This year had been uneventful, thought Hermione as she stirred her tea aimlessly. Her and the majority of the rest of the year had returned to Hogwarts after the great war to finish their education, but half of the way into the year they had already completed their courses, and whilst Hermione believed absolutely in the need to revise to consolidate knowledge, there was only a certain amount one could take before going absolutely batty.
She sat beside Ron at the Gryffindor table for breakfast, Ron inhaling food as messily as ever. Across from Hermione, Harry and Dean were having a passionate conversation about Quidditch, with wild gestures and raised voices suggesting it was an argument. Ron opened his mouth to join in, and Hermione wrinkled her nose in disgust as a piece of chewed up toast fell out. Whilst she and Ron had been friends for years, and had even dated for a while (broken off by Hermione as she felt, and Ron had agreed, that they just weren't a good match and it would be better to be friends), she did wish he wouldn't eat in such a revolting way.
Averting her eyes from the scene of Ron and his mangled breakfast, Hermione found herself looking towards the small band of eighth years seated at the Slytherin table. Not many had returned to Hogwarts after the war, preferring to stay loyal to their death eater parents despite the risk of imprisonment and the gracious offer from Dumbledore that all could be forgiven if they returned to school and tried to turn over a new leaf. Of those who had returned, nothing was more surprising by the fact that Draco Malfoy was among them. He sat between Blaise Zabini and Theo Nott, his two best friends after Crabbe and Goyle had not returned to the school, and opposite them sat Daphne Greengrass, Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode.
One of the reasons it had been so quiet this year, Hermione realised, was that the Slytherins had caused hardly any trouble. Whilst of course they hadn't actually been friendly, aside from a few snarky comments on the usual things such as blood status and schoolwork, they hadn't done anything that could even be classed as nasty, let alone the evil behaviour that the rest of the school were used to.
She frowned slightly, trying to work out what on earth they were up to, when Professor Dumbledore stood up from his seat to make an announcement. He cleared his throat, and performed a voice loudening charm on himself before starting.
"Attention please students. I have a few announcements. First of all, I would like to inform you that from now on Portable Swamps made by Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes are banned from use inside the building at request from Mr Filch."
A collective groan came from the room, Harry and Ron among them. "Stupid Filch. Never could see the fun side of things," muttered Ron, his mouth empty for once.
"Secondly," Dumbledore's voice spoke over the muttering, "This weekend there will be a trip to Hogsmeade for the third year to the seventh year. Please remember that you cannot go without a permission slip signed by your guardians, and you must be in groups of four when leaving the building and in those same groups when returning."
Dumbledore continued to set out the rules as the eighth years glanced at each other in dismay. "What? Why aren't eight years allowed to go?" harry exclaimed, turning to Hermione. "I don't know." she replied. "Its probably a course or something. How disappointing, I was hoping to get the next book in the series I've been reading, Transfiguration through the Ages. It's terribly interesting, outlines the progress of transfiguration throughout history. I've just finished the volume on Medieval Transformation."
"Of course you'd be disappointed about not being able to buy a book." Parvati rolled her eyes. "I was hoping to get the latest Weird Sister's album. And I need a new lipgloss. This is a disaster!"
Thankfully for Hermione, who did not want to listen to Parvati moaning about her lack of lipgloss, Dumbledore's voice came booming over the disappointed chatter.
"That bring me on to my last announcement. I can tell from the level of noise in the room that the eighth years are disappointed as to the fact they will be unable to visit Hogsmeade this coming weekend, or, as a matter of fact, until the end of term."
Harry Ron and Hermione cast dismayed looks at each other. Until the end of term! What could possibly be the reason for this?
"This is due to the fact that is come to the staffs attention that most students in the year group have in fact completed the N.E.W.T. course that they are here to finish and take exams in. Therefore, we feel it necessary to disband normal lessons in favour of what we are calling 'Operation Teamwork'. We will brief you in more detail later, but to summarize, this is a project that will involve all eighth years leaving Hogwarts to live in the outside world for the remainder of this term in groups of four. Each team will compete against three other teams in a variety of challenges, some involving magic and some not, for a prize."
The eighth years began to whisper excitedly. A prize? No more lessons? This sounded really good!
"Now, without further interruption to breakfast, could I ask all eighth years to meet with myself and some of the other staff for more details and to be assigned groups and locations. The meeting place will be the unused Charms classroom on the left corridor in the east wing, as it is the only room big enough to accommodate all four houses. Enjoy your meals." Dumbledore smiled before sitting back down.
Hermione turned excitedly to Ron and Harry. "Doesn't this sound amazing!" They grinned back. "I wonder what the prize is," said Ron. "Well, we'll find out in a few minutes. Are you guys finished eating. I need to go back to the common room to collect my Arithmancy book."
Ron groaned. "Did you not hear Dumbledore Hermione? There are no more classes."
"I know, Ronald, but I think it would be beneficial to get in some last minute revision before all that goes out the window for this 'Operation teamwork'." Hermione said, standing up. Spotting Ginny about to leave the hall, she called her name. "Ginny! Are you going back to the common room? I'll come with you." As she went to follow Ginny, she turned back to the boys, and smiled. "I'll see you later."
As Hermione caught up with Ginny, the girl grinned at her. "I'm going to miss you guys so much. They better let my year do something like this, it sounds interesting."
Little did Hermione know how interesting it was about to become.