The sun shimmered off the lake and the giant squid lazily fanned its tentacles over the water. It was spring time in her seventh year at Hogwarts and Hermione was soaking up the sunshine and memories. She was glad she let guilt take her over and decided to sign up for “Care for Magical Creatures” with Hagrid. She did not need the class. It would not help her in anyway with her future career in magical law; unless, of course, she was defending a misunderstood hippogriff. No, it was an easy “O” for her and filled up the time that Harry and Ron had quidditch practice.
As she meandered down the shore, toward the edge of the Forbidden Forest, she thought of the past year. It was less than a year ago that Dumbledore and Harry battled Voldemort, to his demise, in the Great Hall. It was an epic battle. The Order sprayed spells at the masked Death Eaters - some fell, some fled, some got captured. It was a shear miracle that only a few of the Order perished. Remus loss use of his right leg and Kingsley spent several months in St. Mungo’s after a particularly nasty Cruciatus. Fortunately for him, and the wizarding world, he fully recovered and took office as Minister of Magic. It was teamwork, friendship, and, yes, love that won the battle.
For Hermione, it was all a blur. She was happy she remembered very little of that night. Flashes of it colored some of her dreams and often hastened her awake. She remembered shooting a few very well aimed disarming spells at Death Eaters and some counter-jinxes that saved a few wizards. She even tied up Dolohov, effectively stopping him from cursing Professor McGonagall. After these dreams, she would roll over in bed and recite ancient runes until her heart stopped pounding.
She remembered being surprised at which students stayed to fight and those who did not. Pavarti fled, but Lavender stayed. She fought so hard that Hermione took back all the negative things she ever thought about her. Crabbe and Goyle stayed and fought. They were clumsy, but valiant - for Slytherins, at least. One person that was notably absent was Draco Malfoy. His father was captured in the fight and sent to Azkaban for life. But, through all the chaos and cursing, Draco was missing.
Hermione often thought about this. All those years of bragging about his pureblood status and hinting at serving the Dark Lord, he missed the biggest battle in all of wizarding history. In fact, Draco was rarely ever seen anymore in the castle. He was rather was a ghost of what he was. It did not make sense to Hermione, but as she approached the Forbidden Forrest, she banished it from her mind.
“Alright, yer all her’?” yelled Hagrid, “Right. Today we’ll be goin’ into the Forbidden Forest.” Hagrid gestured with his dustbin lid size hands to the ominous forest were creatures lurked that did not fancy 17 year old wizards and witches poking about.
“Already cleared it with Dumbledore. Yer be goin’ in pairs. I’ll pull yer names out of me hat. It’ll be your jobs to catch a nogtail. I set a bunch o’ ‘em loose in the forest this mornin’. Der difficult to catch, but as we been studying ‘em, yer all should have no trouble at all. Now, yer all have two hours to catch one and bring it back.”
Hermione looked at Hagrid as he passed out instructions and sighed. She thought about a comical television show she saw last holiday where a bunch of men tried to catch a pig in a muddy pen. If nogtails were anything like their non-magical cousins, she was in for a bumpy ride.
Pair-by-pair, her classmates wandered into the Forbidden Forest with looks of dread and resignation. There was only a few of them left. Luna stared dreamily toward the sky, probably searching for nargles. A few Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw students quietly chatted waiting for names to be called. Two Slytherins were there as well. A mousy-haired boy with pocked skin Hermione did not know and Draco Malfoy.
He stood there straightly with his hands tucked deeply into his robe’s pockets, unsmiling. He did not bother slicking his platinum blonde hair back anymore. Perhaps it was his new found apathy that allowed him to let his hair hang loosely around his highly defined cheekbones. Hermione thought this actually made him look more approachable, and it would have too, if not for the look in his cold, steel colored eyes. His eyes were like steel nowadays. Before the final battle they were often stormy with angst or reminded her of mercury rising when he got angry or haughty. Now they shielded any emotion or mood he was in. That is, if he even felt anything anymore.
As Hermione was about to revisit her reverie again about Draco’s mysterious absence from the battle and his sudden change in personality when a voice rung out,