A/N: Thank you everyone who favourited/followed/commented on the first chapter, it means a lot. Feedback is always appreciated, even if it's just a couple words! It's nice to know how you're doing when you don't know what you're doing haha.
— — —
Hermione pivoted on the spot, searching the tree-lines and the shadows for any sign of movement. She didn't think Bellatrix could have gone far in such a short space of time. For a second, she pondered the idea that she may have even imagined the dark witch, but quickly dismissed the thought.
If I start thinking like that I'll never stop.
She was sure she'd seen Bellatrix standing right there. She looked down at the ground where Harry had been found and she frowned deeply.
Why? she thought. Why would Bellatrix Lestrange come to this exact spot?
She stared out at the dark, glassy surface of the lake, wondering if there was something out there Bellatrix saw that she didn't, but it was just as she remembered it; a lake, a never-ending god-forsaken pit of water.
Hermione's curiosity turned to suspicion as she looked around once more, wanting to be sure the older witch was nowhere to be seen. She felt watched, hunted, but she didn't know whether that was just because she'd seen one of the most dangerous women to walk the earth in her supposedly safe school or because Bellatrix was actually watching her.
Regardless, Hermione couldn't see the Death Eater anywhere. Her sweaty hand gripped her wand tightly, keeping it down by her side but still ready in case there was an attack.
But no attack came. In fact, everything was very quiet– so quiet it was almost eerie, one could argue. Hermione slowly started walking back the way she came, wand still drawn, looking behind her every few steps out of pure paranoia.
She even spun around and aimed her wand at empty air when the water splashed up onto the shore of the lake a little too loudly.
Soon, she was back in the comforts of the castle– could she still be comfortable after what she'd just seen?– and she hurriedly returned to her dorm, hoping again that she wouldn't be seen.
— — —
The cool air of the Monday morning seemed to hit Hermione in the face like a brick when she walked out onto the bridge again before breakfast the next morning.
Of course, she'd barely slept. Sleep had only came to her in the early hours of the morning, when she could barely keep her eyes open, and even then she had woken up an hour or two later.
She had been thinking about Bellatrix, trying desperately to figure out how she got around the anti-apparition jinx on Hogwarts. On top of that, her mind ruthlessly came up with theories as to how she could have killed Harry and left him there with such symptoms. All of them were brutal and left her feeling sick to her stomach.
She looked out at the lake again, at the exact spot she'd seen the dark witch standing before, now empty in what remained of the early morning mist. Hermione would've gone down to the shore had her stomach not growled with the promise of something to eat.
For the first time in the past few days, Hermione felt hungry. The thought of eating any large amount of food still made her feel ill, but the idea of having what constituted as a snack for the general population seemed satisfying enough for her.
Rather reluctantly, she turned from the lake and started to make her way to the Great Hall. The walk was just as long as it usually was but she was too wrapped up in her thoughts to care.
It went rather quickly, actually, and Hermione found herself wishing that she had some more time alone to think rather than sit around a table with other people and be forced to listen to their conversations.
Despite this, she walked up to the teacher's table after pushing the double doors open and took her usual seat at the right end of it. To her delight, there was bacon, pancakes and syrup. She considered these things to be luxuries, even by Hogwarts' standards, but they mostly made her think of being at home with her parents in the muggle world.
Harry and Ron would have fought over this, she chuckled internally, but the thought soon turned sad and she felt the lump in her throat rise as her heart fell.
She decided not to let the thought of Harry ruin her mood too much, so she tucked into a pancake and as much bacon as she could force herself to eat. While she was eating her food, she couldn't help but overhear two of the younger students who were sitting near her gossiping about a newspaper article.
"I heard someone killed him," the Ravenclaw girl stated, matter-of-fact.
"Skeeter wrote that there were more deaths just like it," the Hufflepuff girl nodded.
But the deaths weren't just like Harry's; his was different to theirs. He hadn't suffered so much visibly, his skin had paled and the skin around his mouth and eyes had gone a mid-grey colour, but he hadn't had black patches anywhere on his skin. Water had been dribbling from his mouth, but it was tinted with blood unlike the others.
There was something else; Harry's bones appeared to be broken, almost as if he'd struggled or fought, but there had been no sign of a struggle. It was like they'd just broken on their own.
Hermione got so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice everyone leaving the Great Hall until Draco stalked past her.
"Off with the fairies again, Granger?" he said antagonistically.
Hermione's gaze snapped up to meet his but he was already walking down between the four tables towards the door. Draco's comment hadn't evoked anger like he'd probably wanted it to. Instead, it was oddly comforting to hear the Slytherin's vile comments again. She felt less fragile. She knew it was bad when even Draco had looked at her pityingly, but now he was back to his bitter, entitled self, she felt like the world was slowly shaping back to the way it should be– the way it was.
With a tired sigh, Hermione stood up. She was going to throw something witty back at Draco but he was long gone, so she started making her way to Dumbledore's office instead. She had made the decision last night to go and investigate the old Headmaster's office in an effort to find out something about Bellatrix or the newspaper clippings.
When she finally arrived and walked in, she immediately felt uneasy. The office that had once had a homely vibe to it was now cold and empty, a thin layer of dust having settled on every surface. Dumbledore's portrait which hung on the wall was vacant, to Hermione's disappointment. Had he been there, she would have simply asked him about the newspaper clippings and Bellatrix being at the lake, but it seemed she would have to find things out for herself.
Making her way over to the bookshelf, she started at one end and made her way across. She pulled out every book, flicking through it, sometimes reading it, looking for anything that could be of help. Unfortunately, a lot like the others, they contained nothing of interest.
She sighed, looking up at the empty portrait again.
Wandering over to his desk, she ran a finger along it's surface, then rubbing it against her thumb to get rid of the dust that had stuck to it. She wrapped her fingers around the handle of the drawer, standing there awkwardly for a moment before finally opening it. It felt odd to be going through Dumbledore's belongings, even though his portrait wasn't there to see it.
In the drawer, lying side by side were a book and a ring. Hermione recognised them immediately as the two Horcruxes that had already been destroyed. There was still a hole in the diary from when Harry had destroyed it with the Basilisk fang and the ring was bent out of shape, it almost looked burnt.
Hermione found herself recalling the last conversation she'd had with Harry, standing on the Astronomy Tower with him after Dumbledore had been killed. He'd told her about Snape and the Death Eaters, about the Horcruxes and how they each contained a piece of Voldemort's soul. The locket they'd found was apparently a fake, so Harry had said he was set on finding the real one. He'd been set on finding them all, so convinced that this would be the thing that would bring the Dark Lord to an end.
He'd then hugged her, told her he was going to see Hagrid, and then no one saw him until they found his body on the shore.
Hermione slipped the diary into her pocket, then glanced at the ring. Dumbledore had already destroyed that one apparently, although how Harry had never mentioned. She pocketed it as well, wondering if it counted as theft.
She restlessly paced around the room, almost as if the more she wore down the floorboards the clearer the few pieces of the puzzle she had would become. She just wanted something to add up, anything.
She stopped at the rack of memories by the Pensieve, admiring them despite their new dusty appearance.
"There used to be a lot more," Minerva sighed.
Hermione turned at the sound of the voice. She hadn't expected anyone to bother her in the old Headmaster's office, but she didn't mind Minerva's company. The teacher had started speaking to her like a friend more than a student since Harry and Dumbledore's passing and it was comforting in ways Hermione couldn't describe. Minerva seemed to be the only one who still treated Hermione like a human being rather than an object that might break if you breathe too hard around it.
"What do you mean?" Hermione asked. "More memories?"
Minerva nodded. "Mr Malfoy came and took some away, said it was Ministry business."
"What were the memories of?" Hermione turned back to the rack and looked at the empty spaces there were.
"Mostly deaths from the first war," Minerva walked up to the Pensieve, glancing between its rippling surface and the glass vials.
"Why would the Ministry want to take them away?" Hermione asked.
Minerva smiled sadly. "Some things are just better off put away and never seen again."
Hermione ran her finger along the dusty memory rack absentmindedly, thinking about all the horrible things the memories might contain.
"How are you?" Minerva asked.
Hermione paused, contemplating her answer.
"I'm okay," she settled for. "And yourself, Professor?"
"So much to do," Minerva laughed lightly but it seemed so forced, so sad, "I barely have the time to think."
There was a silence, a peaceful and comfortable one.
"Would you like to come to Hogsmeade on Wednesday? It'll be good for you all to get out of the castle and I need to run a few errands."
Hermione looked at her teacher and nodded. "That would be lovely. Thank you."
McGonagall placed a reassuring hand on the brunette's shoulder. "My pleasure. It's approaching lunchtime, I think we should start making our way there, don't you?"
— — —
Hermione and Minerva had walked to the Great Hall in silence, but there wasn't really much they needed to talk about anyway, so Hermione was thankful for the quiet company. It made her think of Ron and his constant attempts to get her to cheer up before he left, and she made a mental note to write to him at some point and ask how he was.
Hermione didn't eat much at lunch, especially after her breakfast– which was excessive by her current standards– so her gaze flickered between the double doors and Draco to keep her occupied.
Ever since finding out that Lucius had taken the memories, Hermione started to think that the boy might know something, so she'd decided to keep an eye on him.
He might even know about Bellatrix, Hermione thought.
Her eyes settled on the doors again as they started to open and she expected Snape to walk in late again like he usually did, but it wasn't Snape. Instead, she watched as the Minister of Magic made his way down the centre of the Great Hall, heading straight towards her. Her palms started to sweat and her heart raced anxiously as she came face to face with Rufus Scrimgeour.
"I trust you know why I'm here, Miss Granger," he addressed her.
"I'm afraid I don't, Sir," Hermione stood to greet him out of respect.
"Shall we take a seat somewhere a little quieter?"
In the end, they resolved to sit at the Slytherin table in the seats closest to the doors, while everyone finished their lunches. He had pulled out a very expensive and official-looking piece of parchment which had turned out to be Dumbledore's will and started to read it to her.
She took her new copy of The Tales of Beedle the Bard and thanked the Minister, clutching the book to her chest after she'd admired the beautifully designed cover.
"What about Ron and… Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Mr. Weasley was left Mr. Dumbledore's Deluminator and Mr. Potter was left the Golden Snitch he caught during his first Quiddich game. He was also left the Sword of Gryffindor but, unfortunately, it was stolen– not that it was ever Dumbledore's to give away."
"Stolen?" Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Do you have any idea by who?"
"No," Rufus' voice was almost bitter, but Hermione didn't give much thought to it.
"What about the Snitch? Can Ron or I have it since Harry isn't…" Hermione trailed off. For what felt like the hundredth time that day, she shoved the image of her best friend's face to the back of her mind. She missed him. She knew he always called her the clever one but without him there to bounce ideas off she felt more stupid than ever. Perhaps Harry was to her what she was to Ron; she didn't know.
"I'm afraid not," the Minister shook his head. "Under the circumstances, the Snitch now belongs to the Ministry."
"Can I see it, please?" Hermione asked.
"Why would you want to?" Scrimgeour enquired sharply.
"Sentiment?" Hermione didn't mean for it to come out as a question, but she wasn't sure what else to say in reply.
Slowly, after a long moment of hesitation and careful consideration, he pulled a leather pouch from his pocket and handed it to her. She opened it to reveal the Snitch, holding it between her thumb and forefinger as its wings fluttered as fast as a hummingbird's.
She believed that Dumbledore was too clever to leave Harry anything for a mere memory but, as she rolled the magical item between her fingertips, she started to doubt the old man for the first time in her life. There didn't seem to be anything, but her thought process was quickly interrupted when Rufus spoke.
"They have flesh memories, you know."
Of course, Hermione mentally kicked herself for being so stupid. She knew this. So I won't get anything out of this, then.
The temptation to take the Snitch as a memory of Harry and make a run for it was strong, but Hermione stayed in the chair at the table opposite the Minister, slowly slipping the item back into the pouch before returning it.
He took it back without a word.
"Is that all?" she asked.
He nodded. "Unless, of course, you have any further questions."
Hermione shook her head, her sad eyes starting blankly at the table as Rufus got up to leave. Before he could take his first step, however, Hermione jumped up.
"Sir?" she watched as he turned to face her again, the sigh that followed almost exasperated.
"Yes, Miss Granger?"
"Sorry, I actually do have a question but it's not to do with Dumbledore's will."
Rufus stayed quiet but nodded, a cue for her to carry on.
"The memories in his office, why did you need to confiscate them?"
"I'm afraid I don't know what you mean," he shook his head, "the Ministry never confiscated any memories from Albus."
Hermione opened her mouth to say something about Lucius but her words got caught in her throat and she only ended up blinking and standing there with her mouth agape.
"Good day, Miss Granger," and with that, the Minister made his way to Minerva who was waiting for him by the doors.