“Maybe nobody’s coming,” Ginny said squeezing her arms around herself as she looked around the deserted seventh floor landing. After Hermione had gone to the dorms to get her, she and Ron explained to Ginny Harry’s request. “I can’t believe you just let Harry run off. You’re not even concerned about where he’s gone?”
Pointedly ignoring Ginny’s inquiry into Harry’s whereabouts Hermione said, “Well then it’ll just be us.”
She looked down at the warm Galleon in her hand, the same one they had used to communicate as Dumbledore’s Army the previous year. The numbers etched into the gold surface to signify the minted date had now shifted to read “7th fl.”
“We’ll give them a few more minutes,” Ron said with a grin. “Here, before they get here. You first.” He thrust the bottle of shimmering potion, the Felix Felicis, to Hermione.
“No, let Ginny.” She clutched her coin, a sense of dread blooming inside of her. She wasn’t sure if she could stomach the potion.
Ginny eyed the vial in his hand, her lips pursed even more severely, looking not unlike her mother. “He really ought to have taken it for himself.”
“He’s with Dumbledore,” Ron said, echoing Harry’s sentiments from only a half hour ago.
“That’s exactly what concerns me,” she said as she tipped the potion back. Blinking a few times, she smiled and licked her lips. “That was wonderful!”
She passed the bottle to Hermione and even smiled at her. Not one to waste time, Hermione tipped the contents back into her mouth. A deep metallic flavor coated her tongue with a pleasant coolness. As she swallowed, she felt a warmth spread from her throat through the rest of her body, fortifying her.
“Oh,” she said in pleasant surprise.
Ron took it and threw it back to take the final swig. He started and then beamed. “Blimey, this feels great. Just like at the match.”
Hermione rolled her eyes. “You didn’t actually take it for the match, Ron.”
“But I thought I had. Same thing isn’t it?”
“Let’s hope not. It made you insufferable,” she said with a grumble as she peered down the corridor.
Their eyes met, the realization that this was the first time either of them had mentioned the match that was the catalyst of their fight this year. Hermione expected to feel old irritation or anger, but found that oddly, she felt nothing. Instead, she chuckled and shook her head.
“I don’t think I will be, I feel too good,” he said, returning her smile.
Ginny looked between the two of them wearily. “Well I don’t. We need to go. Soon.”
“Felix nudges you where you need to be to accomplish your ends. That’s what makes it Liquid Luck,” Hermione explained, but as she said it she realized she felt it too, the tug of an impending deadline. What deadline was looming over them, she couldn’t say.
Before she could voice her concerns she heard footsteps approaching in two directions. Hermione pointed her wand at the steps coming from the eastern corridor as Ginny pointed hers to landing below.
“Luna!” Ginny said with a grin, lowering her wand.
At the same time Neville stepped out from the shadows of the other corridor, hands raised. “I got the message. What’s up?”
Ron pulled out the Marauder’s Map from his back pocket, still folded open to their current location just a few passageways from the Room of Requirement. In brief, he explained Harry’s suspicions and what they had been tasked to do.
“We don’t have much time. Malfoy isn’t appearing on this map, which means he must be in the Room of Requirement.”
He looked up at them, eyebrows raised, waiting for any questions. Hermione nervously checked her watch, paying no mind to the guilt that threatened to take over her anxiousness as she eyed the gold bracelet on her wrist. She didn’t thinks she should be required to seek Dean out specifically, but still the thought nagged at her.
“Alright then. Snape is in his office in the dungeons, so we’ll need to split up. Ginny, Neville, and I will watch the Room of Requirement. Luna and Hermione, you’ll go down and keep watch on Snape.”
“I’m going to the dungeons,” Ginny said, taking Hermione by surprise. Did Ginny realize that if she went to the dungeons she would be going with her?
“No, I need to keep an eye on you,” Ron said. Normally, Hermione might defend Ginny, but they did not have time for an argument.
Ginny faced him squarely, her neck growing pink. “Hermione said Felix will nudge you where you need to be. I need to be in the dungeon!”
“Maybe we should wait for others,” Luna interjected, looking serenely between them all, seemingly unaware of the conflict.
This deflated Ginny. “I don’t think anyone else is coming, Luna. Erm, I don’t think most people keep their coins on them like they used to,” she said kindly.
Neville’s face was screwed up in thought. He glanced back towards the corridor he had emerged from. “Maybe I can wake up Dean. And I dunno where Seamus went off to but I bet he’d be for helping out, too.”
“I guess we could wake Lavender and Parvati, too.” Ginny nodded encouragingly at Neville.
“We don’t have time,” Hermione said, looking at them all in exasperation. They quickly quieted. It was like she could physically feel the time slipping away from them. “For all we know nothing is going to happen tonight, but if it does we need to be in position. Ginny will come with me and you lot will go watch Malfoy.”
Luna and Neville nodded resolutely, pulling their wands out, ready to depart. Ron looked like he was going to protest, glaring at Ginny, but Neville tugged at his arm towards the western corridor.
“Meet back here before dawn,” Hermione instructed as they walked away. “And don’t forget the signal if you run into trouble! I showed Ron the charm!”
As they walked away she heard Neville placating Ron, who he was now frog marching towards the corridor, “She’ll be fine. She’s a better dueler than you anyway.”
Tucking her own coin back into her pocket she turned to face the stairs. There was no trepidation as she peered through the darkness at the landing below, only a vague voice that she wasn’t sure was her own saying, “Hurry.”
“Shall we go?” Ginny asked, looking at her with a guarded expression.
Hermione looked down at the wands in their hands, and gripped hers tighter.
The corridors leading down to the dungeons were eerily quiet. Nonsense, Hermione told herself, it’s in your head. They’re just normally quiet. So many times she had patrolled the corridors at night, often alone, and she had never felt unsettled. Yet, despite the lingering metallic taste of the Felix Felicis on the back of her tongue that seemed to radiate warmth throughout her body, she couldn’t shake the feeling that they were running late to an important appointment. Whether this unease was in spite of or informed by the Felix, she wasn’t sure.
The silence was growing increasingly louder, almost humming in her ears as they descended the castle staircases. She glanced at Ginny, who had volunteered to accompany her. They hadn’t been properly by themselves since the summer, but this fact didn’t seem to phase Ginny at all. In fact, she seemed almost calm. Perhaps the Felix Felicis had worked more properly on her.
After a moment of nothing but their own echoing foot falls to accompany them, Ginny spoke up. “So why didn’t you invite the others? I think Dean might have liked to join.”
There it was. The very thing that had been nagging her since she called the D.A. Unconsciously, with her free hand, Hermione palmed the coin in her pocket.
“He went to bed early, I imagine he’s asleep,” Hermione said, more curtly than she meant. She didn’t like how Ginny’s eyebrows flew up as if to say, “Oh, interesting.”
“You both just seemed inseparable, so I was surprised he wasn’t joining us.” Her tone was airy and detached but Hermione didn’t miss the slight purse of her lips or the edge to the statement.
She bit her lip, frustrated at how perceptive Ginny was. The real truth was she didn’t know why she didn’t want Dean here. Of course, there was the slight embarrassment at the thought of trying to explain this hair-brained scheme of Harry’s, especially after the disaster of the Department of Mysteries last year. She shivered at the memory.
“We aren’t inseparable. We only needed a couple of people, and it should be people who were OK with breaking the rules. Not just a lot of Gryffindors who like the adventure.”
“Dean’s not like that,” Ginny said with a snort.
Hermione felt an intense heat fill in her and grit her teeth to hold back her retort. The familiarity that Ginny spoke with dug at her. They had been broken up for months. What right did she have to say what Dean was and was not like?
They were now descending the steps into the labyrinth of the dungeons. It was colder down here and always felt a bit damp no matter the time of year or weather outside. This did little to quell Hermione’s irritation but she was pleased when Ginny said no more.
Was this how things were always going to be from now on—short snide remarks between the two of them? At this point, Hermione had no idea how to confront the issue. Her mother had taught her to always walk away from conflict when dealing with school bullies. But this was her friend, or she had been at one point. Yes, Dean was her ex-boyfriend, but she had chosen Harry.
“You don’t think Dean will be angry?” Ginny said, now in a lowered voice, so as not to alert anyone of their approach.
Hermione felt something snap in her. “Is that what you want? You’ve been upset about Dean and I dating for months.”
“That’s not true,” Ginny said, but Hermione could tell there was no sincerity behind it.
“Sure,” she said in a huff, stopping midstep. “I’ve just imagined your glares and snide remarks here and there, like after Slughorn’s Christmas Party or after Harry cursed Malfoy!”
They were facing each other and Hermione’s fists were balled up at her sides, months of growing frustration mingled with an intense anxiety that had nothing to do with Ginny or Dean.
“That’s not what this is about,” Ginny said dismissively, resuming their pace down the dank corridor.
The sconces lining the walls were adorned with cobwebs thick with dust and water dripped from the low ceiling. Hermione still felt uneasy, but now it was accompanied with a draw forward, the urge to continue on.
“Well what is this about then?” she asked irritably, falling in step with Ginny.
“You should have asked Dean to come.” Before Hermione could interject that Dean wasn’t any of her concern, Ginny continued. “You don’t understand, none of you three do. You all are so impossible to penetrate—‘The Golden Trio’ and all that rubbish.
“I spent years on the outside looking in, wishing I were you, really.” She glanced at Hermione, actually looking a little embarrassed. “I’m Harry’s girlfriend and you both still haven’t told me where he’s gone with Dumbledore.”
Hermione bit her lip, steeling herself as they approached Snape’s office door. She pressed her conflicting thoughts down, trying to solve the larger problem at hand. They couldn’t just stand right outside his office, could they? A light prickle spread over the back of her neck and she turned. There was a small alcove where she assumed an old statue must have once sat. She motioned Ginny into it and they stood facing each other, uncomfortably wedged in the small space.
Would Dean be angry with her? Of course he will be, she answered herself miserably. It irked her that Ginny was right. But she couldn’t ask him to join them. If Harry was right, this wasn’t his fight. He had his family to worry about, and himself to keep safe. She didn’t think she could bear it if...besides there were other battles that needed fighting, not just Harry’s.
She shook her head, trying to clear her mind of her spiraling thoughts. Calm and steady, she reminded herself.
“You can shake your head and look conflicted all you like, but you know I’m right,” Ginny whispered to her knowingly.
Hermione glared at her, annoyed that she was still inserting herself into business which, as far as she was concerned, was in no way her own.
She didn’t have time to come up with a clever retort. Quietly at first, but quickly growing louder was the faint echo of pattering feet. Hermione peered around the corner of their alcove. Squinting, she could make out a small figure approaching. Looking rather harried, and moving more swiftly than she knew he could, Flitwick was upon them.
If he noticed them he did not show it, moving directly to Snape’s office and throwing open the door without so much as a knock. Ginny and Hermione looked at each other in shock, animosity forgotten. They stepped out of their alcove and closer to the door, trying to better hear what was being said.
“—must come at once!” she heard Flitwick’s squeaky voice exclaim. It got more muffled as he moved further into the office “...Emergency!...Order...”
Suddenly, there was a loud bang and a thump, causing Hermione and Ginny to jump back in surprise. In the next moment, dark and looming, Snape glided out. He looked unsurprised to see them, his face impassive.
“Professor Flitwick has collapsed in shock,” his commanding voice reverberated off the walls. “Tend to him while I go get help.”
They gaped at him, but Hermione, ever respectful of his authority as their Professor, was already moving to the door as he had commanded. Without another word, he swept away down the corridor.
As she crossed the threshold of the office, she already knew they had made a mistake. The instinct came as keenly as the caution to hurry had come earlier. Her eyes fell on Professor Flitwick, slumped on the floor near Snape’s desk.
Ginny rushed past her and kneeled next to him to try and rouse him. Hermione’s eyes scanned the room, searching for what had fallen, or else some simmering potion that might have exploded to create such a loud bang. A sick realization opened like a pit in her stomach as she turned to Ginny. Ginny looked back to her, the same horror dawning on her own face.
Hermione’s hand shot into her pocket. The coin was there, hot to the touch—the signal. Taking her widened eyes as confirmation, Ginny said insistently, “We have to go now!”
“We can’t just leave him!” Hermione said, a bit more shrill than she intended.
“We had one job and we let Snape get away! Isn’t there anything you can do?”
“OK, well yes. Prop him up.” She pointed her wand to Flitwick’s chest as Ginny hoisted him into a sitting position against Snape’s desk. “Rennervate.”
They held their breath for a moment. The jinx had been a strong one. For a moment, Hermione worried that it might not be enough, or that he had been attacked with worse a jinx than she was familiar with. But finally, Flitwick stirred, his eyes opening lazily, mumbling incoherently.
“Bloody hell, he really didn’t hold back on him.”
“Professor, take your time getting up. You’re fine, but may be a little dazed. We have to go. If you can’t get up we’ll send somebody down for you,” Hermione said, kneeling down in front of him, trying to hold eye contact with his listless gaze.
“Come on,” Ginny said, tugging her up by her arm, and back out of the room. Ginny had always been much stronger than she looked.
They weren’t going to beat Snape to the others. But Hermione knew of a few secret passageways that she had used to get around third year. They wouldn’t be far behind, and could still arrive in time to help.
“I thought I knew most of the passageways. I bullied most of them out of Fred and George by my third year. Or so I thought,” Ginny said from behind her in a huff, sounding almost impressed.
Hermione didn’t respond, a vague sense of fear clouding her thoughts. As they emerged from one passageway into a sixth floor corridor, she thought she could hear screams. She felt a shiver of fear run through her, but it was fainter, not as potent as the fear she had felt in the Department of Mysteries. She could almost feel the Felix Felicis in her veins pumping, saying “press on, press on.”
They kept running, wands drawn, not knowing what to expect as the sounds of battle grew louder. Bangs and thuds reverberated along the walls. The staircase leading to the seventh floor was littered with debris. Errant spells were now whizzing overhead, illuminating the hall. A familiar flame-like purple curse whipped overhead, striking a nearby portrait and leaving scorch marks in the fleeing painted figures wake. Hermione froze, the memory of a searing pain lashing across her chest overtaking her. It was the Department of Mysteries all over again. Dolohov had been thrown in Azkaban, but he must have escaped. How many nights had she seen him so effortlessly flick his wand, unleashing that purple whip-like curse at her in her nightmares?
“Hermione. Hermione!” She looked down at the two hands gripping her shoulders and back up into Ginny’s eyes. “It’s going to be OK! Can’t you feel it?”
She felt cold sweat clinging to her skin and a sickness in her stomach at the memory of Dolohov’s smirk as she collapsed. She felt fear. She felt her heart hammering in her chest. Bang! But there it was, thumping in her veins, persistent through the noise, “press on, press on.” She took a deep breath.
“Right yes, let’s go.”
Ginny grabbed her free hand and pulled her up the stairs. Just before they reached the landing, Hermione ripped her hand from her grip and dove to the side; a large suit of armor had come flying down the staircase in an accompanying blast. Scrambling to her feet Hermione looked around.
“Ginny!” she yelled, climbing up the remaining stairs. She couldn’t find her anywhere.
The sight before her was chaos. There were Death Eaters all around, seemingly appearing out of nowhere. She felt disoriented, unable to tell friend from foe. There was rubble everywhere—wood from portrait frames that had been blasted apart, shards of glass, chunks of stone, and blood, too much blood.
A spell hit the stair railing next to her, blasting stone into the air, some of it cutting into her skin. She had to move. Darting into the fray she noticed Neville, Lupin, and Ron struggling with the Astronomy Tower door.
“Bloody Death Eaters!” she could hear Ron shout over the den of chaos.
A flash of red hair caught her eye. It was Ginny. She was in single combat with a frail looking Death Eater. He must have been one of the newly escaped from Azkaban. Running towards Ginny, she shot a Stunning Spell at him. Luckily, it landed.
Before she could reach Ginny, a raspy voice called from behind her, “Oi! I remember you!”
It was Dolohov. Without a word, Hermione whipped around, throwing an Impediment Jinx at him. Deftly, he blocked it. Unperturbed, she shot another jinx at him. And another. She intended to keep him on the defensive this time.
He was able to cast a few curses between her offenses but she dodged them easily. The fear that had almost overcome her earlier and had fueled her nightmares over the summer months was mysteriously absent. If anything, she felt anticipatory, expecting to see him casually flick his wand, unleashing the curse that had caught her before.
She was sweating from exertion. Others were battling, and she was vaguely aware of the stone walls crumbling around them, the ground slick with what she was unwilling to see.
“Flipendo!” she shouted, ducking under his ill-timed curse. He fell back and knocked his head against a large stone.
Wasting no time, she turned, looking for a new opponent. She saw Luna, dueling two full-grown Death Eaters. Anger fueled her forward. She threw a hex that hit one of them square in the back. He swayed for a moment before crumpling to the ground.
Suddenly, something solid collided into her, pushing her off her feet. The weight of her body hitting the ground knocked the wind out of her as a purple curse hissed past, stinging her right ear.
“Stupefy!” a voice yelled.
She gulped for air as she got up, looking around. Where Dolohov was once standing there was now a cloud of dust from where his body had collapsed with a heavy thud. Confused, she turned around. A rush ran through her when she spotted Dean, pointing his wand squarely at where Dolohov had been standing, after apparently rising and attempting to sneak up on her.
“Are you mad?!” Dean asked, dropping his wand arm and whipping around to face her. He was furious, his jaw clenched and eyes wide.
“I...you pushed me,“ she gasped, still trying to catch her breath, “Thank you.” She looked at him, full of sincerity, emotions enveloping her, taking over her senses. The battle faded away. He had come. He wasn’t safe. But he had come.
His face was hard, but she could see his eyes soften just a little. He grabbed her by the arm and pulled her roughly into him, gripping her tightly.
“You should have come and got me,” he said into her hair.
She said nothing. What could she say? He was right and wrong. A good girlfriend would have gone to him, but a good girlfriend also probably didn’t start off as a fake one. If Lupin was here, then the Order surely was. Dean shouldn’t be here. Nonetheless, she squeezed him back tighter.
A scream of rage brought them back to earth, but almost not in time. A Shield Charm appeared around them before the Body-Bind Curse could hit its mark.
“Inseparable. I told you.”
Hermione whirled around to see Ginny looking smug, just for a moment, before she turned serious again. “Tonks is down the corridor by herself three to one, she needs help. Dean, you go help Lupin, Neville, and Ron with the blocked door.”
Dean looked between them. Hermione realized how strange these instructions probably sounded. “What is a Tonks?” she could imagine him asking. And their Defense Against the Dark Arts professor from third year, who also happened to be a werewolf, was back. Seeing that this made sense to Hermione, Dean didn’t say anything. Instead he nodded curtly, gave Hermione’s arm a squeeze, and headed in the direction of the Astronomy Tower door, which Lupin was now trying to spell open with intricate wand movements.
The chaos came back into focus. There was a blond Death Eater, who seemed to be responsible for the majority of the curses, standing on a pile of rubble and shooting off Killing Curses and other sinister-looking hexes in every direction, not caring if he hit friend or foe.
There were bodies scattered along the floor that she had not noticed before. Desperately, she wanted to see who they were, to see if it was anyone she knew. But she pressed on, knowing that knowledge wouldn’t be helpful to her right now.
The shattering of a window rung through the hall and a shower of glass fell on top of them. From nearby there was a hoarse cry. Spells and curses were still flying all around, but they all just seemed to miss without Hermione even trying to dodge them. She had almost made it to where she imagined Tonks must be when an explosion went off. She turned towards the source of the noise. It was the Astronomy Door.
The door was still intact but Neville was now flying away from it, arcing overhead, and landing just a few yards away from Hermione with a sickening thud. Horror rooted Hermione to the spot. She waited. The curses flying around her seemed to fade away. She stood, waiting, muscles tensed. It was as if she couldn’t move until he did. Finally he stirred feebly, and she breathed a sigh of relief. He was alive.
Then a witch in dark robes, another nameless Death Eater, spotted him, a malicious grin on her face. She approached him, wand raised.
“NO!” Hermione yelled, levitating some nearby rubble and throwing it at the witch.
“I can kill you both. I have time,” the witch said in a bored voice.
Hermione threw more rubble at her, which the witch danced away from. She kept throwing, forcing her back, back away from Neville.
Then the floor trembled, the whole corridor shook. Dust began cascading down from the ceiling.
“ARGH!” someone cried out as the ceiling came crashing in on them.
Hermione threw herself in the direction of Neville, casting a Shield Charm over them both. She tensed up, bracing, feeling large stones and debris bouncing off of her shield.
“Thanks ‘Mione,” came a muffled voice next to her. Neville lifted his head up slightly, and she could see blood dripping down his head. “M’alright. Go check on the others.”
Relief clenched at her throat and tears stung in her eyes. She clutched her wand tightly, as if doing so would keep the tears at bay along with the debris. Nodding, she got up, and once the debris had ceased to fall, she removed the shield.
Dust was heavy in the air. She coughed and shielded her eyes, but could see nothing. She could hear others coughing and calling out to each other. She could hear running. Spells that were still issuing from the one untamable Death Eater in the north end of the corridor set the haze aglow.
She was beginning to make out figures. Above, half the ceiling remained. The half near the Astronomy Tower now laid in ruins on the ground.
“Hermione!” she heard someone call.
“Dean?” she called back.
A squat Death Eater ran by, shooting a hex straight for her. She blocked it, and sent a Stunning Spell back. He smiled at her, looking pleased to have found another opponent.
“Harry, what are you doing here?” Ginny’s voice asked in the haze.
Harry. More relief and more panic gripped her. There were calls for him to come back.
Another, more immediate, deeper voice called, “Come on. We can’t keep the Dark Lord waiting. We’ll have fun another day!”
The squat Death Eater shrugged at Hermione and ran off, but not without sending a few last poorly aimed hexes over his shoulder.
Hermione leaned over hacking, trying to rid herself of the dust now coating her lungs. As she sat back up, she was surprised to find that everything had quieted. There were murmurs, but no more shouting and no more bangs. In the absence of the noise, she also realized that she felt cold, the metallic taste in her mouth gone. No longer was there a pumping in her veins telling her to “press on, press on.”
The dust around her began to swirl and dissipate. She could now clearly see the multiple bodies strewn throughout the hall. Most appeared to be injured, but two were clearly unconscious, or worse. They were covered in dust and rubble, making it difficult to ascertain who they might be. At the far end, she thought one of them might have red hair. Frantically, she looked around, searching for her friends, needing to see that they were OK.
To her relief she saw Dean and Luna across the hall, working to clear the descending staircase that was now totally blocked with debris, the Death Eaters having tried to impede any followers. The two of them levitated a large piece of a stone column to the side, clearing an exit down to the lower levels.
After a moment she began to move towards him. As he nodded to Luna, indicating job well done, their eyes met. Immediately, he moved toward her, not looking away, until they were both running to each other.
They embraced, their lips meeting fiercely, not caring about the dust covering their faces or the sweat dotting their brows. They pulled apart and Dean cradled her face in his hands.
“You shouldn’t have come without me.”
“You shouldn’t have come at all,” she said in response.
He looked into her eyes, incredulous. “Not come? How could I not? The noise woke all of Gryffindor Tower up. Then the fourth year girls said they could see the Dark Mark reflected off the lake from their windows. When Parvati and Lavender said you weren’t in bed, I knew you were here.”
“This wasn’t your fight, Dean,” she said, placing her hand over his own on her cheek, trying to soften the harshness of her words.
One hand dropped away, and he looked at her, trying to ascertain if he was hearing her correctly. “This is a war Hermione. Every fight is our fight.”
“Just because it’s a war doesn’t mean you have to fight every battle.” From the crease in his brow she knew he was upset. “You could have gotten hurt. I couldn’t have borne that. Besides, I truly didn’t know this...” she trailed off, looking at the destruction around her.
His expression softened slightly. He moved his hand from her face to her hair, picking out little pieces of rubble and stone.
“Seamus tried to stop me,” he said with a laugh, “but he couldn’t so he followed.”
Across the way, Hermione saw Seamus helping Neville back to his feet.
“Ms. Granger!” Professor McGonagall called, approaching quickly, covered in debris, a small gash on her cheek.
Hermione jumped back from Dean, feeling ridiculous the moment she did. Professor McGonagall obviously had other things on her mind than the romantic habits of her students.
“There has been an incident with Mr. Weasley,” seeing the shock on her face, she then corrected, “Mr. Bill Weasley. He is alive but badly injured. I think it might be best if you accompany Mr. Ron Weasley down to the Hospital Wing.”
Hermione turned to see Ron, looking ghostly pale and in a daze, walking slowly towards the stairs, Ginny at his arm.
“Mr. Thomas, seeing as both our Gryffindor’s prefects are indisposed, will you and Ms. Patil meet me in the Headmaster’s Office? There are students that need herding back to bed and halls that need patrolling.”
Dean seemed surprised, but nodded. “I’ll go get Parvati now.”
“Very well,” Professor McGonagall said. Then, turning to Hermione, she said, “Poppy has already written to Arthur and Molly. Tell the others I will be joining everyone shortly.”
Hermione nodded, knowing the others meant the Order. Would Dumbledore be joining them as well?
Dean looked at her and shrugged. “I suppose as a prefect stand-in I should set a better example but—” and he leaned down to kiss her one again on the lips.
After they parted, Hermione walked over to Ron and Ginny, who were waiting by the stairs, apparently at McGonagall’s request.
“Is he going to be—”
“Alright?” Ginny said, finishing the thought. Her chin quivered but her voice was clear, “McGonagall said he wasn’t in immediate danger but...it was Fenrir.”
“Ron saw him as McGonagall and Lupin were taking him down to the Hospital WIng. I guess he looked pretty bad.”
Staring ahead blankly, Ron nodded slowly. “Just a bit shaken up. M’fine.”
Hermione reached out and rubbed his arm in comfort. “Shall we go down then?”
“I’m going to find Harry,” Ginny said, taking both Ron and Hermione by surprise.
“Ginny you can’t. It may not be safe ye—“
“The Death Eaters fled.” Then with her chin set, eyes blazing, she said again, “I’m going to find Harry.”
Exhausted, they didn’t fight her. They agreed to meet in the hospital wing and went their separate ways. Ron and Hermione walked at a leisurely pace, both silently trying to process the shock of it all. Occasionally, they would remark on the surprising damage along the corridors as they descended, disturbed by the amount of damage the fleeing Death Eaters had inflicted.
The hospital wing itself was mostly empty. Lupin and Tonks stood near Bill’s bedside, as Madam Pomfrey poured a putrid green colored mixture into a bowl. Ron rushed over to them.
“How is he? Will he...is he...?” he asked.
“He’ll live,” Madam Pomfrey said, shooing him back as she began dipping a cloth rag into the mixture. “I can’t yet determine the full damage of his injuries, but he is in no immediate danger right now.”
Color flooded back into Ron’s face as he watched Madam Pomfrey dab at the wounds with the salve.
Hermione made her way over to Lupin and Tonks, hugging them both. She looked questioningly at the only other occupied bed in the ward. A body lay on it, fully covered.
“A Death Eater,” Lupin said.
“Chap by the name of Gibbons, I believe. Judging by the curse marks, I would say it was probably another Death Eater that dunnit to him,” Tonks said.
“So everyone else?” Hermione asked tentatively.
“Accounted for, that we could tell. Were there any more of your friends down there, Hermione?” Lupin asked. Hermione felt embarrassed. He didn’t sound disappointed, but the unsaid chastisement was there. For the second year in a row, they had led their friends into unnecessary danger.
“No, I don’t believe so. Everyone with us is fine.”
Lupin nodded solemnly, rubbing his chin as he stared down at Bill.
Seeing nothing left to do but wait, Hermione pulled up a chair next to the bed.
Where was Harry? How had the Death Eaters gotten in? Was anyone else hurt?
These questions rattled around in her brain as the clock hanging near Madam Pomfrey’s office ticked away. She could now feel the ache in her joints, and soreness in her muscles from where things had hit her and where she had fallen to avoid further injury.
Finally, the hospital wing doors swung open. They all seemed to hold their breath, waiting to see who it would be. It was Ginny and Harry. Harry looked dreadful, blood dripping down his face, his nose bruised.
Relieved, she stood up and ran to him, throwing her arms around him. He squeezed her back, rubbing her back. She was shaking from exhaustion but finally felt peace wash over her. Dean was fine. Ron was fine. Harry was fine. Everyone was OK.
“Are you alright Harry?” she heard Lupin ask.
“I’m fine. How’s Bill?” Hermione pulled away from Harry as he asked, allowing him a better view of the eldest Weasley.
She watched Harry’s face as he grimaced. His glasses were cracked, she realized. Her hand twitched, moving to repair them, but she stopped herself. They could be fixed later.
“Fenrir wasn’t transformed into a full wolf, couldn’t you just heal them with a charm?” Ron asked Madam Pomfrey.
Hermione, in all her exhaustion, couldn’t help but roll her eyes. Lupin beat her to the answer.
“Those are cursed wounds. He likely won’t be a full werewolf, but he may have some wolfish qualities,” Lupin explained.
“Dumbledore might know something that would work though,” Ron said hopefully, “Where is he? Bill fought those maniacs on his orders. He can’t just leave him in this state.”
Hermione wanted to reiterate that cursed wounds couldn’t be healed. They could be managed, but never completely eradicated. But again someone else spoke first.
“Ron,” said Ginny. “Dumbledore’s dead.”
A collective gasp rippled through the room. Hermione felt as if she had taken a step forward only to be met with air, and now she was falling. She searched Harry’s face for anything to convey that Ginny had misunderstood. Instead, he looked solemnly between her and Ron before turning back to the others.
“Snape killed him.”
The words settled onto her mind, resolute, like a fact from a textbook. Unlike the facts she accepted and catalogued in her mind, this one had power. A void opened up inside of her, threatening to consume her. She bit her lip, trying to hold it all in. Lupin let out a sob from the chair in which he had collapsed. It had all shifted, the very fabric of the Wizarding World as they knew it. She wondered if everyone felt it, too.