(A/N: Written for an Autumn themed fic exchange game, this story was a gift that had to meet the following criteria set by its recipient:
3 - 5 Things you want your gift to include:a) some inter-House unity
b) setting in 7th year post war
c) a get-together in the great hall that is NOT a Yule-ball formal event type,
d) Neville doing a favor to either Draco or Hermione...
e) and lots of glitter, because I like glitter. A light, fun and romantic fic would be nice, but I'm not requiring any moods or anything.
What you don't want your gift to include:
Nothing totally out of character, Draco and Hermione can like each other from the start but they shouldn't be already together, ExtraordinarilyPretty!Hermione
All fics requests were assigned at random; I DID NOT get to choose this request- the challenge comes in fulfilling criteria that are potentially far different from what one would normally include in a story of one's own. I had a good time with it; so here's a little something in the Halloween spirit. It is a 6 chapter fic; I will post one chapter each Friday til it is complete. Hope you like!)
"Granger. Granger? Oh, for the love of- Earth to Granger!"
"Malfoy! What?!" Hermione yelped, jarred back into reality. And it had been such a nice escape while it had lasted, too. She'd been pretending to write notes about the subject of the meeting she was currently suffering through, whereas in reality she'd been writing her History of Magic essay that was due the next week... and she'd really been on a roll too. It almost felt as though she'd actually been there- a firsthand witness to the pixie infestation that had closed Hogwarts down briefly in the year 1643. And now... sodding Malfoy. She was right back where she didn't want to be. She wouldn't have come to this ridiculous meeting at all, had not Harry and Ron gotten on either side of her and virtually frog-marched her here. Planning social events was so not her forte.
But no, her so-called best friends (though she thought this with no real animosity in her heart- she loved those boys so much it scared her sometimes) wouldn't leave her to study in peace. The whole seventh-year class has to be there, Hermione, they had insisted. You can't exactly skive this off- you're Head Girl! Besides, isn't this what you wanted? You've worked so hard for inter-House unity! Though even as their voices had dripped with sincerity, she would have had to be blind to miss the teasing light in their eyes, the way their mouths had twitched at the edges- barely concealing grins at catching her so effectively in her own trap. She had worked hard on bringing about a degree of inter-House unity, so how could she possibly refuse to attend this meeting? It was the first seventh-year class meeting to include every member of every House since before Voldemort's initial rise to power, decades ago.
But of all the stupid things to meet about, she griped mentally, rolling up her essay and shoving it into her bag, which lay at her feet. I'm not any use here, I'm no good at this stuff!
Straightening in her chair once more, she jutted out her lower lip and huffed, blowing a stray curl out of her face, then raised her eyes, reluctantly, to survey her classmates. There were forty or so seventh-year students in all, seated around a large, highly polished table in the Room of Requirement, which had morphed, for this occasion, into something resembling a Muggle executive board room, with the table as its centerpiece, just enough comfy, plush swivel chairs to seat everyone around it (Crabbe and Goyle hadn't stopped spinning in their chairs since the moment they'd sat down- and the meeting had been dragging on forty minutes already) a floor-to-ceiling whiteboard situated directly behind the head of the table, on which the various ideas they were discussing appeared in flowing, magical script even as they spoke, and four self-replenishing refreshment carts stationed around the room, overflowing with Butterbeer and sweets. Ron, along with his girlfriend Millicent Bulstrode (the two of them, as it turned out, got on smashingly, largely because they shared an intense passion for food) had situated himself halfway between two of the carts; at five minute intervals he would lean far back in his chair under the pretense of stretching, extend a hand toward each cart, mutter "accio" under cover of a fake yawn- and two goodies would fly into his outstretched hands- one from each direction. Rocking his chair upright once more, he would slip one to Millie, as he had taken to calling her, quickly scarf the other, then crack his knuckles, straighten his scarlet-and-gold tie, and lean forward on the table, hands folded on the gleaming wood in front of him, an utterly guileless expression of rapt attention and interest in his cobalt blue eyes.
It was pretty funny, really.
Or would have been- if Hermione had been in the mood to feel amused.
She was not, however- especially when her eyes finally locked onto those of the person who had disturbed her in the first place.
Malfoy. Was. Smirking at her.
No amount of inter-House unity could ever induce her to consider that git as anything more than just barely tolerable... no matter that he had, amazingly enough, fought for the Light in the battle that had rocked the wizarding world the previous year, bringing nearly the entirety of Slytherin House over to Dumbledore's side with him. He had never revealed, however, to anyone, as far as Hermione knew, the reason for his sudden and drastic shift in loyalties... and so she still didn't quite trust him. No, scratch "didn't quite".
She didn't trust him any further than she could throw him.
And right at the moment she wished she was thirteen again so that she could simply slap that infuriating smirk off his face without pause for thought of consequence... but sadly, such was not the case. She was an adult now, and had to act like one. What sort of example would it set, and what would it do the tenuous beginnings of Gryffindor/Slytherin cooperation if the Head Girl should slap the Head Boy at this historically significant meeting?
She took a deep breath, calming herself, at least outwardly, though inwardly she continued to fume over his deliberate- and highly successful- attempt to catch her off guard and get a rise out of her in front of all her classmates. In an attempt to salvage what was left of her dignity, she struck back, asking in a falsely sweet voice, "what's the matter, Malfoy? You seemed so keen to run this whole show by yourself. Why do you suddenly need my input? Did you bite off more than you could chew?"
Draco's gray eyes flashed at the challenge in her voice. "Not at all, Granger," he drawled. "It's just that you've been awfully quiet this whole time. I thought that perhaps, being Head Girl and all, you might have something valuable to contribute to our discussion before we vote."
VOTE? Merlin, what had she missed?
In an effort to buy herself some time, she said haughtily, "of course I have something to add, Malfoy, but first, why don't you do a quick recap. We ought to be sure that everyone here-" and she looked pointedly at Crabbe and Goyle, who were still spinning merrily in their swivel chairs, using their astoundingly large feet to push off the table, and each other, every time they threatened to slow down- "is on the same parchment, and understands exactly what it is that we are voting on."
Draco's eyes narrowed to slits at this, and she could almost swear she saw his lips form the word "touché", as though muttering it under his breath- but he was at the head of the long table, and she at the foot, so she could easily have been mistaken. She must have been mistaken. What mattered was that she had taken the focus off herself and thrown it firmly back onto Draco and his intellectually challenged cronies.
She raised her chin smugly. She had managed to save face.
"Very well," Draco said, resuming his cool demeanor almost at once, "let's recap, shall we? It has already been decided that this year, upon leaving the school, our class will give Hogwarts one commemorative gift, instead of four smaller House gifts, as has been the custom for the past several years. It has furthermore been decided that the gift we give the school will be a small monument to be erected on the grounds, in the memory of Professor Dumbledore."
Hermione shot a quick, worried glance in Harry's direction. He was staring straight down at the table, his face drawn, lips pressed tightly together as if in pain. It was an expression he had worn often since the battle at the end of sixth year. He had seen Dumbledore die- more than that, the headmaster had sacrificed himself to save Harry, who had then, with renewed fury, gone on to do exactly what Dumbledore had been confident he would do; slay Voldemort and win the war decisively for the side of Light.
Harry was a different person, though, after watching his mentor die and, in turn, taking the life of his nemesis. He was quiet, withdrawn; he smiled seldom and laughed less. It was part of the reason that Hermione had capitulated so easily and good-naturedly when Harry and Ron had cornered her for this godforsaken meeting. Seeing that old mischievous glint in Harry's eyes as he had teased her was like striking gold- a small vein, but nonetheless gold- in a mine that was presumed to have long since run dry.
But enough brooding about Harry for the time being. Draco was speaking again, and she had damn well better pay attention this time- if she missed what he was saying, she would not be able to effectively save face again.
"In terms of financing this gift, it has been decided that we will hold two major fundraisers this year; one in the autumn and one in the spring." (Good Lord, Hermione thought, all this was discussed and decided on, and I had no clue?) "The autumn fundraiser will be held on Halloween night; we've already been granted permission by McGonagall to hold it in the Great Hall, in lieu of the traditional feast. It now being October the first, this should give us plenty of time to prepare. We've agreed upon charging members of the student body ten knuts apiece admission, and members of the staff a sickle each. So... now that we have the date and the admission price set, we need to decide on exactly what this fundraiser will consist of. Onto the ideas that are to be voted upon. Board wipe clean."
At these words, all the writing that had been scrawled across the white board behind him vanished, leaving it clean and ready to record his next words.
"Number one," Draco said, "a pumpkin carving contest suggested by Neville Longbottom." He waited for this to appear on the whiteboard before continuing. "Number two, an evening hay ride around the lake, suggested by Hannah Abbot. Number three," and he literally grimaced as he continued, his distaste evident in both his expression and his voice, "a cute couples costume contest, suggested by Lavender Brown-"
"That's alliteration," Lavender squealed proudly from where she was draped over her boyfriend du jour, Justin Finch Fletchley.
"And number four," Draco resumed, looking as though he'd just been force-fed copious quantities of lemon juice, "a pumpkin pie eating contest, suggested jointly by Ron Weasley and Millicent Bulstrode. So tell us, Granger, what would you like to add to this... unique... assortment of-" (Hermione could almost swear he was about to say "rubbish", or something to that effect, but with a supreme act of self-discipline, he nearly choked out the word-) "ideas?"
At which point Hermione blurted out the very first thing that popped into her head, which had probably been put there by all the heavy thinking she had so recently been doing about magical creatures running rampant throughout the school; "er... haunted house?"
Draco cocked an eyebrow at her. "Excuse me, Granger? Could you elaborate on that a bit?"
Hermione had to fight down a whole new wave of irritation; she very sincerely doubted that Draco had asked Ron and Millicent to elaborate on their pie-eating idea, or plied Lavender for details about her "cute couples costume contest". He was just doing this to torture her, as per usual.
She cleared her throat. "A haunted house, Malfoy," she said flatly. "You said that we have permission to use the Great Hall. So we decorate it like a haunted house, and we dress up and station ourselves around as... you know..." (she waved a hand vaguely)- "vampires and mummies and skeletons and such, and then we jump out and frighten the people who are walking through. Haunted House."
Draco said nothing for a long time, just looked at her intently- but she could tell by the sudden gleam in his eye that the idea of jumping out of a dark corner and scaring younger students- perhaps even the odd faculty member- and, moreover, raising money by doing so- held a certain appeal for him... rather more appeal, it was safe to say, than any of the suggestions that had preceded it. Far be it from him to praise any idea that had come from her, however. When he spoke, it was merely to state, for the benefit of the whiteboard, which quickly recorded his words, "number five, a 'Haunted House' to be held in the Great Hall, suggested by Hermione Granger." He waited until this was added to the list, then said, "well, shall we vote?"
He both looked and sounded completely neutral, which was as it should be for the person in charge of the proceedings, but Hermione noticed that when Crabbe and Goyle stopped spinning long enough to look to him for a signal as to which way to cast their votes, he briefly opened, then closed, his left hand at them; a flash of five fingers- vote for number five.
And so it was that Hermione's Haunted House idea was adopted as the seventh-years' official autumn fundraiser. It would be an exaggeration to say that it won by a landslide, but there was a pretty considerable margin, and for the most part, everyone left the meeting more or less contented with the shape their fundraising idea had taken. Lavender had pouted at first, but by the time she was out the door of the Room of Requirement, she and Parvati were walking with their arms slung about one another's waists and their heads bent so close together that blonde hair mingled with black, discussing in low, intense tones just what they would need to get started on the "vampire princess" costumes they planned on wearing.
As for Hermione, she meandered slowly down the hallway in the direction of the library, having parted ways with Harry, Ron and Millicent, who were all off for a mid-afternoon raid on the kitchens, to be followed by an impromptu picnic by the lake. How Ron could stand to eat another bite after the way he'd been snacking throughout the meeting was beyond her. How he managed to remain as lean and lanky as he was, was further beyond her still. How Millicent, who was, obviously, considerably shorter than her boyfriend, could very nearly keep up with him and not weigh as mush as a house was even more mystifying... but the Slytherin girl managed somehow. She was not slim, but nor was she obese. Pleasantly plump was a good way to describe her, and as she had progressed through the awkward years of adolescence, her features, which had been hard and off-putting when she was younger, had softened somewhat. Millicent was pretty enough now, in her way, Hermione reflected. As for Harry, he would just be along for the companionship.
Hermione would have gone as well, for the same reason as Harry, but the first Defense Against the Dark Arts quiz was coming up on Monday morning, and she needed to get in some quiet study time. It being Saturday afternoon, she could be reasonably sure of finding the library deserted, which would make for a most conducive study environment. She'd meet "her boys" again at suppertime.
As she walked, bookbag slung expertly over her shoulder, she reached up with both hands and, never breaking stride, twisted her masses of long, unruly dark curls into a knot at the nape of her neck. It was just as she was shoving her wand through the newly formed bun, chopstick-style, to hold it in place, that Draco Malfoy came even with her, followed as usual by dumb and dumber. She stopped abruptly, such was her surprise at seeing him there. She hadn't even realized he'd been behind her. He had been the last to leave the Room of Requirement, and must have been walking fairly quickly to catch her up like this. He paused for just a moment, capturing her startled, dark eyes with his pale ones, as Crabbe and Goyle fidgeted a step or two behind him. Then,
"That wasn't a bad idea, Granger," he drawled. "Not bad at all." And then, just as Hermione began to grasp, with astonishment, the fact that Draco Malfoy just paid me a compliment?!? he went and ruined it entirely by continuing, his lips curving up into that trademark smirk of his, "especially for someone who wasn't paying the least bit of attention, and pulled it straight out of her arse."
And with that, he was gone, around a bend in the corridor, Crabbe and Goyle trotting dutifully after him, leaving her spluttering indignantly in his wake. The very least he could have done would have been to give her a moment to collect herself and come up with a really stinging retort, damn it all!
When she reached the library, she slammed the door open and then shut again with such force that Madam Pince started at her desk, shot Hermione a poisonous glare, and told her to please leave and disturb the peace somewhere else.
Hermione, now absolutely fuming, slammed right out again, if anything, more loudly than ever. First she'd been interrupted in the writing of her essay, just when she'd been on a roll, and now she'd lost her best chance for a quiet, studious afternoon. All because of Draco Malfoy.
Stupid, SODDING MALFOY!