glow across her Professor’s pretty face, as stricken with worry lines as it was. “ Are you okay, Professor?” she asked. McGonagall looked at her.

“ I’m sorry…” she said, “ I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

Hermione sighed, “ Good,” she said, “ I’m frightened enough already.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hermione could tell she wasn’t going to get any information out of McGonagall, so she gave up and went to the Great Hall to get a late dinner before settling in with her History homework. Not many students were left dining there—but, just as Hermione’s luck went, a certain group of chatty 5th year girls were sitting at the Gryffindor table.

Hermione tried not to listen, she really did, as she munched quietly on her dry fish sandwich. But she could only pretend to read the romance novel Rosa had lent her, because it was horrible, and because she kept hearing Ron’s name… and then Harry’s…

“ Right, so Ron says,” she heard the girl called Kipper say, “ That Harry’s fighting with his girlfriend.”

“ Aw, you mean Hermione?” a small girl with short black hair who had once worked with her on a Herbology extra credit project said, “ She’s nice! I was always a bit jealous of her, though… wish I were pretty enough to date Harry Potter!”

Hermione was flattered for a brief moment, and then she heard a disgusted scoff.

“ PL-EASE!” The chestnut-haired girl, Gretchen, said. “ Her teeth are like, huge! Anyhow, he IS fighting with her, he told me so.”

“ Ooh!” a girl with red pigtails exclaimed, “ Do tell!”

“ Well,” Gretchen said smugly, “ Harry says Hermione—Big Teeth Girl, that is—“ The group laughed, Kipper the loudest. Hermione’s eyes stung with tears. Weak, stupid…, she thought to herself, leaning on her arm so they wouldn’t see her, how can you let such silly pitter-patter get to you? She ran her tongue over her teeth.

“ He says she’s being totally mean,” Gretchen continued, “ Like, for no reason! I mean, what a moron—you get a guy like Harry and you’re mean? How dumb can you be?”

“ Maybe he was mean, Gretchen,” Pollie, a chubby girl with a head full of curls said, “ You can’t always believe what boys tell you…”

“ Oh, come off it, Pollie,” Gretchen spat back, “ This is HARRY we’re talking about. Anyway, Cho told me the same thing.”

“ Well Ron said we could go to Hogsmeade together next weekend,” Kipper piped up, “ He said Harry might want to go with ya, Gretch.”

“ Of course he does,” Gretchen said quickly, “ Naturally he’s sick of Hermione by now, and I’ve been working on him all week. I knew he’d come around—maybe we’ll go out for the rest of the year!” she said happily, “ I won’t be stupid enough to… lose my mystery, after only a few weeks like Hermione did!”

Hermione felt something collapse in her chest, and she was sure it was her heart being ripped out of her body by some supernatural force. She stood like a zombie, leaving her book and the remains of her dinner at the table. She walked out of the Great Hall. Her brain wasn’t functioning yet. And then it clicked on.

Love. There was no such thing. She didn’t believe in any of it after what… He’d TOLD a stupid little 5th year brat in his astronomy class! … it didn’t make SENSE! Hermione felt like being sick. A few weeks! Try 7 years you stupid little… She thought of Harry, of how she’d trusted him… and how she’d comforted him after he’d screwed up by stealing that time turner. She thought of the things he’d said… and how she’d thought it meant something, REALLY meant something, and that they’d be attached forever… She felt like such a fool. Hermione came to the foot of the Gryffindor stairs, and pushed her tears back down again for a moment.

She climbed each stair slowly, gathering herself. Harry… he’d done worse than any dark lord or villain, he’d been two-faced, and everyone would go on loving him even after what he’d done to her. The stairs seemed to be spinning. Hermione felt dizzy as she climbed through the portrait hole and into the common room… really dizzy… she grabbed onto a chair. The common room was crowded, as it always was after dinner.

Harry was standing at the fire, and she walked to him calmly. He looked at her and smiled—he had the nerve to smile!—Hermione just stared at him.

“ Hey,” he said, “ Lupin didn’t… but…” he frowned. “ What’s wrong?” he asked, sweetly, reaching out to touch her hair. Hermione jumped away. She knew it was all false now.

“ Um,” she said, and her voice came out tiny and scared, though she was so angry she thought she’d explode. “ I just wanted to tell you… that I know you, um… well I don’t appreciate being used.” She choked out a sob. “ Especially not like that. You’ve made me feel like…” her voice quavered and she stopped.

“ I don’t want to be a part of this anymore,” she said, finally looking up at him. He was frowning, mostly confused. “ I don’t want your dreams, and I don’t want your… dead lovers stalking me… and I don’t want… this.” She reached up and took the amethyst necklace in her hands. She tugged hard and pulled it against her neck. The delicate silver chain snapped, and the necklace fell to the floor.

“ Don’t!” Harry suddenly screamed, falling to the floor to retrieve the broken trinket. He carefully picked it up, and looked up at Hermione, “ Why did you do that?” he shouted, angry, and almost teary-eyed. Hermione didn’t understand, but just the fact that he was reacting to the necklace and not to what she had said disgusted her.

“ I hope you have a wonderful life with Gretchen,” Hermione snapped, “ That is, until you get what you want from her and move on to the next stupid floozy, right, Harry?”

He glared at her, “ What are you talking about?” he said under his breath. “ You’ve lost your mind!” Hermione didn’t have anything left to say; she backed away slowly as Harry clutched the broken necklace and looked as if he would cry over it’s demise, instead of he and Hermione’s.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Hermione ran into her room and threw herself on the bed, barring her face in her hands and finally crying. Harry can mourn his stupid necklace while I resent the way I fell for his deception. Neither of us will be sad to see the other go… I’m sure… we’re better off apart. My blood, your blood probably had something to do with the ghost. Nothing to do with me…

“ You seem to do a lot of crying,” she heard Nail and jumped—she always forgot he was in here.

“ Please don’t make fun of me,” she muttered against her sheet.

“ What’sa matter?” he asked, walking over to her, “ Boy trouble?”

“ No, it’s everything,” Hermione said, sitting up and trying to stop her tears. “ Harry.. and my professor… these dreams I’m having… It’s over-whelming.” She reached up to tug on her necklace like she always did when she was worried, but of course it wasn’t there.

“ Hey, what’d I tell ya?” Nail asked, “ You gotta look PAST your little problems, see? I mean, now it seems huge, but next year, when you’re out of this stupid school, will you really care?”

Hermione shook her head, “ I don’t think I’ll live to see my graduation,” she said gloomily, “ All signs point to yes… I think I’ll be killed by Voldemort before the end of the year.”

Nail frowned, “ Whoever that is,” he said, “ Why does he want to kill you? Are you being literal?”

“ Yes. And… I don’t know why. I didn’t think I was important enough… for him to even notice me.”

“ You have a massive self-confidence problem,” Nail decided.

“ Why shouldn’t I?” Hermione snapped.

Nail stood up. “ Look,” he said. “ I’m gonna go say goodbye to Rosa and then I gotta go home… Rosa got some kinda angry letter from Calliope…”

“ A Howler?”

“ Yeah, that’s what she called it. But good luck, though, Hermione.” Hermione’s ears perked up—he pronounced her name correctly!

“ I almost don’t want you to…” Hermione rolled over to look at the wall. “ Sorry I wasn’t better company. Goodbye.” Nail placed a hand on her shoulder. Hermione smiled, and tried to hide it.

“ You’re fine company,” he said, “ I think you’re pretty cool, in fact. This Harry must be a real moron to treat you badly—pretty, smart, funny, a Seer—what more does he want?”

Hermione looked up at him. “ What did you call me?”

“ Pretty,--“

“ No, after that. A Seer?” Hermione raised an eyebrow. “ Like a Divinator? That’s Rosa’s department, not mine.”

“ Not a Divinator,” Nail said, pointing to the mirror. “ A Seer. You can understand what’s past the ordinary. I had a cousin like you, Teresa. That’s how I came to know Rosa—they went to the same school. She was like you—always sort of troubled, always fearing the future… ‘cause of her grim clairvoyance.”

Hermione just stared back at him. “ Who are you?” she whispered suddenly. “ How did you know… about the mirror… that I saw something—you thought it was a dream!”

Nail sighed. “ My family is a bit strange,” he said, “ On my mom’s side anyway. She died a long time ago… so I don’t see them that much… but I’ve picked up a few things.” He stood again. “ Now I’ve got to go.”

“ Where? How did you get here? No Muggle could find Hogwarts,” she reminded him.

“ Hey,” he said ruffling her hair, “ Don’t worry about it. I’ve got some business to attend to.”

Hermione really didn’t want to have to think about any more than she already had weighing on her mind. She realized she’d been holding onto Nail’s wrist, and let it slide out of her hand.

“ Does Rosa know about this?” Hermione asked, not even knowing what “this” was. Nail shrugged.

“ She might have some idea…. I don’t really want her to have to worry about it,” he leaned closer to Hermione, “ But you can tell her that her new boy toy has some serious ties to the Kingdom of the Netherworld.”

Hermione nodded slowly… she knew that name. She’d seen it in the Dark Arts newspaper McGonagall had showed her. “ Nail,” she whispered, “ I’m scared.” His eyes met hers—they were comforting, but part of them scared her as well… what was this friend of Rosa’s hiding?

Nail leaned forward, and for a moment it was nice to have his face close to hers. He moved toward her as if to kiss her, but Hermione turned her head at the last minute and caught it on the cheek.

“ Goodbye, Nail,” she said, hating Harry for still having such a hold on her heart.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Fin knew he was dreaming. Sleep was almost a conscious thing for him—it only happened for a few hours at a time—his sleeping patterns had to match the erratic ones of his inhuman Master, who would sometimes stay awake for days at a time, when his power was high. But in the end, Fin knew he was dreaming, and he could almost control his actions as he slept, but it hardly mattered, for to the conscious mind dreams are only confusing and terrifying.

Anyway, it was more of a memory than a dream. Fin didn’t have enough hope, enough vision in him to dream. All he could do was remember.

He remembered when the Master still made him sleep in the basement, on a rotting old mattress with sharp pieces of the hay that it was stuffed with sticking out of the ripped cloth. It was that night—it was always that night—when he’d first learned that some people had hearts, that it was possible for his fellow humans to care about him, even in the smallest way.

Fin heard the door latch behind him, and Canain clambering back up the stairs. His back was on fire from the lashes his Master had given him in anger after Dickie had failed his tests, just as the others had. And his mind was filled with flames that wouldn’t let him sleep, burnt with the image of Dickie being destroyed under Voldemort’s hands… under his father’s hands. Voldemort’s face as he killed him without a thought, just as he had all his children before. No one was good enough. But still he tried, and still, each time, it ended with the death of each prospective inheritor.

Fin was glad the days of Voldemort trying to pass his power on to his many children had ended. In the beginning, every month or so he had chosen a new enchantress, powerful in dark magic, to bear a child to him. Like collecting missing puzzle pieces, he had been so sure one of them would fit, someday, with a little training and a lot of natural ability. He had been wrong. Somehow he always blamed Fin. Always took more lashes to him than the servant boy thought he could handle. But he had handled them…

Another wave of pain shot through Fin’s body, and he thought this would be the one that took him. He knew the spell Voldemort had used… could have… technically… shot it right back at the old wizard. Stopped him from killing Dickie. Why hadn’t he? I’m such a coward, Fin thought, lying here thinking about all the brave things I could have done… after it’s all over…

He heard the door opening, and buried his face in his hands. Sometimes Cainan came down and made Fin help him practice for his trial…. It was awfully painful to have someone practice dark magic on you… Fin shut his eyes and held his breath. I can’t take much more tonight…

He felt someone’s hand on his back, and it wasn’t Cainan’s. Fin froze. No one had ever touched him like that—in the slightest of ways, not meaning to hurt him or push him out of the way. He didn’t move.

“ You shouldn’t leave this on,” It’s was Marielle’s voice. She sounded weaker than usual. Fin remembered vaguely something he’d noticed about she and Dickie…they had often spoken to each other… seemed to enjoy one another’s company. She must have been upset… He felt her lift his shirt off his injured back. It hurt—the blood from his cuts had dried somewhat and stuck to the cloth. But Fin didn’t cry out as she peeled it off. He didn’t move—didn’t even lift his head. He didn’t trust Marielle any more than he trusted Cainan, Magdalay, Mordeci, or any of the others that abused him like miniature versions of their father.

“ You’re pathetic,” Marielle said coldly. Fin could feel her unaffected eyes on his back, surveying his wounds. “ Not like Mordeci and Haymore. You just lie here… completely useless! I should kill you, and save my father the time.”

Fin didn’t move. He thought maybe she would—she was certainly capable of it. He wasn’t really scared.

“ Why won’t you say something!” Marielle shouted. “ I’m not good enough to talk to you, servant boy? Only the snakes are, eh?” her hand fell heavily onto his back, pressing against his wounds, and Fin flinched. “ Did that hurt?” Marielle asked coolly; Fin could hear the smile on her lips. “ What about now?” she asked, jamming a long fingernail into one of his deep cuts.

Fin whimpered, and saw red. He felt blood spill up around her finger, and heard Marielle gasp in surprise. Not surprise… something else…? She almost sounded sorry. Fin knew he was only imagining it. He was shaking from the pain.

Marielle got up, and Fin hoped she’d leave him alone. He heard her go to the tap, and turn on the water. He peeked up at her; she was filling a bucket. Marielle looked worried… or something. Fin had never seen any trace of emotion on her face before; he didn’t know what to make of it. She turned to him.

“ Now you’ll look at me?” Marielle said, glaring at him. “ Face the other way!” she barked. Fin did as he was told. Marielle was beautiful—most of Voldemort’s children were, somehow. But it still hurt to look at her. She was a creation of her father’s—cold, unfeeling.

Or so Fin had thought.

He felt something warm on his back—Marielle tending to his cuts with a washcloth. Fin was startled—why would she do such a thing?

“ Oh, what’s the use,” she said, throwing the washcloth back into the bucket. Fin regretted that she’d stopped—he’d never had anyone pat his back like that, it was quite nice.

“ Don’t tell my father,” Marielle instructed, and Fin didn’t know what she meant. He felt her hands on his back again—the only soft, warm things in the whole mansion. Fin shut his eyes. He felt odd. Like Marielle was lifting the skin off of his back… only it didn’t hurt. She was performing some kind of spell… and his back didn’t hurt anymore. He felt the dried blood on his sides disappear under her hands. Felt his skin molding itself back into it’s normal shape—still a bit scarred, but devoid for the moment of bruises and gashes. Fin shivered.

“ What are you doing?” he asked, his voice meek. Marielle leaned over him.

“ So you do have a tongue,” she said, “ I was afraid father had ripped it out.” Fin looked back at her for a moment. She still didn’t seem to harbor any warmth for him, but she had healed his wounds—something Fin hadn’t even thought a person like Marielle was capable of.

That was the first night Marielle had snuck into his dripping, sorry excuse for a room. Fin never knew why. He never knew why she always stayed and rubbed his back until he was reduced to a sleepy mass of jell-o, quivering from her touch.

Fin forced himself to wake before he could re-live the ending. He pushed all thoughts of Marielle from his brain. His master was calling for him.

He crept quietly down the stairs, where Voldemort sat in the Great Room, a notebook in his lap. One bony white hand was making a few notes on it’s dirty pages. Fin stepped timidly into the room.

“ Yes, Master?” he tried to be as firm as he could. Voldemort glared at him, knocking him to the floor with his mind.

“ You interrupted me,” he said, in that strange hissing voice of his, though he had called for Fin. “ I’m going to be sending you away soon, boy.”

Fin stood up, knees shaking with excitement. Any place would be better—even someplace where he would be left just to die.

“ I hate to have to rely on you—you have no idea how much—but most unfortunately you’re the only one who can help me here… it’s just too risky to send a shape-shifter…” Voldemort looked back at Fin with a glare, but this one wasn’t poisoned with a blow to his mind.

“ You listening boy?” he asked.

“ Yes, Master,” Fin said.

“ Answer me more quickly!” Voldemort shouted, knocking him to the floor. Fin felt like a boulder had been dropped on his head—but he’d never been so happy. He was leaving the crumbling old Shinra mansion. Voldemort needed him—he said no one else could help him! Fin had never felt important before in his life.

“ This is awfully complicated,” Voldemort said, “ And I’m sure you’ll find some way to screw it up…” he sighed, “ I always knew it would come to this—damned Hogwarts! They’ve done everything to keep him on their side…”

“ Harry Potter, sir?” Fin dared to ask. But the Master seemed distracted, and did not strike him for speaking without being spoken to.

“ Harry Potter, indeed,” Voldemort said, his voice full of poison, “ I need you to wreak him for me.”

Fin glowed with pride—he’d never been lucky… but what luck! He’d always known it was his destiny to destroy Harry Potter—and here was his Master, finally giving him the chance.

The End (for now)