Last D.A. Meeting of the Year
The next days went by in a rush. Outfitted with gloves and a heavy woolen scarf I was strolling through the arcade with its high vaulted ceiling and Gothic lancet windows, which had no glass inserts and thus let in the cold and fresh December wind. Where the dungeons were humid, dark and cold, the upper floors were draughty, bright, and freezing cold as well! Nonetheless, I enjoyed the view of the snowy inner courtyard with its stone gargoyles hanging from the rooftops, which guarded the space with their ugly, demonic, grotesque faces, braving the elements.
Further out, at the horizon, I could spot low clouds gathering, which would bring new snow to the highlands. This winter scenery, in which everything was so muted and silent, invited me to review the last few stressful days and carefully think through my next steps. I was leaning against a stone pillar by one of the windows, the wind blowing sharply into my face, reddening my cheeks and bringing tears to my eyes. In spite of that, I was enjoying filling my lungs with air so clear and pure.
Thanks to the Room, I had learned how to perform the Disillusionment Charm perfectly! It was nice to see that one could achieve anything through hard work. The Twins had fallen in love with the Room more and more too, and could now cast this difficult spell as well! Unbelievable, but true. They had worked seriously with me on the practical part and had been totally focussed on the task, no laughing, no mischief nor any fooling around. It hadn’t been easy, as it took a lot of concentration, just like my transformation into ‘Abraxina’ - sometimes Draco had positively absurd ideas - in order to maintain the spell’s effect and remain completely invisible. It was cool to stand in front of a mirror, seeing how your own reflection started to slowly distort and then, in the blink of an eye, vanish from view completely, even if you knew you were still standing on the same spot. Yes, I loved magic, and all its facets.
Fred still had problems remaining invisible. His thoughts strayed too often into spheres I wouldn’t follow him into for sure. When I remembered how one time a head of red hair had appeared and nothing more, I had to laugh out loud, which made a resounding echo in the passageway I was standing in. Since last Sunday I hadn’t had a chance to speak to Draco, and thus I had filed away the whole incident with Snape and him under ‘done’. From my point of view the whole Hogsmeade incident was a thing of the past. Let’s be honest, things were seldom as bad as they seemed at first glance!
If I made a drama out of it, then it would become one, and if not, then not! Therefore, I didn’t care, I determined very coldly and controlled. The only thing still mesmerising me was the realization that we Gryffindors were not as innocent regarding house enmity as we always claimed to be. It’s really astonishing to notice how perceptions changed when you were part of the other side. Though it was hilarious how slyly the snakes wriggled out of a situation like this, while the lions with their hotheadedness dashed headfirst into the hunter’s trap, which made them seem ham-fisted occasionally. Harry and Ron were so aggressive and pigheaded in the way they handled confrontations, which didn’t cast them in a very kind light. However, I think Harry was very much influenced by Ron’s antipathy against Malfoy in that regard!
At least that was what I hoped for. When Ron became fixated on something you should just save your breath instead of trying to reason with him, but I had still hope for Harry. A fine example of this was during Third Year, when he had given Sirius and Remus the chance to explain themselves. Nonetheless, those were dreams of the future, as far away as the moon, or perhaps even Jupiter? I addressed myself to a more important topic. Today would be the last D.A. training of the year and tomorrow the holidays would begin. I hoped to catch Draco on the train ride home, as I wanted to tell him something after his revelation that he would attend the Christmas Ball at the Ministry, or rather something I had to tell him. I turned away with a shrug and resumed my walk at a slow pace after I had internalized the beautiful, dreamy view. Today I felt a slightly melancholic.
Harry and the Weasleys would spent the holidays at Grimmauld Place, and that inevitably brought Sirius to my mind.
Sirius. We hadn’t talked for month, as after Umbridge’s hand appeared in the fireplace, trying to grab him, no further attempts at conversations with him had taken place. Did I even want to talk to him? Thusly engrossed in thoughts I only heard the click of my heels echoing loudly from the nearly a thousand years old, well-trodden stone tiles. Oh, why did I waste thoughts on Sirius? I had other worries. I was near to the Room of Requirement. Today a revision of all spells we had learned to that point would be taking place, Expelliarmus, Stupefy, Protego, and the most advanced students would show if they had mastered the Patronus as Harry wanted to give the members fodder for the holidays to keep their curiosity alive. This promised fun. However, there was a matter that worried me: my own patronus. Unless Harry, Ron and Ginny were afflicted with sudden, severe amnesia, they would undoubtedly recognize my magpie as the bird appearing in the Blacks’ kitchen a while back and that would lead to very uncomfortable questions, and thus I planned to remain as good as invisible as soon as we got to that task.
“Hermione, you arrive late!” Harry greeted me, his excitement clearly apparent, turning to me. In spite of his school uniform you could notice that he was growing up and losing the ganglyness of young boys.
“Sorry, I... the books… Is everybody here already?” I replied, diligently divesting myself of scarf, gloves, and coat.
“Yes, I think so. But good that I caught you just now. I want to demonstrate the Patronus with you,” he stated and my blissful state of mind was crushed.
That was not how I had planned it. When Harry reached this subject matter, I shouldn’t stand in the front row, but in the far back, or anywhere really, except were all eyes would be on me! Right, I won’t even mention my luck. Since the summer holidays I could write a paper on the matter and it wouldn’t increase my mood, be sure about that!
“Come on, the others can’t wait to see it!” Harry was positively hyper and clasped my clammy hand, pulling me relentlessly into the middle of the training hall. The D.A. formed a wide circle around us and I was allowed to look into the expectant faces of our members, where anticipation and excitement reigned. Only Fred and George shot me slightly worried glances with their sets of brown eyes. I gripped my brown wand tightly and took a deep breath. I would do it, wait and see what happened, and I was now determined to face up to the yelling that would ensue. Hey, when I can stare death in the face, I should be able to handle Weasleys gone wild and an enraged Harry, I told myself, trying to bolster my courage.
“Well, everyone. The Patronus calls a guardian in form of an animal, who can protect you against dementors or lethifolds, but those are negligible! It is the top of the art to produce a corporeal patronus, as most only manage a white, glowing mist, which protects you temporarily, but insufficiently!” Harry explained in detail, spinning around once to check the attention of his pupils. Inside the closed circle I felt slightly, but really only minimally, pressured.
“Now comes the most difficult part. How do I perform the spell ‘Expecto Patronum’? For that you need the power of a very strong, very happy memory. And here comes the problem: you have to maintain this feeling of happiness inside a frightening, possibly perilous setting and this is very, very difficult!” He looked around solemnly and encountered excited expressions. I was staring as well, though for different reasons!
“As I said, only the corporeal patronus is able to chase away one or more threatening creatures. And now I have talked enough, I can see how impatient you are to discover what your animal looks like. But please, don’t be disappointed. I, too, did need a long time until I mastered the spell, and to produce a patronus you need a lot of concentration!” Now he stepped back and towards me.
“On the count of three, Hermione!” he already proclaimed determinedly.
“But Harry, why do you assume that I can perform the charm ad hoc?” I murmured defensively.
“Please, Hermione, don’t take me for a fool. Don’t tell me you are not often here in the Room and practice like crazy,” he whispered back at me and showed me his teeth. “For that I know you too well. I am bursting with curiosity which animal you have!” he said conspiratorially. At his statement I swallowed down something very bitter and gave him a false smile.
“So, let’s start,” he declared and drew his holly and phoenix feather wand and shouted loudly and clearly, “Expecto Patronum” and we all could observe how a gigantic, white stag with impressive antlers materialized out of the tip of his wand and burst forth. It was beautiful to watch as it cantered around the room.
“Wow,” “Amazing,” “Can I do that as well?” “How will my animal look like?” “So pretty.”
This were the questions and exclamations sounding throughout the room when Harry demonstrated the charm successfully.
“Now it’s your turn, Hermione!” he addressed me excitedly and turned to me with a cheerful expression. I admitted defeat once more and accepted my fate, concentrated and reached for my happy feeling. I saw myself when I learned that I was a witch, when I found my first and second wand and when I performed my first spell and already I was filled and flushed with an incredible feeling of happiness that made it easy for me to call on my guardian.
“Expecto Patronum,” I shouted fervently and could see a glowing bright animal bursting from my wand and diving excitedly through the room. Everybody stared at my animal in awe, me and the Twins included. The three of us exchanged looks of incomprehension. Here, in front of us, a large, silvery otter was gliding through the air, looping and hunting his own bulky tail playfully. Come again? I mean, what did I have in common with an otter? Where the hell was my beloved magpie? I could identify with it. I mean, be honest, that animal suited me, but an otter? I felt offended. An otter!
I mean, the animal in itself was cute and sweet, but nothing like me! Considering my luck, I might have lost my magpie, but how did that happen? I knew everything written in the books about the patronus and it was explained that it took life changing circumstances to change the shape of a patronus. And nothing like that had happened to me, apart from Bole, Snape and Draco. However, Draco was a viper and no otter! And I doubted sincerely that Snape had an otter as his patronus and I wouldn’t associate him with such an animal in any way. A bat, any kind of snake, a cat of prey or something else big, but not an otter. And elsewise lately no feeling of mine had come even close to unsettling me and even the two men just mentioned hadn’t shaken me enough to warrant a change.
“Boah, well done, Hermione!” “Congrats,” “You are really good!” “Such a cuuuuute animal,” was the commentary to my successful spell, though it bounced off of me as I was occupied with the questions of the phenomenon, unanswered questions, and that was something that I wasn’t able to stand. The gears were turning inside my mind, the hard drive of a computer was nothing against it. On the other hand I should be happy. As mentioned, my magpie would have led to questions. Thus I smiled around thankfully, made a happy face for the outside world and didn’t led on about the conflict inside me.
Now Harry started the lesson and shortly the hall was filled with a glowing mist from failed attempts of our members and shouted incantations resounded around the room. I retreated more and more into the direction of the Twins.
“Most beautiful, what happened to the magpie?” Fred inquired when I reached them, while regarding his white smoke soberly.
“If only I knew, guys, I didn’t expect it!” I stated and looked at them with wide eyes and both of them grabbed me at the same time. One grabbed my right upper arm, the other my left one and I was dragged into an alcove, which closed around us. It happened so fast, I couldn’t even blink, and just like that the three of us stood in a small separate room.
“What… what happened here?” I asked. Both let go of me and exchanged a high five beaming with delight.
“Nice, when we can take you by surprise once in a while!” Fred declared at once, wound up, but his tone was still devious at the same time.
“We only created a separate room for us, in addition to the hall. We practised with the Room of Requirement lately and learned a lot about it. It’s a bloody cool thing!” George explained in an ecstatic manner, spreading his arms happily. “And we thought here you could satisfy your and our curiosity what has happened to your poor magpie. Right?” He now grinned at me insidiously. And I reciprocated it, as it was so chaotic over there with all the mist, that nobody would miss us for a short while. What would I do without the Twins? One had to become downright sentimental.
“I figured, I mean… I am no expert on this matter, but perhaps it’s the wand?” Fred wondered now and scratched his head in thought and made me look at him with a jolt. Right, was that the explanation? I had been so appalled by the intolerable otter, that I hadn’t had the opportunity to think it through. Could that be the explanation?
“That thought might not be half bad!” I let him know and drew my white wand out of the invisible holster on my left arm. I aimed and yelled “Expecto Patronum” and my glowing corporeal patronus shot out of my white wand and flew agitatedly around the alcove.
“There you go! I find it much more beautiful than the otter!” both of them declared.
“Looks a lot more delicate. Though why... Can you give us an explanation, Hermione? Why do you have two and I don’t even manage one!” Fred enquired, slightly sulky, and stared at the floor. Meanwhile I giggled in relief. It was a good feeling that I hadn’t lost this little companion on the way. It suited me so well. Next I pondered unhurriedly what I knew about otters and what they stood for, chewing my lip in the process. Yes, right, they were resourceful, dynamic, eccentric. I couldn’t think of more than that.
“Oh, er, excuse me, I was lost in thought for a moment. I’m just so happy. I too like my magpie more. I believe it has to do with the two wands. One is a purely light wand, I have never used it for dark magic. My real wand, however, with which I feel well connected, is so different to the brown one. So I think that this explains the two patroni!” I explained and reasoned further.
“Most of the people acquiring a second wand get one similar to their first, but my second one has nothing in common with my first wand, absolutely nothing, do you understand? And that’s why I have a patronus for each wand, funny, though I guess the magpie is more powerful?” and looked at the white wand in my hand.
“Maybe, it was stronger, more silvery than the otter. Do you really think it’s so easy to explain? Wouldn’t everybody have a different patronus with another wand, then?” George added for consideration, sounding excited.
“Mh-hm. Unfortunately I am no wand maker and those keep their experiences and findings always to themselves, but I believe so. Say somebody has beech and unicorn hair for his first wand and the second is made of cedar and unicorn hair, then the patronus shouldn’t change much!” I swept a few stray strands back into my plait.
“That sounds logical!” George acceded thoughtfully.
“And now look here…” I held up my brown wand. “Vinewood with dragon heartstring, a light wand…,” put it away and raised the white one. “... whitethorn with thestral tail hair, very dark. Even the maker was astounded that such a powerful and first and foremost quintessentially dark wand chose me. I believe with such significant differences it’s only natural.” I weighed both of them thoughtfully and calculatingly in my hand.
“What is so special regarding pale wood?” Fred inquired and nearly crept into my wands.
“It doesn’t get along with light materials, which is why it is part of black magic. Draco is very proud of his hawthorn wand, as white wand wood chooses only very powerful wizards,” I explained visibly proud myself.
“Cool! I want a second wand, too!” Fred shouted, already decided. “I truly want a second one as well,” he now looked at his brother pleadingly, who just then started to formulate an answer and considering the way he looked it was not a positive one, when I interjected.
“Then we will get you one during the holidays. When exactly will you arrive at mine?” I asked them. When Fred wanted a second wand, both of them should get one, full stop, I had decided.
“The day after Christmas. Mum won’t let us go to Lee any earlier, as it is a family holiday!” George rolled his eyes, annoyed.
“Good, I’m looking forward to it. However, I think we should go back, not that somebody notices our absence,” I pointed out apprehensively. Thus the Twins sandwiched me again and only seconds later we were back again amidst the noisy scenery of earnestly practicing students. I now helped Fred and George with words and deeds, though nobody managed a corporeal patronus in this lesson. When we set out to return to our common rooms in small groups Cho and Harry were dawdling. We cracked up as the Twins were making lewd jokes at Harry’s expenses and Ginny was looking as if somebody had forced her to eat lemon drops. If she continued to pull such a face she would get wrinkles while still young.
At night in front of the fireplace, which transformed the common room into a warm, cosy nest, we snuggled down into our armchairs and couch and I embraced the opportunity to pump Harry for information.
“Well, Harry, talk. What did you have to discuss with Cho?” Meanwhile I beamed at him mockingly. If he could force me to show my corporeal patronus in front of everybody, I would tease him with his love life.
“Er, er. Now… Nothing?” It came convincingly from a boy gone red, who had directed his gaze down in embarrassment, combing through his hair insecurely. Yes, right, Harry, I believe every word you say. Maybe I should offer him acting lessons.
“Pray tell, mate, have you cracked her?” Ron enquired extremely sensitive, which made Harry even more shy. I glared at Ron.
“Ron! Only a klutz like you can be so sensitive. Just as well that no girl yet had the honour to be cracked by you!” I spit venom at him. I mean, really, ‘cracked’. I will crack his head right now.
“Of course not, Ron,” Harry said soft-spoken. “I and her, we had a conversation and she… she… oh, I don’t know, she suddenly started to talk about Cedric and then she started to cry…” He now took his glasses off with a frustrated expression and ran his hand over his tired eyes, looking deflated. He groaned, “I tried to comfort her and then, then we kissed…” He broke off. Considering that had been his first kiss, as I knew, he looked too much like a wet blanket, not like a young man in love who was happy about his crush kissing him. I didn’t like the girl at all. No, that wasn’t right, I was indifferent about her, that’s more like it. I didn’t like the way she treated Harry or rather her overly emotional behaviour. I mean, she was beautiful, an exotic beauty with long, black, silky hair and her delicate, Asian figure. However, when the character was flawed, all the outward splendor didn’t help.
I wasn’t fond of people suffering so openly, wallowing in one’s sorrow. It didn’t achieve anything, that was my attitude. I was pragmatic here and Cedric had neither been a stranger to me nor unfamiliar. It had hit me hard, but I was not one to cry and do little to nothing, like dear Cho, I did more, but tears didn’t help in the slightest, they only managed to upset Harry for nothing at all. Was I too hard on her? Because I was an emotional cripple and not capable of such feelings of grief and least of all over such a long period of time? Imagine the girl had to live through the things I had experienced, she would break down… or worse. I wished for Harry to have a loving, but strong personality at his side, he would need one considering the position he would have to take on sooner or later, and not some delicate flower. Yes, the plants came into play again. You can guess by that alone the deep affection I held for Cho given my ability to nourish and cherish my plants.
“Blimey, mate, that’s not good at all, is it?” Ron only looked consolingly at Harry.
“Oh Harry, never mind. You’re not at fault, she isn’t crying because of you!” I explained, groaning loudly. The stupid cow might manage to bring Harry to blame himself, as he was very quick to do so.
“Really?” He looked up hopefully. “Do you truly think so, Hermione, or are you just talking…?” he doubted me immediately.
“Really, Harry! Cho is a delicate, sensitive young girl, who is totally unable to cope. And I think she is not ready for a new relationship. She likes you, but she knows you need strong personalities around you and she isn’t one. And she is sad about that and hence the loss of Cedric impacts her all the more!” I offered slyly. I had to open Harry’s eyes, this girl was not right for him.
“Bloody hell! If that’s so, do you think she isn’t over Cedric’s death? I don’t think that’s bad… But she can’t mourn him forever, right?” Ron said something clever for once and got Harry to raise his eyes
“That’s right, Ron, I think she is still grieving for Cedric and naturally she wouldn’t withstand the reactions of the other students, as emotional as she is.”
“What do you mean?” Ron asked. Oh wow!
“What would everybody say when she gets together with Harry, who had been present when her boyfriend had died. That smells fishy and requires a strong woman with high self-esteem, who knows what she wants. And Cho doesn’t measure up in my opinion. I’m sorry, Harry!” I looked at him sadly and he gave me a wistful smile
“Alas, Hermione. I believe you are right with everything. Even if it hurts to admit, but I think you are right. I mean, as early as Fourth Year everything that could go wrong went wrong and now it really is, how did you phrase it? Fishy. Though it is hard to accept that nothing will come off it.”
“Sorry, mate,” Ron gave him a sympathetic slap on the back. I started to giggle, as I wanted to lift the spirits, which got me a couple of funny looks.
“What...? I am sure, Harry, you will find the perfect lid. There are a lot of pretty girls here and you look decent yourself and have good chances. Talk to Sirius during the holidays. He should be able to help you with the right way to approach the female kind!” And I knew that mentioning his godfather was always able to raise Harry’s spirits, and thus he started to laugh, albeit restrained.
“That’s an excellent suggestion. Thank you both,” and he hugged us tightly. Thus we went to sleep, but it wouldn’t be a quiet night.