"Are you ready yet?" Ginny called from the doorway of Hermione's office.
"Just a second," Hermione responded, not looking up from the book that held her focus. "Just let me finish this, I'll be right with you." She grabbed a quill and began writing furiously, her eyes darting between the book and the parchment on which she wrote.
With a sigh, Ginny rolled her eyes, walked over and closed the book.
"Hey, I just needed another moment!" Hermione protested, though her eyes had already gone soft in a conciliatory look.
"That's what you said half an hour ago." Ginny admonished her, but smiled in return. "We'll be late."
"What was it again that we're doing tonight?" Hermione donned her robes and with Ginny in front exited her office at the Ministry of Magic.
"Something you've never done before," Ginny taunted, "something that will force you to look for the beauty in life and in the world around you." She smiled mischievously. "Something that if you do it right will not be an utter waste of time." A short laugh escaped her lips.
"And what would that be, pray tell?" Hermione had suffered through countless attempts by the surviving Weasleys to help her overcome the loss of Ron shortly after seventh year ended. She'd lost the love of her life but the Weasleys had insisted she stay in touch. In fact, she'd grown closer to all of them than she'd been when she and Ron had briefly dated in the days when Voldemort had terrorised wizard Britain.
"You'll see when we get there."
"Ginny! If you've set me up on another blind date…"
Ginny turned to her. "Would I do such a thing?" She pointed to herself. "Sweet little innocent me?"
"It wouldn't be the first time."
"All right, so maybe I would." She countered Hermione's startled look of concern with a raised hand, "But not this time."
"So where are we going?" Hermione trusted Ginny, but the need to know everything yesterday was still a part of Hermione's personality. The two young women walked side by side engaged in amiable conversation for a short distance. Finally, they reached Diagon Alley and entered. "Will you finally tell me what this is all about?" She looked at the building to which Ginny had led them. She could not tell what its purpose was, but marveled at the paintings on the wall. They were wizard paintings and moved.
Ginny led her down a hallway and opened a door, motioning with her head for Hermione to enter. Ginny followed close behind. Both young women looked at the small group of witches congregated at one end of the room. Hermione took in the subdued lighting, a raised dais of some sort at one end, sets of what appeared to be something resembling sketch pencils and a number of easels. Hermione looked wide-eyed at Ginny. "Welcome to your first art class!" Ginny smirked.
"Art class?" Hermione could not believe her ears. "You signed me up for an art class? You know I can't draw anything."
"That's why you need the class." Ginny had started picking through the drawing utensils.
Hermione sat down, looked around and grabbed a pencil-like implement and scribbled a bit of nothingness on the canvas in front of her. She shook her hand laughing a bit. "This is madness. I guess I can spend an evening drawing a bowl of fruit, but I'm not making any promises you'll be able to tell what kinds of fruit are in the bowl!"
Ginny's smirk grew a little bigger. "Oh, did I forget to tell you? It's not fruit we'll be drawing." She met Hermione's questioning look head on. "It's wizards…naked ones."
"Attention class, welcome to Wizard Drawing 1," a voice sounded leaving Hermione no chance to respond to Ginny, "a class in which we will learn the basics of capturing form on canvas. Some of you will have a natural aptitude for wizard drawing while others will find they can capture only the rough form, but not the essence, and without the essence, well…there isn't much else."
"She sounds just like Trelawney," Hermione whispered to Ginny. Ginny paid no attention. She was eyeing the spot where the model would stand and praying that he'd have a nice physique. She'd heard many did, though not all. One wizard model in particular had been fervently commented upon by several witches she knew who had taken the class the previous time it had been offered. She hoped it would be him.
The instructor, a small witch with black hair, had continued on unabated. "Please select a drawing wand. Now, you will notice that a drawing wand is much like a regular wand, though a bit smaller. It functions much the same, but it feeds on emotion. There are several at each easel because the magical cores much be a reasonable match for your own magical energies for any real art to be produced. Try the drawing wands and find the one that feels right." A voice asked how they would know, followed immediately by a loud crackle and a puff of smoke that filled the air with an acrid smell. "You'll know." The class giggled and the witch holding the smoking drawing wand replaced it and tried another that seemed to suit her magical energy much better.
Hermione picked up a drawing wand and examined it, amazed that she could feel a slight undercurrent of energy that was completely unlike what she felt with her wand. Her mind began to question the science behind how it all worked. She tried another, but the wand quickly felt unpleasantly hot. The third hummed…not audibly, it was hard to describe. It was as if the humming originated within her, but with a sense that real power was there. Hermione had seen enough of the magic world to believe what she sensed and to accept it. 'Maybe this won't be like Trelawney's class' she mused inwardly. The humming had grown stronger in her ears, but did not block any of the other sounds in the class.
"If you hear a humming inside your head, it means you've found a suitable wand. Now, what I need you to do is get in touch with that humming and the power behind it. Let the raw emotion lead your hand to reproduce what your eyes see. Your eyes will see only the physical form. Your inner eye, if you will, guides the drawing wand and if successfully tapped into, you will be able to easily produce a passable reproduction of the model, who I believe will be joining us shortly." She looked at the spot where the model would stand. A tall figure with short cropped hair apparated into the room. His back was turned to the class. "Ah, there he is." The instructor cheerfully chirped. "Once he is in position, you will do as instructed and we shall see if we have any artists among us this evening." She turned to the model. "Whenever you're ready."
The model gave no indication he'd been listening to her or that he'd even heard. Silently and in a fluid motion, he removed the robes he wore and turned to face the class. His well-proportioned body was completely nude. Shadows danced across a muscular chest, his arms hung at his side, a face shrouded in shadows was the only concession to modesty. He assumed a pose, but his face remained hidden.
"It figures," grumbled Ginny.
"What figures?" Hermione could not take her eyes off the wizard standing nude before her. She'd seen nude men before. It was not that, not that at all. The humming had grown stronger in her ears and the wand felt warm, but comfortably so.
"He's the one everyone's been talking about. I just know it. His face is hidden. A disillusionment charm or something like it, I'm sure. I don't see why he thinks he needs one. I mean with a body like that!" Ginny's rambling comments echoed those of every witch in the room, except Hermione. "Did you hear what I said?" Ginny turned to face her friend. Her jaw dropped in amazement. She watched in amazement as the drawing wand in Hermione's hand darted across the canvas. Within minutes, a more than passable drawing had materialised on Hermione's canvas…a drawing that visibly breathed life as evidenced by the gentle rise and fall of the subject's chest. "When did you learn to do that?" Ginny was aghast.
Hermione had not heard Ginny's comment. She seemed dazed and confused, almost exhausted. She leaned back in her chair and closed her eyes, breathing a little heavier than normal. Instantly, the instructor was at her side. She looked first at the reclining witch and then at the drawing she'd produced and proudly announced, "Class, we have a natural artist! Look!" The class all rushed over to see the first moving portrait any of them had produced before returning to their seats and trying themselves. Hermione spent much of the session half listening to the instructor's words and marveling at the drawing she'd managed. No one in her family had ever had much artistic talent, but then again she was the only witch in her family, too. She was both proud and a little fearful…proud that she'd discovered another talent of which she'd been unaware all these years, but also fearful because she had no memory of actually drawing the portrait. She did, however, vividly remember the deafening humming that had pervaded her senses and blocked the outside world while she drew.
The class drew to a close. Her effort remained the only one that had resulted in a moving drawing. She looked at her work. It still breathed. Her brow creased a little as she studied the face. The face of the model had been obscured by some charm or other and had remained so throughout the session. Her drawing featured a face that seemed vaguely familiar, though she could not place it. She decided to question the teacher and stayed after class. Ginny had agreed to meet up with her later in the evening at the Leaky Cauldron.
Hermione sat still as the class filed out of the room. She stared at the figure she'd drawn, still not fully comprehending the fact that the drawing had spilled from her wand.
"Magical essences are a strange thing, I've always said. I don't really believe anyone has ever explained how it works."
Hermione looked up at the small black-haired witch. "What exactly is a magical essence and what does it have to do with art?"
"You're a Muggleborn, aren't you?" The witch cocked an eyebrow as Hermione's countenance hardened briefly, but appeared otherwise neutral about her question. "Yes, I thought so." She held a hand up in a gesture of 'let me explain'. "I mean no disrespect by that. It was merely an observation on my part." Again, the witch looked with an appraising but approving eye at Hermione's work. "Yes, clearly you have the sight."
Hermione snorted. "I've never held a high opinion of Divination, walked out of my first and only class actually after being told I possessed no sight whatsoever."
The witch smiled broadly, placing a hand on her shoulder. "It's not Divination that makes a good artist, but to be honest we don't know what does." She motioned to the drawing. "Notice how he still breathes."
"I don't know how I did that." Hermione shook her head.
"Your magical energy is a good match for this drawing wand. You could do even better with a drawing wand made especially for you and tailored exactly for you. You were able to allow your magical energy to connect with that of the subject and the drawing wand reproduced what you felt or sensed."
"But I don't remember doing it," Hermione blurted out before she could stop herself.
The instructor only smiled. "The best artists never do, or so I'm told." She sat down and held Hermione's hands in hers. "It's a gift, an artistic gift. You are able to sense…to feel…what you can't see and reproduce the essence within. It is so much more than simply drawing a straight line or playing musical notes in the correct order. You have to feel it, to breathe it, to live it and let it flow from deep within you, let it flow through you. Anyone can be taught to play notes in order. Not everyone can make a piece of music become a living breathing work of beauty that can touch your soul. It takes no talent to put wand to canvas, but not everyone can make a portrait breathe and come alive."
Hermione listened to the explanation and stared at the drawing she'd somehow allowed to flow from within her. The figure wore an unmistakable look of sadness on an otherwise indistinguishable face. "He looks sad. Who is he?"
"I cannot reveal the identity of any of the models who work for us. Only they can choose to reveal their identities if they so choose and almost none of them have ever done so. Otherwise, a disillusionment charm gives them a shred of modesty and privacy."
"Is there any chance that he…?"
The instructor cut her off again with a shake of her head. "No, most assuredly not. I've been with this school for some time and not even I have ever seen his face. He is a most private man." She chuckled softly, "A right pity if you ask me."
Hermione smiled in response. "How was I able to draw his face, well part of it anyway, if there was a disillusionment charm in place?"
The instructor looked closely at the drawing. "Hmm," she mumbled as she studied it closely. "I suppose that it is possible that you were able to tap into enough of his magical essence to capture some semblance of his appearance."
"Then that is his real face I drew?"
"It could be. I have no way of knowing. As I indicated before, I've never seen his face nor do I know anything about him." She stood, shrugged her shoulders, "It could very well be."
"May I take this with me?" Hermione pointed to the drawing.
"Of course. It's yours. Will I see you at the next lesson?" She looked optimistic, not wanting to lose the most promising artist to pass through her class in quite some time.
"Yes," Hermione smiled, "I think so." She wanted to find out more about the wizard who had been the model for the class…and why he was sad. She left to join Ginny at the Leaky Cauldron.
"About time you decided to grace us with your presence." Ginny smirked broadly, raising her glass towards Hermione in a mock toast. Her other arm was loosely slung over the shoulder of a handsome young wizard whom Hermione did not recognise.
Hermione smiled weakly but sat down anyway. "What's your pleasure tonight, love?" The unnamed wizard asked. He seemed friendly enough, but Hermione had hoped to have a serious discussion with Ginny about the events of the evening. That prospect seemed increasingly unlikely.
"A Butterbeer would be lovely," Hermione spoke softly. She could still mull things over in her own head and be civil to others.
"Oh come on now! We're not children anymore." He smiled revealing teeth so white that Hermione feared he was a long-lost relative of Gilderoy Lockhart. The more she looked at him, the more she wondered whether he might actually be some relation to the still hospitalised wizard and whether Ginny would take offence if she were to point out the stunning similarity in their appearances. For now, she bit her lip and stayed silent. "How about a nice triple Chinese Fireball? They're brilliant, a real specialty of the bartender here." He motioned for a drink and placed the order for her.
"So, Hermione, I take it you enjoyed the class? Did the instructor give you any inside information about who the model is?" Ginny was quite giggly, clearly enjoying the attentions of the wizard nibbling her earlobe. He mumbled something after her comment. It might have been, 'what am I? Chopped liver?' Hermione wasn't certain and not about to ask either of them.
"Well, she told me a number of interesting things about wizard art and the models, but no, she didn't give me his name."
"And here I was hoping you'd got his address, too." The drinks arrived. The Chinese Fireballs emitted little bursts of flame periodically.
That caught Hermione's attention. "How are you supposed to drink those? They're spitting fire into the air!"
The wizard laughed. "It's kind of like fighting a dragon. You have to be quick and sort of sneak in there and get at it. It can be done. I assure you." He raised his glass to his face, hesitated and then proceeded to down it unscathed. "Aahh," he breathed in satisfaction, feeling the bursts of warmth. "I love those…can't get enough of them."
"It's the closest you'll ever come to fighting a dragon," Ginny laughed. She raised her own glass to her lips, hesitated and then took a sip, rather than downing the shot quickly. A sudden burst of flame caught the end of her nose and singed it. She threw the glass, spilling it remaining contents onto the tabletop. A few seconds later, the liquid emitted another little burst of flame.
"Evanesco!" The wizard called out, wand in hand. The flaming liquid vanished with a little show of sparks. He turned to Ginny, "You'll learn, sweetheart. You'll learn."
"Of course! Why didn't I think of that before?" Hermione sounded completely incredulous. "The Ministry would have a record of who holds what job. I could find out there."
"I'm not talking to Percy, Hermione." Ginny commented harshly. "I don't care how much he does for Mum and Dad nowadays."
"I wouldn't deign to ask you to speak to a close relative on my behalf," Hermione responded a little bitterly. So many families had been destroyed in the final months before Voldemort had finally been defeated and the reign of terror ended for good. She found it hard to believe that Ginny continued holding to a grudge all these years. Besides, she thought, Percy Weasley had gone out of his way to be a good son in the years since Voldemort's fall. He had done so much not only for his own family, but for others devastated by the effects of the war with his charity work. If it came down to it, Hermione would talk to Percy herself. He was a changed man now. Surely, he would do all he could to help an old friend. "No worries, Ginny. I don't think he even works in that department anymore, not from what I heard last anyway." Her mind was set. First thing in the morning, she would head to the Ministry and begin digging around.