The midday sun woke Hermione from her stupor with a fierce vengeance. Her mouth was as dry as a bone and her head felt like it would explode at any given second. She reached clumsily for some water on the nightstand, sitting up.
Her eyes adjusted to the harsh light and she realised she was alone. All traces of Blaise Zabini had disappeared from her room, though she was certain they'd entered in the late hours of the night. A quick survey of the area proved she didn't dream it; her gown and knickers strewn across the floor, and her shoes thrown carelessly in the corner. A weight dropped in her stomach. Was he so embarrassed at their evening together he'd done a runner already? Had the whole evening been nothing but a facade just to get in her pants?
Hermione drained the remainder of her water, her stomach immediately turning. Time for some ibuprofen. She tugged on a nearby shirt and boxers and padded out to the kitchen.
"Oh!" Hermione jumped when she saw Blaise hunched over the stove. "Good morning."
The wizard turned and greeted her with a smile. "I hope you don't mind? I was going to wake you after I finished making breakfast."
"I don't mind at all." She said, composing herself from her snowballing freak out. "Did you sleep okay?"
"I didn't so much as sleep. More like passed out."
"Amen." She agreed.
She made herself comfortable at the island counter and observed him, curiously.
"What's on the menu, Monsieur Zabini?"
"Nothing spectacular, unfortunately. Just some eggs and bacon." He replied, flipping an egg. He grabbed some bottles of herbs from the spice rack and flicked them into the pan. The bacon sizzled appreciatively."Did you think I'd be gone?"
Hermione looked away, chewing on her lip. "A little." she admitted.
Blaise chuckled amusedly. He turned to her and leaned over the island counter, his arms reaching across to her side. "Not really my style."
"No? What is your style?" She asked coyly.
He brushed her hair back with his palm. "That is something you'll have to find out in your own time."
She giggled and batted his hand away. "Watch that bacon! I don't like mine burnt."
"Right away, m'lady!" Blaise saluted her with a boyish grin then returned to the food.
Hermione hopped off the bar stool and helped herself to a glass of orange juice beside her. Crookshanks at her feet, she summoned his biscuits and served him a bowlful of breakfast. She still felt in a daze, doing a poor job of processing last night (let alone this morning). She was glad that Blaise didn't leave before she woke. For one, she had such a fun night with him that it would be disappointing it came to an end that quick, and secondly, Hermione was certain she'd feel hurt if he 'hit it and quit it' (as Ginny put it so eloquently). It felt satisfying to have his company, surprisingly enough.
A moment later, a tawny coloured owl knocked on the window in the lounge. Hermione scuttled over and opened the pane. She removed the letter from its leg as the owl helped itself to some of her juice.
Dear Miss Hermione Granger
This is a reminder notice that the Hogwarts school term commences on September 1st 2001. The Hogwarts Express will be available as a transportation option if you choose. Tickets are not required.
A brief staff meeting will be held in the Staff Room before the Sorting and Welcome Feast commences.
Please notify me if you have any further questions or inquiries.
Professor Minerva McGonagall
Headmistress of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry
Hermione scanned over the contents and sighed. The closer the commencing term got, the less prepared she felt. She spent her lunch breaks reading the curriculums and her evenings preparing her class agendas. It was overwhelming. Thankfully, she handed in her notice not long after accepting the job, and now only had a week left at the Ministry.
"What's that?" Blaise asked as he served their food onto plates.
Hermione gave the owl a few sickles then sat down at the table where he was waiting for her.
"Nothing interesting. Just Professor McGonagall sending me a reminder about the school term. I'm guessing she sent one out to all staff." She shovelled in some bacon and made a sound of content.
"Ah so Draco would have got one too." Blaise presumed, buttering his toast.
Hermione pulled herself short. "I'm sorry?"
"Draco would have got a letter from McGonagall, if they went out to all professors." He explained.
She put down her knife and fork. "What are you talking about?"
Blaise looked concerned. "Draco is a professor, or he will be soon enough. He's teaching Charms."
The angry pounding in her head returned and the bit of bacon she was chewing on became hardened and difficult to swallow. She gulped it down, fearing it was going to make a reappearance. "I didn't know that."
"I thought he told you." He confessed. "I assumed that was why you got into a fight… because you were upset."
Hermione looked down at her food, scrutinising it. Blaise arranged the bacon and eggs to make a smiley face. The urge to throw it out the window came to mind. She clenched her fists, taking a deep breath.
"Hermione?" Blaise spoke softly.
"When did you find out?"
"A couple of weeks ago."
"So why didn't you tell me?" She demanded. "You had every opportunity to last night!"
"As I say, I thought Draco told you."
"You could have said something! Why didn't you?"
He shrugged. "You were upset. I didn't want to throw the entire evening out so I didn't bring it up."
Hermione's upper lip twitched and threatened to turn into a snarl. "You still could have told me."
"Now, hold on. It wasn't any of my business. He's the one you're mad at, not me, so I suggest you take it up with Draco." Blaise folded his arms.
She couldn't comprehend what he was saying. Draco Malfoy teaching at Hogwarts? It was absolutely absurd! Hadn't Hogwarts already taken enough chances with Death Eaters in positions of power? How could McGongall possibly think he'd be suitable for the role! So what if he was above average intelligence? There is no excuse for what he did before and during the war so what good could he possibly do at Hogwarts? She had to speak to Professor McGonagall as soon as possible.
Hermione stood abruptly. She cleared her throat and addressed him politely. "Can you please leave?"
His expression softened and she knew that, despite the fact they hardly knew one another, she'd hurt him. As Blaise pulled himself from his chair, a ruckus in the lounge made Hermione turn her attention to the fireplace.
Next moment, a dishevelled and ashy Ginny appeared from the grate. Wiping her forearms, she strolled into the lounge casually.
"I'll tell you what- oh," Ginny looked up from her sleeves and recognised the tension in the air. She regained her composure quickly. "Am I interrupting a lover's tryst?
"If only it was." Blaise grumbled then fled to the bedroom.
If she hadn't been so pissed off, Hermione might have felt embarrassed that Ginny caught Blaise in her apartment the night after their date, but as it was, she could hardly contain her frustration. Blaise returned from the bedroom fully dressed in his robes then he was out the door without another look. Hermione let out a yelp at the slam of the door.
Ginny gave a low whistle. "What a departure." she made herself comfortable where Blaise was previously sitting, and grabbed a piece of bacon. "What was that all about?"
Hermione muttered something intelligible, stomping to the kitchen sink. She filled a glass with water and sculled it in seconds. She took a deep breath in an attempt to calm herself. Draco Malfoy teaching at Hogwarts? What a joke. Crookshanks meowed at Hermione's feet. Sighing, she bent down and picked him up.
"I came to ask you how last night went." Ginny explained, taking a bite of toast. "Admittedly, I'm getting a few mixed signals."
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Guess what I just found out?"
Ginny arched her brow. "Tell me."
"Malfoy is teaching at Hogwarts."
Her best friend gasped, her mouth wide open like a fish struggling for water. "What?!"
Hermione nodded. "Blaise just told me then."
"Why didn't you know anything about it? McGonagall should have at least given you a heads up!"
"I don't know, but it makes sense why Malfoy came to me last night all in a dither." She replied, shrugging. "Blaise let it slip because he thought that was what the fight was about, and Malfoy obviously didn't say anything."
Ginny winced. "And now Blaise got caught in the crossfire."
She frowned, feeling shame creep into her heart. Did she really just kick Blaise out of her apartment over this? It wasn't his fault, not in the slightest, and he was right of course: she was mad at Malfoy, not at him. She couldn't believe her behaviour. He treated her with nothing but respect and dignity, and in turn she bit his head off over something irrelevant to him. Talk about acting like a child.
"Don't worry about Blaise for now." Ginny interrupted as if reading her thoughts. "It's obvious he worships you - he'll forgive you."
"He doesn't worship me." Hermione dismissed her. She pouted in irritation and started pacing. "Oh, Ginny, what am I going to do? I can't teach at Hogwarts with Malfoy there! I'd never get away from him."
"So I guess now a bad time to tell you that Harry's organising a special dinner next week for you?"
"He wants to give you a good sendoff for your new career."
Crookshanks jumped from her arms. "That sounds unnecessary."
Ginny frowned. "Does that mean you're going to quit?"
"I don't think you can quit a job you haven't began." Hermione muttered.
She rolled her eyes. "You know what I mean." Ginny hopped up from her seat, making her way over. "All you've got to do is go to McGonagall and talk to her about it."
"What if she won't budge? What do I do then? I've already handed my notice in at the Ministry!"
"Calm down!" She grabbed Hermione by her upper arms. "One freak out at a time. We'll deal with that if we have to and not before."
Hermione took a deep breath. "What would I do without you Ginny? How can you remain so calm when I'm all over the place?"
"Years of practice on the quidditch pitch." Ginny smirked. "Now, get your ass in the shower. I'll send Professor McGonagall an owl. Okay?"
She nodded miserably. "Thanks Ginny."
Hermione smiled at her friend then headed to the bathroom, keen to wash away her problems.
The green flames roared at Blaise's feet as he stumbled out of the grate in Malfoy Manor. Draco's House Elf, Erasmus, hobbled over to receive him.
"May I take your jacket, sir?"
"No thank you, Erasmus, I won't be here long. Is Master Draco in?"
"Yes, in the Library, sir. Shall I get some tea?"
"Thanks." Blaise brushed past the House Elf and down the hall in a hurry.
He entered the library a moment later to find Draco stood at the desk scrutinising some papers. The blond turned at the disturbance.
"Oh, good morning, Blaise. You're looking rather unkempt. How was the rest of your night with the lioness?" He baited.
Blaise stopped in his tracks and scowled at him. "Quit the act. Why didn't you tell her you're going to Hogwarts?"
Draco stepped away from the desk. "What?"
"Don't play with me." Blaise sighed. "I know why you turned up to the party last night and I know you didn't do it."
"I don't know what you mean."
"Don't lie!" Blaise chastised him. "I just got the backlash over your cowardice."
"My cowardice?" Draco narrowed his brows. "Get off it, Blaise, you don't know what you're talking about."
"Why didn't you say anything to her? It wouldn't have taken five minutes of your day."
"Merlin, why does it even matter? It's not like either of us can change anything about it." Draco spat. "Besides, I know what she's like, and I'm glad I missed out on that shitshow."
"Don't you feel like you owe her the truth?"
Draco spluttered, flabbergasted. "You're my friend! You're supposed to be on my side! Where did this divided loyalty come from all of a sudden?"
"I am on your side!" Blaise huffed. He stepped away, muttering obscenities under his breath, and leaned against the door frame.
It'd been years since he last saw the library opened up to the gardens like this. It was strange and almost foreign. When Blaise used to visit Draco during school holidays he remembered the manor feeling lifeless and cold with its grand hallways and draping curtains. It was a vast estate, but the members of the Malfoy family were a poor substitute at filling the space, even more so now with Lucius serving time in Azkaban. Blaise recalled Narcissa having a field day when Draco and Astoria announced their engagement. She often teased the couple about future children running around the manor, but Blaise could see she had high hopes for grandchildren. Shame about it now.
Blaise observed his friend. He didn't look completely worse for wear, though his bloodshot eyes indicated a rough night's sleep and a few too many drinks, much like himself and Hermione. The differences in Draco's appearance were subtle, but concealing his thoughts was something Draco excelled at nowadays. He must be hiding so much from him if he didn't even feel comfortable telling Blaise about his break up. Maybe Blaise needed to cut him a bit of slack.
"I'm sorry for yelling." Blaise exhaled. "I'm still reeling from her outburst, which happened like ten minutes ago. I came straight here, more or less."
"I can tell." Draco tutted, heading to the bar cart and pouring two whiskeys. "If the same outfit from last night wasn't giveaway enough." He passed Blaise a glass as a truce.
"Thanks." He sipped it despite the taste of alcohol flared up his heartburn.
"So," Draco sat in a nearby armchair, crossing one leg over the other. He gestured to the other chair, "how was she?"
"That is something I'm not telling you." Blaise joined him in the neighbouring chair. "And why do you want to know?"
Draco shrugged. "Just curious. Given I can't imagine that side of things with Granger if you gave me a million Galleons, I want to know why you're lusting after her."
"Godric, you make up some shit." Blaise rolled his eyes, chuckling. "She's actually lovely so we'll leave it at that."
He waved his hands in defense."Pardon me for living." Draco smirked.
A few moments of silence past before Blaise spoke again. "What are you going to do?"
Draco opened a black box on the side table and pulled out a cigar. "I don't know."
Blaise shook his head no when Draco offered him one. "Will you talk to her about it?"
"Maybe." Draco replied, lighting it with his wand tip. "If she didn't want to listen to me before then she definitely doesn't want to now."
Blaise snorted. "You got that right."
"Am I interrupting boy time?" The familiar tone of Narcissa Malfoy rang from the doorway. In front of her a tray of sandwiches levitated towards them.
"Of course not, Narcissa." Blaise rose to greet her. "That's very kind."
She leaned in for a kiss on the cheek which he returned then grabbed a sandwich off the tray. "How've you been?"
"Very well. Trying to understand Draco's sudden interest in a teaching profession." She gave her son a sideways glance.
"My guess is he's got a crush." Blaise taunted him.
Draco narrowed his brows at him, his cigar perched tightly between his lips. "What? On Granger? Now you've truly lost your marbles. I'm going to have to check you in to St Mungos if you keep that up."
Narcissa and Blaise shared an entertained look with one another, and Blaise helped himself to another sandwich.
"I just wish I'd been given a bit of notice beforehand is all, Professor." Hermione insisted to her ex professor.
The Headmistress' office looked much different than when she remembered from her school days. The windows appeared to be letting in more sunlight, and the ceiling high above them was enchanted to reflect the outside weather like the Great Hall did.
She'd come to make her case about why Malfoy wasn't suitable to work at Hogwarts. So far, it was not going well.
"Hermione-" (it was still weird to be on a first name basis with her professor) "- I have gone through many suitable candidates who would be an appropriate match for the staffing standards at Hogwarts, and I have chosen accordingly." McGonagall contended in her usual firm manner. "Now, if you have an issue with my decision then you need to decide if teaching here is in your best interest."
Hermione frowned at her hands in her lap. The last thing she wanted to do was cause offence or seem unappreciative of this opportunity. This was uncharted territory for her, and throw Malfoy into the mix seemed like a worrying prospect. She just wished she knew if this was the right thing to do.
"I must say I am disappointed by your words. I understand that adjusting to a new life after the war has taken its toll on many witches and wizards, but we have to do the best with what we have." Professor McGonagall declared. "Which also means allowing people who were wronged to be reintegrated into our society."
She nodded. "I understand."
"Is there anything else you need before you go? How are your class preparations going? I hope the examples I sent you were satisfactory."
"They're going fine, I think I'll be okay. And yes, I found the outlines very convenient, thank you for giving them to me."
"Right. Well if there's nothing else then I'll ask you to make your leave as I have another appointment shortly."
"Very well." Hermione gathered her things and stood. "Thank you for your time, Professor."
Hermione took a final look at her boss and headed for the door, feeling defeated.
A/N: apologies if there are lots of typos in this chapter, I edited it pretty late at night.