Classes had been going on for a week when Hermione stumbled upon what she thought to be the most astonishing thing she had ever been witness to, and she had seen quite a few in her time. It started out as a normal day; her classes were going well, the food had been editable, and she hadn't had another run in with Draco that scared her to pieces, though she still hadn't admitted that was what she was really feeling—fear.
She was in the middle of her Divination class, staring at her teacher and wondering how a bird like her could ever get a job teaching a class like this. It was obvious that she lacked the seer blood that was usually required to teach a Divination class. She even considered dropping it, after the professor had predicted her to be attacked by a swarm of hippogriffs by breakfast the next morning. Honestly, who did this woman think she was? But, she chose to keep it, for the sake of her mission.
“Today we will be focusing on the art of tarot reading. I, myself, am fairly new to the craft as my discovery of the cards did not come about until two summers ago. Now please, turn to Chapter Six in your books to reference what you find in your partners reading. We will be using the Celtic Pagan method, as well as the Planetary Spread. I will be around observing your findings. Maybe we will have another appearance of the Death Card this year.” Hermione could have sworn that she looked in her direction, but dismissed the idea. Professor Trelawney came off as anything but an expert in Divination.
She was sitting across from Harry once again while Ron had elected to take a spot by Dean Thomas, claiming that he had to discuss something with him. Hermione found that Ron was not the best liar, as he and Dean seemed to be focusing on the smoking crystal ball more than each other. She had no idea what the fascination was with the thing, it was as if they had never seen a glass ball containing magical mists before! Harry was studying the image of the Planetary Spread they were supposed to use while aligning the cards to match quite slowly and Hermione huffed.
His head snapped up, “What?”
“Are you checking to see if the cards have wizard pox or something?” She asked in amusement.
Harry just gave her a look and finished setting the cards down in their correct positions, ignoring Hermione muttering profanities under her breathe. He looked at her with a raised eyebrow and Hermione rolled her eyes at him, causing him to crack a smile.
“I think I should read you first.” He stated.
Hermione nodded in response and he flipped the cards over, revealing detailed sketches of symbols and people she was not familiar with. He also seemed to be baffled by the cards, for he immediately reached for his book and started at the northern tip of the star-shaped alignment. “Alright this is supposed to read home matters… let's see…” He read off a description of her card, the Two of Swords, “You find yourself in a stalemate situation and you are neither able to move forward nor retreat. This is not a comfortable situation, but a state of armed truce. Depending on the surrounding cards, the Two of Swords may mean that you find yourself in a tricky situation, but you are unwilling to face up to sorting it out for fear of upsetting the status quo—well, that's odd.”
Hermione felt her hands get sweaty and proceeded to wipe them off on her skirt, out of the vision of Harry. The one time Divination actually made some sort of sense, it read her like an open book. “Yeah, it's… far off to say the least. This tarot reading is a load of nonsense.”
Harry nodded, sympathizing with her. “Maybe we should just move on to the next one… matters and skills.”
“You can just skip that one; I don't need a card telling me what I'm good at.” She replied breezily.
Harry smiled, “I'm with you on that one.” He glanced at the book again, “Love and relationships, then?”
Hermione shrugged, “Sure, what can it hurt? The nonexistence of my love life can be neither helped nor ruined.”
Harry chuckled and studied the card for a moment before flipping to the correct page and reading off what was printed before him, “The Tower—sounds pleasant.” He commented, causing Hermione to giggle. “The tower in this card represents all of the things you have built up around yourself, the exterior face you present to the world. You aren't an exotic dancer and not telling anyone about it are you?”
Hermione punched him in the shoulder, blushing faintly. “Continue reading, you dolt!”
He shook his head to brush his bangs out of his face and continued to read, “It indicates that an unexpected shock or disaster will change your life completely. Some action you have taken in the past is now beginning to have unfortunate consequences that you never imagined. The tower that you have so carefully created will be destroyed no matter what you do—your plans and ambitions shattered. The tower cracks and falls because it was a flawed structure built with the poor materials of misguided ambition, false values, and pride. While the consequences of this card are painful and unwanted at the time, they force you to face up to the fact that you have been deceiving yourself and living your life on a false premise. Now, you must sort through the wreckage and truthfully examine your motives. If you try to erect the same tower again from the old rubble, it will collapse again.”
The two of them remained quiet for a while, soaking in the long description. Hermione thought in some ways, it made sense—not pertaining to her of course, but to someone with conflicting emotions. The true question was why it was in relation to her love and relationships. She had been hoping for something straightforward, something like “You will have lots of great sex until the day you die”. Why must Divination always speak in riddles?
“Well, that was… erm…” Harry tried feebly.
“Utterly pointless” Hermione finished. “Honestly, let me just do yours so we can get this over with.”
Harry handed her his book, “Be my guest.”
Hermione re-shuffled the cards and set them into their previous positions, noticeably faster than how Harry had done it before. He knew she was thinking this and stuck his tongue out at her childishly. She just smirked and flipped the cards over. “Let's just skip to Fame and Achievements to save us the trouble of reading another riddle.” He nodded in agreement and Hermione looked at the card before referencing it to the corresponding description in the book. It was a picture of a woman cloaked in a white robe in a field, holding a small sickle, “Death.”
Harry's eyes narrowed into tiny slits and his face turned a shade of light pink. Hermione looked at him apprehensively before he shouted, “Every bloody year!”
His exclamation was loud enough to cause the professor to shuffle over to them and peer at Harry through her magnified spectacles. “What seems to be the problem, dear boy?” She glanced down at the cards and saw the one marked Death and tutted to herself, “It appears that the omen of death is upon you once again Mister Potter. It has been a pleasure teaching you these past five years…” she trailed off and sniffed, pulling a tissue out from a pocket in her gypsy-like robes and blowing. She turned and left the two of them at their table, the rest of the class staring at them, not knowing whether to laugh or sympathize.
“Harry?” Hermione asked tentively, placing a reluctant hand on his shoulder and feigning sympathy.
He looked up at her and smiled, “Sorry… it's just a touchy subject.”
Hermione nodded and removed her hand from his shoulder. “On the bright side, class ends in—” The bell rang and Harry laughed. “Now” she finished flatly.
The two of them picked up their books and waited for Ron and Dean at the entrance to the classroom. They were along in a few moments and the four of them made their way down the trapdoor and spiraling staircase in a comfortable silence. When they arrived in the Great Hall for lunch, Dean spoke up as he took a seat across from Hermione. “So Harry is the DA meeting still on for tonight?”
“Yeah, right after dinner” He replied.
Dean nodded in understanding and went on to eating his meal. Hermione, however, was thoroughly confused and looked at them with a furrowed brow. “What's the DA?” she asked curiously.
Harry looked at her as if he had just realized something, “Oh, that's right, I haven't told you yet!”
“Obviously.” She said in an explicit tone.
“It stands for the Defense Association, a club Ron and I started a few years back after… well…” He trailed off. He caught himself and continued, “We practice defensive spells, preparing ourselves for future… events. We have people from every house participating from third year and up. Well, with the exception of Slytherin, that is.”
Hermione was in shock. A club for preparing themselves? It was fairly obvious what she had to do now. They were actually training for the Final Battle! But, she had to keep her thoughts to herself as she answered in what she hoped was an interested tone, “That sounds fascinating.”
“It is!” Ron exclaimed from beside her. “Harry teaches us everything we need to know; even Neville learned how to cast a disarming charm without poking someone's eye out! He's bloody brilliant!”
Harry blushed and Hermione smiled politely. She had to gain access to this club. It could be extremely valuable information for her master and his now seemingly feeble attempts at preparation. “So, are you taking any new members?”
“Of course” Harry said, obviously pleased. “You already know when the meeting is today, but we always meet on Wednesdays and Fridays at the same time.”
Hermione nodded, “Alright, I'll be there.”
The rest of the day passed slowly, but by the end of dinner, she found herself rushing to the Gryffindor Common Room, intent on meeting up with someone to walk to the meeting with. Harry hadn't been very precise with the directions, so Hermione thought it best to tag along with someone else for the time being. Then, she could find the way on her own and make use of her newly acquired knowledge.
She found Ginny lounging on one of the couches near the fire and greeted her softly. Ginny's face immediately brightened as she stood up to face her. “So I heard you're going to the meeting as well?”
Hermione nodded and Ginny squealed. She had to restrain herself from covering her ears at the high-pitched noise. Seriously, was this girl wired to make her brain turn to mush? “Do you have to do that?” she asked, referring to her over-exited demeanor.
“Sorry, it's just in my nature.” She said with a shrug. Glancing at the clock, she stood up and turned back to Hermione. “Do you want to walk down together?”
“Sure.” Hermione replied, somewhat relieved that she didn't have to trail a stranger all the way to the Room of Requirement. She had read up on the room in Hogwarts, a History, of course—it was designed to accustom to whoever walked past it thrice with a single intent on their mind. The book did not specify a location, but in a few minutes, Hermione would have no trouble finding the come-and-go room.
She followed Ginny as they made their way through Hogwarts at a steady pace. The two of them arrived in a hallway on the seventh floor a few minutes later, where a few students were filing into a door that Hermione never recalled seeing in her past walks in this part of the castle. This must be the entrance, Hermione thought to herself, observing the surroundings to make sure she would remember. It was across from a tapestry showing a man looking as if he was trying to teach a heard of trolls ballet, a very different sight for her to witness.
“Come on, so we can catch the door!” Ginny proclaimed before she grabbed Hermione's wrist and pulled her behind her as she sprinted towards the door.
They reached the door just as someone was entering and filed into it behind them. Hermione was immediately struck speechless as she entered the large room. It was filled with large bookcases aligning the walls, cushions along the floors, and what looked to be practice dummies in the shape of Death Eaters. Hermione had to chuckle to herself quietly, but immediately silenced quickly as she found another intriguing feature of the room, a corkboard filled with clippings from the Daily Prophet and a magazine she didn't recognize. She walked over to the board and observed it, finding that every article had something to do with her master or the attacks she had helped participate in. It sent a cool chill down her spine knowing that she was in a room that was being used for training to defeat people like her. Not her, she was far to experienced for any of these armature students to face, but Death Eaters like Wormtail, or even Malfoy.
“It's quite disturbing, isn't it?” a dreamy voice asked from beside her. Hermione turned to see a girl looking at her oddly. She had dirty blonde, waist length hair that seemed to be on the straggly side, protruding silver-grey eyes that made her seem as though she was surprised at something, what seemed to be radish earrings, and a necklace made from butterbeer corks. She seemed to notice Hermione's confused expression, for she pressed on, “All of those people… gone. Tragic, really, how someone can do such a thing without the influence of a Blibbering Humdinger.”
“A—a what?” Hermione asked, taken aback at the odd phrase.
“They make people do things that aren't ethically correct. Things like committing murders or helping someone use the washroom.” The girl responded, still using that dreamy tone.
“Right…” Hermione answered, not knowing what else to say.
“I'm Luna Lovegood, and you're Hermione” she said in a matter-of-fact way.
“I—right, nice to meet you” Hermione replied, extending her hand for her to shake. But instead of accepting it, Luna chose to through her arms around Hermione and give her a loose hug. Her first thought was of disgust, before turning to one of awkwardness. She had only just met this girl and she was already initiating physical contact. She patted Luna's back lightly and let out a relieved breath as she pulled away, staring at her again.
“I wrote that article, you know.” She said, pointing to a piece of paper that belonged to the unknown magazine Hermione had noticed earlier. “My father let me do a piece on the precautions Hogwarts was taking to protect its students, seeing as I go here. It was a thrilling experience, knowing I was going to be on the same page as the Crumble-Horned Snorkack! We didn't put it up though… I don't know why, they're extremely fascinating creatures. Maybe I should go ask Harry.”
And with that, she left. Hermione stared after her. She thought after Ginny, Hogwarts couldn't produce an odder version of the female race. Luna Lovegood had definitely proved her wrong.
Hermione turned to skim the bookcases that had first gathered her attention when she heard Harry's voice sound from the center of the room. “Alright everyone, gather around!” Hermione, along with the rest of the occupants of the room (quite a few, if she did say so herself) gathered around him. He smiled at the crowd and continued in a confident voice, “Today, being the first meeting of the year, we'll begin practicing the uses of the Dissillusionment Charm. I would like you to practice the spell with a partner. It seems easy, but there are many ways this can turn out, so go on and practice and I'll be around if you need any help.”
The students dispersed quickly and paired off, and the only person remaining was Luna. Hermione groaned to herself as the girl approached her with a smile. She forced smiled in response and let her lead her to a spot by the fireplace. Luna muttered the incantation quietly while tapping her wand lightly to the top of her head and began to disappear from Hermione's vision.
“Did it work?” she heard Luna's voice ask.
“Yeah” Hermione said, “I can't see you at all.”
“Excellent” she replied, “I feel like I just had a flood of pumpkin juice poured down my back.”
Hermione couldn't help but giggle to herself at the comment. A few moments, Luna re-appeared before her and she jumped a little, not expecting her to be not even a foot in front of her. The girl just smiled at her, “You're turn”
Hermione nodded and performed the charm on herself. She didn't feel the sensation that Luna had described, but an odd tingling feeling working its way from her head to her feet. Luna looked in her direction pointedly and she knew that she had been unsuccessful. Hermione cursed herself, angry that she couldn't perform a simple Dissillusionment Charm. She had read about the charm before, but never performed it. Death Eaters weren't necessarily known for being inconspicuous when it came to their attacks.
“You look like… orange.” Luna stated.
“Orange?” she asked in astonishment, “How in the hell could I have turned orange?”
Luna shrugged her shoulders, “Maybe we should ask Harry.”
Hermione shook her head, “No, that's not—” But Luna had already motioned for Harry to come over to where they were. Hermione felt her face grow warm in embarrassment as he did a once-over on her appearance. She expected a sarcastic comment, or maybe a deep chuckle from him. He surprised her by muttering a spell and causing a warm sensation to liquefy over her body.
“Have you practiced this charm before?”
“No” she answered honestly.
He just smiled and came to stand in front of her, “It's quite simple, all you have to do is say the charm and relax your body.” Hermione nodded and tried the charm again, but felt the same tingling sensation wash over her and groaned. Harry pressed his lips together and muttered the same spell he had done before. “You're not relaxing. You need to clear your mind, loosen up, and just… be.”
Hermione closed her eyes, trying to clear her mind of anything but the charm as she recited it to herself before lifting her wand to the top of her head and voicing it. She felt as though an egg had been cracked upon her head and grinned at the new feeling. She saw Harry smile at her and couldn't help but exclaim, “I did it!”
She didn't know what motivated her to make her next move, but she ran over to where Harry was and gave him a hug. He hadn't been expecting an invisible Hermione to come over and hug him, so the both of them tumbled to the ground as though she had jumped him. They both let out a sound of impact and laughed uncomfortably.
“I'm so sorry!” She blurted.
“It's alright” he said lightly, “We if this isn't déjà vu, I don't know what is.”
Hermione blushed, “Sorry."
“It's alright. Besides, to everyone else it just looked like I fell over for no apparent reason and am now talking to myself.” He said with clear amusement.
“So I'm guessing you do that a lot them, seeing as no one is coming over here and asking if you're alright.”
“Well half of them are invisible, so they very well could be, and the other half are just used to it.” He said, smiling up at her again.
An awkward silence fell between them and they both realized at that moment what position they were in and scrambled off of each other. Hermione said the spell to lift the charm and tried her best to cool her hot skin. She had never really been so flustered about being on top of a guy before, especially in a compromising situation like this. Normally she would stay in control, not get off the guy as if he were on fire; and she definitely felt as if she'd been burned.
Harry shot her a smile as if to say “Don't worry about it” and she nodded. He left to help another group of students on the other side of the room and she watched him as he walked off. When she realized that her line of vision was no long on his back, but on a tad bit lower region, she blinked rapidly and turned to see Luna standing behind her once again. She gasped in surprise and tried to calm her racing heartbeat with a palm over her chest. Luna seemed to be unaware of how much she truly startled her, because she just smiled at her lazily.
“He really is a fantastic teacher, don't you think?” she asked her conversationally.
Hermione glanced over her shoulder to see Harry help another student master the Disillusionment Charm and then patting his hand on their back in congratulations. “Yes” she said as she saw him smile at them, “he is.”
“It's kind of a shock, really.” Luna said, catching Hermione off guard and causing her to turn back around to face her, “He didn't use to be this confident, always with his head in the clouds and looking as though if he'd associate with somebody he'd spontaneously combust. But then he just changed after our fourth year and started up the Defense Association. Quite an odd name, if you ask me, because we do far more than learn to defend ourselves.”
“Well then why did you settle on the name?” Hermione asked curiously.
“Harry's old girlfriend, Cho, suggested it—quite an airhead, if you ask me—and in comparison to the others it was the best.” She answered simply. “I still remember the first time Dumbledore heard about it, he joked that it sounded as though we were forming a sort of wizard army.” Hermione chuckled. It did sound like the way the headmaster would react to such a thing. “If you think about it, Harry really based it off of his ideas and such."
“Well why don't you just name it Dumbledore's Army, then?” Hermione suggested lightly.
Luna looked at her with widened eyes. Well, wider than usual. “That's a good idea! I'm going to start using that, too.”
Hermione smiled at the girl. She took another look around the room, observing all of the people in it. They all seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and learning a lot from Harry's teachings. The way he carried himself when he was teaching was… quite remarkable, if she did say so herself. She didn't think it was possible for a person that young of age, with a dark fate hanging over his head, to carry himself so well. Of course, he didn't know that this was going to be his last year, maybe he suspected it, but didn't really know. Maybe… maybe she should hold off on telling the Dark Lord about his defense club, see how far he could really stretch these kids before declaring any danger to them. It seemed logical. Who would think that a bunch of kids would stand a chance when faced with a duel against a highly trained Death Eater, anyway? It sounded utterly preposterous and would probably mean nothing to the Dark Lord, maybe cause him to chuckle at their misguidance.
She turned back to Luna and saw her staring off into space. Hermione didn't think she'd noticed her staring at her until she spoke up, “You know, if the nargles hadn't of pushed you into Harry, I would have thought that you meant to knock him over. It was quite amusing seeing you two like that, made me think… Ginny really isn't his soul mate, anyway.”
Luna walked over to where a few students were playing a version of hide-and-seek using the new mastered Disillusionment Charms, leaving Hermione speechless. Just what had she meant by that?
A/N: Looks like a lot of you think I'm being original, which is a good sign =] I'm glad you're all enjoying the story! In Fair Hogwarts should be updated this next week as long as I keep on brainstorming. If you're a fan of it and have any suggestions, feel free to e-mail me or something because I do not want it to die! My e-mail address is on my website, and the link to my website is on my Author's Page. Please stop by and give a shout!
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