"You found out anything more about the egg, Harry?" Hermione leant across the table, her hair narrowly missing her breakfast. She'd honestly forgotten about the tournament her thoughts centred around Mina and Edward. She hadn't managed to corner Malfoy again who had taken to running away from her every chance he got.
"No…" Harry shook his head. He looked tired; dark shadows circling his eyes, his hair messier than normal. Hermione felt guilty. He'd had so much to contend with, and she just hadn't really been there for him.
"Cedric…Cedric mentioned something." He leant forward, glancing around to check if anyone was listening, "He said to have a bath, and to…to take the egg with me."
Hermione's nose scrunched in confusion, she couldn't imagine Cedric Diggory lying to Harry, but the clue did seem a little daft.
"You going to do it?" Ron asked, talking around a mouth full of beans.
"Well, of course, he's going to do it, what choice does he have?" She could tell by the way Ron cut his eyes at her that she'd said that far harsher than she'd intended.
"All right keep your hair on. I just thought maybe you'd find something, you know, in all your books." He gestured to the great pile next to her. Hermione glanced down at the full plate of food in front of her, her stomach clenching uncomfortably.
She'd been researching non-stop and none of it had been to help Harry. She could feel them judging her for the lack of input and it made her angry. She had done so much for them; completing their forgotten homework, keeping them somehow up to date with their lessons which they never failed to fall asleep in and dare she even mention the amount of effort she put into keeping them all alive when on one of their many adventures. Of course, she couldn't take all the credit and never would, but she couldn't help but feel a little bitter about the fact that they decided to make her feel bad when she wasn't doing all their work for them.
"I didn't know there was a battle here." Ginny's voice brought her out of her thoughts and Hermione watched as the ginger-haired girl placed a book back on top of the pile.
"Yes, quite a few." Hermione tried to smile at her through her annoyance. Apparently, there had been many battles at Hogwarts, enough to fill an entire book in fact, but none of them had ever been called the Battle of Black Lake. The fact that there was yet another moment in history that seemed to have been conveniently forgotten about made her want to tear her hair out in frustration.
"What are they for anyway?" Ron mumbled, pointing his fork at the pile. Hermione pressed her lips together, holding back her anger. It felt as if every word he spoke to her now was laced with some sort of accusation. Ever since the Yule Ball, he'd seemed poised, ready to climb down her throat when she betrayed them. She wasn't sure how she was meant to betray them, but she supposed that falling into a magical bowl with Malfoy would be misconstrued as such.
"They're for reading," she pointed out sarcastically and Ron scowled at her.
"I know that, but you know, what for?" He hunched his shoulders and leaned forward, tipping his head slightly to one side so he could read the spines. Hermione pulled them away, scowling at him.
"For studies, Ronald. I happen to have other interests, unlike some people." she looked at him pointedly, watching him sneer and sit back. She wondered, in moments like these, how she ever found him attractive, especially when he could be so nasty and suspicious.
"I thought you would at least be helping; the tournament is dangerous, and I don't see you raising a finger to help."
"Me? What about you? You're the one that has been moping around because of his missed opportunity at eternal glory." Hermione was shaking with anger.
"At least I'm not feeding information to the enemy. Bet you go wandering off to Krum whenever Harry tells you anything." Hermione's mouth opened and closed at the accusation. Harry said nothing staring down into his food uncomfortably. She knew that under any other circumstances he would have defended her, but he and Ron had only just started being civil to one another and she knew he didn't want to wreck that.
"Well if that's what you think..." she spat, getting up and collecting her stuff.
She stormed away from them, tears burning in her eyes. She loved the pair of them always would, even though sometimes they overlooked her. She was the smart one, the goody two shoes, the one that read books and told them what to do, anything more than that and suddenly they didn't know how to cope, looking at her as though she'd sprouted an extra head and started spreading, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named propaganda.
"Ooo look, it's Granger."
"GRANGER, wait, slow down." Hermione kept walking as she recognised the voice of Blaise Zabini. She wasn't in the mood to talk to anyone let alone Slytherins. Someone stepped in front of her stopping her in her tracks. Hermione looked up into the face of a grinning Theodore Knott.
"Aw look, the know-it-all is crying. What happened? You get banned from the library?"
"Nah, Krum probably dumped her ass," Pansy spat, stepping up next to Knott, her pretty face contorted into a scowl. Hermione knew she'd been one the girls fawning after Krum, she'd seen her being crushed in the gaggle that followed him around.
"Look, I am not in the mood for this, so please just leave me alone." Hermione closed her eyes in frustration, as they all laughed maniacally. She cursed herself for thinking that talking to them civilly could make a difference.
"Gryffindor Prissy Princess isn't in the mood, that's hilarious. Draco...Hey DRACO." Knott was calling over her head, and Hermione turned slowly to watch the blonde Slytherin, begrudgingly, make his way toward them.
"What is it, Knott? I've got better things to do than ignore, Granger." He sounded bored, but his eyes were darting around uncomfortably, trying not to meet her gaze.
Hermione sighed, tapping her foot against the floor and admiring the detail in the ceiling. She just had to let them have their fun and then she could leave. She smiled as she felt the familiar tingle of the Sensieve's magic, the warmth wrapping around her as Malfoy was brought closer by Blaise, who had thrown his arm across his shoulder, laughing heartily. For some reason, the magic of the Sensieve was always that much stronger around Malfoy.
"Where you been, Draco? We were beginning to worry about you."
"Nowhere," he muttered. Hermione could tell he was lying and wondered if he'd gone back to the stairwell. She sighed trying to move past them, but Pansy stepped in the way, her brown eyebrow arching.
"And where do you think you're going?" Hermione met her gaze.
"Seriously, haven't you guys got past all this yet?" Hermione asked in exasperation, rolling her eyes when Pansy mimicked her, looking straight down the bridge of her nose at Hermione like she was a piece of crap.
"How can we ever get past the fact that you're a little Mudblood, infecting our school with your filth?" Any other day, the comment would have made her roll her eyes, but now she felt sad, alone, and it stung.
"Pansy," Draco's voice cut through the air and Pansy looked up.
"Come on, I can't be arsed with this." He gestured to Hermione in a bored manner, turning to walk away.
"But…" she spluttered before her shoulders slumped and she stepped past Hermione, knocking her shoulder.
"Watch it, Mudblood." she spat, before following Malfoy down the hall, Knott, and Blaise bringing up the rear.
Malfoy turned back once, his eyes meeting hers, flashing her a look of worry that only lasted a second. It was then that Hermione realised he'd actually helped her. In his very Malfoy way, he'd actually helped her. She felt herself warm slightly with gratitude, sadness slipping away just a bit.
Draco grit his teeth in frustration, yanking on the handle and cursing when once again the door refused to budge. He hadn't given much thought to sneaking out of the castle, but he'd never imagined that it would be this difficult. He'd heard some mutterings among the older students that there was a secret code to opening the doors late at night, but he'd never actually taken any of the rumours seriously, especially when the older students had the tendency for making up elaborate stories to make the younger students look like absolute idiots. He twisted the handle again and pulled, biting back a curse when it still didn't open. He leant his head against the wood, his thoughts betraying him and straying to Granger, the very thing he'd been actively trying not to think about all day.
She'd been crying, he could tell from the redness of her eyes and, for some reason, it had made him feel uncomfortable. He could remember a time when the Know-It-All crying would have actually brought him joy. It was the Sensieve, he knew it. Its magic had been lingering around him ever since he'd fallen into the cursed thing and for some reason around her it was…it was worse and at the same time a whole heck of a lot better. Whenever she was close it was as if he was wrapped in an indescribable warmth, tiny bursts of electricity sparking across his skin and making him shiver. There was a strange sort of comfort in it and embarrassingly he'd taken to following her around, always keeping a safe distance so as not to get caught. It had been working fine till Knott took it upon himself to foil his plans completely and announce his presence to the entirety of the school. Luckily it seemed as though no one had worked out what he'd been up to.
"What are you doing?" He whirled around quickly, pressing his back against the solid wood of the door, heart hammering in his chest. He felt the warmth growing as she stepped out of the shadows, her bushy hair bushier than ever, her head tipped to the side in confusion. Draco shivered as the sparks of magic erupted across his skin, leaving goosebumps in their wake, before settling down to a steady hum that he felt inside and all around him. Hermione shifted from one foot to the other for a second and he wondered if she could feel it too.
"None of your business, Granger." He muttered, turning back to the door, hoping by Salazar that it would open so he wouldn't have to have any sort of extended interaction with her. He was noticing that Edwards emotions were entwining, overlapping with his, making them almost impossible to tell apart. Memories flashed through this mind that weren't his own and when he'd seen the sadness in Hermione's eyes she'd looked almost like Mina and his heart had ached just a little. He knew of course that Mina and Hermione were nothing alike, not even slightly, but there was something, like a small part of Mina hanging around her, wisps of it that clung on even after they had left the Sensieve.
"You know, it won't open that way," she said, moving forward to stand beside him, the proximity sending another wave of magic hurtling his way.
"Oh really? Stating the obvious much, Granger?"
"I was only trying to help, no need to be such a prat." He rolled his eyes but really, he was thoroughly relieved that she was back to being the annoying Granger that he was used to. That he could handle.
"Turn it to the left...no the other way." Hermione stepped right next to him, tutting as he did it wrong, "well now you're going to have to reset it...oh just let me do it," she spat, pushing his hands out of the way and moving to unlock the door. "See you turn it to the left, then to the right…' Draco wasn't listening, he squinted into the darkness of the corridor certain that he could hear a faint shuffle. His eyes widened, as light cast a shadow of a cat across the wall.
"Granger," he whispered furiously.
"I'm nearly done," she spat back.
"No, Granger…" He searched furiously for somewhere to hide, briefly contemplating leaving her to get caught. The idea wasn't completely ludicrous; she would be off his back at least for the rest of the night and Gryffindor would stand a chance of actually losing points for once. Still, he needed the door open and if there was a chance of getting answers then he'd just have to soak up the hex and admit defeat.
The tapestry that hung next to the doors to the grounds had always been somewhat of a talking point amongst him and his friends; it depicted Merlin offering magical aid to a young woman who had been cursed by a jealous witch. Every student knew the story and, every student knew that the way in which Merlin had been sewn meant that his wand stuck out in quite a compromising position. Now though, the tapestry made for the best hiding place that he could see in the dimness of the corridor and he quickly grabbed Hermione's wrist, yanking her behind it and clamping his hand over her mouth when she shrieked.
"For once in your life, Granger, shut up," he whispered.
Hermione froze as the light passed in front of them, the pattern of the tapestry stitched in shadows across Malfoy's face. Filch was muttering away to Mrs Norris and Draco, not for the first time since he'd begun attending Hogwarts, wondered why the old squib took his job so seriously. Hogwarts it seemed had a way of taking care of itself, most students who'd ventured out after hours having found themselves victim to one of the various strange secrets that the castle held, so the presence of an utterly magicless caretaker seemed a little counter-intuitive.
The light fell away slowly and they both breathed a sigh of relief when his footsteps echoed into nothingness. Draco removed his hand from her mouth, grimacing and wiping it on his shirt. Hermione scowled at the action, hand on her hip as he checked that the coast was clear.
"You know, you could have just told me, instead of yanking me here and there," she whispered harshly, following him as he stepped out from behind the tapestry.
"Well, here's a bit of breaking news for you, Granger, I did try, but the sheer volume of your own know-it-allness must have drowned out the sound."
"Oh, real mature, Malfoy…for...you're doing it wrong. Seriously, we'll be here all night if you keep on like that." she pushed him aside, and Malfoy watched her turn the handle in a complicated pattern. She was right of course, she knew what she was doing, but he would never tell her that.
"It's a special locking system, it meant that muggles who were friends of the wizarding world could still come in and out. Of course, it's a very complex combination, so random people couldn't just stumble across the combination." Malfoy wondered how she'd actually managed to come across it but decided against asking, knowing that the explanation would be long and boring.
"You know, you don't seem to be…" his words died in his throat as the door clicked open and night air rushed to meet them. Draco stepped past Granger, who was admiring her work with pride. The night was still, the sky clear and full of moon, its silvery light making everything seem luminous, even the lake – usually an unfathomable blackness – seemed to glow with an ethereal light.
"It's beautiful," Hermione breathed.
"Whatever, Granger." Draco brushed off her comment, trudging out into the night air.
"Wait, where are you going?"
"None of your business, Granger," he called over his shoulder, his steps not faltering.
Hermione followed him. "It is my business, I opened the door for you."
'No one asked you to, Granger." Hermione was jogging to keep up.
"You'd be stuck inside if it wasn't for me."
"You don't know that."
"I'm fairly certain that I do. Is this…this is to do with the Sensieve, isn't it?" Hermione grinned as she watched his shoulders tense. "What is it, what have you found?"
"Nothing…yet," he added the last part quietly, but she heard, quickening her pace. She thought back through the memories, wondering what he could have been looking for. Then she stopped, realisation rushing through her.
"The battle of black lake. Is this something to do with the battle?" He didn't stop but she heard him mumble something about her being a smart ass. She allowed herself a satisfied grin, following him to the edge of the lake, watching the water lap gently at the shore.
"What is it? What have you found?" She asked excitedly and he gave her a pained look, lazily pointing to a cluster of rocks further along the lake. It was a long walk and Hermione was suddenly very aware of the silence. She looked up at his face thinking that something about the moonlight softened his features, his pale skin seeming to glow. She shook her head quickly, looking down at her feet and clasping her hands in front of her as she tentatively attempted conversation.
"Thank you, by the way." Malfoy stopped walking altogether, looking down at her curiously.
"I...er...I wanted to say thank you, you know for the other day." He lowered his head to hide his embarrassment, of course, she noticed, she noticed everything else.
"I don't know what you mean." He scratched the back of his head uncomfortably and carried on walking.
"You know, with Pansy and the others, calling them off."
"You make them sound like dogs, Granger," he snorted, "and I did not call them off, I just...I just couldn't be bothered okay." Hermione smiled slightly to herself. She could see how uncomfortable the conversation made him, which only made her more certain that helping her was exactly what he'd intended to do.
"Well thanks, anyway. It really helped."
"Look just forget about it, okay, Granger?" Hermione nodded slightly, biting back all the questions she wanted to ask him, and instead walked beside him in silence.
The rocks were inky black, the surface of them shiny. Hermione reached out a hand to touch, thinking that they looked more like glass than anything else.
"What type of rock is this?" She mused, picking up a smaller one and examining it in her hands.
"It's a rock Granger," Draco scoffed climbing on the large pile and slowly making his way to the top. She chuckled to herself when Draco – not being the most graceful of people – flailed about comically, looking for purchase on the slippery surface.
"Laugh it up, why don't you stop standing about and get up here and help?"
Hermione scoffed indignantly, "I'm sorry, but you didn't even want me here."
"Yeah well, you are, so just make yourself useful." Hermione sighed, rolling up the sleeves of her jumper and climbing up the rocks towards him. She could hear the water lapping between the stones, the sound calming in the night air.
"Hurry up." Draco's snotty voice ruined the moment and Hermione grit her teeth, increasing her pace till she was next to him stood atop the rock and looking out over the lake. The view was impressive, and both found themselves stilled for a moment by the sight.
"So, what are we looking for?" Hermione asked, watching him kneel down and begin moving rocks aside, tapping her foot in annoyance when he refused to answer her. "Well?"
"Granger, I am about this close," he held up his fingers barely a millimetre apart, "to chucking you in the lake. Will you be quiet and at least make yourself useful?" Hermione bristled, planting her hands on her hips.
"I would be entirely more useful if you even hinted as to what you were looking for." Draco stopped digging about in the stones, leaning back and glaring up at her.
"The boy that saved Edward at the Battle, you know about him?" Hermione nodded eagerly, hardly able to believe that Draco was divulging information, especially about the Sensieve. "Well, his stuff his hidden around here somewhere."
"Yes, Granger, stuff, around here, somewhere." He gestured to the rocks and continued digging.
Hermione immediately knelt down beside him and began pouring all her energy into digging out small rocks and throwing them into the lake, instead of asking him all the questions that were circling around in her head. Any questions she would ask him would be met with the same infuriating vagueness so there was no point.
They both paused when the tip of a wand poked through the gap in the rocks.
"Is that a…?" Draco nodded, gently digging out the smaller rocks surrounding it and gently pulling it out of its hiding place. The wand was black, intricately carved, a dragon breathing fire across its surface. He could feel the magic emanating from it, it was more powerful than anything he'd felt before.
"Cast a spell," Hermione muttered excitedly, her eyes wide. Draco glanced at her uncertainly, holding the wand in front of him.
"Lumos," He muttered, and the end of the wand began to glow, getting brighter and brighter before it suddenly faded, leaving colourful spots on his vision. The feeling he got from casting the spell was unlike like any he had felt before, worryingly the connection he felt with the strange wand was so much stronger than the connection he had with his own.
"That was amazing," Hermione said, reaching out and taking the wand from him as he carried out searching the hole that they'd made.
"Lumos." Hermione all but whined when nothing happened, the wand refusing to light. "Lumos…I don't understand."
"Maybe you're not doing it right," Draco teased, smirking to himself when Hermione let out a strangled cry of indignation.
"I'm doing it right," Hermione countered with certainty, examining the wand in confusion.
"Give it here." Hermione reluctantly handed the wand over to Draco, ignoring the fact that easily cast Lumos again, the light shining brightly and instantly fading.
"It isn't lasting very long." Draco murmured, his brow furrowing in confusion.
Hermione shrugged, "Perhaps you're doing it wrong."
"Ha-ha, very funny."
"It is act…" Hermione paused, noticing something glinting amongst the rocks. She easily eased the object out of the dirt and held it in her fingers. It was a ring, an M of black crystal in the centre and words carved around the edge.
"Sanctimonia Vincet Semper," Hermione mumbled to herself, turning the ring this way and that in her hands, it was large, so large it wouldn't fit on any one of her fingers including her thumb.
"What did you say?" Malfoy asked, his eyes wide.
"Sanctimonia Vincet Semper. It's on here, do you know what it means?" Draco took the ring from her, gazing at it in wonder.
"It means, Purity will always conquer." Hermione watched as he stared at the ring for an age, his mouth opening and closing shock.
"What? What is it?" Hermione asked growing impatient.
"It's…." He held the ring up to Hermione, pointing at the M, "It's my family crest."