Chapter 25 : Chapter 25
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"Azkaban?" Ginny was the first of their group to speak, confusion laced her tone.
"Azkaban." Draco confirmed. "McGonagall said Harry and Ron flooed into her office first thing to tell her. They caught her through the night and took her straight there. I can't believe it..."
"You can't?" Hermione questioned, finally finding her voice. "She used an unforgivable curse Draco. It's been the law for as long as the curses have been around; use one and you go to Azkaban."
"I know, it just took me by surprise. I haven't really thought about the consequences of her actions outside of what she did to us. I suppose I just thought me being back here was the end of it."
"I know I'll never be able to forgive Pansy, not for as long as I live, but Azkaban? Does anyone deserve that?" Hermione asked.
"You're forgetting its a different place now Hermione." Draco explained. "The Ministry forced the Dementors out after the war; they were too untrustworthy. It's guarded by wizards now."
"Of course it is!" Hermione exclaimed. "I forgot, I think I had become so used to associating Azkaban with those awful creatures. Well, there's not a great deal we can do about Pansy being there, she broke the law and I guess she has to face her punishment."
"You changed your tune." Ginny said, grinning.
"Well, it's not as bad now that the Dementors aren't there. And, quite frankly, I want to forget about the whole incident. Draco is back, Pansy has gone and, far more importantly, we have exams to prepare for." And with that, Hermione pulled a large textbook from her bag and began reading whilst eating her breakfast. Draco looked at her with an amused expression and busied himself with filling his own plate with eggs and bacon.
From that morning, Hermione completely immersed herself in her studies, as she always did nearing the end of the school year. NEWTs were due to begin in April and would last for four weeks, with exams taking place on most weekdays. The day after the exams finished, the Seventh Years would be leaving Hogwarts, to await their results and their futures.
True to their name, the NEWTs would be inevitably exhausting. There would be both practical and written tests in all subject areas and Hermione wanted to be absolutely and completely prepared.
Annoyingly for Draco, she also wanted him to be equally as prepared. She had drawn up a revision and homework timetable for him that spanned from the day she handed it to him until the very last of his exams. This not sufficing, she had duplicated it and used strong sticking charms to make sure that he couldn't 'lose' the copies from his trunk, dormitory wall, bathroom mirror and inside of all of his personal school textbooks.
"Hermione, please!" He begged of her after he found yet another copy stuck to the inside of his school robes. He approached the table in the Seventh Year common room where Hermione sat, surrounded by work.
"Is this really necessary? You know that I'm prepared for the NEWTs, and I'll be revising day and night anyway as it's my only chance to spend any time with you at the minute! Harry was right, exam time does make you crazy."
"I am NOT-wait, 'Harry was right'? When exactly did he say I was crazy? And since when was he 'Harry' to you?" Hermione glared at Draco from over the top of her latest Ancient Runes homework that she had been proof-reading.
"Er, well, he wrote to me after Pansy was sent to Azkaban, just to let me know she had confessed so I wasn't obligated to give an official statement or anything and just gave me some friendly advice about staying on your good side when the exams came about..." he trailed off after seeing the furious expression on Hermione's face.
"My 'good side'?! Well, I'm glad you two are so friendly now. That's excellent. Well, don't let me keep you. I'm sure you've got a letter to owl to your new best friend that is just full of hilarious stories about crazy Hermione!"
Draco laughed, which seemed to infuriate Hermione further. "WHAT are you laughing at?!" She yelled.
"I love you, Hermione." He said simply. "You are crazy, there's no doubt about it. And even with your hair out of control, ink splatters on your nose and that manic look in your eyes, I still love you. I know how important revision and the exams are to you, and if it makes you happy I will follow your timetable to the letter." Her expression softened and he sat on the chair next to her, taking her hand.
"You'll pass these exams with 'Outstanding' across the board, Hermione. I have complete faith in you." He kissed her hand and then pulled a blank piece of parchment towards him to start his own homework, as per the instructions on his timetable.
This pattern continued throughout the weeks that led to the exams, occasionally something would send Hermione over the edge and into a stressed-fuelled rant. Usually these were aimed at Draco but there had been some Prefects and a handful of excitable First Years who had felt her wrath. Draco quickly became an expert at knowing when to calm her down in these situations and when to simply leave her alone until she came to find him with her tail between her legs and an apology.
Finally the day came that marked the beginning of the NEWTs. Hermione woke as soon as the dawn broke, having not been asleep for long at all. She grabbed the notes that were scattered across her bed and those that had fallen to the floor, quickly shuffling them into the correct order and placing them on her bedside table. After hurrying into the shower and dressing, Hermione picked up the notes and her school bag and headed out into the grounds.
Spring had truly arrived at Hogwarts and the weather was warm despite the early hour. Hermione sat on the grass beneath the large oak tree that was next to the lake. This was her favourite place to read, or revise at this time of year. It always evoked a feeling of tranquility for Hermione, perhaps it was the sound of the lapping water every time the Giant Squid or maybe it was simply the feeling of the Spring sun beating down on her neck. Whatever the reason, Hermione was feeling as relaxed as was possible, for her, when she entered the Great Hall at breakfast time.
She sat down in her usual seat at the Gryffindor table and buttered some toast, but did not eat it; her nerves were beginning to peak again.
"Hermione, are you alright? You've gone a little...green." Ginny asked her.
"Just nervous. It's really hitting me now that this is it. Four weeks of NEWTs and that's my time at Hogwarts finished...providing I actually pass."
"Oh, don't be ridiculous. Brightest witch of your age et cetera, et cetera. You'll be fine and you know it. You've been preparing for these exams since you were in First Year." Ginny smiled kindly and pushed Hermione's plate towards her, trying to get her to eat something.
After managing a slice of toast, Hermione left the Hall with the rest of the students and waited with her fellow Seventh Years whilst the staff rearranged the furniture in the Hall. As in previous years, the four long house tables had been replaced with individual desks and chairs. Each desk had parchment, ink and a quill bewitched with the usual anti-cheating charms on it. Hermione took a seat and awaited her instructions from Professor Slughorn, who stood at the front of the desks.
"You have two hours, indicated by the timer." He pointed at a large egg timer to his left. "You must answer all questions in as much detail as possible. Should you need more parchment, simply raise your hands. No talking. Your time begins now. Good luck!"
He flicked his wand once and the exam papers flew to each student, and a second time to turn the egg timer, sand starting to slowly trickle to the bottom. Hermione picked up her quill, turned over the paper and read the first question:
'Name the ingredients of Polyjuice Potion in the order of their use in making it.' Her mind filling with memories of sitting behind a cauldron on the floor of Moaning Myrtle's bathroom, Hermione began writing immediately.
Four gruelling and utterly exhausting weeks later, the NEWTs were coming to an end. Hermione and Draco were waiting outside the door of the dungeons for their last exam to begin. They had started with a potions written exam and would be finishing with a practical test. It was the last of all the NEWTs.
Hermione let her mind drift over the last four weeks. They had sat for two, sometimes three, hours at a time in the Great Hall for each written exam. Some of the subjects, such as Ancient Runes, had more than one written part to the NEWT. Hermione had found those particularly tiring, she could almost feel her brain aching after being given entire essays to translate into and from Runes.
The practical parts had been no less difficult, human transfiguration had made several appearances throughout the weeks and they had even been asked to produce corporeal patronuses in their Defence Against the Dark Arts practical.
Draco was feeling confident about all of the exams he had taken, unlike Hermione. Confidence was not something that came naturally to her, not like it did with Draco. She had gotten so upset when reading through her Astronomy notes after the written paper and thinking she had gotten a question wrong that Draco had to take her to Madam Pomfrey and force her to drink a calming potion.
She had made it through the four weeks though, and was about to begin the last of the exams. It turned out to be one that she felt extremely comfortable with, however. Making Amortentia was something Hermione knew she could do. Sure enough, at the end of the three hours, she could smell freshly cut grass, new parchment, spearmint and an unknown yet completely familiar smell, one she knew made her think of home but could not give a name to. She looked over at Draco who's lazy smile and dreamy expression suggested that he too had succeeded in making the potion.
When Professor Slughorn had granted them permission to leave and they had exited the dungeon, Draco grabbed Hermione and pulled her into a tight embrace.
"We did it!" He said squeezing her. "We really did it Hermione, that's it! I can't believe we leave Hogwarts tomorrow."
Hermione responded by kissing him and taking his hand as they headed to the Great Hall.
A surprise greeted them as they reached the Entrance Hall. All of the Seventh Years were standing outside of the Great Hall, to which the doors were closed.
"What's happening?" Hermione asked Neville, who was standing closest to them.
"Not sure, Hagrid came out a minute ago and said 'yer all to wait 'ere a moment'" replied Neville in an excellent impression of Hagrid, making Hermione and others around him laugh.
Draco was about to knock on the doors and demand to know what was going on when they swung open revealing a colourfully decorated dining hall. The four banners showing each of the houses were hanging above each table, accompanied by a new banner behind the staff table which read 'Congratulations Seventh Years!' A beautiful feast had been laid out, complete with butterbeer and 'congratulations' cakes on each long table.
Once they had all sat down, all choosing to sit at one table rather than at each house table, McGonagall spoke.
"The younger years are eating in their common rooms, so we would like to welcome you, Seventh Years, to your end of year feast. You have been through more than any other final year students in this school have. Many, if not all, of you fought in the war and played a large part in the eventual defeat of Voldemort. To then return to the place where friends and family were lost is admirable and shows bravery beyond words. Myself and the staff are incredibly proud of each and every one of you and so this is our way of saying thank you, and well done. I'll leave you with the words of a wise man: Nitwit! Blubber! Oddment! Tweak!" This was met with huge applause and laughter, followed by the sounds of everyone tucking into the delicious feast they had been presented with.
Halfway through dinner, Draco excused himself, promising to return shortly when Hermione looked at him quizzically. She was mid-conversation with Dean when he returned.
"Sorry, Dean, can I interrupt for a moment, need to ask Hermione something."
Dean nodded and Hermione turned to face Draco, he was holding a small square blue box. Hermione looked at it sceptically.
"Don't worry, I'm not proposing!" Draco said quickly, noticing the look upon Hermione's face. She visibly relaxed.
"I do want to give you a gift though, sort of a leaving-Hogwarts present." He handed her the box and she lifted the lid. Inside was a small silver key.
"It's a key to my flat. I want you to come and live with me Hermione. Tomorrow when we get off the Hogwarts Express, I don't want to apparate back to an empty flat, and I don't want to spend my nights without you. I've gotten so used to spending all of my time with you, I don't want to go back to living on my own. What do you think?"
"Wow." Hermione stared at Draco. "Wow. I just-I don't know what to say. What will my Mum and Dad say when I tell them?"
"'When you tell them'? Does that mean you'll move in?" Draco said, excitedly.
"Yes, I'll move in. On one condition..."
"What's that?" Draco asked tentatively.
"I want a television." Hermione grinned at him and Draco nodded furiously before throwing both of his arms around her. If someone had told him in September that he would be ending his final year at Hogwarts having been inperiurised, made friends with Harry Potter and set to move in with his girlfriend, Hermione Granger, he would have thought they needed to be sent to St Mungo's. He couldn't have been happier with how the year turned out.
The scarlet steam train pulled in at King's Cross Station the following afternoon. The platform was quieter than Hermione had ever seen it. Some friends and family were there ready to greet people but mostly the now ex-Hogwars students would be making their own way from there. After collecting their trunks, Crookshanks in his basket and Draco's owl, Hermione and Draco stepped onto the platform, where he took her hand and apparated them both home. Draco had insisted Hermione take her trunk and cat straight there before heading to her parents house so that she could see her new home. They landed on a doorstep facing a bottle-green door bearing the number twelve.
"Why don't you try out your new key?" Draco suggested.
Hermione took the key out of her jacket pocket and unlocked the door, her door. As she stepped into the large living room, she inhaled and smelt the final scent that had been coming from her Amortentia potion. It had been Draco's flat, she had smelt her home before she had even known it was hers. Smiling broadly, she knew then that she had made a good decision.
Moving here was right, and Draco was most definitely right.
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