She was walking down one of the darkened hallways of Hogwarts, alone, a fire of determination burning in her eyes. She could not understand what was occurring, just that she had to go there. She could feel a sense of unwillingness and forbidding fill her with every passing step, but she had to go there, she had to see for herself… if she had only known what it was she needed to see so badly. Her feet pressed on as she turned corners that lead deeper and deeper into the castle depths. She was in the dungeons, she could tell, but somehow the normal loathing she felt for these halls (and their scaly occupants) evaded her. As she turned another corner, a sight greeted her that would normally make her blood run cold. The passage before her, the one she could tell was the only way to reach her goal, was crowded with Slytherins. It looked almost as if every single one had been rounded up and herded into the crowd that presently stood between her and the single door. For some reason however, the girl did not hesitate, and to her own amazement, the crowd parted before her, leaving the green-clad students standing along the walls like statues, watching her every move. As she passed, a part of her could not understand what was occurring.
Not one of the normally sharp-tongued, insult-spitting kids spoke. Not one called her a Mudblood, not one even mumbled anything about the lone Gryffindor walking in their halls. When she looked to meet their eyes, she found most evaded her gaze as if her sight held the potency of a basilisk. The few that dared meet her brown orbs nearly shocked her with what their eyes revealed. No hatred, no loathing, no anger, no ill will could be found in any of their gazes. Instead, their orbs were filled with overwhelming array of emotions, ranging from sadness to regret, to pity and despair. She could feel a sense of humiliation and shame, so like the one she had found in Harry's eyes when he blamed himself for things so out of his control, radiate from each of them as if no hope could be found anymore. The light tapping her shoes made on the cold stone floor remained the only feeble distraction from the total silence that engulfed the hallway. She ventured on.
One person finally broke from the rest, pulling her into what she found to be a much-needed hug. For some reason, she did not even care who it was, some strange acceptance overwhelming her, assuring her she was perfectly safe. She found herself pulled into his arms, allowing him to lead her as she pushed her face deep into his chest. The boy did not mind. They walked like that, a total silence and understanding remaining between the two. She only looked up once she heard the creaking of a door, practically lunging herself at the man who seemed to be waiting for her. There he stood, the man she had hated for almost as long as she had known, allowing her tantrum to play out without saying a single word. She was screaming, babbling without even herself understanding or heeding her words, her fists fruitlessly pounding at the tall man's chest as her tears drenched his jet-black robes.
"Why!" She called out, not wanting a true reply, "why me… why HIM… why always him!" she screamed, still sobbing as the tall man stood like a statue, accepting her blows without hesitation. "You didn't even tell me." She cried out, her voice losing its strength with each passing moment, "Your own… how could you…" She vaguely felt strong arms brace her as her feet gave way and a calm, silky voice suddenly escaped the man's lips. She could not hear the exchange of words that transpired between the boy who brought her and the man who held her, her own mind slipping into unconsciousness.
Suddenly, she was standing in front of a bed, the sheets silver with blue lining. The boy that lay there caused her more pain and sorrow then she ever could have thought imaginable. She loved him… loved him with all her heart. Her hand gently stroked his soft, long hair as she spoke softly, shaking the entire time.
"Why couldn't you tell me?" She asked, tracing the once apparent jagged line across his forehead lightly with her thumb. "Why did you leave me now?" She couldn't stay long, she knew, his now still form unnerving her so. "How could you?" So much had rested on his shoulders, invincible he seemed, so why was he here now? What was so different this time? Why could he not survive? WHY? She was vaguely aware of the presence of another boy in the room, calmly standing by the door as he watched her, comforting her with his eyes. This blonde boy, she knew, was her love's best friend… faithful to him even when all were loosing faith and the unbelievable truth had been revealed. Had he known, she wondered, or was he as shocked as she was? She stepped away; letting go of the limp hand she had been holding and fell into the compassionate embrace of the blonde-haired boy once more. "Draco…" she vaguely whispered, "let's go."
The image faded slowly as she felt herself being shaken violently.
"Herm!" Someone called, "Wake up!" Finally, after another dose of shaking, she complied, allowing the world around her to fall back into focus.
"You okay?" a second voice asked, softer this time, "you had us worried there you know…"
"I… sorry." She mumbled, still unsure of what was going on. "Harry. Ron. What are you… oh."
"Are you sure you're alright, Herm? Want us to send an owl to Pomfrey?"
"What? No Ron, I'm fine, really." She stated the determination back in her voice, "Just had a strange dream is all, how long was I out for?"
"Almost the entire trip, I suggest you put on your robes…"
"The whole trip? Really? I don't even remember you-"
"We found you asleep… Harry here wouldn't let me wake you." The boy in question blushed slightly, receiving a silent 'thanks'. "I guess we'll have to catch up at the feast."
"You are telling us about that dream- right?"
"As soon as I get my robes on… if you excuse me boys?"
Five minutes later, all three were back in the compartment, the boys eagerly awaiting Hermione's explanation. Harry because it was nice, for once, to be on the receiving end, Ron out of simple curiosity.
"As I was saying…" Hermione continued, "The weird thing was their eyes."
"Eyes?" Ron piped up instantly, not seeing the Slytherin gazes as the weirdest of the dream's twists.
"Yes, eyes… they were so soft… caring… NOT the cold, hard stares Slytherins usually give. If I didn't know any better, I would have thought they blamed themselves for the actions of their parents, or the friends of their parents, or… whomever…"
"They ought to feel guilty, Herm, they are Death Eaters in training after all…"
"Not all Slytherins are bad Ron…" The boy raised a frustrated brow,
"Ya… Wormtail was a Gryffindor, didn't make him good though- did it?"
"No…" He replied, still very frustrated. Slytherins are bad, what was wrong with them? "But I still think the lot of them are a selfish and egotistical!" Hermione shot Harry a 'he's hopeless' look, both silently agreeing to let the subject drop. The redhead did have a temper, and stubbornness was a Gryffindor trait after all… sometimes it was simply best for them to agree to disagree. The three could not afford to be at odds with each other this year, Voldemort had risen, Merlin knows what he would throw at them this time!
Before they could continue, a voice called out for the first-years, but it was not Hagrid.
"Bloody luck they've got… having Filch as the first person they see."
"Could be worse…"
"Could be Snape." All three grimaced, though Hermione seemed suddenly lost in thought, could that man have been Snape? His location was certainly appropriate, but she just could not see herself breaking down in front of him… nor doing so without losing a lot of house points. Then again, most of the dream seemed too weird to ever actually happen, though it did feel odd. It certainly seemed stronger, fuller, then any dreams she had experienced at night…a premonition perhaps? No, she never actually believed in all that 'inner eye' stuff, it would be a pity to start now.
"Wonder where Hagrid is."
"Probably not done with the mission yet." Harry answered absently, explaining his overheard conversation after even Hermione gave him a blank look.
As they stepped onto the carriages, Harry noted how nice it was without Malfoy's yearly visit, to which the others agreed instantly. He could only guess that their last meeting was still fresh in his mind, smirking at the memory.
"What ya thinking about 'Arry?"
"What happens when you mix spells that really ought not to be combined."
"Ah, Malfoy stew…" Ron reminisced, smiling fondly at the mental image that remained as vivid as the day it had occurred (if not more colorful).
"Where's Hedwig?" Hermione suddenly asked, noting Harry had not brought her cage this year. The next instant she regretted it as a sullen look fell over the boy's features.
"How was your summer Hermione?" Ron asked, trying to make Harry forget the last question, "besides the weird dreams 'n all…"
"Ron, I have only had one such dream and I do not plan to make a habit of it. I think I simply ate an odd bean or something…"
"Ya Ron, My dreams are enough… no need for others to get insomnia." Harry commented lightly, though his eyes answered the question at the tip of his friends' tongues- he had been having dreams."And what he wrote about Cecilia…that's an obsession Albus! Ten pages!" Remus paced in the Headmaster's office, the journal lying open on the large desk. "I still can't believe he did this to me… even he knew Severus had wanted a son. Taking away an heir once merited a life sentence at Azkaban! What am I supposed to do? I can't exactly tell him."
"What you will do is yours to decide my friend, though I am glad you have taken my advice thus far." The older man said slowly, happy that Remus had agreed to read the entire book before they made any judgments. "I fear this choice lies on you alone… I cannot tell you what is best. Though I know both the boy and Severus would benefit from such a relationship, their present circumstances may prove …" He trailed off, a knock interrupting his thoughts. "That would be my summons to the Great Hall, the students are undoubtedly arriving." He chuckled, "Worry not, Minerva sends someone each year… I always seem to get sidetracked." The headmaster stood, his long hair cascading over the bright emerald robe he presently wore. "You are welcome to attend the festivities… you may stay here if you wish, but I must excuse myself… it is not wise to allow the students to sit too long without the headmaster, the Weasley twins may take it upon themselves to provide entertainment."
Remus kept his hand on the journal he had just tucked into his cloak. This was by far the hardest choice he ever had to make. Even with Padfoot it was not too difficult, part of him had wanted to believe his old friend was innocent ever since that terrible night… it was a blessing to be able to hear the other side of the story. This, this was like trying to decide which was the lesser of two evils. On one hand, if he told them, Harry would be rid of the doggone Dursleys once and for all. Severus too would probably gain from the new person in his life, perhaps softening his stone cold potions master image. However, Harry's world has been through enough twists and bumps and disasters, he really didn't need his world to shatter once again. He looked like James, the man himself had said the precautions would not wear off… what would that be like, finding out your life has been a lie, one that cannot be undone? Severus openly hated the boy, Harry returning his abhorrence as well; it would be hard if not impossible for them to accept.
"Remus!" A voice called out, alerting him that he had mindlessly walked into the Great Hall, "Are you teaching again, Professor?" Remus knew that voice, he knew that voice all too well, and right now, he really did not want to be confronted by it.
"Afraid not." He said slowly, turning around. He released the breath he was unconsciously holding as his eyes landed on the boy. He was half expecting to see a mini-Snape staring at him. "How are you, Harry?"
"Fine, sir." The boy, still looking very much like his old self answered.
"Snuffles misses you, I think he might come visit around Christmas… I'll be staying for a few weeks, so if you ever want to talk…"
"That would be great, maybe you can give Harry some pointers on pranking the Slytherins, we really need to get them this year!" Ron exclaimed, walking over to Harry, "We gotta go Harry, Dumbledore is about to make his speech."
"Coming Ron, goodbye Remus."
"See you later Harry." Remus leaned against the wall, closing his eyes before finally entering the hall. He ran a self-conscious hand through his hair as his eyes fell upon the sneering Snape. "Damn." He muttered, careful not to be heard, he actually wished for a full moon. At least then he would be alone, not staring at the individuals who caused his moral dilemma. Oops, he quickly averted his gaze, unintentionally allowing it to fall onto the other one… At least Harry smiled…
"Look, it's Professor Lupin! He must be teaching again!" Hermione called enthusiastically,
"Nope, just visiting." Harry corrected, diminishing her hopes. "That's our new Defense teacher."
"Him? Looks like he'd be better off on a fishing boat…" Ron commented, eyeing the rugged looking brunette.
"Remus didn't look up to par when we first saw him either, and he was the best we ever had Ron."
"Ya but…" He stopped, his response drowned out as the sorting started. The hat sang his song, Gryffindor received seven new firsties, and Dumbledore stood tall before the entire hall.
"Another year befalls us," He started, "Another year of learning, fun, and friendship. Allow me to remind you that the forest is forbidden to all students. The Quidditch trials shall be held in two weeks by the team captains, hopefuls are asked to speak with them or other returning members. I would also like to introduce to you a new member of our faculty, this year's Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher and a very good friend of mine, Professor McWhirr." The man stood, glanced for a moment at Harry, and sat back down, Albus calling for the food to appear.