AN: As always, thank you for the support. If there's still questions about if this is an evil Dumbledore story, I hope this answers them.

Harry Potter © J.K. Rowling

"Hello again, ladies and gentlemen. Gilderoy here, bringing you the sweetest and most relaxing voice voted throughout the country, alongside the nation's favourite songs—"

The reaction was instantaneous within that section of the common-room. "Turn it off before I break your radio!" a seventh-year threatened, not looking up from their book.

The younger student wisely turned off the device with a frown, grumbling to their friends that it was unfair that they were unable to listen downstairs since the spells banned the radio from entering their bedrooms. Despite the different options to change the range of the listeners, the newest radio host was wholly unpopular with the younger generation, having only found faithful listeners within middle-aged wizards and the elderly. When his voice sounded within the small proximity, many reacted with displeased expressions and snapped for him to be turned off.

The other radio hosts were accepted if played—since they were not flamboyant and constantly praising themselves—and individual playlists were fine, as long as they weren't replayed constantly. Millicent had pushed her luck with playing d'Eath's latest album, and it had drove those around her aggravated from the lyrics to the lovestruck expression on her face.

On such a peaceful weekend, it was with sluggish feet and a forcefully neutral expression that Hermione walked through the halls. The headmaster had requested her appearance the previous evening at dinner per a note, delivered by a bewildered Tracey, and it was that that had caused a permanent lump to form in her throat. Tom had looked at her sharply once he'd noticed the change in her expression, and it was with the sight of Nagini shifting in front of the fire in the common-room that she realised she needed to keep her emotions under control. She couldn't unravel, not when there was a creature within close proximity that would seek her out and offer a strange form of comfort despite her not-so-healthy mind.

The snake needed to recover and attempt to regain full functionality, and that was why she'd used the last of her earned money to order special potions made for healing snakes per owl, which would arrive the following week. Tom had suggested that they wouldn't hurt, and it was with that that she'd parted with her last coins with a determined mindset. Although she couldn't speak to Nagini directly, she had someone that could when she'd healed properly. Nagini spent her time in the common-room or stealing one of the beds in the male dorm-room, which caused a stir when she'd settled within Gregory's sheets one evening without him realising. They couldn't raise a hand against her—either from their morals or the begrudging respect for Tom—so they had to get him to coax her out.

She straightened out her blouse before murmuring the password to the gargoyle, watching as the stairs came into view without so much as a creak. The headmaster's office was neat, polished, complete with the dozing portraits of the old headmasters and the empty perch beside the desk that was perpetually abandoned.

Professor Dumbledore was cleaning his spectacles with a cloth rather than his wand when she entered. He smiled at her, the corner of his eyes upon his aged face wrinkling further, and gestured to a chair with a elegant sweep on his hand.

"Hello, Miss Hermione," he greeted politely, placing the half-moon spectacles upon his nose and blinked to adjust to the change. "I trust you've been enjoying the return to school thus far."

"Sir," the brunette replied, dipping her head in a polite nod. "It's been... interesting."

There wasn't disappointment or a stern expression on his face, yet she was still cautious. The headmaster was a busy man; meeting with students wasn't a common pastime, nor was she was she expecting to be the object of his attention. Shifting nervously upon the chair, Hermione folded her hands upon her lap and clasped them together, deciding to stare at the frame of his glasses rather than attempt to nitpick his expressions. It wasn't healthy to try to analyse and identify every twitch or movement, not when she could remember them for hours to come.

He cleared his throat. "I believe you recently turned seventeen, is that correct?" After the confirmatory nod from her, the aged wizard continued, "As it stands, in our world you're considered an adult. Without inheritance or relatives to your name, however, we've reached a predicament. Hogwarts can be a home to you through the school terms, but outside we cannot offer more than the rest of the students can receive."

It was a roundabout way of asking about her future living arrangements, she realised. The last of our money had been spent, and tutoring for a year wouldn't allow her to afford the cheapest of apartments, nor pay for measly hotel rooms to sustain her for the summer.

Hermione quietly pointed out, "I'm still legible to return to the orphanage until I'm eighteen, sir."

"Yes, that's correct." He leaned back in his chair, looking more relaxed than she felt. "After your final year, that will not be an option. There is—what I mean to say, there will be a pamphlet provided to you soon that'll highlight jobs that you're qualified for in the summer. It's something the ministry provides to those of age that have little to nothing to fall back on after their education is over."

She blinked. "I haven't read about such a thing before."

Tapping his nose in a knowing fashion, Professor Dumbledore replied with a smile, "That's because we keep it quiet on purpose. There would be quite an uproar within high society if they knew we worked to offer those in need with help, rather than their own children."

"Oh," she said. "I'll be tight-lipped, then."

"Yes, I should hope so." The aged wizard nodded, looking at her over the frames of his spectacles. "I'll be upfront with you, Miss Hermione. This is not the only reason I've requested your presence."

With her heart hammering nervously in her chest, she clasped her sweaty palms together with a forcefully blank expression. "Have I done something wrong, Professor?" the brunette enquired, mind trying to think of the possibilities.

"No, child," he responded, voice stable and consistent.

Child. The last one to call her that had been in that awful dream—that she couldn't refute completely to being a memory—and the fact that she could clearly remember every second of it had a chill running through her body, causing hairs to stand on end uncomfortably. There was nothing sweet about it; the contrast of Professor Dumbledore's kind voice and the whisper of the cold one in her mind, one that kept replaying when she found herself alone, were drastically different, yet all she could think of was the distorted figure that had invaded her head.

The words he said were drowned out, the throbbing of her head effectively silencing them to muffled noises as she grew cold, breaths coming quickly and loud. Hermione gulped frantically, attempting to swallow the sickening lump that was growing worse as the moments passed, and when she realised that her throat was burning, she'd turned to the side and gagged. She emptied the pitiful contents of her stomach on the floor, the prickling of tears in her eyes softer than the heat within her mouth.

Hermione took in deep breaths as she recovered, the incessant throbbing in her head decreasing and causing the noises around her to stop sounding distorted.

There was a hand on her back, rubbing in what was supposed to be a soothing manner, yet all it did was make her shudder and flinch away from the contact. Covering her mouth with a hand, Hermione looked at the headmaster in shock, unsure whether to apologise first or reach for her wand to clean up the mess.

He didn't reprimand her. Instead, the aged wizard conjured a glass of water, readily offering it to her as he removed the hand from her back.

She accepted it and sipped carefully, making sure to swallow enough to coat the back of throat and cover the disgusting taste. Professor Dumbledore spelled the floor clean without a fuss, pocketing his wand once more and sitting on the edge of the desk in an image that would've looked appropriate if he was younger. His beard reached beyond his waistline—it would've been splayed across the desk's surface if he leaned over it—and added more character than she would've originally believed.

"Do you wish to summon Madam Pomfrey?" he questioned softly, not entering her personal space once more. "She will not be displeased at the request—she grew quite fond of you during your time together."

Time together? She'd been quarantined with the nurse being one of her only outlets for social interaction for months, and it was a wonder that she hadn't turned stir crazy because of it. Her sanity had stayed in tact despite the isolation, which she considered to be a feat.

Hermione shook her head, keeping her hands busy with the glass of water that was almost empty.

The headmaster noticed and refilled it without question. "Is this a common occurrence for you?"

No, it wasn't. Hermione hoarsely responded, "No, sir. I apologise for—"

The words were cut off when he held his hand up in a silent prompt for her to stop. His smile caused further crinkles in the corner of his cerulean eyes as he said, "You are not the first to defile my office by accident, nor will you be the last. I take no offence." Crossing his arms, the professor continued, "I've called you in here in regards to your health, coincidentally. Madam Pomfrey has expressed her concerns alongside Professor Snape, and I fully agree with them on this matter."

Professor Snape?

It was difficult to swallow. "I've recovered from my quarantine last year, Professor. I—"

"I know," the headmaster interjected, trying to shoot her a calming look that did nothing to stop her fingers clenching the conjured glass too tightly. "It's because of your relapse that I have to ask you this, I'm afraid. Have you noticed anything... different about yourself?"

Relapse. Her dark eyebrows furrowed together in confusion, trying to comprehend his words fully. That had been the first time from her memory that such an occurrence had happened, yet that didn't seem to be what he was implying at all. There was no doubt that Professor Snape had expressed his thoughts on her condition, yet she was worried about the extent of his words. How much did the wizard before her know? Was he—did he pose a threat to her existence?

Dhampirs had been hunted and barred from their world by the ministry for over five centuries; if someone with influence, or even a wizard that had the intent to kill if they were in harms way, found out about her heritage, then the matter of her existing would be a problem. Those of her blood were deemed uncontrollable, labelled as lethal as some of the deadliest magical creatures that lived, and the mere fact that she'd managed to make it through the walls into a magical school after the massacre would cause parents to be in an uproar, no matter how her case would be presented.

The thought of being expelled had her heart racing.

"Miss Hermione," Professor Dumbledore called, capturing her attention once more. "I understand that you've been speaking with Professor Snape to voice your concerns. I feel it's my place to tell you, that no matter what you discover, you're safe here—at Hogwarts."

He knew, then. The headmaster had always known, keeping the information to himself; he was permitting Professor Snape to mentor her in his own awkward way, to try and let her find out for herself. She couldn't deny that if she'd been told outright in the beginning that she was different—other than the cryptic way he had mentioned about her blood before—she wouldn't have believed him. Yet it was with the reassurance that he wasn't going to betray that had her confused.

What could he possibly get out of it? She—she was just a child. There was nothing to offer him, no way to repay the kindness of the blind eye that wasn't calling unneeded attention towards her.

Her voice sounded foreign to her own ears as she asked quietly, "Why?"

Pushing his spectacles further up his nose, he replied, "Because you're a child first, before anything else."

The guilt hit her first. She'd suspected him of the worst things possible, the endless possibilities running through her mind through the past few months, and after all that he was looking at her vulnerable state with nothing more than a comforting expression, offering the space and quiet support that she needed, rather than coddling. The man before her had protected her, kept her hidden despite the rule within the ministry—all because of her age.

"Sir, I—" Hermione cleared her throat, trying to quell her wobbling lips. "I've misjudged you."

If she'd been sent to a magical hospital during her relapse, as he called it, then she would've been revealed. The resentment she'd felt during her isolation wasn't ebbing away, no; instead it had transfigured itself and lodged into her throat, making her swallow thickly as she struggled for words. It—it had been been for her welfare, no matter how messed up it had turned out in the end.

Within her recollection, she remembered him stating that it wasn't safe for her with her muggle family any longer. Was it because of what she was? If the headmaster was willing to answer her questions, then she was sure she'd be able to put aside any of the building resentment that she'd been harbouring, though she as adamant that she wouldn't reveal her secrets to him. Providing a safe place for her didn't entitle him to her thoughts or fears.

His smile was kind, one that suited his position. "I do not fault you for that. You're of age now; able to contact the ministry if you pleased to."

For the memories, she realised.

"While I did, indeed, remove your memories, it is only for the duration of two days," Professor Dumbledore stated, retrieving his wand from a billowing bright-coloured sleeve with a flourish. "If you wish for them, I have no authorisation to keep the events from you—I can only strongly advise you not to view them, for nothing good will come from recalling those moments."

With a flick of his wrist, a drawer hidden within the bookcase rattled before opening, a specific vial floating out and travelling towards the wizard's open palm. It was a show of strength; the non-verbal magic, along with the smooth control of transporting the object without harm. The contents was white and swirling within the glass, looking free and graceful as it curled into itself without abandon.

The vial was placed on the desk beside him, then he crossed his arms on his chest, overly large sleeves falling to his elbow and revealing pale skin. "Professor Snape is a man I trust deeply, therefore I'm relieved that you've turned to him for help; perhaps it can be seen as a blessing that you were sorted into Slytherin because of this."

Had he been relaying every word of hers to the headmaster?

"He was but a man of nineteen years when you appeared, yet he was swift at fetching me so no harm came to you."

Her stomach lurched, the empty contents churning uncomfortably, threatening to expel bile and burn her throat once more. Hermione finished the water for a distraction, then clasped the glass upon her lap as she rasped, "He... Professor Snape never mentioned this to me."

"No, I suspect not," he murmured, a fleeting expression that she couldn't decipher appearing for a moment. "He had been appointed the position as a professor for mere months, and within that time I grew quite fond of him; brilliant beyond his years at his preferred subject, that boy—forgive me, for I find myself rambling once more."

The wistful tone of his voice had her shifting nervously.

Professor Dumbledore smiled. "When it became clear what ails you, he was quick to suggest the removal of his memories for your safety. He believed that to protect you fully, I had to be the one to recall them."

Nineteen—Professor Snape had barely graduated before he was accepted as a professor, and he'd requested the alteration of his memory for the safety of a child not fully human. The older version of him had kept the same good-hearted qualities; providing advice in his own way, and not reporting her existence.

"He hasn't had them returned?" Hermione asked quietly, already knowing the answer. The professor had told her before that Professor Dumbledore had found her in a castle with a infant, sans the information that he had been there, too. "Why... I don't understand why you're doing this, sir. Why would the both of you put yourself in danger to help me?"

"You're a child, Miss Hermione," the headmaster reminded her once more with a gentle tone. "No one vulnerable such as yourself deserves to be slaughtered for what they are—you represent a lot more than you know."

She tried to still her shaking hands. "And the infant, Professor?"

"Safe," was all he replied.

When she left, she had a vial in her pocket and a heavy heart as she trudged through the halls.

-x-

The memory had developed into a nightmare. Each night, Hermione would awake with a clammy forehead and sweat causing her pyjamas to stick to her, and a racing heart that wouldn't calm down until she'd regained her breathing back to an average rate. It was bad enough that she could recall it through the idle moments of her day, the thoughts flittering in when she was caught unaware or bored, so the fact that her sleep pattern had been disturbed irritated her further.

After showering and dressing in the school uniform, she entered the common-room hours before students were set to trickle down for breakfast. The fire roared to life as she walked past, so she settled down into a couch and flicked through a book that she'd taken out from the library the previous day.

For someone that could recall each word on the page for hours, so she only needed to glance at it to recite it to another, she spent more time than necessary staring at the ink. Her brown eyes weren't focused on the page any longer; instead, they were glazed over as they thought of the possibilities of the upcoming year.

There were at least three staff members that knew of her condition: Professor Dumbledore, Professor Snape, and Madam Pomfrey (who she'd turned a blind eye to, despite the fact that the intensive tests would've revealed her heritage). There was another outward source. The wizard that had appeared within the hospital wing, an employee from a magical hospital, though it was arguable that he was aware.

Tom was the only student that knew outright. Harry suspected there was something wrong with her from the heating charm, but that was it (other than her copious health issues the previous year).

She was stirred from her thoughts from something cool brushing against the bare flesh of her legs. Hermione peered over the book, eyes widening as she stared at the serpent that had slithered in front of her, curling her large body in front of the roaring fire for comfort.

"It's hard to get used to you," she murmured.

Shaking her head at her stupidity, she was reminded once more that although the serpent was damaged and recovering, she was still able to react to her emotions.

Nagini was her familiar, that much she could agree with Tom on. Animals didn't react to their owner's emotionally—unless they were in the same room—on the level that the disorientated snake seemed to. Such bonds were rare, which was proven by only one other student having a ferret as his in Ravenclaw, and even more so special during education due to the restriction of seventeen causing the bond to be recognised.

The bond between her and Nagini was blurry, though. While the snake could sense her emotions well enough to react through walls, there was the matter that the only thing Hermione had felt was the coldness, the unnatural feeling, of Nagini's forced slumber on the seventh-floor. Perhaps when she'd recovered, then the brunette would be able to feel a sense of her emotions, as that was what they were recorded to share per the information offered in books.

It was the second week of October when Professor Snape found out about the newest resident of Slytherin. Hermione had been clearing her mind while sat on her bed—trying to avoid sleeping until her eyelids would droop dangerously—when the professor's voice was amplified so it penetrated through the dorm-rooms of every year group.

There were many tired faces in various states of undress (a fifth-year had sauntered down in his underwear and slippers), as they crowded together in the common-room, staring at the disgruntled expression of their appointment head.

"Is there anyone willing to explain the presence of this large and forbidden snake?" he asked gruffly, black-clad arms crossed upon his chest. When there was no immediate response, the wizard tapped his foot on the floor repetitively, the sound audible from the sudden silence.

Nagini was lazily sprawled out once more, only stirring when Hermione's heart started to beat faster from nerves. With a panicked look at her year-mates, noting that they were either staring at the snake or the professor, she realised there was no point in lying.

It was the first-year that was defeated in the duel against Tom that announced in a higher-pitched voice than normal, "It's Potter's."

No.

"Sir," Hermione called, placing her hand up so she could be located within the crowd of students. The ones in front of her, that were begrudgingly taller, parted to allow her to be seen. "She's my familiar."

There was a rumble of murmurs between the members of Slytherin, none more distinguishable than the rest. Her cheeks burned from the sudden attention and incredulous looks. The professor looked at her with a raised eyebrow, not outright denying the claim, yet it was clear that it was the first that their house-mates had heard of it.

"It's true, professor," Tom interjected, standing taller than those in front of him. The pyjamas were not the ones supplied in the hospital wing, yet it was still strange to see any of their house-mates in anything other than the mandatory school uniform for the most part. Then again, if they travelled downstairs at two o'clock in the morning in their uniforms, then there would've been a lot more questions. "Nagini's recovering from an injury, so she's been staying within the common-room while we treat her."

With a critical look, the year groups other than sixth were dismissed to their dorm-rooms to sleep. Daphne came to stand by her side as the students trickled up the stairs, asking quietly, "Are you sure about this lie?"

She was sure that she didn't want to reject what was rightfully hers. "It's not a lie," she replied softly, eyes trained on the green-coloured serpent that was slowly approaching them, stopping every few metres to flick her tongue out to taste the air. "The bond's not fully formed because of her condition, so that's why I didn't tell everyone."

The professor captured their attention by clearing his throat, the displeased expression still clear on his pale face. "I will ask a question to all of you, and if you wish to sleep tonight, you will answer honestly."

The queries ranged from when the serpent appeared, whether she'd tried to leave the common-room, or if she'd attacked another student at all. Then, Professor Snape proceeded to question whether they noticed whether Nagini had been attracted to Hermione at all, which received the general answer of only she and Tom were liked. They were encouraged to correct each other and attempt to sort out their answers, rather than interviewing them one-by-one, and it was after a half an hour interrogation that they were believed.

Professor Snape had to begrudgingly agree when Hermione wisely pointed out that although Professor Hagrid was qualified to care for creatures, they were unsure of Nagini's breed or origins due to her disorientated state, and it made more sense for them to keep her in close proximity to a Parselmouth. It was with five points taken for each member of their year—adding up to fifty-five—and a detention for her and Tom that they were allowed to leave.

There was a distinct air of annoyance the next morning.

"If my parents find out that I helped harbour a dangerous creature, there's no telling the amount of disappointment they'll have for me," Draco announced in a grouchy tone between measly bites of his food. "While we might not be able to sabotage each other, there's nothing stopping Professor Snape from spouting our mistakes to those we don't want to know."

Pansy—who was insisting on not eating breakfast, instead sat there for the high-quality conversation—looked at him with an exasperated expression. "The professor has better things to do than make your life miserable, Draco."

"Yes, well, we'll see about that."

"She's not a dangerous creature," Hermione replied, frowning. "Has she been aggressive to any of you in the past month?"

Gregory had to point out, "She stole my bed."

"Injuring someone is on a different level than stealing your bed, mate," Blaise interjected, voice shaking with his laughter. "Look at it this way—you finally had a girl in there, right?"

The teasing comment caused Tracey to choke on her breakfast, which made the others laugh in unison once it was clear that she wasn't in danger. The blonde-haired prefect was red-faced as she wiped at her damp eyes, but that didn't stop her from smiling. The conversation steered away from Nagini after that, though they were approached by their house-mates throughout the day with questions and wide eyes as they searched for answers.

It took until after lunch for the word to spread. By the time she arrived at the Potions classroom, there was a shriek of her name from Lavender, who was staring determinedly at the door. Once Hermione caught sight of her, the blonde-haired witch began to wave her hands in a clear invitation for her to approach and converse with her, so it was with an apologetic smile that Hermione left her house-mates to walk towards the already occupied seats of the self-appointed Gryffindor section.

"Hello," she greeted, eyes trailing to the blank face of Fay beside her. "What did you want me for?"

It was only the girls of Gryffindor that had arrived early; the rest were surely trailing out of the hall slowly after eating. Lavender and Parvati were friendly enough (the latter after she'd grown out of being sour from their duel the previous year), and Fay seemed to be reserved with most, even her own house-mates.

"Is it true that you have a familiar?" Lavender demanded, with the tanned witch nodding alongside her. "I didn't hear what it is, but it's spreading around that you do."

Hermione blinked, dumbfounded that it had spread at all. It had to have been a curious first-year that uttered it to his friends, and somehow that had passed along to the rest in mere hours.

Lavender's excited voice, which was higher-pitched than usual, caught her attention as she exclaimed, "Oh, gosh! You do!"

Then the oddest thing happened—the witch then proceeded to stand up and begin to pat across Hermione's body, searching through her fold of material on her outer-robe and then through the pockets of her skirt, a frustrated expression appearing when she only came across her wand and a stray piece of paper that had notes written on it.

Hermione clutched her bag close to her chest when the piercing blue eyes turned to it. "She's not here," she insisted, swatting at the wandering hands that had began to edge closer. "I promise you, if she was here, you'd definitely be able to tell."

There weren't many rules for familiars; animals that were legible with their specific human were only considered dangerous if their bond-mate was genuinely harmed (teasing comments that caused mood swings wouldn't trigger an attack), and it was because of that that they were allowed to roam through the various halls of the castle, though they were mostly hovering around their owner's specific area.

They weren't permitted in the Great Hall due to the vast amount of food; only the delivery owls were since they were trained specifically for their duties.

It became clear halfway through the lesson when Ronald found out about her familiar, however. With aim that was quite commendable, Hermione accidentally bit down on her tongue while talking when a piece of paper collided with the back of her head—thankfully, it was a theory lesson to study their upcoming potion, so there wasn't a chance of injury from the paper falling into the concoction. Hermione look at the grinning red-head with narrowed eyes as she picked up the crumpled note, smoothing it out so she could read the words.

'Hey, what the heck? You got a familiar and didn't even tell us? I'm offended and demand answers if you want to stay friends in the future.'

Her response was to vanish the paper from existence with a sweet smile.

After that, it became somewhat of a game for her class-mates to attempt to guess her animal in each period, which caused more of a stir when it became clear that she wasn't walking around with her. The seventh-year and his ferret were still a source of amazement and jealousy as time went on, and when they passed each other in the hall, he gave her a small smile and didn't ask any questions.

She was tight-lipped when asked how she came across her animal—her birthday was at the beginning of term, and she hadn't arrived with any extras, and it was with the cover story that Tom had agreed on that caused them more problems.

The first detention with Professor Snape was uneventful; they wrote lines in silence for an allotted amount of time, and when they were told that their punishment was over, that was when the professor pointed out that it was their own house-mates that said Nagini came from the dangerous expanse of forest outside on the grounds.

Hermione was rewarded with two extra detentions for trespassing, while the prefect was spared—it was her pet, therefore she had to take the responsibility.

There wasn't much to talk about since the protégé tome hadn't updated, though she had relayed her memory to Tom the next time they met in privacy (after some debate quiet debate in Arithmancy, they decided to talk where they'd found Nagini, rather than risk being caught together in an empty classroom and encouraging sordid gossip and rumours). As much as she wanted to believe it was a figment of her imagination, he was adamant that it was connected to the block she'd broken, and that there would, perhaps, be more to come.

And because of that, she'd taken to keeping a notebook beside her bed. It was ready for her to transcribe her dreams in detail so she could hand over the pages, rather than having to relive them further by speaking of the events.

Once she'd passed it over to him the first time, Tom had returned the notebook, stating that he'd connected it to one of his own, so there was no need to remove it from the safety of her bedside. The messages would transfer between them, ink staying permanently etched into the pages on both journals.

So far, it was only her recount of the first recollection. He hadn't deemed it necessary to add anything.

The vial of memories sat safely on her bedside table, protected by charms that she was finally able to cast that made the glass burn when someone other than herself touched it. Although she was friendly with her room-mates, they were not on the level of lounging on each other's bed, so that wasn't a problem.

Professor Dumbledore's warning rang in her head whenever she considered taking them—now that she knew that he had been protecting her all along, she felt more inclined to believe his words than before.

With that thought in mind, Hermione pocketed the vial and ignored the call of her house-mates, stepping through the common-room door and walking the familiar route of the dungeons. She knocked on the wood sharply, hoping that the one she wished to summon was in there, and breathed a sigh of relief as the door opened with a creak.

"This is rather late for a social call," Professor Snape remarked, stepping side to allow her access inside. "You are not a misty-eyed first-year, so I must ask, what is the occasion of this visit?"

Her pocket felt heavy. "It's... I only have you to talk to about this."

He made a noise of understanding, gesturing to a spare chair to sit in while he sat down on his with a sigh. The skin underneath his eyes was dark, contrasting to the rest of his pale skin, and he looked worse than she did after awaking from a nightmare.

"Are you well, sir?" she found herself asking.

"Your concern is appreciated; I am fine. My research has caused many sleepless nights in the name of information," the dark-haired wizard replied, running a hand over his face briefly to push aside the loose strands of hair in an attempt to look alert. "What is it that's bothering you?"

Clasping her hands together, Hermione considered her approach—being outright blunt would most likely cause him to scold her, rather than provide the insight she was looking for. The tangle of events was becoming worse with every turn, another person involved without her knowing, and it was frustrating to try and keep up-to-date on.

There was always an option if she wanted to retreat into the muggle world, however. It would require control over her emotions and magic, which was the other reason other than her curiosity for keeping her in Hogwarts.

She licked her lips nervously.

"As I've mentioned before, I—I'm missing memories," Hermione started, fiddling with the material of her robes as one hand reached into her pocket, feeling the coldness of the glass vial. "Professor Dumbledore confessed that he erased them years ago, then he informed me that he only extracted two days worth—which is why I'm here."

His dark eyes stared at the vial when she pulled it out. "I do not see how I can aid you here," was his eventual low response. "If this is all you wished to talk about, Miss Granger—"

The use of her surname caused her eyebrows to knit in confusion. He was the only one other than the headmaster that insisted on using her first name when they were in private, claiming it to be a reminder, and knowing that he was intention closing himself off had her clenching her jaw in irritation.

"I know you were there, Professor," she interrupted coolly, a tone that she would surely regret later when she was alone. "You—you know what I am."

Rather than denying it as some might've, Professor Snape looked at her with a tired expression. "Of course I do," he said sternly, sounding as though he was talking to an incompetent student. "How else do you suppose you received potions specifically catered to you?"

They were suppressants of a sort, then. The titbit that she'd stopped taking the potions was one she'd only told Tom thus far, and she was glad of that choice.

"Exactly," Hermione agreed, looking at his directly in his dark eyes with a determined expression. "If that's something you know now, what is it you chose to forget?"

Irritation flickered across his face, and she didn't blame him. It was no way for her to address her professor (the sharp tone or her disgruntled expression that would've earned her detention within seconds outside of his office). "What do you think you're doing, Miss Granger?" he enquired, no hint of friendliness in his voice. "You've been given a chance that those of your kind have been denied for centuries—and yet, here you are, sticking your know-it-all nose in other people's business where you don't belong."

Stop digging, questioning those that were the only ones standing between her and exile or slaughter.

"I'm trying to understand why I'm missing the memories of five years, when all that can be offered to me is two days," the brunette replied softly, hand gripping the vial tightly so the skin of her knuckles turned white. The frustration was clear in her body language, and she was sure her voice cracked as she continued on to say, "I want to know who left Nagini for me to find."

That caught his attention. "You claimed to have found her in the forest."

"That's the tale Tom Potter told to our house-mates, yes," Hermione answered, and then proceeded to tell him of the coldness and her eventual removal of the serpent from the hidden room. He listened in silence as she tried to explain to the best of her ability, attempting to describe how Nagini had been preserved, as he was openly in disbelief of her original state.

When he asked for the memories, she was understandably wary. The dark-haired wizard procured an empty vial from his desk and explained the incantation—which was needless, she'd already read about it—and demonstrated the wand movements with a quill.

She swallowed audibly before placing the tip of her wand against her temple, concentrating hard on the memory she wanted displayed; finding Nagini, luring Tom out to inspect her, and she specifically cut the stream of her mind off when it came close to her discussion with him where she'd spilled her secrets.

Professor Snape didn't need to know that someone else knew of her condition, nor did the headmaster.

Her own memories were duplicated in the vial—not forcefully removed and leaving blankness like they would've been with the counterpart spell that could either steal the recollections or erase them forever, if cast impeccably—and it was with hesitation that she passed it over to him, still clutching the one she'd be given by the headmaster within her lap protectively.

"The room you've mentioned is on the seventh-floor, correct?" Her confirmation nod prompted him to continue. "That is the castle's storage room; items left behind before the summer, or by graduates, are placed there for safekeeping until they're retrieved or forgotten. The wards must not have been renewed for it to allow you access—that'll be corrected soon, so please refrain from spreading the word of the room's location."

The explanation was adequate. Hermione agreed, accepting the prompt for her to inform her house-mate of the predicament, too.

When he caught onto the widening of her eyes from him knowing exactly the location she'd been talking about, he uttered, "Did you really think you'd managed to stumble across an unknown room?" The question was rhetorical, of course, so she kept her lips pursed shut. "Every nook and cranny of this castle is mapped out and known—even the forest."

The Forbidden Forest, as it was adequately named, was a safe home and breeding grounds for various creatures that were protected by the ministry. It was deemed appropriate to allow the students to roam on the outskirts during lessons for educational purposes, and the treeline was equipped with a multitude of spells to keep unwanted visitors out to protect the animals. There had been occasions in the past where an animal had strayed towards the grounds in curiosity, and that was the story they had told to their house-mates.

The clearing of his throat caused her to jump in surprise. "Let me make this clear to you, Miss Granger; while I may be one of those that has agreed to protect you, you will treat me with respect. There will be no more nonsense of walking into my office with accusations and demands—you will act as a civilised human being in order for our sessions to continue."

She blinked. "Sir?"

"It's clear that you have pent up anger; rather than assigning you detentions for misbehaving in class as a result, instead I am arranging for us to meet each Sunday," Professor Snape drawled, rubbing at his tired face with a hand once more. "Now if you're satisfied for now, I do so require sleep."

The glass almost fell through her fingers as she hastily stood up. "Professor—"

He opened his eyes to look at her sharply. "Not now, Miss Hermione. You can use my equipment to view the memories the coming Sunday."

Closing her mouth silently, she nodded and started towards the door, only looking over her shoulder once her hand was on the doorknob to tentatively say, "I—I tutor students for money on Sundays, sir. It's my only source of income."

His eyes were closed as he sighed. "Monday night, then."

"Thank you." The words felt heavy on her tongue. "I apologise for my behaviour."

-x-

The notebook was used before her meeting with Professor Snape.

It had came to her when she was resting in bed once more, taking the form of a cruel version of a dream. Hermione's consciousness flickered as she recognised the hazy feeling to her vision, noting that she was unable to control her actions; she was doomed to watch the scene take place without protest. Stuck with her thoughts alone, she tried to focus through the blurry eyelids that were sporadically opening before they fell once more, obstructing the brief view.

There was no one in the room with her. Her body was cocooned within the sheets tucked tightly around her, as unresponsive and sluggish as it had been the first time. When the eyes opened, there was either darkness or sunlight pouring in from the window, blinding her vision and causing her to flinch and make a distressed noise in her throat that couldn't be described with a word. It was a noise that she'd never associated with herself; it was helpless, a desperate whimper for help as she couldn't consciously move more than her eyelids.

She realised she was only viewing the moments where she awake. It made sense, really; rather sensible compared to the thought of sitting through the darkness of slumber for what would have seemed like countless hours.

It was as though she was watching a slideshow.

"Hermione," came a low voice, causing her eyes to flutter, feeling heavy as they did so. "It's time to feed again, little one."

Rather than react in horror as she wanted to, the infuriating whine came from her throat once more. Her eyes had stayed open long enough to glimpse the hooded figure with another by his side, and it was with the realisation that there was quiet sobbing, that definitely wasn't coming from her, that the implications of his words were worse than she could've thought. The eyes didn't open, yet she strongly suspected that the warm limb that was shoved against her lips with a bleeding wound wasn't his.

The stranger whispered strangled pleas of mercy—forgiveness—begging the man to stop, never addressing him by name as he did so. The blood was suckled sluggishly, and despite the man's pleas, the arm didn't pull away nor move.

She was horrified when she realised the hooded male had deliberately used forbidden magic on the man, causing his body to listen to demands; he was a marionette that bent to his whims, other than his quivering lips that were making pained gasps as she created as much suction as she could. Was—was he using her to torture someone?

There wasn't a sign of a snake thus far. He couldn't have been the one to deliver her to Hogwarts, though it was possible that he was the one to erase some years of her memories before attempting to dispose of her. She wanted to believe that, eventually, her young body was able to find peace and safety sooner rather than later, as years of corruption could only be repressed for so long. And was what it was; the binds within her had disguised the violent upbringing of her early years, attempting to squash and remould her into a standard witch with no memory.

If she'd continued to consume the potions provided, they would've disrupted her mindspace further. The blocks in place would've stayed, therefore bleeding into her ability to use magic, and she would've continued at a rapid pace of falling into unhealthy territory; it was endangering her to attempt to be normal, despite how hard they had tried.

Could she die?

Vampires were theorised as immortal beings, and the protégé tome hadn't specified that detail yet (neither had legerdemain been explained to see if it allowed them to resurrect their non-beating hearts after a fatal accident).

The thoughts were cut off when her suckling ceased, clumsily licking her blood-stained lips as the whine in her throat escaped her.

There wasn't any moans of mercy filling the silence.

Footsteps sounded as the hooded figure approached, then the distinct sound of the body slumping to the floor—silent, too quiet—with disregard. The man made a humming noise that sounded amused, and she was horrified as a warm hand wiped her cheek to tidy her appearance.

"We'll have to experiment once your teeth have grown," he murmured. "Perhaps you'd like to taste the blood of a witch next."

Her eyes were too heavy to open. The hair was brushed from her face as she felt the effects of a cleaning spell, making it so she didn't have to be removed from the bed to cleanse herself of the blood.

It wasn't affection that fuelled his actions, she knew that; everything from his words to the fingers that threaded through her hair screamed of possession, and it made her wholly uncomfortable with the thought. The male before her was one with no qualms of murder—for she had to believe the man she'd drank from had to have been gone from the lack of movement—and knowing that he was the one that could possibly influence her reactions made her promptly expel the contents of her stomach once she'd regained consciousness in the present time.

Hermione heaved, eyes prickling with tears as she hastily wiped at her face. She was scared of touching her cheeks in case she found blood, no matter how ridiculous that sounded—it was a memory, something that couldn't hurt her, yet it only caused her to cower against her pillows in a vulnerable position she hated to associate with herself.

Tom had his own ideas about it. The room they'd found Nagini in had been warded off from their view once more, forbidden to the students, so it was the library that they met to talk in the further corner they could find. He cast the required privacy spells to stop the younger students walking past from hearing their words, then looked at her with a calculating expression.

"You're sure that you're missing around five years worth of memories?" he questioned, opening a blank notebook, pressing the nib of his quill to the paper to jot down pieces of information. It occurred to her then when she glimpsed the dates that he was attempting to figure out her timeline. "Absolutely?"

Running a hand through her hair in a nervous gesture, Hermione replied, "I think so—it's blurry, really. I can remember words and still images better than faces, but, yes. It seems to be around that time that I have memories of the Grangers; of growing up."

"Okay." There was a quiet scratching sound as he wrote it down. "Either you're only remembering snippets because of how the spell was cast or this is all you can recall. That would explain why the memories seem distorted; you were too young to process a lot."

He wasn't accusing her of being a murderer like she suspected. There was no denying that she'd sucked the warm blood from that man's veins when she was an infant—before her teeth had fully grown—and, for whatever the reason may be, he wasn't taking the chance to snidely make remarks that would want her to curl into a ball in the safety of her bed.

Rather than that, he was intrigued by the information. Tom asked whether she could describe her senses in detail, tried to drag the surroundings from her mind without regard for her feelings. It was as though he was considering it as research that was unrelated to her, and she was the means to come across the answers he was searching for.

"Experimenting with your teeth," the dark-haired wizard drawled, looking at her from the corner of his eyes. "It is something you can do, then—what you did to me before."

It caused a lump to form in her throat. "I'm not sure how yet."

"Granger," Tom said, leaning back in his chair as the writing stopped. "Either answer me with confirmed information or keep your pitiful confusion to yourself. It can be quite grating to listen to."

Having someone to vent her speculations and problems to didn't mean that they were wonderful company, though. Hermione resisted the urge to roll her eyes, instead crossing her arms beneath her breasts as she considered their theories.

Tom had been the one to say, "It's likely that the man abducted you after your parents died; that has to be the death that he mentioned. He used you because of what you are, that's obvious. The question is how he knows."

Her reply had died in her throat. The second perspective was helpful, allowed her to see someone else's opinions since they hadn't been the one involved, and knowing that he could speculate the harsh happenings without his voice shaking had her fidgeting with her hands nervously. He wasn't as emotionally attached as she, and it showed.

It was true, though. Whether the man had only abducted her or if he'd been the one to cause the death of her parents was unknown, and no amount of speculation from the limited memories would help. The man knew of her status, had knowledge of the bite she'd failed to recreate a second time, and that was what scared her.

They couldn't arrange to fatally injure her for two reasons; she didn't particularly feel like visiting the infirmary for severe injuries, and the wards would've alerted the teachers of the harmful magic. Therefore, the questions whether she could actually die was unanswered due to not knowing whether the spell placed upon the tome had been specifically tailored to cause that reaction. Hermione was adamant that there as no bloodlust since a class-mate had cut themselves in Herbology, and she'd helped them cover the wound without a problem.

They arranged to meet on the next Hogsmeade weekend to conduct an experiment.

-x-

Professor Snape welcomed her into his office after dinner on Monday. Her friends—she could class a few of her house-mates as such, other than the surly looks she received from Millicent more often than not—let her go without question, and it was with sweaty palms that she sat in his office as he arranged the equipment they needed.

The first thought she had what looked like a stone birdbath (or, rather; a large bowl). Hermione looked at it dubiously, taking in the chips around the edges and the dip in the middle where the silver-coloured mist that was her memory was going to swirl. The basin had runes etched around the outside, engravings that were small and almost too miniscule to be eligible, to imbue the magic needed to cause the memory to be projected into a viewer's mind. It rested on the professor's desk innocently, awaiting her decision to move forward.

He assured her that he wasn't going to look.

After running a hand through her curly hair from nerves, Hermione barely resisted the urge to give herself a pep-talk before she placed her hand into the basin.

The effect was instantaneous. Her vision distorted, replaced by the scene in the memory through the eyes of the owner—her younger self.

The view was of her childhood home, she knew. From the drapes that were moth-eaten at the bottom, the pristine condition of their wooden table that her mother had taken pride in, to the couch that had a oddly-coloured blanket draped across the back. Her parents were oddly absent from the scene; instead, she realised that her younger self was alone in the living room, cowering in the corner on the floor rather than on the furniture.

Her mother appeared first, kneeling down on the floor in front of her with an outstretched hand and a friendly smile. She murmured—voice distorted, drowned out by the thundering pulse in her head—in an attempt to coax her away from hiding.

Hermione flinched when her mother's hand touched her shoulder, back hitting the wall as she scooted as far away as possible. She could feel her heart pounding in her chest, clearly feel the emotions that came with the memory; it was terrifying, really, to think of the horrors that could've been relived in such a creation, even if they had been viewed with the greatest intentions. It was just as disorientating and jarring as her dream recollections had been thus far—the focus was flickering, black covering her vision as time jumped and skipped.

The voices around her were blurred, yet she knew that it was the Grangers. The stance of her father—strict, no nonsense—and her mother's kind body language as they tried to get her to move, to eat, anything—it was all terribly familiar and would've created a self-pitying lump in her throat if she'd been in control of her body.

Her younger self recoiled, shivering violently despite the average temperature, and clutched her tiny knees to her chest with shaking arms. With eyes squeezed shut (so tight that her eyebrows were furrowed and twitching from trying to keep them firmly there), she wondered what had her so horrified. There had to have been something to logically make her reaction in such a way, and it wasn't the tentative, but kind, actions of the parental figures before her.

When her vision flickered back into existence, there was something warm in her mouth. Her jaw was moving sluggishly, teeth scraping—but not biting down on—as her lips curled around it to create light suction. There wasn't a liquid coming out, though, and as the throbbing pulse within her head became apparent, she realised just how maddening her condition was. The noises were drowned out by her own frantic body, limbs shaking and fingers twitching without reason.

To her horror, there was a pain in her gums. She'd already assumed due to her height that she'd already grown her first set of teeth by a few years, yet that didn't explain the awful spikes of pain that were becoming more pronounced as the sucking became frantic. The whine was escaping her throat again, the sound standing out against the silence of the room, and she only stopped when the lights in the room were turned on.

Hermione recoiled from the sudden light, teeth biting down harshly from the sharp movement, and it was with the unexpected rush of pain that accompanied her reaction that she realised what was happening.

The Grangers saw it, too. Her mother gasped in horror, loud enough to hear, and then ran towards her to pull her damaged arm from her mouth.

The young girl flinched, the whine becoming more pronounced as her arm was removed. From the sudden swipe of her tongue across her lips, she knew she would've been sick if she could. There was blood there; wetness smeared across her mouth that she was lapping up as well as she could while drowning out the terrified presence of her company.

What kind of child bites themselves? That must've been the general thoughts running through the Grangers' minds.

It made sense, though. The snippets she'd recovered by herself had been distorted and needy, dependant on the hooded figure that was providing her care for his own sick gain, and when she was still young and thrust into a new environment, it was the best she could do. Biting her own arm, trying to clumsily suckle upon her flesh with barely-there consciousness; the younger her had become dependent on such things.

The following flashes she saw consisted of her mother hovering before her with a worried expression—surely trying to stop her from attempting to eat herself again—and the pacing figure of her father on the telephone.

When she awoke, it was to a new face; one familiar since she'd joined the wizarding world. Professor Dumbledore looked—he was saddened to see her in such a state. The elderly wizard was gazing at her with a melancholic frown, resting on his knees on the floor, brightly-coloured robe billowing out on the floor.

His voice was drowned out as he spoke to her parents. As it continued and her younger self took peeks, clearly not uncomfortable by the new presence, it only seemed to worsen his negative expression.

When he raised his wand towards her, she was staring with heavy eyes into his own.

Professor Snape didn't prompt her to explain what she saw. She was pale-faced, shaking from the shock and terror clear in every moment as she tried to settle her breathing pattern back to normal.

Her voice cracked as she quietly said, "T-thank you, sir. I... I have to go."

If he looked into the basin and viewed her memories, there was no pitying gaze directed at her in the following days.

-x-

Tom denied her theory that she was the one to give her father the scar across his face, and therefore blind him in one eye. It made no sense for him to be afraid to go outside after that, and she had to begrudgingly agree with his opinion. The scar had been there—not fresh, it was healed over and pink—within her memory. They deduced that she was a young child, not a newborn that was dropped from surprise and therefore had damage to the back of her neck, so the scar she had held no answers for her.

The Grangers hotly telling Professor Dumbledore that he said she'd be normal meant just that; they wanted a child that wouldn't attempt to gnaw on their own flesh. The seclusion was for her own gain in the end, to keep her protected, and it seemed the professor had an inkling that her age meant that the blocks were fading.

There was nothing to hold against the headmaster. The suspicious things he'd done, that had had her wary of him since the beginning, and been in place to protect her, and she'd been too stubborn to realise it.

The revelation had her feeling sick from guilt a lot.

When partners were assigned in Defence Against the Dark Arts, Hermione was surprised when she was paired with Fay Dunbar. They had spoken at times, friendly enough since there was no need to hate each other, so it was with curiosity that she crossed the room to where the taller witch was resting against the wall, wand clutched in her hands.

"Hello," she offered as a greeting.

Fay's blue eyes flickered to meet hers. "Hey," she replied, blinking rapidly as the long strands of her fringe irritated her. "Guess we're stuck together."

"I suppose." Hermione's smile felt awkward. "I, well—we've never really been introduced, other than Ron trying to with his full mouth. I'm Hermione."

Scrunching her nose up in distaste, the response she received was, "Fay. And trust me, he's gotten hell of a lot better than he was in our first year."

There wasn't the decorum of some of the other pure-bloods that introduced themselves with their surnames first (it seemed only those of high standing with the ministry did so), and they were able to shift into friendly conversation as they practised the spells that Professor Lupin directed them to. When the professor hovered by and offered pointers to them, he praised both of their forms, causing them to share a happy smile with each other.

To Hermione's surprise, by the end of the lesson they were laughing aloud with each other, attracting the attention of their class-mates. Lavender had looked at them with a puzzled expression—clearly wondering when they'd managed to reach talking enthusiastically fast with smiles and laughter—before she wandered off with Parvati, promptly ignoring Ronald on the way past.

Ronald groaned, dramatically resting on Harry's shoulder as the pair sauntered up to them. "I just can't get it right, can I, mate?" he bemoaned.

The dark-haired male patted his shoulder in mocking sympathy. "Maybe instead of asking why you two should go to Hogsmeade together, have a little think about why not?"

"Really, Ron?" Fay asked with a sigh as she collected her belongings. "If I have to listen to Lavender moaning that you're not interested in her for one more night, I'm going to hex you horribly when we're next paired together—maybe shove you into a cauldron in Potions, if necessary."

And with that said, Fay walked out of the classroom.

Hermione burst into guffaws, the noise becoming louder when she saw the red-head's shocked expression, which prompted to join her, too. Ronald's cheeks burned red from embarrassment—even the tips of his ears—and he shoved himself away from his friend as he ran his fingers through his hair.

"Yeah, laugh it up," he grumbled, the red strands of his hair standing up messily, worse than Harry's. "I'll wait until you're both confused over someone, then I'll be the one cackling."

Sharing a look with the no longer bespectacled male, Hermione turned her attention to the other with a fond expression. "I've seen you two clumsily flirting for a year—so, why wouldn't you ask her on a date?"

"Have you seen the variety in Hogsmeade?" Ronald retorted, exasperated. "There's pubs that won't sell us alcohol, then a few café's that are overly expensive for some foam on top. I'm not putting my poor pockets through that. I can barely afford to buy stuff for myself as it is."

The comment made her feel somewhat guilty. Since the previous year, Ronald had been a regular for her tutoring sessions, happily passing over the coins after she helped him understand the theory behind classes. Not many had uttered about money problems that she knew of; the families within Slytherin were mostly partially wealthy and liked to mention what they bought for themselves over breaks, or between classes via owls.

The other students that had the Hogwarts scholarship—that only required them to be present, and wouldn't ask to be reimbursed despite how awful their grades could turn out—that she could think of were Alys and James, the Hufflepuffs from the orphanage in their first year.

She wondered how they were doing. They had seen each other across the hall and in the classroom, and she was pleased to see that the two of them were still friendly with each other after their tentative bonding in the summer.

Before she could apologise for needlessly taking his money because they were friends, Harry pitched in with, "What about we have a bet? I'll pay up if you actually do it."

Rather than be offended by the suggestion, Ronald laughed. "Nice try, man. I'm not jumping into the lake in the middle of October."

"Too juvenile." Harry watched a hand in a dismissive gesture, a smile on his lips. "We did that in our third year, anyway. How about you prank Tom somehow, so I can take a picture and send it to Ginny?"

He hadn't completed the project he'd set himself, then. Harry had been fluttering between the different tables in the Great Hall during dinners, snapping pictures with students that either looked bewildered or delighted at the thought of being photographed. Only a few of the Slytherin's had been snapped with him thus far—Blaise, Theodore, and Tracey—and she'd assumed that he'd given up on the idea, since it was almost the third month since they'd been back.

Hermione cleared her throat. "I'm right here."

"Yes, hello, Hermione," the red-head replied, looking at her strangely. "We're quite aware of that, actually."

"You do realise that I could tell your brother everything, right?" she asked, rolling her eyes in amusement. "Great idea, really."

Harry looked at her thoughtfully before he wrapped an arm around Ronald, steering them through the classroom door with their heads bowed together. At least she got a good-bye wave as they chuckled, voices merging into one as they schemed.

The prank, as they called it, happened the following week. Hermione hadn't heard any more gossip to know about the details of it, so when she sat down to dinner and smiled at one of her house-mates jokes, it was with a surprise that she noticed Harry walking over to them.

It was the soft peach glow around his shoulders that gave him away; it only appeared with intense emotions, and for him, that was happiness. He was holding back from smiling, lips quivering as he approached with his hands tucked into the pockets of his robes as he approached.

"Young Potter," Theodore greeted, raising an eyebrow.

Even after a year, it was strange to witness the social requirements of some students. Those that were raised with the expectations of etiquette and a high-standing in society referred to others with surnames, so it wasn't difficult to spot the ones that were raised with muggles. Referring to Harry as Potter wasn't common—only his own friends did that when they were making fun of him, actually—so the default nickname he'd acquired since the first year was Young Potter (which he hated).

Harry dryly replied, "Oh, yes. Theodore the Tall, it has been quite some time."

She barely covered her snort of laughter. That was his nickname within the Gryffindor group of friends since they'd started their sixth year, due to Theodore having achieved the status of being the tallest student in the school. He towered above the first-years and even some of their own class-mates, though he didn't have the muggle problem of ducking underneath door frames due to the magically adjusted doors.

"We sat next to each other yesterday."

Harry cracked a smile at that. "Don't ruin my dramatic entrance."

"What do you want?" Tom interjected, looking at his brother with a bored expression. "I don't trust you."

Blinking, he tried to answer in an innocent voice. "Why, whatever do you mean, brother?"

"You—"

There wasn't time for him to respond. The food upon his plate promptly flew in all directions, the plate shattering, sending chips across the table as shrieks were heard. There was laughter across the hall—bewildered noises, some gasping in astonishment—and Hermione wiped at her wet face in confusion.

Her hand had red smeared on it when she pulled it away.

She wasn't the only one, though. Tom had cuts across his neck and face due to the violent spell, as did five others that were sat with them, and all it took was for Pansy to realise that her face was stinging for her to flush deeply from embarrassment before she abruptly stood up to go to the infirmary (to ensure it would be healed properly).

Tom's face was blank; pieces of food splattered, even in his dark eyelashes, as blood dripped from his brow and began to fall down his face. It wasn't a pleasant sight, no; the fact that she could see his stirring anger around him made it even worse. The peach mist wiggled, making itself known from within the folds of his outer-robe, before becoming more pronounced.

Harry was quick to fetch the camera from his pocket as he laughed, snapping a picture of his brother before he ran away across the hall—he was risking his health to try and get in the picture as well, then.

The first thing out of Tom's mouth was, "I'm going to kill him."

Professor McGonagall shouted for Harry to stop, stern expression in place as she walked across the hall with her heels clicking with every step. There was a muttered chorus as they noticed the damage done, the sounds ceasing when Professor Snape stood up and approached the Slytherin table. He didn't tell them off—as it wasn't their fault—and ushered those that had been cut to follow after Pansy to make sure they were restored back to normal. He did vanish the food, though.

There was no longer the stench of various food splattered across her face as they walked through the halls. The prefect beside her with fuming, magic showing and all as they turned a corner, and the others were comparing their wounds with interest. It wasn't the worst thing to happen through dinner thus far, that award went to a sixth-year throwing up profusely three years ago, apparently, from a backfired joke by Ronald's older brothers.

She'd heard stories about them, naturally; they were troublemakers, happy to meddle for the sake of fun, so it was no surprise to realise that their younger brother had been trying to live up to their standards—and failed horribly in the process.

Jokes were supposed to be fun for both parties, not causing harm for the sake of enjoyment. Hermione hadn't thought she'd see such a side to her friends, and the fact that Harry had been pleased, the magic around his shoulders clearly showing that, and her wondering whether his dislike of his brother was too far. Others had been harmed—even her—to a small amount, yet he didn't falter from taking a picture and making his escape.

Their apology had to be good, she decided.

Madam Pomfrey separated them onto beds to await her care. Her expression was stern—one Hermione was fond of after their time together—as she asked why there were multiple students walking in with cuts.

The general reply was that they didn't know. As Madam Pomfrey attended to Gregory, who's previously bald head had began to sprout tiny spikes of hair, Hermione cleared her throat to catch her house-mates attention.

"I'm sorry," she started, fiddling with her hands nervously. "I—I knew they were planning something, but I didn't think it would be this violent."

Daphne looked at her in confusion. "What?"

"It—it was supposed to be a stupid way to pay someone without hurting their pride," Hermione babbled, running a hand through the brown tresses of her hair. It wasn't well known that Ronald was the force behind it just yet, and she didn't want that detail to slip until tempers had calmed. "I didn't listen or even ask what they were up to."

Madam Pomfrey scolded them for their childish behaviour when she came to their side. They were patched up promptly—it was only a few cuts and scrapes, nothing too hard to fix up—and sent on their way back to their common-room. There was grumpy expressions all around (worse than usual for Gregory), and the chatter wasn't as light-hearted as usual.

She felt bad.

The lack of lust for blood hadn't made her feel better, too. Hermione looked at the two culprits with frosty expressions for the following days, and they both smiled awkwardly at her before walking away, chickening out of striking up a conversation due to her attitude.

There had been chatter of how to get back at them for the exploding plate until it was revealed that Harry was assigned two weeks worth of detention, while Ronald earned three. The two were shuffled between professors each time, a new tedious task per evening, and it was by the end of the first week that Harry trudged up to her with his hand playing with the hairs on the nape of his neck. It was a self-conscious action that she would've usually found endearing, but at that moment it only made her cross her arms beneath her breasts and raise her eyebrows.

"Well?" Hermione questioned, a frown to her lips.

The hand stayed where it was. "I—" Harry's voice was quiet, barely audible before he cut himself off to swallow. The black tresses on his head were messed up further by him dragging his fingers through it. "I'm sorry you got hurt."

Yes—but what if she'd reacted savagely? Drawing blood in the Great Hall was a sure ticket to being revealed, she realised with a lump in her throat. Hermione shoved those thoughts away quickly, knowing that she couldn't project her fears onto him, if only it was to try and ease her worries.

"It wasn't just me, though," she pointed out quietly.

He blinked. "Oh, really?"

Harry's offhanded tone irked her. "Yes," the witch replied sternly, furrowing her eyebrows as he shifted awkwardly. They were in the library, where he surely knew he'd find her, so there was no reason for him to suddenly become self-conscious of the setting. "The plate shattered, then the shards hit quite a few people—not that you noticed, of course. You were too busy laughing from harming your brother."

"Mione—"

"No." Hermione collected her belongings in a pile, distracting herself with her hands. "There's harmless jokes, and then there's harming at least six people and drawing blood, Harry. It also took you over a week to try and apologise to me, did you even realise that?"

He sighed, the noise quiet. "What do you want me to do, then? We never meant for you to get hurt. I just wanted to make Ron happy."

"Did he enjoy hurting people, too?" she asked, standing up with her bag on her shoulder. At the silence, she averted her gaze and walked past as she murmured, "I thought so."

-x-

The experiment was an awful idea, truly. Hermione immediately protested when Tom announced they were proceeding with it, especially when they'd chosen to meet within the boy's dorm-room. The rest were off gallivanting in Hogsmeade for a few hours, leaving them to their meeting that they'd prolonged for too long.

He and Harry hadn't made up, naturally. The brothers were constantly on bad terms, so when she mentioned about seeing his magic before the plate had smashed, Tom's expression was mixed. It also prompted the experiment she was dreading—he wanted to see how she'd react to his magic when exposed, as thus far it had had mixed results.

"I don't like this," Hermione murmured, rubbing her palms onto the material of her jeans. "It—what if there's magical backlash like in the book-store? I wrecked it."

Tom had seated himself on someone else's bed. "You don't have to like it, Granger. It'll be helpful to know in case the unexpected happens in class."

She pursed her lips. "Other than the book-store—which no one else saw other than the poor employee—the worst that's happened is me tackling you in a duel."

"Where you tried to bite me," he reminded her coolly. "Let's not forget that detail."

There was no robe on him that day. A shirt with the sleeves rolled up and dark-coloured trousers, an outfit that could've passed for muggle-style fashion. His wand was clasped in his hand as he sat, while she stood awkwardly in the middle of the room, wanting desperately to just—to leave.

"Right, okay." She took in a deep breath, closing her eyes as she did so. "We're just—you're going to get angry?"

How had it come to this? Hermione was still lost on her thought process, and the snoozing large figure on one of the beds did little to settle her nerves. Nagini was asleep, the bond still not sending feelings or emotions through. She distracted herself with idle thoughts, resorting to reciting paragraphs from the book she'd read the previous night as the time passed. As time trickled by, as did the chapters that she was recalling, it became clear that there was a problem to his plan.

The curve of his mouth certainly seemed annoyed, yet there was no sign of a presence across his shoulders.

She licked her lips nervously. "You're not mad enough yet."

His eyebrows furrowed.

"It's negative emotions for you, unlike your brother," she reiterated, hoping to prompt him to stop. "Maybe think about him?"

There was time to wipe her clammy hands on her jeans again before his irritation was pronounced enough to show around the collar of his shirt. It wafted lazily, transparent tentacle-like shapes wriggling in random directions as the seconds passed by. It was strange to watch, as always; it was though she was watching something sentient floating around, and the thought stirred an uncomfortable feeling in her stomach as she remembered her own when she was within her mindscape.

Taking a cautious step towards the bed he was sat on, Hermione shakily said, "...Are you sure you want me to try and touch it?"

"Yes, as I've said before," he replied sternly, eyebrows curved down from displeasure as he crossed his arms on his chest, eyes closed (and she was thankful for this, the eye contact would've worsened her nerves). "Do try not to bite me again."

With the pep-talk out of the way, Hermione advanced until she was standing in front of him, knees almost touching as he continued to keep his unwelcoming stance that screamed of displeasure and annoyance. Perhaps it was to try and keep up the surge of magic that was around his shoulders, therefore he had to close his eyes to concentrate on his irritation, other than the moments where he snapped at her.

The peach-coloured mist was swaying around him, light and bright as it moved. She raised a shaking hand, biting down on her lower lip as she approached with caution.

When she took the plunge and pressed her fingertips where she knew the mist to be, she'd tightly closed her eyes in preparation for the violent recoil. Yet instead of being knocked away by a surge of accidental magic, Hermione was baffled to realise that it felt—it was warm.

Some sort of noise must've escaped because Tom chose that moment to prompt her with, "Well?"

"I—" Hermione made a strangled noise as he eyes flew open, having realised there was a pressure on her fingertips. It—it shouldn't have been possible, but his magic was twirling lazily around her extended fingers, creating transparent spirals as it went. "It's..."

"Eloquent," he observed, eyes still pinched shut.

Her hand was shaking still. "It's wrapping around my hand," she said quietly, swallowing thickly afterwards. "It... I can feel it. It's warm."

Tom enquired, "It's physical, then?"

She nodded before realising that he wouldn't see it. Hermione explained the feeling to the best of her ability, trying not to move her hand too much despite the ache that had became pronounced in her arm. There was no telling what would happen if she moved too quickly, or if she curled her hand around it to even clench it tightly, so she was determined to stay balanced.

It didn't last long, though. Tom's negative emotions were waning after the extended period of time—which was quite a feat, summoning anger strong enough to stick around for a good ten minutes out of nowhere had to be considered a talent to some—so it was with bated breath as she watched his magic begin to flicker, tendrils becoming smaller and curling into themselves as the moments passed by.

Her hand dropped to her side, numb. "This only brings up more questions."

"Next Hogsmeade, we're retrying. This has to be connected to your emotions, too," the prefect demanded, standing up abruptly to stretch out his limbs. "Book-store and the bite; both of them had you angry, with emotions that match mine. I'd suggest biting my brother when you're happy sometime, but you're too soft for that, aren't you?"

"I'm not willingly biting anyone." She shot him a cold look.

His laugh was humourless. "What an honour I've received, then."

It may have been for his own selfish gain in the eventual future, but at least she had someone there to help her that new everything that she already did. The hidden information from Professor Snape made it so she had to omit details from their Monday talks, yet she was still grateful for them—he'd said that as long as she was respectful, he wouldn't deduct points or assign detention from the things she told him.

There wasn't anything else to theorise that they hadn't already, so their attention turned to the drowsy serpent that had began to slither towards them. Nagini was still disorientated permanently—apparently her speech was even slurred, though Hermione couldn't hear that for herself—and had stuck to two or three words only, frequently stringing them together in make-shift sentences that had no sense. The potions had arrived via owl and been applied, but no noticeable effect had shown.

When the snake placed her large body across the dark-haired male, effectively covering his lower-half from trying to get comfortable, Hermione cracked a smile from how at ease he seemed with her.

"She'd be much better off as your familiar," she observed, perched upon the edge of one of the edges.

His fingers trailed over her scales. "I doubt that. My father's terrified of snakes."

A snort of amusement escaped her. "The same man that thought spectacles would impress muggle-borns?"

His hand stilled as he looked up at her with his dark eyebrows raised.

"Harry," Hermione explained, a small smile on her lips. "He's, well, he told me about your family at the end of last year. After my whole disappearing act."

Nagini shifted as her body was peppered with light touches once more. "Of course."

Surprised at the calm atmosphere—there hadn't been a jab or an insult for a good five minutes, which was quite a record between them—the brunette found herself blurting, "I'm the first he's told about your relationship fully."

"And our sibling rivalry concerns you how?" Tom questioned, the curve of his lips not meeting his eyes. "You have nothing to gain from that information, so what's the point of digging?"

"I didn't," she answered promptly, fiddling with her hands. "Nose around for it, I mean. Harry—I think he wanted someone to talk to since I know him from you, and not the other way around."

He ran a hand through his wavy hair, brushing the black-coloured tresses from his forehead. "What are you expecting me to say? I'm not going to tell you about my feelings, Granger. Not when you're going to sod off and go back to frolicking around with my brother right after."

She held her hands up in a gesture of surrender. "I just—he laughed when you were injured. Doesn't that bother you?"

His expression was closed off once more as he shot back, "Why do you care?"

Because he was helping her. It may have been prompted by his selfishness and want for self-gain, but the fact of the matter was that he was doing things that he didn't have to, and she felt begrudgingly in debt to him, despite his bad attitude and cold remarks.

"Harry's my friend." Not was, she was sure. His and Ronald's carelessness wouldn't last forever, and there was only a small nagging doubt within her that they wouldn't reconcile. "He's honestly one of the nicest people I've ever met, yet when he's with you, everything changes. He laughs when he hurts you, and you've both got groups of friends that you've influenced against each other. Don't you think that's a bit past normal sibling rivalries?"

"Congratulations, Granger," Tom started, looking up to meet her determined gaze with a cold look. If it wasn't for the large snake draped across his lap, she assumed he would've walked off. "You're one of the many that my brother has wrapped around his little finger, now will you leave?"

The flash of peach upon his shoulder made her walk out with shaky legs.

What baffled her most—other than sarcasm—was that his remark about Harry was oddly similar to one of the first that his brother had said to her in the beginning.

"My brother usually has everyone wrapped around his fingers. Have you really not noticed that yet?" Harry had uttered.

They were both idiots.

-x-

When Ronald apologised, it was with countless sweets clutched in his hands. There was a flush across the bridge of his nose and cheeks, standing out against his pale skin and freckles, and he shifted nervously on the spot while trying to make his apology somewhat eloquent. Harry was beside him, running a hand through his dark-coloured hair, mumbling much the same.

They'd cornered her after dinner. She'd been walking back to the common-room before Harry—who was the only one with free hands between the two—had gently grabbed onto her wrist to turn her around, a sheepish smile across his lips the whole time.

"We're sorry, okay?" Ronald blurted again, fingers clenching around the sweets. "I—I got these in Hogsmeade to try and make it up to you. We were dumb, I get it. I didn't think it through."

Crossing her arms underneath her breasts, Hermione raised her eyebrows. "Am I the only one getting this apology?" He'd used the money from the prank on her, rather than taking Lavender out on a date. She had conflicting feelings about that, unsure whether to accept the apology presents.

"You're the one that matters," the red-head insisted, eyebrows furrowed and peaking out beneath the long strands of his hair. It had grown long, curling underneath his earlobes and falling into his eyes if he leaned forward. "I know I messed up, and this is the only way I could think of to make you try and understand."

As flattered as she was, Hermione tried to stop herself from smiling from how flustered he looked. "Detentions and an apology only for me won't make everything okay," she found herself saying, tapping her shoe against the floor. "But I'm willing to compromise."

Surprised, Harry asked, "How?"

They were idiotic, yes, but they were teenage boys that were her friends—some of her first ones, at that. There was bound to be bumps and awkward moments during their relationship, and it made no sense to hold their immaturity against them.

Hermione's gaze flickered between them. "I'll forgive you both if you stop paying for tutoring and apologise to my house-mates."

"Can we just do one instead?" Ronald blurted, still clutching his purchases in his hands. "I mean, I even got you all these things to try and make it up to you."

"Oh, yes," she replied dryly. "Let me nurse my cut face by consuming large amounts of sugar. Very thoughtful of you, Ron."

There was no harshness to her words, and it seemed he picked up on that. With a smile he walked forward and clumsily passed the various coloured sweets over into her hands, placing a few in her pockets for good measure as Harry laughed as some fell onto the floor from their fumbling. When the transition was completed and they had both begrudgingly agreed to the terms of her forgiveness, Hermione was beaming at them both.

PREVIEW: "Hermione... I-I think there's something on you," Ronald stuttered, gaping.