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Chapter 4 : Unexpected Project
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“Hullo Hermione!” He said smiling “How’ve yeh been?”
“I’ve been all right” Hermione said. The words tasted wrong on her tongue.
Hagrid raised his eyebrows “No yeh haven’t” he said with kindness and sincerity in his voice “Yeh’re different Hermione, I can tell” he looked sad “An’ it’s no wonder why yeh are! Yeh’ve been through so much! Yeh’re strong but yeh wouldn’ be human if yeh hadn’ changed through this. So tell me Hermione, what’s wrong?”
Hermione’s bottom lip quivered, she considered assuring Hagrid she was fine, but it was so hard to lie to him and he could see right through her. Finally she decided she needed to talk to someone.
“I’m not fine Hagrid!” she cried “It’s only been three months and the entire world seems to forgotten what has happened! Everyone is so happy that Voldemort’s dead that they don’t remember all we lost for it! Everyone is treating me like I’m famous just because I was with Harry Potter on his quest to destroy Voldemort. But I can’t even think straight anymore! I can’t go one minute without thinking about all that happened during the battle, or when I was on the run with Harry and Ron! I still have nightmares! I still scream in my sleep! And the two people I thought I could talk to might as well not be there! Harry won’t talk to anybody! He just sits by himself and stares off into space with a painful look on his face, and Ron! I thought after the war we could finally be together but no! Because of the stupid war we could barely even look at each other without being reminded of all those horrible memories. I thought I was in love but I guess not! So I decide to come back to Hogwarts and no one understands why I’m here and I have to go through it all pretending that I’m fine! I can’t take this, Hagrid, I just can’t!” Hermione let out a breath and began to sob. All the emotions she had been holding back poured out of her.
Hagrid put a large arm around her shoulder “There, There Hermione” he said soothingly “I know it’s hard but yeh got ter stay strong! Everyone treats yeh like yeh’re famous ‘cause yeh are Hermione! Yeh’re a hero ter them! Yeh helped stopped the darkest wizard o’ all time! They look up ter yeh! Yeh’ll never forget what happened durin’ the war but that’s not always a bad thing. The memories will fade a bit o’er time so some o’ the sadness will too but yeh should always remember! Just give it some time, Hermione! Like yeh said it’s only been three months. And I think yeh should give Harry and Ron some time too. They went through a lot too and though yeh and Ron may never love each other the way yeh hoped I’m sure that yeh three will become close again! After all yeh went through—sure right now it’s keepin’ yeh apart, but in time it’ll bring yeh back together.” Hagrid gave Hermione a one armed squeeze before walking over to the kettle, which was whistling loudly. He poured himself and Hermione a large cup of tea.
“Thank You” Hermione managed to whisper as Hagrid set the cup in front of her. She took a long sip. “Thank You Hagrid, for everything” She put her arms around him and gave him a big hug.
“Yeh’re welcome Hermione. And don’ worry, everythin’ will sort itself out right in the end, yeh just wait and see” Hagrid hugged her back “now finish yeh’re tea and get goin’ class’ll be startin’ soon and yeh don’ want ter be late!”
Hermione finished her last bit of tea and thanked Hagrid before walking back up to the castle. She pulled out the schedule she had been given and checked her first class. It appeared that her first class was Defense Against the Dark Arts with the rest of the “eighth years” but Hermione was surprised that it was her only class for the entire day. The entire week! She noticed. What on earth is going on? She wondered. She put her schedule away and headed for the Great Hall. By the time she got there, breakfast was almost over and Hermione had only enough time to grab a blueberry muffin before she raced to her first, and only, class.
Hermione was the last to arrive and took a seat next to Neville, who gave her a warm smile.
“Do you have any classes after this?” he whispered to Hermione.
“No! I don’t! What do you think is going on?” she replied.
“I have no—“ Neville was cut off as the tall figure of the new Professor Noires walked in.
“Welcome!” He said as he reached the front and turned to face the class. “As you all know my name is Professor Noires and I am the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor!” He paused as smile lit up his face, “As Professor McGonagall has already mentioned, something new will be taking place this year just for you twenty. You are probably all wondering why the only class you seem to have scheduled is this one” he motioned around the room for effect “No, no it is not an error, because for the next few months you are all going to be participating in a project of sorts that was inspired by one of your classmates along with two of your former classmates” Hermione’s face went red. Oh please don’t be talking about me! Please don’t be talking about me! She silently pleaded.
“I am talking of course about Ms. Hermione Granger…” BLOODY HELL! “along with Mr. Harry Potter and Mr. Ron Weasley” Hermione heard Malfoy sniggering along with Pansy and Blaise. Professor Noires continued. “Most of us know about the year they spent on the run searching and destroying Voldemort’s Horcruxes” despite their secrecy while they were on the run, Harry, Ron, and Hermione had divulged, in depth, about their search for Horcruxes after the death of Voldemort, “They were forced to learn fast and defend themselves against the dark forces that sought to destroy them. This is the perfect example of what school tries to prepare you for!” Professor Noires had escalated to almost shouting “Which is why it is the perfect practical project for you to participate in. Over the last seven years, you all have developed a set of skills which need to be put to the test! Therefore I am going to pair you up and send you on your own search for ‘Horcruxes’. It will be quite similar to what that fateful trio faced on the real search, although you will be somewhat prepared for what lies ahead.” His eyes scanned the classroom. Many people were in shock. Was he serious? Were they really going to have to go on a hunt for imaginary Horcruxes?
“You will have the next little while to prepare yourselves. You must be ready to leave at a moment’s notice. For once the ‘signal’ I guess you could call it is given, you must leave or risk being captured, which for you would result in a failing grade.” He took an excited breath “After that you will be ‘on the run’ from dark forces while also searching for my ‘Horcruxes’ which will be scattered around the country. You will only have basic clues to guide you to their whereabouts. Once you find a ‘Horcrux’ you must find a tool that is able to destroy it. A list of those tools will be provided. The ‘Horcruxes’ will be charmed so that only the listed items will show any physical impact on the ‘Horcrux’. You can also consider this project to be like a competition. The team who brings me all six destroyed Horcruxes first will receive the highest grade. I have enlisted the help of many capable wizards who will pose a challenge on your search. I guess they will be the mock Death Eaters. This project will test not only your magical ability but your survival skills and teamwork capabilities. There is no doubt that this project will be dangerous. I cannot even guarantee you will be safe. There is a whole world of elements that could be harmful to you. This is the final part of the test. You all have the skill set to stay safe. It’s whether or not you use those skills. If at any time you are caught at Hogwarts without all the destroyed Horcruxes you will be given an incomplete. Are we all clear on the risks involved with this project?”
Without many other options the class nodded ruefully.
Professor Noires walked behind his desk and pulled out two boxes. He walked to the desk and began passing out vials and pricks to every student. “I will need a sample of blood from all of you. I will perform a charm with the blood which will allow you and only you to apparate in and out of Hogwarts.”
This is mental! What on earth is he thinking? Hermione’s mind was racing. She went through this once, and if this little project was anything like what she had gone through the first time, she definitely wasn’t looking forward to doing it a second time.
Professor Noires looked at the class expectedly. Obediently, Hermione pricked her finger and let a few drops of blood seep into the vial. She looked up and saw Malfoy smirking in her direction. He probably just made some less than intelligent comment about my blood to Parkinson Hermione thought glaring back at him.
Professor Noires collected the vials from them and put them in a small wooden box. He set the box on his desk and picked up a small black bowl. “I have placed twenty slips of paper, each one containing one of your names, into this bowl. I will randomly draw two names at a time and those two people will become partners. Yes, I know you were all expecting to choose your partners” he smirked viciously “but in life you will not always get to choose who you work with. Consider this an important life lesson. So let’s begin!” He dipped his hand into the bowl and shuffled the papers around. Then he slowly drew one out and read the name out loud.
“Mr. Dean Thomas” he read aloud. Hermione saw Dean stiffen nervously. Professor Noires drew another name from the bowl “you will be partnered with Ms. Emily Crenshaw.”
A pretty girl from Ravenclaw who Hermione had never talked to waved over to Dean. Hermione saw him visibly relax and let a satisfied smirk come across his face.
Professor Noires drew another name. “Ms. Pansy Parkinson, you will be paired with…” he drew another name. Hermione saw Malfoy looking hopeful and silently hoped he would be paired with someone positively annoying. “Mr. Blaise Zabini!” Zabini and Parkinson smiled at one another, pleasantly surprised at their luck.
“Ms. Pavarti Patil” another name was drawn “You will be partners with Ms. Lavender Brown.” They each let out an excited giggle. Hermione sighed; it looked like they were truly inseparable. Her heart gave a tiny ache as she realized that people used to say that about her, Harry, and Ron.
“Ms. Hermione Granger” Hermione looked up upon hearing her own name. Professor Noires smiled at her. “Well I do envy the lucky person who gets Ms. Granger as a partner” he dipped his hand back into the bowl and pulled out another name. “Well, looks like the lucky one is Draco Malfoy. You two will be partners.” He set their names aside unaware that all the air had left the room and dead silence had fallen.
Both Hermione and Draco broke the silence at the same time. The both stood up with such force that their chairs toppled on the floor. Their angry voices cracking through the silence like a whip. “WHAT?!?!”
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