Gregory Goyle stood at the top up the stairs looking uncomfortable in his new Prefect's robes. He was in no mood to wrangle his fellow Slytherins, much less the first years who were getting ready to walk into the Great Hall. He would rather be out on the pitch, getting ready for the Quidditch season. He had not asked for this "honor" but he would do what he was asked. "Bloody Malfoy was supposed to be the one in this position," he mumbled to himself as he rounded up wide-eyed little ones. As he grumbled his way into the Great Hall, Greg spotted his least favorite, bushy headed, busybody - Granger.
Hermione Granger was busy manhandling first years into lines to enter the Great Hall. She was happy to start this year with the honor of being chosen as a Gryffindor Prefect, and she took her responsibilities seriously. She had been surprised to see Goyle in the Prefect's meeting on the train, but everybody deserved a shot at doing the right thing, and Malfoy had dropped the ball last year. She would rather be in the library, getting ready for the first day of class, but duty first. "Time to get sorted," she told the first years crowded around her. Being a Prefect was almost like having younger siblings. As she herded the little ones into the Great Hall, Hermione spotted the dark scowl on Goyle's face as he did the same.
This potions essay was going to do him in. Greg sat in the back of the library surrounded by books and not getting anything done. The only place anything seemed to be going right was on the Quidditch pitch. Being a Prefect was killing his study time and he needed all that he could get. He had barely passed his O.W.L.S. and N.E.W.T.s were no joke. They may be a year away, but he was tired of being thought of as the big, dumb sidekick to Malfoy. It did not help that Miss Know-It-All Granger was in almost every class with him. How did she get it all without breaking a sweat? He could barely keep up and she was flying through everything even with Potter grabbing her away from her studies all the time. Growling in frustration, Greg closed the book he was using and went looking for another book. As he reached for the book he needed, a slender hand pulled it from the shelf.
"Goyle," a started Hermione spoke. "What are you doing here? Don't you have some small Gryffindor to terrorize?"
"No, I am trying to get this bloody potions essay done, and nothing makes sense," Greg mumbled as he pulled his hand away from the shelf.
Hermione was speechless - Goyle, studying, worried about classes, it didn't fit the thug image she had grown to dislike. Maybe being a Prefect was doing good things for him. "I was just getting ready to start mine and it looks like you have some of the books we are going to need. Mind if I work with you," she asked, trying not to run off the Slytherin Prefect off with her offer of help. "Professor Snape isn't looking for a novel, he's just checking to see what you remember from last term," Hermione reassured him.
Greg and Hermione walked back to his table and began to work. Back at his table, Greg opened the book Hermione had grabbed off the shelf and began to look for the information he needed. As he read and nibbled the end of his quill, a quiet thought slipped through her head.
Greg loved being on his broom. Swinging at a bludger and helping his team win a match was so much easier than the pile of essays and books that waited for him back in his dorm. Prefect duties had settled around him and the Slytherin first years under his watch seemed to be getting their act together. Potions was easier with Granger's help, but the bushy-headed, busybody kept showing up in places he never expected her. He needed to pay attention to the game he was playing against Hufflepuff instead of letting his mind wander. Bludgers did not like feather-headed Beaters, and his job today was to keep the Keeper on his toes and away from the hoops. The crowd always became background noise for him as he played the game. Today, a voice kept standing out among the many. There was no way that Granger was at this game. Potter and Weasley were always dragging her off on some wild dragon chase. As he caught a glimpse of her dark hair, a bludger caught him on the chin.
Hermione was not a fan of Quidditch or flying. She was more at home on the ground and in the library, but Goyle had asked her to come watch him play while Harry and Ron were studying for once. She was used to watching Harry zip around the edges of the pitch searching for the snitch and Ron try to be as good as Wood had been in front of the hoops, so seeing Goyle send a bludger at the Hufflepuff keeper was a new experience. He had been working really hard in his classes this year and she was enjoying helping him with his essays, when he would let her. Being a Prefect let them spend time getting to know each other without worrying about Malfoy and his other cronies giving Goyle a hard time. Hermione was beginning to wonder if what she had seen for the last five years was a show or the real Goyle. Cheering loudly for her favorite Slytherin player, she was seeing more than just a boy with a smirk and dark eyes. As she caught a glimpse of his green robes, Goyle's broom fell from the sky.
Watching the snow fall outside the window, Greg watched the carriages head for the station. He was the Prefect chosen to stay behind this year and he was not looking forward to the holidays. Sure, trips to Hogsmeade and the quiet of the library was a plus, but he wanted to be in one of those carriages. He had just about all the peace and quiet he could stand. He spent a week with Madame Pomfrey in the infirmary after he wool-brained his way to a concussion and broken leg courtesy of a bludger. Malfoy and his crew had been busy getting into things their parents expected them to with the Dark Lord, so it was Granger that had come to check on him. She brought him books and helped him get his mid-year essay for Potions ready. She stayed and talked after their work was done. The bushy-headed, busybody wasn't as bad as he had always thought, and her warm, chocolate eyes sparkled when she talked about things she was interested in. Greg was beginning to wonder if their friendship could be more than what was expected between Prefects. But, he was Pure Blood and Slytherin and she was a Muggleborn and Gryffindor. As he watched the snow fall, he felt a small hand on his shoulder.
Watching Goyle touch the window, Hermione walked up and touched his shoulder. "What's on your mind, Goyle? You seem to be staring a hole through the glass," she asked as she rubbed his broad shoulders.
"Just wondering what I have gotten myself into, is all. The holidays have never been my favorite, but this place is too empty right now," he replied.
Hermione continued to rub his shoulder as she joined him at the window. This last month had been an eye opener for her. Her heart had dropped into her stomach as she watched Goyle (and his broom) fall from the sky during the Quidditch match. Hermione had volunteered to bring him the work he needed to keep up with his studies while he healed. She discovered that there was a quick wit and a sharp mind hiding behind his dark scowl and sarcasm. Hermione loved to watch his dark eyes twinkle when he teased her about her Gryffindor sensibilities and tearing her away from her "wild dragon chases with Potty and Weasel". As she stepped closer to the window, she felt his arms wrap around her waist.
Greg stared at the parchment in front of him; it was a Saturday night and he was elbow deep in an essay that he knew was going nowhere. Where was she when he needed her? Probably out doing stuff with Potty and Weasel. It was Saturday night, after all, and those two always found trouble for her to get them out of. Snape was going to smell this essay coming from a mile away if he didn't get it sorted out. Greg knew he could not afford any mistakes. Truth be told, he came to this section of the library in hopes of running into Granger. The holiday break had been a quiet time. He dreamed about that moment at the window. It had been the best ten minutes of the term and he was searching for the courage to repeat it. But she had kept her distance after they left the window, and Prefect responsibilities had taken over everything now that Quidditch was over until spring. Comparing the process for brewing the Draught of Living Death and the Draught of Peace was not his idea of fun on a Saturday night, but he had to get this right to keep his marks above failing in Potions. Draco had become more wrapped in the Death Eaters world and Greg was beginning to wonder if what he had been taught at home really was an absolute. As he tucked his quill into his bag to leave, a familiar voice carried across the room.
Hermione had no idea why she had walked into the Potions section of the library tonight. She was usually knee deep in Harry's plans to deal with horcruxes and "He Who Shall Not Be Named" on Saturday night, but she was tired. Her mind kept returning to the moment at the window with Goyle over the holiday. She had not intended to stay, but Professor McGonagal had asked for one Prefect to stay from each house. Her parents were going to be at dental conferences for most of the holidays, so it made sense to stay. Hermione had been startled by the gentle strength in his embrace as they stood in the window watching their friends and classmates leave. "I hope you find a way to be yourself some day," she had whispered as she left his embrace and walked away from the window. She had only caught glimpses of him for the rest of the holiday. He always seemed to be headed the opposite direction when they did run into each other. She was beginning to think he was avoiding her. Hermione knew he had an essay due for Professor Snape soon and he seemed to live in the Potions section of the library when he wasn't in class or doing his duties as a Prefect. "This book might help," she said as she placed the dusty tome on the table in front of him. "I used it last term when Professor Snape made us compare the effects of Amortentia and Confusion Concoction."
"Thanks, I was about to call it a night. I can't seem to get anywhere with this and I am tired of being here," Goyle replied. "Care to go for a walk with me? I could use the company."
Hermione blushed as she looked at him with curiosity. "Willing to be seen with a Gryffindor?" she asked shyly.
"Wanting to talk to a friend," he replied quietly.
As they walked out the door, Hermione began to question what she knew about Gregory Goyle.
He hated this month. Everyone was either moony-eyed or cross over a classmate. Or, even worse, snuggled up or snogging in every available dark corner of the castle. His classes this term were hard enough without having to run third years out of empty classrooms and take house points for excessive PDA in the common room. Greg just wanted to sit in the Great Hall and listen to the quiet while he watched her tutor first years. Time near Granger had become the highlight of his day and he missed the quiet walks from the library that had become their ritual. He survived the comparison essay with her help and she had actually got on a broom with him. Granger had been white as a sheet, and it took an hour before he could feel his left hand again, but she had ridden a broom around the meadow near the Whomping Willow. Greg nervously fingered the parchment he held in his hand. Was he ready to join the insanity that he hated? Could he actually ask Granger to meet him in an empty classroom tonight? As he approached the Owlery, Greg decided that he could survive the damage a piece of paper could do.
She dreaded this month. Being a Prefect, made it worse. Everywhere you turned, people were holding hands or trying to sneak off to an empty classroom for a snogging session. Or, better yet, yelling at each other over things that meant nothing. Hermione was doing well in her classes this term and her study sessions with Goyle in the library had become a bright spot in her day. Harry was more distracted than ever, and her quiet walks back to the staircase with Goyle each evening had become a safe haven for her. He even talked her into riding a broom, for Merlin's' sake. She might never do it again and he almost lost a hand in the process, but she had done it. A rustle of wings drew her from her daydream. Hermione nervously fingered the seal on the back of the note as she took it from Goyle's owl. Had it really been that long since they had last seen each other? Could she really meet him in the empty classroom on the third floor? Stirring up her Gryffindor courage, Hermione climbed the stairs. She slipped into the empty classroom and walked over to the quiet figure standing at the window. She gently placed her hand on his face as he turned to look at her. As he lowered his lips to hers, Hermione decided that she could survive the damage a kiss could do.
A Prefect's job is never done. The rain had lifted and Greg longed to be on the pitch, but the first years had other ideas. Study sessions for their midterm Potions exam, of all things. Trying to keep them from brewing Felix Felicius or Polyjuice Potion in the bathrooms became a daily chore and Slytherin was going to have no points left towards the House Cup if they continued. He missed his time in the library and his study partner. Granger had become important to him. It started to feel wrong to call her that when they studied together. In their corner of the library, she was simply "Mia" and he was "Greg" and nothing else mattered. He needed to see her every evening. He needed to touch her soft curls and lips before he settled into his room so he could sleep. He kept a bluebell flame in a jar by his bed to remind him of the night he had finally taken a chance and been rewarded. Greg needed this session to end so he could study for his own exams. A quiet corner in the Potions section of the library was waiting for him. As he dismissed the first years to their own devices, Greg hurried to his favorite place.
A Prefect's time was never her own. The sun was out and Hermione wanted to be anywhere but here. Watching first year Gryffindor's struggle with Professor Snape's latest Potions essay was the last thing on her list of favorite things to do. She had just caught two girls trying out Polyjuice potion in the girl's bathroom. Rubies were more often leaving the hour glass for Gryffindor than they were falling in. She needed to get to the library and study for her own exams, but responsibilities came first. Hermione missed her study partner. Since his kiss in the empty classroom on Valentine's Day, she began to think of him more as "Greg" than "Goyle". She kept a quill with a tattered end on her nightstand to remind her of the rewards that come from taking risks. She missed the look in his dark eyes as he mastered a skill or completed an essay without her help. "Do what they think you can't do, Greg" became her parting words to him each evening. He was caught, as she was, between what was expected and what they wanted. Hermione dismissed the First Years to their dorm room and headed for the library. She needed to touch his hand as they turned the pages of the books in their corner of the Potions section. As she settled into a comfortable chair, a gentle hand tugged her curls.
Greg could not concentrate. They were coming to the end of the term and he did not want to go home. Quidditch practice and Prefect duties did not leave a lot of time for studying or socializing, but he was trying to balance it all. Malfoy kept trying to pull him into Death Eater business and keeping up appearances as a Pureblood with Death Eater parents was tearing him apart. How could he balance what he had been taught his whole life with what he had learned this year? What difference did it make who your parents were if your heart was pure? Stolen kisses and whispered conversations in a back corner of the library had begun to change his mind about what was possible. Greg was showing his professors and housemates that he was more than a glare and muscle. He was doing more than just barely passing his courses and that was all due to Mia's influence. Their quiet study time was teaching him how to be a better person and he had begun to miss her admonition to "Do what they think you can't," if they did not end their evening at the foot of the staircases. Greg began to wonder what it would be like to begin and end everyday with a smile and kiss for Mia. As he took his broom to the pitch, Greg wondered what limits he could move beyond.
Hermione was staring into space. Things were getting more intense with Harry and "He Who Shall Not Be Named" and she was tired. Tired of expectations and surprises and rules about Mudbloods and Purebloods and who is acceptable and who is not. She wanted to spend her time curled up with a good book and Greg and not worry about the rest. Being a Prefect and one of Harry's best friends was alright, but being a normal student was becoming more inviting all the time. How did things get so twisted? Would there ever be a time when she and Greg could walk down the hallway holding hands and not have to steal kisses in an empty classroom? Hermione looked down at the blank parchment and nibbled at the end of her quill. Writing an essay about the importance of timing the addition of ingredients to Professor Snape's potion of the week seemed light years away from the horcruxes and destruction she had been researching, but it was what she was supposed to be doing. She should not doodling ivy leaves around the edge of the notes she was taking. Maybe she could concentrate better when Greg joined her in their study corner this evening. She was looking forward to the quiet conversation and his whispered, "I hope you find a way to be yourself some day," as they parted at the bottom of the stairs. Hermione had begun to wonder if there could be more between her and Greg. As she watched riders on brooms zip around the practice pitch, Hermione wondered what barriers she could break.
"What the bloody hell, Malfoy? I am not going to turn on Mia … Hermione just because of an accident of birth." Greg fumed and paced in the Slytherin Common Room. "I have finally figured out what I want and you show up with HIS mark on your arm and demand that I throw away everything I have gained this year out of what … Loyalty? Blood purity? Because my parents, who haven't bother with even so much as an owl since Christmas, said I should? This is not the life I want or choose." He stormed out of the portrait hole and ran from the dungeon. Walking without purpose, he soon found himself in their classroom on the third floor. Sinking to his knees, Greg buried his head in his hands and shook with rage and grief. Why did things have to be this way? What more was he going to have to give up to stay sane? He sat in the back corner watching the shadows crawl across the wall, trying to decide what to do next. Slowly, he rose and walked to the window that looked out over the practice pitch. Quidditch had rules and made sense. His life did not. As he stared out the window, a quiet voice called his name.
"Greg, are you in here? I was worried when you didn't come to the library," Hermione whispered as she entered the room ."Malfoy is tearing up the Prefect's bathroom and cursing your name. I asked Harry to help me look for you when you didn't show up to study for our Potions exam, but he is busy chasing down more of HIS mysteries." She walked across the room silently, and wrapped her arms around his waist. Laying her head against his back, Hermione continued, "Parkinson told me what you said and I am so proud of you. I know this mess is tearing you apart." He felt her tears slowly soak into his shirt. Turning in her embrace, Greg kissed her forehead.
"Don't you worry, Mia. I can handle Draco," he whispered.
Hermione hugged him tighter as she rested her head on his chest. Listening to the steady beat of his heart, Hermione felt tears drop into her hair. Looking up, she wiped his face and smiled. "We are stronger together than we are apart. Just like class, we can get through this one day at a time."
Minutes passed and the quiet seemed to heal the hurts of the day. Hand in hand, they walked to the classroom door. As she slipped back into the hall, a quiet voice made promises of forever.
The train ride back to London was peaceful. Greg found a quiet cabin at the back of the train and his Mia joined him after making sure all the younger ones had been settled in for the ride.
Soft curls tickled his nose as Hermione slept against his chest. Greg was soaking all the peace and happiness he could on this train ride. The reality of his parents expectations and the burden of being the son of a Pureblood wizard promised for a bleak summer. He was trying to figure out how to keep his contact with Mia without putting her in any more danger than Potter did on a daily basis. As the train rocked over the rails, Greg let himself drift in dreams of possibilities.
The train ride back to London was quiet. Hermione spent most of the ride napping with her head on Greg's shoulder. The last month of school had been a blur of exams, HIS attacks, and stolen moments with Greg. She knew the peace of the train could not last forever, but she was determined to enjoy every minute of it. This summer was going to be a maze of trips to The Burrow and Diagon Alley, as well as time with her parents in the Muggle parts of London. Hermione hoped they could figure out a way to at least trade owls during their time apart. She knew time together was out of the question because of his parents and their commitments. As she watched the countryside pass by, Hermione hoped for a summer without surprises.
Greg pushed in the door to Flourish and Blotts with care. He was lucky his parents gave him a handful of coins and floo powder and told him to "take care of needs to be done" to get ready for his final year at Hogwarts. They had spent most of the summer chasing "He Who Shall Not be Named" around the countryside and had left Greg to his own devices. Owls had flown between his house and hers, but Greg had not been able to see Mia since the train station in June. The familiar smell of books settled his nerves as he looked through the shelves for the books he needed. He was already studying for his N.E.W.T.s, but he missed the quiet of the library at Hogwarts and his study partner. Looking through the stacks, Greg caught a glimpse of chocolate curls. As he tried to catch his breath, Hermione grabbed his hand and pulled him deeper into the shelves.
Hermione was running out of excuses to go to Diagon Alley. She could not just tell her parents that she was searching for a dark headed boy that held her heart. She needed reasons to have to leave their vacation to lurk in the stores of the Alley hoping to see him. Infrequent owls with hastily scrawled messages was not enough. She needed to touch his rough cheek and hold his scarred hand. When the book list was delivered yesterday, Hermione knew she had to go shopping. She walked through the shelves at the back of Flourish and Blotts, soaking in the dusty smell of books and ink. A deep voice asked the clerk for directions to the books for N.E.W.T.s study and her heart leaped. Hermione peeked around the nearest shelf to see Greg walking to the back of the store. She made her way to the row of shelves closest to Greg. Grabbing his hand, Hermione pulled him deeper into the stacks and kissed him.
"Mia, what are you doing?" he asked breathlessly.
"Making a memory," she replied, just as breathlessly.
They spent the rest of the day pretending to look at books and talking of the future. Hermione collected the books they would need and together they walked to the clerk to pay for their purchases. As he watched her leave the store, Greg knew he had plans to make.
He had written this letter a million times. Every time his owl reached for it, Greg would tear it up and burn the pieces. His parents had made it perfectly clear, the Dark Lord demanded his obedience and that meant NO contact with anyone the was not pure of blood and magic. He tried to argue that generations of wizards does not make one better than newly discovered magic, but his parents were buried too deeply in the old ways. Mia was not less because she was Muggle born and he was not more because he was Wizard born. Greg knew that the dreams for his final year at Hogwarts were vanishing with each day his parents spent at the Dark Lord's feet. Gathering his courage, he finished sealing the envelope by pressing his ring into the wax. He kissed the seal and bid his owl to find her. As he watched his owl fly away, Gregory knew his path would be long and never what he expected.
She spent too many nights looking out this window. Every evening she would wait for the rustle of an owl's wings on the night breeze, and every night, she went to bed disappointed. Greg had not been able to get away from his parents since that amazing day in July and Hermione missed him terribly. The longer she went without an owl, the more she feared for his safety. She sent him an owl a few days ago, telling him to stay safe and stay strong. All the note said was, "Do what they think you can't do." Hermione lived each day hoping he could find a way to survive what was coming. Tonight was no different. Reaching up to close the window, Hermione caught a flash of white gliding toward her window. Holding out her hand, Hermione let Greg's owl settle on her arm as she grabbed the letter from it's beak. It's message delivered, the owl took off as Hermione settled onto her bed. She took her time looking over the tear stained and rumpled envelope before she broke the seal. As she read the words delivery by Greg's owl, Hermione knew her last year at Hogwarts was not going to be what she expected.
"Mia my love,
I hope you find a way to be yourself some day. You are my secret. My reason for doing good. Please forgive me for what may happen in this final year. HIS demands on my family may change our paths, but you are my beacon and my promise. I will find you when we can be who we want to be without the masks.
Yours for always, Greg"