Author's Note: ...heh... well, hey guys!!! Here I am! I feel super bad for not having anything to post for a while. I went through a sort of writer's block with this story... which I'm still in, but I DO plan on continuing this story. I will finish it, I promise! The chapters just might come a little slowly for a while... and for that, I'm sorry. Thank you again for all of your wonderful reviews, and I really hope you like chapter 17. It took me a LONG time to write!
Time For a Change
By: Lori Finnegan
Since Professor Snape had given their potions exam several days earlier, the sixth year class was stuck studying the next unit on their last day before Christmas Break. So while Snape busied himself in his personal potion closet next to desk, the students were expected to answer questions from the back of chapter ten and write them on blank pieces of parchment.
Pansy was still feeling a little odd from the Quidditch game yesterday. It bothered her that her mind was obsessed with one stupid event that hadn't even happened on purpose. She glanced over at Hermione who was incessantly writing towards the bottom of her parchment since the top half was already filled with her tiny, neat handwriting.
She wanted so badly to talk to someone about her frustrations, but somehow, throughout school up until now, she had lacked a female friend. She certainly wasn't going to tell Draco, that was for sure.
"Psst," she hissed to Hermione, nudging her lightly.
Hermione looked over at her. "What?" she whispered.
"I want to talk to you about something," Pansy whispered back.
"Right now?" Hermione gave Pansy a look as if she were crazy. "During class?" She glanced over at Snape's desk to make sure he wasn't glaring at them.
Pansy leaned closer to Hermione as Snape closed the cabinet doors and turned around to face the class. "Meet me after class in the library. The usual spot."
Hermione nodded and then went back to her assignment. It wasn't as easy for Pansy as her thoughts trailed right back to where they were before their conversation had started. Reluctantly, she lowered her eyes back to her text book and tried to concentrate on the essay questions.
Draco was still feeling depressed about spending a whole two week vacation alone at school with Arithmancy with Granger as his only preoccupation. He wasn't trying to listen in on other people's conversations, but when he heard Pansy trying to converse with Granger, his ears immediately perked up. At first he assumed she was asking for help on a question, but as he leaned forward in his seat, listening hard, he realized that this was not the case.
They were meeting in the library after class? The usual spot?
What the hell?
He leaned back into his seat and attempted to take everything in slowly.
It wasn't working.
'The usual spot?' he thought again. What in the world did that mean? Like they had been meeting before, or something?
He crossed his arms over his chest in frustration as he stared down at the backs of their heads. Well, there was only one thing he could do about this... he would have to follow them into the library and find out exactly what this little meeting was regarding.
At exactly two o'clock, Draco shoved his things into his backpack, pushed past some Slytherins that sat near the front and slapped his assignment onto Snape's desk. He was out of the room even before the Gryffindors, and luckily, it was passing time, and he found good cover behind a fourth year with a giant backpack. So when Pansy and Granger emerged from the room, one after the other, Draco stayed back and followed them all the way to the library.
He watched as they took a seat at a table on the third floor in the corner of the room. In order to not be seen, he crept behind the shelf next to their table and sat down on the floor by the wall, pulling out a book and pretending to read it so no one passing by would be suspicious.
Through a slit between the books, he could see Granger sitting down at the table across from Pansy. "So, what is it?" she asked.
Draco pulled his knees up and rested the book on them as he leaned towards the bookshelf, trying to get a better view through the books. He could only see Pansy's face from where he was sitting, and the back of Granger's head.
"I thought I should tell you about something," Pansy said, and by the look on her face, it seemed to be something serious. Draco wondered what it was that she could tell Granger the mudblood about but couldn't tell him. "It has to do with..."
"What the hell are you doing sitting on the floor?"
Draco jumped and looked up at Weasley who stood in front of him.
"I would have thought Malfloys were too good to sit on the dirty floor," he said. "But I guess I was wrong."
"Bugger off, Weasel," Draco told him. "Who invited you to interrupt my studying?"
Weasley stared at him for a moment. "You're in my way," he said. "You could at least move over. I'm looking for a book in the section you decided to sit in front of."
Draco glared back at him. "It's too bad I was here first," he said. "Now, bugger off, already!"
"You don't own this library," Weasley countered.
"Doesn't matter. I'm not moving."
The two of them stared at each other, neither one willing to budge, until Potter walked up behind Weasley and caused him to turn his head away. "I was wondering what was taking so long," Potter said. "Get out of the way, Malfoy."
"Or what?" Draco snarled. "I was here first. Get lost."
"Get the hell up, Malfoy," Weasley said again. At that point, Draco had caught a glimpse through the books and noticed that Granger and Pansy were no longer sitting at the table.
Furious, he stood up and pushed past both boys without an explanation. And as much as he hated to do as he was told, especially by Weasley and Potter, he had to find out where Pansy and her new friend had gone off to.
"That was a close one," Hermione said. The two of them had relocated to the third floor of the library when they had heard some sort of fight between their friends in the isle next to their table. "Can you imagine if they heard us talking?"
Pansy gulped. Yeah, she could imagine. It would have been really bad if all three guys had her confession. She nodded as Hermione held the door to the restricted section open for her. Turns out, Madam Pince had given Hermione a permanent pass due to her constant intense studying. Pansy guessed that it would probably get annoying being asked for a pass almost every single day.
Within the restricted section, it was dim and completely quiet. They sat down in a table at the far end and propped their backpacks up against their chairs.
"I wanted to talk to you about something," Pansy said again once they were settled. "I don't have any girl friends to talk to, so I guess you come the closest to fitting into that category."
"What's going on?" Hermione leaned forward, looking interested in what Pansy had to say.
Pansy took a deep breath. "It's Ron and Harry."
Hermione blinked at her. "What about them?"
"Things... kinda happened..." she admitted, looking away from Hermione. "Remember when I told you that Harry kinda... admitted his feelings to you? Well, he wasn't really the only one who had feelings."
"Are you saying that you have feelings for Harry?" Hermione whispered in shock.
"I didn't mean to," Pansy replied. "It just sorta... happened. But that's not all."
Hermione stared at her.
"Now I'm starting to think I might have feelings for Ron, too."
"What!?" Hermione exclaimed. "Both of them? But... are you forgetting they don't even know we switched places? How is this ever going to work?"
Pansy looked away from her once again. "You're right... and I know that," she said. "I just had to tell someone. You're the only one who would understand, really."
Hermione took her hand and squeezed it. "Crushes are hard," she said in a voice that sounded like she had experience. "And sometimes there's nothing you can do about them."
"This sounds like a lecture," Pansy sighed.
"No," Hermione told her. "Just something I've learned."
Pansy smiled at Hermione and squeezed her hand back. "Well, I feel better now that I've told someone. Now all that you've gotta do is just promise not to tell the whole school."
"No problem," Hermione smiled back.
"Excuse me, Mr Malfoy," Madam Pince asked as Draco stopped dead in his tracks. He had been looking down each long row of books on the first floor of the library when she had stopped him. "What exactly is it that you're doing."
"Looking for someone," he muttered. "You haven't happened to see Pansy Parkinson, have you?"
Madam Pince looked at him for a second without saying anything. "I should say not. Fifth period started ten minutes ago. My guess is that she's in class with all of the other students... except you, apparently, Mr Malfoy."
Draco cursed under his breath and then rushed away from Madam Pince, hoping she hadn't heard him. But by the time he was out in the hallway and racing to get to Herbology before Professor Sprout locked the greenhouse door, he didn't even care. All he cared about was that he had missed Pansy and Granger's whole secret conversation because Potter and Weasley had gotten into his space.
It was hard to imagine what the two of them would have in common, but with all of Pansy's odd behavior lately, nothing about her really surprised him anymore. It was just hard to place Granger into that picture. First she had burst into the Slytherin Common Room, later he found her alone in the secret dungeon hiding place that he had previously thought that only he and Pansy had known about, and then later he caught her staring at him in the middle of Care of Magical Creatures.
Now, it wasn't uncommon for Granger to look at him every now and then, but before it had been glares, or looks of contempt. No look she had ever given him before had been like the one he had received the other day. Instead of glaring, she had been looking at him thoughtfully.
A little too thoughtfully for his liking, that was for sure. The whole idea made him completely uncomfortable.
He pushed open the greenhouse door and took his seat next to Blaise as quietly as he could without disrupting the class.
"Where were you?" Blaise leaned over and whispered.
"Something is going on, like I told you before," Draco whispered back. "And call me crazy, but I think it has to do with Granger."
"Granger? Hermione Granger?"
"Shh!" Draco hissed, looking over at the Gryffindor side of the room just in case someone had been listening in. "And yes. I overheard Pansy talking to her in Potions and after class they met up in the library. Unfortunately, Potter and Weasley were there, too, and I wasn't able to hear their conversation."
Blaise gave him a small smile. "Draco," he said. "Maybe you're acting a little paranoid over this whole Pansy thing. I mean, why in the world would she be up to something with Hermione Granger?"
"I'm just telling you what I saw," Draco insisted.
"But they are potions partners. Have you stopped to think that maybe they were talking about class stuff?"
Draco thought for a second. "There's no way that conversation was about Potions," he decided. "And think what you want to think, Blaise, but I'm going to get to the bottom of this. It's just too bad today's the last day before break."
Suddenly Draco sat up in his seat and smiled at the ugly brown plant in front of him. He had almost forgotten that he'd be spending part of the break working on an Arithmancy project with Granger... Perhaps the break wouldn't be such a waste after all.
Blaise stared at him. "Uh oh," he muttered. "I know that look..."
"Ugh!" Ron groaned as the creature sprayed water into his face. He wiped it away with his sleeve just in time for the thing to jump into his lap. "This stupid thing!" he exclaimed. "What is it doing to me?"
Pansy giggled as it nuzzled up to Ron. "I think you found a new pet," she told him. "Hope your roommates don't mind."
"I suspect they will," Ron speculated as he tried to pry the thing away from himself and back into its cage. Once it was back inside and the lock was securely fastened, Ron began picking white hair from his sweater. "It sheds like mad!"
Pansy helped him to pick the hairs from his sweaters, but when she looked over his shoulder, she could see a set of silver eyes narrowed in their direction. She knew Draco had a problem with Ron, but this was ridiculous. I mean, it had been Hagrid who had paired them, after all. So, she simply looked away from him and put her nose in the air. She wasn't going to let him get to her.
"Thanks," Ron said, blushing when they had gotten most of the hair off of him. "I guess that's a no for a new pet then..." he concluded.
"Alright, folks," Hagrid announced, clapping his hands several times so that the students would pay attention. "Get yer creatures back inta their cages. I'm lettin' ya out early because a the holiday."
Several cheers sounded out and Pansy noticed a few of their classmates taking off towards the castle. Before she knew it, it was only she and Ron sitting on the cement in front of the cages.
"If ya won't mind, Ron, would you an' Miss Parkinson help nab up the critters?" Hagrid asked as he grabbed two at a time near the Gryffindor side of the class area and gently put them into their separate cages.
"Sure," Ron nodded, springing to his feet and walking over to try and coax more creatures into their cages. "It's okay little guy," he said, holding his hand out. "Come to Ron."
Pansy stood and watched as the creature timidly walked up to Ron and allowed him to pick it up. She couldn't believe he was so good with animals. She never would have guessed it before. It was then that her mind went back to yesterday afternoon... and she remembered the kiss that she had planted on the corner of his mouth. Though, it wasn't as though she had forgotten. Such a kiss wasn't easy to forget.
"You okay, Pansy?"
Pansy blinked her eyes and realized that Ron and Hagrid had gathered the rest of the creatures. "I'm fine," she said, watching as Hagrid waved to them as he walked back to his hut. "Just thinking about going home," she lied.
"Oh," Ron said, looking away. "Yeah, two whole weeks at home, huh."
"Not really looking forward to it," she admitted. "But I do miss my mom. I just wish I had a more exciting family sometimes."
"We should trade or something," Ron said with a slight chuckle. "My family is the exact opposite."
Pansy smiled at him and then began walking towards the castle, looking back at him. "I better get my things together. You coming?"
"Yeah," Ron agreed, following her up the hill.
It was at the top of the hill and near the entrance to the castle where they stopped to look at each other. Pansy knew that once they went inside, she'd go one way and he'd go the other... and she'd be left for two whole weeks to contemplate her feelings. So, with one quick look around, making sure that no one would see, she leaned in towards him and placed a quick kiss right on his lips. And when she pulled away, he was staring at her, shocked.
"What was that for?" Ron wanted to know, his breath seemingly caught in his throat.
She said the first thing that came to her mind. "I won't see you for two weeks."
"So, you just... kissed me?"
"Look," she said, getting a little pissed off at his reaction. "Don't make such a big deal out of it."
Ron stared at her for a moment. "Well, what am I supposed to think?"
"Maybe that you're my friend?" she shot back at him. "Have you thought that?"
He continued to stare at her, his face turning a slightly deeper shade of red. "I've never kissed Hermione like that," he said. "Or at all, actually."
"Hermione is a prude," Pansy decided. "Most girls like to show their feelings."
"I guess I don't know that many girls," Ron muttered.
"You probably don't," she agreed. "Anyway, like I said, I have to go pack. I hope you have a happy Christmas, Ron."
But before she could go, he leaned back in and pressed his lips to hers just one more time. "Happy Christmas to you, too, Pansy."
Draco's fingers clutched the side of the tree that he stood behind. When he finally removed them, he noticed small drops of blood dripping onto the snow.
The whole side of the castle was deserted. He was the only one left. But it wouldn't have mattered anyway. After he had seen Pansy lean in and kiss Weasley, he wasn't all that interested in who saw him anyway.
He shoved his hand into the pocket of his robes and walked back to the school. At least now he knew what Pansy had been hiding.
Hermione wrapped her arms tightly around Ron, and then Harry, pulling back and grinning at them both. "You guys have a good Christmas," she told them, sincerely. "Go eat lots of Mrs Weasley's food and send me some of that homemade candy she always makes, too."
"Will do, Hermione," Harry promised. "But you have to promise to send us an owl if you're going crazy here by yourself."
"I'll write often," she told him. "Now, go on, or you'll miss the train!"
"Happy Christmas, Hermione," Ron said before picking up his things and then following Harry to the portrait hole. "See you in a bit, okay?"
"Okay, Ron," Hermione replied giving them a wave. "Happy Christmas, boys."
By the time Draco got back to the Slytherin Common Room, it was almost completely empty. There was one Slytherin boy listening to music by the fireplace and no trace of Pansy Parkinson. He walked through the room and went to the back hallway where he knew he could see over the fields. As he leaned against the window sill and peered out, it, too, was empty.
And that's when the loneliness set in.
Not only had his family abandoned him, but so had his best friend. He couldn't understand why Pansy would be attracted to someone like Weasley, but either way, the idea of her kissing anyone one else other than himself stung him from the inside out.
Angry at himself and the world, he tore away from the window sill and went straight to his dormitory. Even if someone had been looking for him that night, he wouldn't have come out for anything.
But no one came.
The next morning, Hermione woke bright and early, ready to start on her Arithmancy project, but no matter where she looked, she couldn't find Draco. He hadn't been at breakfast and even though she often saw him studying by himself in the library, he wasn't there either.
Then again, it was a Saturday morning. Perhaps he was still sleeping. So, she waited until eleven and then went to the Slytherin Common Room. Figuring she shouldn't just go barging in, as Pansy had done so nicely before in her body, Hermione knocked politely.
"Hello..." she called. "Anyone around?"
"Haven't you had enough of your trespassing?" The portrait that guarded the opening asked her. "I've heard wild stories about you."
Hermione looked right back at it. "I'm not sure it's any of your business," she said, and then knocked again, this time a little bit harder. "Are you in there, Malfoy?"
The door swung open so quickly that she jumped back in surprise. But the Draco Malfoy that she saw standing in front of her was not quite the Draco that she had remembered. There were dark circles around his eyes and his hair was messier than she had ever seen it before. And all he had on was a white t-shirt and green pajama pants.
"Can I help you with something, Granger?" he asked. "Quickly, preferably."
Hermione felt her cheeks heat up at the sight of his pajamas. "Well," she said, looking away from him. "I was thinking that since I only have a week here, we should probably get started on our Arithmancy project early."
Draco stared at her for a moment. "Do you realize what time it is?" he finally spoke. "Not all of us are bright and chipper in the morning as you seem to be."
"I'm sorry," Hermione said quickly. "Well, why don't you meet me in the library later. What time do you think you'd be... more bright and chipper?"
"Eleven o'clock," Draco told her. "Now, if you don't mind..." He didn't give her a chance to reply before he slammed the door in her face.
After Hermione had recovered from his sudden departure, she shrugged and made her way to the library. Just because Draco needed a little extra beauty sleep than she did, didn't mean she shouldn't get started on the project.
Draco, oddly curious of what a vacation studying with Hermione Granger would be like, kicked off his covers and sat up in bed, brushing his hair away from his eyes. Besides, his number one goal was to find out what was going on not only with Granger and Pansy... but now he wanted to know more about Weasley. Draco didn't know who the hell Weasley thought he was, putting his hands all over Pansy, but the next time he saw the man, he wouldn't be surprised if Weasley were to end up hexed.
He stretched, yawning loudly, and then threw on some clothes. With one quick glance in the mirror to make sure his hair looked okay, he left the room and started for the library. And it didn't take long for him to arrive; his strides were long as he walked down the halls of Hogwarts.
He paused, right as he reached the library, and then went in quickly, determined. When he saw Granger sitting on the first floor at a table directly in the middle of the room, he walked over to her and plopped his Arithmancy books down in front of her. "Here at your beck and call, Granger," he said, flashing her a smile, but not letting it stick too long. "As if. Now, let's get this over with so that I can actually do something decent over break."
Granger chuckled into her coffee. "Does it involve brushing your hair in front of the mirror for hours?" she suggested. "Or perhaps you enjoy staring at your reflection down by the lake instead."
Draco stuck his bottom lip out at her. "Are you implying that I'm self centered?" he demanded.
"I'm afraid I don't need to imply something that's blatantly obvious," she said, setting down her coffee cup and flipping through the book in front of her.
Draco reluctantly sat down across from her at the table and folded his arms over his chest. "I should have protested," he mumbled.
"I said," Draco said, raising his voice slightly so she could hear, "when Professor Vector paired us together for this project, I should have protested. I guess I wasn't thinking quite clearly."
"Whatever," Granger replied, waving him off with her hand. "Open your book and show me your notes."
"Sure," he relented, shoving them in her direction. "Let's get this over with. You take one part, and I'll take the other. Then we'll meet in a week to put it all together. Deal?"
She looked up at him slowly. "How about we assign topics to work on tonight, and then we meet again tomorrow morning to go over them?"
Draco glared at her slight smile, but the more he stared at her, the less angry he felt. There was something about the look on her face right that that seemed not only very non-Granger like, but also very familiar. He just... couldn't quite place it.
Granger passed his notes back to him. "What are you staring at, Malfoy?" she wanted to know. "I would think after sleeping so late, you'd be a little less out of it."
He quickly blinked his eyes and then narrowed them at her. "That I'd like to get out of here, if you don't mind," he told her. "So, please tell me my topic so that I can get the hell out of here."
Granger rolled her eyes and flipped his book open. "Here you go," she said, pointing a slender finger at the first page of the fifth chapter, shoved it towards him and then began packing her things up. "Meet me here tomorrow at eleven to go over everything."
Draco bended the corner of the page over, closed it, and shoved it into his own bag before looking up at her briefly as she pushed in her chair and then walked away from their table without saying goodbye.
He stopped at the kitchen and grabbed a bag lunch... or breakfast, in his case, before returning to the Slytherin Common Room. He took a lonely seat in front of the fireplace before spreading out his sandwich and pumpkin juice and then opening his Arithmancy book. As he took bites of his sandwich, he poured over the information on the topic that Granger had assigned to him.
It was actually quite interesting, he thought as he scribbled down some notes on the margins of the text book. The numbers all added up to equal something of great significance... and it inspired him to keep going. He didn't want to admit it to bookworm Granger, but he was actually enjoying the assignment.
Not to mention the work kept his mind off of Pansy and her disgusting kiss with that muggle- loving Weasley twerp.
Hermione spent her time in the library, looking over her Arithmancy, as well... but her mind was clouded and she was having trouble concentrating. Draco's outward appearance towards her now was troubling... and it bothered her that he thought he had to put up such a horrible front in front of most everyone he came in contact with. She wondered if she could find a way to break through that shell and convince the real Draco to emerge.
It seemed almost impossible to do so, but Hermione had a week. Besides, the Draco she had come to know while she spent the short amount of time as a Slytherin was worth the work.
Ron shoved a forkful of homemade steak pie into his mouth and chewed rigorously. "This is the best, mum," he said, waving his fork at Mrs Weasley. "Seriously, the best."
Harry nodded in agreement, filling his own mouth the the delicious meat. Even though Hogwarts' food wasn't anything less than fantastic, there was nothing like Mrs Weasley's home cooking. Harry felt a little spoiled, even.
Ginny smiled at him from across the table, and Harry wiped the gravy from his mouth with his napkin.
"It's no trouble, boys," Mrs Weasley told them as she busied herself with picking up some dishes and then placed them into the sink. "I'm always glad to fill empty stomaches, that's what I always say, anyway."
"Top notch, is what I say!" Mr Weasley agreed from the head of a table as he shot a wink at his wife. "Top notch, as always!"
Mrs Weasley blushed lightly. "Thank you, dear," she said modestly and then took her own seat at the table. "So, boys... Ginny, how has Hogwarts been treating you? Lovely, I'd imagine. You've all grown at least an inch since we've last seen you."
Ron nodded, as his mouth was full, and Harry smiled at her.
"Seems to be just fine," Ginny spoke up since she was the only one who didn't have a mouthful of pie. "Lots of work, as always."
"Good, good," Mr Weasley said before taking a drink from his glass. "That Dumbledore always knows how to make sure everyone's learning... wonderful man, I say!"
The rest of the lunch conversation went smoothly and soon, Harry and Ron were walking up the stairs to Ron's room, chattering about the Holiday festivities that would surely be surrounding the Weasley household soon.
"You seem very happy," Harry pondered out loud as Ron flopped on his bed and pulled out some old Quidditch books.
Ron didn't look up at him. "Why wouldn't I be?" he asked. "It's Christmas, Harry! Who's not happy on Christmas?"
"That's not what I meant." Harry sat down on a cozy armchair that was next to the bed and pulled his legs over the arm of it. "You seem really happy... happier than you usually are... well, at this time of year."
Ron looked up at him briefly. "Oh?" he said slowly before shifting his gaze back down to the book. "What do you mean?"
"I can't really describe it," Harry told him. "But something's changed about you. Did I miss something?"
For a long moment, Ron didn't say anything. But just after it seemed that the silence was getting a little uncomfortable, he finally sat up to face Harry. "Let's just say... I met a girl."
Harry gaped at him. "A girl?" he practically gasped. "Who!?"
Ron averted his gaze once again, but this time, a little secret smile played upon his face. "It's probably best that I don't say anything for the time being," he muttered. "Until things are... you know, more official."
After Harry recovered from the shock of hearing about Ron and his secret girlfriend, he lowered his legs from the arm of the chair and sat up straight. "You're not going to tell me?" he exclaimed. "Your best friend!?"
"All in good time, Harry. All in good time."
Harry didn't know whether to be happy for his friend or pissed that he was missing out on the details. Then again, at least Ron finally told him about it... even though it was barely more than a morsel of information.
But what had stopped him from saying it sooner?
"She must be really ugly," Harry decided, trying his best not to break out into a grin. If there was one thing he knew, it was how to get under Ronald Weasley's skin. "If you don't want to tell me about her, you must be really embarrassed."
Ron's face turned a familiar color of red. "Oh, it's quite the opposite!" he assured his friend. "Let me tell you, she is anything but ugly!"
Harry laughed at him. "Whatever, Ron," he said. "You just keep telling yourself that."