A/N: *Skulks in under cover of darkness*

*tucks the chapter into your coffee pot*

*snickers before scampering away into the night*



By Kittenshift17


In the morning, Hermione awoke to the sound of someone throwing things carelessly into a trunk. Blinking her eyes open blearily, she squinted against the harsh summer sunshine streaming in through the open window. Across the room, Thorfinn bundled things up and chucked them in his trunk higgledy-piggledy, carelessly tossing his belongings inside without any attempt at order.

"Finn?" she asked, confused.

The blond didn't turn to look at her, continuing on with his packing and seeming furious.

"Thorfinn?" she tried again, sitting up and frowning heavily after scrubbing her hands over her face, trying to make sense of what she was seeing. "What are you doing?"

He ignored her and Hermione wondered if he was too consumed with his packing to notice her speaking, or if he was doing so by choice. What she remembered of the previous evening, she suspected the latter.

Scowling, Hermione threw off the duvet and got to her feet, stretching briefly before putting her hands on her hips.

"This is your mature and logical solution to last night's argument, then?" she demanded, immediately irked by his attitude. "You didn't like what I had to say so you… what? Stunned me and now you're packing your gear? Running away, are we?"

"Granger, shut up," he snarled with his back still to her, and Hermione narrowed her eyes on his broad back, thinking about hexing him just for spite.

She hated being ignored more than almost anything else in the world and she was furious that he'd ended their fight by Stunning her. At least, she assumed that's what he'd done since she remembered being angry and lecturing him, and now it was morning, and he was packing, and she hadn't finished saying her piece.

"Very mature response," Hermione retorted, huffing as she turned away intent on getting dressed and going to find Reina. She wasn't going to stick around and argue with him again.

If he wanted to leave, all the better.

"Whatever this bullshit has been… it's over, Granger," he said in a low voice when Hermione was dressed and about to storm out the door.

She stopped, her hand on the doorknob while a bolt of agony drove through her chest and suffused her limbs. She trembled, her muscles spasming as her breathing grew shallow and her eyes begun to prickle like she might burst into tears.

"You've joined a hate group dedicated to harming people like my parents, and hunting people like me, Thorfinn," she snarled coldly, though her voice quavered a little. "Believe me, it's well and truly over!"

With that, she wrenched the door open and ran through it, slamming it loudly in her wake. The sound echoed all the way through Rowle Tower, and Hermione had never wished quite so hard that she was of age so that she might use magic to pack her own things so she could leave, and so that she could have her Apparating licenses so that she could go far away from here where she would never have to see Thorfinn Rowle ever again. In the absence of those things, Hermione settled for barging into Reina's room and flinging herself down on the bed beside the younger girl as she burst into furious and heartbroken tears.


"You want some mashed potatoes, Hermione?" Ron offered at the Welcoming Feast on their return to Hogwarts.

Hermione's stomach churned at the thought of food.

She couldn't keep anything down for long.

She was too heartsore. Too achy. She felt too much like she'd been trampled by an entire rampaging herd of hippogriffs and then tap-danced on by a deviousness of trolls. She hadn't said goodbye to Thorfinn before he'd left. He'd only said goodbye to his family before he'd left with Antonin, who'd eyed Hermione coolly and only squeezed her shoulder too tightly to be a comfort. She didn't expect she would ever see him again.

"I'm alright, thanks, Ron," Hermione mumbled morosely.

"You sure?" he asked, obviously noticing that she was down in the dumps and trying to find a way to cheer her up.

Hermione nodded tiredly, just wishing the feast would be declared over already so they could get on with going to bed. She just wanted to sleep. Not that she'd been sleeping well since Thorfinn left. His mother had pointed out that with so little time left before they returned to school, it made no sense for Hermione to relocate to Reina's room when Thorfinn had packed his things and left. Being surrounded by the vestiges of his adolescence and all of his quidditch paraphernalia had been a new and rare form of torture for Hermione when she returned to his room to sleep every night, but she hadn't complained. She'd cried into the pillows every night, clutching his pillow to her chest and breathing in the scent of his cologne like a deranged and overdramatic woman from some gothic romance novel, but she hadn't complained.

The topic of the Death Eater activity over the summer, and the World Cup, and the fate of their world was being avidly discussed by her classmates all around her. Gryffindors up and down the table speculated wildly, making impassioned declarations about what they would do if they ever got their hands on any of the perpetrators. Guilt gnawed at Hermione's bones. She knew one of the perpetrators. She'd been sleeping in his bed all summer while he went out and did terrible things. Things he'd been blackmailed to do after murdering a man to keep her safe. She couldn't help but feel like it was all her fault that Finn had gotten tangled up with the Death Eaters in the first place.

"What about you, Hermione?" Harry asked her a while later, drawing out of her vicious and percolating dark thoughts.

"Sorry, what?" she blinked at Harry.

"How was your summer?" the bespectacled boy repeated patiently, smiling kindly into her face.

"Oh," Hermione blinked, her eyes lowering back to her plate. "It was fine, Harry. Thanks for asking. Yours?"

"After the World Cup, I spent the summer at the Burrow with Ron," he told her, clearly sensing she hadn't been listening earlier, or on the train on the way to Hogwarts. "We played a lot of quidditch."

Hermione nodded quietly.

"What's up with her?" Ron asked none-too-subtly of Reina when Hermione picked at her barely touched dinner, trying to think of something else to say to her friend.

"She and Thorfinn had a… well… I guess you'd call it a falling out? I don't really know the specifics. He's been acting odd most of the summer since the World Cup, and just a few days before we were due on the train, he and Antonin packed their stuff and headed back to Dublin without much explanation."

"Be getting back into training for next season, wouldn't he?" Ron frowned, clearly finding this reason enough to leave without much notice.

Reina sighed, nodding. "That's what he said."

"Blimey, I thought that kiss in the papers was just a spur of the moment thing," Ron muttered, leaning over to Harry instead. "Way she's carrying on, you'd think they were in love or something."

Hermione thought about pointing out that just because she hadn't been saying much didn't mean she'd gone deaf, but what was the use? Ron wasn't well known for his sensitivity and had all the emotional range of a malfunctioning teaspoon.

"Maybe she did, Ron," Harry pointed out quietly.

Ron scoffed. "She's fifteen, and he's an international quidditch superstar, Harry. That was never going to last."

Hermione tuned Ron out after that when he began rattling off Thorfinn's quidditch stats and the various moves he'd developed a reputation for employing on the quidditch pitch to back up the statement about superstar status.

But later, when she laid in her four-poster staring at the ceiling while tears trickled from the corners of her eyes to run down over her temples and into her hair, she couldn't forget what Ron had said. Late into the night, she berated herself for being such a fool as to think an international quidditch star who'd made it all the way to the World Cup would ever want to pursue a long term and lasting relationship with an underage witch from a poorly bred family whose only claim to fame was being Harry Potter's friend and being abnormally good at studying.


"Alright there, Granger?" Theodore Nott drawled two weeks into term when he slid into an unoccupied seat at her study table in the library.

Hermione finished scratching out the sentence she was drafting for her History of Magic essay before lifting her eyes to peer across the small desk at the boy. He'd grown over the summer, his dark hair a little longer and shaggier, and the line of his jaw seeming more pronounced, his limbs a little longer and ganglier.

"Hello, Theodore," she greeted him quietly.

She'd seen him in a few of their shared classes, though he was very good at pretending that hadn't spent a good portion of last year snogging in broom cupboards.

"Good summer?" he asked conversationally.

Hermione's lips turned down at the corners.

"Not really," she admitted quietly, her eyes dropping back to her essay.

"Thought things were heating up with you and Rowle?" Theo challenged. "He snogged you in front of millions of people at the World Cup, didn't he? It was all over the papers. Malfoy's been ranting about it all summer."

Hermione sighed.

"I'd rather not talk about Thorfinn if it's all the same to you, Theo," she said quietly, feeling no better about how she'd left things with the blond wizard than she'd done two weeks ago.

"Er… right," he frowned.

"Did you need something?" she changed the subject when the silence stretched between them for a long beat.

"You still need help completing the Rites?" he leaned in to whisper so no one would hear them.

"You know I do," she replied.

The Rites had been on her mind a lot lately, recalling that Thorfinn had been the one to rope her into having to perform them. She had reviewed the binding contract he'd forced her to swear to before coming back to school, wondering if there was some clause to be free of the wretched need to complete so many idiotic tasks.

There wasn't. Short of death, in any case.

"Excellent," Theo nodded, oblivious to her distaste for the practice. "Because I was wondering how you'd feel about trying number seventy-one."

Hermione raised her eyebrows.

"Which is?" she inquired, not having memorized the remaining tasks on her list just yet.

"Snogging in the owlery," he shrugged his shoulders.

"It's almost curfew," Hermione pointed out as the bells chimed in the library to warn students that they had ten minutes to collect their things and make their way out.

"Doesn't have to be now," Theo shrugged. "It's Saturday tomorrow. Thought maybe we could head up there after the afternoon post rush when everyone gets their letters from home and sends off their replies about the most recent week."

Hermione bit her lip, wondering if she was in the mood for snogging. She supposed she should try to be, even if she didn't much feel like it. The Rites needed to be completed, and Theo was a willing – and, more importantly, discreet – partner.

"Sounds good," she nodded. "Six-thirty suit you? Before dinner?"

He nodded his head.

"Want to try number eighty-nine before heading back to our common rooms?" he raised an eyebrow as Madam Pince swooped by hustling some Ravenclaw students into moving from where they sat surrounded by books.

"What's eighty-nine?" she raised her eyebrows as she stoppered her ink-well and tucked her quill, ink, and history essay into her bag before tapping the books she's been using for reference that she didn't need to borrow, sending them all back to their respective shelves with a touch of her wand.

"Second base in the Trophy room," he whispered, rising to his feet when she'd packed up her bag and slung it over her shoulder.

Hermione raised her eyebrows.

"Didn't we already do that last year?" she asked.

"That was the Memorial Hall," he shook his head.

"Oh," she frowned. "Um… sure, I guess."

He grinned.

"Want to meet me there?" she offered when he lingered for a moment while his eyes jumped around the room as people began making their way for the exit.

She knew he didn't want to be caught with her. It wouldn't do his reputation among his fellow Slytherins any favors, and she didn't want it getting back to Harry or Ron or any of the others that she was up to anything with the snarky Slytherin.

"You're the best, Granger," he told her, smirking before he inclined his head and walked away, making a beeline for the exit while Hermione took her time gathering up the remaining books she planned to check out of the library.

She went to the desk and waited for Madam Pince to return to record her borrowings, overseeing everyone leaving to ensure no one snuck any books out the door without properly checking them out. In the corridors, Hermione had to turn a few wrong corners before remembering where the Trophy room was, and she reached it just as the chime went out over the castle to indicate curfew was in effect and that students ought to be back in the common rooms by now or face the wrath of patrolling teachers and prefects.

Slipping into the dark room, she peered around apprehensively, hoping she wouldn't come across Professor Snape, or some other teacher just waiting to catch out foolish teenagers thinking they could make out in there.

"Took you long enough," Theo's voice said out of the dark, and Hermione's hand itched for her wand after everything that had happened over the summer and at the World Cup, but she resisted the urge.

"There was a line to check out my books," she offered quietly. "And I forgot how to get here and ended up in the gallery of portraits on the floor below."

"Bet they all scolded you for entering too," Theo chuckled.

"Stuffy old paintings," Hermione muttered in agreement, having been told off by numerous dead people in portrait-form for daring to enter when she ought to be getting to bed.

"Think we'll be caught if I lock the doors?" he asked.

"Probably," she muttered. "If it's unlocked, maybe we can hide if someone comes in. There's a trophy over there as big as a giant. We could climb up into the cup and no one would find us."

"You're a genius," he said, making his way over to it and beginning to do just that.

"I meant if someone comes," she pointed out.

"Yeah, I know," he shrugged. "But if we're already hidden, we're less likely to get caught. Come on."

Hermione sighed, shaking her head even as she followed him.

"You need a hand?" He offered when he'd managed to climb up and into the massive trophy. It might as well have been a statue, it was so large, and Hermione wondered what or who could possibly have ever earned such a trophy and why it was so big.

She stopped to read the plaque before climbing into the silly thing along with Theo.

"Award for Colossal Size dedicated to Giovanni the Giant Squid on recognition of becoming the largest living Architeuthidae," she read aloud.

"The Giant Squid is named Giovanni?" Theo asked, poking his head over the edge of the trophy again.

"Seems so," Hermione said. "This was awarded in 1956. I would assume it's the same squid. I don't imagine the Black Lake has too many natural predators of Giant Squid."

Theo blinked owlishly, seeming stunned by the idea.

"Huh," was all he said before offering her a hand up and pulling her into the trophy alongside him.

They shuffled together awkwardly for a few moments, getting settled, and Hermione tipped her head to look at Theo seriously, squinting a little in the dim lighting of the Trophy room.

"Been a while," he acknowledged with an awkward grin.

Hermione nodded in agreement, putting her school bag down and doing her best not to let it knock against their ankles lest they overbalance.

"Should we sit down?" she suggested, peering around the inside of the trophy cup and marveling at how much space there was.

"Good idea," Theo nodded, before folding in on himself to get comfortable. "Probably be easiest if you climb in my lap, you think?"

Hermione peered around the base of the cup and supposed he had a point. There was only so much available trophy space, and certainly not enough for lying down. They would both get a crick in their necks if they tried to sit side by side, so it was likely the best option to get on with completing the task.

Hermione wondered if it was in poor taste to be thinking about going to second base with the boy eyeing her curiously as something that she needed to just get on with.

Running her hands through her hair, Hermione eyed Theo nervously for a long moment. He offered an encouraging little smile and Hermione sighed before stepping closer and lowering herself down until she sat straddling his lap. She shifted uncomfortably, squirming a little and Theodore gently rested his hands on her hips to stop her movements when she couldn't quite find the best place to rest.

"Everything alright, Granger?" he asked seriously, ducking his head a little to be sure he met her eyes when she tried to keep her gaze trained away as her cheeks steadily grew warmer.

"I…" Hermione bit her lip.

"I can tell you don't want to talk about it, but I'm guessing something with you and Rowle progressed and now you're feeling awkward with me?" he guessed quietly when she couldn't vocalize how it felt like betraying Thorfinn and everything they'd done.

What right did she have planning a hook up with someone else when he'd gotten himself embroiled in evil on her behalf? Wasn't she betraying his sacrifices by betraying their fidelity?

"Um…" Hermione bit her lip. "I… Rowle and I… we aren't… that is…"

She sighed tiredly, letting her shoulders slump.

"He ditched you after what happened with that picture in the paper, didn't he?" Theo guessed incorrectly. "You're too young for him presently, and the papers made a scandal of it all as it was, without yet knowing your age. His career would be in jeopardy if they knew how young you are."

Hermione seized on the explanation as a better story to feed him rather than the truth. The last thing she needed to do was go incriminating Thorfinn and his dealings with the emerging Death Eaters. Just because they were on the outs, and she disapproved of how he'd been behaving didn't mean she wanted him to get in trouble. Not at the level that he would if he was found out to be in league with Voldemort's forces. He'd lose his Quidditch career, and he'd be hauled off to jail, and wasn't it all her fault that he'd landed in such hot water, to begin with? Hadn't he killed that man for threatening to harm her?

"Yes," Hermione nodded sadly. "He… he um…"

"And you were bonded so it probably hurts like hell," Theo said in an offhand sort of way. "We can… I can ask someone else to help me with the rest of the tasks if you'd prefer, Granger?"

"No!" she said quickly, lifting her eyes as they widened in a panic. "No, I need to complete the Rites too, and I don't want to go getting a name for myself by trying to complete them with someone who isn't also in on everything…"

Theo nodded slowly, his eyes searching her face with a sympathy that made her want to cry.

"Want me to take it slow?" he offered.

"Um…" Hermione bit her lip. "Maybe? No. I don't know. Can we just…"

She leaned a little closer and dropped her eyes to his lips.

Theo took the hint, leaning closer too and pressing his lips lightly to hers. Hermione kissed him tentatively, doing her best to silence the agony in her heart and the voices in her head screaming about how she was a trollop betraying her love of Thorfinn. Leaning into Theo all the more, Hermione closed her eyes and gave herself over to the sensation of his lips on hers and his tongue sweeping against hers, trying to forget everything else and practice mindfulness to be there in the moment and not lost in the turmoil of her brain.

Threading her hands through Theo's hair, she found she liked that it was a little longer and shaggier. It was more like Thorfinn's when it was longer. Merlin, she was a fool. If Theo could sense that her mind was on a different boy who kissed her into submission, he didn't show it and when his hands smoothed down her back and under the hem of her shirt to trail over her skin, Hermione lost herself in his touch, throwing caution to the wind and channeling all her bad feelings about how she'd left things with Thorfinn into what she was feeling with Theo.

For now, it would have to be enough.

And unbeknownst to Hermione as Theo helped her out of her shirt and lowered his mouth to kiss her neck in that way that he knew would make her crazy, across the Irish Sea, Thorfinn Rowle was suddenly suffused with agony that exploded out of him in a boom of fiery rage.