Part VII

With exams steadily approaching, and her friendship with Ron strained after an idiotic fight a few days prior, Hermione was more than inclined to spend her time away from Gryffindor Tower. She would get far more studying done with a proper partner than she would trying to get Harry and Ron to start preparing for the end of term anyway.

Her partner in question was at a table in one of the farthest corners of the library, encased by looming bookshelves. The nook he'd settled in was secluded enough to only have two narrow points of entry. Hermione considered it a wonder that anyone had ever found the spot at all. She certainly hadn't —yet, at least— and doubted she ever would have if he hadn't provided her a quickly doodled map along with the note to meet him after dinner.

She slipped into the surprisingly spacious study area. "Happy Tuesday," Draco said without glancing up from his book.

"Afternoon, Draco," Hermione said as she set her books down and sat across from him.

He glanced up and studied her with eyes that were caught somewhere between the palest of icy blues and most silver of greys. "Don't take this the wrong way," he began, "but you look exhausted."

She tried to muster up a convincing smile and started to assure him that she was fine when one of his pale brows ticked upwards. He saw right through it.

"Weasley?" he guessed.

She sighed and nodded reluctantly, trying to busy herself by flipping open the books she needed.

Draco's expression turned sour. "Saint Potter's taken Weasel's side this time, has he?" he asked.

"No," Hermione said. "It isn't like that. He's just…"

"Immature? An idiot? Can't see past the end of his own freckled nose?" Draco offered. "Thinks crimson and gold makes you god-like? Thinks anything silver and emerald is evil?"

She sighed again and Draco set his irritation on her behalf aside for a few moments. He reached out to take her nearest hand and returned his attention to his textbook.

"May I write you over the summer?" he asked when she didn't pull away.

Her fingers gently squeezed his as she reveled in the fact that Draco Malfoy, of all people, was someone she now considered a friend. "You may."

He squeezed her hand in return and the two fell into a companionable silence.


By Rita Skeeter

During a routine observational sit-in of several upper year classes, one Hogwarts Board Governor discovered that Gilderoy Lockhart, Professor of Defense Against the Dark Arts at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, was an "alarmingly incompetent instructor". The Board of Governors graciously agreed to deliver an official statement to us here at the Prophet, which we are honored to present to the public today.

While the report detailing the "gross educational deficiencies" observed in Professor Lockhart's classroom is classified information, Deputy Head of the Board, Abraxas Malfoy, assured us here at the Prophet that the Board has already put together an assessment and remediation plan for the 5th through 7th year students, who were found to be sorely under prepared for their O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s respectively.

Governor Malfoy explained that all current Hogwarts students would take an assessment to determine the severity of their academic deficiencies. Summer workshops are currently being set up for all students in need of remedial study. As a result of these unfortunate circumstances, the O.W.L.s and N.E.W.T.s have been postponed until later this summer or until the remedial workshops have had a chance to fill in the gaps left by Professor Lockhart.

The assessment screenings are set to take place before term ends on June 30th, at which time the course of action for the younger students will be plotted and determined. As of now, the lower year students who pass these assessments will be allowed a chance to take their end of term Defense exams as originally scheduled. Those who do not will be fit into the Board's summer remediation program. And though the head of the board was unavailable for comment, Governor Malfoy was quick to assure us that all students who do not meet their Defense requirements for graduation or their next year of schooling will be tended to, regardless of the circumstances.

The Department of Magical Law Enforcement has opened an official investigation on Lockhart in light of these events. There are also rumors of an anonymous tip being sent to the DMLE about the authenticity of Lockhart's reputation and career.

According to several of the lower ranking members of the Hogwarts board of governors, traditional hiring procedures were not followed with Lockhart's hiring. No known action has been taken against Headmaster Albus Dumbledore (Order of Merlin, First Class; Supreme Mugwump of the International Confederation of Wizards; and Chief Warlock of the Wizengamot) at this time, but board investigations are rumored to be ongoing.

To learn about more secrets uncovered about Lockhart by the DMLE, see page 9.

Hermione skimmed the Prophet over Harry's shoulder and shook her head. Lockhart turning out to be a complete fraud didn't bother her as much as Harry or Ron thought it might. She'd stopped caring about him months ago.

She picked at her breakfast while the owls continued their rounds and jumped when a thick envelope landed in front of her. A sleek black owl landed in the middle of the table, managing to avoid the dishes with more grace than Hermione had expected it to have. She offered it a half slice of toast, then shrieked when it flew to her shoulder, and let out an exasperated laugh when it rubbed its head against her cheek before taking off with its toast.

She picked up the letter, noting its weight before inspecting the wax seal pressed into the back. The symbol was familiar —a Caduceus set into silver wax— but she didn't know who it belonged to and the only thing written on the envelope was her name.

"Wot'cha go' 'ere, 'Mione?" Ron asked around a mouthful of food.

Her lips twitched in distaste. "Honestly, Ronald, must you talk with your mouth full?"

Ron only rolled his eyes at her and continued to eat when it became clear she wasn't going to engage with him until he used his table manners.

"Who's it from?" asked Harry from his spot beside her. He, she noticed, had made a point to swallow before speaking.

Hermione shrugged. "I dunno," she said as she carefully broke the seal.

The stationery inside was crisp and thick, with a delicate border of silver laurels decorating the edges. The silver glinted against the marble white card stock. Despite its sturdiness, Hermione was careful as she removed the letter. Glistening dark green ink stood out against the stationery and as she admired the contrast, she recognized the handwriting.