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Chapter 11 : Chapter 11-Part I: Professor Amsel
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Ernie was the next to leave the Defense class; barely one minute behind Harry. He and Ron waited for Hermione to finish her test before they talked anymore about Professor Amsel. Harry wanted to know if she had recognized the handwriting as well.
When the door to the classroom opened for the last time, Harry and Ron were surprised at what came out of the doorway. Instead of an ecstatic Hermione bubbling about her ranking of first in the class, she was practically being carried out of the class by none other than Katarina Engel.
“Hermione?!” Harry called out. Katarina looked up, relief spread throughout her face at the sight of them. Ron and Harry quickly dashed across the hall to Hermione’s side.
“What happened?” Ron questioned Hermione, but she couldn’t answer. Her face was white washed and she gasped at each breath; her skin cold as ice and her pupils dilated. Harry looked to the foreign girl supporting his friend.
“She nearly fainted,” she answered his questioning gaze. “I vas packing up my bag ven I heard her get up after she finished her test,” she explained. “I started to leave ven I heard her gasp. Ven I turned around she vas holding on to the desk nearly hyperventilating. I called to her but she did not answer.” Hermione’s knees gave way a bit more and almost took Katarina to the ground. Ron caught Hermione and wrapped an arm around his neck as Harry supported Katarina until she regained her balance. Hermione hadn’t even registered their presence. Her breaths were extremely shallow and labored. “I valked down tovards her,” she continued, “and called louder but she did not answer. I efen tapped her on the shulter, but she did not respond. It vas like I vasn’t even there. She vas trembling so much.” Katarina looked at Hermione in worry. “I’m lucky I vas there to stop her from hitting the desk.”
“My….chest…” gasped Hermione.
“What, Hermione?” ask Harry.
“M-my chest,” she gasped again, pointing towards herself. “So…hot.”
“But she’s so cold,” said Ron. “Her hands are like ice.”
“Does it just seem hot?” asked Harry. Hermione shook her head. He suddenly found his hand shoved just underneath the collar of her robes. If the circumstances had been any different, Harry would have turned red with embarrassment.
Her chest was hot, very hot. “She’s on fire,” he whispered, quickly moving his hand from below her robe and up her neck. “Even her face!”
“She needs to go to the hospital ving!” exclaimed Katarina.
“NO!” cried Hermione, shocking Engel with her sudden burst of energy. “I don’t need…to go…to the hospital wing. I just…need to rest…for a bit.”
“Don’t need to…?” questioned Katarina, staring in disbelief. “Vat are you talking about? You—”
“It’s okay, Engel,” interrupted Ron sharply. Katarina glared at him. “Hermione’s been really sick this summer and this happens some times,’ he lied. “She just needs rest, and she’ll be fine. We don’t need your help anymore.” Her jaw tightened at his cold tone.
“Really, Katarina,” Harry said shooting a glare Ron but following his lie, “We’ll take care of her. She’ll be alright in a few minutes.” She raised an eyebrow at his statement. Katarina looked from Harry to Hermione to Ron and back to Hermione. She shook her head in frustration and annoyance.
“Fine,” she scowled. “Don’t forget her book bag,” she said, roughly shoving the bag into Harry’s chest. She stalked away towards the exit mumbling angrily in German.
Hermione, glaring at Ron, turned on him the moment Katarina was out of sight.
“How could you be so rude?” she questioned, pulling away from Ron’s supportive arm.
“What do you mean, rude? I wasn’t rude. I just got rid of her so we could talk. It isn’t like we needed her anymore anyway.”
Both she and Harry stared at him. This did not seem like the Ron they had grown to know.
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Hermione nearly shouted. She was getting angrier by the minute. “She helped me, Ronald. It isn’t as if she made me faint. Why did you treat her like that?”
“She isn’t exactly the nicest person, Hermione!” Ron answered, clearly irritated at Hermione’s lack of understanding.
“You don’t even know her, Ron! How can you be so damn judgmental and prejudiced?” Ron was taken aback by her language. Never, in nearly seven years of friendship, did Hermione ever swear.
“I don’t have to know her, Hermione,” he snapped back. “But if you had sense enough you’d stay away from her. She and her whole family are bad news.”
Harry suddenly had a feeling of déjŕ vu as he watched the argument unfold before him. He felt drawn back to the many, many times Hermione and Ron had been in this same position during their short lived but row-ridden dating relationship the previous year. Here they stood, toe to toe, flushed with frustration and irritation at the other’s unwillingness to see one’s point.
Harry also knew that soon they would draw him into this, asking him to take a side.
“Why didn’t you stop him?” Hermione abruptly questioned him, accusation burned in her eyes.
Harry, completely caught off guard by her sudden change in prey, didn’t answer.
“I wasn’t dieing, Harry,” she said flatly. “You could have at least said thank you for not ignoring me while I had another stupid episode. She could have just left,” she said turning to Ron. “If she was ‘oh so evil’ as you say she is Ron, she could have just let me fall to the floor. I probably would have hit my head on something and been totally knocked out. But she didn’t. She stayed behind and helped me.” Neither of them could respond. Even Harry, who was on her side, couldn’t help but feel slightly guilty for not thanking Katarina.
“I’d like to know how long it would have taken for you two to come looking for me if she had left me.” She didn’t wait for either of them to answer and grabbed her bag from Harry. “And just to make things a bit more interesting for you, Ron,” she said swinging her bag over her shoulder, “I owe her one now. I hope you can live with that knowledge, Ron,” she sneered at him, sarcasm dripping from her voice. “One of your friends is indebted to a member of the evil Engel family. Whatever will you do?” She stalked off without another word, leaving Ron and Harry behind.
“Hermione! Wait!” Harry called to her. She didn’t stop and soon disappeared through the door to the stairs. He quickly grabbed up his bag from its abandoned spot and started after her.
“Just leave her be, Harry,” Ron called to him. “She just needs time to deflate. She’ll come back and apologize later.”
“This isn’t like one of your lover’s quarrels from last year, Ron,” Harry called back. He was getting increasingly irritated at Ron’s lack of concern. Ron seemed to take this as just another one of their typical rows and they’d just work it out when the both of them had time to calm down. But Harry knew this was different. He had the feeling her outburst was driven by much more than Ron’s rudeness to a girl none of them knew. “She might come around later, but it’s going to take the both of you to apologize for jumping down each other’s throat to make it right again.” Ron frowned.
“You’re on her side, aren’t you?”
“Yes, Ron, I am. She’s right. You were extremely rude to Katarina and you are being really prejudiced towards her—a person you’ve never met until now.
“But there is something else going on with her, Ron, so I’m going to try and find her and figure it out.” He left before Ron could respond.
“I’ve done nothing but take your side, Hermione, so stop jumping down my throat!” Harry was fuming. It had taken the Maurader’s Map and exceptional self control to keep himself from cursing an unusually protective Ernie to see her, only to have her blow up at him the moment he walked in.
Her shoulders slumped a bit at his outburst and she opened up—which progressively became narrower as their argument had built up—the space between them, walking to her desk and absentmindedly picking up a book. “I’m sorry, Harry. I didn’t mean to take it out on you. It’s just…” She paused, biting her bottom lip. “I’m so sick of not knowing! I’m sick of these symbols, these fainting episodes. I’m sick of these mysteries and questions that keep popping up wherever I go. I just want answers. I want it to end! I’m sick of it!” She slammed the book into the desk, filling her room with a loud thud. She turned from Harry and leaned both hands on the desk, her head hung from her shoulders.
“I know, Hermione,” he soothed, placing both hands on her now trembling shoulders.
“I just want to know why this is happening to me,” she whispered, near tears.
“I know,” he whispered back.
Hermione’s mood did improve the rest of the day after their small spat and through Tuesday, but she was still short with Ron whenever she had to speak to him.
Harry had seen a brief glimmer of hope when Ron apologized for being so rude to Katarina. Hermione, in turn, apologized for shouting at him. But Ron ruined it when he stated that he would never be sorry for not trusting Katarina nor for believing in her guilt by family association.
Is this ever going to end? thought Harry as Hermione stalked off to Arithmancy after Ron declared his defiance.
In Potions that afternoon, Harry grabbed a few spare moments to ask Hermione if she had recognized the handwriting of Professor Amsel. She nodded excitedly but was prevented from answering further when Snape docked twenty points for talking.
They didn’t get another chance to talk about it. The seventh years had been bogged down with piles of homework and Hermione had rounds to do. The professors seemed to suffer under the impression that NEWTs were next week instead of next spring.
That night, Harry sat by the window, staring out into the darkness of three in the morning. He couldn’t sleep. He was going to meet one of his mum’s closets friends in five and a half hours and his mind refused to shut down.
What is she like in person? Is she anything like the girl in the notes? What does she look like? Every time he closed his eyes, his mind would race with new questions.
The clouds parted to reveal a full moon shining brightly in the sky. Harry briefly thought of Remus and hoped his transformation wouldn’t be too rough.
His thoughts were torn from Remus when something on the grounds caught his eye. Illuminated by the full moon, Harry saw something approaching the castle. He opened one of the window panes and leaned a bit further out to get a better look.
The moon cast a long shadow on the figure quickly moving past the edge of the lake. A rider cloaked in dark red galloped across the wet grass, the horse’s hoofs pounding into the muddy ground.
He watched from far above as the cloaked rider dismounted near the entrance to the castle and sent his horse off towards Hagrid’s cabin; a cabin—Harry just realized—with its lights on.
“Then he isn’t unexpected,” he whispered aloud. A gust of wind blew over the grounds and the rider’s hood fell from its place. “No way,” he said much louder. It wasn’t a he, it was a she, and there was a very good chance that this she was Professor Amsel. He only wished he could get a better look at her.
Hermione woke in a cold sweat. The dream was back, more vivid than ever. She sat up and hugged her knees. What did all of this mean? Why the forest and the clothes and the sword? Why did she have these dreams at all?
She groaned and raked her fingers through her messy hair. Is this ever going to end? she asked herself. She glanced at the old clock that hung on the opposite wall—just past six. Hermione tossed the covers back, swung her legs over the bed and was about to get up, when she spotted a small box on her nightstand. A box that had not been there when she had gone to bed.
There was a small note leaning against the box. She unfolded the paper and read:
She didn’t recognize the handwriting, but she had an odd feeling that she knew exactly what was in the box, and she was right. It was her necklace. She hesitated to touch it. There was no name to the note. She knew the potential danger she was placing herself in by even opening the box, but she couldn’t help it. She had to put it on.
Hermione slowly lifted the chain from the small box, undid the clasp and paced the necklace around her neck. As soon as she re-clasped the chain and the small pendant touched her skin, the Ring appeared clear and strong. Warmth spread from the pendant and touched every part of her body.
She wouldn’t be fainting anymore.
Despite his lack of sleep, Harry felt very awake. Piling up another serving of eggs, he looked back to the head table. Professor Amsel—as he now knew for sure—was seated on Dumbledore’s left. She was currently speaking very rapidly with both McGonagall and Dumbledore.
He couldn’t help but watch her. He had seen her the moment he walked into the Great Hall, and he was struck with the odd feeling that he’d met her before. She still wore the dark red cloak from earlier that morning.
His musings were interrupted by Hermione’s arrival to the table. “Good morning,” she said cheerfully.
“You seem to be feeling better,” he commented. She nodded and reached for the plate of bacon. Her shirt opened slightly at the top and Harry caught a glimpse of something silver hanging around her neck.
“Did you—” he paused a second making sure what he thought he saw was really there. “Did you find your necklace?” She nodded, her smile broadening.
“This morning, when I got up.”
“Where did you find it?” asked Ron. She hesitated and quickly grabbed up a piece of bacon.
“Um…at the bottom of my trunk,” she said quietly and bit into her bacon.
“At least now you don’t have to worry about that anymore,” said Harry. She nodded.
“And I don’t think I’m going to have to worry about those fainting attacks anymore, either.” Harry and Ron looked at her confused. “I don’t really know how to explain it. I just know that I won’t be fainting anymore.”
“So…you think the necklace had something to do with the episodes?” asked Ron, clearly doubtful. Her lips turned down in a small frown.
“I know it sounds strange, Ron. But I just know that I won’t be fainting anymore. When I put the necklace on…I just knew.” She barely stopped herself from telling them that the Ring was still encircling her vision. It was just a faint outline, but it was still there, and it didn’t look like it was going to leave anytime soon. “Right now I don’t care how I know. I’m just glad they are gone.” Harry nodded in agreement, but he frowned slightly. She was leaving something out.
“Is that—is that Professor Amsel?” Hermione breathed, staring at the head table. The Ring turned grey when her vision rested on the new teacher.
“Yeah,” Harry answered her. Amsel stood up to leave but Dumbledore caught her arm. He whispered something to her. She smiled at whatever it was he said and continued on her way.
“I say we take her cue and start up to the tower,” said Ron, grabbing a few scones for the road. “I don’t want to run up those stairs again.”
Hermione grabbed a few pieces of toast and followed Ron and Harry.
The doors to the class were open when they finally reached the corridor in the southeast tower. Ernie, Hannah, Seamus, Dean and several other seventh years were already there. The trio took seats in the third row and took out their books.
The room was no longer bare as it had been on Monday. The walls were lined with books and strange objects that Harry had never seen before. A large map of Europe covered a part of the wall behind the teacher’s desk. He could see clouds hovering over Scotland, rain in northern France and sun in southern Spain. A small burst of light erupted from a cloud in eastern Germany. Now that’s a map, Harry thought.
“I wonder why we needed to remember out numbers from the test,” said Ron. “You don’t think she is going to assign seats, do you?” Harry shrugged.
“You didn’t reply to my note,” drawled a familiar voice from the entrance. Harry turned around and saw Draco talking to Katarina as they entered the room. She looked rather annoyed.
“Leave me alone, Draco,” she hissed at him. He grabbed her arm and jerked her towards him. Whatever he was saying to her, she didn’t like. Her eyes narrowed and she wrenched herself from his grasp.
“Don’t efer talk to me again, you filthy excuse for a pureblood,” she seethed. She stormed to the other side of the room and gruffly dropped her bag onto the desk. Draco scowled and took a seat next to Theodore Nott. His narrowed eyes still directed at Katarina.
Harry exchanged looks with Ron and Hermione. “Well,” said Hermione, “what do you think of her now, Ron? She isn’t all buddy-buddy with Malfoy.”
“It doesn’t change one thing,” he said coldly and began to skim through is book. The rest of the class filled in. At precisely eight-thirty one of the bookshelves opened and Professor Amsel strode into the room.
The room instantly quieted. She no longer wore her traveling cloak and Harry was surprised at her choice of clothing. He had expected the same kind of bulky robes that the other professors wore. Instead, she wore a brown leather vest over a simple white blouse. Her brown trousers looked to be leather as well. The only real color she wore was a red scarf tied around her neck.
She placed a thick folder full of parchment on her desk and turned her startling dark violet eyes on the class.
“I was rather appalled at your test scores,” she began, her voice hard.
“Boy, she really just jumps into it, doesn’t she?” Ron whispered to Harry.
“Even taking into account the rather unfortunate fact that you have only had three competent Defense professors in the last six years, I had not expected such a shallow understanding of Defense theory.” It was so quiet in the classroom, you could have heard a pin drop. Her very presence—much like Snape and McGonagall—demanded a person’s total attention. Harry began to wonder if this woman could really have been his mother’s closest friend.
“This only means we have much to work on this year in the area of Defense theory,” she continued. “I only hope that your skill in the practical application of Defense magic far outstrips the theoretical.” The chalk board that sat just to the rear left of her rolled to the side and revealed a door. “To find out from where I need to begin, I have to asses your practical skills. The number you received at the finish of the written exam coincides with your place in line to take this test. Please line up accordingly.”
No one moved immediately, but soon the class quietly filled with the sound of shuffling bags and parchment and books being put away.
“What number are you, Harry?” Susan asked him.
“Twenty-three,” he answered.
“I’m twenty-one,” she said. “Do you know who got twenty?”
“I did,” Ron answered. It took a while to get the numbers straight. Much to Harry’s displeasure, Malfoy was number twenty-two.
Ernie stood behind him. Katarina was behind Ernie and Hermione stood last in line.
“I must warn you,” Professor Amsel began as soon as they finished lining themselves up. “While nothing in this test can kill you, you can be injured.” Harry heard Ernie gulp behind him. “There is nothing in this test that you can not handle. You are seventh years and NEWT students, so act like them.
“This is not a competition. Be smart about your decisions and work through the obstacles that cross your path. When you reach the end your belongings and written exam results will meet you at the exit. You may leave when you finish.” The door opened in front of Nott at the beginning of the line. “Time means nothing in this test. Do not linger after each obstacle, but do not rush through them either. Rash decisions and thoughtless actions can result in heavy repercussions.” She turned to Nott and whispered something to him. His expression remained blank and she waved him forward. The door shut behind him.
Harry grasped his wand tighter and thought back on his lessons with Professor Larken. Back at the end of the line, he heard Hermione speak to Katarina.
“I’m sorry about the other day. Ron was being a huge—”
“Don’t apologize for him,” she snapped quietly. “He vill treat me as he has been taught to.”
“Ron wasn’t taught to be rude to people. You don’t know him like I do.” Katarina turned around to face her. The Ring in Hermione’s vision briefly flashed gold then returned to its dull outline.
“And he doesn’t know me,” she replied simply. “He is a pureblood, Hermione.”
“Why would that matter?” Hermione asked slight confused. What the hell was it with all this pureblood stuff?
“It is hard to explain to someone who is not from an old vizarding family,” she stated.
“Okay,” said Hermione, unsure of what that was supposed to mean. “Then, if I can’t apologize for Ron, can I thank you for myself?” A small smile appeared on Katarina’s face. She nodded. “Thank you, Katarina. I owe you one.” Her smiled faded and was replaced by a sad frown.
“You owe me nothing, Hermione,” she whispered. “I only did vat any other person should do.”
“I would suggest that you concentrate on the test you are about to take,” said Professor Amsel, making both Katarina and Hermione jump. Neither of them had heard her approach. “You two might be the first in the class in theory, but that doesn’t mean this will be easy.” Katarina nodded and turned back around.
Professor Amsel’s eyes locked with Hermione’s and for a brief moment, the Ring became a very bright version of Amsel’s eyes. But it was gone as soon as it had came and Professor Amsel returned to her place at the front of the line.
Three minute intervals. The door had opened for each person every three minutes. Was there no thought to someone catching up with those ahead of them in line, Harry wondered. Malfoy’s turn was up next. The door opened, but just as he moved forward to enter, Professor Amsel stopped him.
“You even sneeze dark magic, Mr. Malfoy,” she hissed, “and you’ll wish you had stayed with your father.” She released her hold on his arm and Harry just caught the look of pure loathing he shot at her before trudging forward into the darkness that lay beyond the door.
He was next. All nervous thoughts of advanced spells and defensive techniques settled down as he pulled up his confidence. There was nothing that could kill him, nothing that she had put in this test that he couldn’t handle. The professor had said it herself.
He chanced a look at Amsel as her attention was diverted towards the closed door. Could she really be V from the notes? The woman who stood next to him was so cold and stern. He hadn’t even glimpsed a part of her that could be the caring, loyal girl he felt he had come to know.
The door creaked open. Harry gripped his wand a bit tighter and looked to the professor. She nodded to him and he entered the darkness.
Translation: Shulter--German for shoulder.
What do you think of Amsel? I know haven't seen much of her, but I'd love to know your first impressions. I hope you enjoyed the chapter. The next chapter is very full of action. *Eli*
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