|by Van © 2015|
|OUR STORY CONTINUES
As the first rays of the sun peeked above the highland hills, shone through the diamond-paned window, and illuminated the rafters of Hermione and Ginny's dorm room, the magical ropes binding their bodies melted away. This would have happened even on a cloudy day, as the critical factor was the position of the sun relative to the lay-lines crisscrossing Hogwarts' geographic and ethereal coordinates, but the sunlight probably hastened the process by a few seconds.
"I'm going to kill her," Ginny growled as she threw back the covers and climbed out of bed.
"Slowly?" Hermione inquired as she sat up in her own bed. She smiled, stretched her arms over her head, and heaved a deep yawn. "E'yaaah! Or quickly?"
"Oh, slowly, of course," Ginny huffed as she began her customary morning exercises. "Something slow and painful."
After all their years at Hogwarts, both girls were used to rising early. Ginny did the exercises that would make sure she'd continue making the cut for the Gryffindor quidditch team—not that she was in any danger of not making the cut. Ginny was team captain, after all. In any case, as captain, she had to set a good example for the more junior team members.
Hermione checked the autoscroll ensorcelled pad and quill she kept on her nightstand to record any dream-talk that might escape her lips during the night. She frowned, then waved her hand to erase the pad. There had been a full page of writing, but it had all been nonsense on the theme of "mmmmmf," "mrfhhhlf," and "nrrrmlrrpfh," some in English and some in Modern Runic.
Both hurried to the female dorm washroom to compete with their housemates for time at the washbasins and in the commode stalls. As seventh-year students they enjoyed precedence, so they completed their morning toilettes quickly and returned to their bedroom to change into their uniforms.
"I've changed my mind," Ginny said as she knotted her tie, tucked it under her jumper, then began brushing her hair.
Hermione smiled. "Yes?"
"I won't kill her, just torture her."
Hermione continued smiling. "Nothing against school rules, of course."
Ginny sighed, then tossed her brush atop her chest of drawers. "Spoilsport," she sighed.
Hermione had finished brushing her own long, chestnut locks, and placed her brush in its exact, proscribed position atop her own chest of drawers.
The house elves had delivered their books and wands to the bedroom as part of Hermione and Ginny's rescue of the night before, so they didn't have to make a side trip to the scene of The Great Incarcerous Duel Debacle to retrieve them. The friends hurried towards the Great Hall for breakfast, although Hermione did make Ginny wait while she made a sidetrip to the Gryffindor's first-year dorm rooms for a quick look to ensure that all was well. None of the youngsters required rescue from a prank or motivation to keep to the school schedule, so she rejoined Ginny and they exited Gryffindor Tower through the Fat Lady's Portrait.
"I don't know why you do that," Ginny huffed while they waited for one of the staircases to properly align. "You're not a prefect."
Neither Hermione nor Ginny had been chosen as prefects that year, but it wasn't a slight. Ginny was busy as captain of the Gryffindor quidditch team and Hermione had volunteered to lead the student committee that was helping restore the more esoteric (but not restricted) stacks in the Library. In the aftermath of the Battle of Hogwarts, a few hundred volumes had become confused and had to be reintroduced to the card catalog. This was especially true of tomes that had been out on loan to students or on the shelves of teachers' offices at the time of the battle.
"In light of... everything that's happened," Hermione said as they descended the momentarily unmoving stairs, "I think it's important to make sure the first-years are all fitting in."
Ginny smiled, but didn't otherwise reply. Who couldn't help liking Hermione Granger? She could see why her brother Ron was in love with her—although she still found the idea of anyone snogging Ron to be somewhat disquieting, a subject not to be contemplated before breakfast.
They entered the Great Hall and found places at the Gryffindor table, and in the process noted that Luna was already enjoying a breakfast of oatmeal and berries with cream at the Ravenclaw table across the Hall.
"Nothing messy, of course," Hermione said, still gazing at Luna.
"The torture?" Ginny asked. Her eyes were also on their unsuspecting target. "No, I was thinking of something light."
Hermione sat down and poured tea into the cup at her place, then did the same for Ginny when she sat. "Something light?"
Ginny added milk and two lumps to her tea. "Light as a feather," she purred.
Hermione and Ginny exchanged a knowing smile.
Meanwhile, across the Great Hall, Luna smiled at nothing in particular and delicately emptied her bowl with her favorite spoon, the one with the engraving of a duckling and a dwarf stoat dancing on the handle. It had been her baby spoon, but she'd found a spell that let her enlarge or shrink it in size, as required for the item at hand. It was currently set at "trifle," one size up from "pudding." The spoon normally dangled from a bracelet around her right wrist, between a pair of tiny feathers, one silver and the other white gold.
& the Wrappity Wrope
Hermione, Ginny, and Luna had one class in common that morning: Defense Against the Dark Arts (Seventh Year), taught by Professor Cassandra Nightingale—from America!
Headmistress McGonagall, Hogwart's Board of Governors, and the Ministry of Magic had agreed that Hogwart's entire D.A.D.A. curriculum needed to be revamped, and many of the United Kingdom's best and brightest senior Aurors and scholars of Dark or Questionable Thaumaturgy were engaged in the effort, those that had survived the Second Wizard War or weren't residents of Azkaban, that is. That left few candidates for the post available and Headmistress in something of a quandary. It had always been difficult to recruit D.A.D.A. teachers. The job was considered semi-cursed. However, she'd cast a wider net than usual and had scored a real coup.
The Second Wizard War had been a global affair, and Cassandra "Cassie" Nightingale had distinguished herself. Specifically, she'd led a group of American, Canadian, and Mexican wizards and witches against an organized incursion of wendigos, were-jaguars, and chupacabras—all supposed allies of the Dark Lord—who had sought to establish a magical empire centered in the mountains of Alberta, Montana, and Idaho. The defeat of the dark forces on the North American front had been decisive and Cassie had played an important role, but she'd also distinguished herself, again, by negotiating with her surviving enemies and brokering positive and (hopefully) lasting reforms to their societies. She was recognized as a heroine of the war and the peace on both sides of the Atlantic.
Professor McGonagall had offered Cassie the D.A.D.A. chair as a one-year position, and she'd accepted. This also gave the Hogwarts students experience with the wand-free style of magic practiced in North America and for Cassie and the other faculty to share spells and charms. (And the rumors that Cassie Nightingale and Kingsley Shacklefort, the Minister of Magic, have been seen "dating" on several weekends are completely unfounded, had nothing to do with her getting the job, and Rita Skeeter should be ashamed of herself!)
"Let's continue our discussion of the difference between Dark Magic and magic used for dark purposes," Cassie lectured. "As you are all well aware, certain magical acts, such as the Unforgivable Curses, are forbidden by law. They are on one side of a bright line, while other just as powerful spells and charms are on the other. Our first day of class, I gave you my definition of Dark Magic. Who remembers what it was?"
Hermione's hand shot into the air, and at the same time, roughly half the class whispered "Hermione" under their breath.
Cassie smiled at the brightest witch of her age. "Miss Granger?"
Hermione lowered her hand. "Dark Magic is used to cause harm, control, or even death to the victim. It is not the spell, charm, or potion that is Dark, but the magician's intent. In the study of Magical Ethics, this is referred to as the Rational Lemma, or Ravenclaw's Proposition."
"Excellent, Miss Granger," Cassie said. "Now, what is the antithesis of Dark Magic?"
This time both Hermione and Luna's hands went up. Hermione noticed Luna's hand and lowered her own.
Cassie smiled. "Miss Lovegood?"
"Love," Luna stated.
"Bloody good love does you when you're in the middle of a fight," Ginny muttered under her breath, "unless it's a snogging battle."
Several of the class laughed, but Cassie restored order with an admonishing lift of the eyebrow tempered by an amused grin.
Luna turned to Ginny. "Oh, but it is. Love is always good."
"It is, indeed," Cassie nodded, then focused her smile on Ginny. "Love is not a tactic or a weapon, Miss Weasley. Love grounds the magician in the Light. It is the antecedent to all defense against the Dark Arts and the most powerful of all magical forces. Some consider it the mirror image of Darkness. Others believe Dark and Light are inextricably linked, and that Love is the binding agent." Cassie strolled to the back of the classroom, her black, academic robe billowing behind her, revealing the stylish, brick-red dress underneath. "I'm afraid my ultimate point is obscured by generalities." She turned and smiled at the class, then strolled towards the front of the class. "Let's start again with a practical example."
Cassie lifted her hand and made a quick, graceful gesture, her fingers moving too fast to follow. At the same time, a strand of rope flew from her palm. It quivered and shook for a couple of seconds, then spun into a tightly woven ball and dropped towards the ground.
Ginny caught the rope ball with the reflexes of a star quidditch player, and turned it in her hands. The ball was about the size of a standard bludger, but looked like it had been knit by a giant using many yards of hemp rope.
"That's amazing," Hermione sighed.
All the students were impressed. American-style wand-free magic was something of a novelty in Europe, and it was certainly new to the students of Hogwarts. There were definite pros and cons to both styles. Wands allowed concentration and control of magical forces at a level that took a wandless wizard or witch years if not decades to match. On the other hand, Cassie couldn't be disarmed in a duel. She could be overpowered, but not disarmed.
Ginny tossed the hemp bludger to Cassie, who caught it and placed it on her desk. "Now," Cassie said, shifting into lecture mode. "Suppose a pair of witches were in a friendly duel, testing each other's skill with, shall we say, the Incarcerous spell."
Hermione and Ginny exchanged a startled look, then blushed slightly and returned their attention to their teacher.
The focus of Luna's slightly vacant smile and attention never wavered.
"Both witches are equally skilled," Cassie continued, "or nearly so, and both are grounded in the Light. In addition, both come from nurturing family environments, and by family I mean blood relatives and a close circle of friends. However, one witch has been schooled in the magical nature of Love since birth, while the other has not. Both were nurtured by Love, but the second didn't receive formal training. And I don't mean to suggest any sort of neglect on the part of the second family."
Gwyneth Otterwood, a Hufflepuff student, raised her hand.
Cassie nodded. "Miss Otterwood?"
Gwyneth lowered her hand. "You aren't suggesting a violation of the prohibition on underage magic, are you? On the part of the first family, I mean."
Cassie smiled and shook her head. "Your ministry prohibits formal magical education outside of a recognized academic environment, and wizards or witches under the age of seventeen may not practice magic outside of school. That said, who among you hasn't used your wand to evict gnomes from the family garden, or used a levitation spell to change the family bedlinen?"
Now, most of the class was blushing, not just Hermione and Ginny.
"The underage use of minor spells and charms is winked at by the Ministry," Cassie continued. "But as for the parents, performing simple magic in a deliberate and easily imitated manner is recognized by the Ministry as good nurturing, not unauthorized instruction." She lifted the ball of rope, tossed it into the air, and it disappeared with a loud pop and a drifting shower of glowing yellow sparks. "My point is this: The first witch has the advantage of years of nurturing or instruction explicitly grounded in the principles of magic and Love. Such an advantage cannot be taught from a book, nor can it be gained from practice. The first witch already has her feet set on the path of Light. The second witch may be on the same path, but is somewhat behind."
Cassie strolled to the back of the class, again, and the students turned their heads to watch her pass. The female students noted that their male classmates were having no difficulty whatsoever giving Professor Nightingale their full attention. This was hardly surprising, as Cassie was exotic, foreign, and beautiful, even for an elderly lady in her forties. The general feminine consensus was a shake of the collective head. Boys!
"Your homework is to read chapter twelve of Robelwick's Annotated Compendium," Cassie stated. "I know that today's lecture may have seemed somewhat esoteric, perhaps better suited to an advanced class in the Philosophy of Magic, but we will get to practical applications of the general principles involved, I promise. Class dismissed."
As the students gathered their things and began to depart, Cassie returned to her desk. "Miss Granger, Miss Weasley, and Miss Lovegood, please remain behind for a moment."
Hermione, Ginny, and Luna stood in front of Cassie's desk, books in hand.
Cassie straightened her desk, put away her seventh year lesson plan, and pulled out her prepared notes for the next class: D.A.D.A. (Third Year). She then focused on her students and smiled. "Now, ladies, I thought you might like to know that while the privacy of all Hogwarts students remains sacrosanct, as the thaumaturgical matrix of the school undergoes final repairs and adjustments... unusually strong occurrences of magic do not go without notice. Headmistress has asked me to remind you of the school prohibition on pranks and hazing."
"Professor Nightingale!" Hermione gasped, "we would never—"
Cassie interrupted Hermione with a smile and an imperious gesture. "This is a friendly reminder, Miss Granger, not a warning. Is that clear?"
"Yes, Professor," Hermione answered.
Ginny was doing her best not to smile, then cleared her throat when Cassie's smile shifted her way. "Clear, Professor," she muttered.
Cassie smiled at Luna.
"I would never let anyone bully Hermione, Ginny, or any of my friends," Luna said gravely, "especially the more junior students."
Hermione and Ginny exchanged a mildly worried glance. Would Professor Nightingale misinterpret Luna's unique manner as impertinence? Should they come to her defense?
Happily, Cassie wasn't offended. "We understand one another. Dismissed."
The students turned and made their exit.
Hermione paused halfway to the classroom door. "That was a very interesting class, Professor," she said. "Thank you."
Cassie smiled. "You're welcome, Miss Granger."
Ginny swung her hip and jostled Hermione as they crossed the threshold. "Suck-up," she chuckled.
"Stop it," Hermione huffed. She managed to retain control of her books, but it was a near thing.
"I wonder who Professor Nightingale was talking about," Luna said as they walked down the corridor, "meaning the hazing. And who do you suppose might be playing pranks?"
Hermione and Ginny exchanged knowing smiles.
"I have no idea," Hermione said.
"Nor I," Ginny shrugged.
"Well," Luna continued, "I suppose we should all be on our guards."
& the Wrappity Wrope
"I've never been to this part of the dungeons before," Luna said.
It was after the evening meal, and together with Hermione and Ginny, Luna was walking down a dark corridor lit by charmed torches clutched in the hands of rather sinister statues in medieval garb. Most were men with long beards, Norman-style helmets, and chain-mail armor, but some were women with full-length gowns and equally long hair. Their stone eyes seemed to follow the three students as they strolled along. That might be a testament to the artistry of the sculptor or sculptors, but at Hogwarts, one never knew.
"The entrance to the Slitherin common room is two corridors over," Ginny chuckled. "None of us have been here before."
"With only a handful of Slitherins returned," Hermione said, "and a mere handful of first-years sorted into the house, chances are we won't be noticed." Slitherin House had taken the biggest hit in the war, far and away. Many of the traditional Slitherin families had decided to give Hogwarts a pass this year, relying on tutors to educate their children. With time, all four houses would regain near equal student populations, but for now, the Slitherin dorm was something of a ghost town.
"I still don't understand what you want to show me that's so very interesting down here," Luna said, "although the statues are quite nice."
"It's right here," Ginny said, indicating a door. It was flanked by two more statues, both men with long beards, shaggy eyebrows, and dressed in long academic robes. They glowered at the students with mildly disapproving expressions. Carved into the doorway's massive keystone was a single word: DĒTENIŌ.
"Oh," Luna said, gazing up at the keystone. "The old detention chamber." She stepped forward and opened the massive doors. They were constructed of massive timbers and banded with iron, but apparently the hinges were exquisitely well-balanced, magically charmed, or both.
Hermione and Ginny exchanged a mildly surprised and exasperated look, then followed their Ravenclaw friend into the chamber beyond. So much for tricking Luna.
"Supposedly, this chamber hasn't been used in more than 200 years," Hermione said, "but... Oh my."
The detention chamber was ghastly, completely out of place in an academic environment. In point of fact, it was a torture chamber. There were three pillories, five sets of stocks, and a framework supporting a horizontal beam about seven feet off the stone floor. Evenly spaced along the underside of the beam were a row of seven pulleys, and dangling from each pulley was a rope terminating in a pair of cord loops.
"Thumb nooses," Luna said, gazing up at the row of pulleys and ropes.
"For hanging you by your thumbs?" Ginny demanded. "I... I thought that was a school legend."
"Apparently not," Hermione said, equally horrified.
Luna strolled over to the nearest set of stocks and used her wand to levitate the heavy top beam. With a creak of protest from the hinge at one end, the stocks opened. She then sat in the stock's bench-like seat and placed her back against the tall vertical post that was the bench's after-support. She lifted her legs and placed her ankles in the stock's openings, lowered the top beam, then reversed her wand and held it by its very tip. "Who would like this?" she asked pleasantly.
Hermione and Ginny exchanged another surprised look.
"You can't take your revenge if I'm not completely at your mercy," Luna stated.
Ginny reacted first. She pulled out her wand, gave it a wave, and Luna's wand flew into her left hand. "She has a point," Ginny said to Hermione, "but this takes a lot of the fun out of it, don't you think?"
"It takes all the fun out of it," Hermione sighed.
"Takes all the fun out of what?" a new voice demanded.
Ginny and Hermione turned to the chamber door and gasped!
"Oh, hello," Luna said in her usual vacant manner.
Standing in the doorway was Hogwart's resident Sentinel Magus, Ffion Tonks!
"Hello," Ffion said, a ghost of a smile curling her lips. She was dressed in her usual manner, boots, tights, skirt, blouse, and jumper, all in various shades of gray. Her purple hair was loose about her shoulders and her wand was in her right hand, held casually at her side. The students watched with wide eyes as Ffion pocketed her wand and crossed her arms across her chest. "Headmistress has decreed that as part of my duties, I'm to supervise all student detention not related to misconduct in the classroom. She hasn't told me what to do when students actually volunteer for detention."
"No, no, we're not volunteering for anything," Hermione objected. "We, we just... That is..."
"We found a reference to the old detention chamber in the library and wanted to check things out," Ginny said. "That's all."
Ffion was dubious. "Check things out?"
"Yes," Ginny nodded. With a flick of her wand she lifted the top beam of one of the pillories, walked over, bent forward at the waist, and placed her neck and wrists in the appropriate openings. "See? We wanted to see what it was like in the old days."
"I see," Ffion purred, then strolled over to the pillory, locked eyes with Ginny, then slowly lowered the top beam, trapping the redhead in place. She then casually took Ginny's wand from her right hand, Luna's wand from the prisoner's left, pocketed both, then turned her thin smile to Hermione.
Hermione was nervous, and she couldn't hide it. Given the setting, she wasn't sure why she should even be trying. "Uh... Professor Tonks, we aren't violating any school rules, and—"
"I'm not a Professor," Ffion snapped. At the same time, a forelock of her purple hair flashed lavender, then pink, then returned to purple. She smiled fully for the first time. "Call me 'Honored Auror Supreme' or 'Sentinel Magus Stupendous,' but not Professor."
Hermione couldn't help but smile back. "I take it you are unimpressed by titles?"
"Unless those titles are earned," Ffion agreed, "like Heroines of the Battle of Hogwarts."
Hermione blushed, as did Ginny and Luna. That supposed title was a fabrication of the Daily Prophet, and all three of their names had been on the published list. "Uh, we're sorry if we disturbed your patrol, Sentinel Magus," Hermione said quietly.
"Actually," Ffion said as she pulled out her wand, "I was summoned by a protection spell. While this chamber is not explicitly off limits, it is protected. It's a very old spell, more or less superseded by later incantations, but apparently it has reasserted itself in the course of repairs. I suppose it's only polite to answer its call and arrest any malefactors discovered." She flicked her wand and two things happened.
(1) With a popping sound, several bolts protruded from a metal plate below the open hasp that when closed would secure the top beam of Luna's stocks, the hasp flipped down and snapped closed, the plate slid up to cover the entire hasp, and the bolts popped flush, once again. Luna's ankles were now in the stocks to stay.
(2) Gears turned in the hasp mechanism of Ginny's pillory, the entire locking assembly sank back into a shallow cavity, and was covered by a sliding metal plate of its own. Ginny was also well and truly trapped.
"Hey!" Ginny complained.
Luna wiggled her toes. Luna usually went barefoot at Hogwarts, even though her fellow Ravenclaws had stopped hiding her shoes. She lifted her smiling face to gaze up at the pair of open manacles dangling from the post above her head, lifted her arms and placed her wrists in the open cuffs, then returned her smile to Ffion.
"Oh, very well," Ffion sighed, flicked her wand, and the manacles snapped closed and locked.
"Thank you," Luna said, still smiling.
"Are you insane?" Ginny whispered.
Luna gazed at her fellow prisoner. "In for a knut, in for a galleon," she explained. (The muggle saying "In for a penny, in for a pound" is also used in the wizarding world, only translated into wizarding currency.)
Ginny and Hermione heaved simultaneous sighs, then focused on Ffion. Luna did as well.
"Miss Granger," Ffion said, "come with me." Once again smiling her ghost of a smile, she held out her hand, palm up.
She wants to take my hand? Hermione wondered, then the truth dawned. "Oh." Blushing in embarrassment, both at the momentary fanciful thought that Ffion Tonks might be trying to seduce her, and at the reality of being characterized as a malefactor, a breaker of school rules. Okay, the alleged offense might not even be worthy of the term technical, but still... Hermione reached into her pocket, slowly drew her wand, flipped it so it was handle first, and placed it in Ffion's hand.
"Enjoy checking things out," Ffion wished Ginny and Luna, then gestured to the open door.
Hermione gazed at her helpless fellow students, then turned and preceded Ffion into the corridor.
As soon as the threshold was clear, the doors closed. There was a pause... then gears turned and bolts were thrown, one after another, until a total of twenty heavy bolts had secured the door. Then, before Ginny's horrified and Luna's amused and interested eyes, the gears, bolts, and ratcheting mechanisms involved fused into the back of the door, becoming decorative patterns in the iron banding. The bolts remained bolts.
"Well," Luna said, tugging on her chains and wiggling her toes. "I'm very much afraid we'll be missing our study periods this evening."
Ginny rolled her eyes and settled in to wait for their eventual release.
"At least there are no nargles in this chamber," Luna sighed.
& the Wrappity Wrope
Ffion led Hermione to her office.
Although the post of Sentinel Magus was new, the office in question was one of the oldest in the school. Originally, it had been the domain of Hogwarts' Faewardern Peculiar, the keeper of the school keys and direct supervisor of the house elves, but eventually it was realized that Hogwarts' keys and elves could supervise themselves. Algernon Bramstruther, the last Faewarden Peculiar, retired in the late 16th century after more than 130 years of diligent and honorable but totally unnecessary service and wasn't replaced.
The office had the usual amenities: A large wooden desk, elaborately carved on the theme of elves dancing with large keys, a throne-like chair, similarly carved, and a clothes tree, also carved, but on the theme of an actual tree, an oak tree to be precise. There were also bookshelves and records cabinets, also festooned with prancing elves and cavorting keys.
Through an open doorway behind the desk Hermione caught a glimpse of a neatly made bed, but as she made her way to her chair, Ffion flicked her wand and what was apparently the bedroom door closed with an authoritative thud.
Hermione also noted several books on the shelves. A few were modern. She recognized a copy of Bathilda Bagshot's Hogwart's: A History, and next to it was a slim volume entitled Fifty Shades of Grey. Given Ffion's dressing habits, Hermione assumed the book was fashion related. There were also several books quite obviously checked out from the school library, and at the very bottom was an entire shelf of very old, leather-bound tomes without the library's charmed tags on their spines.
All of that Hermione took in at a glance, but now her attention was riveted by a massive cabinet taking up one entire wall of the chamber. It was something like an aviary, with rows of cage-like doors with thin wooden bars, but the doors' placements didn't seem to delineate specific chambers. The cabinet beyond was one large space with row upon row of brass hooks, and dangling from the hooks were countless brass keys, all with what appeared to be folded, dragonfly-like wings. As Hermione watched, one of the keys somehow left its hook, extended its wings, and fluttered up to a large key-shaped slot built into the very top of the cabinet. It emerged from the slot, took one quick turn around Hermione's amazed head, then flew up to the chamber's arched ceiling and joined a half-dozen other keys flying lazy, spiraling loops around the chain suspending a chandelier of charmed candles.
"Around noon they all decide to exercise at once," Ffion said with a mildly annoyed expression. "The noise makes it impossible to work. Luckily, I'm usually at lunch or on patrol."
"So that's where they came from," Hermione whispered under her breath. She'd seen flying keys before, way back when she was a first-year and together with Ron and Harry had gone in search of where Professor Dumbledore had hidden the Philosopher's Stone.
"Excuse me?" Ffion inquired.
"Nothing, Profes-, I mean Sentinel Magus," Hermione answered. "What can I do for you?"
Ffion settled into her chair and placed the three wands she'd confiscated on the blotter before her. "First of all," she said, "I insist that you and Miss Weasley stop tormenting poor Miss Lovegood."
Hermione was horrified! "B-but, Sentinel Magus, we would never—"
"Enough," Ffion chuckled, raising her right hand. "I'm pulling your leg. Actually, I should think a pair of Gryffindors would know better than to allow themselves to be played by a Ravenclaw in such a manner. But that's not why I've asked you here." She pointed to the row of tomes without library tags. "I need you to take those to the library for cataloging and evaluation. I believe they're mostly housekeeping records maintained by the old Peculiar Faewardens, or Faewarder Peculiars, or whatever they were called. Anyway, they belong in the school archives, not cluttering my office."
Hermione gazed at the numerous and obviously heavy volumes.
"You are the head of the student library volunteers, aren't you?" Ffion inquired.
"Yes, Sentinel Magus," Hermione answered.
"Oh for crying out loud," Ffion chuckled. "Call me Ffion when junior students or teachers aren't around. I know you and cousin Nymphadora were good friends." Nymphadora Lupin (née Tonks) had fallen in the Battle of Hogwarts, together with her husband Remus Lupin, who was also one of Hermione's former teachers.
"Yes, Senti-... Ffion." Hermione was blushing again, and she hated it.
"I suppose it would be easier if I gave you back your wand," Ffion purred, nodding to the wands on her desk. "And you might as well restore Miss Weasley's and Miss Lovegood's wands to their rightful owners, but after you take the books to the library, understand?"
Hermione suppressed a smile. Apparently the Sentinel Magus wasn't above a little "tormenting" of her own. "Yes, Ffion."
Ffion smiled. "Very well, then. That will be all."
Hermione picked up all three wands, pocketed Ginny's and Luna's, then, with a flourish, levitated the uncatalogued tomes from the shelf, carefully formed them into a neat and well-balanced vertical stack, and eased them around the desk. In the process, she passed close to the clothes tree and noticed something unusual.
At the base of the clothes tree was a ceramic, cauldron-shaped pot full of soil, and growing from the pot was a brown vine with sparse, widely separated clusters of tiny, waxy, dull-green leaves. The vine was wrapped around the carved trunk of the clothes tree, and until seeing the pot she had taken it for a carved decoration. Now, she could see that the vine was quite real.
A living wrope vine! Hermione realized. She also noticed small catkins of seeds dangling from some of the leaf clusters. As she passed close to the clothes tree and with her body shielding her action from Ffion, she plucked a catkin from the vine with her left hand, then turned and carefully backed towards the door, taking the levitated books with her. "Good night, Ffion," she said.
"Goodnight, Hermione," Ffion purred, a sparkle in her eyes, "and remember, I'm watching you. And your friends as well."
Hermione blushed, again, and nodded in respectful acknowledgement. As soon as she was well across the threshold, books included, the office door closed behind her. She turned and headed for the library with the floating stack following at the end of its magical leash. Once well away from Ffion's office, she paused to glance at the seeds in her left hand, then continued on her way.
Had she stolen the seeds? Hermione thought not. Eventually the wrope seed clusters would have fully opened and scattered the seeds to the floor, where the house elves would have swept them away. Had she been naughty by surreptitiously absconding with the seeds? Yes, and a wicked smile curled her lips at the thought. Hermione knew she had a reputation for being notoriously scrupulous, but she wasn't a total Goody Two-Shoes. She'd have to find an envelope or possibly a small vial in the library office in which to store the seeds.
Wrope seeds! Hermione thought with a grin. What a fortuitous find!
& the Wrappity Wrope