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Transi de Froid
Part One: The Smyler ...
"The smyler with the knyf under the cloke"
Chaucer, Geoffrey (c. 1342 - 1400)
The Canterbury Tales, `The Knight's Tale', 1390
After the flurry of catch up clichés were out of the way; "How was your summer?" "Nice to see you again!" "God, you've grown!" "Spain? How very interesting!" and all the other things that returning students say to fill the first few days back at school had died away the atmosphere in the Gryffindor Common room became one of relaxed torpor. It would last only until the realisation that they were at school for a reason hit the students then activity would resume again.
"Where's Harry?" asked Hermione. She plonked herself down next to Ron and began to flick through the pages of a small book without really looking at the words. "He wanted me to look over his Astronomy homework."
"Cho," said Ron, "They're spending every spare minute together. It's nice not to have to look at Harry's ugly mug all the time," Hermione couldn't help thinking that Ron sounded a little resentful, term had only just begun and Harry's absence seemed to be bothering Ron, not that he'd ever admit it. Certainly Ron had been spending a lot more time in Hermione's company; it was quite unusual to see him so keen on hanging around in the library. Hermione quite liked it. Ron's face brightened, "You can look at mine if you like!"
"Pass it over." Hermione sighed, pleased to have something to do. She closed her book with a snap and dropped it flat on the floor. Meanwhile, Ron felt down the side of the cushion and pulled out a scroll that looked as though someone had sat on it; he handed it to Hermione.
"Big on presentation, aren't you," Hermione remarked as she unrolled his work. Hermione grimaced. "Are you sure you didn't just dip a spider in your inkwell and set it loose on here?" she asked turning the page upside down to see if it made any more sense that way up. Ron looked hurt.
"I don't know where they find the time," said Hermione, thoughtfully.
"Who?" asked Ron sticking out his lower lip in what Hermione assumed was an attempt to look a bit more fake sulky.
"Cho and Harry! When do they get time to work?"
"I reckon they've got more interesting things to do, Hermione." Hermione shook her head and made a choking sound.
Ron bit the head off a chocolate frog and hung one leg over the arm of his chair; he waved his foot backwards and forward, "You're just cheesed off about Vicki!" Ron said laughing.
"I am not!" Hermione protested a little too quickly, before admitting "Maybe a bit. It was different when he was here at Hogwarts, but all last year was just, well, weird … too much like hard work."
"Thought you liked hard work."
Hermione stuck out her tongue and clouted Ron with an overstuffed cushion.
"You still got enough O.W.L.'s to start a post office, should've heard my mum!" Ron held up his arm and began to open and close his hand as though he had lost his sock puppet; his voice was shrill and high pitched. "Why can't you be like that nice Hermione, at least Ginny has someone to set her the right example, bler, bler, bler, bler, bler!"
"She did not!" Hermione squealed.
"She did! She ran out of sensible older brothers to use against me. Reckon she thought you'd be a good substitute."
"Thanks Ron, I'm sure I'd make someone a great brother," Hermione shook her head and began to skim through Ron's work. Eventually she looked up and noticed Ron in his seat by the fireplace looking at her curiously. "You need to get out more, Ron," said Hermione peeping over the top of the parchment. "Go get yourself a girlfriend!"
"Hmm." Replied Ron as Hermione sank back beneath the page.
Quidditch trials were held during the second week of term down at the pitch on a warm, sunny Wednesday afternoon. A crowd of hopefuls gathered hoping to impress their house captains. As usual one or two of the more cocky first years turned up with borrowed brooms and as usual they failed to make the team.
Hermione wasn't interested in playing Quidditch but she was interested in seeing who the new members of the team would be. The team that had won the cup in the third and fifth years was no more. The Weasley twins had left the team without Beaters and the Chasers, Alicia Spinnet, Katie Bell and Angelina Johnson had gone the same year. Much to his delight Ron had been made Keeper at the start of his fifth year and to no-ones' great surprise Harry followed Oliver Wood as Captain. Hermione sat on the grass by the edge of the pitch resting against the empty crate that held the set of balls which were currently being chased, thrown and beaten and caught by an assortment of Gryffindors who approached the challenge with varying degrees of ineptitude.
"You sure you don't want to try?" asked Ron. He sat down on the crate and sucked in air through his teeth as a trio of would be Chasers dropped another Quaffle. "You can't be any worse than this bunch."
"Yeah Ron," said Hermione, sarcastically without looking up, "just pass me a broom. "To Hermione's horror that is exactly what Ron did. "No way!"
"Can't back out now, these are Quidditch trials, Hermione. If you're not trying out you shouldn't be here. School rules."
Hermione put down her book and snatched the broom from Ron's hand. She couldn't really argue with that.
"Alright then, where's the snitch." She said with mock aggression.
"Nah, I think you're more of a beater," Ron laughed waving a heavy bat at Hermione. "Catch!" he threw the bat, which landed on the grass at Hermione's feet. "Give the Bludger a whack then you can claim you tried out and you won't have to give yourself detention for being here."
"Ha ha, Ron," Hermione stooped and picked up the bat. She swung it in a wide arc, "Come over here a sec, Ron." She waved the bat threateningly in his direction.
"Stop time wasting and get on your broom," Ron said, laughing. Hermione cringed. Flying a broomstick with two hands was bad enough, trust Ron to make her try out in the most awkward way possible. Tucking the iron bound bat beneath her arm, Hermione mounted the broom and hovered a little way above the ground. When she was certain that she wasn't about to fall she tightened her knees and edged one hand off the shaft; finally she took the bat in her right hand.
"I've got us a new Beater here, Harry!" called Ron to Harry who stood a little way off talking quietly to a disappointed looking second year. Harry glanced up and grinned. Hermione went scarlet. She felt rather stupid perched awkwardly on the broom as she used the hand that held the bat to brush a strand of hair out of her eyes.
Hermione didn't notice Ron reach into the crate and release a Bludger; she was too busy watching the Ravenclaws who seemed to be having just as much trouble finding a team that knew which end of the pitch was which. Something large and dark whizzed past Hermione's head. She swerved clumsily only narrowly avoided knocking Ron off his feet.
A loud snort caught Hermione's attention. "Oh my God, you people must be desperate!" Draco Malfoy stood nearby sporting a wide grin he was looking directly at Hermione. Beside him stood Adrian Pucey the Captain of the Slytherin team.
"Just imagine it's his head, Hermione!" called Ron who seemed to be waiting for something then suddenly he cupped his hands around his mouth and yelled, "INCOMING!"
Hermione didn't need to think about it, she heard again the fast thhhrum then she swung the bat. THWUNK! The Bludger headed straight for Malfoy and Pucey. The Slytherins ducked then began to roar with laughter as Hermione overbalanced and toppled off the broom onto the grass. Hermione saw a pair of feet near her nose then Ron helped her get to her feet.
"Ignore them," Ron advised as Malfoy and Pucey continued to laugh. "Good aim though. I'd better go and catch that Bludger."
Hermione smiled weakly as she brushed grass from her school robes and watched Ron leap on to her abandoned broom and chase after the Bludger which had decided to give the Hufflepuffs some trouble. It was then that Hermione realised that Malfoy was still there.
"That just about made my day," he said, "It could only have been better if..."
"You alright, Hermione?" said Harry. He must have hurried over when he saw Malfoy.
"Yeah, I'm fine," Hermione replied. Hermione didn't like the way that Malfoy was eyeing her. It reminded her of the way she'd once caught Ron staring when he thought she wasn't looking; she liked being laughed at even less. Hermione glanced at Harry and winked. "Malfoy was just explaining that it might be possible to buy my way on to the team. Any chance, Harry?"
"'Fraid not," said Harry following Hermione's example. He reached out and took the bat from between Hermione's fingers. "Better luck next year, Hermione."
Malfoy raised one eyebrow. "Pity," he said, coldly, "I was looking forward to knocking her off her broom, not that she needs much help. Good luck, Potter," from anyone else it would have been a sporting thing to say, but anyone else would not have added, "You're going to need it!"
Hermione quickly forgot about that incident but a few days later she heard something that brought it flooding back.
"I can hardly believe it. Draco's finally flipped. Seriously Padma he just won't shut up about her!"
"No, I don't believe it! All that Mudblood stuff fake? No way, it's just so much part of him."
"He's not exactly happy about it, very traditional family. They'd prefer him to be gay than to hook up with someone like her."
The voices came from behind a bookcase.
Hermione was in the library at her usual desk near the window where the light was good for most of the day. She sat hunched over a book anxiously scribbling notes. Hermione paused and lifted her quill from the parchment.
Blaise Zabini and Padma Patil gossiping instead of working. Typical, Don't they care that it's only two days until the History test? Hermione was about to lay down her quill and tell them to shut up when she decided that waiting a few minutes couldn't do any harm. No one ever bothered to tell her gossip, not good old sensible Hermione, dependable Prefect and most likely Head Girl next year. Hermione had to pick these things up in passing or worse, wait until Harry or Ron told her! Somehow they always seemed to know what was going on round the school. Hermione could quote verbatim whole passages from 'Hogwarts. A History' and countless other dusty tomes but ask her a simple question about here and now and she was stumped.
"I'm telling you Pad it's all a front." Blaise continued. "Goyle told me and he would know, they share a dorm."
"But Hermione!" The Ravenclaw exclaimed. "He's so cute and she's so plain!"
Hermione's mouth fell open at the mention of her name. There was only one Hermione in Hogwarts and she was sitting right there in the library currently leaning closer and closer to the bookcase, straining her ears to hear better.
Of course, I shouldn't listen, thought Hermione, Eavesdropping is wrong. No one ever heard anything good about themselves this way... Well maybe just a little longer...
"Plain am I? Miss C grades!" She muttered angrily. "Oh, drat!"
Hermione saw that the tip of her quill was touching the page and a large ink blot had oozed out over her notes, she groaned, inwardly cursing herself for allowing them to distract her. Now she'd have to write the entire page again.
Summer had seemed determined to stay but eventually the warm days of autumn began to grow fewer and the yellowed leaves that had clung to the trees for so long began to fall. One particularly bright but chilly Thursday morning something very unusual happened to Hermione as she made her to Herbology.
Having sat up until three in the morning reading a most absorbing book about sponges, Hermione overslept. Hermione simply didn't do things like that. She grabbed her bag, which caught on the door handle as she dashed out of the dormitory. She thought heard a sound like stitches popping but Hermione didn't have time to worry about that. Hermione ran using every short cut she knew to get her down to the greenhouses quicker. She skidded to slow herself down then turned down the marble staircase. In her haste Hermione cannoned straight into another student who was making his way up the stairs.
There had been no time to stop; she hadn't even seen him. The first she knew about it was an impact rather like the one she had felt when she hit the Bludger at Malfoy and then they were falling down step after step to land in a tangled mess at the bottom. Already weakened Hermione's bag had split and books and parchment lay strewn everywhere. Hermione lay winded but strangely pleased that she had put an unbreakable charm on her inkpot.
A cold sardonic drawl met her ears. "You really should pay more attention to where you're going," it said. Why you of all people? Hermione thought as she turned her head to see Draco Malfoy who lay rather oddly across her arm with one of his legs still pointing up the stairs. There was dust all down one side of his black school robes. "You'll injure someone one of these days."
Hermione was astonished; she thought that of all people Malfoy would be one to scream and shout at anyone clumsy enough to bump into him let alone knock him down the stairs. Hermione struggled to pull her arm out from beneath him; he was rather heavy and he didn't seem about to help by doing anything useful like moving.
"I'm sorry," Hermione muttered, it was after all her fault. Aware that every minute made her later and later she got to her feet and began to pick up her things. Wand, book, another book, torn bag, book. She'd bumped her head as she fell and her arm hurt as she piled everything together, then she remembered Malfoy. Hermione supposed she ought to help him up or something. "Are you okay?" she asked turning back to where Malfoy was lying only he wasn't lying any more; he was standing and holding a broken quill held together by two thin strands of whatever feather shafts are made of in one hand. His other hand rubbed his hip.
"Ouch!" said Malfoy, with the merest hint of a smile, "You've given me the perfect excuse for skipping Transfiguration," his eyes seemed to be drawn to Hermione's broken quill.
"If you could give that back," said Hermione, sharply not liking the way he was so blasé about missing lessons, "I'm late for Herbology." She couldn't take the quill because the former contents of her bag were now in her arms, her inkpot and wand balanced on the top.
Malfoy's expression was thoughtful. Hermione watched as he twirled the broken feather between his fingers. "It's not going to be much use to you," he remarked as the two pieces split apart. He took one in each hand then placed them both on top of Hermione's pile of books.
Hermione didn't know what to say. What did he think he was doing, damaging her stuff? Malfoy appeared to be looking for something; he searched quickly through his robes then smiled. Malfoy brushed the pieces of Hermione's quill to the floor then he drew a something from within his robes; a long feather quill which he placed between her inkpot and her wand.
Puzzled, Hermione looked down. A silver nib was attached to one end of an ornate barrel while the other end secured a feather. The feather was curved, broad and coloured like dark amber. Her eyes flicked up to meet Malfoy's who was regarding her with a kind of amusement.
"I don't need it, I'm not going to class," he smiled inscrutably and Hermione wondered what was going on behind those eyes. Before she could say anything he'd gone down the narrow staircase to the dungeons.
Hermione simply stared at the space where he had been.
Ron was never going to believe it!
After the tragic events two years ago when Cedric Diggory had lost his life in the Tri-wizard tournament, Professor Dumbledore had worked at promoting a feeling of unity throughout the school. Knowing how much everyone had enjoyed the Yule Ball associated with that event, the Headmaster had arranged a less formal celebration for all the students just before the end of term. Last year's had been a tremendous success and this year's promised to be even more spectacular. Notices appeared around the school on Friday evening announcing the date and from then on it seemed to be the only topic on people's lips. Well, not quite the only topic.
Hermione had heard more and more about Malfoy's alleged change of heart toward Muggle borns but apart from that one incident on the stairs his attitude hadn't changed. If anything he was worse. It seemed to Hermione that he never missed an opportunity to cast a slur in her direction but Hermione did wonder ... "All a front" ... Blaise's words kept coming back to her.
Ridiculous, Hermione told herself. Absolutely ridiculous.
"Who you going to the dance with?" asked Lavender bouncing up behind Hermione as she walked to the great hall on Sunday morning.
"Oh, I dunno. Haven't really thought about it." The girls had shared a dormitory since they started at Hogwarts but they'd never become all that close. Still, that never deterred Lavender from asking inappropriate questions.
"They'll all be taken if you don't hurry."
Surprise, surprise. Hermione thought. Lavender's head is already stuffed full of pink frilly dresses, make up and spotty youths.
Hermione's eyes lifted to the far side of the hall where Malfoy and company were just coming up to breakfast. Lavender's eyes followed the path of Hermione's gaze. She smiled.
"You could do worse." She gushed, an almost dreamlike expression settling on her face.
"Yeah, I could go with Peeves." Hermione tore her eyes away from the Slytherin boys and glared at Lavender. "What is it with you people? It's only a dance. We have one every year, big deal!"
"So-rry, just that some of us like to think about things other than work every now and then. And there's extra points if you go with someone from another house; School unity and all that hogwash." Lavender's tone became low and conspiratorial. "I'll let you into a secret 'Mione. He fancies you."
"Who fancies me?" Hermione really didn't want to be having this conversation, she had a six foot essay to finish for Professor McGonagall on the correct procedure for transfiguring a Moose into a Hatstand and only two weeks to write it in; she didn't have time to worry about the dance.
"Draco Malfoy of course!" Exclaimed Lavender as if unable to believe that Hermione did not know. "Everyone's talking about it."
"I'm not." Replied Hermione sharply. Of course she'd heard the whispers. Heard and ignored them, just some malicious prank dreamt up by Malfoy's twisted immature little friends to make her look stupid. "Don't be an idiot Lavender. He hates me."
"I got it from Parvati, who got it from Padma, who got it from Blaise, who heard it from Goyle, who read his diary." Lavender stated as if that explained everything, "He's just embarrassed. I wouldn't be surprised if he asked you to go with him."
"Well, if he does don't be surprised if I turn him down." Hermione's lips thinned, narrow enough to rival McGonagall's at their most angry.
"Whatever." Lavender shook her head. There really was no helping some people.
The next Saturday, Gryffindor played Hufflepuff in the first match of the season. Hermione was seated at the front of the stands near the Gryffindor hoops; she could hear Dean and Seamus chatting nearby but she was happy enough watching the teams fly a circuit of the pitch before the match. Hermione was a little surprised to see Cho Chang, seventh year, Ravenclaw Seeker and Harry's girlfriend come over to her.
"Here to check out the opposition?" Hermione asked as Cho sat down.
"Did that a long time ago," Cho winked as Harry flew by, "Need to check out his form, Ravenclaw aren't playing Gryffindor for ages and ... ohh, he has got a nice technique hasn't he!" Cho said as Harry dived and swooped round the Hufflepuff Keeper.
"He's going to have such a hard job training that lot, it takes time to build a good team. I suppose Hufflepuff are a good warm up."
"Hmmm," agreed Hermione, she'd heard just about enough of Quidditch strategy to last her forever. Hermione's eyes were on Ron who knocked back Quaffle after Quaffle from the Gryffindor hoops. As play continued Hermione couldn't help but feel a little jealous of what they could do in the air but as always Hermione preferred to keep her feet planted firmly on the ground. The only method of flying Hermione was really comfortable with involved a pressurised steel tube weighing several tonnes complete with engines, wings and a pilot.
"Butterfingers!" yelled Hermione as the Quaffle slipped straight through Ron's hands and through the middle hoop; she couldn't imagine how he'd let that one past him. Ron replied with a rather rude gesture.
"Ow!" Cho exclaimed in sympathy as a Bludger thumped into Hannah Abbot's head, "Bet that hurt."
All in all it was an uneventful game. Twenty minutes into the match when the score still stood at Gryffindor nil, Hufflepuff Ten Harry caught the Snitch.
"That was hardly worth getting out of bed for," said Cho who smiled absently, her eyes followed Harry who weaved in and out of the goal posts before joining the rest of the team on the ground. "Think I'd better get down there!"
"See you!" Hermione thought that as the longest conversation she'd had with Cho since she started seeing Harry at the end of the fifth year. Cho seemed nice enough and Harry seemed happy, Hermione supposed that she gave him something to worry about other than Dark Lords and Dursleys.
As Hermione trotted down the stairs someone burst into high pitched laughter. Pansy Parkinson, a Slytherin who was pretty despite the fact that she bore a remarkable resemblance to a rotweiller and Millicent Bulstrode her friend who could kindly be described as having a face like a bag of hammers, suffered another fit of the giggles as Hermione walked past them.
"Give it up, Granger, if you know what's good for you." said Pansy stepping away from the wall. Hermione had the odd feeling that they'd been waiting for her.
Hermione stopped and took a deep breath. "Dunno what you're talking about." she said calmly which was true.
"Draco Malfoy," said Pansy who folded her arms and sneered. "Keep away from him."
There was something odd about this, but Hermione couldn't tell what it was. "You his new bodyguard?"
"Yes, keep your hands off!"
"Gladly," said Hermione shaking her bewildered head in confusion.
"You'll never get him!" Snorted Millicent.
"Tell it to someone who cares." Hermione pushed past them. What did they know? Didn't he and Pansy have a thing once? Now that made sense, Oh my, a thought struck Hermione What if it is true? And Pansy's jealous. Hermione shrugged I'm sure he's big enough and ugly enough to cope with being turned down by a Muggle born.
More likely the whole lot of them were in on one big joke at her expense.
Hermione decided to forget all about it.
There was just one week left until the end of term and five days until the dance. Hermione was still dateless and happy that way, at least on the surface; she thought that someone might have asked her. On top of that, Pansy's taunts had mutated into what could only be described as thinly veiled threats.
Potions, the first lesson of the week had not gone well. To be accurate the whole lesson had been a fiasco. Their assignment was to brew a Coiffe Mixture, which to paraphrase Professor Snape was;
"A complicated concoction that will banish bad hair days forever!" His black eyes flashed and fixed on Hermione's rather dry locks when he said those words. She and Ron exchanged a glance, as they and several other people, Slytherins included suppressed a laugh. By the state of his own hair Snape obviously wasn't any good at making it.
Then came the blow. "You, Miss Granger can work with Mr Malfoy."
Hermione picked up her things and moved desks. Malfoy looked triumphant and from the corner of her eye Hermione saw that Pansy Parkinson looked ready to explode. Had Malfoy planned this? She knew that Snape liked him but would he rearrange a lesson just at Malfoy's request? Or had Snape been listening to rumours too? That sounded more like it.
Until recently Hermione's mind had confined Draco Malfoy in a sort of time warp; when she looked at him she saw only the snotty little boy she had first met on the train on the way to Hogwarts, the same one who had an irritating habit of sneering the word Mudblood every time she passed and the same one she had punched in the nose one year. Hermione could cope with that image quite easily. But since they'd got rather tangled up when she knocked him down the stairs she'd been forced to notice that he had changed, physically anyway. He was taller and broader, his muscles had hardened and his features become more defined. To her annoyance Hermione had to admit that he wasn't actually bad looking, if appearances counted for anything.
And for some reason it made his insults a little more difficult to bear.
Hermione glared at Malfoy as she dropped her things onto the desk and sat down.
"I see you're still using my quill," he remarked, casually as Hermione removed the stopper from her ink bottle and loaded the implement with ink. Hermione ignored him. She hadn't really thought about it but she did now as she flattened a piece of parchment and copied down a series of instructions from the blackboard. Every scratch of the nib reminded Hermione where it had come from.
The rest of the lesson went predictably well. Hermione Granger faced Draco Malfoy over the cauldron and within minutes the words started flying over the surface of the bubbling pink liquid;
"Don't add the Powdered Chameleon Scales yet," snapped Hermione, "it'll curdle."
"Oh yeah. I forgot you know everything!" Malfoy sat down, folded his arms and put his feet on the desk. Hermione looked round and saw Harry and Ron's horrified faces; she turned back to Malfoy who waved a dismissive hand at her, "Go on then, finish it."
"Stop being a prat and help,"
"If you stop telling me what to do," he said, slowly. Malfoy's looked at Hermione in the same way as when she'd fallen off her broomstick; it made her feel very uncomfortable.
"Alright, add the Chameleon Scales."
"That sounded like an instruction to me." But Malfoy was on his feet again. Snape had seemingly grown bored with Neville baiting and was once again prowling round the room. Even Malfoy wasn't going to risk being caught with his feet up in one of Snape's classes. Hermione watched critically as Malfoy tossed a handful of the iridescent powder into the cauldron, he took a ladle and stirred it once. Three blue bubbles broke through the surface.
"That's not supposed to happen!" Hermione said, trying hard not to lose her temper.
"Sorry, you need this potion so desperately don't you!" Malfoy reached out and twisted a strand of Hermione's hair between his fingers.
"Shut up, Malfoy" she said slapping his hand away and tucking her hair behind her ear.
"Make me" he retorted.
"Don't tempt me!" Hermione said in a low voice, "Pass the Peruvian Puss Pods."
Malfoy reached out and pushed a jar full of glistening green lumps further along the desk and out of Hermione's reach. "Get them yourself."
To get the jar Hermione had to get past Malfoy but when she tried to slip round behind him he hooked his foot round the leg of a chair and pulled it into her path to block her way. Hermione wasn't about to play this game; she stretched over the desk and tried to edge the jar closer with her fingertips. She missed and the jar smashed to the floor sending slimy green Puss Pods skidding everywhere.
Snape, who seemed blind when it came to Malfoy's teasing, was suddenly very attentive. He turned and stepping carefully over broken glass and Puss Pods, stopped right in front of Hermione.
"Are you in any way related to Neville Longbottom, Miss Granger?" he asked loudly, Hermione kept her eyes on the desk. The room was almost silent. She thought that she could hear Ron muttering darkly to Harry.
"No sir," she replied trying to ignore Malfoy whose eyes, brimming with amusement were fixed on her.
"Then it will be safe for you to return here at lunch time to scrub out the cauldrons!"
Hermione thought that her lunchtime couldn't get any worse. Her hands were raw from scrubbing sticky goo from ten cauldrons and there was only ten minutes for her to get to the hall and grab something for lunch. Hermione picked up her books and made sure that she slammed the classroom door as she left.
Why did Malfoy have to show off in front of people, it was all his fault! She thought as she hurried along the narrow corridor, books clutched to her chest. Why was he so different when he was alone? It just didn't make sense. Hermione didn't have very long to dwell on the question. Pansy Parkinson and Millicent Bulstrode were lurking round the corner. Neither of them looked at all pleased to see Hermione but she couldn't help feeling that that was precisely what they had wanted.
"Oops." Said Pansy knocking Hermione's arm and sending the pile of books she carried flying.
"That was deliberate!" Hermione's eyes blazed.
"Prove it! I warned you about talking to Malfoy, Granger."
"I wasn't talking to him we were having an argument! And it was Snape who made us work together in the first place. Frankly I don't want anything to do with Malfoy. The ass couldn't make a Coiffe mixture if it came freeze dried and all he had to do was add water but unfortunately I have to work with him, so keep your nasty little opinions to yourself!"
Hermione gathered up her books and walked away feeling the malicious eyes of the two girls burning into her back.
Why is Pansy so keen on keeping me away from Malfoy? Surely she should have been sniggering as usual when I got punished and Malfoy got off scot free. Not for the first time Hermione wondered if there was there actually some truth in what she had been hearing? If that was true he had a very weird way of showing it.
Hours later Hermione walked slowly back to the Gryffindor Common Room pausing for a few moments to chat with the Fat Lady. When she had heard enough about the Fat Lady's friend, Violet, Hermione made her excuses and gave the password Snodgrass and stepped through the portrait hole. She dumped her bag and books on the table in the corner and went off in search of Lavender. She found her in their dormitory lying on her front on the bed flicking idly through a copy of Witch Weekly.
"You got a minute?" Asked Hermione.
"Sure, sit down." Lavender patted the mattress and sat up. The glossy magazine slid to the floor. "What's up? You can tell me. I'll not tell a soul."
"It's all these rumours." Hermione explained reluctantly. "I just can't help wondering if there's some truth in them. I always thought Malfoy was really shallow but what sort of person would I be if I'm wrong and won't give him a second chance? People can change!"
Hermione was usually happy to solve her problems by herself but for once she needed to talk and Lavender was there for her. She was quite close to Lavender and Parvati but never quite close enough to confide. Of course they had always tried to involve her in what they did but Hermione wasn't really a girly girl and she was always too absorbed with her work or what Harry and Ron were up to for the girls to become good friends. The problem was she couldn't really talk to Harry or Ron about this, they would never understand.
Finally Hermione confessed what was really bothering her. "Y'know, if he asks me I think I'll say yes!"
Lavender told no-one, well no-one except Parvati, and Parvati told Padma and Padma told Blaise and Blaise told ...
The day of the Dance had arrived. Morning was lessons as usual but the entire school had the afternoon off. After lunch everyone disappeared back to their common rooms, leaving the classrooms and corridors silent. The library too was empty and silent apart the persistent scratch of a quill on parchment and Hermione's gentle breathing. Hermione put down her quill and rubbed her neck, it was stiff and she was tired. She looked up as the door opened.
"What do you want Malfoy?" Hermione asked as he walked over. He moved so lithely, she noticed. Flowing, never an awkward movement. Just another annoying little nuance she had noticed up over the last few weeks.
"Oh, er. A book!" He answered shiftily.
"Well, take your pick and leave me alone." She was slightly annoyed that he hadn't asked her to the dance but had no intention of letting him know that, they'd never exactly been friendly so her less-than-pleased-to-see-him tone wouldn't seem odd. She'd been looking forward to turning him down or maybe even accepting just to annoy Ron who seemed to have forgotten that she existed.
"What? Has my hair turned green?" It irritated her, the way he stood stared at her.
"No, I..." He was about to say something more when the door opened again. This time Ron stepped in.
"Hermione, I thought ... what are you doing here Malfoy?" He asked with undisguised hostility.
The temperature in the room suddenly dropped several degrees.
"Getting a book Weasel. Not that it's any of your business." Malfoy glowered at him, glared at Hermione then without another word he turned and pushed past Ron slamming the door behind him.
He didn't take a book, mused Hermione. What did he want? Had he been going to...?
Ron's next question echoed her thoughts. "What did he want?"
"I don't know Ron he never got as far as asking. If you run you could catch up and ask him!"
"Asking?" Ron's eyes widened.
Another one who listens to gossip, thought Hermione, but the thought seemed to do something to Ron. He straightened and smiled an awkward sheepish smile.
"Actually, I er well I ...I had something to ask you."
"Yes Ron?" She watched as his freckled nose began to darken, colour spreading out across his cheeks right up to the tips of his ears. Pink to puce clashing violently with his hair. It was painful to watch.
"I want, I mean will, I..."
"I'll go to the dance with you Ron." Smiled Hermione finished his question, after three years he had finally plucked up the courage to ask her to a dance, or at least almost ask her and it was the thought that Malfoy might get in first that had done it. "Thank you for asking me now if you don't mind I need to finish this essay. It's due on the first day next term."
Ron's cheeks flushed deeper, then he made his excuses leaving Hermione alone with her essay and her thoughts.
That evening Ron waited in the Gryffindor common room. Harry and everyone else had already gone off with their partners. Time passed slowly, Seven O'clock, Seven Fifteen, Seven Thirty. If Ron had owned a watch he would have been glancing at it every two minutes. Where is she? Ron was actually beginning to wonder if Hermione had changed her mind and gone back to the library when the door opened and she stepped into the room. He grinned at the sight.
Hermione's hair was scraped back from her face and piled on the on top of her head in a nest of curls; wisps of hair meticulously placed to look careless framed her face. Her robes were cut low in clingy stuff to emphasise the fact that there was more to her than a brain. They were a soft golden colour that highlighted the orange flecks in her warm brown eyes. Ron was speechless.
"Come on then, Ron." she grinned, waving a finger at her hair, "Before this lot collapses!"
"Wow." He managed to say as she placed her hand on his arm and allowed him to lead her through the portrait hole out into the corridors. They arrived at the Great Hall just late enough to make a grand entrance.
The walls of the great hall were decked with boughs of holly each bearing a face formed of prickly green leaves which smiled benevolently from among the glowing red berries and in each corner stood a great Christmas tree one for each of the four houses festooned with streamers in the house colours.
The four house tables had been removed and the staff table was laden with trays of food and three great punch bowls shaped like cauldrons. At the other end of the hall a string quartet played straining to be heard above the hum of chat and laughter.
Hermione wondered who had charmed the two violins, viola and cello into playing, then she remembered that Dumbledore had a thing for Chamber Music.
Who needs a CD player? She thought as she watched the bows dance across the strings.
They made their way slowly through the crowd and found Harry and Cho near the Ravenclaw tree with Neville and Seamus. They were talking about the games.
"I heard that old Dumbledore's arranged a Muggle funfair." Said Seamus. "And some wizard games too. "
"Really?" said Ron. "Cool."
He'd come so close and the Weasel had got in the way but it wasn't over yet, not by a long shot. Pansy smiled sickly sweet at Draco and sneered at Blaise Zabini who rested her hand lightly on his arm. The little knot of Slytherins watched as Ron and Hermione entered fashionably late. Pansy at least seemed pleased that Hermione wasn't with Draco, all her threats appeared to have paid off and now all she had to worry about was Blaise.
"Look at the pair of them." Muttered Draco to Blaise. "Makes you sick doesn't it?"
Blaise merely nodded and whispered something in Draco's ear.
"You think?" his face split into a wide grin. "Why not!"
It was a while before he could get away from his friends, but eventually he slipped away, only Blaise saw him go and immediately she broke away and followed him. Amazing really, he always endeavoured to be the centre of attention yet they didn't even notice he was gone. Weird but maybe it was the charm that Blaise had supplied that helped.
Malfoy skirted round the edge of the little groups that littered the great hall catching the odd word of conversation here and there. Eventually they met at the other side of the room next to the staff table just beside the middle cauldron.
"You really are incredible." Draco said smiling down at Blaise who leaned gently on the edge of the table looking out onto the room.
"I know." She replied, with no false modesty as she craned her neck to peer over his shoulder.
"Oohh, she said. "By the pricking of my thumbs something wicked this way comes."
"What?" Draco looked confused.
"It's from a Muggle play, something a witch says."
"If you say so. I'm not that interested in Muggle studies."
"Really?" Blaise's voice was coy and her eyebrow raised slightly. "She's alone, Tomato Head is off talking with Potty."
"I understand. What do you see now?"
"Still coming this way, I don't think she's even spotted we're here."
"Good." Draco leaned forward and kissed Blaise lightly on the forehead. "I can't believe what a good sport you're being about this. You are meant to be my date after all."
Blaise chuckled. "It's a favour Draco, I'm not doing this out of the goodness of my heart. I'll call it in one day. Ready?"
Draco nodded. Seconds later Blaise slapped him hard across the face.
Hermione stopped in her tracks watching the scene as heated words floated in her direction;
" ...if that's how you feel why didn't you ask her!" Blaise's eyes were wet with tears. "I'll make it easy for you, go and find your precious Hermione!"
He lifted his hand to his cheek, that hurt. His surprise was genuine. He hadn't known Blaise was quite such a convincing actress.
Blaise didn't give him time to speak. She turned on her heel and stormed down the length of the table and out of the hall. A shell-shocked Draco found himself staring straight into Hermione's wide brown eyes.
"I couldn't help overhearing." Said Hermione looking down at her feet, In fact resting her gaze anywhere but Malfoys own. "I'm sorry, I didn't know ... well I'm still sort of shocked to find that the rumours I'd heard were true."
"I don't know what rumours you've heard." He snapped adopting a defensive posture, arms folded across his chest.
"I was only trying to help." She replied feeling guilty for having doubted everything she'd heard over the past few weeks. He really had been going to ask her to the dance earlier in the library until Ron had interfered. Interfered? That was rather a strong word. But where was Ron now?
"Well don't bother. What happened to your date?"
"Hermione smiled. "Talking about Quidditch, I came for a refill." She waved her empty goblet in the air.
"Allow me." Said Draco unfolding his arms and taking it from between her fingers. He took the ladle from the side of the cauldron and spooned pumpkin juice into her goblet then handed it back to her before taking one for himself.
"Looks like we've both been stood up doesn't it! Cheers!" He raised his goblet.
She returned the salute.
It's odd thought Hermione, When he isn't mouthing off or spitting insults Malfoy can actually be quite a gentleman. Perhaps there is more to him than his looks. She sipped her drink and glanced over to where Ron, Harry, Cho and Seamus were deep in Quidditch talk, they hadn't even noticed that she was gone.
"Can I ask you a question, Malfoy?"
"You just did."
"Oscar Wilde is alive!" Hermione scowled but the look lacked any real annoyance. "That joke wasn't even original a hundred years ago, sorry. About earlier in the library. What did you really want?"
"Nothing important. Listen, I don't really feel like this. If you'll excuse me I'm going to get some air." Malfoy placed his goblet on the table and began to turn away. Hermione looked over at her friends again, still laughing without her.
Spirit of Christmas she thought, Goodwill to all men, even Draco Malfoy.
"Wait." She said catching up with Malfoy. "I'll come with you."
Draco's eyes narrowed as Hermione moved to put her goblet down. "Bring it with you" he said.
They followed the same path that Blaise had taken down the edge of the table and out of the hall into the corridor, the sound of voices grew quieter with each step. The main doors stood open and the courtyard and the edge of the forest was lit with thousands of tiny silver lights. Great torches warmed the air and people were just beginning to drift outside to enjoy the array of Muggle and Wizard fairground games that Dumbledore had arranged.
'Catch the Snitch' an enormous arc of red and green letters advertised. 'Show those Seekers a thing or Two'. Beneath the words hovered several rather obedient Golden Snitches.
"Catch the Snitch and win a sneakoscope" said a man as they passed by, he held out a rather battered Cleansweep Seven. "Want to try young man?"
"I don't think so!" Hissed Malfoy through gritted teeth. "Idiot!"
"Lighten up." Said Hermione struggling to keep up with him, "It's meant to be fun."
"Dodgem Cars. Ten Pin Bowling. Bat the Rat." Draco's eyes raked over the Muggle games then settled on Hermione as if challenging her to make a case. "What's fun about that?"
She shook her head, there was something unsettling about his gaze. Two silvery grey eyes filled with humour but it was a joke that only he understood. She wasn't entirely sure that she wanted him to explain.
"Let's just walk Draco." She sighed ... absently she wondered where Scabbers was. Now that would make Bat the Rat quite fun! The idea of hitting Pettigrew on the head with a stick made her smile.
Did I just call him Draco? She asked herself in surprise as he led her away from the funfair. That's got to be a first.
Beyond the enchanted courtyard the night air was cold, it sharpened Draco's senses. Hermione seemed a little vague. Draco knew the reason for that, the tiny drop of liquid he had dropped in her goblet as he refilled it was beginning to take effect. He wasn't taking any chances.
The full moon was high and bright in the clear sky, there was no snow but the ground was hard and frosty.
"Shall we walk by the lake?" Draco said softly taking Hermione's hand in his. She did not protest and he led her off into the night. After a few minutes she stumbled. Draco caught her in his arms steadying her against his chest. "Have you been drinking Hermione?" he questioned slyly.
She placed her hands on his chest and drew back and smiling up at him. "You called me Hermione."
"I thought that was your name."
"It is but I've never heard you use it."
He said nothing, his hands held her upper arms, keeping her on her feet. They stood in a clearing flooded with moonlight bordered on one side with brambles and by the lake on the other, it was empty except for a statue on a plinth who at the moment was curled up asleep beneath a white marble blanket.
The moonlight caught Draco's hair making it glow like a halo. Hermione was very close to him transfixed by his gaze as she looked up into his eyes her empty goblet fell from her fingers to lie forgotten on the forest floor.
"I hate to be predictable." He whispered pulling her back towards him.
"I like it." She said, "It sort of proves that you care."
"I? Care?" She didn't even catch that it was a question. The little idiot took it to be a statement of fact, Mudblood Granger, Brain of Britain couldn't distinguish concern from scorn. Draco fought down a bitter laugh by biting his tongue.
"Can I tell you something Hermione?"
"Of course you can Draco."
"I was going to ask you to the dance tonight."
"I thought it was just another joke, I didn't let myself believe it." Hermione explained.
"No joke Hermione." Draco lied.
"Good." Hermione pushed herself on to her tiptoes and kissed him inexpertly on the lips.
I win. Draco reminded himself as he responded to her kiss parting her lips with his tongue, Anything else is just a bonus.
One hand ran up her spine to the back of her head pushing her up against his mouth, his kiss was already rough and growing more urgent. The other trailed down over her waist across her hip and round to her buttock. He squeezed with strong fingers through the fabric of her gown to be rewarded with a little groan and the feeling of her leg wrapping around his.
He'd done enough.
If he had cared for her he would have ended it there but he did not care they were alone under the moonlight. She had already given her mind away. He knew her thoughts. He knew how the last few weeks had effected her, how they had confused her. For a girl of intelligence she demonstrated very little common sense; how could he not take advantage of that?
Draco shifted suddenly throwing her off balance, she fell to the ground and he landed on top of her smiling.
"Oops!" he said, straddling her before bending down to kiss her again.
In Part Two: Les Liaisons Dangereuses, Harry and Ron react to Hermione's disappearance as she faces the morning after.
It occurred to me that I ought to list the influences behind this fic.
First is the terrific Les Liaisons Dangereuses by Choderlos de Laclos from which the films Dangerous Liaisons and Cruel Intentions were derived.
The second major influence is Dante I feel a paralell between the poets chaste love for Beatrice and the Ron/Hermione situation, if you know how Divina Commedia ends then you know where this fic is going.
I must also credit the master of troublesome relationships PG Wodehouse as I suspect his influence slipped in wearing a false beard (read him if you don't understand the remark).
Brideshead Revisitedby Evelyn Waugh, how could I not be influenced by a novel which depicts a rich young man from an influential, charming and utterly disfunctinal family;
Thomas Mallory'sle Morte d'Arthur which has forever left me with the feeling that many years ago in England one could not cross a bridge without a knight popping out from beneath it and throwing down his gauntlet.
Terry Pratchett's Rincewind novels. Don't be at all surprised if the Lecturer in Recent Runes pops up; octarine already has.
William Shakespeare.Do I really need to point out which play?
I'll add others as I find them.
I am taking a few liberties with the relationship between certain major and minor characters from canon (Blaise/Draco, Cho/Harry). I can promise that the characterisations will remain consistent within this story.
Part one has been extensively revised. I felt that the original was not really a strong enough foundation to carry this fic. I hope that you all like this version even more than the first. Beautifully beta-ed by the goils! Squin, Daphne, Bumblebee … love you lots!