Author's Note – Welcome to Fire Dragon. I hope you enjoy this first chapter. You can expect an update every Friday. Remember to review when you're finished reading. I enjoy hearing what my readers think. Don't forget!

Another Note – This fanfic begins during fourth year. However, it is going to focus mainly on the Draco/Hermione aspect of the plot. That means, that while the canon events JKR created will be present, they may either be merely mentioned in passing or changed as time goes on. I expect to take this fanfic through seventh year, and possibly beyond. The chapter title "Antiquus Signum" means loosely "Ancient Runes" in Latin. Technically, "signum" means "sign," but I couldn't find the equivalent to "rune" in Latin, so "signum" will have to do.

Disclaimer - ::looks at self in mirror:: Nope, I'm definitely not JK Rowling. That means I don't own Harry Potter and all that that entails. It is merely my jungle gym where I go and twist things into funky shapes.

Enjoy!


Chapter One

"Antiquus Signum"


Hermione Granger sat at her house's table in the Great Hall Monday morning of the second week of school. The enchanted ceiling revealed a cloudless sky, spotted with flocks of migrating birds, and the sun shining brightly. Spellman's Syllabary, by Sheila Spellman, sat wide open before her, her finger easily gliding across the page as she read. Brushing a lock of curly, chestnut hair out of her eyes, she turned the aged and yellowed page. Picking up a piece of lightly buttered toast from the plate next to her right elbow, she munched on her breakfast as she soaked up the knowledge contained in the ancient book.

"Honestly, Hermione." Ron Weasley said, sitting down next to her. "Studying at breakfast." He shook his head, piling eggs and sausages onto his plate.

"Education is important, Ron," she said, paying more attention to the book than Ron.

"But it's only the second week of school," he said through a mouthful of eggs and toast.

She grimaced at him, flicking a speck of egg from the sleeve of her robes. "Yes," she said, "but next year is OWLs and I want to be prepared."

Ron's eyes bulged, his mouth hanging open, a half-chewed sausage visible. "OWLs?"

"Yes, OWLs," she said simply.

"But they aren't until the end of next year. Why are you worrying about them now?"

She slid him a look. "I like to be prepared."

"You're barmy," he said, staring at her openly.

"He has a point Mione," Harry said, sliding onto the bench beside Hermione. "The OWLs aren't until next year, and you're the smartest witch in our year. I think you'll be ok." Deftly, he reached over and expertly grabbed Spellman's Syllabary, removing it from the table.

"But-" she said, her hand following her book as it disappeared beneath the table.

"Nope," Harry said. "You are going to spend one breakfast without a book."

Narrowing her eyes, Hermione glared at Harry as he ignored her, grabbing a stack of toast. Then, giving up, she huffed quietly and returned to her own breakfast.

From the rafters above, the owls came, carrying letters and packages. One in particular soared down to Hermione, as one did everyday, and dropped an issue of the Daily Prophet beside her plate and waited, pecking at her toast.

"Just a moment," she said, leaning over and rummaging around in her bag, one hand gripping the edge of the table. Sitting back up, she dropped seven knuts into the leather bag tied to the owl's foot and watched as the owl swooped back up and disappeared. Opening the paper, she scanned the headlines, looking for anything interesting.

"Anything good?" Ron asked, leaning to read over Hermione's shoulder.

"No…" she said, flipping the page. "Oh, there's an article comparing and contrasting the curriculum in Wizarding schools and Muggle schools." Interest lit up in her eyes, and she began reading.

"Can I at least have the Quidditch section?"

"When I'm finished," she said, waving her hand dismissively at him.

"Come on, it's not like you're going to read it."

Sighing through her nose, Hermione quickly turned to the Quidditch section, giving it to Ron before returning to her article. Ron began excitedly chatting with Harry about some team or another, and she tuned them out.

The bell rang, the sound of which bonged heavily through the Great Hall. Students and teachers alike gathered up their belongings, shoving one last bite of toast or spoonful of eggs into their mouths before heading out. Hermione followed Harry and Ron, dismissing their Quidditch babble. Halfway to the Greenhouse Three, she stopped suddenly. Harry and Ron, sensing her pause, turned, looking at her questioningly.

"Harry, where's my book?" she asked, her eyes wide with worry.

"Your book?" He tilted his head to the side.

"Spellman's Syllabary," she said.

His face dawned with comprehension and then regret. "I'm sorry Mione. I forgot it; it's in the Great Hall," he said. "I'll go back with you and get it," he said, taking a few steps towards her.

She shook her head, already turning and jogging back to the castle. "No need," she said. "Just tell Professor Sprout that I'll be a few minutes late."

Harry shrugged his shoulders and turned around, walking the rest of the way to Greenhouse Three with Ron.

Hermione dashed across the lawn and up the stairs to the oak front doors, pushing them open with both arms and slipping inside. Running across the Entrance Hall, she crashed into another person, their legs becoming entangled, both falling to the ground.

"Watch where you're going, Granger," Draco Malfoy growled, his pale, blond hair in disarray and his eyes a wall of cold steel.

Hermione looked up in surprise and quickly extricated herself from the fuming Malfoy heir. Standing up, she brushed off her robes and watched as Draco go to his feet, sneering the entire time.

Running his hands along his clothing, he glared at her. "Filthy Mudblood," he shot out at her, his eyes cruel and awaiting her reaction.

"Really Malfoy," she said. "One would have thought you'd grown up by now." The scathing remark slid from her mouth easily, and before Draco could reply, Hermione turned on her heel and entered the Great Hall, letting the door slam behind her.


That afternoon, Hermione stood on the second floor waiting for the staircase to move, her foot tapping impatiently and her eyes checking her watch every few moments. Finally, with a sound like two stones grinding together, the stairs slowly moved from the third floor to the fifth floor. Blowing a strand of hair out of her face, she tightened the hold on her book under her arm and sprinted up the stairs. By the time she reached the Ancient Runes classroom, the late bell was trailing her, ringing mere seconds after she stepped into the small room. Professor Babbling, a middle-aged woman with long blond hair tied up into a bun, stood at the front of the room and set her eyes upon Hermione when she entered.

"Miss Granger, it would do you good to watch your time between classes," she said kindly. "Now, please take a seat, class has begun."

Nodding, Hermione apologized, redness creeping up her cheeks. Taking a deep, calming breath, she quickly scanned the classroom and sighed when the only open desk was next to Draco Malfoy. She took her seat next to him, ignoring the nasty looks he gave her, and took out her things, her eyes glued to the teacher as she took attendance.

When all students were accounted for, Professor Babbling grabbed a stack of copied parchments from the front desk. Starting at the row of desks furthest from Hermione, she counted them out, one for each student in the row.

"This is to be done in class," she said, giving a stack of five parchments to the person at the start of the row. "You may use your book and the person sitting next to you if you wish." The professor smiled, the students reacting pleasantly.

Receiving a stack of parchments from the professor, Hermione took one, passing the rest behind her, and began eagerly working.

Draco stared at his parchment and bit his lip, reading the first question.

1. What three-digit number do the runes below represent? Explain your answer.

Below the question, three tiles were drawn: a unicorn, a demiguise, and another unicorn. Studying the runes, he dipped his quill into his pot of ink and began writing.

The number would be 101. The unicorn, having only one horn, represents the number one, accounting for the first and last rune. The demiguise in the middle stands for the number zero for its ability to become invisible.

Diligently, Draco worked through the problems written out on the parchment. Reaching the end of the problems, he glanced up at the clock, noting ten minutes remaining, and read the last problem.

10. If one wanted to write the number 455, what runes would he/she use? Explain your reasoning.

Staring at the question for a moment, Draco bent over and stuck his hand into his bag sitting on the floor next to him, searching for his textbook. When his hand didn't brush against the thin, smooth cover of Ancient Runes Made Easy, he blew a sharp puff of air out of his mouth, rustling the hair hanging in his eyes. Returning to his proper position in the chair, he glared at his parchment as if it were to blame for his lack of a textbook.

Beside him, Hermione quietly worked on an extra credit assignment, having finished her in-class assignment five minutes ago. Hearing Draco's frustrated sigh, she glanced at him, seeing no textbook on his desk and the last problem on the parchment blank.

"If you want, you can use my book," she said, offering the book to him. "I'm finished."

He scowled at the book, his lip riding up in apparent disgust.

"Fine," she sighed, retracting the offer but paused when Draco thrust his pale hand out, his long fingers asking for the book.

She gave him the book, and Draco returned to his work.


That night, Hermione sat in the Common Room, going over the Potions essay she had written, checking it for grammar, punctuation, and proper spelling. Confident that everything was in order with her essay, she carefully rolled up the three-foot long length of parchment and tucked it into her bag, ready to be turned in tomorrow afternoon. That said and done, she set about beginning her Ancient Runes essay.

Rooting around in her bag, she searched for her textbook, and frowned when she didn't find it.

"Harry? Ron? Did either of you take my Ancient Runes text?" she asked of the two boys sitting by the fire playing Wizard Chess.

When both shook their heads, Hermione sat back, tapping her chin, and tried to think where she last had her book.

"Oh no!" She shot up out of her chair, the chair clattering noisily to the ground behind her. Draco still had her book.

"Mione, you ok?" Harry looked up from the chess board as Ron's bishop beheaded his pawn.

"What? Oh, yes," she said, righting the chair she had knocked over and stuffing her things into her bag.

"Where you going?" Ron asked as she slung her bag over her shoulder and began heading for the portrait.

"The library," she said. "I forgot something."

He nodded and returned his attention to the game as Hermione slipped out of the Common Room, holding the portrait open for a first year before stepping out. Once in the vacant hallway, she paused, shifting from one foot to the other, unsure of what to do. She couldn't very well search out the Slytherin Common Room. For one, only Slytherins knew its location; and two, entering their Common Room would be like walking into the enemy's hideout. Exhaling sharply, she pursed her lips, thinking.

Then, her eyes lighting up, she got an idea and headed down the corridor, the west tower her destination.

The Owlery, empty of any students, echoed softly with the Owls' hoots and rustling of wings. Wrinkling her nose at the acrid scent of owl droppings, Hermione penned a quick note on a spare piece of parchment.

You have my Ancient Runes text. I'd like it back, please.

-HG

Tying the note to the leg of one of the school owls, Hermione told it who to give the note to, and watched as the bird launched off of its perch, swooping out of the Owlery.


The next morning, as Hermione dug hungrily into a bowl of oatmeal topped with raisins, the owls made their appearance, soaring around the Great Hall. Setting her spoon down, she looked up expectantly as a brown and white speckled school owl glided effortlessly towards her. Seeing her book clutched in its claws, she smiled, and reached out to take it from his grip. Expecting the owl to arc back up to the rafters and exit the Great Hall, Hermione gasped as the owl landed beside her bowl of oatmeal, dipping his beak into her glass of pumpkin juice, and gave her a soft hoot. Cocking her head to the side and staring curiously at the owl, Hermione opened her book, and paused, her mouth formed into a small circle, as a folded parchment drifted to the table. Grabbing it quickly, she tucked it into her hand.

"Who gave you the book, Hermione?" Ron asked, leaning over across Harry.

"Oh…um, just somebody who borrowed it yesterday," she said, opening the parchment in her lap.

Mudblood,

Here's your filthy book back.

-DM

Rolling her eyes, Hermione tore off a section of the parchment and scribbled a reply. Affixing the reply to the owl's foot, he took off through the Great Hall, blending with the other owls still flying about.

Circling the area where Draco sat, the owl dropped the parchment before the blond boy, the folded note landing in the butter dish. Sneering, Draco picked up the reply, holding it carefully between his index finger and thumb as if it carried a disease, and read it, frowning.

Thank you.

-HG