Disclaimer: As usual I don't own this merry bunch, JKR does.

I'd like to dedicate this one to Chillie, for making herself an everlasting nest in my heart. I also like to thank my talented betas; Ingero and Arabellagaleotti.

Chapter 1 – Mentor

The sun was about to set, but it was still warm outside. Harry, Ron and Hermione were sitting on a grassy slope near the Burrow. Harry was sitting with his arms around his legs, head on his knees, and Ron and Hermione were close to each other, fingers laced together.

Harry broke the silence, "I can't believe it's over."

"You say that all the time, you know," Ron laughed, the sun glinting off his hair..

"Yes, but I still can't... I mean, what am I supposed to do now?"

An amused smile woke on Ron's lips, "up for more heroics already?"

"No! It's just... everyone is looking at me, expecting things, thinking things, wishing things..."

"Harry, we've had this discussion over and over." Hermione pushed her hair away from her face. "We've fought a war, there's no easy way to let go of that. And you are a hero, whether you like it or not." She ignored Harry's protests and went on. "I can't tell you what to do, but I'm going to try and find myself a life again. My life. A lot of us need our lives back. Or... maybe we need new ones."

"It's easy for you to say." The momentary bitterness on Harry's face gave way to a mix of hopelessness and irritation. "I know we've been discussing this a lot, but I still can't find any answers."

Her face grew soft and a bit apologetic. "I know. But there's not much more I can say. We have to try and go on and find our own ways. I wish I had, but I don't have your answers."

"And now we're going back to school. I can't say I'm looking forward to it. So far I've been able to hide out at Grimmauld Place, or at the Burrow, but now I have to be with hundreds of people every day. Hundreds of people who make sure that I can't forget for a second, can't move on." He heaved a big sigh. "I'm sorry that I keep ranting like this. I just feel like I'm... stuck."

"I think it's wonderful to go back to school — "

"I don't doubt that a second," Ron muttered.

" — and getting a chance to finish our studies. Try to see it that way. When you're done you can go for Auror training, and when you start working you can relax in knowing that you accomplish an ordinary job like everyone else."

"As if Harry needs any marks to get into Auror training, they would welcome him at once and you know it." Her boyfriend leaned back on an elbow.

Harry gave off an annoyed sound. "Well thank you, Ron, that was exactly what I wanted to hear." He ripped up some grass from the roots, throwing it into the wind. "That's what I mean. They think I'm some kind of wonder, extremely talented and resourceful, 'the-boy-who-lived'. They're wrong, I'm just normal."

"Try to not let it get to you." Hermione smiled sadly. "Just accept that people look up to you, and then let it go. If they want to worship you, let them. You go on with your life, unaffected of what others think of you." She sighed. "Remember fourth year? You managed to do it back then. Even if it was another kind of attention."

"In a way, it is exactly the same." His lips tightened. "A lot of people running around believing things about me that are entirely untrue, expecting wonders and for me to jump through whatever hoops they place out for me."

"Entirely untrue isn't quite right. You did defeat Voldemort, Harry."

"Yes, it is! I'm no hero!" He stared at her. "Look at you, why don't they sanctify you? None of us would be here if it wasn't for you."

Hermione tilted her head, sighed. "Yes, I fought in the war. I'm one of the people who made our victory possible. But, I didn't duel the nightmare of the wizarding world, and it was definitely not me who defeated him." Her face softened again. "I did a lot of important things during the war, but you saved us all. I'm sorry, but you did."

Harry let out a big sigh and rolled over on his stomach. "I hate this. Hate it, hate it, hate it. Do we have to go back to school? Can't we just stay here?"

"Well, we would miss mum's dinner." Ron tilted his head. "And wouldn't you miss Ginny?"

"Do you two have to be so clever all the time?" He put his cheek down on the cool ground, grass scratching his skin. "You're right, there are things out there worth entering everyday life. A lot of things, actually."

"I'm glad you noticed." The girl smiled at him. "You just need to focus on those things. And we'll be there, you won't have to do it alone."

"No, I suppose you're right. As always." He threw some grass at her. "And I'm very happy to have you there. It will make it all so much easier to endure." They all fell into silence for some time, before he spoke up again. "But what are your plans, Hermione?"

"Oh, I don't really know. Study. Get good marks. Hang out with friends. And when the year is over, a job. I'm thinking something in the Ministry. Settle down, enjoy a relatively normal life, atleast. Hopefully my daily evils are a bit less history-altering than the last few years."

"Sounds like a good plan. I might not have as many studies in my plan, but otherwise, I can imagine something like that for me too." Harry rolled back over on his back and smiled a bit. "Sometimes I get this feeling that maybe the world isn't such a terrible place as I like to believe. For some reason, those feelings always come when I have you around."

Hermione laughed softly. "I would trust that feeling if I were you. And you know, the three of us have been too tight too long. We're not going anywhere."

o O o

It was first night back at Hogwarts, and dinner was over. Much to her surprise, Hermione was summoned to the Headmistress's office as soon as she got back to her dorm, and she quickly obliged.

Hermione looked at the other three summoned to the headmistress' office, standing outside and waiting for McGonagall to let them in. Next to her was Lisa Turpin and Mandy Brocklehurst from Ravenclaw. They were standing together, quietly discussing the reasons to why they have been asked to come. The third person was surprising. Draco Malfoy.

As to why he was there with them... she was just as confused as the Ravenclaws. He was standing at the window, looking out, not aware that he was being watched. Hermione knew she had changed over the last year, and he had too. The blonde boy appeared to have aged more than just a year, looked thin and tired, as if the world was too much for him. His posture was still that of a Malfoy, haughty and proud, but the look in his eyes let on that something was missing. The superiority and self-confidence were gone, replaced with despondence, avoidance and a tiny bit bitterness.

Suddenly, he turned his head and looked at her, and for a couple of seconds, their eyes were locked on each other. His eyes was calm and a bit resigned. They kept looking at each other until he seemed to remember himself. A line appeared between his eyebrows and he turned away.

Draco Malfoy, really. She had known that she would meet him, of course, but she wasn't really prepared for it. As they keep telling themselves, the war was over. But when it came to Malfoy, where did it leave her? Last time she saw him was on the day of the battle. He was afraid. Afraid and angry in the Room of Requirement, afraid and defeated in the Great Hall after it all was over. She thought back a bit more. Easter, Malfoy Manor. Yes, he was definitely afraid. A bitter smile appeared on her lips. Yes, if she ever doubted it, it was now pretty clear. Malfoy was a coward. Then again, for a bully of his kind, it wasn't really that unpredictable.

The door opened, and they made their way inside. Headmistress McGonagall sat behind her desk, but she stood up when they entered.

"Please come inside. There is something we need to discuss." She looked at them one at a time, and for a moment longer at Draco before continuing. "I'm going to get straight to the point here. As you all know there is a lot happening right now, there's still much to repair and rebuild. It takes a lot of time and energy from all those involved. You might have realised that a lot of these people are also teachers here at Hogwarts." There was a pause. "I will not lie and pretend that it's not a problem. I just don't have enough teachers this year. Of course, we have managed to solve it so the students will still have their education, but it will be with some changes. There will be fewer lessons with teachers, and more time studying on your own. This is where you come in." Her eyes travelled over them again. "The younger students especially will need help with their assignments, they need someone to ask when they are unsure about things, someone who can show them when they lack the knowledge or ability. So we plan to have classes where students can go and do their assigned tasks, held by some older students who can step in as teachers. You."

Mandy looked concerned. "But Headmistress, are we going to do this in addition to our ordinary school work?"

"Yes, and that's why I've chosen you. I believe the four of you have the capabilities to finish your own education and help out in the school at the same time." She paused. "You will, of course, get credit for your work, it will be mentioned next to your final marks and you will be presented with a certificate to use for future job applications. But honestly I believe in you, I think you can do it. I wouldn't have asked you otherwise."

"How much of our time are we talking about here?" There was some worry in Hermione's voice. "Will we miss our own classes?"

"I believe it will be around one to two hours a day, it won't take all of your spare time. But I'm afraid that there may be some overlap, to make this work you might have to give up a couple of your own classes." She looked at the three concerned girls and the indifferent boy. "I have full confidence in your skills, you can do this."

"I guess so." The same Ravenclaw girl spoke up again. "And if it's important for the school we can at least try, right?" She looked at the others. The girls nodded, and after a moment's hesitation, the Slytherin bowed his head slightly.

"Very good, I'm glad to get your help." McGonagall paused and something close to a smile could be seen on her face. "Now, you won't be called teachers, instead mentors. Being a mentor does not only mean extra work, it comes with some benefits too. First, you will have no curfew, you are free to move around the castle as you like, when you like. You will also have your own classroom with an office. The office is yours to use as you like. To prepare classes, work on your own studies, or just rest. In addition to that, you can choose to have your meals in that office too, if you need a quiet place or if you want to eat at other times than the meals are served in the Great Hall. And finally, as a treat, you will be offered a day in Diagon Alley on some occasions during the year."

There was a positive murmur from the mentors, and Mandy said "That sounds good. When do we start?"

"Here are your schedules." She handed out two to them each. "It's one with your personal schedule and one with all the classes that you will teach. You'll have to split them up among yourselves as you find it best. The lessons are planned for two mentors at each class. Do you have any questions?" When there was no answer she went on. "Good. If there is anything you want to ask or any problems, just come and see me. Now I'm going to let you plan your classes before bedtime." She looked at them one at a time, and then she nodded. "Thank you for your help. Good night."

o O o

The four mentors gathered in the room McGonagall had assigned them as their office. It was reached by walking through the classroom that was going to be their classroom, and furnished in a simple way. Lisa and Mandy were standing close to each other again, talking in hushed voices. There was no real need for secrecy though, their surreptitious glances at Malfoy told all too well what they were talking about. Hermione sighed to herself and cleared her throat. If they were going to get anywhere someone would have to take charge, and it seemed to be her.

"So, I guess we are all a bit surprised by this assignment, but I believe we can do it. We are, after all, the best minds of the school." She didn't look affected when she said this. It was not bragging, just the truth. Both she and the Ravenclaws sent a look at Malfoy though, no one really thought he was that clever. "We've got schedules from McGonagall, we just have to figure out how we want to organise this." When none of the others said anything she went on. "First we need to know how we should divide us for the lessons. If we're going to have a rotating schedule or if we should pair up."

Mandy said "Pair up." at the same time as Malfoy mumbled "Rotating."

"Hm." Hermione, as well as the other girls, looked at their colleague who opened his mouth for the first time. "I say we have a vote. Turpin, what do you say?"

"I think we should pair up. It's easier to plan and keep order if you are with the same person all the time." Lisa shot a glance at the Slytherin and hurried on. "And I think I and Mandy should pair up, since we're in the same house and will more or less have the same personal schedules."

The Gryffindor girl suppressed another sigh and shot a displeased look at Malfoy. "And I must admit that I believe pairing up is the best too." This time she looked straight at him. "I guess that makes us a pair."

When he looked up at her, their eyes met for a fleeting second. Then he looked away, tightened his lips and mumbled "I guess so." He was standing very straight, his body tense but looking just like his father at his best - perfectly in control. His face was strained though, and you could even see something close to fear in it.

Hermione paused for a second before she carried on. "Well, then that's settled. Now we just have to split up the classes between us. I'd like to miss as few of my own classes as possible, and I suppose you feel the same."

"Should we take out our personal schedules and let's see what we can do?" Mandy pushed a strand of golden blonde hair away from her face. "It's the first night back, I'd like to be done here as soon as possible."

All four of them gathered around one of the tables. Hermione realised with a sting of guilty conscience that Malfoy didn't say that much, and therefore often got the short stick. It was more or less her and Mandy deciding how they wanted it, Lisa trusting her housemate and Malfoy... Well, Malfoy would be missing more of his classes than any of them.

'He doesn't deserve to be treated fairly, he has never been fair to me.' The little voice in her whispered. Her thoughts couldn't fully convince her. She knew that he had made things that he should be punished for, but it seemed wrong somehow that it should be this way, all those small things instead of something substantial. While collecting her things and saying goodnight to the others she realised that maybe this was the choice Malfoy preferred, what was the alternative? Bed and Breakfast at Azkaban?

In the middle of the corridor, she came to a halt. Was she feeling pity for Draco Malfoy? She shook her head. 'Mental', her boyfriend would have said. An involuntary smile softened her face. Yes, thinking of Ron was much better than thinking of that irritating Slytherin boy.

o O o

Back in the common room things were almost as they used to be, before the war. It was comforting. Walking her way back from their office, Hermione had started to feel something pleasant tickle in her stomach. So much to do, so much to prepare. A bit nervous, of course, but also exciting. She had to admit, she was looking forward to teaching. And honestly, how big difference would it be from being best friends with Ron and Harry? Speaking of, she found them in the best chairs next to the fire.

"Hermione, where have you been?" Ron looked up at her as she closed in on them. "Don't tell me you've been studying, not even you would start reading up the first night back."

Harry sat comfortably leaned back in the big chair, and for once he seemed to be relaxed and satisfied. "I heard something about McGonagall wanting to see you. Please don't tell me you'll be trying to take double lessons again." His smile was warm and not really worried.

"Not quite." She moved a footstool and sat down next to them. Suddenly the excitement bubbled up in her, gave a breathy laugh. "Well, it actually is about more lessons, but I'm not going to take them. I'm gonna give them!" When the two boys just looked at her she sighed, still with a smile on her face. "I'm going to be a teacher."

"But you're no teacher." The red-headed boy frowned. "What will happen to your N.E.W.T.s? You talk about them all the time."

"I won't give up my own studies, of course, but I'm giving others extra help in my spare time; and it's not really a teacher, It's called a mentor." Feeling defensive, she lost her smile. "McGonagall believes in me, and I know that I can do it. You're the one always bragging about your clever girlfriend."

"Ron and I know that you can do it, of course." Harry sat up slowly. "You're the cleverest witch I know, and if anyone can do it it's you."

"I didn't mean that you can't do it, I just... I was just a bit worried that Ms. McGonagall's demanding too much from of you." Her boyfriend smiled affectionately. "You know that you're my favourite girl, and I support you in whatever craziness you'll come up with."

She smiled back at him, reaching out and taking his hand. Looking at the two boys she kept her smile, but inside she was confused. She was sitting here with her best friend and her boyfriend, the two people that meant most in the world to her, so why was she suddenly feeling so lost?

o O o

The first breakfast of the school year was a noisy event. The Great Hall was filled with excited students who were laughing, sharing stories from the summer and waving at friends. Some of them checked their new schedules, and cries of surprise and displeasure could be heard. Reluctantly Hermione admitted that she needed to get hold of Malfoy after breakfast. There hadn't been any time to prepare for their first class, and she wanted to make sure that he was at least mentally prepared. The teaching shouldn't be that hard, but she had a feeling that it would be best to remind him. It would be far too easy for him to 'forget' their appointment, and even though she wasn't really worried, she didn't want to stand in front of her first class alone.

Distracted, she looked along the Slytherin table until she found him. He was eating his breakfast, looking uninterested and self-focused. Next to him was, as always, Pansy Parkinson, chattering in his ear, smiling and making gestures. Even when smiling, she didn't really look nice, more like she was making fun of people and telling mean jokes. Malfoy didn't seem to mind one bit.

Hermione sighed and frowned, she really didn't want to work with him, even though he was more reserved now than earlier. Sure, he was maybe just a coward, doing as he was told during the war, but there was so much more to it. Their time together at Hogwarts wasn't exactly nice. Not to talk about the rivalry between him and Harry. No, she honestly couldn't find anyone in this school she wanted less to work with. Possibly Parkinson, but let's say that it was a draw.

Well, if he got too bad she would just have to hit him again, it worked last time. She smiled an ironic smile to herself. Maybe not in front of the students, they needed to look united on the outside, at least. But honestly, if someone deserved a punch in the face it was Malfoy. Someone tugged at her arm, and she tore her eyes away from the blond boy.

"What are you thinking about? You were far, far away." Ginny Weasley smiled at her, keeping Harry very close on her other side. They didn't seem to need close contact all the time like some other couples, but Hermione suspected that being in the Great Hall again stirred some memories. Unpleasant memories. Memories that make you want to know that your loved ones are close and all fine.

"Oh, nothing really." She shot a last look at the troublesome boy. He had finished his meal and was now staring straight in front of him, seemingly unaware of Parkinson's constant talking. Maybe he was having memories coming back too? He looked sad. He deserved to, the voice whispered. She moved her focus back to Ginny. "There is just so much happening this year. So much has changed." She smiled warmly. "So much is the same, is just the way it's supposed to be."

"Well, this year has one big difference, now I will be in the same class as you three. I like that." She turned to Harry and squeezed his hand, and he looked up from his conversation with Ron. Meeting her eyes he showed one of his rare content faces, the ones that spoke of peace of mind, acceptance and hope of a happy future. He smiled and squeezed her hand in return before turning back to Ron again.

Hermione poured a cup of coffee for herself. Most people drank coffee to get invigorated, she drank coffee to calm down, to focus. It was not often she had coffee for breakfast, but today she felt that she needed it. So much was happening right now, and she needed to steady down a bit. She wrapped her hands around the cup, took a sip and exhaled slowly. She could feel the stress melt away, leaving her with a calmer anticipation and an urge to get things started. Sure, she was nervous to stand in front of all those students. No, she didn't want to work with Malfoy. Yes, she was afraid that she would have forgotten all the things she was supposed to teach. But it didn't feel insurmountable. She could do this, and it would be fun.

Lifting her eyes from the cup her gaze fell on her boyfriend. He was talking animatedly, jam smeared across his cheek and bread crumbs all over his front. An irritated wrinkle formed on her forehead, how old was he, twelve?

"Ron, you've got some jam, there." She tried to sound patient and hide her annoyance, but there was a sharp edge to it.

If he could register her irritation he didn't let it show. "Oh, thanks." He wiped it away with a napkin and smiled honestly at her. "How are you feeling today? Cleverer than ever?"

The irritation was washed away by a wave of warmth, and she remembered all the reasons why this was her boyfriend. She smiled at him, took a sip of the coffee, and then laughed. "I feel really good, thank you. It will be a most stimulating year."

"What is this, is there something I don't know here?" Ginny looked curiously between them. "Do tell me."

"You will see." Hermione smiled secretively at her. "I believe McGonagall will tell you soon."

"Or you can just tell me now? Why is it a secret?"

She winked at Ginny, took another sip of coffee and laughed again. "It's not a secret. It's just-" In that moment McGonagall stood up and asked for silence.

"Good morning all of you. I hope you've had a good night's sleep and are ready to begin your year at Hogwarts. Before we start there are some changes to your studies that need to be explained." The headmistress made a pause. "I take it all of you have received your schedules now, and as you can see you have some free periods as well as some classes without a subject. This is due to the shortage of teachers this year, and instead, there will be classes where you more or less study on your own. However, there will be help available during these scheduled study times. In addition to the teachers, this year we will have four mentors, who will be present instead of teachers in these classes, and they will help you with both practical and theoretical problems. Could the four mentors please stand up?"

The four of them stood up, the sudden centre of attention. Hermione felt a bit self-conscious, but she could see that a lot of people was staring at Malfoy, some even openly pointed at him. It was a bit rude, she thought, but maybe he had to expect those things, being who he was.

"Mandy Brocklehurst, Hermione Granger, Draco Malfoy, and Lisa Turpin will be your mentors this year. In their classes, you can study any subject you want, and get help if you need. They're not ordinary teachers though, and you will not turn to them outside classes. These classes are mandatory for years one to four and for students in year five and up these classes are voluntary. The latter are still expected to do the same amount of studying on their own, but they are free to do it when and where they prefer. They are, of course, welcome in those scheduled classes if that's what they prefer. You will receive more information from the mentors during their classes this week." With a hand, she gesticulated for them to sit down again. "I realise that we put a lot of extra pressure on you students this year by doing it like this, but I am confident it will work out fine." With a small nod, she looked out over the students. "Well, it's almost time for your first classes; I will let you finish your breakfasts and I wish you an instructive day." She sat down, and the volume in the Great Hall increased rapidly.

"Hermione, that's so great!" Ginny beamed at her friend. "I always knew you would be a perfect teacher."

"Well, I'm not really a teacher, I will only help out where I'm needed," she smiled. "But I admit that I'm thankful for the opportunity, it will be a good repetition of all the things we're supposed to remember." Looking a bit satisfied she added, "And it will look good next to my marks." Taking another sip of the now rapidly cooling coffee she let herself enjoy the moment for a second, before looking up at the others again. "And it'll be fun."

"I don't doubt that, teaching has its moments." Harry looked serious again, but there was a proud smile in the corner of his mouth. "And we all know that you are a walking library, you will see, you will take such pleasure in sharing your knowledge. Teaching can be tiresome, but it is rewarding, and I believe you will do a great job."

The new Gryffindor mentor felt a slight blush rise in her face, and she gave her best friend a thankful look. How was it that Harry always knew the right things to say? The things that gave her what she needed in that moment; confidence, encouragement, unconditional support. Remembering something she shot a look at her boyfriend, he was busy balancing a piece of cheese between two crackers. She felt a pinch of annoyance again. Obviously, she wasn't that interesting in his world. Trying to think about something else she turned back to her friends. "There is one downside though. A pretty big one..." She made a dramatic pause. Ron still didn't look her way.

"You will still get your N.E.W.T.s, right? You don't have to take another year or something stupid?" The red-haired girl looked at her in worry.

"I will get my N.E.W.T.s, and the plan is that I will do it this year like everybody else." Her smile disappeared, and she sighed. "No, the big disadvantage with this year is that I'll have to work close together with Malfoy, we will teach in pairs."

"You're kidding!" Harry looked upset. "McGonagall can't place you together with him, that's just absurd." He ran a hand through his hair. "I know, I'll be the first to admit that maybe he has changed and that he might not be evil all through and through. But still, you and him together..."

"Yeah, I know. But there's nothing else to do but try to make the best out of it. So far he hasn't said much, so hopefully, there will be no name-calling at least." She remembered his scared face at the mentors' meeting and got a thoughtful expression. "I don't know, I have a feeling it can work out a lot better than you think at first." Quickly she lifted her hands. "Not to say that I'm satisfied with it though."

Hermione's boyfriend looked down the table at them. "Satisfied with what?"

Harry and Ginny started to talk at the same time.

"McGonagall is going to -"

"- Do they have to pair up —"

"- Draco Malfoy —"

"- I can't believe —"

Ron looked confused. "What is Malfoy going to do? Is this about him being a mentor?"

"Yes. Malfoy and I will be teaching together this year. I'll have to spend a lot of time together with him." She fought down the annoyance again, finally, he had paid attention to her. It was about time. "And I think it's time for me to leave the table, I have to talk to him before classes." She swallowed the last of the cold coffee and stood up. "See the rest of you in Transfiguration."

The Slytherin mentor was still sitting at the table, obviously not eating and just as obviously not listening to Parkinson still babbling on. Hermione tentatively closed in on him until she was straight behind him. When he didn't seem to notice her she tapped him on the shoulder.

"Malfoy, can I- Oh!" The boy jumped and turned around so fast you could barely register it. "Sorry, I didn't mean to startle you."

"What do you want?" His voice was low but clear, he looked right at her but seemed a bit defensive.

"I was just... It's important that we're prepared. For our classes, I mean. I thought... Just checking that you're ready. Maybe we should talk things through?" Hermione cursed herself, why was she acting this way? This was Draco Malfoy, and she was definitely not afraid of him.

"I see. I guess it's a good idea." He stood up and turned briefly to Parkinson, "see you, Pansy." She nodded, looking a little disappointed, and tucked into her breakfast. Leaving the table he made an impatient gesture to Hermione to follow. "Let's get out of here."

They walked side by side out of the Great Hall, the back of her head burned, a lot of eyes were fixed on them.

A couple of students from fifth year passed, murmuring in low voices, but obviously pitched towards Malfoy, by their low stares and curled lips. "I hope I'm not in his class." A girl with brown hair and ponytail turned to her friends, talking just loud enough for it to reach the mentors. Malfoy stiffened, pointedly not reacting.

"No, how will you learn anything from him?" The boy who answered shot a nasty look at Malfoy.

While the group was walking up the stairs, one of the other girls turned around and looked at Malfoy with a burning scowl.

Hermione realised that maybe there would be some unforeseen problems with this mentoring system.