January 2013 note: Just to save everyone a little time - this fic is a bit of a soap. It's meant to be a bit of a soap. If you do not enjoy constant misunderstandings and obtuse teens, then this is probably not something you'll enjoy reading. If you do not like it when Draco isn't immediately forgiven for years of abusive behaviour, then very few of my stories will please you. Oh, and yes, there are some pissed off A/Ns on this story. I had some extremely rude people bugging me. Just skip them. I don't think any of my A/Ns are relevant at this point in time.
I am extremely gratified that this story is still getting reviews and favourites, and I do read the reviews in full. However, if you'd like a reply, try contacting me on Twitter or Tumblr. I don't really log in here much these days. :)
All right, this is new territory for me. Never did a 7th year AU before and never tried managing as many characters as I try to manage in this one. Be gentle. :)
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The seventh years were having Charms. Most subjects saw a dwindling in amount of students taking them in the sixth year, and even more so as a few realized they had taken on too much and dropped it in seventh year. That wasn't exactly the case here. Twenty-five students from all four houses had chosen to stick with this particular subject, which actually made the class larger than in previous years. It was the last class of the day and it was Friday, so most students were feeling restless. Most, but not all.
Hermione's hand shot up. "Wendelin the Weird was burnt at the stake 47 times, Sir!" she eagerly responded to the teacher.
There were a few moans and grumbles from her classmates and she looked over her shoulder frowning. She didn't understand these displays that were happening more and more frequently whenever she answered a question. There was a snort, and her eyes flew to the culprit. It was Draco Malfoy, of course, meeting her eyes with his very own derisive gaze. Her frown deepened. Well, at least he had always been like that.
"Err, yes, Miss Granger," Professor Flitwick said in his usual amiable voice. "And how did she survive this?" He looked expectantly at the class, who, for the most part just, stared blankly back. Someone coughed. He sighed. "Miss Granger?" The class groaned again and he leveled a stern look in their direction.
"With a Flame-Freezing Charm, Sir," she responded, mostly unperturbed by everyone's reactions, but kicking Ron hard under the desk as he, too, rolled his eyes and muttered something. Really, he was supposed to be her friend.
"Correct," the Professor replied and then continued to show them how to freeze the flames while Ron's eyes teared up and he bent to rub his shin. Behind him, Mandy Brocklehurst from Ravenclaw was giggling.
Soon after, the class was busy trying to freeze their own flames. Hermione, of course, got it right in but a few tries and was smirking to herself as she was running her hand through the flames and feeling nothing but warm, comfortable air.
"Very good, Miss Granger," Professor Flitwick praised and Hermione's smirk widened to a beam.
"Very good, Miss Granger," someone imitated as soon as Flitwick was out of earshot and there was a burst of giggles. Hermione ignored them.
"Oi, Granger!" Malfoy called from where he was standing near the others from his house. "Mind stepping into my flames to see if I've got this right?" There was laughing again.
Hermione glared at him, but he only smirked and turned to talk to Zabini, who was still chuckling, and Nott, who was valiantly trying to hide a smile. Professor Flitwick had chosen to hear the request as a legitimate one and was rushing to check out Malfoy's flame, which, to Hermione's great annoyance, was, indeed, frozen correctly.
Harry and Ron were making an effort to help each other and even though Hermione wouldn't mind helping Harry, she was still sore with Ron, so she turned to help Neville instead. She gained a perverse satisfaction when he succeeded before Ron did. Harry had managed to do fine on his own, but Ron was really struggling and he was holding his wand all wrong.
Hermione deliberately turned her back on him and glanced back at the Slytherin group, where most of them were now just talking. Only one of them hadn't gotten it right by now: Daphne Greengrass, a comparably unremarkable girl, considering some of the egomaniacs residing in her house. Daphne let out a frustrated sound and Zabini moved to help her. Before he could get to her, though, Malfoy had waved him off and he went to the girl himself, placing one hand on her wrist and one hand on her waist, pulling her close. She wasn't a very tall girl and her head only reached his chin. He winked lewdly at his friends and bent to whisper in the girl's ear. She blushed and Hermione narrowed her eyes, appalled at Malfoy's behavior. Word had it that he was going with Pansy Parkinson, who, conveniently enough, had not taken Charms, and this was how he behaved? Before Hermione had a chance to voice her opinion, however, Daphne had flicked her wand and was squealing with glee over the charm being successful, and Malfoy had let her go and had gone over to talk to his friends again.
Hermione rolled her eyes and turned back to her own friends, only to yelp in surprise as Ron's fire burst high enough to lick the ceiling with its sweltering heat. Hermione took a few steps backwards, slowly shaking her head, unable to comprehend how any try at a Flame-Freezing Charm could do that, and she heard people whooping and cheering at Ron, whose face now resembled a tomato in its coloring. Flitwick hurried over to get the fire under control, admonished Ron to be more careful and practice some more, and then he dismissed the class with a resigned shake of his head.
Just another Friday afternoon.
Hermione quickly got her bag and began filing out with the others. She had a meeting with the headmaster and the Head Boy in just half an hour and she'd like to get to her room and get out of her work-robes before that.
"What did you say to her?" Zabini was asking Malfoy a few steps in front of her as everyone was filing down the corridor. "I've never seen her blush like that."
Malfoy chuckled. "I was just teaching her something about Charms."
Hermione couldn't hold back a snort, which they obviously heard, because both boys turned to look at her. Cool brown eyes in a dark face crowned by black hair and arrogant grey eyes in a pale face under slicked back blond hair. The physical differences between the two boys really were uncanny, but as for any other differences – they were both Slytherin to the core.
"Hard to teach something you don't know, Malfoy," she scathingly commented.
His eyebrows went up. "And… you do?" he asked. "Is that why you're so popular with the boys, Granger?" Both he and Zabini began laughing at this and they turned and left without waiting for her answer.
Of course, she didn't really have an answer. Nothing that would put him in his place, anyway. She wasn't very popular with the boys. She generally put it down to her not being a very girly girl and boys her age being intimidated by her brains, but trust them not to get that.
She was scowling in their general direction when Harry and Ron caught up with her.
"What's the rush?" Ron asked, having seemingly forgotten their little skirmish in class. Hermione decided to let it go as well. After all, she had gotten in a really good kick.
"I have to hurry back and change; I have a meeting in…" She checked her watch. "25 minutes." She sped up her pace.
"Oh, yeah," Harry said. "How's Head Girl working out? It's been a month, any casualties yet?"
Hermione shrugged. "It's going fine."
"I still can't believe that they made a Slytherin Head Boy," Ron grumbled.
Hermione's eyebrows went up and she shot Ron and amused glance. "Oh, yeah? Who else would be Head Boy? You?" She couldn't hold back a less than flattering giggle and Ron scowled at her.
"Or Harry! He hasn't got too much on his plate this year! It's not required to be a Prefect first, you know. He wasn't both years, either, I'll have you remember!"
Harry shook his head. "Count me out," he said. "I'm perfectly happy being Quidditch Captain and having actual free time."
"Then what about Ernie Macmillan," Ron insisted. "He's got… Head Boy qualities."
"You can't be serious!" Hermione shrieked. "Ernie's so pompous and you'd have me work with him all year?"
"She's got a point, mate," Harry interjected. "It would be like Percy all over again."
"So, are you saying you actually like him?" Ron asked incredulously.
Hermione shook her head. "No, I don't. But I don't have to like him to think that he's right for the job. He's good at keeping the Slytherins in check and he's really decent to most other students – oh, don't look at me like that, Ron – he is. It's mostly the three of us that the Slytherins don't like and that's because, well…"
"Because I'm The Boy Who Lived and you are my friends," Harry coolly interjected. "And also because Hermione beats them in most classes," he hurried to add when Hermione was frowning slightly at him.
She sighed. It was true that the Slytherins didn't like having their thunder stolen by anyone, and Harry had certainly done his bit of thunder-stealing. His best friend being a Muggleborn who scored higher than any one of them in all the tests didn't help matters much, either. Lately, though, it had been as if there was something else, some other reason. Like, today, she distinctively noticed Megan Jones roll her eyes at Wayne Hopkins along with the rest of the class, and they'd then proceeded to whisper while shooting glances at her. They were both in Hufflepuff and unbiased by blood status, so she had no clue what she had done to deserve that from them. It stung a bit.
Bracing herself, she tamped these thoughts down. She wasn't the most popular girl in school, but she was Head Girl, so she had no time or reason for self pity. Reaching the Gryffindor common room, she hurriedly said goodbye to her friends before rushing up to her room, pulling off her robes, grabbing a jumper, and running a brush through her hair, before she sprinted down the stairs again. Six minutes to go.
Soon she was standing before the gargoyle on seventh floor, panting a bit. "Turkish delight," she said, checking her watch. Four minutes. She had made good time. The gargoyle leapt aside and Hermione braved the moving stairs and when she reached the door at the top of them, she straightened herself out before she politely knocked and waited until told to enter.
"Ahh, Miss Granger," Dumbledore was saying as she did so. "Right on time. But I see you've come alone." He gestured for her to sit down.
"Alone?" she asked, still a bit breathless and now confused, too.
"Yes, I was expecting the Head Boy, as well," he clarified.
"Oh! Well, I'm sure he'll be here in just a second. I had to hurry to make it and my dormitory is close, I'm sure it takes quite a bit longer if you have to go to… the… dungeons…" her voice faltered a bit as Dumbledore's somewhat amused gaze unnerved her.
"Always the spirit of fairness, I see, Miss Granger," he said, chuckling. "But the fact of the matter remains: He was given the same time as you, yes?"
Hermione was getting a bit uncomfortable. She didn't like being on the spot like this because the Head Boy couldn't be punctual. She wasn't his keeper for Merlin's sake! She squirmed in her seat, trying to think of what to say. After a few minutes, the silence became too much. "I, uhm, am sure he'll be here in just—"
There was a knock on the door.
"—a second," Hermione finished the thought on a relieved breath. Finally. She snuck a peek at her watch. In all fairness, he was only five minutes late.
"Enter!" Dumbledore called out and then gestured for the boy to sit down when he did.
"Granger," he mumbled as he took his seat.
"Nott," Hermione replied with barely a nod.
Theodore Nott wasn't actually that bad to work with apart from the unfortunate details that he disliked Muggleborns, although to his credit he didn't flaunt that fact, and that he was… well… Slytherin. Other than that, he was really just this quiet, stringy boy, who was as pale as Malfoy, but had brown, curly hair and dark, thoughtful eyes hidden behind glasses.
"I'm sorry I'm late, Professor Dumbledore," Nott said in his soft voice, offering no excuse. That was his way. He rarely said more than was called for and he assumed that if he needed to excuse himself, then he would be asked to do so.
"No matter, Mr. Nott, you're here now," Dumbledore said. "The reason why I wanted to see you both is because I've decided to make one small change. One that will benefit you both, I hope."
"Change, Sir?" Hermione asked.
Dumbledore smiled indulgently at her. "Yes, Miss Granger. You see, in the best of times, being Head Student is hard work. In these times, however, it may prove to be a close to insurmountable task. So I would like for each of you to appoint a Deputy. An assistant, if you like."
"But…" Hermione frowned. "Isn't that what the Prefects are for?"
"I'd prefer it if you chose a seventh year girl to help you, Miss Granger. She would be sharing your tasks and now, more than ever, it takes a good deal of maturity to shoulder these tasks."
"Is it because of You-Know-Who?" Nott quietly asked.
Hermione felt the need to swallow something constricting her throat. Most days she forgot that Nott's father had been one of the Death Eaters at the Department of Mysteries a little over a year ago. It just seemed so long ago, so unreal, and she had a hard time truly understanding that those masked men were the fathers of some of her classmates – no matter how much she might dislike those particular classmates.
"Yes, it is, Mr. Nott," Dumbledore replied a little sadly. "The war is taking its toll. In spite of what happened – and almost happened – here at the school last year, Hogwarts is still a safe place. But the students are still afraid. They are worried about their families and their future. Naturally, the teaching staff will always be available, but for most of the student body, talking to other students will probably be preferable to speaking to dry old teachers, don't you think? Each of you think of a candidate for a Deputy and come back to discuss it with me before too long."
With that they were dismissed and they both got up and left the headmaster's office. Hermione was deep in thought until they were on the other side of the gargoyle. With barely a glance in her direction, Nott turned to go down to the dungeons.
"Hey, Nott," Hermione said before he could take two steps. "Perhaps we should choose deputies from the other Houses? To be a little more accessible to the school at large?"
Nott just shrugged and walked on.
Hermione went the other way.
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