The news came Wednesday at breakfast. Hermione, Draco and Gwynavere had returned to the school the night before because something in a conversation with her mother had triggered a waterfall of ideas for Hermione. It turned out to be the only thing that saved them.
They had been sitting at the kitchen table, discussing religions. Hermione's mother, it turned out, loved learning as much as her daughter. They were quite similar, those too, both interested in everything, it seemed, and looked a lot a like, Hermione having her mother's hair and body type.
She had her father's eyes, but there the similarities stopped. She was book smart and street smart, and her father was a large, tough man that came off as a bully.
When they had first gotten to her parents house, he had greeted her with a few choice words on her 'situation', though he'd shut up at a look from Draco. It seemed, while he wasn't afraid of his daughter (Draco knew he would be if he worked her up enough to use magic, now that she legally could) he was afraid of her husband who had five inches on him, and a wand.
Now they were back at Hogwarts, ready to begin planning. Hermione was excited about this idea, talking nonstop to anyone who would listen. She was in the middle of re-explaining it to Ginny when the Ravens entered the Great Hall.
Ravens were only sent by the Ministry when someone had died. To see seventeen of them floating in to the Great Hall that morning had shocked the room to silence. It was only broken by the jagged cries that came from the recipients when their letters were opened. Hermione didn't doubt that each letter was nearly identical to the one she received.
"Madame Hermione Jane Malfoy,
We are sorry to tell you that both your mother and father, Anne Marie Granger and Charles Ruben Granger, passed away last night due to unknown circumstances. Please accept our condolences.
Cornelius Oswald Fudge
Cornelius Oswald Fudge
Minister of Magic, Great Britain"
Taking a deep breath, Hermione turned her head to look at Draco. He wrapped an arm around her waist, pulling her against him. As he kissed her temple, he wondered if his father had been the one to do it, or if it was someone else. "I'm sorry, love, so sorry."
"You didn't do it Draco. It's… it's not your fault," she closed her eyes as she said this and he knew she didn't blame him, but his father and Voldemort. He did too.
Resolutely, she stood, Draco at her side and Gwyn in her arms, and moved towards Dumbledore, who had received two of the Ravens. When they approached, he looked up, his blue eyes sad. "The Creevey boys and Ila Dickinson."
"Ila?" Hermione asked, her eyes tearing up. It was hard to imagine the third year Gryffindor girl dead. Especially because Ila had been Hermione's pet project, the young girl having been just as bookish and unsociable as Hermione had been when she was younger.
"I know, child, I'm so sorry… and… your parents?" he asked. All of the teachers listened while trying to look like they were not.
"Dead." Her voice was flat when she said this. Draco knew then she would be working as hard as she could to end this soon. In trying to weaken her, Voldemort had just given her all the fuel she needed to run him into the ground.
"Oh, child…" She looked into Dumbledore's eyes for a second longer before she turned and faced the silent hall. Seventeen Ravens had come in. That meant, if each family got one Raven, that seventeen families were dead.
"Colin Creevey, Denise Creevey and Ila Dickenson were killed last night, along with my parents and fourteen other families. I don't know which of you who received the owls had siblings who were killed as well, but those of you who did, I give you my greatest sympathies. I don't know how bad it must hurt to loose them all," her voice was soft as she spoke, but everyone heard her. She looked up at Draco who nodded, before she turned and walked away, moving down the hall and out of the doors. No one stopped her as she went.
When she was gone, Draco looked out at the crowd, his silver eyes lashing dangerously. No one said anything as he looked them all over. He finally nodded and walked out, following Hermione.
Everyone knew he'd been looking for the person who told Voldemort he and Hermione were supposed to be at her parent's house. They knew, looking at him then, that he would get revenge on the person who had. Draco and Hermione would take it, for themselves, and for everyone else, when the time came. They would make the rat that had infested their halls pay dearly.
Most of the students were hard pressed to keep from glancing over to where Blaise Zabini sat, alone.
Within a week there was a plan in the works. It would not take place until the summer solstice. The solstice fell on a Sunday. They would graduate five days later, on the 26th.
Hermione had explained to everyone her reasoning for them to do battle on that day. It was from the religion of the witches that she had pulled her date. She had explained to the purebloods the foundings of their paganism, their beliefs. The God of Light, known by names like The Holly King, Gawain, Llew, Lugh, Balan and many others, was born at midwinter, on the Longest Night, and was at his strongest on the Longest Day. His twin, the God of Darkness, known by names such as The Oak King, The Green Knight, Goronwy, Balor, and Balin, would be at his weakest on Midsummer's Eve.
Seamus helped her, telling them all the story of Lugh and Balor, the great eye that had once ruled the land that was now Ireland and told them of the Spear, the Chalice and the Sword.
Hermione had gotten a manuscript of Pixie lore and read from it, pointing to their stories that featured The Holly King and The Oak King as they fought.
All in all, she made a convincing argument for a battle on the longest day. Now all they had to do was lure Voldemort out to fight.
Hermione left that to the hands of the adults. She had provided the date and means of his demise, they could provide him for the battle. Now she was solely focused on the students and teaching them what they would need to know to survive the battle.
The whole school watched as she worked, waiting for her to fall apart. She never did, though she was working harder than they'd ever seen, and none of her hard work was going towards studying for NEWTS.
In fact, most of the seventh years had stopped paying much attention to their NEWT preparations. The Professors watched in trepidation as the students became distant, barely there in class. Half of the time they were passing notes about other things, their mind somewhere the adults couldn't follow.
Because Dumbledore, McGonagall and Snape hadn't said anything about the students and their group, none of the others knew that the students were preparing for war. Those involved in the Order of the Phoenix knew about Hermione and her having come up with a plan to kill Voldemort, but none knew that she and a majority of the students trained and planned how they would take on the battle.
And train they did. They worked hard, late into nights and through meals. They made themselves work harder than any of them ever had for school or Quiditch.
The Quiditch matches had begun to loose their appeal to most of the students. The teams still reluctantly showed up for practice – sometimes, if there wasn't a meeting or a training session for SHADE. Madam Hooch had never seen anything like this, and was often heard complaining to the other adults about the students complete lack of interest.
Hogsmeade weekend sales had gone down, as most of the people who bought things on the weekends were students and were no longer coming to see them. Questions had been asked, and no answers received. After the first month of it, those who owned the shops gave up asking and worked around the lack of teenagers.
The pranks and fights had gone down. The students, while tense, had found a new way to work off tension – dueling class and training sessions.
At night, all of the students seemed to fall into a bed, asleep before their heads touched the pillow. Almost every night the Professor on patrol had to wake someone up in the baths.
Detentions went down to a record low, the students not having time to get into fights or make messes. Their homework got done – though it wasn't always well done, it was done.
All of the work that the students did was paying off, because as they worked harder for SHADE, the easier their class work became. The teachers noticed, but most didn't say anything to anyone.
Pieces were starting to fall into place for the excluded adults. They watched how all of the children interacted, watched as slowly it didn't take Hermione or Draco's presence to sooth the Gryffindors and Slytherins into working together. They watched in amazement as a Slytherin and a Gryffindor stopped a Ravenclaw in the middle of belittling a Hufflepuff. They watched as instead of pairing off by house, they paired off into groups and duos that made sense, ones that shored up each other's weaknesses.
They watched as the students grew from children into young adults. Watched as they forgot their prejudices, forgot that they had all been enemies for years.
One evening in the Great Hall, a first year Hufflepuff tripped and fell. Instead of being helped up by another member of her House, Pansy Parkinson was the one to come and help her up, the one to heal her scratched knee.
The adults watched as no one found it odd, and noticed how familiar the two were.
Each weekend, she and Draco would meet with the three Professors who knew about SHADE and inform them of what they were doing and how it would affect the adults. As the teenagers slowly came up with more and more details for the fight, they were relayed to the adults.
Like wise, the adults relayed what information Hermione and Draco weren't privy to as junior members of the Order so that when the time came, neither would be stepping on the others toes.
Slowly the whole thing was falling into place. The adults who didn't know about SHADE had an idea that it, or something like it, was there, and almost every student had been included. Some still weren't, but it was only five seventh, two sixth and a fourth year. All of the rest had been cleared and had a group of others that they were training with.
As they became better and better at working with each other, their magic was growing stronger. They were learning things that sometimes took witches and wizards all their life to learn - how to use the least amount of magic with the greatest effect, how to amplify magic, how to 'bounce' magic off another person.
Dumbledore watched them, wondering how it had taken so long for Hogwarts to come together. There had been other Warlords, other Dark Wizards to come into play in the last 1000 years, and yet they had never managed to unite the school. He wondered if it was the situation, or if it was the players.
While neither the adults nor the students knew all of what was happening (only Dumbledore, Draco and Hermione did), they did know the other group was preparing something. None of the teachers were stupid; all of them knew something was happening. And the students all noticed the increase patrols, the tired looks their teachers wore. They looked quite similar to the ones they themselves wore.
Both the adults and the students knew that even with plans, once the fight started everything would be shot to hell. Still, neither group wanted to go into a battle with having hashed out everything, with out the knowledge that they could win, that things could go their way.
And so, June drew ever closer.
Chapter Dedication: to MenenTesa, who sparked me into writing this when I wasn't and should have been, simply because I came across this fic on her favorite's list. And to Ali (Lady Idhril), for the kick ass beta.
Author's Notes: Yada yada. Sorry it took so long to get this out. But it's here. It's mostly filler (if you hadn't noticed) and I have a really hard time writing filler chapters. More sooner than last time, hopefully. Sorry if you had to re-read the damn thing to remember it (rolls eyes) I'm just good like that.
Hearts To: angelfire 2004, amandasue06, colorguard06, Kace08, Hafthand, MissingInAction, xoKaSsIeox, jesska-14, Cat, carla, MenenTesa, ali-lou, Jenalei(leave and email and we can chat about you're ooc concerns), tankbbg, xInfernal, Lady Idhril(one of my lovely beta's), WhATs hER NaME 9613, OrgnlAmagic, totallylost, ellangel, dracodea, yuniechan(my other lovely beta), buttonmommy1998