The serpent's mates

A walk in the woods

Trigger warnings here for experiments done to children, kidnapping, torture, child abuse, and dissection and all around child endangerment. And several cases of bigotry.

The serpent's mate

Chapter two

A walk in the woods

A few hours after breakfast, the first quidditch match of the year began.

Hermione knew that the Slytherins could be underhanded, but nonetheless, she, Pansy, Astoria, Daphne and Millicent cheered their team on with zest.

The seeker for the Gryffindor team, some fifth-year boy named Timothy Caldwell, was pitiful, and hadn't gotten the snitch. And at the end, the Slytherins won.

When Hermione had first heard his name, she had almost panicked, before replaying what the name of the student was. Caldwell. Not Cromwell. That was a relief. Hermione had almost laughed at her relief, because of course, his last name wasn't Cromwell. Even if his last name HAD ended up being Cromwell, it wouldn't mean anything. It wouldn't mean that there was any connection…

Even if Cromwell was still alive, most of his goons had died in the explosion. They couldn't reach her. Or her mother.

Afterwards, Hermione and the other four girls walked around Hogwarts grounds, talking. To Hermione's delight, both Greengrass sisters seemed fascinated with Muggle living and though she hid it, Millicent seemed interested too.

Christmas came and went, during that time, Hermione had gone back home and happily told her mother all about the friends that she had made. She had watched as her mother had smiled at her, overjoyed hearing all this.

When Hermione came back to Hogwarts, she began exploring the castle again. She found that she was very good at hiding from the janitor and watchman, Argus Filch and his cat, Mrs. Norris.

Granted, she was a Slytherin and Filch, the bitter man, seemed to be fond of Slytherins, however, she did not wish to be caught by him.

She went through the corridor and went down the stairs, and then reached a room and opened it and she walked inside, seeing something interesting. It was a mirror. A mirror that was arched.

She stepped closer to the mirror and looked at it, curious.

Her eyes widened when she saw multiple people next to her in the mirror. A bunch of them were Slytherins, including Pansy, Astoria, Daphne and Millicent surrounding her. All smiling at her. All of them hugging her.

She frowned and looked around her. There was no one here, but her.

Hermione looked back at the mirror, confused.

She went back to her dorm and got Pansy, bringing the other girl to the mirror, showing it to her. Pansy had already been awake when Hermione had gotten her, and Astoria, Millicent and Daphne were asleep.

It made Hermione happy to know that they were more at ease about her wandering about the castle afterhours than they had been before.

However, she needed someone else's eyes besides her own.

Pansy stood next to her in front of the mirror. Hermione looked at Pansy, asking the other girl what it was she saw.

Pansy stared at the mirror, shocked. "That's me!" She said, "And Draco! We're in the great hall and people are dancing around us. I think Draco is taking me out to Yule ball."

Hermione's eyes widened.

The Yule ball was a ball that occurred every so often in Hogwarts-when the Triwizard Tournament took place. And no, it didn't surprise her that Pansy saw herself with Draco. If her theory about this mirror was right, then this thing reflected what people wanted most. And Pansy was very much besotted with Draco. Why, Hermione could hardly guess, but she was.

Hermione was pretty sure that Draco wasn't Pansy's soulmate-at least, she hoped he wasn't. But she hadn't seen the mark on his shoulder yet. Pansy had allowed Hermione to see hers. A bright green crownlike symbol.

Pansy said hopefully, "Maybe this mirror predicts the future?"

Hermione chuckled, "Maybe." She didn't buy it, though. Seeing the future? That was silly. Only very practiced seers could do that. There were spheres with prophecies in them, as Hermione had read-in the Department of Mysteries. But that was the extent of it. As far as Hermione knew.

After a few weeks of Hermione staying around the mirror, as it was dubbed, with the words above the mirror, the "mirror of Erised," which Hermione figured out easily, was "desire" spelled backwards, she sat on the floor, curious. She then heard a low and deep voice speak from behind her.

"I see like many others before you, you have discovered the delights of the mirror of 'Erised.'" Hermione almost jumped, eyes widened, turning around, seeing Dumbledore standing there in his usual clothing. She got up and looked at him cautiously.

"Dumbledore?" She asked.

Dumbledore came over to her and gestured to the mirror as he said, "There is much speculation as to who originally created this mirror. But one thing is always agreed upon when it comes to this mirror," the elderly man's eyes became deep with sadness, or what Hermione suspected was sadness, "This mirror is going to be moved. And I must ask you not to look for it, Ms. Granger. People have wasted away in front of this mirror. Even gone mad. It does not do, to dwell on dreams and forget to live."

Hermione turned back to the mirror, fighting the urge to roll her eyes. She hadn't stayed staring at this mirror because she had yearned for friends. Did she want more friends than she had? Yes, like a greedy child, she did. But that wasn't why she stayed near the mirror, or at least, that wasn't why she believed she stayed near it. She kept coming back to it, because she wanted to study it. She wanted to know the extent of what it showed.

So the mirror was going to be taken? Fine. Perhaps for the best. She didn't understand why it wasn't just destroyed, but fine.

Hermione nodded to Dumbledore and said goodnight to him and left, heading out and heading back to her dorm.

She couldn't help but feel suspicious of Dumbledore. After all, her past had told her nothing, if not that authority-at least, some authority needed to be questioned.

Six and a half years ago

Jean Granger, age thirty-nine, sat in front of the screens, watching the events unfold on those screens.

Within the halls of the station, where Jean Granger worked, and helped her fellow scientists, she looked at the screens, belonging to the cameras, surveying the children that she and her fellow scientists were studying.

The children in the cots below, snuggling under their blankets, were all what were known as amongst this world as "anomalies." Freaks of nature.

In other words, children who could perform what was commonly known as "magic."

Amongst these children, was a young, small, five-year-old child, a girl, by the name of Hermione.

No one knew what any of these children's last names were. Those who were orphans, weren't allowed to know any last name, and those who had had parents? They had been taken away from those parents and commanded not to use their last names.

Jean, like the rest of the station she worked in, had no idea where these abilities of the children came from. It would just be, one day, a couple of average human beings would have a child together, and suddenly, the child would develop powers. Abilities that were out of the ordinary.

Making objects move across the room like a stuffed animal, a toy or some chocolate.

Or the child would throw at tantrum and suddenly there would be an exploding TV or an exploding phone or air conditioner.

This had been happening more and more. A child, with completely normal parents, would develop abilities and become dangerous, and so Jean and her company-the self-acclaimed "Human Saviors," would snatch every last one of these children and use them for testing.

So far, the origin of these children's abilities were never answered.

Hermione, the little five-year-old whom Jean Granger had grown attached to, was taken, as well, if what Jean had heard from those that had taken the girl was correct. She had no idea who Hermione's biological parents were, though. That the higher ups kept secretive about.

Jean checked the time. It was time for the children to get up and have their breakfast.

Jean yelled to her fellow staff members, "Get some food ready for the kids!"

"Yes, ma'am!" Some of the staff members yelled back, going downstairs to the kitchens to get food ready for the children to eat.

Jean turned back to the screen and stared at the smallest of the five to seven-year-olds asleep.


Jean's chest hurt, thinking about how that little girl, that precious little girl was going to suffer in the next few years, being experimented on repeatedly and tested on.

Hermione had already experienced far too many blood tests and brain scans than were normal for any child.

The guards woke the children up, pulling them out of their beds and escorting them to the doors leading to the main rooms, where they would eat.

The kids would assemble in the room for breakfast, and then the day would begin.

Jean pulled back from the screens and got up. It was time for she herself to get ready for the day, as well.

She went to where her equipment lay, gathered it all up and headed out.

When she reached the room downstairs, she plastered a smile on her face as Hermione and the rest of the children turned to look at her.

"Ms. Granger!" Hermione cried out happily.

She hopped up from the table, jumped down from the bench and ran over for the woman and Jean leaned down, arms open and outstretched for the girl to run into them.

Hermione ran right to Jean and Jean picked the girl up and held her tightly, Hermione threw her arms around Jean's neck and Jean held her close.

Jean's heart hurt.

This sweet, little girl had done nothing to hurt anyone. But she would suffer in the later years. She already had suffered so far.

"Hi, sweetie," Jean said, kissing Hermione's forehead, "Did you have a good night's sleep?"

Hermione nodded against her. "Yes, mu-Ms. Granger. I did."

Jean smiled sadly. She wasn't a fool. She knew this girl tended to almost call her, "mum" or "mummy." She knew that this girl saw her as her mother, even if she knew she shouldn't address the woman as that title, because she had been told not to do so.

Jean wished that Hermione would be allowed to call her that title. She so wished for it.

She carried little Hermione to the table, slowly putting the girl down onto the bench of the table.

Hermione looked at her hopefully and Jean nodded, speaking softly, "We can play in the play area later, sweetie. But right now? You need to eat some food. So, eat first, then we can play together."

Hermione frowned, but turned around and went to eat her food. Jean walked to the table where the other adults were and began eating with them.

Noah and Jack Banks both turned to Jean, smirking.

"Still have that soft spot for that kid, huh, Granger?" Jack asked, grinning.

Jean's lower jaw tightened. Noah and Jack Banks were brothers-born only three years apart from each other, and they treated the children like the little freaks that they thought the children to be.

Jean never liked leaving either or Noah or Jack to be alone with any of the children. It made her worried that they might hurt the children.

None of the guards had hurt the children yet-but Jean was positive that they would one day.

"I find it best to make the children think we're their friends," She said, the lie hurting to say, hoping these punks would never repeat her words to Hermione or any of the other children, "Unlike you, Banks, I know how to play my cards right."

Jack scoffed and smirked, but didn't say anything else after that.

Jean looked back at where the children were eating.

She wanted Hermione safe, but she needed to do her job.

She heard footsteps coming and she turned to see Mr. Percival Cromwell. The chairmen of this department.

He sat down next to her, between her and the Banks brothers. He had short, silver hair and a short silver beard, his left ring finger had a gold wedding band on it and his face was broad and proud. Normally he was a quite pale white, but given how sunny it was and that he spent a good portion of his time outside, exercising with his wife, he had accumulated a fine tan on his face.

Mr. Percival Cromwell observed the rest of the children, one table after another.

He was the chancellor of this place, of this prison full of young children, each and every one that had been stolen from their parents.

Jean greeted him, nodding to him politely, hiding her disgust. She wasn't going to deny that she loathed him. He had stolen each and every one of these children. He had convinced her that they were doing the right thing when he had met with her for the second time, almost eight years ago, when she had been thirty-one, and had been about to put out applications to a new job.

He had introduced himself to her and her family when she had first met him and had been about to enter college, at the age of eighteen, after having been interested in one of her essays about studying DNA. And he had asked that when she graduated from college, she come work for him.

And she had been taken in by his words.

So, after she had graduated from college, when she had been twenty-one, she had worked for several other companies, but his words had stayed in her mind. So, when he had offered the job a second time, when she had been thirty-one, she had gone to work for him.

And five years after she had begun working for Cromwell, after she had begun working here, she had immediately been drawn to the small, helpless two and a half-year-old, Hermione, a child who had been stolen from her parents.

And Cromwell? He knew, he had to know that she had come to love Hermione these past three years since meeting the little girl. Hermione was his way of keeping his control over her.

Cromwell said, looking to Jean, "Ms. Granger, there's a matter I wish to discuss with you," he said calmly.

Jean lifted her eyebrows. "Yes?" She asked.

Cromwell sighed, "It concerns Hermione," Those words made Jean's heart fall, "We want to inspect her DNA. We'll be able to see what makes the more advanced anomalies tick."

Jean felt her chest become tight. Anomalies was the name that the staff members gave the children around here, to make them be less human.

Jean tried to ignore the unease in her chest.

What exactly was Cromwell going to do to her Hermione?

"What exactly is the plan?" Jean asked.

Cromwell smiled, "Simple," he answered, "We cut her open, see what's inside. See how she ticks."

Horror upon horror entered Jean, making her shiver. No.

They were going to kill her little girl?

"None of the other experiments have called for that," she whispered, unable to stop her helpless emotions, "Why do you need to do that to her?"

Cromwell smiled at her. "There's no reason to be attached, Ms. Granger," he said, "she's just an anomaly. She's worthless. Her only contribution to science would be being dissected. I know you care about her. But she is a freak of nature. Best to study her, than feel any empathy for her."

Jean nodded, giving a neutral, "yes, sir," before looking ahead emotionally.

Jean made her decision then. She had to get Hermione out of here. She had to.

Jean began her planning to save the girl who had become her daughter.

Present day-six years later

On Hogwarts grounds, a few weeks after Dumbledore had given Hermione his little lecture, which still made her roll her eyes when she thought of it, Hermione and Astoria played some chess.

Hermione was surprised to find that she was actually pretty good at wizard chess. She wasn't sure if that was a good thing or not, given how violent this version of chess was.

But, oh, well.

Hermione, Pansy, Astoria, Daphne and Millicent took a walk throughout Hogwarts, ignoring the ghosts that floated back and forth across the halls and walked around the grounds of Hogwarts.

Eventually, night fell, and as they got close to where Hagrid lived, Pansy pointed something out to the others, seeing Hagrid carrying something in a bucket.

Pansy smirked, nodding to him. "Let's check that out," she grinned, "I wonder what the moron's up to."

Hermione groaned. She didn't care that much about Hagrid. He was a perfectly decent man, as far as she could tell. People didn't know it-though she didn't understand how people didn't know it, but Hagrid was obviously a half giant. How else was he so large? He was obviously half giant. Or maybe a quarter giant.

She had no strong feelings about him either way.

But she wished the Slytherins could be nicer to him.

"We could just leave him alone, you know," she said, looking at Pansy critically in the torchlight placed around Hogwarts on the outside of it.

Pansy smirked. "Why?" She asked, "Are the teachers nice to us Slytherins? Let's go!"

Pansy went off in the direction of Hagrid's hut, and Hermione, Astoria, Daphne and Millicent shared an aggravated look and followed Pansy down the hill to Hagrid's hut.

The hill downwards was paved with stones and headed to a patch of pumpkins that were in front of the hut.

The five girls headed down, reaching the hut, after Hagrid had gone into it and had closed the door behind him.

They reached the window and peered through it. Hagrid was sitting down, holding that same bucket over a fire.

He had big, heavy oven mittens on.

After a few minutes, he leaned forward, picking up the bucket and pulling the contents out.

It was an egg. A big, brownish egg.

"The heck is that?" Millicent asked.

"I think I know," Daphne said, frowning, "But how did he get ahold of one?"

Hermione frowned. Get ahold of what? What was that egg?

She knew that Hagrid had an obsession with dangerous creatures, but…

Eventually, the egg began cracking and the shards of the shell came flying off.

Hermione gasped, seeing the shell break apart, small, gray, batlike wings emerged from the egg, as well as little talons and a reptilian tail.

Hermione asked, smiling, "Is that…a dragon?"

"Yes, yes it is, Hermione," Pansy said, chuckling next to her, seeing the dragon's head emerge from the egg.

"I think that might be a Rhodesian Ridgeback," Millicent said, "I was reading about creatures before I came back from the break. And I read about some of the dragons too."

Hermione's smile widened. She had always wanted to see a dragon. Not just since she had learned that she was a witch, when that letter from that owl had come to her and her mother's house almost a year ago.

But her whole life. She had always wanted to see a dragon. Ever since she had realized what the soulmate mark on her shoulder was. Back in her room in that facility, when she had been experimented on, before Jean Granger had rescued her and had taken her in, she had had a stuffed, dark green dragon toy that she had always hugged before going to sleep. Jean Granger-who had become her mother had gotten it for her. After it had been torn to pieces by the guards during Jean's rescue of her, Jean had gotten her a new stuffed dragon, a black one that had a place of prominence on the pillow of Hermione's bed back at her home with her mother.

Hermione smiled at the little, baby dragon.

Hagrid reached out with a hand that wasn't gloved anymore, stroking the bottom of the dragon's chin with his big finger, smiling at the dragon.

The dragon burped out a flame and hit Hagrid's beard, setting it on fire, so Hagrid had to pat it out.

Hermione chuckled and Astoria and Daphne's eyes widened. Millicent and Pansy snickered.

Hermione then noticed movement to her left. She turned her head, eyes widening when she saw Draco Malfoy there.

He glared at them, "What are the five of you doing here?"

"We're just looking at that dumb-dumb, Hagrid," Millicent sneered, glaring at him, "This isn't any of your business."

"What isn't?" Draco sneered back, coming over to the small window and peering inside.

His eyes widened. "Oh…," he said, "That doofus has…has a dragon," he grinned at the girls, "Wait till the professors hear about this!"

"Wait, Malfoy!" Both Hermione and Daphne yelled when Draco turned and ran away from the hut.

Millicent and Pansy cursed under their breaths.

Hermione was about to race after him, but Pansy grabbed her arm and whispered, "Don't! If the teachers catch us out of bed, they could deduct points from all of us."

Hermione winced. She tore her arm out of Pansy's grasp and shook her head and ran after Malfoy, hearing curses behind her and running after her.

She didn't want Slytherin to get into trouble, but she didn't want that baby dragon to be hurt either. And she didn't want poor Hagrid to get into trouble.

She bolted after Malfoy, and Millicent, the Greengrass sisters and Pansy chased after her.

Unfortunately, Malfoy got to the teachers first.

McGonagall found them, deducted fifty points from each of them, then sent them out to the Forbidden Forest, including Malfoy, for being out of bed afterhours.

Hermione smirked at his pouting at that. One bit of justice in all this.

However, she tried to ignore the glares she was receiving from her four companions at them getting caught and having the points deducted from their house.

She told them sorry multiple times as Filch led them to Hagrid's hut.

Hagrid was lamenting the loss of his dragon and Hermione tried not to wince. Poor dragon.

Hagrid led all six students into the Forbidden Forest.

Hermione knew that the forest was supposed to be dark and eerie at night, but there was just something about it that reminded her of a forest where monsters would come out of that would hide under children's beds.

But she supposed that that fit. After all, they were in the magical world. And this forest was filled with werewolves, vampires, ghouls, giant spiders, krakens and giant snakes and centaurs and maybe some giants.

So, she supposed the comparison that she had made, was a fitting one.

Hagrid led the six students deep into the forest and they came to a glimmering, silver pool of something.

Hermione stared at that. What was that?

Hagrid leaned down and dipped two big fingers into the pool of silver and pulled his fingers out, showing it off to the children. "See this?" He said, "That's unicorn blood, that is."

Hermione's eyes widened. Unicorn blood? Oh, no.

Unicorns were pure, innocent creatures. To kill one of them…it was a terrible thing to do.

"There's something that's killing unicorns," He said, and he nodded to the pool of silver blood, "This one here is hurt. We'll need to find it."

Hermione paused, hearing something moving in the woods. She glanced at where she heard the noise, and she shivered, positive that she saw a figure dressed in a robe almost hovering through the woods.

She frowned. Had...she really seen that?

She then heard Hagrid's voice, making her turn back to him, "Pansy, Millicent, Astoria, you're with me. Malfoy, you're with Hermione, Daphne and Fang. Oh, and just so you know, Fang's a coward."

Hermione looked down at the wrinkled, gray dog who whined.

Their party split up.

Hermione, Daphne, Malfoy and Fang walked through the forest and Malfoy, of course, was complaining the whole time.

"I can't believe that buffoon sent us to do this," He whined, "This is servant work!"

"Oh, shut it, Malfoy," Daphne grunted, "A little work won't kill you. And by the way, none of this would have happened if you hadn't sold Hagrid out to McGonagall."

Malfoy snapped at her in disgust, "And if you hadn't been out there in the first place-"

"Shut up, Malfoy," Hermione snapped, "No one made you sell Hagrid out to McGonagall," she added when Malfoy glared at her, "And don't even think about saying the 'M' word to me, Malfoy. It doesn't matter what my blood status is, you still made your choice to go to McGonagall and got all of us in trouble, that was YOUR choice! Your choice, Malfoy. Your choice. So, you know what, Malfoy? Shut the fuck up!"

Both Malfoy and Daphne blanched in shock, never having heard such anger from Hermione.

Hermione shook her head, sighing. "I'm sorry, okay?" She said, and she looked at Daphne, "I'm sorry I lost us all those points, but we wouldn't be in this situation if it wasn't for Malfoy. So, please," she nodded to Malfoy, "Hold the person responsible for this responsible, okay?"

She shook her head again and said, "Let's just get moving, please."

Daphne glared at Malfoy and nodded to Hermione and walked after the brunette. Malfoy scoffed, but he and Fang followed them.

They reached a hill with multiple roots curled up around it, and Hermione stepped down the hill, seeing two figures in the distance. Her eyebrows narrowed. One of the figures was sprawled along the ground. It was pale white…and it looked like it had hooves and a horn.

Her eyes widened. "Oh, hell," she said, "I think we just found the unicorn killer."

Malfoy and Daphne looked at where Hermione was staring, and all three of them saw a figure dressed in black, leaning forward over a dead unicorn.

The hooded figure stood up, looking at the three students, and Hermione barely made out the shape of teeth glistening, with blood all over them.

Malfoy screamed and ran away, with Fang at his heels.

Daphne and Hermione watched as the figure in a black, hooded robe slithered, very actually slithered around the unicorn corpse, and slithered up to a stop, the mist on the ground blasting forward with the figure's halting.

The figure didn't stop moving for long. It began walking forward, thankfully no longer slithering, but it was coming closer.

Hermione felt her heart clench in cold terror as she watched the dark figure coming closer and closer.

Daphne stood in front of Hermione protectively, pulling her wand out and aiming it at the oncoming figure.

There was the thundering of hooves from behind Hermione and Daphne, and they gasped, turning, when a figure with hooves came leaping out from behind the hill, and jumped at the hooded being.

The hooded figure made no sound, but turned and fled, slithering around the ground and flew to a tree and ascended it, disappearing out of sight.

Hermione gasped into Daphne's back, shaking.

Daphne turned to Hermione, hugging her. "Are you alright?" She asked the other girl.

Hermione nodded weakly, trying to ignore her shivers. "Yeah," she said, "I'm alright. Wow. What was that?"

They turned to the hooved being that had just dropped in on them and had saved them. Hermione's eyes widened when she saw the centaur that was in front of them.

It was a muscled male centaur, with pale blonde hair and beard.

He looked at both girls and asked, "Are the two of you alright, young ones?"

Daphne and Hermione both nodded.

"Thank you," Hermione said, "Sorry, I don't know your name."

"Firenze," the centaur answered, "My name is Firenze. The both of you are safe now."

"Thank you," Hermione repeated and asked then, "What was that thing that attacked us?"

Firenze looked to the unicorn, an expression of disgust on his face as he said, "Drinking the blood of a unicorn will extend one's life, even at an inch of death, but for a price. You will live a sorrowful life. A cursed life."

Daphne shook her head as she pulled away from Hermione, her long, oak wand still clutched in her hand, "But who would ever choose to live like that?" She asked.

Firenze smiled grimly. "Can neither of you think of anyone?" The centaur asked.

Hermione's eyes widened. Her heart stopped. No.

She didn't want to even think it, but there was only one person that came to mind. None of the Death Eaters had recently disappeared or anything like that.

But their leader? The one that had disappeared ten years ago…

The name spilled from her lips before she could stop herself, "Voldemort."

Daphne winced at the name, and Firenze nodded solemnly.

"That's right," the centaur answered, "Voldemort," again, Daphne winced, but gasped this time. The centaur continued, "Only he would do something so twisted. And do the two of you know what resides in Hogwarts at this moment?"

Daphne and Hermione looked at each other, confused, then turned to the centaur, shaking their heads.

Firenze said, "Think, if Voldemort wishes to live forever, what would he need? He doesn't have enough unicorn blood to do it. He needs something else."

Hermione frowned. She tried to ignore the spiking terror that ran through her, knowing that Voldemort himself still existed and still was alive, still in this world, and was trying to regain his strength.

The same wizard that had committed multiple murders, had taught hatred of the entirety of muggles, muggle-borns and half-bloods, was alive and here in this forest, where she and her friends were.

She could feel the coldness in her stomach.

But her mind did indeed began traveling. What exactly could give someone immortal life?

Only one thing came to Hermione's mind. She had done some light reading and had read about someone named "Nicolas Flammel," and he had created something called the "Philosopher's Stone," or the "Sorcerer's Stone," in some areas.

"The Sorcerer's Stone," Hermione said quietly, mouth dropping, making Daphne to look at her.

Firenze smiled. "That's right," he said, "The Sorcerer's Stone. It will grant someone eternal life. Voldemort must not get ahold of it."

Hermione stepped forward, feeling a shiver run down her spine, "Do you know where in the school it is?" She asked, but she already had an idea.

That three-headed dog was guarding something. And if the Sorcerer's Stone really was somewhere in Hogwarts, where else could it be? Except under the most dangerous creature in that school?

Firenze shook his head. "I don't," he said, "safe there. Somewhere safe there."

Hermione said nothing, but she already had her assumptions.

She heard footsteps running over and heard Hagrid's yell, "Firenze? What are you doing here?"

Hermione wondered if Malfoy had told Hagrid exactly where she and Daphne were. She supposed he had to have. She supposed he had some redeemable qualities.

That night, in the dungeon, in the Slytherin Common room, Hermione, Millicent, Pansy, Astoria and Daphne sat on the sofas and sofa chairs and faced each other, as Hermione and Daphne told their friends what they had seen and what they had heard.

All three Astoria, Pansy and Millicent stiffened up, staring in shock.

"He's returned?" Pansy asked weakly, tensing up.

Hermione nodded. "Yeah," she said, "If the centaur, Firenze was telling the truth, then yes, he is."

There was a cold silence in the room, that felt like it permeated the entire room.

"So, what now?" Hermione asked.

"What do you mean, 'what now?'" Millicent asked, staring at the other girl.

Hermione took a breath, forcing the uneasy words out, "Look…I don't know how to say this. But…your parents…were they in any way involved with 'you-know-who?'"

The silence somehow became even tenser and colder.

Pansy, Astoria and Daphne's eyes widened and Millicent's mouth dropped.

"You…," Millicent whispered, "How DARE you? You," Millicent actually looked upset now, "You actually think that we'd-?"

"Millicent," Hermione said sadly, looking at Pansy Parkinson, "I've read the names of the Death Eaters. I know the name 'Parkinson' was amongst the name of the Death Eaters." She stared at Pansy sadly, watching the other girl flinch.

Charles Parkinson was Pansy Parkinson's father. And he had been a Death Eater, sworn to Voldemort.

He, from the sounds of it, hadn't been the worst of the lot. No, that honor had gone to the Carrows, Lucius Malfoy, Barty Crouch Jr., Fenrir Greyback and arguably the worst of the worst, Bellatrix Lestrange, Voldemort's "most faithful," and her husband, Rodolphus Lestrange.

Charles Parkinson had been hypocritical, as he had joined Voldemort, but had not allowed his wife to do so. Whether it was because he had wanted to keep her safe and keep her innocent of crime, or because he believed that women shouldn't also get the honor of being in Voldemort's army? That was debatable. But either way, he hadn't wanted his wife to be involved.

Hermione then looked at Astoria and Daphne's hurt expressions, "I know that the Greengrass family didn't join Him, but I know that the Greengrass family didn't oppose Him, either." She nodded to Millicent, "And neither did your family." She shook her head, "I'm sorry, but I have to ask. If Voldemort is back," she ignored the others' wincing, "And if he's trying to gain his power back, will the four of you help me stop him?"

She added, "I'm a muggle-born. And you all are purebloods. I want to think that you'll help. I think that you're good people. But you're still purebloods. Does the bigotry that your society taught you mean more than doing the right thing?"

She knew that they were good people-at least, she wanted to believe that.

Pansy wouldn't have told the Greengrass sisters about Hermione being in the bathroom while that troll had been on the loose on Halloween, if they weren't good people. Hell, even Malfoy probably had some good in him, if he had told Hagrid and the others where Daphne and Hermione had been when he had left them in the woods.

But still, she had to be sure.

There was silence again. Still, the Greengrass sisters, Millicent and Pansy looked hurt.

Hermione sighed, "Look, i'm not trying to pressure you. I swear. Just promise me that you won't tell anyone that I'm going after the stone, okay? I won't ask any of you to come with me, but I need to ask that you not tell on me. And if I'm caught, I promise I'll tell them that none of you knew anything."

Then Daphne said, smirking at her, "You dumb brat," she said, "Of course I'm going to help you. Even if you weren't my friend, I think I'd want to anyway. After all, how else am I going to expunge the shame of my family not doing anything during His reign?"

Astoria looked stunned by her twin sister's impassioned statement, then she looked at Hermione and nodded. "That's right," she said, "I'm with you too, Hermione."

Millicent glared at Hermione. "Fine," she said, "But only so you'll shut up about being distrustful of me. You've got a lot of nerve to think I'd join the Death Eaters after everything, Granger. So, fine. If it'll take that stick out of your arse, then I'll do it."

Hermione chuckled. Millicent's aggressive words probably shouldn't have amused her so much, but it also meant a lot for her to hear.

She then looked to Pansy.

Pansy was searching each other girl's face, desperate somehow, shaking her head. She then looked at Hermione and demanded, "Granger, are you insane? Think about this. This is 'You-know-who,' himself! We'll die! He'll kill us, don't you get that! There's a reason why my father joined Him. It wasn't just that we wanted power, and there was bigotry. My family was scared! They wanted to avoid being killed by him too." Pansy leaned forward and stared at Hermione, almost imploringly, "To challenge Him! Even if he's weak right now, that's insane. That's suicide."

Hermione tried not to shudder. She was right. For all of Pansy's problems, she was right.

But Hermione knew that quitting now wasn't an option.

It just wasn't.

"And what will happen if we do nothing?" Hermione threw back, "What happened when everyone stood back and did nothing the last time? Huh? Tell me, was everyone safe when people stood back and did nothing? And let everything happen? We can make a difference now, by stopping Voldemort from getting the Sorcerer's Stone."

Pansy and the others winced when Hermione said Voldemort's name.

Hermione glared as she added, "You don't have to come with me to find the stone, okay? Just don't try to stop me. Please."

"Us," Daphne corrected, "Don't try to stop us."

Hermione smiled appreciatively at Daphne, then looked back to Pansy.

Pansy huffed out, glaring back at her.

"I can't believe I'm saying this," she said, "But alright. I'll come with you. You stupid, stupid muggle-born."

Hermione grinned.

They had a group to go after the stone.

The next day, the five of them walked out of the castle and as they passed by Hagrid's hut, Hermione paused when she heard what Astoria said, when Daphne asked passively where Hagrid got a dragon egg.

Astoria said that Hagrid got the dragon egg from a stranger he had met down at a pub.

Hermione froze. How many people walked around with dragon eggs? What was more, who would give up a dragon egg if they had one?

"Wait a second," Hermione said, turning and walking down the hill to Hagrid's hut.

"Hermione?" Pansy asked, and she and the other girls followed after her.

"What is it?" Daphne asked her.

Hermione called back, "Who gave Hagrid that egg? There's only one thing that makes sense!"

The five of them reached the hut and stopped in front of where Hagrid was playing a flute.

Hermione interrupted his playing, "Hagrid, I'm sorry to interrupt," she started, causing Hagrid to pull away from his flute, "But can you tell me who gave you that egg? The dragon egg?"

Hagrid shook his head, "I don't know," he answered, "He kept his hood up mostly."

Hermione fought a shiver, remembering the hooded figure from last night. "You and the hooded man," she started, "Did you talk at all?"

"A little," Hagrid confessed, "He seemed interested in the creatures I raised and I said, after 'Fluffy,' a dragon egg would be nothing."

"Who is Fluffy?" Hermione asked, and then she added, "It's not that three-headed dog, is it?"

Hagrid's eyes widened, "Oh, you know about Fluffy? How did you see him?"

"Never mind," Hermione said, shaking her head, trying to ignore how ridiculous it was that a giant, three-headed dog was named Fluffy, of all names, "Was the hooded person interested in Fluffy?"

"Well, why wouldn't he be?" Hagrid asked, "How often do you see a giant, three-headed dog? Even in the trade? But you know what I told him. The key for any beast, is to know how to calm them. Take Fluffy, for instance. All you have to do is play him a tune, and he falls asleep."

Hermione's eyes widened, heart stopping. Hagrid frowned. "I shouldn't of told you that," he said.

Hermione turned and bolted from him, and all four Millicent, Pansy and the Greengrass siblings chased after her. Hermione ignored her friends' yells after her as she ran to professor McGonagall's classroom.

She ran to her and said, gasping for breath, "I need to speak to professor Dumbledore, now!"

McGonagall looked startled and lifted her head, "I don't know what it is you're worried about, but I'm afraid Dumbledore is off on an urgent business trip."

Though Pansy, Astoria, Daphne and Millicent had no idea what had gotten Hermione so freaked out, they understood that this wasn't good, as Dumbledore was the only wizard that Voldemort feared.

"Now?!" Millicent demanded, "But it's an emergency! This is about the Sorcerer's Stone!" Hermione glanced at Millicent. She wasn't sure how good telling people that they knew about the stone was, but too late.

McGonagall's shock was palpable.

"How do you know about the-" She began, but Hermione cut her off.

"Someone's going to steal it!" She said.

She wasn't sure she could say who was going to steal it. After all, wouldn't it cause a panic if everyone knew that Voldemort was trying to return?

McGonagall said, frowning, "I don't know how you know about the stone. But I assure you, it's safe."

Hermione sighed, pulling away from the woman's desk and when she left the classroom, the others followed her out. She stood outside the classroom and looked at the others. "If Dumbledore is gone right now?" She asked, "Then the stone is in danger of being stolen, tonight. Which means, we have to go get it now. Tonight."

Pansy nodded. "Alright," she said.

Millicent and Astoria and Daphne all nodded.

Hermione glanced down the hallway and her eyes widened when she saw Snape down the hall, eyeing them, before turning and walking down that hall.

"Hermione?" Astoria asked.

Hermione turned back to the others, "I think Vol-You-know-who," she changed the name when she saw her friends wince, "might be working with someone."

Millicent followed Hermione's gaze, and caught sight of Snape.

"Professor Snape?" She asked, "Seriously?"

Hermione grimaced. "Think about it," she began, "Snape was a Death Eater. He allied with Dumbledore at the end, but he WAS a Death Eater. And I saw that bitemark on his leg the night the troll got in. And how did that troll get in, in the first place? Someone had to have let him in. And isn't it weird that Snape had blood on his leg, on that very night, when the troll got in? I think Snape was going after the Sorcerer's Stone. That's what Hagrid's three-headed dog, Fluffy is guarding."

"Wait," Daphne said, eyes widening, "Are you saying that you think that Snape let the troll in and while everyone was evacuating the students, Snape tried to sneak past 'Fluffy?'"

Pansy shook her head, "No," she said, "that's insane."

"Is it?" Hermione asked, "Why did he have blood on him on the same night the troll got in? Fluffy's guarding the Sorcerer's Stone. And what else could have given Snape that mark? And oh, yeah, wasn't Snape a Death Eater?" She spit the word, "Death Eater," with hate in her voice. She really hated the Death Eaters. And it wasn't just because they killed muggle-borns like her. It was because they had a precious gift like magic and they squandered it by torturing and murdering people left and right.

When she had come to understand where her powers came from almost a year ago, when her letter had arrived via a great-horned owl, she had been overjoyed. To have magic? What could anyone call that, except a blessing?

And the Death Eaters abused that power, misused it-used it for entirely the wrong reasons. It was disgraceful.

Astoria took a breath. "Great," she said, "So, not only is He who must not be named coming back and trying to get the Sorcerer's stone, but the head of our house and our potions professor, is working with him." She corrected herself, "Is STILL working with him."

Hermione gave a weak laugh, "Yeah. I don't like it any more than any of you do. But we have to stop them. If Dumbledore isn't here and McGonagall doesn't believe there's any reason to worry, we're the ones that have to stop them."

Millicent mumbled, "Shit."

Hermione nodded. She said nothing to that. But she didn't think there was anything else that they could say. 'Shit' sounded about right. Hermione could feel a joke getting ready to launch itself, to ask if Millicent's proper pureblooded parents taught Millicent to talk like that, but she held her tongue.

That night, they waited, and then got out of the dungeon.

The five of them checked that no one was in the Common room. No one was here. They got out and headed for where the big, three-headed Fluffy was.

Author's note

So, I swear I'll get more into the Hermione flashbacks as the chapters go on. Not the next chapter. But in later chapters. Promise. And if you're wondering what this deal with this "Cromwell" character is, let me ask you this, do you really think no group of Muggles don't know about magic? And if they do, do you really think they'd just leave it? No, they'd likely abuse it and experiment on it. So, yes, in this story, some muggles know about magic.