Disclaimer and Acknowledgements: All characters are the original creations of the fabulous J.K. Rowling and are her intellectual property.
Author's Note: This story has "adult situations" and features (mild) lesbian content. If you don't like reading about characters in same-sex situations, please don't waste your time reading this, and don't waste mine by flaming me with homophobic comments. I wrote this because although I've seen several fanfics regarding various male-male character pairings, I haven't read any about the girls. So here's my attempt to fill that gap.
HERMIONE'S HEART, PART I: Teacher's Pet
"Yes, Miss Granger?" Professor MacGonagall wiped the board clean with a quick flick of her wand and waited for Hermione's answer.
The rest of the class had already left, and Hermione knew she should have joined them. Nobody liked to risk being late for Snape's class. But somehow she'd wanted to be sure she'd be alone.
"Er, I was just wondering if you could suggest some background reading regarding the intra-species transfiguration we were studying," she replied, feeling oddly nervous. "You were mentioning that case in 1412-"
"Yes. Tha's in the restricted section, however," replied the professor. Hermione was about to slink away when her teacher continued, "-in your case, I have no qualms about writing you a note." She scribbled on a piece of parchment and handed it to Hermione. "That should satisfy Madame Pince."
"Thanks, Professor," breathed Hermione, stuffing the note into her already bulging bag. She wanted to say something else, but -
"You'd better hurry or you'll be late," reminded MacGonagall, and Hermione had not choice but to dash down to the dungeons.
She slipped into her seat just as the bell rang, flushed and out of breath after running the entire distance. Snape glowered at her. Hermione knew he'd love nothing better than to have a legitimate excuse to give her detention-even without legitimate reasons, he found enough excuses to harass her and her fellow Gryffindors.
"What's up with you?" muttered Ron a few minutes later, their conversation muffled by the sound of everyone crushing bat skulls with their mortars and pestals.
"I just had to ask Professor MacGonagall something." Hermione bent over her bat skulls so that her long hair fell across her face, hiding a creeping blush from Ron.
Ron rolled his eyes. "Give it a rest, won't you? Isn't it enough that you're first in every class?"
"It's not that-" Hermoine started to hiss back, but dropped her eyes and began to industriously pound her bat skulls as Snape glided past. He continued to hover close by, obviously annoyed at his near-miss in nailing Hermione for tardiness, but for once Hermione didn't mind. She wasn't sure what she could say to Ron. She couldn't even explain to herself why she had been wanting to spend extra time with Minerva MacGonagall this fall.**
After dinner, Hermione headed for the library. By this time, Madame Pince was accustomed to Hermione getting special permission for various books. The librarian glanced at the note, peered at Hermione over her reading glasses, and pointed her to the appropriate shelf.
Hermione settled herself at a table, the book open in front of her, but the last thing on her mind at the moment was transfiguration. Instead, she kept thinking about Professor MacGonagall-her crisp voice, her dark eyes, her uncompromising discipline. . . But just as quickly, Hermione felt a stab of guilt and shame. She simply admired her teacher, she told herself. After all, it was common for a girl to get a crush on someone older, wasn't it? And all the reading she'd done over the summer had revealed that just about all the most accomplished witches were either unmarried or had taken up living with each other-no doubt wishing to devote themselves to their work unencumbered by the irritations of marriage. Surely her feelings for Professor MacGonagall (or Minerva, as she'd taken to calling her in her mind) were simply like those of many other witches who valued work and learning above all else.
After all, reflected Hermione, thinking back to her brief and fizzled romances --with Viktor Krum in her fourth year, and with Ron last year--boys were okay, but in the end she never felt anything more than friendship for them. She loved Ron and would do anything for him, but she could say the same for Harry. They just didn't do anything for her. But Minerva--
Hermione jumped as she realized someone was standing right behind her. She looked up and saw Cho Chang smiling down at her.
"Studying hard?" she whispered, a glint in her eye.
"Trying to," Hermione muttered, blushing.
"What have you got there?" persisted Cho, peering at the binding and trying to read the title.
"Nothing. Just some background reading for a class."
But Cho had already seen. "Transfiguration, eh? Maybe you can tutor me sometime." Hermione was still searching for a response when Cho continued. "I was just looking for you to remind you about that prefect meeting later tonight. We're meeting in MacGonagall's office now, instead of the Great Hall."
"Oh, okay. Thanks."
"It's going to start pretty soon. Why don't we go together?"
"Sure." Hermione struggled to fit the heavy book in her bag.
"Let me get that for you," offered Cho, grinning. "Harry says you're always carrying around twenty books at a time. You must be very fit," she joked as the two girls clomped down the marble staircases toward MacGonagall's office.
"Right." Hermione felt too distracted to make small talk with Harry's girlfriend. Here was an unexpected chance to sit in close proximity with her favorite teacher, possibly even talk to her outside of class, and she hadn't even read a paragraph of that book she'd taken out. Irritated with herself for being so unprepared, Hermione gave only distant, monosyllabic responses to the rest of Cho's jibes.
Just as Hermione had hoped, she and Cho were the first ones there. A fire crackled in the grate, giving both warmth and light to the small room. Professor MacGonagall nodded to them as they walked in, but continued marking papers until the handful of prefects had assembled.
Satisfied that everyone was present, MacGonagall waved her wand at the door, which swung back on its hinges and closed with a small bang. "I thought we would meet here tonight, since we are so few."
The Slytherin prefects sighed loudly. "At least in the Great Hall we can all have a seat," one of them muttered, and cast a resentful glance at the sofa. Hermione and Cho were squished on one end, with Justin Finch-Fletchley and Padma Patil joining them. The floor was starting to look a lot more attractive, thought Hermione, with the sofa arm digging into her on one side and Cho pressed next to her on the other. No one, apparently, wanted to sit near the Slytherins.
The meeting went quickly. The prefects reported on the usual infractions: use of magic in the corridors, failure to observe lights out on the part of some first years, a third year attemptting to enter the Forbidden Forest. The Slytherins threatened to go on and on, reading their list of offenders, but the professor cut them short and, after issuing the new password for the prefects' bathroom, at last they were dismissed.
As the room cleared, Hermione found herself drawn again towards her teacher, and was just starting for her desk when Cho said, "Hey, Hermione! Don't forget your book."
"Reading up already?" asked Professor MacGonagall, with the hint of a smile at her mouth. It seemed unlikely, but she almost looked pleased.
Not trusting herself to speak, Hermione just nodded, wishing again that she had spent her time in the library actually reading instead of daydreaming.
"You two had better get going, " Professor MacGonagall said, returning to her more usual briskness. "It's getting late."
Cho placed a firm hand on Hermione's arm, and propelled her out the door. "Honestly," she whispered, once they were safely out of the office and heading down the hallway.
Hermione turned, expecting Cho to make a crack about her sucking up to MacGonagall, but instead Cho looked both amused and concerned. "You've got it bad, haven't you?" said the older girl.
"I don't know what you mean." Hermione shrugged off Cho's hand and marched ahead, book clutched across her front.
Cho zipped quickly in front of Hermione and continued to watch her, walking backward. "Sure you do. You're not the only one, you know."
They had reached the point where Hermione needed to turn. "Thanks for carrying my books," she told Cho primly. "I'll see you later."
Cho gave her a wry smile, shrugged, then winked and slid down the banister toward her own common room.
Hermione continued to stand where she was, watching Cho's disappearing form. Despite their increased friendship, sometimes she felt she didn't really know Cho. True, she had been a big help last spring after Hermione ended things with Ron. She'd seemed really understanding, and the two girls had spent many hours together. Although she considered Harry and Ron her best friends, Hermione realized she had missed having a girl's perspective. And not just any girl. Despite her tomboy antics, Cho was a serious student, something Hermione appreciated. Best of all, Hermione had finally met someone else who had read Hogwarts, A History from cover to cover. Still, Hermione wasn't sure if she was ready for even Cho to know just how she felt about Professor MacGonagall.***
Hermione continued to find excuses to stay after class, once even faking difficulty with transfiguring so that she could arrange for an extra tutorial. The memory of Professor MacGonnagal's hands, firmly grasping Hermione's own arms to correct her wand position, stayed with her for weeks.
"Keep that up and even I'll have to start agreeing with Malfoy when he says you're the teacher's pet," grumbled Ron, as Hermione bored them all recounting yet another brilliant point made by their transfiguration teacher.
She, Ron, Harry, and Cho were roaming the streets of Hogsmeade. The crisp fall air had them all in a good mood, and the prospect of a free Saturday afternoon stretched before them.
"I don't know, Ron," said Cho. "I could use some extra help-I've got my NEWTs this year, you know."
"How's Hermione going to help you with that? She's just passed her OWLs," pointed out Ron.
"Everyone knows Hermione is working a year ahead. I mean, isn't that what all your extra reading and tutoring is about?" asked Cho, giving Hermione a piercing look.
"Something like that," muttered Hermione, feeling herself blush. She glanced down at Harry's hand, his fingers wound tightly around Cho's. At that same moment, she felt Cho's eyes on her and looked away.
"So where should we go first, Zonko's or Honeydukes?" asked Harry.
Cho and Hermione exchanged looks. They were both getting tired of standing around while Ron and Harry spent hours examining all the items in Zonko's, even though, as Hermione had pointed out, the stock hadn't changed since last spring.
"How about if you guys go get practical joking out of your system and we'll meet you at The Three Broomsticks in a couple hours?" suggested Cho.
"Oh, come on," encouraged Ron. "Live a little."
"Ron," began Hermione in a lofty voice, "some of us have better things to do, such as visit the bookshop instead of buying fake wands."
"Okay, see you in a little bit," interjected Harry, dropping Cho's hand to drag Ron away. He and Hermione had begun eyeing each other with looks of mutual irritation. After the tense breakup last spring, Harry had been doing all he could to keep his friends on speaking terms.
The boys trotted off towards Zonko's, leaving the girls alone. "Let's take a walk," suggested Cho.
"But I meant it when I said I wanted to stop in at A Spell of One's Own," protested Hermione. "I want to get volume two of Early Modern Witches."
Cho flashed her a grin. "I'm sure you do. But we can do that on our way back. Oh, come on, the leaves are gorgeous this time of year." She took Hermione's hand and began dragging her in the direction of the Shrieking Shack.
"Let's go someplace else," said Hermione, shivering.
"No." Hermione rubbed her arm where Cho had held it. She was remembering her own adventures inside the supposedly haunted house.
"Alright then, you lead the way."
Hermione walked in the opposite direction, not really having a plan. They soon left the edge of town, and found themselves in an uninhabited, quiet wooded area. Cho flopped down on a grassy patch and gestured to Hermione to join her.
"So show me what you've been practicing with MacGonagall."
"What?" Hermione felt herself flushing as she turned to look at Cho, not sure what the other girl meant.
"You know, how you've been practicing after class?"
"Oh, that. It's nothing. I'm sure you already know how to do it."
"Ah, c'mon. Please?" It was hard to resist Cho, Hermione realized. It wasn't just her sleek hair, that seemed to invite touch every time Hermione saw her. Maybe it was the combination of sophistication and playfulness she seemed to emanate, or her grin, or--
"Hello," waved Cho, passing a hand in front of Hermione's face. "Still there?"
"Yes, of course," snapped Hermione, shaking back the sleeves of her robes. "Let's go. I haven't got all day." Hermione flicked her wand at a nearby evergreen and it popped into a palm tree.
"You really are working ahead," said Cho, impressed. "We're just doing that now, and it's trickier than most people think. MacGonagall says it's all about detail, that in some ways it's easier to change two completely different objects than it is to work with something so similar to begin with." Cho attempted to transfigure another pine tree, but it came out looking like a fake, plastic palm. Hermione spotted the problem at once.
"Oh, I was having a bit of trouble with this sort of thing myself," she said, which wasn't quite true, but did explain her extra help from MacGonagall. "You have to change your wand grip to a slightly different angle-" Hermione stuffed her own wand back into her robes and adjusted Cho's grip. "And the angle…" She placed one hand over Cho's wrist and turned it.
As she did so, a most peculiar feeling came over Hermione. Her heart started pounding, so much so that it seemed surely Cho could hear. Her hands felt suddenly clammy, and her face felt hot. Confused, she started to pull back, but Cho, now grabbing Hermione's wrist, pulled her towards her.
The two girls locked eyes, and what Hermione saw made her even more confused. Cho was looking at her intensely. Gone was the joking in her eyes, and no impish grin played around her mouth. Hermione hadn't felt this rattled since the time she'd slapped Malfoy across the face, but this was different, somehow. The pounding in Hermione's chest seemed to rise-to her throat, to her ears-
In one quick motion, Cho pushed Hermione against a handy elm tree, and holding both Hermione's hands against the rough bark with her own, kissed her. Hermione slumped back against the tree trunk and stared at Cho, hardly daring to breathe. "What are you doing?" she whispered.
"When I saw you looking at MacGonagall that night," panted Cho, still pinning Hermione against the tree, "I knew you felt the same way I do. You have no idea…I've been watching you ever since last year, and then, to know you were like me-"
Cho shook her head. "I've tried. I've tried to date boys. But I always felt more for girls."
Hermione opened her mouth, but nothing came out. She felt the same way, it was true. Without thinking, she leaned forward and kissed Cho back, hard. Cho was right; something about being with another girl gave her a satisfaction she'd never before felt. She ran her hands through Cho's hair, and ran them down to rest at Cho's waist, fighting with the bulky, billowing robes. Cho dispensed with that problem by magically undoing the zip on the front of Hermione's black robes and letting her own hands run wild.
"We should probably get back," said Hermione at last, surveying Cho's flushed and disheveled form.
"I guess so." Cho ran a hand through her hair and smiled as she looked at Hermione. "Restorus" she said, instantly tidying up Hermione.
They walked in silence towards the village, hands linked. As they approached the edge of town, Hermione turned to Cho. "What are you going to tell Harry?"
"Tell Harry?" echoed Cho. "Nothing."
"But after what--we just--," sputtered Hermione.
Cho smiled and placed a finger over Hermione's lips. "Don't worry about it. I'll sort things out with Harry. I'm more interested in when I can see you again."
Hermione twisted her mouth and looked down. "I don't know."
Cho tipped her chin up so their eyes met. "It's okay, you know," she said seriously. "You shouldn't feel guilty. Don't be ashamed of who you are."
Hermione didn't respond. Instead she said, "How did you know? How did you know how I felt about-about everything?" she added lamely.
Cho grinned, looking like her old self. "I'm a Seeker, right? It's my job to look for the hard to notice."
Hermione gave her a small smile. Cho was leaning forward, about to kiss her again, when a series of colorful bangs went off down the road. Hermione and Cho jumped apart.
"What time is it?" gasped Hermione, shoving back her sleeve to check her watch. What if Harry and Ron had seen them?
"Relax, we've still got time. Obviously the boys are still hung up on their fireworks. Let's go get your book."
Hermione was uncharacteristically silent during their short stop at The Three Broomsticks, even missing the chance to tell off Ron when he attempted to slip a Pepper Imp into her Butterbeer. Clearly disappointed at failing to arouse her ire, Ron subsided into sulkiness.
"What's up with Hermione?" he muttered to Harry as the foursome headed back to the castle.
"Girl talk?" Harry guessed. He watched the two girls walking ahead; they appeared to be engrossed in looking at Hermione's new book. He and Ron exchanged looks. The prospect of Cho revealing any information about their relationship to Hermione was enough to make Harry wish for a one of Hagrid's Blast-Ended Skrewts to tackle instead, and he could tell Ron felt the same.
"They're probably still talking about what a jerk I am," Ron said, now regretting his earlier pranks.
In fact, the last thing on Hermoine's mind at that moment was Ron, and if the boys had looked a bit closer, they might have noticed Hermione blushing every time Cho's hand brushed hers as she turned the pages of Hermione's book.***
That evening, her velvet hangings pulled securely around her four-poster, Hermione replayed the day's events. She found that when she pictured the way Cho had looked, right before they'd kissed, her stomach gave a pleasing lurch, just as it had done in the wood.
Nobody had kissed her like that before. Viktor had been exciting, but he'd always seemed a little intimidated by Hermione's intelligence, and Ron still had a long way to go. Thinking about Ron made Hermione also think about Harry, and now her stomach lurched in a decidedly unpleasant manner. She'd been too befuddled earlier to say anything more to Cho about Harry, but now a new kind of guilt crept over Hermione. She was cheating on her best friend-with his girlfriend.
Apart from not wanting the entire school to know about her and Cho just yet, Hermione shuddered when she thought about the kind of gossip such news would create. She could imagine Lavender and Parvati whispering about her in the dorm, behind their curtains. Harry and Ron would never want to be friends with her once they found out. They might not care about her liking girls, but Hermione didn't think Harry would be very happy when he found out who she'd been with. And as for Pansy Parkinson-Hermione didn't even want to consider what she'd say.
Still…Hermione couldn't forget the way Cho had looked at her, or how that look had made her feel. If Cho's feelings were as she'd claimed, surely she would break things off with Harry right away, Hermione comforted herself. Then the way would be clear for her and Cho. "And if anyone can keep a secret, it's me," Hermione told herself, recalling her third year with the Time Turner. After spending a whole year going back and forth in time to keep up with all her classes, surely it would be simple to keep a little thing like her romance with Cho secret.