Chapter 16

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*Hermione's POV*

I decided it was best not to dwell on Draco's departure. Of course I could not forget it, but I could, with effort, push it to the back of my mind to focus on more important things. Like running a country.
After all, he was just a guy.
And he had left me without any indication of a whereabouts which, whilst irritating, was selfless of him to try and keep me safe. Not that I needed his protection of course. No. I suppressed the tangle of thoughts battling for dominance in my head.
I scanned my eyes over the parchment on my desk in front of me, but the words did not sink in.
I sighed and sat back.
Glancing at my watch, I saw that it was time for the meeting. I had decided it would be for the best to inform the heads of department of the Astoria situation, as it put the country at great risk.
I pulled my cloak on before leaving my office, locking the wooden door behind me. The journey down the black, stone steps and then in the magical elevator seemed to last an age as I ran over what I would say in my head.
At last, I entered the gilt meeting room and sat on the largest chair at the head of the table to face my colleagues.
"I have gathered you here because a situation has arisen..." I began, hesitantly, looking around at their apprehensive faces. Clearly, they were expecting something awful.
I did not know how to continue.
"The thing is," I said, running a hand through my thick hair, "I have been made aware of a plot to resurrect Lord... Lord Voldemort."
There was a silence.
All at once, every member of the table was talking at once.
"What? How?"
"No way."
"That's impossible."
"Silence." I said forcefully. Everyone looked at me. "We need to be on the lookout for Astoria Greengrass..."
I went on to explain, in brief, what had happened preceding Astoria's death and what followed.
Veronica Davids, Head of Magical Sport and Games, raised her hand.
"Ms Davids?"
"Minister, if I may, how on earth is she alive if she was killed by the Killing Curse?"
I studied her fearful face.
"I do not know." I admitted. "But if she is now living, then who's to say she can't do the same thing with Voldemort?"
"But why would anybody wish to do such a thing?
I was not expecting the words that then came out of my mouth.
"She's weak." I said, surprising myself, "She's ridiculously evil and twisted, but she's weak, out of control. She needs a leader who can point her in the right direction whilst still giving her opportunity to exercise her disgusting habits."
"What do we do, Minister?" Asked Harold Saxon. I did not trust him, I always felt he was after my job. There was also something fairly sinister about his smile. Conniving. I shook those thoughts from my head.
"We need the Aurors to look for her. When I saw her, she was wearing a long, black cloak and only her hair was visible. It's long, very long and tangled and a very dark brown. Her robes weren't in great condition either."
I nodded towards Harry, who sat near the back quietly. Of course, he already knew about Astoria, but at work our relationship had to be strictly business. Now, his quill scratched hurriedly at his parchment. I had to cover a smile as I remembered him at school and it was strange to see how much he had grown up.
After the meeting, I had agreed to meet Ginny and James in a new coffee shop that had just opened up on Diagon Alley. Glancing at my reflection in my office mirror, I noticed how minister-y I looked so removed my cloak and hung it in the back of the door. I also replaced my suit trousers with a pair of jeans I kept in the wardrobe by the back wall.
Pulling my hair into a plait, I noticed how tired I looked. Huge bags blossomed beneath my eyes and spots had broken out across my forehead. I sighed. Recently, I had been putting work before sleep, just to keep my mind of anything else.
I took my hair from the ponytail so that the shade from my loose hair at least partially covered the dark circles.
I pulled on my blue waterproof coat and Apparated out of my office. Being Minister for Magic had its benefits.
Outside in London, as usual, it was raining. I pulled up my hood and with a glance at my watch, noticed I was ten minutes early for Ginny. I decided to wander into Flourish and Blotts, to see if they had the new book on Herbology that Neville had written.
All the while I stood flicking through books and running my fingers over spines upon shelves, I felt the hairs on the back of my neck crackling and sticking up. I shrugged off the superstition, blaming it on the cold. My mind couldn't help but wander to Astoria.
I imagined her creeping around behind me and a shiver ran up my spine.
I quickly left the book shop and, pulling up my coat hood, headed back towards the coffee shop.
I noticed it was eerily quiet. Even on the worst days of the year, the street was still a hive of activity, full of chatter and laughter. Today, there was no one but a few people scurrying past, their hoods covering their faces.
I heard a sudden footstep right behind me.
Spinning around in panic, I saw no one.
The nearest person was at least fifty metres away now, and heading in the opposite direction.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a flash of brown and black, like the swish of a cloak and some hair.
No.
My breath caught in my throat and I couldn't move.
"That's right." Came a menacing voice behind me and still I could not turn to face her. "Honey, I have your boyfriend. You're going to watch him die!"
She laughed crazily, and I felt bile rise up my throat.

A slicing pain flew across the back of my head and then I saw nothing.

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