Chapter 8 – Confrontations
"Are you having second thoughts already?" an all-too familiar voice asked her.
Hermione turned around from the bathroom trying to comprehend if her ears were deceiving her or if the object of her thoughts had just really spoken to her. She had mixed feelings when she finally realized that – yes – the object of her thoughts was really in her quarters speaking to her.
"Harry?! What in the world are you doing here? It's really late already. And hold on – how in Merlin's name were you able to get through my door? And in the first place, how do you know where my quarters are?" she started to barrage Harry with questions, still trying to grasp that Harry was really standing there in front of her, his work robes open, revealing casual clothes that allowed for appreciation of his toned body. Since when did she noticed Harry's toned body anyway?
Harry chuckled and placed both his hands in his trousers' pockets. "Easy, Hermione. Aren't you even going to say, 'Hello, I'm happy to see you' and come hug me?"
Hermione harrumphed, but went and hugged Harry briefly, gesturing him to sit down after doing so. "I guess I caught you at a bad time, huh?" commented Harry, looking pointedly at the open bathroom door and the bath towel slung over Hermione's shoulder before sitting down at Hermione's plush couch and getting himself comfortable, propping his booted feet up on the coffee table, shoving her papers aside in the process.
Hermione raised an eyebrow at Harry but he just grinned back at her and shrugged. "I was about to prepare and turn in for the night. As you probably realized, it's around 11 PM already." She sat beside Harry and picked up the parchments with her class notes in it, fixing it and shoving Harry's feet off her table. "Feet off my table, Potter. This is where I usually work."
Harry took a glance around. "You have a study table over there by your bed. Why don't you work there?"
"I'd like to work here, thank you very much. Don't go questioning that."
Harry chuckled once more. "Come here," he motioned for Hermione to come sit closer to him. Hermione complied and she ended having her head on Harry's shoulder, his arms around her. A comfortable silence fell between them.
Hermione sighed. "I missed this."
"I missed you more," replied Harry softly, his hands making idle circles on her shoulders.
Hermione sat up and stared back at Harry. "You didn't answer my questions, by the way. How - ?" But Harry placed up a hand and silenced her. "What I'm doing here? Is it so bad to see my best friend even if it's the middle of the night? As for how I got through your door, even the portraits in this school knows who I am and when the portrait guarding your door realized it, I simply told her little details about you that no one else knows like how you want to work on the floor when you're alone, she opened it up for me immediately. Of course it helped also that I had a house-elf with me. As for how I knew where your quarters are, said house-elf was only too happy to help me get here. There. Did I answer everything?"
Hermione smiled. "I'm impressed. You remembered my questions. But how were you able to find a house-elf in the middle of the night? You cannot just summon them. You are not the Headmistress."
"That's just it. I went to see McGonagall first. She was the one who summoned the house-elf. No doubt she knew I wanted to see you. Now you answer my question."
Hermione sighed once more and settled back on Harry's shoulder. "I am not having second thoughts. What made you think so?"
"I was observing you for a while before I made my presence known. You looked like you were not sure what to do for a while there."
Hermione made no response there. Finally, Harry got up and went to her bed. He picked up the picture that Hermione was looking at a while ago from her dresser. "This is a nice picture. How come I didn't have one of this? When was this taken anyway?"
"Colin took it when we were in fourth year," she replied, making her way to Harry. "That was before you were made a Tri-Wizard champion."
Harry's smile faded a bit when she said that. She noticed it and decided to take the picture from Harry. "I know. It was a painful year." She placed a hand on his arm. Harry looked at her, his face suddenly serious. She was standing so close to him, that for a moment – Harry was able to see the few freckles on her nose. "Lots of things happened. Not so good things. But we made it and we had little moments such as this that kept us going through that year and the following years that came."
"You made it bearable for me that year, remember?" Harry smiled as he placed his arms around her shoulders. Hermione leaned on him and didn't say anything. "And you made every year bearable after that. Well, sixth year was different. You made life hell that year for me and for Ron most especially. Aww! What was that for?!" he complained after Hermione playfully swatted him on the arm.
Hermione got out from his grasp and sauntered towards the bathroom. Before going in, she said indignantly, "That was for the last comment you made, you prat! And I'm just going to do my business. I want everything the way I left it when I come back or else…"
Harry grinned at her, made an innocent looking face and said, "Yes ma'am!" mock-saluting her.
When Hermione was in the bathroom, Harry took a leisurely tour inside Hermione's quarters. He smiled as he noticed everything that was uniquely Hermione's. Her presence pervade every aspect of the apartment. The smell of vanilla which was distinctly Hermione's was all over the place which of course was coming from her candles on her bookcase. He inspected the kitchenette and found most of the snacks there sugar-free, probably courtesy of her parents, and grinned all the more, remembering Hermione's dentist parents and how she gave him sugar-free snacks back during the summer before fourth year.
Everything in the room was either in red or gold. Gryffindor colors. Although there were some touches of white, cream and brown mixed in with the reds and golds. Probably to soften and accentuate to whole room. But everything was typically Hermione.
Harry went back to the couch after pulling Hogwarts: A History from one of Hermione's bookcases. He comfortably removed his combat boots and sat cross-legged on the couch, browsing through the book. It was the latest copy and Harry was fascinated how some of their adventures as kids were written in it. He chuckled when he read about how they established the DA and the things they did as members and founders of it.
When Hermione came out of the bathroom, freshly showered, she stopped for a moment by the door when she heard Harry chuckling at something. She smiled when she saw him on her couch reading Hogwarts: A History, the latest edition. She knew that there were additions about them in it and knew that that was what was making Harry laugh.
"Found something interesting there?" she asked, walking over to Harry and sitting beside him.
Harry nodded. "I can't believe that they placed every DA members' name in here. And what each member did for the DA. Sometimes, being in the magical world still amazes me."
"I know." Silence ensued after that with Harry still browsing Hogwarts: A History and with Hermione looking over her notes. Finally, Hermione broke it by asking, "Harry, why didn't you tell Ron and me that you got offered by the Headmistress to teach DADA here?"
Harry looked up from his reading and looked at Hermione. He seemed tense all of a sudden. "How did you find that out?"
Hermione gave him a pointed look. "Seriously, Harry. Just tell me."
Harry closed the book and stood up. He walked over to Hermione's bookcases and placed the book back. He heaved a sigh and with his back turned at Hermione, answered, "I don't know, Hermione. I just – this place – it reeks of memories. Both good and bad. I –" He sighed once more and slumped his shoulders.
Hermione walked over to him, turned him around to face her and placed her hands on his. "But think of it, Harry. This was your home for the last seven years. And if you would have accepted, we could have been working together. What's wrong with being a professor here?"
Harry removed his hands from hers and walked towards her balcony. He opened the doors and stepped out. He breathed deeply and turned to look back at Hermione. "There's nothing wrong with it Hermione. I just didn't want to."
"But why? DADA was your favorite subject. Hogwarts was your home. This was where you started it all. Why – ?"
"I just didn't want to, ok?" Harry cut Hermione short. He stalked back inside and sat on the couch, closing his eyes. He removed his glasses and rubbed his temples.
"Explain it to me, Harry. I just couldn't understand why. Is that why you didn't want me to teach here at first?" Hermione kept on insisting. She sat beside him, sides touching, and peered at him closely, her eyes locked on his.
Harry dropped his head, closing his eyes, "I don't want to talk about this, Hermione. So please stop." Conflicting emotions were bubbling inside Harry. He remembered when Minerva asked him to teach DADA at Hogwarts a couple of days after the Final Battle. He was astonished that the Headmistress considered him, but he flatly refused, saying that he didn't want to return to the place where he could remember every single detail of the Battle, every single detail of Dumbledore's death and every single detail of the others who sacrificed themselves for the better of wizard-kind. Minerva didn't lose hope and asked him again after another couple of days but again, he answered no.
Finally, when he learned that Hermione was offered to teach, he had to struggle with the fact that had he accepted, he would have been with her but thought that if he returned, the place would haunt him of memories that would have driven him insane. He expected that Ron and Hermione would stay with him at Grimmauld and they would all live their lives together, still being the Trio that they were. But all that changed when Hermione decided to be a Hogwarts professor.
Hermione looked closely at Harry. She knew he wasn't telling her something. She could feel it, see it even from the way their conversation suddenly strained him. He was feeling tense all of a sudden. And she needed answers. She just couldn't understand why he would refuse, seeing that he loved DADA and Hogwarts was his home, his refuge. She would get her answers, if not now then soon. And seeing as Harry wasn't about to spill, she decided to change the subject and try a different tactic.
"Harry – " she started but stopped suddenly when Harry opened his eyes and stared straight at her.
"Hermione, I said stop. I told you I don't want to talk about this. What's done is done. I'm an Auror now, you're a professor, Ron's a Quidditch player. All is well now," he said. He stood up once more and started to slow pace in front of her fireplace.
"I said stop it, Hermione! Can't you understand that I don't want to talk about it?!" snapped Harry.
Hermione was stunned for a moment. Then she started to get frustrated. She knew that Harry was still brooding about the Final Battle and that's probably one of the reasons why he refused the DADA teaching position. "Fine," she said quietly, stood up and walked to her door. "It's getting late, Harry. I think you should go."
"What?! So now because I don't want to talk about it, you're throwing me out?"
"No. It really is just getting late. I need to rest," she said, resigned, while opening the door.
Harry's eyes started to harden. He sat down on the couch to lace up his boots. He stood up quite rashly then walked past Hermione and out her quarters without saying a word. He didn't look back as he walked down the hall, turned into a corner and finally disappeared.
Hermione sighed heavily and closed her door. She walked to her bed, flopped down on it and closed her eyes. Her thoughts drifted to one emerald-eyed person who was at that moment, already at Grimmauld, sporting a glass of Old Ogden's.
September 3rd, DADA Classroom, 7th year class
The 7th year class of DADA was a subdued one, a first since Hogwarts opened. The Gryffindors together with the Slytherins were sharing the class, and another first was that no one was throwing insults at each other. There were a few whispers here and there as they waited for their new Professor. Headmistress McGonagall didn't introduce the new DADA teacher during the opening feast stating that he was at that moment, stuck with some important project and that they would all meet him on their respective classes.
Ginny Weasley was seated at the last row, fiddling with her quill. She was trying not to be bored as it was the start of the term and she knew she needed to ace her classes this year. Though she found it weird that everyone was trying to be normal as if the War didn't happen. Colin was chatting nonstop by her side about how excited he was to meet the new DADA professor and could it be perhaps Harry who will be teaching them? And she wasn't taking a bit of it.
She yawned and stretched. "When is this new teacher coming? Does he even know – ?"
Just then, the door opened and in came – "Draco?" whispered Ginny, astounded.
He walked as if he didn't have a care in the world. There were several gasps of surprise from the Gryffindor side and several glares from the Slytherins. His impeccable black robes were billowing around him, his hair was not gelled as it usually was and his stature could almost surpass that of Snape.
"Get your books out, people," he said as he reached the front of the class. "I don't need to introduce myself to you as you all know who I am. Now turn to page 5 and start reading. I'm giving you all 10 minutes and we are going to get all our wands out after that and try it with each other."
There were few grumbles and some scuffles for books as the class slowly adhered to what Draco just instructed.
"Hey, traitor!" one of the Slytherins from the back shouted. "How can you show your face here with what you did for the last couple of years?" There were several sniggers from the Slytherins at that comment.
Draco turned to that student and smirked. "10 points from Slytherin for insulting the professor. And I'll add another 10, Mr. Malone, if you don't learn to keep your mouth shut," he added when he saw the said student trying to say something again. "Now, do I have to repeat myself or will you turn your books to page 5 or shall we start practicing without you having a slight idea what we are about to do?"
The Slytherin glared at Draco but nonetheless complied. "Like I said, 10 minutes. Then I'll explain what you've read and we'll start with the practical stuff."
Ginny couldn't believe it. Draco was teaching DADA. How come? And why? There's got to be an explanation for this. And she knew exactly how she's going to get it and from whom.
Ginny waited until the last student left before she approached Draco. When she was sure that no one was around, she walked up front where Draco was writing.
"Hello, Miss Weasley. What can I do for you? Is there anything about the lesson you didn't understand?" asked Draco, without looking up from his parchment.
She almost stopped at her tracks when he spoke but continued to walk closer to his desk. "No. What are you doing here?" she hissed when she was close enough.
"I am a professor, Miss Weasley. I teach here. It's my job."
"Since the Headmistress appointed me," replied Draco. He raised his head and looked at Ginny directly.
"Why? And why didn't you tell me?" demanded Ginny, standing to her full height, crossing her arms across her chest.
Draco smirked. Then he chuckled. Which infuriated Ginny a bit more. "Since when do I need to tell you what I do?"
"Since –" Ginny stopped short. She didn't know how to answer that. She knew she had no right but she just had to know. So she glared at Draco instead.
"See? You made it clear last year that we have nothing to do with each other. So why should my teaching here become your business? Is it such a shock that I am here teaching?" said Draco.
"Yes!" Ginny gritted her teeth. "You're not supposed to teach DADA. You're good at Potions. If there's something you have to teach here, it's that. This is not your forte. This is Harry's forte!"
Draco stared at her curiously then cocked his head to one side. "So you didn't think I was any good at DADA?"
"No!" replied Ginny. "I mean – you are – ugh!" She sat down at one of the desks up front. "It's just a surprise Draco. Why, of all people, would you be the one teaching DADA when you're – you're –?"
"A known Death-Eater's son?" Draco finished for her. He stood up and stacked the books that were on his desk on the bookshelf. "Tell me one thing, Miss Weasley. How was the lesson today?"
Ginny sighed. She had to admit. It was good. Beyond good. A first since Lupin was teaching the subject. "It was pretty ok."
"Pretty ok? Was it hard? Were there any parts you didn't understand?" asked Draco, fixing the parchments on his desk.
Ginny shook her head and stared at the window looking over the Hogwarts grounds.
"How about the practical that we did after the lesson?"
"Ok! Ok! Everything about it was ok, ok? Happy? I just –" Ginny sighed again. "I just couldn't believe it." She stood up and walked towards the door. "I'm going to lunch." And walked out of the classroom.
Draco grinned to himself. "This year is going to be interesting."
September 5th, Auror Department, Ministry of Magic
Harry walked briskly to his superior's office. He was running late for a meeting with him. He was about to be assigned a new assignment and he really just needed this to get his mind off things.
"You're late, Potter," Head Auror Anderson said once Harry entered his office. "Sit down."
"I'm sorry, Sir. I came here as fast as –"
"I know you did," he replied, stopping Harry mid-sentence. Anderson walked to his set of drawers and pulled a set of parchments. He dropped them on his table, in front of Harry. "Your new assignment. Williamson will head you on this. You'll be the next Auror in line, assisting him. I need you to do some research and tell Williamson to show me a possible plan for your team before heading out. Read it then come back to me. Understand?" Harry nodded. "You're free to go."
Harry picked up the parchments, cocked his head slightly to his superior, which Anderson returned, and walked out of his boss' office. He quietly closed the door and started to browse through the assignment he was about to do.
"Possible Death Eater sighting at Scotland? I hope that's not near Hogwarts. Research is in order then," he said to himself as he walked to his desk.
"Hey, Potter!" Jack Brady, one of the Aurors from across the room shouted. "New assignment?" he asked as he approached Harry.
"Yeah," Harry replied. He took his seat and started browsing through the parchments Anderson gave him.
Jack looked over his shoulder to read a little and shook his head. "Death Eaters. You always get the hard assignments. Robards didn't use to give that kind of assignment to newbies, so to speak. Williamson heading you on this?"
Harry didn't reply. He just merely nodded his head. "Who else is going to be on your team for this?"
Harry shrugged. "I don't know yet. I'll have to study this one out first and make plans with Williamson. I'll be assisting him as per Anderson. Then as usual, have Anderson go over everything before heading out."
"Anderson gives you his full trust on this, Harry. That much I can see. If you're not one of the new Aurors on board here, I bet he would have let you lead the team. He doesn't give us the Death Eater assignments. Must be nice to be The Harry Potter, huh?" said Jack, a hint of jealousy in his voice.
Harry cringed inwardly. He hated that. If he could only be as normal as other people, he would gladly trade his life he had now for that. He stood up and gathered the parchments. "I have to go, Jack. I've got to do research. We need to hand this in this afternoon and I still have to go over things with Williamson. I think it would be best if we are to head out tomorrow."
Jack nodded. "Good luck, Potter."
Luck. It wasn't what Harry needed. But right at that moment, he probably did.
(A/N: Sorry this is so late, you guys. Hope you didn't give up on me yet. Thanks once more to my beloved beta, Lady Starlight. You're simply the best!)