A/N: My shortest Draco/Hermione fic yet, complete in 25 pages, and a somewhat different style than my others-more lighthearted, in my opinion, and far more dialogue-based. Will be posted in five chapters on five consecutive Fridays. This little fic was an interesting exercise for me because it was written for a Draco/Hermione Valentine Fic Exchange Game and as such, I had to meet criteria set by an unknown requester. I also got to request my own ideal fic and an unknown author wrote it for me. The game was played anonymously, but the required period of anonymity has just ended, so now I, like the other authors who participated, can share my fic with the world. Anyway, the criteria I had to meet was as follows:
3-5 Things to Include in the Fic:
1. Set in sixth year
2. Professor Sinstra is a key element in creating the relationship between Draco and Hermione
3. Draco and Hermione do not share potions class together
4. Story must start out with a prologue, not from Hermione's, Draco's or Sinstra's point of view
Prologue: Thursday, February 12th
Wrong, wrong, wrong. This had to be wrong.
Uttering a low growl of frustration, Severus Snape, potions master of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, pulled his head sharply away from the telescope, made some minute adjustments to the instrument's settings, then once again leaned forward, pushing a hank of jet black hair out of his eyes at the same time as he squinted into the telescope's eyepiece, hoping to see something different.
What he saw was exactly the same.
It had to be wrong.
The stars were telling him that something was about to happen- something profound- something that would be the key to bringing about unity amongst the deeply divided Houses of the school- a unity that could eventually give Hogwarts the strength to stand against the outside forces which threatened it.
This ought to have been welcome news indeed, except that…
"It's impossible," the taciturn professor muttered distractedly to himself. "Utterly impossible. Not those two. If it were anyone else, anyone at all…" He trailed off and ran a hand through his hair, then slammed a fist down on the waist-high stone wall that ran around the edge of the rooftop observation platform on which he stood.
He must be doing something wrong. Yes, that's what it was. Though he was an amateur astronomer / astrologer by hobby, charting the stars and then making sense of their patterns and movements, it was admittedly not his field of expertise. That would be Potions- and, in his own opinion, if no one else's, Defense Against the Dark Arts.
So it was time to call in an expert- someone who could correct his error and discern the true nature of the omen he had found in the heavens.
Because if it meant what it appeared to him that it meant…but no, that was just not possible.
He would summon both Firenze, the Divination teacher, and Sinistra, the astronomy professor, at once. One or both of them would be able to tell him what this truly meant.
Because if the future of inter-House relations and perhaps even of Hogwarts itself depended on those two falling in love…
Then he feared deeply for the ancient school, and all who dwelled within its walls.
Friday, February 13th
Professor Sinistra heaved a heavy sigh for what had to be the hundredth time since this astronomy lesson had begun. She was deeply worried about what she had agreed to do at the conclusion of the class. It was necessary, yes, they had all agreed on that- but she still harbored serious misgivings.
She just didn't see how this could work.
No matter what the heavens said- and she and Firenze, and eventually Dumbledore himself, had studied, and in the end corroborated, the potions master's discovery- it just seemed to her that throwing those two particular students together for the night under any pretense could only result in bloodshed.
Why, when she had arrived at class this very evening (astronomy being the only class taught after supper), it had been only just in time to head off yet another potentially nasty altercation between the two sixth-year trios- one famous; Potter, Weasley, and Granger, the other infamous; Malfoy, Crabbe and Goyle.
It had started, of course, between Harry and Draco, but just as Sinistra had arrived, Hermione had placed herself squarely in front of Harry and had proceeded to glare at the white-blond Slytherin, hands planted on her hips, bristling from the top of her bushy-haired head right down to her crisply loafer-clad feet.
"If you want to hurt Harry, You'll have to go through me, Malfoy," she had hissed, wand in hand, stoutly resisting Harry's repeated attempts to thrust her aside.
Draco's upper lip had pulled back in a venomous sneer. "You say that like it's a bad thing, Granger," he had snarled, "whereas I would consider it an honor and a privilege to rid the world of one more filthy m-"
Sinistra had intervened at that moment, wading straight into the thick of things, shouting for order before the dreaded "m word" could be uttered, which would have inevitably led to Weasley losing what tenuous grip on his temper he had and either hexing or physically attacking Draco, which would probably have resulted in a free-for-all amongst the sixth-year Gryffindors and Slytherins gathered there.
And now the only chance for inter-House unity lay in throwing Draco and Hermione together for an entire night and hoping against hope that instead of killing each other, the two of them would fall in LOVE?
It was absurd.
It was a lost cause.
But it was also, according to the omen Snape had uncovered, the best chance Hogwarts had.
So it had to be done.
She sighed yet again as the students began packing up for the night; breaking down and putting away various pieces of equipment, gathering books, notes and belongings, preparing to leave. It was nine-o-clock on a Friday night and they were all, she was sure, anxious to be elsewhere.
And so they would be, soon enough…all but two.
"Miss Granger, Mister Malfoy," she called, as the exodus began, "may I speak with the two of you for a moment, please?"
They came reluctantly, both expecting, she could tell, a reprimand for the earlier incident. She thought wryly that once they had heard what she had to say, they would wish it HAD been a reprimand. She caught the flash of sympathetic looks from Hermione's friends, as well as the subtle gesture Draco shot his two lackeys, which seemed to say, I can handle this; I'll catch you up later.
Then the last of the students had gone and the room was empty save for the professor and the two sixth-years; Hermione looking nervous, Draco sullen.
"Mister Malfoy, Miss Granger," she said, "as prefects and as the top two students in this class, I have a special assignment for you. It must be completed tonight, and it is not optional." She saw the two of them exchange wary glances with each other, then look back at her, nonplussed.
"What- what does this assignment involve, professor?" Hermione asked tentatively.
"The faculty has observed some most unusual astronomical activity recently," Sinistra said, "and I want the two of you to track the movements of certain stars and planets across the night sky. Here is the list of heavenly bodies whose trajectories I wish you to chart." And she held out a parchment to Draco, who took it, looking somewhat shell-shocked.
"It will, of course," she continued, "take you all night." (What she failed to mention was that it was just busywork- an excuse to lock them in together; that was all.) "You must chart these bodies until they vanish below the horizon or are lost to the dawn. It is a two-person job; one to watch through the scope, and one to chart the progress. Each of the dozen or so stars and planets must be checked and charted at half-hour intervals. I suggest the two of you switch positions fairly frequently to keep yourselves sharp. Wouldn't do to doze off in the midst of such important work. And do remember, though it may seem like an inconvenience, that this is quite an honor for the both of you. Never before has a task this important been delegated to students. It is only because you are both such outstanding scholars, and have proved yourselves capable of shouldering responsibility by upholding your prefect duties, that you are being given this unique opportunity to assist the faculty. You have permission to use my personal scope."
It was Draco who finally voiced what both students were clearly thinking; "Professor…you have to be joking."
"I assure you, Mister Malfoy, I am not. This is a very serious assignment, and I have the highest expectations of you both. You are to start immediately; I shall instruct the house elves to bring you up a midnight snack in a few hours, to keep your strength up. Now if you don't mind, I have some business to attend to elsewhere." And she swept toward the door.
Just as she reached it, she was brought up short by Hermione's voice, shrill and panicky. "Professor! You can't! I can't. He…we can't!"
She turned and did her best to smile encouragingly at the girl, who looked on the verge of tears. The fact that Hermione was so obviously shaken and upset, even after just having such an honor bestowed upon her by a teacher, spoke volumes. She felt a cold knot of fear in her gut. Was she doing the right thing?
This will never work. Never.
But there was no backing out now.
"You'll be fine, Miss Granger," she said briskly, and before either of them had a chance to protest further, she was through the door, pulling it firmly shut behind her and reciting a spell that would cause it to remain locked, both from without and within, until dawn.
Immediately, Hermione flew to the door and tried the handle, intending to reason further with Sinistra, a no-nonsense teacher she had always admired but who, she now reflected, had to be off her gourd if she thought that Draco Malfoy was capable of working cooperatively with her like an ordinary civilized person. He wasn't- that was one thing Hermione was sure of.
"It's locked," she cried in dismay, without turning toward Draco.
There was no response from behind her, but the sound of voices on the other side of the door, muffled by the thick wood, caught her attention, and she pressed her ear against it and listened intently.
It was Harry and Ron- they hadn't left- they were right there- right there, so close and yet so far away, on the other side of the locked door. They were talking over each other, voices raised, agitated.
"Professor, you can't-"
"Don't you understand-"
"Malfoy hates her-"
"-putting her in danger-"
"-hear him before class?"
"-threatening her life-"
"-won't leave her here!"
Her heart swelled with love and gratitude for 'her boys', even as she knew it was hopeless. Sinistra's mind was made up.
As if in confirmation of this fact, Harry and Ron's voices died down- Hermione could see, in her mind's eye, the professor making the same silencing gesture that she so often utilized in class- Then came Sinistra's voice; calm, cool, implacable.
"I trust both Miss Granger and Mister Malfoy to behave like the prefects they are, and not squabble like children. You must also understand that they have been given very important work to do, work which will leave them little time for arguing. In addition, the entire faculty is aware of what they will be doing tonight, and Dumbledore himself has appointed a- sort of chaperone- to check in on them periodically. In short, though the concern you show for your friend is laudable, allow me to reassure you that she is quite safe. Nor will I change my mind. This door will not allow her out, or you in, until tomorrow morning. So I suggest you head back to your common room now. Crabbe, Goyle, that goes for you as well."
Those two are still out there? Hermione thought. She hadn't expected the big, dumb Slytherins to show that degree of loyalty to Draco- hadn't expected that a grade-A prat like him could inspire such devotion. Well, she supposed, birds of a feather and all that…
The voices were now moving off down the stairs that led to the astronomy tower. She could hear that Harry and Ron were still pleading her case, but could no longer make out their words. The last thing she heard that she actually understood was Sinistra telling all four boys that they could return in the morning to collect their respective friends if they were that worried- but that honestly, there was no reason to be so worked up.
Though, judging from her tone of voice, it didn't sound as though even Sinistra was entirely sure of this. Hermione wondered who she was trying to convince- Harry and Ron, or herself. And if the professor had misgivings, why on earth was she going through with this ridiculous assignment?
Then the voices had faded, faded, and finally were altogether gone.
Hermione sagged forward against the door, leaning into the cool wood, wanting anything but to turn around and face Draco, half expecting that when she did, he would have his wand out and pointed directly at her, ready to curse her into oblivion. The knowledge that some mysterious "chaperone" of Dumbledore's would be checking on her over the course of the night was scant comfort at the moment.
Finally, dragging in a deep, and not entirely steady, breath, she turned, bracing herself for almost certain confrontation- and was surprised to find Draco with his back to her, squatting down and fiddling with the settings of Sinistra's personal telescope, making those small adjustments that would customize it from her to him.
"Get ready to write, Granger," he said flatly, without turning around. "I'm going first with the scope." He paused and raked a hand through his silvery hair. "Let's just get this thing over and done with, shall we?"
When she didn't move, he finally half-turned, glaring at her sideways with those eerie, pale eyes. "Well, are you ready or what?" he snapped. "I thought you were meant to be some sort of- of-" he gestured impatiently with one hand, as though hoping to pull the word he was looking for out of the air- "schoolwork junkie, or something. Couldn't get enough. You've hit the mother lode tonight and yet you stand there gawking like an idiot!"
This stung enough to set her in motion. She stalked over to Sinistra's desk and picked up the forms on which she was to chart the coordinates Draco would give her. He already had the list of stars and planets they were supposed to track. She then stormed over to a low stone bench set against the wall- the astronomy tower contained no desks- and threw herself down upon it, cross-legged, shuffling the parchments on her lap, digging out a quill and a large hardcover book that could be used as a writing surface from her bag, and finally turning to glare at Draco- only to become even more incensed at the realization that her glare was entirely wasted on him; he was fully occupied with the scope once more.
She made an impatient noise. "Whenever you're ready, Malfoy."
She thought she heard Draco snort, but couldn't be sure as he had turned away again. "Just waiting for you to finish with the drama queen act, Granger," he drawled, and now there was no mistaking the amusement in his voice.
She seriously considered hurling the heavy book in her lap at the back of his head- that would wipe away the smirk she knew, just KNEW was on his face- but thought better of it. Best to keep things civil and, like Draco himself had said, get this thing over and done with.
"Go," she snarled, quill poised over parchment.
It was 9:15.
And so it began.