“Attention please!” Professor Minerva McGonagall shouted from the head of the Great Hall. She had called a meeting of all the sixth years on the very last day of classes at Hogwarts. They were chatting loudly and carrying on nonsense, as seventeen year olds do.
“Why the bloody helll are we here anyway?” Ron mumbled from the left of Hermione.
“McGonagall told us she has something very important to share.” Hermione reminded her ginger friend, giving him a knowing look.
Harry scratched the skin by his scar. “Whatever keeps me away from the Dursley’s a few extra minutes is fine with me.”
“I have life changing news for you all!” McGonagall was saying from the front of the enormous Hall. With a flick of her wrist, a piece of parchment appeared in front of every student.
“‘The Witches & Wizards Protection Program’?” Draco read aloud from his seat at the Slytherin table.
“A lot has happened this year,” Minerva continued from her place. She looked across the Hall at the faces of her sixth year students. “We lost the greatest wizard of all time. The darkest foe among us is growing. You are about to enter your last year of schooling at Hogwarts.”
The students’ faces showed mixed looks of melancholy and elation.
"And now there is one more thing you must participate in before leaving Hogwarts for good.” McGonagall had a small smile on her face. “Today I will introduce to you the ‘The Witches & Wizards Protection Program’. Most of you are seventeen, an age that has hopefully created you to be a very mature adult who can handle this!”
“Most of us,” Draco grunted.
“I designed this program for your safety. There is a lingering fear about your safety among us professors, centered on You-Know-Who. After seeing you every day for almost seven years, we want to make sure you are safe after your time at Hogwarts is up,” McGonagall gave them all a sincere smile. “During the summers, Hogwarts students are not permitted to use magic. This summer however you are allowed to. In the ‘The Witches & Wizards Protection Program’ you and a classmate will be sent to a distant location for the entire summer.”
For a few seconds, there was a deafening silence. Then the Great Hall erupted. Some students stood up, a few began to cry, and most were angrily shouting to their friends their disapproval.
“’Ay McGoo, you can't take my summer away!” Seamus Finnegan cried from his seat.
“Why would I want to spend three months with anyone from this bloody school?” Draco yelled, standing up.
“McGonagall you can't, I have a fashion internship at Broomsticks this summer!” Parvati Patil shouted.
“Students, silence your selves at once!” McGonagall hollered. “This is for your protection! We can't risk your safety! ‘He’ is on the rise, and before your last year at Hogwarts, you must be kept in unknown locations so that you may return to this school safely. Without this program, you all would have spent summer in predictable locations doing who knows what.” Then her voice dropped. “We care about you.”
Hermione set her lips in a straight line. McGonagall had a point.
“May I reveal the partners now?” The professor suddenly held a very long scroll in her hands. “Locations have been chosen for their distance from the school and opportunity for cultural absorption. Partners have been chosen by matching you with someone you wouldn’t normally be spending time with.”
McGonagall cleared her throat.
“When I call your name in a pair, please come to the front of the class to receive more information on your location. All students will have this afternoon to pack, and will apperate hopefully by the evening. Are you all ready?” McGonagall pushed her glasses further on the bridge of her nose. “I will call several couples at a time so that you can all have opportune time to collect your belongings. First three pairings — Dean Thomas and Susan Bones; Neville Longbottom and Hannah Abbott; Harry Potter and Pansy Parkinson.”
Hermione’s jaw dropped when she heard Harry’s name. He swallowed, looking at Hermione. “I guess I won't see you both for a while,” Harry said hurriedly, rising from his seat.
“Harry, this isn’t goodbye,” Hermione said, smiling at her best friend.
“I’ll miss you, bloke.” Ron gave half a grin to Harry. Potter nodded and walked away.
“Next three couples — Blaise Zabini and Luna Lovegood; Ronald Weasley and Millicent Bullstrode; Ernie Macmillan and Daphne Greengrass.”
Draco laughed. His best friend Blaise was seated right next to him, and deflated when his name was called.
“You're an arse, Draco.” Blaise grinned at him and walked away. Draco watched him before turning his attention to the Gryffindor table. Weasley had just been paired with a nightmarish Slytherin, and Hermione was hugging him goodbye. Draco sneered at the scene. How disgusting, a blood traitor with a mudblood.
“Next three couples — Anthony Goldstein and Padma Patil; Seamus Finnegan and Parvati Patil; Draco Malfoy and Hermione Granger.”
Hermione froze and grimaced. Was her name just called with Draco? She dared a glance over her shoulder. He was making the same face, staring right at her. Hermione whipped her head around and stood up quickly, walking up to McGonagall.
“With Draco Malfoy?” Parvati caught up to her as they approached their professor. “Sorry to hear about that, Hermione.”
Hermione tried not to scowl. She and Draco reached for a piece of parchment that had their names on it. Draco touched her hand and immediately withdrew it. Hermione glared at him again. His slate eyes flashed angrily. She took the parchment and walked into a nearby corridor.
Draco took his parchment and read from it, following Hermione. “Bloody helll, we’re going to the States?”
Hermione was skimming the paper. “Looks like the two of us are off to California.”
“Napa Valley,” Draco read the name of the city. “Sound so bloody muggle-ish.”
“Don’t be so assumptions, Malfoy.” Hermione glared. “That’s where North Martin is.”
“I won't even ask what that is,” Draco rolled his eyes, “because I have a feeling you'll tell me anyway.
“North Martin is ‘the Hogwarts’ for witches and wizards living on the West coast of the United States,” Hermione raised her chin slightly as she spoke. “Susanna North Martin is the namesake of the school. During the Salem witch trials she — hey!”
Draco had stomped off down the hallway.
Hermione dragged her trunk behind her as she walked to the Great Hall with Ron and Harry. “Where are you two headed?” She asked her two best friends.
“Ithaca, New York, in the United States.” Ron told them, making a face. “I heard that it’s bloody cold there.”
“Pansy and I are going to Bismarck, North Dakota, U.S.,” Harry said. “And I'm pretty sure Hogwarts has more occupants than the population of North Dakota.”
Hermione laughed at her friends as they entered the Hall. Draco saw Hermione walk in as McGonagall approached him. “Mr. Malfoy, here is the portkey for you and Miss Granger.” She placed a cork on the table next to Draco.
“Granger, c’mon.” Draco called impatiently to Hermione. She separated from her friends and joined him. “Here’s the portkey.”
“Okay,” Hermione said, eyeing the unusual device.
“Let's just get this rubbish over with,” Draco muttered.
They landed with a thump on a cold cellar floor. Hermione groaned, pushing herself up slowly. She sat on the gourd, rubbing a sore spot on the back of her head when her eyes adjusted. There was one window in the cellar, sending light through shelves of bottles. The light filtered through the glass bottles, making a violet glow on the floor.
“Is that all wine?” Draco asked, dumbfounded as he rose unsteadily to his feet and moved towards the shelves. Each held seven rows, five bottles of wine in each. Turning around slowly, Draco saw the cellar was crammed with almost twenty shelves.
“Hey there!” A voice suddenly called from a staircase in the corner of the cellar. Surprised, Hermione jumped up and drew her wand, standing in front of Draco.
“Thanks for your protection, Granger but I—” Draco stepped out from behind her “—think I can defend myself.” Hermione failed to reply.
The speaker came down the stairs. She looked about eighteen. Her dirty blonde hair was kept back in two tousled braids on either side of her suntanned face. Her wand stuck out of a pocket of her distressed denim shorts. “My name is Harlow Lafayette. Welcome to the Lafayette Winery!” Harlow smiled at them.
Draco was struck by the girl’s mauve eyes and American accent. He finally managed to introduce himself. “Draco Malfoy,” he held out a hand.
“Hermione Granger.” Hermione gave Harlow a smile and a handshake after Draco. She felt something strange on Harlow’s palm.
“I know your names. You both speak very charming-like,” Harlow winked at them. “Wanna come upstairs? It’s almost midnight, so I’ll give you a tour of the estate tomorrow. You can see your bedroom tonight.” She tramped up the stairs.
Hermione took the portkey, her wand, and her trunk up the stairs after Harlow. The blonde took Hermione and Draco through a beautiful, large kitchen and walked through a door to the outside. Then a smaller house came into view.
“That’s where you’ll be staying,” Harlow pointed to the small two story structure. “There’s a bedroom, bathroom, small kitchen, and a common room. But for most of the time you’ll be with me in the house, or in the fields!” She grinned at the astonished pair.
For a second, no one spoke. “Alrighty then! You two have a good night, you hear?” Harlow waved and walked backwards towards the big house. “See you in the morning!”
Hermione and Draco stood frozen, staring at the house.
“Did she say one bedroom?” Hermione gawked.
“Did she say fields?” Draco moaned.
The pair carried their suitcases and entered the house. Hermione flicked the light switch. Nothing. She carefully stepped through the first room, which, in the darkness of night, seemed to be the kitchen. Hermione peeked through an adjacent door and saw a quaint living room.
Draco followed Hermione up the stairs and down a hall to the bedroom. It wasn’t very large. A single oversized bed lay against the right wall. On the left side were a closet and a set of drawers. A mirror rested against the back wall next to a Bay style window.
Hermione dropped her trunk on the floor with a thud. Exhausted, she collapsed on the bed. Draco set his suitcase against the foot of the bed. “I guess we go to bed now?” He asked.
“I guess,” Hermione rolled off the bed. “I’m going into the bathroom to change. You stay in here.” She rummaged around in her trunk and left.
Draco pulled on a white T shirt and loose shorts. He walked over to the grand window and opened it, letting the warm night breeze wash over his face.
Hermione walked back inside the bedroom. She saw Draco by the window, the moon illuminating his silhouette. Pulling up the sheets, Hermione slid into bed. Draco approached the bed and yanked the comforter off the bed. He dragged it onto the floor and tossed a pillow down too.
“I'm sleeping on the floor,” Draco announced. He settled himself and closed his eyes.
Hermione was too exhausted to reply. She lowered her head onto the pillow, curling herself up to sleep.