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Match the quote to the story title:
Chosen by Desire by snarkywench_64
The Encounter by valady
The Beauty of Grace by misstee123
Midnight Oak by shiv5468 and warded_portal
Cat and Mouse by mmyrtle
The Avbrytande Effect by kittylefish
Master in the Trees by mundungus42
Forest of Dean by ferporcel
Wings Beating Softly in the Night by Strega Brava
Darkest Before the Light by celisnebula
Naked Journey by plaidpooka
The Twenty by Leyna Rountree
1. It was a slightly longer walk to the centaur's part of the Forbidden Forest from Hogsmeade, but Hermione didn't notice the cold between her anticipation for the morning's events and the warm pie in her pocket. She soon came to the clearing where she had seen the Thestrals the day before and laid her purchase near a holly bush. She returned the sheep to its normal size and vanished the paper and string. She shoved her mittened hands into her pockets and shifted her weight anxiously from foot to foot.
She did not have long to wait. With a sudden whoosh, an adult male Thestral landed not fifteen feet from her, making her jump in surprise. It sniffed the sheep and raised its head in an eerie shrieking call that echoed from the empty trees. Another Thestral landed in the clearing, this one female, and joined the male by the sheep. Soon, there were seven crowded around the carcass, ripping off small strips of mutton and conversing in soft whickers and snorts. Hermione thought she recognised the Thestral that she had spoken to previously, and her suspicions were confirmed when he left the circle and came over to sniff her. As she patted his pointed snout, he caught her right sleeve in his teeth and tugged gently.
Though startled, she allowed the Thestral to draw her closer to the others. It released her, ripped a chunk of meat from the sheep's shoulder and, with his head, gestured for her to follow him. She did so, only occasionally catching her hair and cloak on the thick underbrush, until they came to a clearing where a female Thestral rested on the ground.
Hermione was surprised to note that this Thestral's wings were held out at an awkward angle.
"Are you all right?" she asked the Thestral, wondering if her knowledge of basic first aid would be of any use to an injured flying horse.
The mare whinnied and spread her wings to reveal her back to Hermione.
Clinging to the Thestral's back was a man.
2. "Do you think they're alright?" Ron asked in a worried tone.
"If Hermione set this thing up, you bet they are." But Harry wasn't fully convinced of that.
Deep in the Forbidden Forest, twenty women appeared in a dark cave where the first of many spells were cast in quick succession. The first charms were cast quickly, warming spells on blankets and the cave where they would sleep.
"Lumos!" They yelled.
"Hermione, where in the hell are we?" Millicent asked.
"Shut up and cast," Pansy thrust the spell duties to people and they all began the lengthy warming spells, drying spells, wards. Insect repellant and portable fires lit at each corner, and tables and cots were transfigured immediately for use. They only had a few minutes before their wands were useless, except to alert others to their whereabouts.
"I suspect we have about three minutes…" Luna said, transfiguring rocks into cots and pillows.
"Maybe less for locator spells…" Lisa Turpin added, as she warded the entrance with an invisible barrier to rodents.
Pretty soon the area was lit and filled with beds, tables, candles and the witches.
"Hermione, we are in a cave," Pansy bit out through clenched teeth. "This was your big plan?"
Hermione was about to speak when she was interrupted.
"Stop arguing you guys. Do you realize what we just did? We did it." Orla said, patting her sisters on the back. Her eyes shone with tears and wept openly with relief. No one had died and everyone was saved. Hogwarts was saved.
3. Hermione Granger hated going into the Forbidden Forest, especially during the new moon. The strange noises that permeated the forest at night were scary enough, but this encompassing darkness made it ten times worse. She swallowed her fear, shored up her Gryffindor courage and trekked onward into the forest. She cast a soft Lumos, watching the tip of her wand begin to glow with a low light, just enough so she could see where she was walking.
She headed in the direction Professor Snape told her she could find the elusive Moondrop flower. It had to be freshly harvested at night during a new moon for use in the particular potion she was assigned. Walking onward, Hermione felt as if she was being watched. She walked a bit faster hoping that whatever it was, she could distance herself from it.
4. In the early evening, Severus Side-Along Apparated with her to a field at the edge of a forest. They walked into the woods until he found what he was looking for. He showed her the clumps of vegetation near which the Bilabola regus plants typically grew. He lectured her on how to identify the buds that were at their peak just before they opened. He demonstrated how to avoid the spiny thorns of the plant when plucking the delicate buds.
After this tutorial, Severus wandered away from her to explore another clump of vegetation, leaving her on her own.
She moved easily from one patch of vegetation to another, plucking the buds and placing them into a special sack provided by Severus that was charmed to keep the buds fresh until they got them back to Hogwarts to dry them properly. As she worked, she thought about the tight buds. It seemed sad somehow to pluck them before they had the chance to open. Like a love that never had a chance to flower, she thought. She remembered what Harry had told them about Severus and his mother. She tried to rid her mind of these melancholy thoughts, but they persisted. A love that never had a chance to flower. Like Severus’s love for Lily. Like her love for … Wait. Hold on. Love? Surely not. Infatuation, maybe, but love? How could she possibly love someone who gave her no indication whatsoever that he even realized she was a woman? She decided to put this whole, ridiculous line of inquiry out of her mind.
Hermione worked in silence. After a time, she noticed that Severus was nowhere to be seen. She felt a strange tingle – apprehension, perhaps – and the hairs on the back of her neck stood up. It was now quite dark, as there was no moonlight. Feeling slightly sheepish at her sudden nervousness, she pulled out her wand to cast Lumos! Only – it didn’t. She tried it again, and it still didn’t work. Now she was starting to worry. Why wouldn’t her wand work? The last thing she wanted was to be alone in the woods at night without even her magic to keep her safe.
5. The first hour of Bob and Severus’ journey was relatively peaceful. Stumbling upon a trail leading south, Severus paused in indecision. Not a Slytherin for nothing, he was suspicious of the seemingly too-convenient path. In truth, Severus was wary with good reason. Innocent paths in the deep of enchanted forests usually led places the average wizard did not desire to go, and were made by creatures unpleasant to meet. When Bob snickered at him and tried to resume nuzzling at places Severus thought he had no business nuzzling, Severus gave in and followed his equine friend down the path.
“Well, Bob,” he grumbled, “we both know following my lead is bound to end a cock-up. I suppose I’ll have to trust you in this instance.”
The trail was slightly more open than the surrounding wood. It meandered like a stream, winding through the trees as bits of light filtered through a nearly non-existent gap in the leafy ceiling above. Though still cool, the exercise warmed Severus enough to lighten his discomfort. Having little to do--beyond docilely following the horsy rump in front of him--Severus soon found himself lost in his thoughts.
His mind recalled a pair of soft brown eyes staring up at him from the potion classroom’s floor. The expression they'd held had rather shocked him, for they'd seemed to express both the fright of a startled doe and the warm concern of a lover. He attempted repeatedly to ban the evocative image from his mind, only to have it reappear the moment he dropped his guard. This both befuddled and annoyed him. That lovely young face had absolutely no business haunting him. Wait--lovely? From what circle of hell had that thought sprung?
6. Snape couldn’t see her but he knew precisely where she was, hidden in the deep shadows of the Forbidden Forest. Even after seven years of schooling and two years of training as a fully-fledged Order member, Hermione Granger hadn’t yet learned how to best the spy-cum-Potions-Master. It had become quite a sore point for her. If she couldn’t sneak up on an ally, she certainly wouldn’t be able to surprise a bona fide enemy. So she tried and tried – and so far, had succeeded in doing nothing more than exasperating her erstwhile professor.
For a moment, he toyed with the idea of waiting her out, testing to see how long she could hold her silence, but he didn’t have the patience to play that game tonight.
He was tired after what had been a very long day. He’d had two double Potions classes, a staff meeting, and then Filch had cornered him to whinge (yet again) over how soft the school’s punishments had become. All of that had come on the heels of last night’s lovely little soirée with the Dark Lord which was exhausting, even if it not for the reasons most imagined.
While many assumed that the Death Eater meetings involved rampant debauchery coupled with gratuitous torture of random members, the reality was much more prosaic. In fact, the Dark get-togethers were eerily similar to Order meetings: the charismatic but bizarre leader would make some general comments about the current status of the group’s goals, ask questions regarding the progress of any special projects or assignments, and then there would follow an hour or so of general “we’re better and we’re right, therefore we’re going to win” propaganda and cheerleading. There had been more than one occasion where Snape’s attention had drifted during the rhetoric and he’d realized that he was safely able to give the same response at either camp.
He steadfastly refused to think too hard about what that implied.
7. Shaking his head and cursing himself a Hufflepuff fool, Severus made his way down to a small clearing ringed by stones. What he was looking for would be here tonight and he only needed the smallest bit for the potion he wished to brew.
And that was the exact moment he realized that he was not alone. There was a cloaked figure walking in the clearing…slowly and very carefully as if afraid to alert anything to its presence. It stood for a moment and lowered the hood that was covering its head. Severus was shocked to see Hermione Granger.
He stood still and watched as she kneeled down and picked up something off the ground. She opened her hand gently and he could clearly see a Moonshadow Swallowtail butterfly sitting quite contentedly on her open palm. He saw her smile as she touched the wings in an affectionate manner.
"So dark and beautiful," she murmured. "You avoid the garish light of day to flourish in the soft, velvety night."
Severus was entranced. He had always known that the creatures were very timid, taking flight at the slightest hint of danger. He had never been able to capture one in order to collect a tiny bit of wing that was the essential part of several healing potions and here she was…walking through a veritable carpet of them. He could see them clearly now in the moonlight…all clustered around her on the ground. Wings beating silently, flashes of blue, purple and emerald green. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of them quietly tolerating the intrusion.
She touched the large insect on her hand again and smiled. It was easily the size of a bluebird and it seemed perfectly satisfied to sit on her outstretched hand.
There was something so beautiful about the scene in front of him and Severus was afraid to move for fear of disturbing it. He was almost holding his breath.
8. As she approached the trees, she felt a vague chill run down her spine. She unsheathed her wand and looked around, seeing nothing out of sorts. Even with Dumbledore gone, nothing dared venture out of the Forest to bother any of the Hogwarts residents. Hermione thought idly to herself that she should probably research that thought on her next library visit. It would be useful to be able to contain creatures in that way.
Crunching through the gold, red, and brown leaves, she entered the shadowy grove. She spotted the first tree she was looking for and set her basket down as she looked for a way to reach the lower branches of the ancient chestnut tree. Silently noting with gratitude how much easier some things were with magic, she used her wand to Levitate a decaying tree trunk and transformed it into a sturdy wooden ladder before placing it under the tree so that it would stay balanced. As she climbed, she noted the rustle of the leaves and the twittering of songbirds in their nest.
As she grasped the sides of the ladder, she sized up the situation as logically as possible. How would Professor Snape have done this? He must have come to gather this at least once a year. She only had two hands, and using magic to sever the chestnuts from the tree would lessen the effects when it was used in a healing draught. Steeling herself, she rubbed her hands on her jeans and started climbing. Merlin, I hate being off the ground. She made it to the top step and placed her wand in her teeth just for a moment as she reached for the branch. If she could just grasp the branch with her left hand, she could reach what she needed with her right hand.
Just a little further.
As she reached for the branch, she caught a flash of black out of the periphery of her vision. In slow motion, she found herself gasping a small noise of surprise, which caused her wand to fall. In what seemed like a slow motion scene from a Muggle movie, she scrabbled for it with her right hand and overbalanced. She toppled over the ladder and fell towards the ground.
Grateful for the relative cushion of the leaves, Hermione landed hard on her back with an "Oooomph!' as the breath left her lungs. Feeling a sharp pain in the back of her head, she tentatively reached back through her hair, only to feel something warm and sticky on her fingers.
She vaguely thought that the little bits of sunlight coming through the remaining orange and yellow leaves above her were quite lovely as her world went dark.
9. "Don't get me wrong," Hermione continued as if he hadn't answered. "You were a right bastard as a teacher – but that was understandable. Yet, I always supposed you couldn't be a total rotter." She shrugged her shoulders.
"I guess I was wrong."
"That must be a first," he threw out with a sneer. "You, admitting you're wrong. The whole bloody world must be ending."
"Yes, well, I've been wrong about a great many things in my life," Hermione said with a sigh as she stood up. She brushed the dirt from her robes. She turned to get a look at her surroundings in the fading light. About fifteen feet away stood a small tent with a rock-pile campfire ring in front of it. "Well, whoever has done this obviously doesn't hate us that much."
Severus snorted. "Your Gryffindor optimism is showing."
"Yes, but…" She swung a hand at the lone tent in the clearing. "…we could've been left with nothing. So far, we at least have a tent. I don't relish the idea of sleeping outside in the middle of nowhere freezing my arse off."
"A tent. A tent we have to share." He gave her a scathing look. "I don't share."
"Well, you have to," Hermione huffed.
"What's to stop me from claiming it for myself and leaving you out here to rot?"
"The same thing that's keeping me from hexing your balls off, you disgruntled git!"
"Ah, yes… a lack of a wand." He arched an eyebrow. "Do you really think the lack of a wand will keep me from claiming it?"
Hermione flushed. "I – err…" She shook her head. "I suppose not," she said softly.
"Quite," he replied smugly.
That comment was the final straw. Hermione straightened her back, giving Snape a haughty look. "I'm not afraid of you," she spat. "You may think you can claim anything you wish – push me out if you want, but I'll not roll over and give it to you without a fight." She pointed her index finger, wagging it at him as if he were an exasperating three-year-old. "You'll share, and you'll share nicely."
With that, she turned from him and stormed off towards the tent. Severus watched her, torn between irritation and bemusement.
10. Hermione’s first thought, upon regaining awareness, was that the tinkling voices had grown louder, and no longer simply resounded in her head, but all around her in the stillness of the night.
‘You have been chosen… Remain here… You are The One… No harm will come to you… Do not fight the call… Must stay here… You are safe…’
Slowly opening her eyes, she realized that she was no longer within the confines of the castle, but instead was secured upright to a very large oak tree. Despite the calm reassurance of the voices, she struggled to free herself, tugging against the enchanted vines that held her in place, while she wondered if anyone was looking for her. She’d left the library at curfew on Friday night… was it still Friday? Her limbs ached with a dull pain as if she’d been tied in one position for quite a while. Had anyone missed her?
Silently cursing herself for having left her wand behind, Hermione’s analytical mind couldn’t help but ponder how the rest of this ancient scenario was going to play out. She knew that a wizard… a wizard she desired above all others… was required to complete the ritual Gifting. Yet she didn’t recall voicing her preference to anyone. How would They know?
A flicker of light off to her right caught her eye, and she watched, mesmerized, as dozens of fireflies flitted and swirled into the glade surrounding the massive oak. Her distress at being restrained momentarily forgotten, Hermione was first fascinated, then confused as the tiny insects ceased their seemingly erratic flights and settled into a loose circle around the glade.
Almost as if they’re trying to light the way.
She froze as she heard a soft crunch of leaves, and then the distinctive sound of footsteps approaching through the forest underbrush.
‘He is coming… You have called him… He has agreed…’