Life Debt

Weaving a Lie

Hermione's POV

As soon as Ginny and Luna managed to get me into the house, my consciousness started slipping. Everything was a blur of faces and voices. Several people were saying my name with surprise in their tone, worrying and desperate. Had I really shown up that much later than the others? I could barely register any words other than my own name, exhaustion taking a heavy toll. I did, however, manage to make out one sentence before fading away completely.

"Invisibility cloak? Where did she…?" Everything went black. My dreams were riddled with running, spells flashing, memories from the battle coming back to me. A heavy weight on my chest woke me. I was having trouble breathing. Gasping for air, I shot up, my eyes snapping open.

A strange wave of relief washed over me when I realized I was in the dark. The shadows would keep anyone who could have been in the room with me from seeing the confusion in my eyes, written all over my features. I owed Draco Malfoy my life. Was that why he saved me, in order to be able to collect on it later? That still didn't explain why, or the strange way he'd looked at me. He had been almost as confused and surprised by his actions as I was. With a sigh, I tried to recall our conversation. Nothing he did had hinted at malice, not even the word Mudblood.

Cradling my face in my hands, I tried to even my breathing. Life was hard enough already with a war going on around me, and this only added to the confusion and panic. Was it only a one-time thing? Probably. Would I repay the favor? Definitely. I reached around for my wand, finding at the bedside table.

"Lumos." I took the chance to observe my surroundings. I was back in my room, the one I shared with Ginny and Luna. Both their beds, one on either side of me, were made. Judging by how dark it was, it was likely the early hours of the morning…or maybe I'd slept through an entire day? Who knew how long I'd been out for. It had been well past midnight when I'd made it out of Hogwarts. With another sigh I swung my legs over the side of the bed, about to get up. Should I tell the others what Malfoy did? How would they react if they knew he was the reason I'd made it out of the Forbidden Forest alive?

Some moonlight had begun to seep into the room, causing a silky, shimmering material to catch my eye. It lay folded on the nightstand, the distinct material of an invisibility cloak. However, taking a better look at it, I saw it had a green sheen to it, underneath the gray. My mind wandered back to the last thing I remember hearing before passing out. Someone had been surprised that I had it. Then it couldn't be Harry's cloak, could it? Looking at it now, it's the same, yet vastly different. I would have remembered Harry's cloak having a green tint to it. But it doesn't.

I picked it up, examining it closely. Yes, this definitely wasn't Harry's cloak. Now that I had the chance to think back to it, Malfoy had reacted strange when I claimed it was. Yet he'd given it to me anyway. Why had he given me his cloak? I looked at it intently, examining it as closely as I could, looking for some hint that the light was playing tricks on my eyes, that this really was Harry's cloak, and Malfoy hadn't inexplicably aided me further. Unfortunately my eyes fell on a name that had been threaded into the cloak. Draco Malfoy. He'd even labeled it! This was his cloak. Had anyone else noticed the name there, or had no one bothered to look?

Instead of dropping the cloak, as I should have, I merely tightened my hold on it, one word replaying in my mind. Why? Inquisitive by nature, I could help but wonder. What had he been thinking? I was brought out of my own thoughts by the distinct crack of Apparition. With the Apparition came the lighting of my bedside candle. I shielded my eyes a bit, finding it brighter than it should have been.

"Miss Hermione? It is Dobby, miss." His large, green eyes looked at me curiously, and I couldn't help but return the look in kind.

"Yes, Dobby?" He looked somewhat reluctant to speak, and I could see he held a small piece of parchment in his hands.

"Dobby has an important message, miss." This only confused me more. I knew he was still at Hogwarts, so whatever message it was had to pertain to the Death Eaters.

"Shouldn't it be taken to Harry, then?"

"No, miss. I was told to give it to you." He extended a tiny, shaking hand toward me, and I took the paper gently from him. Apprehension washed through me. Only one person came to mind.

Tell no one.

-DM

My eyes only widened in response. Malfoy didn't want me spreading the fact that he helped me. Was he afraid of ruining his reputation? I doubted it. We were past petty school things. This was war, and if word got back to his side that he'd aided the enemy, he'd be labeled a traitor and killed. All for helping a Mudblood. I couldn't tell anyone. Not that I necessarily planned to, anyway. It would only complicate things, and that's the last thing I could allow to happen. What if it came time to pay him back, though? Would I be able to without being labeled a traitor myself? An exasperated sigh and muttered swear word later, I felt the note catch fire in my hand. I jumped in surprise.

"H-He told Dobby to burn it when you read it, miss." Oh. Of course. I nodded to Dobby, doing my best to smile understandingly.

"Did he say anything else, Dobby? Anything at all?"

"No miss. Just that Dobby had to give Miss Hermione the note. He said miss would understand what it meant. Dobby does not understand…" His tone was questioning, and I knew he would wonder about our little exchange. Would he let it slip to Harry? Probably. With another sigh, I resigned myself to explain things to Dobby.

"Dobby…you have to promise me you won't say anything, alright? Harry and Ron can't know about this, and neither can the rest of the Order." I didn't blame the look of fear, worry, and doubt that crossed his eyes. He probably thought I was double crossing the Order.

"M-Miss…"

"He saved me from the other Death Eaters, Dobby, and he doesn't want anyone to know. You understand, don't you? H-He could be killed, and I owe him my life. Keeping this a secret is the least I can do, the only thing I can do, until the day comes to repay him." Understanding dawned on the small elf's features, and I let out a sigh of relief.

"I will not tell, miss…" I trust Dobby, and I believed the sincere look in his eyes as he spoke. He knew how dangerous it had been for Malfoy to help me. He probably knew the type of punishment he would receive better than I could guess. I smiled at him, glad to see that he returned the smile. Suddenly, an idea struck me. I couldn't keep the cloak. If I did, I ran the risk of someone realizing it belonged to Malfoy. I would be better off explaining that I didn't know where the cloak went than explain how I got it. If I managed to rid myself of the garment before anyone realized I was awake, it'd be easy to say I didn't remember having a cloak at all.

"Thank you, Dobby… Would it be too much of me to ask another favor?"

"Of course not miss! Dobby is eager to help!" The spark in his eyes set something off inside me. Motherly instinct, perhaps? I don't know. I've always been protective of the house elves, Dobby in particular. Guilt riddled through me at asking too much. Asking him what I was about to say.

"C-Can you possibly take this to him? It's his, and I'm sure he will need it more than me." Unsure of where that thought came from, I knew I had to return it, for my sake as well as his. Something, a feeling in my gut, told me he would need it soon. Snape was dead, he would no longer be around to protect Malfoy, as I suspected he did. The Malfoys had fallen from Voldemort's good graces, that much had been evident in the battle. Yes, Draco Malfoy would need the cloak more than I ever would.

"Yes, miss." With a snap of his fingers, the garment was gone, presumably lying in the same room Malfoy currently slept in, assuming that he was sleeping.

"Thank you Dobby. If anyone asks, the cloak wasn't here when I woke up."

"Yes, Miss Hermione… Is there anything else Dobby may do to help?" Again, I couldn't help but smile at him.

"That's alright Dobby. You've done more than I should have asked. Thank you." With a deep bow, something I've reminded him repeatedly not to do, he disappeared. I couldn't even bring myself to leave the room, too overwhelmed to think straight. Hopefully this wouldn't come back to haunt me. This was war, after all, I should have taken advantage of the other side's weakness…I let myself lie back again. What's the worst that could happen? Malfoy could use the cloak I just handed back to catch an Order member off guard. I clenched my jaw at the thought. He wouldn't, would he? He used it to save me, after all. If he were going to use it to kill someone, it would have been me.

No use in moping or over thinking things. Maybe something good could come of it. Shivering at the sudden chill I felt in the room, I got up and left. My stomach growled in hunger, and I could hear Mrs. Weasley downstairs in the kitchen.

When I emerged into the kitchen, I was surprised to find it crowded. Ginny and Luna were helping Mrs. Weasley, while Harry, Ron, Lupin, and Tonks were at the table, deep in discussion. As soon as they noticed me, however, the four stopped speaking. Of course, I'd been the topic of conversation. Apparently the only one capable of speaking to me was Mrs. Weasley.

"Hermione, dear, take a seat! How are you feeling?" I smiled at her caring nature.

"As well as expected. No serious injury, just a bruised ego." And they didn't even know the half of it. I tried to shrug it off, attempting at an easy smile.

"Wotcher 'Mione! Glad to see you up and about." Tonks smiled easily, and I was glad for her light-heartedness. Lupin also smiled, more like a professor would to a student than between friends, though.

"You gave us a horrid scare, Hermione! What kept you?" Ginny didn't contain the tone of curiosity from her voice, and I could tell this was a loaded question. They knew something was wrong. Was I that obvious? I'm a horrid liar, and I could only hope to pull this off.

"I was in the forest. It was swarming with Death Eaters, I almost couldn't reach the Apparition point." Not a lie, simply missing a few points. Ginny seemed satisfied with my answer, as did Luna, so they both returned to what they were doing. Harry and Ron, on the other hand, had suspicion written all over them. With a raised eyebrow and a cunning I hadn't realized was in me , I challenged them, "What?"

"Are you sure that's all that happened?" I braced myself to lie like there as no tomorrow. Harry's voice was laced with doubt, so I didn't have a choice but to be convincing.

"As far as I can remember, yes." As much as I wanted to, I couldn't break eye-contact. Doing that would immediately tip them off that I was lying. My heart pounding in my chest, I remained steadfast.

"You had an invisibility cloak with you when you came back." Ron's tone was accusing. As calmly as I could, I looked at him next.

"Really? I don't remember having one…" I mustered up the best look of confusion I could manage. Honestly, it wasn't as difficult to do so as I thought. I was confused, just for different reasons.

"We left it by your bed. Did you see it?" I shook my head. The tension in the room was growing. Had they seen the name stitched into the material?

"There wasn't anything there when I woke up." It was their turn to look confused. Harry excused himself to go upstairs to check. It took him moments to return empty handed.

"It's not there. Are you sure you don't remember?"

"I remember doing a lot of running and hiding. Once I reached the Apparition point, everything became a blur of voices. Then I guess I passed out…" Again, not entirely a lie. I just hoped they bought it. I looked at everyone, reading their expressions. Tonks wholeheartedly believed me, trusting as she can be, while Lupin looked contemplative. Ron still had suspicion etched on his features, but if he'd known of the name on the cloak, he would have said something by now. Harry was much like Lupin, while the rest of the women in the room were busying themselves with work. They didn't seem as interested in specifics. Mrs. Weasley was probably just glad I was alive.

The awkward silence was broken by Mrs. Weasley's announcement that dinner was ready, and no more talk of war was allowed. It was just what I needed. After dinner, no one questioned me anymore, and I was able to retreat to the living room with a book, and sit by the fire. Nearly everyone had gone to bed. Unfortunately, seeing as I had just woken up, it didn't seem like a possibility for me. Regardless, I still went upstairs after a couple of hours, hoping that Luna and Ginny were already asleep. No such luck. Apparently they decided to use their own brand of questioning.

I had settled into my bed, resigned to the fact that sleep wouldn't come, but I had to lie there anyway. I didn't feel like being alone. Suddenly, Ginny piped up from my left, "How are you really feeling, Hermione? You looked terrible when Luna and I found you."

"She's right, you know. There was a lot of blood all over you. I'm surprised the cloak remained unsoiled." It was a clever attempt at bating me, I'd give her that. What else could I expect from a Ravenclaw?

"A bit sore, I suppose. The blood was probably from the scratches caused by the trees. As I said before, I don't know what cloak you're talking about. I don't remember having one." I lied easier in the dark, felt more comfortable with the fact that they couldn't see my face, my eyes.

"It was lying next to you when we found you outside." Luna's dreamy voice floated around us in the dark room. "I brought it in myself. Ginny and I checked it for dark magic, but there was none. Just an ordinary invisibility cloak, if you can call one ordinary…" So they did inspect it. Of course they would, it was unfamiliar. If I had realized it wasn't Harry's cloak sooner, I would have checked it for curses myself, or just wouldn't have taken it from Malfoy.

"Hermione, is there a possibility someone may have altered your memories? Were you caught?'

"I'm sure I wasn't caught, Ginny. Besides, Voldemort wouldn't have much use for an obliviated Order member. You know I would Avada myself before divulging information, anyway." They made small noises of agreement, and then Ginny spoke again.

"I wonder where the cloak went…"

"Maybe the Gnargles took it…" For once, I was grateful for Luna's imagination. I let out a sigh…

"Who knows? At this point, I'm too worn out to care, to tell you the truth… I'm just glad to be back." That seemed convincing enough, and neither one of them spoke again. I sighed in relief, hopeful that this would be the last of the questioning. I hated lying to them. Guilt eats away at me every time I do, but, for now, this was the only way I could pay him back.

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