It was all supposed to be as ordinary as any visit during the summer holidays. No matter her famous friendships and the impending war, there was no security plan for Hermione's arrival to the Burrow like there had been for Harry. Barely more than a verbal invitation from Molly, asking for her to come well before the wedding so "her and Ginny could give her a hand." Molly's gentle preference for dated gender roles may have bothered Hermione once, but those days had slipped away sometime after fifth year: after the break in at the Ministry, when Death Eaters were no longer an abstract concept like the boogeyman. When she no longer found herself forgiving her peers for not properly understanding the implications of the etymology and origin of Mudblood, but wondered how many in the sea of heads at the Great Hall looked at her and thought the nasty word.
It's not that Molly's words hadn't irked her. It's just that it no longer felt so important when she and Ginny were "asked" to peel potatoes for dinner while the boys played Quidditch or lounged in the garden.
So on the 2nd of August— really the 3rd, she corrected herself primly as she trekked through the adjacent field towards the crooked little house— she had arrived rather unceremoniously at the Burrow at 1:38 in the morning, just a single meter outside the Apparition line.
Hermione Granger did not take senseless risks.
None of this felt fitting, really. Not after the way she had left her parents. Not after the three tries it took to Magick her belongings to the Burrow, her wand trembling so much that red sparks spilled uselessly from the end, burning tiny black dots into the carpet of her childhood bedroom. To go from that to walking up to the brightly lit house where she had spent so many happy summer holidays was like Apparating into a separate reality.
A reality where she could drop snide comments that any of the boys of age could easily peel the potatoes with their wands. No Ginny and Hermione elbow grease necessary.
And so while it was far from what she expected as she opened the Burrow's front door, it felt somehow satisfying to enter a room whose chaos reflected the utter emotional disarray roiling in her gut.
The muggy August night erupted into sound the moment Hermione's hand twisted the copper knob. She wrenched it open in surprise, having originally intended to make a quiet entrance in anticipation of the number of Weasleys and Order members likely sleeping inside. Instead, she was hit with such a blast of sound and movement that she stood momentarily stunned in the doorway, pink lips parted in shock.
The golden light of the kitchen lantern shone overhead, casting the scene below in almost surreal sharpness compared to the darkness Hermione had just walked through. Her eyes landed first on Molly shrieking by the stovetop, uncharacteristically frazzled even for her usual temper. Lupin was beside her, wand erupting in silver, speaking quickly and urgently as the Patronus materialized. Tonks stood before them pulling Fred's shoulders from behind and shouting, wand forgotten in the holster around her waist.
What Fred was unsuccessfully charging towards was what finally sprang Hermione into action.
Ron, George, Ginny, and Harry were a cluster of flailing limbs and shouts behind the kitchen's rectangular wooden table. Harry was pushing Ron back with vigor Hermione had never seen him exhibit— it was forceful, even frantic. Ginny appeared to be doing the same to George, albeit with less physical exertion and more threatening jabs of her wand. Seated behind Harry and Ginny, arms bound, mouth twisted into an ugly sneer, was Draco Malfoy.
Hermione surged forward. For a moment, the room seemed to pause, Lupin's Patronus streaking out the door before it banged shut. Molly's shrieks seemed to catch in her throat. Ron and Harry stopped their struggle abruptly, looking at her almost guiltily. Or perhaps she just imagined she saw all this— because there he was. Sitting bound in front of her. Sneering. Sneering.
The last time she had seen him was that night defending Hogwarts, a streak of white blonde hair that seemed almost luminescent in the light of the spells being flung through the air. It wasn't until later that she had found out where he was coming from, and why. At the time she had been confused, her first thought— Lucius— even though the hair had been far too short.
But she knew now. Yes, she knew everything. And he had the audacity to sit there. Sneering.
When he was the reason— he, his family, their deranged little circle, the Ministry politicians in their back pocket— were the reason her parents would wake not knowing who she was.
He lifted his eyes to look at her, the sneer seeming to become amused for a split second. But again, perhaps she just imagined this.
She exhaled a breath. Didn't realize she had been holding it.
"Hermione—" Lupin took a step forward.
It was the authoritative tone of his voice that made her act quickly. While she still had the chance. She took a quick step towards the table, whipping her wand upwards in an even quicker motion. Malfoy gasped in surprise as the spell hit him, a thin line of red ripping across his face, down his neck and shoulder. His shirt tore in the same clean line, the incision on his body only ending at the point where the table had interfered with her spellwork. A long black burn, smoking slightly, drew a direct path back to her across the wood. She took another step, striking again, and again, taking savage pleasure in—
It was on her fourth strike that her wand flew from her hand and Tonks wrenched her to the side.
"Are you mad?" she demanded, pulling her away from the table towards the stovetop where Molly stood, hands clapped over her cheeks in apparent shock. Lupin was holding her wand grimly in his hand.
"What is he doing here?" Hermione could feel her nostrils flaring. Rage was swelling within her, fed rather than abated by Tonks' harsh hand around her arm. "What is he doing here?"
She could no longer see him behind the others from where Tonks had pulled her to. She wrenched her arm sideways, trying to step so she could see him again. Tonks pulled her back by the shoulders this time, much like she had with Fred moments earlier.
"Hermione—" Harry said. "Good— well, good, let's—"
"Everybody in the other room." It was Lupin who spoke this time. His voice held its usual authoritative tone, but a hint of coldness edged into it. A threat, perhaps. He was looking over Hermione's head, in the direction of the bound figure behind the table. "The others will be here shortly. We will attend to Mr. Malfoy in the meantime."
The room, which had fallen into shocked silence, erupted once more.
"—pulled this for long enough—"
"—absolutely no reason why we can't be part of these decisions now—"
"ENOUGH!" Lupin barked. The room fell abruptly back into silence, although the air seemed to crackle with intensity. "Harry stays. The others— out."
Stubbornly, reluctantly, with a few words muttered by each in the direction of the bound figure in the chair, the Weasleys trooped out of the room.
"You too, Hermione." Lupin was looking at her strangely. Tonks hadn't relinquished her hands from her shoulders, although her grip was slack. Hermione realized she was frozen in place. She felt Lupin press her wand softly into her hand. "Go on, now." Gently.
She stepped forward jerkily, eyes fixed straight ahead. The ballooning rage seemed to have frozen within her. It was tearing at her chest, the pressure of it. It made her feel light headed yet firm footed. Purposeful.
He was slumped slightly forward, head still bowed from her attacks. The three lines she had left were now seeping blood, waterfalls rather than rivulets. One on the side of his face and arm, two down his back and arm where he had instinctively turned his body away as much as the binding allowed after the first slash. A steady drip of red ran down his jaw, beading at his pointy chin. His shirt fell away from his shoulder, cut cleanly along each of the three lines where her spellwork had fallen. Decisive, thin, yet deep wounds. The skin left untouched by blood had an almost alabaster sheen from the kitchen light.
Harry took a half step in front of Malfoy hesitantly as Hermione paused before she reached the archway leading to the living area.
"Malfoy," she said softly.
Malfoy looked up. His grey eyes met hers and she felt the rage inside her inflate to bursting at the emotion reflected within them: something hot and alive despite his defeated posture. She couldn't tell quite what. It certainly wasn't fear, or remorse, or even surprise.
"Did I hurt you?" she asked, even softer.
If Lupin behind her thought her soft tone indicated a forthcoming apology, Harry had known her too long to be so mistaken. He gripped his wand a little more firmly and shifted further in front of Malfoy.
Malfoy didn't seem to appreciate Harry's motion, leaning his head and injured shoulder as far to the right as he could to see her.
"Hurt me, Granger?" The cold smile that twisted his mouth didn't meet the vivacity of the strange emotion in his eyes. "Go to bed now, love. Let the adults talk."
In the second it takes her to disarm her, she's already lashed her wand upwards, landing a final satisfying slice up his calf and thigh. It stops short of his torso as her wand clatters behind her.
She hears a pained chuckle and cough as she is frog marched into the living room and up the stairs by Tonks.