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Chapter 7 : Graduation
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"Are you ready for graduation, Shadowhunter Hawthorne?"
Had anyone else asked me that, I would have replied with a cheeky answer. However, it was my superior, Shadowhunter Madrid, asking me that, so I replied with a respectful, "Not at all, sir."
His booming laugh caught me off guard as we walked through the Shadowhunter Hall of Leaguer Academy. Apparently, Shadowhunter Hall was where the Shadowhunters stayed while in Leaguer Academy. The thing about vampires is they're never original. They always have to be so uncreative.
"Ah, you should look forward to this. Not many can say they have gone to a vampire graduation and survived it." he said, patting me on the back. Gritting my teeth, I replied with a tight, "Yes, well, at least those that are unable to say it also cannot say that they have babysat a vampire for a solid year."
"Now, Shadowhunter Hawthorne, you should be honored. Not only are you contributing to Shadowhunter Society," here he lowered his voice considerably, "but you're also working on a case many would kill to have."
I looked at the man, trying to hide my frustration. I honestly had no idea how the guy had become a well-respected Shadowhunter. Not only was he quite large and a little too jolly, but he also never took anything seriously.
"Shadowhunter Madrid," I began, struggling to keep my voice smooth, "I have enjoyed speaking to you, but if you'll excuse me, I need to find the little Shadowhunter's room."
Before he could say another word, I'd turned the corner and walked away in a brisk manner. He and every other Shadowhunter stationed here had ambushed me with questions concerning my case last night, not understanding the meaning of 'Top Secret.' Honestly, I wanted to hit the whole lot of them, but they were older than me and Shadowhunters are firm in the whole 'respect your elders,' concept.
Fifteen minutes later, I was completely lost.
I searched the many halls, looking for some kind of map that could direct me back to my room, until the most terrifying sound that could rip through the air in a school full of vampires halted me in my tracks; a bell.
Instantly, the vampire students poured out of the doors that were scattered throughout the hall, all of them dressed for school even though it was seven in the evening. Damn their nighttime schedules.
None of them noticed me as I fought my way through the crowd, trying to get away from the chattering bloodsuckers. It was like Hogwarts all over again, except these students drank blood. And my body happened to be full of it.
"-honestly, Cece, you'd think we were graduating from a university or something," her voice, twisted and mutated from the rough bookworm I'd spent my years tormenting to an immortal beauty, broke through the blurred talking of every other vampire trying to get down the hallway. And, of course, I walked right into the new and improved Granger.
"I'm sor-" her apology was cut short as she looked me full in the face. I stared for half a second, seeing the confusion take place, and turned and pushed my way through the immortal adolescents, throwing over my shoulder, "You're forgiven."
So, I wasn't concerned with her realizing who I was. Well, yeah, I looked similar to how I had last year, but there were some distinct differences. For one, my jaw had gained that strong, firm look about it. Also, I'd gotten much more buffer and now had bulging muscles.
Ok, that last part was a lie, but I really wasn't worried about it. She only saw me for a second and, besides, it had been a whole summer since she'd seen me last. She couldn't just realize who I was by that, could she?
I knew him. I knew that I knew him. He knew that I knew that I knew him. I just couldn't pinpoint where I knew him from. I mean, obviously I'd seen him before, but it had been when I was human, and my eyesight hadn't been what it was now. My human memories were muffled, like I was trying to remember something I'd seen through a screen door from far away.
I could probably see Harry and Ron walking down the street and not know who they were because I couldn't remember. I knew that Harry had jet black hair, bright green eyes, and, of course the lightning bolt scar, and I knew that Ron had blue eyes and red hair; I just couldn't remember what they looked like.
And I could not remember who this guy was and it was driving me insane.
"I bet he's Hawthorne," I grumbled, taking my seat in Vampire Sociology. Cece took her regular chair beside me and laughed. I'd already filled her in on the conversation in the hall and my idea of who the he was.
"Just stop talking about it," she said lightly, straightening her 'IMRU?' T-shirt nervously. I may have sat in the front of the class to learn, but Cece sat in the front only because, A.) I sat there, and B.) she thought Professor Peacock was extremely attractive.
"Cece, you've been trying to get her attention forever," I said with an amused laugh, leaning back in my chair. "And I don't think your lesbian T-shirts are particularly catching her eye."
"Hush," she hissed, smiling and displaying her fangs as Professor Peacock herself walked through the door of the classroom. The loud conversations that had been going on stopped completely as she took her spot at the front of the room, smiling around at us.
Professor Peacock had raven black hair that fell to her waist in large curls that she usually just wore down with her many sundresses that complimented her pale skin in a wonderful way. Her bloodred lips were almost always in some sort of smile, whether it be a sarcastic smirk or a big grin, like the one she wore today. Apparently, Cece wasn't the only one that fancied Professor Peacock. I swear, several of the desks in the room were suffering from the horror of hormonal vampiric drool from the many males in the classroom as well.
"Hey losers," she began in her upbeat voice, "I have taught you all that I can about Vampire Sociology. Now, I tell you news that you're going to hate."
She paused, waiting for an interruption, before continuing when none came.
"I have told you of the Clave, the group of Shadowhunters that make the laws for Downworld, yes? Well, it has long since been the Clave and Vampiric Law that all fledgelings be closely monitored by a Shadowhunter for a year after they graduate from Leaguer Academy-"
At this, many of the other students let out a chorus of outraged "What?" and "No."
"-and for good reason," Professor Peacock raised her voice at the end over the many protests. I sat there, keeping my face impassive, as my mind flitted to Shadowhunter Hawthorne. So Cece and I weren't the only ones that were to be stalked.
"You are dangerous. When you're released into civilization, you will begin to really feel bloodlust. When you are let out into the human population, you will thirst for the fresh blood that beats through their hearts, through their veins,"
I heard the truth in her words, felt the truth in my fangs. There was no way I'd be around the students in Hogwarts and not want to drink their blood.
"Some of you have experienced it, have even turned your back on your nature," I swear her eyes went to Cece, "But, being your age, you're not old enough to completely keep yourself from taking the blood that you need. So, you'll spend a year as a fledgeling in civilization being watched by a Shadowhunter. Simple."
No one spoke when she ended with that single word. Too many of us were fuming, while the rest of us (meaning Cece and me) sat there, reserved. We already knew this was coming.
"And I have a list of who your Shadowhunters will be, if you would like to see them...?" she let the question hang there, looking around expectantly at us. The class stared back at her before, one by one, standing to go see the list.
"Jeene, you will be assigned to Shadowhunter Herondale. Gale, you to Leerik. Blain, you to Allen..." I tuned out the endless pairings and stared out into space, completely in the clouds. I knew that the guy I saw earlier was Shadowhunter Hawthorne; I felt it.
"-Granger, you to Hawthorne. Peterson, you to Epans," she concluded, looking up at us from the sheet of paper.
"Epans is such a weird name," Cece muttered, twirling a lock of her hair as she stared dreamily at Professor Peacock. I snorted and stood as the bell rang for our next class.
"We graduate today," I whispered, more to myself than Cece. It had been like I'd been living another life here at Leaguer Academy, which, ironically enough, I was. I wasn't the Hermione Granger that Hogwarts remembered. I wasn't the Hermione Granger that Hogwarts knew. I was the Hermione Granger, Daywalker graduating from Leaguer Academy.
"If you'll excuse me, Hermione, there is a really lovely girl that has been making googly eyes at me for weeks that I need to, ah, say goodbye to," Cece said absentmindedly as she walked over to a brunette that was smiling shyly to her.
"But what about your girlfrien-" I began to ask, but stopped, shuddering. Cece was one of my best friends, but, just like with Harry and Ron, I did not want to hear about or see her snogging a girl.
"Relax, Hawthorne. She won't realize who you are," Allex Styx, my best friend since birth, muttered for the thousandth time. Of course, that's because I'd griped about Granger knowing who I am a thousand times to match. "Besides, who cares if she does?"
That stopped my irritated pacing. We were in our room that we were sharing in the Academy, him laying out on his bed and me walking back and forth in front of my own. I wore my usual black Shadowhunter gear, ready for anything. He wore a button up shirt and black trousers, ready for partying. Oh, how different we were.
"What do you mean, who cares? I care," I snapped, resuming my pacing. He snickered and sat up, smoothing down his inky black hair over his tan face before flipping it to the side. I threw one of the knives off of my belt at him, which he plucked out of the air with lazy ease.
"Of course you care. You're a little pansy," and with that, he flung the knife right back at me. I dodged it and snorted as it embedded itself in the wall behind me.
"You're paying for that."
"You threw it."
"You didn't catch it."
"Shut up," I retorted, pulling the blade out of the wall. It left a small slit in it, barely an inch long. "Seems your knife was a little small."
"Ah, but young Hawthorne, that tiny prick came from you," he said in a grand, booming voice, trying to imitate Shadowhunter Madrid. He did a pretty good job at it.
"Trust me, mine would've been much, much bigger. This must have been yours," I tossed the knife onto his bed and fell down on mine and stared around at the bare room. Sure, I'd supposedly grown up in warlock wealth, but I still missed the other Shadowhunters. Thankfully, Styx had seen past my having spent the last six years with the Downworlders and actually respected me for keeping to the job.
"So, are you ready to get stuck with a bloodsucker for the next year?" he asked casually, glancing over me out of the corner of his eye. I sighed and said, "It won't be any different than it was last year. I'm not sure if the Clave will even allow me to tell Granger about the case. I'm not even sure if she'll know about me tailing her. Do the fledgelings know they'll be watched for a year?" my voice sounded almost hopeful. I did not want my cover blown.
"Aye, you'll be publicly 'paired' at the graduation ceremony," Styx answered gravely. I groaned and stood up off my bed. The ceremony started in two hours, just before midnight. Why I had to attend, I had no idea. I personally thought this graduation was stupid. Who wanted to celebrate hundreds of baby bloodsuckers being released onto the unsuspecting humane population? I certainly didn't.
"Look, Hawthorne, I know you've got your knickers in a twist and all over Granger, but I think you should know a bit of extremely important information before you walk out that door," Styx said, smirking as I put my hand on the doorhandle.
"And that would be?"
"Your fly's undone."
"Andrew Albert," the voice yelled out, making me swallow nervously. This was it. This was what I'd been here for all along. To get out. To prove that Hermione Granger Daywalker was worthy of her title as a vampire and witch. The whole point of this summer program was to prepare me for my immortal life. And, boy was I prepared.
I stood on the large stage with the other graduate students, watching as Andrew Albert stepped out of our line. Our task to graduate was simple. All we had to do was successfully shift into one animal and make it through the obstacle course and to the other side, where the Shadowhunter that would watch us for a year stood with our diplomas. Simple.
Andrew Albert stood at the edge of the course, which was roughly the size of a football field, and assessed his strategy. According to one of our professors, the course changed throughout the ceremony, testing us; and we were all on display for vampires and Shadowhunters alike, who sat in stands, surrounding the stadium. Simple.
I zoned out as Albert flung himself off of the stage and shifted into a grey fox, making those in the stands clap. What would the course morph into for me? Would it be a grassland like Albert's? Or a mass of water? Would I be able to get across mine? Would the crowd clap for me like they did for Albert?
A loud gasp from the crowd brought me back to the present and I looked down at the course, searching for what had startled the onlookers. A grizzly bear. I snorted, looking at the bear. Was this what awaited me during my course?
"I don't think that's a regular bear," Cece murmured, frowning. I looked closer and saw, to my horror, the silver claws and teeth on the bear, saw how it's fur was just a little too sharply pointed. Even over the yelling of the crowd, I could hear the rustling of its metallic body as it moved. No regular bear, indeed.
"Is it a robot?" a girl to my left squeaked, covering her mouth with her hands. I winced as the bear shot its paw out and threw Albert to the side like a rag doll.
"No," I said grimly. "It's a Steelyx Bear."
According to Hogwarts books, Steelyx Animals were incredibly rare, but for only one reason; they were unable to have children. Steelyx Bears were average bears that found their ways into magical mines. The metals that were left behind infused themselves in the bears and changed their entire beings, turning their bodies metallic and virtually indestructable. It seemed Albert's choice as a grey fox was a bad one. I gritted my teeth as the bear flung him once more with an angry roar.
A scream of outrage came from the crowd as the bear grabbed Albert with its mouth, ready to finish its job. I yelled with the crowd, completely freaking out. And then it happened.
The bear screamed in agony, dropping Albert like he was on fire. My mouth fell open as I saw Albert's fur standing on edge, turning stiff and shiny. He'd shifted into a Steelyx Grey Fox. I covered my ears with my hands as the audience screamed once more, this time in elation, as Albert jumped onto the bear's shoulder, much to its annoyance, and pushed off, making a mad dash towards the end of the course. I yelled with everyone else as the bear ran after him, and even broke my shout off into a squeal as more bears formed magically out of the ground, all headed for Albert.
"Go, Go, Andrew! Go, Go, Andrew! GO, GO, ANDREW!" the crowd began to chant, clapping as they did so. I crossed my fingers and chanted as well. He just had to make it.
And I screamed in triumph with everyone else when he leaped from the ground and onto the stage where a Shadowhunter stood with a rolled up sheet of paper. He did it. He'd passed. I smiled as he shifted back into his vampire form, covered in a black, spandex-y jumpsuit type thing. Very recently, we had been introduced to the epidex, which was the jumpsuit thing that was like a second skin over your body that you wore under your clothes. It was the only clothing that shifted with us, laying under our skin instead of above it when we were other beings. And it also went right back to being over our bodies when we shifted back. So, no more naked vampires. Woot, woot.
The sound was deafening as Andrew Albert recieved his diploma from the Shadowhunter and punched the air. He was now a graduated Leaguer.
After the crowd had quieted down, if somewhat, the magnified voice rang out once more.
My stomach dropped. They weren't going in alphabetical order.
Just like the Cece I knew, the crazy girl broke out in a confident sprint and, without hesitating, threw herself off of the stage with an elated shriek that quickly changed into that of a bald eagle. She soared over the course, her large yellow eyes gleaming, as it quickly morphed from grassland to safari desert to prepare for it's next graduate. I was confused.
Cece could fly. Cece was flying. She was going to make it to the end of the course in a matter of seconds-
And, of course, the roar of something very non-eagle-ish got the crowd to screaming again. A dragon. Cece had to face a bloody dragon as a bird.
The huge reptilian thing was an acid green, nearly the size of a house. Torn wings flapped warningly as Cece flew nearer; bloodred eyes refused to leave the golden ones. Both were transfixed with each other as the ground opened up to let the rest of the dragon out.
I swallowed and yelled as loud as I could as the great scaly beast pulled itself out of the ground and stood between Cece and the other stage. I could see the calculating look in its eyes as it watched her circle back around the stadium, looking for an opening.
"Go Cece!" I shouted, punching the air as I had seen Albert do at the end of his course. My classmates followed suit, striking the air and screaming, "Cece! Cece! CECE!"
And she dived. Everything went silent. The dragon opened its jaws and released a long tongue of flame, headed right to the small eagle that had its wings folded to its body. I saw it all in slow motion. The fire flaring towards her, giving the white feathers on her head an orange tint, the way she lowered her head as she went down, her eyes closing as she braced herself-
And her small body fly under the dragon's wing and soar up as she threw her wings open at the last second, unscathed. She was like a bullet, speeding to the stage-except she tumbled and rolled as she landed at a Shadowhunter's feet. I laughed in relief when the dragon dissolved into nothing and Cece stood up, no longer a bird, and grinned triumphantly at the stadium. The crowd went crazy.
With my vampire vision, I saw the Shadowhunter give her the diploma and whisper something in her ear. Whatever it was, she shrugged indifferently and walked off of the stage, not even glancing back. I stared at the Shadowhunter, trying to remember if I knew them. They didn't look the slightest bit familiar-
"Hermione Granger!" the voice yelled out, making my stomach turn cold. This was it. This was what I'd been waiting for. I trembled as I walked to the edge of the stage, whispering to myself to calm my nerves. It took me half a second to decide what form to take. I closed my eyes and fell, smiling as the air rushed through my hair.
I landed in the course on four feet, warmly welcoming the mind of my familiar black panther. We took a second to take in our surroundings; we liked what we saw.
We stood in a rainforest, a jungle if you will, with the sounds of a thousand bugs and small birds playing music to our ears, covering that of the shrieking crowd around us. The smell of wet plants filled our nose, making it twitch. Large trees rose high above us, covered in leaves as large as dinner plates. We immediately sprang to action, leaping onto one of the trees and climbing our way up, using our claws. Once on a high branch, we made a mistake and glanced down. What we saw made us hiss.
The branches below us, everything plantlike really, was clear. I mean, we could still see the outline of the plant life, but it was totally transparent. We glanced up at the other branches covering us wearily, aware of the thousands of eyes watching us through the one-sided-clear trees. We shivered once and set off across the branch quickly. We wanted to be through with this.
We jumped from tree to tree, trying to move as a shadow would, and only paused once. It was halfway across the stadium, and we were beginning to become paranoid. That is, until we landed on a tree that made us stop. It didn't have the wet plant scent. It didn't have any leaves on it. And it was pulsing - no - it was breathing. We dug our claws into it experimentally. The effect was instantaneous.
A branch swung and hit us in the stomach, sending us flying out of the tree. Our body hit the ground hard. We felt the bone in our shoulder crack and winced as we stood up. A hiss escaped our mouth as the bone healed itself. This was no ordinary tree. This was a Whomping Willow.
My third year of Hogwarts came to mind, and our eyes scanned the trunk of the shaking tree looking for it - the knot on it that would paralyze it while we were around it.
We slunk around the trunk, trying to ease past the tree altogether, and let out a shriek of pain as something hit us from the right. Another damn Whomping Willow. We growled and looked past both of the trees, and nearly collapsed from the shock. The entire other half of the course was full of Whomping Willows, each one swaying slightly in a nonexistent breeze. Our tail whipped angrily as we assessed our situation.
We couldn't walk past the trees-they would murder us. We couldn't run up and touch the knot on every singly one of their knots-they would destroy us. We couldn't-
We couldn't finish our list of the things we couldnt do because, at the moment, both Whomping Willows that had attacked us lurched toward us in a motion to smash us flat. Both Whomping Willows collided as they tried to kill us and smashed those branches into thousands of pieces. We watched, entranced, as both Willows began hitting the other, totally destroying themselves. That was when we got The Plan.
In a flash, we jumped on the Whomping Willow closest to us and let out a scream of elation as it jerked to the left, sending us flying into another Willow. That one didn't take to kindly to our claws digging into it either, and tried to kill us by flinging us off. However, in mid-fling, it ended up hitting another Whomping Willow. And so The Plan began.
Within minutes, the Willows we'd been on were whomping each other to broken bits, and every one we landed on tried to throw us off, accidentally hitting the one next to it, and so on. We were well on our way to the end of the stadium. Sure, we had our share of cuts and bruises that were continuously healing, but still. We were only about ten yards from the stage.
Apparently, the course noticed that as well.
As we landed on a Willow, it dissolved into the air, dropping us onto the ground and putting an end to The Plan. We were in the danger zone; the Willows could now whomp us all they wanted to without hitting each other.
We tucked and rolled as a branch the size of a Burmese Python was slung down onto the spot where we had just been standing, sending rocks flying everywhere, pelting our furry hide. Before we could breathe, a small, thin branch had slapped us across our cheek, splitting the skin. Our face was hot and wet where the blood leaked out onto the fur. Anger of something I'd never felt before coursed through our body, driving us toward the Willow that had hit us. We dodged branches and trunks, flinging ourself onto the Willow, and dug our claws in as deep as we could.
The Whomping Willow screeched and threw us off of it. We soared through the air slowly, twisting and writhing as we did so. Our eyes met those of thousands of vampires and Shadowhunters, all with their mouths open releasing incoherent screams, as we began our descent.
A jerky "Hoof!" escaped us when we landed on a wooden surface, one that was not moving. We blinked and stood to the sound of deafening roars. It took us a moment to realize that we had done it. We had beat the course.
I thanked the panther and began to shift back to myself. A gasp broke through my lips as I stood up straight, popping joints back into place. Wordless cheers were coming from everywhere, and multiplied by a thousand times as I smiled shyly at the brightly lit crowd. My epidex clung to my body faithfully, hiding away a would-be-nudity-scene, thank goodness.
"Well done, Granger," a cold voice drawled from behind me. I froze. I knew that voice. I knew that arrogant, snide voice. That voice that could go from frosty to seductive in an instant. That voice that could melt from oily to honey in a moment's notice.
I turned to see him, the guy I had run into in the hallway, standing there with my diploma in his hand. His platinum blond hair, hanging loose over his stormy grey eyes. His signature smirk quirking up his lips as he looked into my eyes. I put the pieces together, his hair, his eyes, his smirk, and his voice. I knew him.
"Shadowhunter Hawthorne, at your service, Ms. Granger," he said coolly, holding out the diploma. I took one look at it, then back up to him, and said the first thing that came to my mind.
Hey Readers! I hope you liked this chapter because it really was fun thinking up the graduation scene and, even more so, writing it! So, tell me, what do you think of that last tidbit? I'd enjoy y'all's thoughts on that subject. Ooh, and also, who do you think Shadowhunter Epans is? Come on, guys, it's super obvious, right? :3
<3 Welchie <3
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