The Great Hall was its usual hubbub of noise - dinnertime was never a quiet time. The students were glad the day was over, and the professors were more relaxed, tired from enforcing rules all day long.
The cheerful chatter was music to Professor McGonagall’s ears. The re-opening of Hogwarts that autumn had been nerve-wracking; not only had she spent the summer repairing the castle after the Great Battle the previous May, but now she was presiding over the largest number of students the school had ever housed.
The school had decided it would be best if the previous year were repeated. Half of the seventh-years had been leading a rebellion against the Carrows or on the run, which didn’t allow for the best N.E.W.T.s results. The O.W.L.s marks hadn’t been much better; in fact they’d been the worst posted by an entire year since the examination system had been founded. This didn’t come without its problems – the biggest being the large body of students that now made up the first year, which comprised of last year’s first-years and this year’s new intake. It was a little unfair to the new students, especially Muggle-borns, as they were going to be in the same year as students who’d already gone through one year of schooling. Not that the last year could be considered a real education; it had been a battle for survival.
Now, she had a school that was packed to capacity, which was quite a problem. She had initially toyed with the idea of housing the seventh-years in separate accommodation and allowing them extra freedom, as they were adults, but she’d soon squashed that idea. Those students had far too much history to make that successfully work. The idea of constantly having to break up fights between the Slytherins and the Gryffindors was not something she could stomach. They were bad enough in the daytime and they were hardly setting a good example to the school with their continuing hostility.
Minerva was pulled out of her reverie by the booming sound of a wooden chair falling backwards. She jumped and looked around in alarm. All she could see was the stocking-covered legs of Sybill Trelawney sticking up over the table. The mass-giggling broke out immediately. Minerva glared at the sniggering students, but rushed to help Sybill stand up. With the help of Pomona Sprout, she heaved the troublesome professor up. She tutted as the Seer made no effort to help them, not even bothering to reply to their questions of whether she was all right or not. Indeed, she stood there teetering, needing both Minerva and Pomona to keep her standing.
The student body was getting louder and louder with their laughter. Using Sonorous to amplify her voice, she bellowed, “Quiet!” at the unruly bunch, and much-needed silence descended.
Minerva turned to face Sybill to see if she could now stand unaided only to be surprised at the sight that greeted her. The Divination professor had gone rigid, her eyes glassy and unseeing whilst her mouth was slack-jawed and open. Minerva was about to ask once more how she was feeling when she started to speak in a loud and harsh voice.
‘By this year’s end, when the world starts anew, the Snake and the Lion must unite. Their union needed to save magic. One, the purest of the pure, the other the cleverest of them all. Both will resist, but if magic is to survive, by New Year’s Day, their love must prevail.’
Minerva stared in shock, along with the rest of the school as Sybill’s head rolled over onto her chest. It rested there for a brief moment before the Divination professor seemed to jerk awake.
She looked around the Great Hall in surprise. “So sorry, Headmistress, I must have drifted off for a moment. Is it me, or is it terribly hot in here?”
Minerva, along with the rest of Hogwarts, looked at the layers of clothing she was wearing. It was November; it could hardly be called warm anywhere in the draughty castle. She stood there, speechless, as the eccentric woman weaved her way out of the Hall and, presumably, back to her quarters. The silence was broken by Sybill’s exit and everything descended into chaos.
“Was that a genuine prophecy?” Pomona asked her.
Minerva didn’t know what to make of it. Only two people had heard Sybill Trelawney prophesise anything before, and one of them was dead. The other was currently gazing up at the staff table with an anxious gaze.
“I’m not sure, Pomona. We’ll finish off dinner and have a meeting in the staffroom. I need to speak to Albus and Harry Potter.”
“To cut to the chase,” she started, once she had the professors gathered in the staffroom. “It looks as if Sybill has made a real prophecy. I’ve sent an owl to the Ministry to inform them and, as soon as they receive it, they should send an Unspeakable to help decipher and record it.”
The shocked gasps around the room did nothing to reassure. This wasn’t the way she wanted to kick off her reign as Headmistress.
“Are you sure?” Filius asked.
She nodded. “I spoke to Albus and Harry Potter. Her actions and reactions were consistent with their experiences of her prophesising ability.”
“Why now?” Pomona grumbled. “Everything is only just getting back to normal.”
“I must admit, I’ll be glad when our seventh-years finally leave. Hogwarts hasn’t been quiet since they enrolled,” Filius commented.
Minerva couldn’t help but agree. Ever since Harry Potter had first stepped foot in the castle, something went wrong every year, without fail.
“So now we just need to figure out exactly what the prophecy means,” Aurora Sinistra said.
She pursed her lips and nodded. Why did she have a horrible feeling that that would be the easy part?
“Harry!” Hermione said, rushing over with Ron in her wake. “What happened?”
He slumped on the nearest sofa, half-crushing a first-year, who quickly sprung up. “It’s as I suspected. Trelawney seems to have gone and made another prophecy. The portrait of Dumbledore agreed with me.”
Gasps rang around the common room as people digested what this might mean.
The three friends waited until everyone’s interest had waned before carrying on the conversation. Harry cast Muffliato before any of them spoke again.
“But she said something about magic fading,” Ron said with a gulp.
“Actually, she said that two people had to fall in love, otherwise magic would fail,” Hermione corrected him.
“Well, that makes it so much better then,” Ron replied sarcastically.
“As with all prophecies, Ronald, it means that a series of events have to play out in order for either to come to pass. Just as Harry had to face Voldemort and kill him, as both couldn’t both be present in a peaceful world. If you paid attention, you would know this.”
Ron glared at Hermione before turning to Harry and ignoring her snooty explanation. “So did McGonagall say who the pair was?”
“No, she’s sent an owl off to the Ministry to request that an Unspeakable come tomorrow to record and decipher the prophecy.”
“Well, I’ve already been to the library and got the books relevant to prophecies and how to unravel them,” Hermione informed him.
Harry couldn’t help the smile spreading over his face. There was one thing you could always be sure about and it was that Hermione would always go to the library to get out research material. “Let’s go up to the dorm room. It’ll be much quieter up there,” he suggested.
“No, she was more concerned with working out whether it was true or not. But there can be no doubt about it: Trelawney acted similarly to when she made the one about Wormtail.”
Hermione pulled a piece of parchment from her robes and smoothed it out on the floor. “I managed to jot it down just in case.”
“Of course you did,” Ron teased.
She stuck her tongue out at him immaturely. “Anyway, I think it’s fairly obvious who the snake and the lion are referring to.”
“It has to be Slytherin and Gryffindor,” Harry said.
“Well that’s fairly hopeless then. I mean, realistically, are we going to have a true-love match between a Slytherin and one of us?” Ron commented.
Hermione and Harry grimaced at each other. “It’s not likely, no,” Harry replied.
“Pretty impossible if you ask me!”
“Nothing is impossible. Look how much Snape loved Harry’s mum,” Hermione pointed out.
“Yeah, but she didn’t love him back. We’re doomed. I have no idea what to do if magic dies. How will I cope as a Muggle?”
Harry looked at Ron and then towards Hermione and burst out laughing at the thought of Ron trying to fit into the Muggle world. “It’s not funny,” the redhead grumbled.
“It is,” he replied.
Hermione, taking pity on Ron, started handing out the books she’d taken out of the library. “Start reading!” she ordered.
“Finally! You’re here,” Ron greeted them as they entered the room. “Here, catch,” he said, chucking a book at Dean.
“Ronald!” Hermione shrieked. “You can’t treat books that way! You could seriously damage the binding.”
He rolled his eyes. “We need reinforcements. My eyes are getting blurry from all this reading.”
She had to agree. There was so much to read about prophecies and a lot of it was very vague. In fact, there didn’t appear to be very many concrete facts. She quickly filled the other three Gryffindor boys in and set them to work.
“I can’t read any more, Hermione. I’m tired and my head hurts.”
“Just a little longer, Ron,” she pleaded.
He threw the book down on the floor. “No! I want to sleep.”
“Hear, hear!” murmured Dean.
“Come on, guys, information is power.”
Harry, taking one look at the other four boys in the room made a suggestion. “How about we brainstorm and then start reading again tomorrow?”
Hermione, outnumbered, could do little else but agree. “Well, we know it’s a Slytherin and a Gryffindor,” she started.
“Yeah, but who?” Seamus asked.
“Ha ha! I reckon its Neville and Millicent Bulstrode,” Dean teased.
“You’re forgetting the prophecy speaks of the purest of the pure and cleverest of them all,” Harry said in Neville’s defence, who had gone green at the thought.
“Neville’s a pure-blood and you never know, Bulstrode might be the cleverest troll of them all,” Seamus suggested.
“We don’t know if they are talking about students who currently go to Hogwarts, or previous members of the two houses. Or, as Seamus illuminated in a not so nice way, we don’t know what they could be the purest of or cleverest at,” Hermione said sensibly.
“Hermione’s right,” Ron said with a massive yawn. “Anyway, now we’ve had that useful brainstorming session, I’m going to sleep. Go away, Hermione.”
She rolled her eyes at Ron and but picked up the scattered books and made her way out the room with a ‘goodnight’ to the boys. She felt depressed as she walked back down to the common room and up the stairs to the girls’ quarters. She didn’t know why, but she had a sinking feeling that the prophecy mentioned her. She was called the ‘brightest witch of her age’.
Once the greetings were out of the way, Minerva ushered Arwydd over to her desk, where she had tea waiting.
“Oh, lovely, thanks, Minerva,” the Welsh witch said. “The Floo Network always makes me thirsty.”
They caught up on the state of the Ministry after Voldemort’s defeat as they sipped their tea. Arwydd was only just starting to get the prophecies back in order after the disaster that had befallen the Hall of Prophecy when Harry Potter had been lured in to take the prophecy off the shelf for Voldemort.
“It really is a disgrace that it’s taken this long,” she said. “But I suppose the Ministry did have some pressing matters on their mind.”
Minerva suppressed an acerbic remark that Voldemort could be considered more than pressing. However, Unspeakables weren’t known for their perspective. The work that they did was so consuming and secretive that they tended to live in a Department of Mysteries bubble.
“So, Sybill Trelawney has been prophesising again?” Arwydd remarked.
“Yes, yesterday evening at dinner.”
“Could you outline it for me, please?”
“I’ve arranged for you to view it in the Pensieve. I thought that way you would be able to look at any details I may have forgotten.”
“Oh, excellent. Yes, that’s a very good plan.”
The Headmistress ushered Arwydd over to the Pensieve, and they both entered into her memory from last night. The Unspeakable viewed it several times before she seemed happy.
“Hmm … Well, Sybill Trelawney might not be the most consistent Seer but she certainly does make the most interesting prophecies.”
“Interesting is one way of putting it.”
“I agree that it is very definitely a proper prophecy and one that we must take very seriously.”
Minerva sighed. She really had been hoping against hope that it would turn out to be nothing but a desperate attempt by an increasingly unstable woman to get attention. Sybill still hadn’t recovered from Umbridge’s reign of terror at Hogwarts. She still had a drinking problem and didn’t seem either able or inclined to get it under control. She held her position at Hogwarts out of sympathy, but Firenze was taking more classes and responsibility for the teaching of Divination at the school.
“It’s vitally urgent that we understand it and quickly. It’s November now and it won’t be long until it’s New Year’s. Have you made any efforts to try and decipher it?” Arwydd asked.
“I’ve been looking at since it was revealed. I think it’s more than obvious that it talks about two Hogwarts’ houses, Slytherin and Gryffindor.”
“Yes, the snake and the lion.”
“I was wondering if the place of prophecy could be important. Has it been revealed at Hogwarts because it refers to two current students? Or are we going to have to trawl through all surviving alumni members?” Minerva asked.
“Well, the place the prophecy has been revealed isn’t important. Prophecies are told in lots of unrelated places, but often the person they are revealed to is relevant. In this case, Sybill made the prophecy in front of the whole school, which makes me think it affects the school and, therefore, is likely that the two would-be lovers are students here.”
“If that’s the case, then I think it narrows down who the ‘cleverest of them all’ refers to. It has to be Hermione Granger, she is by far the most able of all the students here.”
Arwydd pondered that. “Yes, I’ve heard of her extraordinary intellect. Indeed, Sandra has been thinking about trying to recruit her.”
Minerva smiled. The Head of the Department of Mysteries never lost a trick in who to bring in. “I think she’ll find she has competition with the Department for the Control and Regulation of Magical Creatures.”
“What a shame!” the Unspeakable said. “She could do a lot better than that.”
“Hermione wouldn’t think so. She aims to improve the rights of magical creatures in the wizarding world - especially house-elves.”
Arwydd brushed this aside and got back to the task at hand. “Is there anyone else this could possibly refer to?”
“Not really. Hermione is a very special witch. Indeed, she has been called ‘the brightest witch of her generation’ for a while now. There is no one at Hogwarts who even comes close to her intelligence.”
“So that clears up who the Gryffindor is. Now we just have to look for the purest of all Slytherins.”
Minerva rubbed her head. “That could take a while. They all pride themselves on their bloodlines.”
“Yes, which makes me think it definitely would have to be a Slytherin who was ‘the purest of them all’.”
“I’ll list the Slytherins who aren’t pure-bloods. That will probably be the quickest way to eliminate a few off our list.”
The Headmistress looked up at the coughing noise that interrupted them. She saw the portrait of Phineas Nigellus Black looking at her, his eyes bright with interest. “If I could be of assistance, Headmistress. I know the majority of the bloodlines.”
She pursed her lips. Out of all the portraits, Phineas was her least favourite. He enjoyed poking his nose into everything and was firmly wedded to the idea that pure-bloods were superior. But they really did need help on this. Minerva had never really paid much attention to who was considered the purest of all the pure-bloods. As a half-blood, it had never interested her.
“Thank you, Phineas, that would be appreciated.”
“What exactly are you looking for?” he asked.
As if he didn’t already know. She swung her gaze around the walls and saw that the majority of the portraits were pretending to snooze, but were avidly listening in on every word. They truly were the nosiest portraits she’d ever come across. She suppressed her desire to scold. “We need to look at what males currently in Slytherin would be considered the most pure.”
“Well, that is easy,” Phineas said.
Minerva and Arwydd looked up at him, all ears. He took an age in telling them, drawing the dramatic pause out for maximum effect.
“It would be young Draco Malfoy. He’s the only remaining pure-blood scion of both the noble houses of Black and Malfoy. You couldn’t get more pedigree than that. Narcissa really is the only one of my great-great grandchildren who I can be proud of.”
She groaned and put her head in her hands. “This is all we need.”
Arwydd looked at her curiously. “What’s the problem?”
“Hermione Granger is Muggle-born and Draco Malfoy is a former Death Eater. We have no hope of saving magic.”
“We shouldn’t lose hope. Stranger things have happened,” the Unspeakable said positively.
“The Headmistress is correct. My great-great-great-grandson has been brought up properly. He would never betray his blood-line by consorting with a Mud- … er … Muggle-born.”
“That isn’t something to proud of, Phineas,” Minerva snapped. “We need Hermione and Draco to fall in love to save magic.”
The former Slytherin Headmaster looked torn at the thought of his precious bloodline being tainted for good or magic disappearing forever.
“There’s no need to lose hope, Minerva. Prophecies that predict love are very specific. They are often governed by greater celestial forces and are destined.”
Minerva breathed a sigh of relief; maybe there wasn’t a miracle for her to perform after all.
“But don’t rest on your laurels. The prophecy can’t self-fulfil. It needs to be helped along and if these two particular students loathe each other then it will be harder than usual to bring about love. If you can get them to spend time together, then destiny can play out and magic will be saved.”
Uncharacteristically, Minerva ran distracted hands through her hair, dislodging her bun. “That’s easy to say but getting Hermione and Draco to spend time without hexes flying is a task that needs at least a year!”
“Unfortunately, your time is very limited, but you’re so very capable, Minerva, that I’m sure you’ll think of something.”
Easy for you to say, you don’t have to attempt to do it, the Headmistress thought acidly.
Arwydd stood up. “But be reassured about one thing: Love prophecies only choose people well-matched - some call them soul mates. Well, I have done all that I can here. We appear to have deciphered the prophecy and I’ve recorded it. Time for me to return back to the Ministry.”
Minerva could barely raise her spirits enough to thank the other witch and see her out. She couldn’t remember feeling so depressed and helpless. Not even after Albus had been murdered.