Chapter 44 : NEWTs and News
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great CI by visenya. @ TDA!
Chapter 44- NEWTs and News
In the moments after Harry found the diadem, the trio discussed how to destroy it. Hermione could barely stop smiling, but she had no particular inclination to go to the Chamber of Secrets with her friends.
“You can handle this on your own,” she said with a nod towards the Horcrux. “I want to get back to Draco.”
“We’ll let you know as soon as possible how things went,” Ron said, practically skipping as they headed for the exit to the Room of Requirement. “Pocket that, Harry; we don’t want to raise any more questions with Malfoy.”
Harry nodded and slid the diadem into his robes.
“We’ll see you soon, Hermione,” he said, opening the door for her and Ron. “Get some sleep tonight.”
“I will,” the Head Girl reassured them. “Good luck.”
Harry and Ron nodded to Draco, who was leaning up against the wall, his eyelids drooping from exhaustion. Hermione immediately tried to hide her glee as she approached her boyfriend. She didn’t want to frustrate him by being excited about something that she couldn’t explain.
“Let’s go to bed, love,” she murmured as she took his hand. Draco nodded, asking no questions, and let himself be led back into their sanctuary.
It was Wednesday. Hermione and her friends had finished the Charms written exam earlier that morning, and were now waiting impatiently in a chamber off the Entrance Hall for their names to be called for the practical portion.
“We can do this,” Hermione muttered as she sat on a desk swinging her legs. “We’ve done fine so far. We just have to finish the practical, and this will be another NEWT behind us.”
“Hermione,” an exasperated voice said. She looked up to see Ron standing in front of her with an exasperated expression on his face.
“Yes?” she asked, her voice holding a nervous edge.
“They just called your name.”
“Did they?” Hermione leapt up, eyes wild, and whipped out her wand. “I’ll see you soon!” she said, stumbling along the row of desks and joining the group of students who were leaving the chamber.
“You’ll do fine!” Ron called after her.
Hermione didn’t reply. She knew that Ron meant to reassure her, but her nerves were buzzing, and all she could think about was the practical exam that she was about to take.
“Over at table one, Miss Granger,” a voice said, and Hermione didn’t even take the time to identify the speaker. Instead, she walked to the clearly-marked examination table, her heart pounding in her chest. Taking exams was an adrenaline rush for Hermione, and she was more than ready to begin.
“Hello, Miss Granger,” the examiner—a middle-aged Indian woman seated behind a small, nearly bare table—greeted. “I have heard wonderful things about you. My name is Madam Navreen Sharma and I will be administering your examination this afternoon.”
Hermione nodded stiffly, trying to smile. She was pleased that Madam Sharma had heard of her, but she was too tense to say anything.
“No need to be nervous, Miss Granger,” Madam Sharma said. “In this examination, we will be reviewing the basic, and in some cases, the most important, spells from the last seven years. You will be asked to perform approximately fifteen incantations, perhaps more if time allows.”
“I understand,” Hermione said, adjusting her grip on her wand.
“Wonderful,” Madam Sharma responded. “We will begin with first year spells. Please perform the Levitation Charm on this glass,” she said, indicating a champagne flute on the table before her.
The exam seemed to pass quickly. Hermione flawlessly performed the Levitation Charm, Cheering Charm, Summoning and Banishing Charms, and Silencing Charm before moving on to more complicated spells. These took longer, but Hermione was prepared. She could practically see Professor Flitwick demonstrating the charms, and executed them almost as well as he would have.
“Now, Miss Granger,” Madam Sharma said, her smile finally fading and a curious expression crossing her face. “There are two more charms that I would like you to attempt. These will not affect your scoring, but I have heard rumors about your skill and would be delighted if you could demonstrate.”
“Of course,” Hermione said with a smile, wiping her sweaty forehead on the sleeve of her robes. It was hot in the Great Hall, and she wanted to finish the exam, but she was feeling confident.
“Could you please perform the Patronus Charm?” Madam Sharma asked, looking a bit sheepish.
Hermione didn’t let her smile falter. This would be challenging, but she was sure that she could do it if she concentrated. Therefore, she shook out her arms, rolled her head on her neck, and thought of the happiest moment that she could.
The image that came to mind was one from months ago: Draco’s lips on hers for the first time, his soft voice whispering, “Merry Christmas, Hermione Granger.” When it had happened, Hermione had been terrified, confused, and upset, but looking back on it, she knew it was the moment that had changed their relationship forever. She would never be able to explain the sensation she got thinking of that day.
Hermione stepped back as a huge silver shape rocketed out of the end of her wand. Her eyes widened dramatically. Unlike every other Patronus she had ever produced, this one was not an otter. It was a cat, a large, menacing cougar-shape which paced in front of her and Madam Sharma for several long moments before evaporating into the air.
Stunned, her mouth hanging open, Hermione turned to the examiner.
“Well done!” Madam Sharma said with a wide smile. “That was absolutely lovely! Fantastic job!”
Hermione forced a smile and pushed the Patronus out of her mind. This woman couldn’t possibly know that something had gone completely differently than planned, and Hermione didn’t have time to think about it right now.
“Finally, Miss Granger,” Madam Sharma said, twisting a long strand of her black and gray hair around her fingers, “I have a personal request. The Ministry is looking for students of your quality to assist in the war efforts after they leave Hogwarts. I was wondering if you could attempt the Fidelius Charm for me.”
Hermione blinked. She had never tried the spell. She couldn’t deny that she had read quite a bit about it after learning of its use several years ago, but she had never actually tried to perform it.
Madam Sharma smiled softly, seeming to understand Hermione’s reluctance.
“If you perform the spell incorrectly, nothing will happen,” she explained reassuringly. “Correctly, you will hide the champagne flute from everyone but your chosen Secret Keeper; in this case, that would be me. The incantation is Fidelis Secretum, and the motion is this,” she paused and illustrated a movement with her own wand. “You will cast the spell on the glass, and then on me, mentally repeating the information that you would like to be kept a secret—the location of the glass.”
Hermione found herself nodding, excited at the prospect of trying a new spell.
“This is immensely difficult, Miss Granger. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot perform it on your first attempt.”
Hermione smiled and shook out her shoulders.
“I’ll try either way,” she assured her examiner. With all the concentration she could muster, Hermione stared at the glass, waved her wand, and murmured, “Fidelis Secretum.”
A soft blue light glowed from the end of the wand and covered the glass…but at that moment, Hermione thought again of her changed Patronus and lost her concentration. The light immediately went out.
“Ahh, that’s fine, Miss Granger,” Madam Sharma said.
“No,” Hermione said quickly, “let me try once more. I know I can do this.”
The examiner looked unsure, but nodded at last.
“As you wish.”
Hermione gathered her concentration again and focused on the champagne flute. Her only thought was that she had to hide it and keep it hidden, and that Madam Sharma could be the only one to know its secret.
“Fidelis Secretum,” she said firmly, repeating the motion that the examiner had demonstrated with her wand. The blue light appeared and continued glowing as Hermione moved her wand to Madam Sharma and repeated the incantation. The glass vanished.
Madam Sharma gasped.
“Miss Granger,” she said quietly, trailing off. “Let us be sure that it worked. One moment.”
She waved one of the attendants from the side of the room over.
“Please, Henry, can you see anything on this table?”
Henry shook his head.
“Nothing, Madam,” he replied, quite sure of himself.
“There is a wine glass in the center of the table, Henry,” the examiner replied.
Henry gasped, and Hermione’s eyes widened as the glass appeared again before their eyes.
“You did it, Miss Granger,” Madam Sharma breathed. “Thank you for the demonstration. You may leave the Hall.”
Hermione forced one last smile and shook the examiner’s hand before leaving the room, her hands trembling slightly.
In the Entrance Hall, she headed upstairs for the Gryffindor common room. Harry and Ron wouldn’t be finished with their exam for quite some time, but Ginny would probably be waiting upstairs for them. She knew that she could trust the younger girl with the unsettling things that had happened in her Charms NEWT, and right now, she needed to talk to someone.
“Jobberknoll,” she said to the Fat Lady as she approached. The portrait nodded, dozing in her frame, and swung forward to admit the Head Girl. In the common room, Hermione didn’t see Ginny anywhere.
“Colin?” she asked the enthusiastic boy in Ginny’s year who sat by the window, staring out onto the grounds with a vague expression on his face. “Have you seen Ginny?”
Colin Creevey looked up at Hermione and smiled. Much of his carefree nature had been sapped by the war, but Colin’s smile still showed his barely-hidden enthusiasm for life.
“She was studying by the Lake,” he said with a nod to the sprawling grounds outside.
“Thanks,” Hermione replied. “Good luck on the rest of your exams.”
The younger boy grinned at her and wished her the same as Hermione made her way back out of the common room, down the many staircases, and out into the late-afternoon sun.
Once outside, Ginny was easy to spot. Her red hair shown in the fading sunlight, and Hermione walked straight towards her. Ginny looked up from her textbook as Hermione approached and smiled widely.
“How did Charms go?” she asked, patting the long, green grass beside her.
“Written was just what I expected, but practical was…bizarre.”
“How so?” Ginny asked, her eyebrows knitting together. She shut her book to pay full attention to Hermione. It wasn’t often that the Head Girl came to her for advice.
Hermione reclined in the grass and stared up at the blue sky, now tinged with traces of pink and purple.
“I was asked to cast a Patronus and attempt the Fidelius Charm,” she said with a sigh.
“You’ve cast a Patronus before. Was the Fidelius more than you could manage?”
Hermione shook her head.
“I did the Fidelius fine…but my Patronus was different when I cast it. It’s always an otter. It’s always been an otter…but this time, it was some sort of cat…a cougar or a lioness or something.”
Ginny sat up straighter.
“Why would it have changed?” she asked quietly. “Has something happened?”
Hermione shook her head and shrugged her shoulders.
“Nothing that I can think of…” she murmured. “I just don’t understand.”
“What about Draco?” Ginny asked, a small smile spreading onto her lips. “What’s his Patronus?”
Hermione blinked and immediately sat up.
“I don’t think he can cast one, but you don’t think that…you don’t think mine has changed because of our relationship, do you?”
Ginny’s smile widened.
“Hermione,” she said, placing a hand on her friend’s knee consolingly, “you love Draco. You have for a long time. That could easily change your Patronus.”
Hermione’s eyes were wide and confused, but she nodded slowly.
“I suppose you’re right,” she said quietly, laying back down. “I don’t think I’ll ask him about it yet, though…if ever.”
“That’s fine. We should head inside for dinner, though. The sun is setting and I’m sure the exam is over.” Her stomach rumbled and she grinned. “And I’m starving!”
Hermione smiled at her friend and rose shakily to her feet.
“Most people will probably already be in the Great Hall,” she said with a sigh, looking at the horizon where the sun had sank nearly out of sight. They had been talking for longer than she had thought. As she stared at the sunset, she finally noticed the owls that had been swooping towards the castle for several minutes. She was so used to seeing them that she hadn’t thought twice about it…but it wasn’t time for the mail to arrive.
“What do you think they’re doing here?” Ginny asked, pointing up at the birds as they began to walk up the hill.
“Evening Prophet, I suppose,” she said, trying to keep the panic out of her voice as she picked up her pace. The Daily Prophet almost never released a night edition…not unless something serious had happened.
She and Ginny never consciously decided to start running, but they found themselves doing so. As they dashed through the doors to the Great Hall, they found chaos. At the high table, Professor McGonagall was trying to call order, but the students were everywhere—standing on benches, shouting to their friends, crying. Shock and confusion reigned.
“What’s going on?” Hermione asked loudly over the commotion as she and Ginny finally reached Ron and Harry at the Gryffindor table, having struggled through the crowd to get there. Her brown eyes were wide and terrified.
Ron thrust a copy of the Evening Prophet into Hermione’s hands and she read the headline: Ministry Takeover; He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Takes Power. She looked up into her friends’ grim faces, knowing that her mouth was hanging open. Desperately, she whipped her head around to search for Draco…
and that’s when the bomb went off.
Author's Note: So, I wrote this quite quickly, but I really wanted to get another chapter to you all. I hope you enjoy it! Please let me know what you think! Today (2-3-14) is the five year anniversary of the posting of this story! To think it's almost over...wow. Thank you so much for reading! Take care!
Also: If you have additional questions that you would like answered, please feel free to go to my "Meet the Author" page on the forums. There's a link on my author's page!
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