The Sugar Quill
Author: Arabella (Professors' Bookshelf)  Story: Hermione, Queen of Witches, Book Five  Chapter: Chapter One
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Hermione, Queen of Witches

Hermione, Queen of Witches

Book Five

 

By Arabella

Based entirely on JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

 

A/N –  Canon ROX.  So it’s important to me to keep these diaries in sync with canon.  Therefore, I have gone back and tweaked a few things that didn’t come to our attention until OotP and HBP.  Michael Corner can now be found in the Yule Ball bit of the fourth diary. The exact locations to which Hermione traveled while in France now also include Dijon.  And, to Ron’s intense displeasure, several of Hermione’s interludes with Viktor Krum have now been altered to allow for snogging.

 

Huge enormous thanks to everyone who used to read this story and was annoyed when I abandoned it and whose e-mails and reviews I didn’t answer.  I’m sorry.  My life has changed since I first started reading Harry Potter, and I can’t be the fan I once was (except in my heart).  Also, to be perfectly honest, I just didn’t feel moved to write a diary for OotP.  OotP made me sad.  I didn’t even want to re-read it, frankly, and writing these diaries requires me to reread the books about a thousand times.   Which is usually fine, but with OotP, it just wasn’t.  So I gave up.  I wrote the first hundred pages about two years ago, and then stopped writing HP fanfic for good. 

 

Or so I thought.

 

So.  Here’s the first installment of those hundred pages.  Have at it.  But don’t expect this diary to be complete.  I have… a bit of a loophole in mind.

 I just hope you’ll all forgive me if I cheat.

 

Disclaimer –  It's all JKR's.

 

~*~

 

HQoW

 

3 July

 

Has it really only been three days since we left school?  It feels like three years.  Three long, horrible years.

 

Well, it certainly feels like three years to me, Hermione Granger!

 

I’m sorry?

 

I hope you are!  You haven't opened me since King's Cross, and here I've been worried sick about what happened between you and that horrible reporter!  And you PROMISED to check in with me every Sunday, and yesterday was a Sunday, and here I've been tied up in knots -

 

Oh!  Right. 

 

Oh right?  You don't mean to say you forgot?

 

Well… I didn't forget about you - it's just that the whole thing with Skeeter was so uneventful that I completely forgot anyone might have been worried about it, and then I got wrapped up in my parents - or rather, they got a bit wrapped up in me.  I've been with them almost every minute, trying to make up for lost time.  This is the first moment I've had to myself, and it's only because Mum and Dad both had patient emergencies.  They've really missed me - they've been taking me out for dinner and shopping and things.  I'm really sorry. 

 

I don't suppose you'd mind filling me in?

 

Of course not, of course not - Skeeter agreed to everything.  She doesn't want to go to Azkaban, which I suppose isn't really that shocking.  But I thought she'd try to get back at me - I thought she'd at least hex me or something, since once we've stepped off the train we're considered by the Ministry to be on holiday, and we're no longer allowed to use our wands.  It seems the sort of disadvantage she'd jump all over.  But she didn't.  She just transformed and stood there, looking like she'd just been out walking in a hurricane, and tried to smooth down her clothes and hair.  She gave me a glare that should have killed me, but I didn't back down. 

 

I thought you had planned to unscrew the cap on the jar and make a run for it!

 

Well, I would have… but I… don't know.  Somehow I just couldn't.  I suppose that in reality, it seemed a bit weak.  I can't deny I was afraid, but I thought of what Harry had just been through, and I stood my ground.  I told her that she wasn't allowed to do any more reporting for a while, and that she's not allowed to write another false word as long as she lives.  I told her if she tries to go back to reporting before I've approved it, or if she tries to report what I did, then I'll report her to the Ministry of Magic and see her put in prison.  And then I walked out to my parents' car and left her there.

 

You're not allowing her to work at all?

 

Not as a reporter.

 

What do you expect her to do for money?  She'll have to eat and pay her bills.

 

I really can't say that I care.  She might have got Hagrid sacked, and I didn't see her losing any sleep over that.

 

True enough.  Well then… has she tried to get around your ban?  You've been reading the papers, I assume? 

 

I imagine the Prophet sacked her.  She didn't show up to work for several days, after all.  But yes, I'm getting Witch Weekly and things just to make sure that she doesn't freelance with any of those. 

 

Couldn't she be working under a false name?

 

She could… but I have a feeling I'd know her tone -

 

HQoW

 

Sorry.  Owl.  I've just skimmed the letter, and it's not good, it's not good...

 

Pig?

 

Hedwig.  Harry.  Look at this.

 

"Hermione,

 

I've taken out a subscription to the Daily Prophet and there's nothing in it.  Nothing.  How can they ignore it?  Have you seen it?  Has Ron?  And by the way, is he writing to you?  He sent me a letter the night we got home, and I sent a letter straight back, but Hedwig came back this morning with nothing.  That's never happened before.  Have you heard from him or what?  And tell me if there's any news about anything.  I know you're not technically in the wizarding world either, but you can get around a bit more than I can, and you have access to a television, which I only have if I'm really careful, and who knows how long it'll last.  Watch everything, tell me everything. 

 

Write back,

-Harry"

 

Abrupt, isn't he?

 

I would be too.  Ron's not writing back to him!  That's bad, that's bad - Ron would never send Hedwig back to Harry empty.  I mean, without anything tied to her.  You know what I mean. 

 

Yes.

 

And Ron hasn't written a word to me - I haven't seen Pig at all.  He promised he was going to write to Harry first, but then he should have sent Pig to me so that I could write to Harry too - he knows I haven't got an owl, he knows I need his or Harry's or there's nothing I can do!  Insensitive git.  Well, at least I've got Hedwig for a minute.  I can write to them both.

 

Go on.

 

 

 

HQoW

 

4 July

 

I haven't heard back from Ron.

 

It's only been a day.  Perhaps he wrote to Harry first. 

 

I told him he'd better!  I told him he'd better write to us both straight away and let me know that he's all right.  And I told him that if he is all right, then he'd better be sorry for scaring us!  We can't risk worrying each other, not this summer.  Not knowing what we know. 

 

I'm so anxious I can't think straight.  I don't know what to do.   Oh hang on - owl!

 

HQoW

 

It's just from school. 

 

What is it?

 

I don't know, I haven't opened it, I can't concentrate.  I don't want a letter from school, I want one from Ron.

 

Perhaps it's news about Ron.

 

Oh - true - and the owl's hanging about, so it obviously wants an answer -

 

HQoW

 

I didn't know they offered special summer lessons to students who'll be taking more than the usual number of O.W.L.s!   Why didn't they warn me of that during the year?  What am I going to tell Mum and Dad?

 

What do you mean?

 

Well, I haven't even been home for a week, and here I've got an invitation to return to Hogwarts in… four days.  Mum's not going to like it at all.   Still, extra lessons, I'm sure she'll be pleased for me, this is really great…

 

Oh, I can't even care, I can't get excited about it - why hasn't Ron written?  Why wouldn't he write back to Harry?  What if something's happened to him - or to someone in his family - what if they're not at the Burrow - what if -

 

Hermione, do calm down.  It's been ONE day.  As I said before, perhaps he took your advice and wrote to Harry first.  I know how much you care for your friends, and you're well within your rights to be anxious - but wait another day before you lose your mind entirely, would you?

 

I… suppose he might have written to Harry first.  Yes.  He must've.  You're right, I won't worry quite yet.  Though I'm already worried.  But I won't let it get the better of me quite yet. 

 

Good enough.  Now, tell me more about these summer lessons.

 

Well… the letter's from Professor McGonagall.  It reads:

 

"Miss Granger,

 

Congratulations.  Due to your outstanding academic performance, you have been accepted to attend the Hogwarts Summer Term, to be offered from the tenth of July to the thirty-first of August.  This session is made available only to those students who have elected to take more than the usual number of courses and who must therefore begin to prepare for more than the usual number of O.W.L. exams.  Our records show that you are eligible to attempt O.W.L.s in the following subjects: Ancient Runes, Arithmancy, Astronomy, Care of Magical Creatures, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Divination (optional), Herbology, History of Magic, Muggle Studies (optional), Potions, and Transfiguration.

 

If you choose to return to school to prepare for your exams (and we strongly recommend that you do so), please return the enclosed parental permission form immediately, and return to platform nine and three-quarters at King's Cross station in London on July the eighth, by eleven o'clock.  The Hogwarts Express will transport those select students who have been invited to return.  You are required to bring all textbooks, all standard classroom materials, and your work robes.  You will remain at Hogwarts through the end of the summer, and there will be no holiday before the beginning of the Autumn term.  Any new books or materials that are assigned to you over the course of the summer will be acquired for you after your arrival. 

 

We hope to see you on the July the eighth.

 

Sincerely,

Professor M. McGonagall

Deputy Headmistress"

 

And I just finished unpacking my trunk.

 

Do you think you'll go back then?

 

Well, of course I'll go back!  If Mum and Dad say it's all right, that is.  Summer at Hogwarts!  It really is wonderful - I wondered how I was ever going to manage all those O.W.L.s with just nine months to revise - but I never would have expected - and oh!  I wonder if Harry and Ron have been…

 

But then, they don't take extra courses.  They wouldn't have been asked to participate, would they?

 

I imagine not, no.

 

What on earth will Hogwarts be like without Harry and Ron?

 

Suddenly, I'm not so excited.

 

Well, before you get upset either way, perhaps you should talk to your parents and see what they think of letting you go so soon.

 

That's true.  I mean… I hope they'll say yes, even if it will be strange to be in Gryffindor Tower without my friends.  But it's very likely they'll say no.  Although they are proud of my academic achievements, and I know they'll want me to be eligible for the best possible careers.  I just wish I'd known about this earlier, so that I could have prepared them during the year.  They think they're going to have me all summer, and they're so happy I'm back.  I hate to leave them so quickly.  Mum's going to take it really hard.

 

It's so strange that I've never heard of the Hogwarts Summer Term.  I thought I'd read everything there was to know about what Hogwarts offers its students.  And I you'd think that Percy Weasley would have participated in something like this!  He got ten O.W.L.s or something, he must have studied like mad.

 

Perhaps he did go to summer school, and you just didn't know about it.  After all, wasn't he in his fifth year when you began your first?  He might have been at Hogwarts all summer, before you arrived. 

 

Yes… but no.  No he wasn't.  Because I remember Ron telling me later about Percy getting his Prefect badge and things, and he was at home when he got it.  At least, I think he was.  I'm almost certain he was. 

 

Oooh.  Prefect badges.  They'll be choosing us this summer.  I mean them.  They'll be choosing them this summer.  The Prefects, I mean.

 

I wouldn't be surprised.

 

Is… is it horrible to say that I wouldn't either?

 

No.  I dare say most people would be surprised if you weren't made a Prefect.

 

That's so nice of you to say… But I won't get my hopes up.  I can't think about all of this at once.  Never mind.  I won't have a clear head until I've talked to Mum and Dad, and it's time for dinner anyway.  I'll be back.

 

I'll be here.

 

HQoW

 

Dinner's over.  I'm allowed to go back.

 

They said yes!  Well, I'm sure you're pleased -

 

Mum cried.

 

Oh… Hermione.  I'm sorry. 

 

Dad said he was proud, but he gave me the saddest look, and bent his head, and his hair looks… silvery.  Not really gray, mind you, but there's an overall silveriness to it that never used to be there.  He's got light brownish hair, and it's wavy, and it's still really thick, but at dinner, it sort of… reminded me of Professor Lupin's.  A really nice color, but with too much silver too soon. 

 

I think it was worse to see Dad look sad than it was to see Mum cry.  Dad's always cheerful and funny and contained about his feelings, and it's horrible to see him look quiet and gray.

 

I feel guilty.  How can I go back?  I can study right here.  I told them that.  I said, "Never mind, Mum, I won't go, I can study here, I'll do my revisions at home, and you can help me to prepare for the exams.  That way you'll learn something about what I'm doing at school."  But Mum wiped her eyes and said no.  She said they'd be no use to me, because they don't know anything about the kind of studies I do, and that as much as she's going to miss me, she has no intention of holding me back.  She said it was difficult for her, at home, to choose dentistry as a career.  Her mum and dad didn't want her going into anything so technical.  They thought she would have been better off studying something less intensive, and investing herself more in her family.  She said she had always felt guilty about leaving home to study - she was brought up in Barnsley, you know.  And she has fond memories of her childhood, she says, but she never intended to live there as an adult, not even when she was a little girl.  She didn't want to stay.  But her whole family's still there, both her sisters and their children.  I hardly know my cousins on that side - and I never really knew why, until tonight.  It's not that Mum's estranged from her sisters, exactly - or at least that's what she said - but they both think she's a bit odd, and she said tonight that she's never felt comfortable around them since she left home, and she promised herself that she would never make me feel the way she feels, going home.  She always wants me to know that I'm loved and wanted and that no matter where my path leads me, and no matter how little she understands it, she loves me and she's proud of me.  

 

I never knew any of those things about her family.  I never knew she wasn't supposed to be a dentist – she's so open-minded, she's never suggested to me that there's anything I can't be.  Not even a witch.  I never knew she made herself promises about me.  Dad watched her while she was talking and crying, and he looked really worried.  I wonder what he knows that I don't. 

 

I wonder if I'll ever know my mum.  Or my dad.   Or if they'll ever know me.

 

Of course you will - you all will.

 

Really?  I don't see how.  I don't know what to make of our relationship.  I'm never, ever here.  They have no idea about the most important things in my life.  I love them, and they love me too, and they think they know me.  But they only know me as I was.   And I'm not here long enough to learn the things about them that make them… people.

 

But Dad says he won't let me stay here this summer if it's a matter of my education and my life.  He said he agrees with Mum a hundred percent.  He said that perhaps by now they should be used to getting shocks and having me spirited away, but that they're never going to get over missing me, and that's just the way it is.  But he very quickly added that I should be proud of myself for earning all the distinctions I've earned since I went away to school, and that he wants me to go off and earn more, because he knows it's what I do best.  He said that he won't have me feeling guilty.  And then he reached across the table and tickled me under my chin and said I was his little girl, and said that tomorrow he'd give my teeth a good cleaning and take a look and make sure I haven't any cavities before I go back to school for the year.   "I know you eat a lot of those magical sweets when you're away from us," he said.  "Fizzily-bobs and Choco-fairies.  Don't try to deny it.  Oh, and as long as you're going back early, you wouldn't mind sending back a nice big parcel of those tooth-flossing stringmints, would you?  I've been giving them out to the younger patients and they're quite popular.  Remind me to give you enough money - what's the pound to the Galleon again?  Oh, and you had an owl this morning before you woke up - I gave it some of those bronze coins you left in the dish, and I put your newspaper under your door, did you get it?  Was there any interesting news?"

 

Any interesting news.  Oh, Dad. 

 

And he's not supposed to be giving tooth-flossing stringmints to Muggles who don't know about magic.  Normally I would have lectured him, but I couldn't bring myself to do it.  I told him I'd send him some more.   My stomach hurts.

 

I don't suppose you've told them about what happened to Harry.  Or what's happening in the world.

 

I can't.  I don't want to frighten them.  They've never been immersed in my world.  How can I make it sound real to them that "the Dark Lord rose again"?  They couldn't possibly grasp it - they'd either think I'm mad or they'd believe me - and it would be worse if they believed me, because they wouldn't understand my part in it and the fact that I need to be there.  They'd just pull me out of Hogwarts if they knew the danger Harry's in, because it's danger for all of us who are close to Harry.  

 

They try so hard to comprehend it.  They're both going to cancel all of their appointments until I've gone, so that they can spend the rest of the time with me. 

 

I already miss them so much.  I think I've missed them for a long time.  They're such good people.  Such good people.  They think the world of me, and I want so much for them to be proud of me in the end.  I want to finish school and shout "I did it!  I've been granted permission to establish an International Office of Inter-Creature Relations and I'm taking S.P.E.W. to new levels and bringing real awareness to wizards and witches everywhere, and I'm making a real difference!"  And I want them to be able to celebrate it with me.  But the truth is, they won't even know what I'm talking about.

 

Gwen, I need to sleep.  I'm sorry.  I can't write anymore. 

 

Goodnight, Hermione.

 

Goodnight.

 

 

HQoW

 

5 July

 

Mum and Dad said that if they had the time to ground me, they would.

 

What have you done? 

 

Had my teeth shrunk.  Dad noticed while he was cleaning them, and he shouted for Mum, and they both stood there and lectured me while I lay there with my mouth propped open.  It wasn't wonderful.  I would've explained that there are very efficient magical medical and dental techniques, but I couldn't shut my mouth.  And anyway, I've tried to tell them all those things before.  They just don't understand. 

 

They admitted, though, that whoever had done the job had done it well.  Dad said he would have done a thing or two differently, but I think he was just being high and mighty.  He fancies himself the best dentist in Britain, and you know, he really might be.  He and Mum are always getting patients who come over from other dentists who haven't properly completed their root canals, or who've given them crowns that pop right off the first time they eat anything. 

 

Root canals? 

 

It's when you drill straight into the tooth and reach in with a tiny little sharp thing and pull out the nerves and -

 

STOP.

 

Yes, it's painful and disgusting.  Or at least, it sounds like it.  I wouldn't know.  I've never had one.  I've never so much as had a cavity, although Dad said I'm in danger of them if I don't stop eating sugar.  I wonder if Harry or Ron have ever had cavities?  I know Ron wouldn't have, actually, because there are preventative magical techniques for that kind of thing… but Harry might have had them.  Harry might still have them – I bet the Dursleys have never taken him to a dentist or a doctor!  I wonder if they have!  That's got to be neglect or abuse if they haven't - I should get him over here one of these days and have Mum X-ray his mouth.  Not that he couldn't have it done magically now.  He's got all that money. 

 

I still haven't heard from him.  Or Ron.   It's been two days.  But I've decided to delay my panic for one more day.  I only have until the day after tomorrow with my parents.  And if neither Ron nor Harry wants to send me an owl in order for me to be able to communicate with them, then that's just fine.  I'm sure they wouldn't care to know that I'm going back to Hogwarts anyway.  They'd both just make fun of me.  Ron would, at least.   I can just hear him.  "Studying all summer!  Hermione, you're mental.  You wouldn't know a holiday if it danced naked in front of you wearing nothing but Dobby's tea cozy."   He said something like that once last year.  I don't know where he gets things like that, honestly.  Right off the top of his head.

 

He's funny.

 

Touched in the head funny.  

 

In that case, dear, you're very funny too.

 

Oh, well thanks very much!

 

I've got to go.  Mum and Dad and I are going for a walk.  They read the Daily Prophet with me this morning, by the way, and it was nerve wracking until I realized that there was nothing to worry about - not where Mum and Dad are concerned, anyway.  It's a huge concern for me, though - remind me to tell you about it later.  We only found one bad thing in it - nothing to do with Skeeter or anything, but… it's not good.  But I don't have time now.  I'm sorry.

 

It's all right, Hermione.  Go and spend time with your parents.

 

Okay.  Bye.

 

 

 

HQoW

 

6 July

 

Letter from the Burrow - FINALLY.  And another letter from Harry.

 

What has Ron got to say for himself, then?

 

Ron?  He hasn't written.  Not a word, the git, the prat, the insufferable fool.  But he must be all right, because if he were hurt, then Ginny would have said so in her letter, which she has had the decency to write.  Of course, she's got good reason to write - wait till I tell you.

 

Hasn't Ron at least written to Harry?

 

Well, if he has, Harry hasn't received it.  His letter's practically frantic.  He sounds terrified.  I'm going to write him back straight away and tell him I've had post from Ginny and that we needn't worry about Ron, except that we'll both need to worry about exactly how hard we're going to smack him when we see him in September.  Hang on, Harry'll need to know this right away.  He really sounds anxious.   But it won't take a minute, and then I'll be right back to tell you about Ginny.

 

All right.

 

HQoW

 

All right.  Hedwig's on her way, looking very pleased, I might add.  And Crookshanks is such a strange cat. 

 

Why?  I mean, apart from the obvious reasons.

 

Have you ever seen a cat lift its head at a bird's arrival, give the bird a look that seems to say "Oh, hello," then flick its tail, toss its head a bit, purr, and curl back up again without so much attempting to prowl after it?

 

I can't say that I have, no. 

 

Crookshanks just understands things.  I think it's fascinating, the way his mind seems to work almost like a human's.  He behaves like a cat often enough, of course, but that greeting to Hedwig just now… And I swear, whenever Pig's around, Crookshanks gets a sort of bored, amused expression.  Sometimes he bats at him, but never with any malice.  He treats him like a little brother or something.  It's just strange. 

 

But about Ginny.

 

Yes, about Ginny.

 

She's going back to Hogwarts too - that's what her letter's all about!  She's been invited to join the Summer Term as well.  She said she got her letter and she naturally assumed I would have been invited, considering my marks and all my classes and things, and she really hopes she's right about my taking part in it, and she can't wait to see me at King's Cross.

 

But… Ginny isn't going into fifth year.  She isn't preparing for her O.W.L.s.  And you've never mentioned her taking any extra courses.

 

She doesn't take extra courses.  But they've offered her a doubly exceptional opportunity.  She says that Professor McGonagall wants her to come back this summer because ever since Ginny's first year, her marks and her magical comprehension simply haven't come up to as high a standard as she'll need in order to prepare for her O.W.L.s next year.  So she's going back for summer term, but she's not going to be doing O.W.L. preparation.  She's going to be in remedial courses, to bring her up to speed. 

 

That's… generous of Hogwarts…

 

You seem very skeptical.

 

I admit I am.  If Hogwarts offers remedial lessons, then why weren't you offered any to catch up on all the time you missed while you were Petrified?

 

Well, I hardly needed it, did I?

 

I suppose not… but what about the other students who have suffered similar lapses of time?  Colin Creevey?  Justin Finch-Fletchley?  Penelope Clearwater? 

 

I don't know that Penelope needed it either - she was really clever - and she's finished with school now, so there's no use wondering if she did anything like this.  But perhaps Colin and Justin are going to be back for the summer too!  And I imagine a lot of the students in my Arithmancy course will be back, and quite a few of the students from Ancient Runes as well - that's going to be a good group.

 

Oh.  Except Pansy Parkinson.  She's in Arithmancy and Ancient Runes.  I hope she wasn't invited back, I don't know if I want to share a half-empty castle with her for two months.  And she's not academically exceptional, I don't care if she does get good marks.  She's a simpering idiot.  Anyone who fancies Draco Malfoy has nothing but air between her ears, honestly.

 

I'm really glad Ginny's going back.  It makes me feel better about Ron and Harry not being there.  I'll miss them, of course.  Very much.  But Ginny's great, and we never have long stretches of time to get to know each other, because the boys are always there and there's always something I need to be doing with them.  And if Ginny needs help with any of the basics, in any of her courses, then I'd love to help her.  I thought she was doing really well last year, but if she wants extra tutoring -

 

Hermione, perhaps you should concentrate on your own extra studies first, and on Ginny's second.

 

I'm just saying that I'd welcome the opportunity to brush up on my own things, and that it really couldn't hurt to tutor Ginny.  I often understand things better after I've explained them to someone else, and people don't seem to mind my explanations. 

 

You have very good friends.

 

What a random thing to say. 

 

Yes, well.  I suppose you'd better…

 

I'd better write to Ginny and tell her I'll see her soon.   And then I'd better pack, actually.  Mum and Dad are going to help me do it.  I don't know why, but I don't want to be without them for five minutes.   I'm glad they're coming up here.  I'm sure it's strange, but I'm glad they're going to help me go through all my things, and organize my trunk.  I love the way they're involving themselves in every aspect of my life.  They're taking me up on every invitation.  I really want them to know me, and I don't know how else to do it. 

 

I think that's perfectly natural.  I'll talk to you soon.

 

Bye.

 

 

HQoW

 

7 July

 

I can't believe this is my last day home for another year.  I can't believe I'm going back to school tomorrow.  It feels… wrong. 

 

I've never not been excited to go back to Hogwarts.  That was a double negative, but I couldn't think of any other way to say it. 

 

I'll forgive you.

 

Well, I can't write for very long.  It's really early, and as soon as I hear Mum and Dad banging around downstairs, I'm going down to spend the day with them.   Mum wants to take me out shopping again, and Dad actually said he'd come with us.  Dad, out shopping for clothes.  That should be a laugh.  Though I do like it when Dad gets dragged along on things like this, because we always end up getting to spend a lot more time in the bookshops.  Mum loves bookshops too, but she's better about sticking to a schedule.  Dad just gets lost in the stacks. 

 

I used to get lost in bookshops, when I was really little.  Or rather, Mum and Dad used to lose me.  I'd find a book I liked, and I'd crawl under a table with it, especially if the table had a cloth over it.  I liked the secrecy, I suppose.  I'd be completely hidden, reading to myself, and sometimes I'd fall asleep, and no one would know where I'd gone.  But after a while, they realized it was a habit of mine.  Mum loves to tell me about all the times that they had to crawl around shops, lifting up table skirts and looking for me. 

 

You must have been adorable.

 

I was certainly a lot of trouble.

 

Somehow, I doubt it.

 

Well.  Let's see… there's loads to tell you before Mum and Dad wake up, but I'm feeling a bit drowsy and I can't remember any of it.

 

The Daily Prophet? 

 

Right!  Ugh.  Well, we went through the paper at breakfast yesterday - my parents are really attempting to understand me.  But I was terrified.  I didn't want them reading the paper - I was afraid they'd come across some reference or other to You-Know-Who, or that they'd read something about an attack, or that… I don't know… something horrible would be in there, about what happened to Cedric.  Or to Harry.  Or about what a disaster the Triwizard Tournament turned out to be. 

 

But there was nothing to worry about, because the Daily Prophet still isn't reporting anything.  About anything.

 

Not a word about the rise of Voldemort?

 

I hate that name.  But no, there's not a word about him.  And there hasn't been since I've been home.  I keep waiting for them to write something real, but it's like Harry said - they're ignoring it completely. 

 

They're not ignoring him, though.   Harry, I mean.  That's the one bad thing we found.  I'd seen it before, but Mum and Dad hadn't, and they certainly wanted to know why my friend was being spoken of in such a flippant manner by a major news source.  I wonder if Harry's seen what they're saying about him.

 

What could they possibly be saying?

 

You remember Skeeter's article about his being "disturbed and dangerous?"

 

Of course.

 

Everyone bought right into it.  The Daily Prophet's trying to make it seem that Harry's gone completely round the twist.  They refer to him as though he's one half mad, and the other half attention-hungry.   They make it sound like he just concocts these stories.  Yesterday they called him the "Boy Who Lives for Attention."   But Harry doesn't care about his fame - how can anyone think he'd care about that, when he had to give up so much in order to get it?  He'd rather have his parents than a scar and a load of fans who think he's a hero.  But the news reporters don't care about his feelings, and they don't care what's true.  They aren't treating him like a human being at all.  He's just a joke to them.  They're saying he's desperate to stay in the spotlight, so he'll say anything.  I can't believe they'd play on something that's so painful to him.  Well… no.  I can believe it.  But they're all just vicious. 

 

I hope he isn't reading the whole paper.  The references to him are always buried in the back somewhere.  Perhaps he doesn't see them. 

 

That's not likely is it? 

 

No, he'll probably find them all.  Poor Harry, honestly.  He never gets a break. 

 

It certainly seems that way. 

 

Have you packed?

 

All but the things that are going in my school bag, yes.  A couple of books, a parchment pad, a few pictures and letters – and you. 

 

Speaking of letters, one came from Viktor while Mum and Dad were up here with me.  And as I've already had a letter from Harry, Mum said I've got more boyfriends at my age than she ever had in her whole life.  Dad asked me if Viktor was that athletic chap from Romania who's too old for me, and he said I'd better not be dating him.  And then Mum said, "Honestly, would you leave her alone, you're going to embarrass her," which really did embarrass me, and I said, "I don't even have one boyfriend, so would you both please stop!"  They looked a bit shocked.  So I explained as calmly as I could that Viktor and Harry are just my friends, and that Viktor is from Bulgaria, not Romania, and I offered to let them see the letter if they didn't believe that our relationship is platonic. 

 

Mum took me up on my offer.  She'd never pry without my permission, but she was obviously really pleased to have a legitimate opportunity to read something personal of mine.  She read Viktor's letter and said he was obviously very clever, as he writes in English very well.  She said she's very glad my school helps us all to broaden our horizons, and she thinks it's great that we've been exposed to international schools and other cultures.  She said that if I ever do want to visit Bulgaria, perhaps we could make it a family trip.

 

Viktor said the invitation's still open.  That was in the letter. 

 

Ah.

 

But Dad said he doesn't see us going to Bulgaria anytime soon.  He sort of glared at Mum as though she was encouraging me in something horrible.  He didn’t seem to think the letter was platonic, either – there were undertones, he said, and he looked very dark when he said it.  I wish I could tell him, "Dad, there's nothing to worry about.  Not a boy in the world thinks of me that way." 

 

Not true.  Viktor did.

 

Well, but I don't think he does anymore.  Or if he does, he must know there's no point in it now.  And no one else does.

 

I know you won't believe me, but I really don't think Viktor's alone in fancying you.  I think it's very possible that -

 

Oh, just don't.  I know who you're going to say.  But I'm so angry with him right now that I haven't got room in my head to be silly.  If he cared about me at all, as a friend, first and foremost, then he would have written a letter.  And if he can't care about me as a friend, then I don't see how he can possibly care about me in any other way.

 

It really angers me, the way I miss him.  He doesn't deserve it.  He was such a comfort at the end of last year - that's what I miss.  But how can he drop off the face of the earth now, when Harry and I both need him?   He's not just our friend, he's our link to the world where we belong.  He's all we have in the summers, and he knows it.

 

I hear Mum and Dad on the stairs. 

 

Go on then.  We'll talk about this later. 

 

There's no point in talking about th -

 

Oh, Gwen, they've brought me breakfast in bed!  They haven't done that since I was little - I've got to go.  Bye.

 

 

HQoW

 

8 July

 

We're about to leave for King's Cross.  Dad already took my trunk to the car.  I'm sitting here looking around my room… but it isn't even really mine.  It's bare of everything that has anything to do with me.  I have the strongest urge to pin my pictures to the wall, or leave the bed unmade, or just do something that makes it real that I live here.  But I don't. 

 

I don't think I'll be able to stand it if Mum cries.  I'm on the verge of tears already.  I'm glad Ginny's going to be there.  I hope she won't be too bothered if I'm in floods. 

 

I'm sure she'll try to understand. 

 

Yes, she'll try.  But she won't be able to manage it, because her family is with her in her world.  She doesn't have to divide herself.  She can't understand this.  And my parents can't understand this.  And not even Harry can really understand it, because he doesn't care about the Dursleys, he likes leaving them. 

 

I feel lonely.

 

I'm… so sorry that your heart is in two places.  It's a terrible feeling.  You just want to bring it all together in one place and make it whole. 

 

But that's not possible. 

 

Not always.  No. 

 

I'm glad I have you. 

 

So am I. 

 

I… guess I'll go, then. 

 

Yes.  You might feel better once you're on the train.

 

I don't know.  I actually feel a bit ill.  I wish that Ron and Harry were going to be at King's Cross to meet me.  I wish they were going to be on the train, and in the tower.  If they were going to be there, I'm sure I wouldn't feel like this.  Or at least it wouldn't be quite so bad.

 

Two months will fly.

 

They'd better.  All right.  I'll write when I'm in Gryffindor Tower.  Or perhaps when I'm on the train.  In any case I'll write tomorrow - it'll be Sunday.  I'm sorry I forgot last time.

 

Just travel safely. 

 

Thanks.  Bye.

 

 

HQoW

 

 

Gwen.

 

Hermione.

 

I… you wouldn't believe how much I have to tell you.  But I have to ask a question first, and it's important.

 

Go right ahead.

 

You're Secrecy Charmed.

 

Is that your question? 

 

No, I know you're Secrecy Charmed.  I know that I have to write the password to get in.  My question is, is there any way to repeal the Secrecy Charm? 

 

I… admit I'm a bit wary of answering that.  Why do you want to know so suddenly? 

 

I don't want to repeal it, that's not why I'm asking. 

 

All right…

 

It's just that if there's any way of getting information out of you… then I can't… oh, Gwen, this is the most horrible thing in the world to have to say.

 

Say it.

 

If there's even the slightest chance that someone might be able to force your secrets to the surface, then I can never write in you again about anything serious.  There will be… very little that I can say to you, for a while.

 

How can what you have to tell me be any more crucial than the secrets I am already keeping?  I know about Sirius.  I know about a lot of things. 

 

There are even bigger things to know now.  Bigger secrets to keep.

 

Hermione, you're worrying me.  What's happened? 

 

I can't even begin to tell you until I know the answer to my question.  Please be honest with me - you always have.  I know you don't want to lose me, and I don't want to lose you, but things have… happened.  Things have come to light.  Oh, please say you can't be broken, please say there's no way of getting into you!

 

There are ways to repeal every charm.  Surely such a clever witch as you are doesn't need to ask me that. 

 

Oh, Gwen.  No.  Then you're not… safe. 

 

On the contrary, I am perfectly safe.  I had no intention of having my secrets read by anyone after my death in the world.  The Secrecy Charm can be repealed, but the moment it happens, this diary will burn to a cinder, destroying the secrets of centuries.  Yours and mine.  And all those in between. 

 

You'd burn!  Oh, Gwen, no one had better ever try it. 

 

It's been hundreds of years, and no one has tried.  I must look wonderfully innocuous. 

 

Then… can I really tell you everything?  Not that I know much now… but knowing what I know is enough.  And soon I'll know more.

 

Well for heaven's sake, you've tested me, and I've passed.  Stop going on about the mysteries of the world and start writing. 

 

It's a long story.

 

They always are, dear.

 

All right.  But I might have to stop halfway through, because the pillows on this bed might try to smother me.

 

Wh - what?

 

My parents took me to King's Cross, and Ginny was there.  Just Ginny and Mr. Weasley - there was no one else trying to get onto the platform, and I panicked.  I knew I must have been late, even though the clock said twenty-eight past ten.  Ginny stood at the barrier waving for me and shouting at me to hurry, and I thought, oh no!  I've read the letter wrong, we were supposed to be here at half ten!  So I quickly kissed and hugged my parents, and promised to write all the time, and they waved me goodbye as I dashed through the barrier with my trolley, after Ginny and Mr. Weasley.

 

It was on the other side of the barrier that I got a cold shock to my stomach.  There was no one else there.  And there was no train.  And I had the most horrible feeling that I had been trapped. 

 

Oh no - Hermione, was it really Ginny and Mr. Weasley who had come for you? 

 

Yes it was.  If it had been Death Eaters, the way I thought it might have been for ten seconds, I certainly wouldn't be sitting here writing to you.

 

True.  All right.  But I don't understand - if you and Ginny were there to depart for Hogwarts, then where were the rest of the students?  Where was the train?

 

Ginny was never there to depart for Hogwarts.  There is no Hogwarts Summer Term.  It was all an elaborate front to get me out of my house and… here.  To where I am. 

 

Where are you? 

 

Wait, I'm getting to it.   The three of us were on the platform, and it was completely empty and echoing and horrible - I had the sudden fear I was going to be pushed onto the tracks - I backed against the wall and tried to get back through to King's Cross, but the barrier had already sealed.  I stood against the wall and pulled my wand and demanded to know who they were, and what was going on.  I really… I really did think that they were both taking Polyjuice Potion or something.  They might have been Lucius Malfoy, or – or Peter Pettigrew – or anyone.  After what happened to Harry, there's just no telling.

 

No, there isn't. 

 

But Mr. Weasley very calmly asked me to ask them a question that only they would know the answer to.  So I asked the first thing that came into my head.  I asked what Ron's dress robes looked like. 

 

Hm.

 

I know.  I'm not exactly Auror material, am I? 

 

Actually, it's a very good question.

 

It served the purpose.  Ginny started laughing and said, "Maroon with lace cuffs that he chopped off at the last minute so Padma Patil wouldn't laugh in his face.  Hi, Hermione.  It's really us.  It's good to see you."   And then she hugged me, and I hugged her back and put my wand away.  Because she obviously wasn't Lucius Malfoy.

 

Clearly not.  Unless the Malfoys pay special attention to Ron's cuffs. 

 

There's no knowing what they pay attention to, other than themselves.  But going on.  I asked Mr. Weasley where the train was, and he said that there wasn't going to be any train, and they were very sorry to have tricked me, but there wasn't any other way to get me where I needed to be without a lot of worry for my parents and a high risk of exposure for everyone else.

 

"Exposure of whom?" I asked.  "For what?"

 

But they wouldn't tell.  They looked at each other, and Mr. Weasley said, "Not here, Hermione, not here - let's wait a few minutes to be sure your parents are gone, and then we'll go… where we're going."  And then he gave a huge grin and said, "I suppose you've been on the underground?"

 

I told him I had, and he said that he and Ginny had really enjoyed it, and that they couldn't wait to get back on.   I asked him how we were going to get my trunk on the underground without one of the King's Cross trolleys, but Mr. Weasley pulled his wand and gave it a flick, and he made a Muggle trolley appear.  He looked so pleased with it.  He said he'd "borrowed" it from the Misuse office, where they'd just stripped a Thief's Hex off it, and then he proceeded to prop my trunk on its end, slide the bit of metal beneath it, pull an elastic strap around my trunk and attach the hook of the strap to the back of the upright trolley thingy, and tilt it back on its two wheels.  He wheeled it back and forth a few times to test it out, and he looked so delighted, honestly.  That's when Ginny whispered to me that she loves her dad, even if he is a daftie.

 

I think Mr. Weasley's such a nice man.   I think it's wonderful, the way he appreciates Muggle things.  I wish there were more wizards like him.  He believes in elf rights, too, do you remember? 

 

Yes. 

 

While Mr. Weasley rolled the trunk up and down the platform, I asked Ginny if Ron was all right.  I told her he hadn't written a single word to me or Harry, and that we were both really worried - and really angry.  But she said it wasn't Ron's fault, and I shouldn't be angry with him.  She said that first of all, he hadn't been allowed to write, and that secondly, they'd all had a horrible week at the Burrow, and letters hadn't been very high on anyone's priority list for a few days.  I started to ask her why, but she glanced at her dad and shook her head and mumbled that she didn't want to upset him by bringing it up.  That was when I first noticed that they both looked extremely tired and even a bit ill.   But before I could say anything about it, Ginny changed the subject and told me that I shouldn't eat anything the twins give me, if I value my health. 

 

After we'd waited several minutes, Mr. Weasley drew his wand and made the barrier permeable again.  The three of us went through it into King's Cross - Mr. Weasley insisted on keeping hold of my trunk, so all I had to worry about was Crookshanks - and we went down into King's Cross-St. Pancras station and Mr. Weasley bought us tickets from the machine.  He was more interested in the machine itself than in actually buying the tickets, so it took him a while to choose the right money, and Ginny started getting really jumpy, looking around and saying "Come on, Dad, get it sorted, we have to get back before we're spotted."  

 

It made me nervous.

 

I can imagine.

 

Anyway.  We went four stops, and got off in a very dodgy neighborhood.  There was a woman on the corner who looked like she hadn't slept in ages.  She was really skinny, with dyed blonde hair, smoking a cigarette and wearing a skirt and top that barely covered her up.  I think she was a - well, you know.  I think she was a lady of the night - but I've never seen one, so I don't know.  Ginny grabbed my elbow and told me not to stare or she'd follow us like she followed the twins when they stared at her, and Mr. Weasley led us past her, down a dingy side street, and into a small, battered-looking residential square where all the houses looked as though they'd been huge and beautiful once, but had all been seriously neglected for a long time and then sectioned off into flats.  Ginny pushed a tiny slip of paper into my hand that read: the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at ------------

 

Sorry, I don't know why I can't - wait a minute, let me shake the quill. 

 

Anyway, the paper said that the headquarters of the Order of the Phoenix may be found at ------------

 

What the -

 

Are you quite all right?

 

Well I think this quill's running out of ink, it's self-inking and I'm just trying to tell you where we're -

 

 

 

 

OH.  Oh, of course.  Honestly, everyone who thinks I'm clever would get a good laugh out of me right now.  I'm so glad you're not Ron, he'd mock me for ages.

 

What is going ON?

 

Nothing, it's just that of course I can't write the address down!  It's Fidelius Charmed, and Dumbledore's our Secret Keeper.   Do you know, I bet I can't say the address out loud!  Oooh, I wonder what would happen if I did.  I mean, someone's bound to slip up at some point, aren't they?  There must be a way of making sure they don't.  Wait, let me try. 

 

Hermione -

 

Hm.  I can say it aloud.  I wonder why?  Perhaps because it’s just Ginny in the room with me and she already knows the secret.  I wonder if I could say it aloud in front of someone who didn’t know – not that I’d try it!  Can you imagine?  But there are so many forms of communication, and I’m sure I couldn’t – wait, I want to try it a different way and see if it will -

 

Hermione, I'm sure that's terribly fascinating, but could you please stop trying to get around very powerful spells for just one moment and tell me where you ARE?

 

That's just it, though.  I CAN'T tell you!  Oh, Gwen, this is SO interesting.  I'll bet I couldn't even… I don't know… draw this house! 

 

I didn't realize you were an artist.

 

No, but I mean, if I just tried to draw the numbers on the door - not as correspondence, but as - as a sketch, or something - I'll bet I couldn't do it!  I'm going to get a pencil -

 

No you're not!  You're going to stay right here and tell me the rest of what happened! 

 

But Gwen -

 

Don't "but Gwen" me.  You know how I get when I'm worried.

 

Oh, all right.  But I'm going to spend some time later working out just how the Fidelius stops all the different methods of transferring information.  I'm going to try them all.

 

You do that.

 

All right, then - where was I?

 

You were right outside… wherever you are.

 

Oh yes.  Well, Ginny showed me the address, and then she whispered, "Memorize it quickly and then look for the number.  You have to think it."

 

I looked at it for a moment, and then Mr. Weasley took the paper from me and burnt it to ash with a flick of his wand.  So I looked at the two houses in front of me, and I thought of the number that should have been between them.

 

And between those two houses in the square, another house ballooned out.  It hadn't been there before.  But as soon as I thought its number, it just sort of… inflated.  It pushed the other two to the sides and swelled to a vast size.  It must be five or six stories.  Dark and dreary, with broken windows and grimy paint.  It looked horrible and filthy, like no one had lived in it for ages and it might be full of… well.  What it's full of.  But Ginny pushed me up the steps and through the front door, and into the house, and Mr. Weasley floated my trunk in beside us and closed the door. 

 

You know, I remember the first time I saw a house do that – appear out of nowhere. Of course it was more a castle than a house, but that’s beside the point.  Quite shocking, really, if you’re unprepared for it. 

 

Well no one had prepared me.  I stood in the foyer, reeling, and I asked Mr. Weasley, "Could… if a Muggle had passed just then, would they have seen…" But Mr. Weasley said that no one can see this place unless they're told about it specifically by the Secret Keeper of the Order of the Phoenix. 

 

The Order…

 

Of the Phoenix.  A group of witches and wizards that Dumbledore gathered last time You-Know-Who was in power, in order to fight him. 

 

And you're in it?

 

Not exactly.  I'm too young.  But I'm close enough to the heart of the matter to be kept here at headquarters.

 

The heart of the matter.

 

Harry, of course.  Being his friend puts me in danger.  Of course, now that You-Know-Who's back, everyone's in danger.  But Dumbledore seems to think that the danger to me might have been the most immediate, so he concocted all of it.  The O.W.L. program, the letter - he had Professor McGonagall write it - and he gave Mr. Weasley permission to control the barrier at platform nine and three-quarters.

 

Have you… spoken to Dumbledore?

 

No.  But he's the one who wrote the address on the slip of paper - that's why I could see this house.   He's the Secret Keep-

 

 

 

Hermione?  Are you all right? 

 

 

 

Herm -

 

This house.  Is.  EVIL.   What kind of HOUSE has SMOTHERING PILLOWS?  What kind of house has a HUGE grandfather clock that sits three feet from the foot of the bed and stares at you with a glass face that has an actual FACE trapped inside it?

 

Good heavens.  Why on earth would the headquarters be in a place like that?  

 

Because it's Sirius Black's family’s house, and he's the last of the Blacks, and the house was Unplottable to begin with.  It's a fantastic location, if you want to be secretive.  But it's A HORRIBLE, DISGUSTING PLACE.

 

But why does Sirius's house have such things in it?  I thought he wasn't a murderer at all, I thought he was -

 

Oh, these aren't his things.  Ron said Sirius hasn't lived here since he was a teenager, and no one's lived here for nearly ten years except a poor, enslaved elf I haven't seen yet.   Ron said I won't feel so sorry for the elf when he prowls up to my bed at three in the morning and leers at me out of the darkness and mutters foul things in my ear.   But I'm sure I will feel sorry for him.  His name is Creature.  I've never heard of anything so absolutely vile.  Calling him Creature, as though he has no worth at all.  It disgusts me, it honestly does.

 

But you've seen Ron, then. 

 

Well, yes.  I mean, obviously.  He's here.  So I've seen him.  But I've seen a lot of other things too, and I'm telling you, it's enough to make a person sick.  Sirius's family must have been made up of nothing but Dark, foul, evil, disgusting, horrific, unjust, nasty, vile -

 

Got it. 

 

Generation upon generation of mental illness.  You would not BELIEVE what I saw on my way up the stairs.  We walked into the house and Mr. Weasley sent my trunk floating ahead of us up to this bedroom, and he told Ginny to show me where I'll be sleeping, and then to bring me down for lunch, so that everyone could say hello.  He said not to make any noise, and not to wake anything up - which I didn't understand at the time, but now I do.  This house is full of… live things.  All the inanimate objects are alive.  And they're all malicious - or else they're disturbing - oh, Gwen, the face in the clock.  It's just watching me. 

 

Is it… a head?  Is it actually inside the clock?  Sitting behind the glass? 

 

No, not behind the glass - in it.  It's a human face that's somehow been flattened in the glass face that protects the clock itself.  It's two dimensional, like a thick, glass photograph…  Only it's not opaque, it's… it's translucent.  I can see the hands of the clock through it.  I think it's a woman.  I can't really tell, because her features are distorted.  But her mouth is moving.  And I can't hear her.  She might be crying for help, I don't know, I... I know it's not a photograph, I know it.  It's some kind of unthinkably cruel curse.

 

Yes… those do exist.  They're… rather like the spells that trap human essences in diaries.  Except that the victims are generally unwilling and unsuspecting.  And alive.

 

WHY did you TELL me that?  Gwen, it's so frightening in here.  The shadows are horrible.  I wish Ginny were awake.  I want someone to be here with me, awake, laughing and chatting and carrying on, and I want all the lights on, and I want the sun out.  I want to go to sleep, but I don't sleep very well on my back, and I can't turn to either side because I'm afraid of what will creep up behind me.  I want to go and get Ron, but he's up a whole flight of stairs, and I don't know what's between here and there, and I don't want to find out.   I want to throw a blanket over that clock, but if it's a real woman, I can't bear to do it.  And the pillows are getting tense again.  I can feel them.  What if they jump up in the night and slam down over my face and I'm not awake to stop them?   I’m not feeling very Gryffindorish at the moment.

 

Hermione… that house sounds absolutely terrifying.  I want you to get rid of those pillows straight away. 

 

The pillows aren't half of it.  I didn't even tell you what I saw on the way up here.

 

I'm not sure I want to know.

 

You don't.  Ginny and I tiptoed towards the stairs, following my floating trunk.   And in the corridor, just at the bottom of the first flight of steps, there are… there are elf heads.  Severed from house-elves.  Mounted on plaques on the wall.  Like… trophies. 

 

You're not serious. 

 

What kind of person… What sort of family… I can't… I can't imagine that even the Malfoys would… though perhaps they would… I don't know.  Who would do that to another creature?  Who could execute something so small, and hang its head up in the house for its descendants to see?  Who?

 

I have no idea.

 

I froze when I saw them, and my mouth dropped open, and I gripped my face with my hands and just stared up at them.  The poor, abused creatures.  Utterly mistreated and then executed in such a fashion, and it's legal.  It's legal.  I can't believe the injustice of it.  It's nightmarish.  Ginny patted my shoulder and shushed me and tried to pull me to the stairs, but I shook her off and shook my head and tried to ask her why anyone would do that to another creature - why - but I couldn't get the words out.  For a moment I was just incoherent. 

 

That's when Ron came pounding down the stairs to greet me, but I was so upset that I didn't even say hello.   He took one look at me, looked up at the wall, grabbed my elbow and dragged me past Ginny and up the stairs with him, away from the heads.  I tried to get my arm away from him.  I tried to get back down the stairs, but he said it wasn't good for me to stand there staring at them like that.  He said it was morbid, and that there were enough problems without me going completely off my head on my first night here.   And then he winced and apologized for saying "off your head" and said there was honestly no pun intended.

 

We got to the top of the stairs and he brought me to the door of this room, but he didn't open it.  We just stood there looking at each other, and he looked as grim as I felt.  I said, "Where are we, Ron?"  He let go of my elbow and rubbed his head and said, "It's Sirius's old house.  Creepy, isn't it?  We just got here two days ago, and we're not supposed to go anywhere in it alone.  Be careful, no one's lived here in ten years and it's infested with all sorts of Dark stuff - and I don't care how clever you are, you stay out of everything but your bedroom and the kitchen, okay?" 

 

I didn't answer.  I just stared at him.  And I wasn't trying to give him the silent treatment - I was just in shock - but he must have thought so.  He fidgeted and said, "I haven't been allowed to write letters.  I'm sorry.  But we've been in the middle of moving here, and Dad said we couldn't risk letting anything slip, and then Percy…" He stopped, and his gaze sort of drifted down to the floor and he shook his head.  "Well anyway.  I would've written if I could.  To you and Harry - and we'll need to write to him first thing, he's in a right state, you should see his last letter."

 

Ron told me that now that I'm here and we're all settled in headquarters - there are ten of us living here - we're only allowed to send two owls a day between us.  Any more than that would be suspicious.  Dumbledore's orders.  And we're allowed to write to Harry now - but we can't say where we are, or whom we're with, or what we're doing.  So there's hardly any point in writing to him.  It's only going to aggravate him.  All we can say is hello, and that we're sorry we can't tell him anything. 

 

Nothing at all? 

 

No.  Dumbledore's orders.  Owls can be intercepted really easily, Ron said.

 

And then he opened the door to this room and pushed my floating trunk into it, and helped me get it onto the floor, and he told me that there have been some elementary protective charms cast over everything in here, in order to keep Ginny and me safe for the next few nights, until the bedrooms can be properly decontaminated.  He said that his dad's going to remove that disgusting clock really soon and have it examined at the Ministry, by the Office of Possibly Fatal Curse Objects.  Perhaps they'll be able to get that woman out of there.

 

It's more likely that she'll finally die when the curse is broken.

 

No!  Then they shouldn't -

 

Yes they should.  Releasing her to death is much kinder than leaving her trapped in the glass. 

 

Oooh.  I just had the most interesting thought. 

 

Hm?

 

Well… you're dead.  Right? 

 

Physically dead.  Yes. 

 

But you're also here. 

 

As I prepared my essence to live on in this diary, I am, in many essentials, here in the paper.  Yes. 

 

So… do you know what happened to your… spirit?  Are you dead?  Are you completely gone?  Or is being in this diary like being a ghost?  Are you able to communicate with… And wait… how did you “prepare your essence,” exactly?

 

Interesting questions.  Save them for another time.

 

But -

 

No.  That's final.  And you're not finished telling me about what happened with Ron.

 

Nothing happened with Ron, except that we spent the day together with Fred and George and Ginny, and they told me so many things that I feel like my head's exploding, and then they all fell asleep.  They looked very, very tired.  But Mrs. Weasley looked worst, when we went downstairs for lunch.  There was a marked difference in her face from how she looked last week at King's Cross, when we all came home from school.  It was shocking.  And when I finally found out why

 

But I can't get into that.  I'm very, very tired too.  It's half one in the morning.  I've been writing for two hours.

 

Hermione, get some sleep.  You've had a very long day. 

 

Haven't I.  I'm still not keen on turning my back on the darkness in this room, and I've got loads more to tell you, but… I'm about to pass out.

 

And I'll still be here in the morning.  If you wake up and need someone, I'm here. 

 

Thanks, Gwen.  I'll tell you the rest tomorrow. 

 

Goodnight.

 

Goodnight.  Oh wait.  What should I do with these pillows? 

 

Throw them outside the door and do without. 

 

Right.  And then I'll bolt the door again.

 

Is something out there?

 

I’m not sure.  But Ron said it was a good idea.  Goodnight. 

 

//
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