Dumbledore's Army and the Summer of '98

Dumbledore's Army and the

Summer of '98

Chapter Nine: Hermione’s Horror

Chapter Nine: Hermione’s Horror

Full color line drawing of Hogwarts Castle under a dark sky with dark clouds and a full moon from the chapter Hermione's Horror in Dumbledore's Army and the Summer of 98
Ottery St. Catchpole, Devon, England. Monday, 8 June, 1998. 9:45am.

The Weasley’s kitchen was quiet, and bright with natural light. A light, fresh breeze and soft birdsong came through the open windows. Hermione Granger, nevertheless, felt grumbly.

She sat at the large, wooden table, shuffling through a stack of scrolls, and thought, they expect students to sort through all this and make important recommendations? It’s ridiculous that the Ministry shows us any of it!

Of course, Hermione knew that she was more than capable of understanding the issues, but the student body in general….

Well, it was true that Neville also had a thorough understanding of the problems at hand, and she couldn’t find any fault in his suggestions….

So maybe, she thought, it’s fine for McGonagall to hand-pick us as extraordinary students, but still, there’s the general principal of the thing…. There are standards and procedures for a reason you see….

Hermione sighed. She dearly hoped she wasn’t becoming like Percy.

She looked up at Ron, who was sitting across from her, his nose buried in a comic. She wondered if he would find her quite boring this week.

“Ron,” she asked, “do you think I’m similar to Percy?”

Ron looked up from his magazine in alarm. “That’s the most disturbing thing I’ve heard today, and look at what I’m reading!” He threw his copy of Auror Horror down on the table between them.

“I’m serious, Ronald! Am I becoming a bureaucratic drone?”

A voice came from the doorway. “It’s no longer a question of “becoming,” Hermione,” said Harry, with a wicked grin. “I think that ship has sailed. It’s more a matter of degree.”

“Oi!” shouted Ron. With surprisingly good aim, he chucked a copy of the Prophet at Harry’s head. “That’s the woman I love you’re talking about!”

“Well, I’m sure you’ll love her all the more now she reminds you of —“

“OI!”

Thwack! The comic hit its mark.

“Ow!”

“Serves you right!”

“Boys! You’re not helping!” Secretly, though, Hermione was amused.

Harry pulled up a chair and joined them. “No one wants to help you become more like Percy, Hermione.”

Hermione huffed impatiently. “I don’t want to become more like Percy! I’m wondering if I am becoming like…. aughghgh!” she growled as Harry and Ron snickered.

Seeing Hermione’s frustrated expression, Ron said, “We know what you mean, Hermione, and thank Merlin, I don’t think so.”

Hermione felt a little better, and returned to her papers.

“What’s that you’re working on?” asked Harry.

Hermione replied, “We’re still trying to find solutions for our staffing and housing problems. It’s really frustrating, because the Gryffindor and Ravenclaw towers don’t have room for extra students. There’s plenty of room in Slytherin house, but — “

“ — no one wants to catch their cooties.”

“Ronald! Honestly!”

“What are the staffing problems?” asked Harry.

“Hey, if you get to pick teachers, hire some who hate exams!”

“We don’t get to pick them,” said Hermione loudly and deliberately to Ron before turning to Harry. “At least, Neville and I don’t. I don’t really know why they’re asking our opinions at all, but the problem is that the new positions are all temporary, and the most qualified professors are the least likely to uproot their themselves for just a few years. And I need to share at least a few sensible ideas on both matters by Friday.”

“At the joint meeting of the Department of Magical Education and the Board of Governors?” asked Harry.

Hermione was surprised. “Yes! How did you know?”

“They’ve summoned me there, too,” said Harry.

This was news to Hermione. “Whatever for?”

“They want me to reveal all the secret passages in the castle.”

Ron sat bolt upright. “You can’t do that! Especially if we’re going back!”

Hermione’s inner authoritarian immediately replied. “Well, of course they want the information! It’s a security issue.”

But even as she said the words, her stomach twisted. She felt instinctively that Harry should keep the castle’s secrets to himself. Her discomfort must have shown in her face, because Harry said, “You don’t think I should do it.”

“I don’t know….” For the second time that morning, she felt truly torn. Either choice made her uneasy.

I do!” declared Ron. “Tell them no way!”

Hermione was dismayed. “He can’t say “no way” to the Ministry!”

She turned back to Harry, and was astonished to see a smile on his face. “You have a plan!”

“No, no special plan,” said Harry, leaning back in his chair. “I’m just going tell the Ministry what they want to hear.”

“Don’t do it, mate!”

“Oh, Ronald, you just want to sneak out to Hogsmeade! But Harry, seriously, not all of your enemies have been captured. If you do go back to Hogwarts, you may have need of those passages again!”

“I know that, Hermione. That’s why I’m going to tell the Ministry exactly what they want to hear.

Hermione was puzzled until Ron laughed.

“Good one, Harry! We’ll save our secrets for someone who’s truly worthy.”

Although she thought Harry was doing the right thing — well, the correct thing, at any rate — Hermione felt sad about the whole affair. Again, her face must have revealed her thoughts, because Ron asked, “What’s wrong, Hermione?”

Hermione twisted her fingers together. “Does it bother either of you that we feel we can’t trust the Ministry?”

“I have confidence in Kingsley!” said Harry immediately.

“Do you? Do you really believe that that he has full control over everything there, and that when he’s gone, the Ministry will continue to be staffed with honest people?”

“What are you saying, Hermione?” asked Harry.

“It’s just sad, that’s all…. It’s sad that no matter who’s in charge, I doubt that any of us will ever stop wondering what’s going on behind closed doors. We’ll always be afraid that someone is plotting against Muggle-borns, or hoping to raise a new generation of Death Eaters. Even with Kingsley Shacklebolt as Minister and Professor McGonagall as headmistress of Hogwarts, we’ve lost our trust.”

They were all silent and sober for a moment. Ron covered Hermione’s hand with his own. Then he brightened and said, “We trust each other, don’t we?”

Hermione looked at him, wondering where he was going with this. Ron looked back and forth between Hermione and Harry.

“Well?” demanded Ron.

“Of course I trust you two!” exclaimed Harry.

“Me, too,” said Hermione.

“Well then,” said Ron triumphantly, “aren’t we all going to work for the Ministry? I mean, eventually?”

Hermione and Harry looked at each other.

Ron grinned broadly as he got to his point. “That’s three people we can count on right there. A trustworthy Ministry will start with us!”

Hermione was about to argue that the three of them could hardly found a trustworthy Ministry on Harry’s lies about Hogwarts’ secret passages, when they heard lively music from the direction of the garden.

Ron went to the window and leaned out. After a moment he said, “What in Merlin’s name are they doing?”

“Who?” asked Hermione.

“Ginny and Parvati.”

Harry joined Ron at the window. After a moment he grinned and said, “I think I know.” He turned and went outside.

“Well, what are they doing?” asked Hermione of Ron.

Ron tilted his head from side to side, and finally said, “I dunno.”

Overcome by curiosity, Hermione rose and followed Harry outdoors, Ron at her heels.

Ginny and Parvati were dressed in black, body-hugging t-shirts and flared trousers. Wands in hand, they were practicing a choreographed dance to music that seemed to come from a small, round, grey device. They punctuated their movements with a variety of spells, such as shooting jets of water and changing the color of their shirts. When they reached a point in the music where the singers stopped and the musicians took over, streams of butterflies came from their wands, and they tried to make the little insects fly to the beat. They failed spectacularly, and giggled madly at their mistakes. Again and again, Ginny pointed her wand at the device and returned the music to the point of the butterflies’ entrance.

Hermione, Ron, and Harry watched from the edge of the garden. “What are they up to?” asked Ron, looking rather disturbed.

Harry, on the other hand, looked more enthusiastic than he had about anything since the battle.

“Ginny told me about this,” he said. “It’s a Charms routine.”

“A Charms routine?” repeated Hermione.

“They do them in the States at Quadpot matches.”

Hermione had never heard of such a thing, which was most unusual, but she had to admit to herself that she’d never bothered to follow any sports. She couldn’t see a purpose to this activity, but it did look like a bit of a challenge — something to keep your skills sharp.

The butterflies were completely uncooperative, and Parvati finally said, “Let’s just continue on. At the break, why don’t we spin like this — oh, hello, Harry! Hermione, Ron.”

Ginny looked startled and a little embarrassed, but she smiled when Harry said, “That was brilliant!”

“No, it wasn’t!” protested Ginny. “We have a long way to go.”

“No, really. I couldn’t exactly picture what you were telling me until now.”

“I still can’t picture it, and I was looking at it!” grumbled Ron.

Hermione was surprised by Ron’s reaction, but then realized how odd Charms dancing or whatever it was would seem to someone who grew up in the wizarding world. At least Hermione and Harry had seen such things on television. She wondered where Ginny and Parvati had gotten the idea.

Harry said, “We didn’t mean to interrupt you.”

“That’s all right,” replied Parvati. “I actually came by to give you all invitations.”

“Invitations to what?” asked Ron. From the tone in his voice, Hermione suspected he was afraid of being invited to an evening of Charms routines.

Parvati aimed her wand at a colorful bag that lay in the grass and said, “Accio Invitations!

Sprigs of ribbon-tied lavender flew out of the bag and hovered in front of each of them. When Hermione touched her sprig, it transformed into a card. In sparkling purple ink, the card read:

Lavender Brown is Back in Town!
She would love to see all of her Hogwarts friends
Join us for a tea to welcome her home
Friday, 12 June, 1998 4pm
The Gryffindor Common Room
Hogwarts School of Witchcraft & Wizardry
R.S.V.P. to Parvati Patil for the password

“Lavender’s out of St. Mungo’s already?” asked Harry.

“Yes, apparently there’s not much more they can do for her there,” said Parvati. “She still tires very easily, which is why we’re having the tea in the common room; she can rest in the dormitories before and after.”

“But what about her friends who aren’t Gryffindors?” asked Ron. “How will they come?”

Parvati looked surprised. “You don’t need to be a Gryffindor to enter the common room, so long as you’re invited,” she said. “Didn’t you know that?”

Ron looked to Hermione for confirmation. She said, “It’s true. There isn’t any rule about who can visit a house common room.”

She looked at the date again. “This is good timing. Harry and I are going to be at Hogwarts anyway for the meeting with the Board of Governors.”

“I know,” said Parvati. “Neville suggested the date because so many of us will be at Hogwarts.”

“You’re attending the board meeting?” asked Hermione.

“No, I’ll be helping Professor Trelawney put the Divination tower in order.”

Hermione didn’t think much of Divination, and she wondered why Professor McGonagall was keeping it on as a subject, now that Sybil Trelawney didn’t need to be protected from Voldemort. She supposed that there were many students who enjoyed it, Merlin knew why.

“Well, I’d better be going,” said Parvati. “I’m off to see Susan next.”

“I’ll go with you!” said Ginny.

Parvati turned her wand on herself and gave it a flick. Instantly her black dancewear was transformed into a pretty yellow flowered dress. Hermione was impressed, and quite surprised that Parvati could do that. She wasn’t sure she could do it herself, never having tried. She would have to look up the spell.

“I still don’t have the hang of that,” said Ginny wistfully.

“I would do you,” said Parvati, “but I’m not perfect at it, either. I don’t want to make a mistake and leave you in your knickers!”

Ginny laughed. “Come up with me while I change,” she said, heading for the house.

Parvati Acciod her bag and the music player, said “Bye, Hermione!” and caught up with Ginny, suggesting casually, “Why don’t you ask Serena to help you with the fashion spell on Friday?”

Ginny’s reply was lost to Hermione, partly because the girls were walking away, but mostly because she felt like an electric shock was coursing through her body. She was rooted to the spot, her stomach heaving. They couldn’t be talking about Serena Serpentia? Surely not! What would she be doing at Hogwarts, and why would Ginny and Parvati ever talk to her, much less ask her for Transfiguration advice?

She turned to Harry and Ron, only to realize they had moved away. Harry was explaining to Ron that Quadpot, unlike Quidditch, had breaks in the play, allowing time for entertainment. They hadn’t heard Parvati’s words.

Hermione shook her head, chiding herself for being so jumpy. It must be another Serena, maybe an alum helping to rebuild the castle. It was surely someone else.

Hogwarts. Friday, 12 June, 1998. 5:30pm.

It wasn’t even suppertime, and Hermione was ready to call it a night. She walked toward Gryffindor tower, heading for a gathering she no longer wished to attend. Only the thought of a big hug from Ron kept her from marching out the castle gates and apparating home.

The meeting between the Board of Governors, the Department of Magical Education, members of the Hogwarts faculty, and the student representatives had been incredibly frustrating for Hermione. Even now she didn’t know whom she wished to curse first: Neville or Harry. Perhaps she should also curse Horace Slughorn while she was at it. Yes, he was definitely on her list.

The meeting that afternoon had been contentious from the start. Professor McGonagall made her case for educating orphaned and fostered ten-year-olds at Hogwarts. She believed this was vital to ensure a well-educated post-war citizenry. The Board of Governors were divided on the issue, mainly because everything about a primary program seemed so impractical and unmanageable. Those who opposed a primary year at Hogwarts only changed their minds because they liked a set of particularly horrid proposals by Professor Slughorn.

First, he thought that the eighth year should be a permanent offering at Hogwarts for students who wanted more time to prepare for N.E.W.T.s and repeat courses they needed to enter career training programs. Second, he thought that high-achieving eighth-years could be charged with teaching basic skills to the youngest students, leaving the professors free to help the eighth years prepare for their N.E.W.T.s. Third, he thought that the primary students should learn magical skills as well as academic ones.

Hermione didn’t care for any of these proposals at all, and was dismayed when Neville said, “I like the idea of having the oldest students teach the youngest. Maybe it’s selfish of me, but I would love to teach the little ones about herbology. I can think of loads of ideas to make it fun for them. And there are other students who might be good teachers, too, like Parvati Patil for divination, and Hermione here for basic mathematics — the things they’ll need to know later for arithmancy.”

Hermione wished Neville had kept her out of it, because after his statement, she was conflicted. She felt it was highly improper for students to officially teach other students, but now she was intrigued by the idea of teaching mathematics. Surely she could do a better job of it than the teachers at her Muggle primary school.

“Do you have enough eighth-years with both the talent and aptitude for teaching?” asked the Ministry representative.

“I believe so,” said Professor Vector. “I would feel comfortable assigning Miss Granger to a mathematics class.”

“I would wholeheartedly support Mr. Longbottom for Herbology,” said Professor Sprout.

“Miss Davis is a good candidate for Astronomy,” said Professor Sinistra.

“I nominate Mr. Finnegan for Care of Magical Creatures,” said Professor Grubbly-Plank.

McGonagall frowned. “I don’t believe he is returning.”

“I rather like the idea of a Magical Games class,” said Madam Hooch. “Little ones have to expel their energy, or they’ll never sit still for academics. And it will prepare them for Quidditch. I’ll have to consider whom to choose to help me run it.”

“It’s too bad you’re not returning, Mr. Potter,” said Professor Flitwick to Harry, who was sitting against the wall with the other special guests. “You would be the ideal choice for Defense Against the Dark Arts.”

“I will not be putting wands in the hands of ten-year-olds!” declared McGonagall.

“I believe we have student teachers to cover most of the wandless classes,” said Professor Vector, “but we have no one for Potions.”

“Of course we do!” said Slughorn. “Serena Serpentia is the obvious choice! In fact, it was the thought of having her help me with the little ones that inspired my entire plan.”

Hermione was floored by this suggestion, and she saw she wasn’t the only one. McGonagall compressed her face so hard that Hermione thought steam might actually shoot from her nose.

“You want to bring back a student whom I have already expelled and place her in a position of authority?” she questioned incredulously.

“She’s not still expelled, Professor?” asked Flitwick. “I thought that whole common room misunderstanding had been sorted out.” He turned to Slughorn for confirmation.

“It has! It has!” declared Slughorn.

“Why do you want to nominate Serena in particular, Horace?” asked Professor Sprout.

“It’s only practical!” said Slughorn. “Her mother runs a successful Potions camp, you see, the same one that used to employ Professor Snape during the summer term…”

What? This was news to Hermione! She immediately looked at Harry, who seemed just as surprised as she was.

“… and having been an assistant there herself, she knows how to successfully instruct our youngest charges.”

Madam Hooch winced. “I understand that the Serpentias are excellent potioneers, but having instructed two of them, I would be very hesitant to put one in charge of a classroom.”

Two of them? thought Hermione.

A few other professors murmured in assent, but Slughorn wasn’t giving up. He puffed out his moustache and said, “I think we should ask the one person here who has experienced Miss Serpentia’s tutelage. Mr. Longbottom?”

Neville looked uncomfortable to be put on the spot. He exhaled before answering, and finally said, “I’m sorry Professor, but even though Serena was a good teacher during homework detentions…” he paused and looked first at Hooch, then McGonagall, “…I have to agree with Madam Hooch. I would never set her loose on a bunch of little kids. She’s just not very nice.”

Hermione had heard quite more than enough. “Not very nice” didn’t even begin to cover Serpentia’s faults! She stood and surprised even herself by the shrillness in her voice.

“This is outrageous! How can any of you seriously consider letting that Death Eater set foot in this place? She belongs in Azkaban, not a classroom!”

There was a brief silence; then a board member said, “That’s ridiculous! Both of my children have attended Adjoua Serpentia’s Potions camp, and I can assure you, she’s no Death Eater!”

“But what about her husband, or her daughter?” asked the Ministry representative. “Could they have been Death Eaters?”

All eyes turned to McGonagall, who looked reluctant as she said, “No, Dr. Serpentia is rather famous in America for rejecting Voldemort three times, and as for his daughter…. Well, first of all, there were never very many true Death Eaters, the ones in Voldemort’s inner circle. But setting that aside, we have solid evidence that Miss Serpentia was not a sympathizer to his cause. She was, in fact, one of the many students who attempted to undermine the Carrows’ authority at Hogwarts last year.”

Stunned, Hermione looked at Harry, who nodded. Hermione sat down, very angry that no one had bothered to share this information with her. How long had Harry known this? And Neville!

“I think this conversation has steered off course,” said Professor Sprout. “We’re not here to choose next year’s staff. We’re here to discuss whether we should take on primary students, and what to do with them. I personally like Horace’s suggestions.”

And so it was that the Board and the Ministry approved of an eight-year trial program of an eighth Hogwarts year, and a three-year trial program of a primary year for orphaned and fostered children. The primary year would include Grammar, Maths, Herbology, Potions, Astronomy, Divination, History of Magic, Magical Games, and Care of Magical Creatures. Select eighth-year students would be granted the official position of Tutor, and would teach the primary students under the supervision of professors. The Ministry representative said that she doubted the primary students would be allowed wands, but she would discuss the idea with her colleagues and Minister Shacklebolt.

After the meeting, Hermione bolted from the room into the nearest loo, where she paced furiously, fuming. It was humiliating to learn about Serpentia’s “heroics” like that, and confusing, too. If Serpentia had truly been against Voldemort, then why had Hermione heard her voice at the Malfoy’s when she, Harry, Ron, and Dean were captured?

Hermione remembered thrashing on a musty rug, screaming from the excruciating pain of Bellatrix LeStrange’s Cruciatus curses, and in the moments between attacks, hearing voices: Ron shouting, Narcissa Malfoy hissing, and Serena Serpentia complaining that something was a complete waste of her time.

Maybe Serpentia was never against Voldemort; maybe she just didn’t like the Carrows! And how could Flitwick and Sprout — and even Slughorn! — stand up for her when they knew full well that….

Hermione stopped in her tracks. They didn’t know. They didn’t know what had happened at the Malfoy’s. It wasn’t in the Prophet. She hadn’t told anyone, and neither had Harry or Ron. Even Ron didn’t know a single detail about what she’d experienced at the hands of Bellatrix LeStrange. She had to tell McGonagall. She had to tell her right away!

She raced to the door. But as her fingers touched the knob, Hermione realized that she wouldn’t make much of a case for herself by running up to McGonagall, flustered and crying, to say that Serpentia had been visiting the Malfoy’s during Easter break. Taken alone, what kind of crime was that?

No, she should write out the entire story, including the reasons that Serpentia was not to be trusted, and present it to the Department of Magical Education. That should at least keep Serpentia out of Hogwarts permanently. Hopefully. Maybe. Hermione leaned against the door and sighed.

Hermione shoved all thoughts of the meeting from her mind as she reached the common room. The Fat Lady was dressed in a flowing lavender gown. She had a finger-sandwich in one hand and in the other… a bottle of butterbeer?

“Password?” she asked.

“DillyDilly,” said Hermione.

The scene behind the round door took Hermione by surprise. She had expected a small group conversing quietly around tables. Instead, the common room was packed, the music was loud, and the tables were pushed back to make room for a dancing.

Hermione didn’t recognize a lot of the people. She wondered if some of them were Lavender’s friends from home (and she wondered if this were allowed.) She saw Gryffindors from several different years, as well as many members of the D.A. Neville was dancing with Hannah, Susan with Jimmy Peakes, Luna with Dean. Ron was talking to Ginny. She didn’t see Harry. Hermione thought she would quickly pay her respects to Lavender and leave, but she was on the dance floor too, with Anthony Goldstein.

“Hermione!” Ron came striding across the room, a huge grin on his face. He grabbed both of her hands and pulled her toward the dance floor. “Where have you been? I have a surprise for you!”

“What kind of surprise?” She tried to pull away, but he held her hand firmly and spun her around.

“This!” He pulled her into his arms and pushed her back out again.

“Dancing?”

“I know you thought I was hopeless at Bill’s wedding, so when I heard about the tea, I had Ginny show me some moves!”

“Oh, Ron!” Hermione felt the tears come. Truly, Ron was the only bright spot her her life at the moment. No matter how sad he felt about Fred, he did everything he could to make her feel supported and loved. She was so grateful for him.

Ron looked alarmed. “Am I still that bad?” he asked, only half-joking. He stopped dancing.

“Oh, no! No!” said Hermione, shaking her head. “You’re wonderful! Truly. I’ve just had….. I’ve just had the worst day….”

Ron hugged her. “I’m sorry. Do you want to sit down?”

Hermione pulled away. “No! No, not at all! Let’s dance!”

She didn’t feel much like dancing, but surely it would be better than stewing over things she couldn’t change tonight.

“If you’re sure….” said Ron, looking confused.

“Yes, I am!”

Hermione nailed on a smile and took Ron’s hands.

7pm.

Dancing did make Hermione feel better, well enough to brush away her annoyance with Harry when she saw him dancing with Ginny; even well enough to recover from a major stab of anger when she saw Serena Serpentia step onto the dance floor with Seamus Finnegan. A Slytherin in the Gryffindor common room! That Slytherin! She couldn’t wait to record her story.

Ron was naturally the first to notice when the food on the tables changed from savory treats to puddings. Hermione finally felt hungry herself, and was glad to take a break and follow him to the buffet. They filled their plates and sat on a window seat, watching as couple by couple, the dancers grew tired and stopped to get sweets.

The guests scattered around the room in small groups, talking and laughing. It was still light outside, but as the sun sank in the sky, the room dimmed. The shadowy figures of elves lit some candles, and fairy lights twinkled on the ceiling.

Eventually the energetic tunes gave way to something more mid-tempo, and Neville led Hannah back out onto the dance floor. As more people joined them, the music slowed down again, and a haunting muggle song that Hermione recognized from the summer of the Quidditch World Cup began to play. It really was a lovely scene, with the twinkling lights, the low, happy chatter, a soft breeze from the open window, and the musicians singing about finding a love you had never noticed.

Ron startled her by saying, “Quite romantic, this, isn’t it?”

Hermione felt so greatly pleased that words actually failed her, so she simply smiled at him.

Ron stood and held out his hand. “Care to dance?”

They found a spot on the crowded dance floor and swayed to the music. Hermione looked around at the other couples, and noticed Seamus dancing with Serpentia. She frowned a little; there was something odd about them. She couldn’t put her finger on it.

Well, Seamus did seem taller than usual, but Hermione quickly realized this was only because Serena wasn’t wearing her usual curved-heel boots. Without them, she was only a little taller than Seamus.

Maybe it was their clothing; Hermione had never before seen Serena in Muggle clothing, and for some reason Seamus was wearing a fashionable dark Muggle suit.

No, that wasn’t it, either. It was…. hang on. Why were they gazing at each other like that? Surely they weren’t….? Hermione thought they might actually kiss, but then the song ended, replaced by a brighter one, and the mood was broken. They started to talk, but Hermione couldn’t hear what they were saying.

“Ron? Got a sec? It’s about the Quidditch team. Oh, sorry, Hermione.” It was Jimmy Peaks.

“That’s okay, Jimmy,” said Hermione. She smiled at Ron. “We do want Gryffindor to win next year, don’t we?”

Ron kissed her on the forehead and stepped away to talk to Jimmy, giving Hermione the opportunity to edge closer to Seamus and Serena, who were fortunately at the back corner of the dance floor, next to a tall, narrow bookcase. Hermione stood on the other side of the case and removed a book, trying to look casual as she leafed through it and strained her ears to eavesdrop, which wasn’t easy, because even as they argued, Seamus and Serena were trying to keep their voices below the music.

“I can’t hang about here any longer,” Serena was saying. “I promised I’d meet Stephanie and help her set up for her beach party tonight. Don’t forget, you’re building all the bonfires.”

Who was Stephanie, and why was she starting a party so late?

“Stars, Serena!” replied Seamus. “I can’t do another all-nighter!”

“What all-nighter? It won’t start until after sunset. You have practically the whole night to sleep before it really gets going.”

The whole night to sleep before a party that was…. tonight? Was there an illegal time-turner involved? Weren’t they all destroyed? Hermione peeked out over the top of the book, hoping to catch a glimpse of one.

Seamus stared at Serena for a moment, then said, “All right then, let’s say goodbye to Lavender.”

“No, you stay here,” said Serena. “You’ll only be in the way this early.”

“Well then, I’ll walk you out.”

“I’m not walking down all those stairs!” declared Serena.

Seamus gripped her arm. “You are indeed! You promised!”

“Ow! That’s where I fell!”

“Nice try, but you fell on the other arm.”

Serena tried to pull away. “Let go, you old hen! No one’s looking. Half of them are snogging and the other half are in the bag because Dean spiked the punch.”

Through gritted teeth, Seamus growled, “Serena, I vow to Merlin that if you — dammit!”

Seamus let go of Serena and clutched his arm while Serena stepped away and dissolved in a cloud of glittering black beads and red sparks.

Hermione felt her entire body grow numb. She couldn’t move. She couldn’t breathe. Surely she hadn’t really seen…. no…. it was impossible…. Dumbledore would have known…. McGonagall…. But then where was Serena?

Hermione’s gaze was locked on the spot where Serpentia had disappeared. She fought to stay calm, to breathe normally, to think what to do.

“Aw, feck it.” The voice was both angry and resigned.

Hermione tore her eyes away and saw black-clad Seamus staring directly at her, his brow knit, his jaw set. He raised his arm, and Hermione just knew he was going to Obliviate her. The full horror of the situation finally hit her, and Hermione began to scream.

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