AN: BWAHAHAHAHA! Take THAT writers block!

... Seriously though, after doing NaNoWriMo my muse was completely gone. Thankfully though, some of those reviews really kicked my butt into gear. So I want to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who reviewed my last chapter. You guys are honestly one of the main reasons that I keep writing. So anyways, I hope that you enjoy.

Chapter 8

Hermione woke up precisely at six o'clock in the morning (as she did every morning during the school year) and took her shower before all of the other Gryffindor girls could come in, use up all of the hot water, chatter incessantly, and clutter up the counter with an endless supply of make-up and potions in thousands of different shades of colour. After her fifteen minute shower she wandered back into the dormitory where the other girls had yet to rise and she slipped into her uniform and took the three minutes to run some curl cream through her thick hair. (It was a trick that she had learned from Lavender for the Yule Ball and she had found that it did make her look less… fuzzy.) She then gathered all of her books and her bag and made her way downstairs to the common room (the library was not open yet) to begin revising all of her summer homework and her summer reading – and this was all before seven am.

Hermione smiled to herself as she flipped through the notes that she had taken over the summer holidays. It had always felt good to her to get back to her regular school routine. While she was eternally grateful to Ron and Harry for being her best friends, she would still always value learning. And any small piece of knowledge could be invaluable now that Voldemort had returned. With that thought in her mind she once again dove into her revising, with much more enthusiasm than before.

Breakfast in the Great Hall on the first day of classes was always one of the loudest, eclipsed only by the End of the Year feast… and of course all of the feasts directly after the inevitable dangerous feats that occurred each year. This year's breakfast was no exception.

There was the general chatter about who did what over the holiday, who had grown tall, who had grown hot. Then there was the talk about what was in the news. Were Dumbledoor and Harry Potter really mad, or was you-know-who really back? And which one would be the worse one to believe?

And then of course there was the talk about the new professors. As usual there was the standard whinging about Snape and the homework that he had assigned ("Professor Snape, Ron. Honestly.") Then there was the talk and rumours about the new Defence Against the Dark Arts teacher: What were they like? What would they teach? How much work would they be assigned?

And this year there was another subject which had been added to the rumour mill: the new Alchemy professor. Most of the students hadn't even known that there even was an Alchemy class before the summer, and the very few students who had taken the class before had said that it was horrid. Yet that had been with the old Professor Brown. The new professor ("Elric was it?"), seemed so different. He was young, mysterious and (according to the majority of the girls) handsome. And the fact that he was missing from breakfast only was fuel to the fire that were the rumours.

When Hermione walked into the Great Hall with Harry and Ron flanking her sides, she too was inundated with the whispers.

"So young… how old do you think he is?"

"Did you see the way he dressed?"

"Yellow eyes."

"So gorgeous, you never see blokes with long hair."

"Can't be much older than me…"

"He's a teacher."

"Disgusting, there's no way he's a Pureblood."

"… maybe he's a werewolf. Won't be the first time we've had one."

"He is so hot."

Hermione shot a glare at the girl as she walked past.

"Honestly, don't they have more interesting things to talk about? They are treating him as if he is some slab of meat." She grumbled to a still half-asleep Ron and Harry as she sat down on one of the benches at the table.

"Oh come on Granger, like you can talk." Parvarti said as she nibbled on the lone piece of toast that she allowed herself each morning. "We all know how you are always so hot to trot for teacher."

"I am not!" She shrieked, choosing to ignore the snickers coming from Ron and Harry.

"Yes you are." Lavender said with her mouth still half full of food. "First it was Lockheart, then Lupin, now it's Elric. Not to mention Sn-"

"Shut up!" She interrupted, her face bright red.

Parvarti smirked. "Like any one of them would fall for a frumpy, little know-it-all like you."

"And you think a tart like yourself would have any better of a chance? You're underage and to put it politely, you are as dull as a pigmy puff. " She shot back nastily.

"Yeah, well you are as hairy as Hagrid and you aren't any older than me." Parvarti shot back at her with a death glare.

Hermione gave her a sinister smile. "At least I'm not trying to get into his pants."

Parvati immediately clammed up, her face beginning to show the tell-tale reddening around her cheeks as she went back to eating the lone piece of toast. Victory! She thought triumphantly knowing that the little… witch had not had a valid comeback.

Satisfied, Hermione turned back around to face Harry and Ron who were currently sniggering into their glasses. Hermione shot them a glare which effectively shut them up and feeling smug with her abilities she poured herself a mug of Twinnings English Breakfast tea.

"Seriously though 'Mione, lay off of them. They're just excited is all. It's really not all that bad." Ron said as he heaped a pile of eggs onto his plate.

"Yes it is!" Hermione said looking in exasperation at both Ron and Harry. "It's absolutely degrading to treat someone like they're only one dimensional. Don't you understand?" She asked the two of them.

Ron and Harry simply turned and looked at each other.

"Of course 'Mione." Harry said unconvincingly while Ron rolled his eyes, not even pretending to agree with her.

Hermione felt a sinking feeling in her chest at Ron's reaction and the painful, age old saying popped into her head. Boys will be boys.

The Golden Trio were fuming as they walked out of the Defence Against the Dark Arts classroom and met up with Harry on the way to their next class – which just happened to be Alchemy.

"That absolute BITCH!" Ron yelled as soon as he was free of the doorway. It was a sign of just how mad Hermione was that she did not even pause to berate Ron. In fact she herself was shaking in so much anger that it was painfully clear that she agreed completely with Ron's statement.

"What… what does she think she's doing? How does she think that we are going to learn anything if we don't practice? After all, it's our OWL year!"

"Oh I'd like to practice alright… I'd like to practice some curses all over her arse after what she said about Harry." At that bit both Ron and Hermione turned and glanced nervously at their best friend.

Harry had been completely silent ever since he had come back from his meeting with Professor McGonagall. He walked along hunched over, surrounded by a dark aura, and his face was twisted into a look that could – well not kill exactly – but certainly maim and torture while doling out a deafening one-sided shouting match. He stalked down the hallway with such an intense single-mindedness that was frightening.

"Harry…" Hermione said hesitantly, wanting to snap him out of this dangerous mood, yet fearing that he would snap at her. Seeing a minute (almost invisible) twitch run through Harry's body; Ron skidded to halt and quickly reached his hand out and grabbed Hermione's arm, similarly stopping her as well. Hermione looked over at him in confusion but the concern on his face was more than enough to make her shut mouth and allow the question to die in her throat.

Ignorant, Harry continued to stalk down the hallway, not even pausing as a small gaggle of second years scattered in an attempt to stay away from the path of his wrath. Hermione watched in dismay and worry as he walked right past the staircase that led up to the upper floors where the Alchemy classroom was located.

"Harry." Hermione called out, her voice was soft and laced with concern as it echoed down the hallway. Ron's grip on her upper arm tightened with a quick squeeze.

Harry came to a sudden stop and whipped around. "WHAT?" He bellowed at them, green eyes flashing, his face twisted in rage.

Hermione took a small unconscious step backwards as tears sprang up to sting her eyes. "You missed your staircase." She said meekly.

The entire empty corridor was silent for a few tense moments. Then Harry seemed to deflate before their eyes, his stature folding inwards on himself. Similarly the tension seemed to bleed away with him and he looked up at them, a small sheepish smile slipping across his face. "Thanks Hermione." He said softly.

Hermione sniffled and wiped her eyes clear of the tears. "You're welcome Harry."

When Hermione had first received the letter regarding the alchemy class, she had been rather confused, having never even heard about the class. She figured that she would've at least known where the class was located. Yet walking to the class, her previous confusion began to make sense as they wandered into the unused part of the castle. The majority of this section was just unused classes; relics of a more prosperous time. It was a rather depressing area; the colours were faded, dust was everywhere, and their footsteps echoed down the hallways.

After wandering around for a couple minutes – hopelessly lost – Harry finally pulled out the Marauder's Map and used it to locate the small staircase that would bring them up to the Alchemy classroom – the only room located on a small, rather unnoticeable turret.

Together the Trio arrived on the landing at the top of the obscure, hidden staircase. There was a small crowd beginning to grow around the entrance to the sole door and already the landing was impossibly crowded. It seemed like nobody knew whether or not they should enter the room unannounced – and nobody was willing to be the person to find out.

Hermione sighed exasperated and began to push her way through the crowd, pulling Ron and – subsequently – Harry along with her. The group began to whisper, murmur and hiss, both at Hermione and at Harry. Hermione watched with sympathy and a small amount of pity when she saw him tense up. She placed a hand on his shoulder and he looked over at her and attempted to give her a smile that failed horribly and turned into a grimace. Hermione removed her hand and knocked first on the heavy wooden door as a warning, and then opened it and walked in.

The room was gloomy, poorly lit with old uncomfortable looking desks lined up in perfectly straight lines.

"Ummm, excuse me, Professor? Are you here?" Hermione's voice seemed to echo throughout the stone covered room.

"Yes. What do you want?" Hermione was taken aback as an accented sharp voice seemed to echo around the room from nowhere.

"Well, I… I – I mean the rest of the class – were just wondering if we could come in yet? It's almost time for class to start, but I didn't want to presume anything. I mean I know how some professors don't want students inside their class when they aren't there but there's not a lot of room in the hallway and…" Hermione let herself trail off nervously, her eyes searching around the room for any sign of the mysterious, blond man.

A sharp, hollow sounding laugh filled the room as said blond head of hair appeared from behind a ridiculously large stack of books. "Is it that time already?" Hermione watched riveted as a mirthless smile crossed the man's face. "I always lose track of time, even as a child. You know how it is." He nodded his head toward the giant pile of books that covered his entire desk.

"Ye…yeah." She stammered, an uncharacteristic blush covering her face. Edward – Professor Elric she harshly reminded herself – walked up to the front of the room and the podium that resided there while Hermione's eyes followed him, her eyes entranced by the silky golden trail of his high pony tail.

"PSST! Hermione!" Harry's voice interrupted her train of thought.

She whipped around, blushing even harder. "What?" She hissed right back at him.

Harry gave her a strange look at her bright red face but chose not to comment on it. "So can we come in or not? Ron is this close to just skiving off, and I don't think he's the only one."

"Well how am I supposed to teach a class that isn't here?" The blond said loudly to let them know that he had easily overheard them. "Come in and sit down."

Harry ducked back out into the hallway and Hermione could hear him yelling at the people to come in. As the crowd began to pile in Hermione nearly sprinted to the front in an unacknowledged race with Lavender Brown and Parvarti Patil for the seat right in front the podium where Professor Elric would be.

The class quickly quieted down as he walked up to the beautifully carved granite podium.

"Alright, let's get started."

AN: Sorry for the lack of length, but this honestly seemed like the best spot for a chapter break.

On another note, I am from the US and this is the first chapter that I have honestly and actively tried to get rid of my "Americanisms" however if you happen to spot any glaring ones, I would be eternally grateful if you could point them out to me for future reference.

Thank you so much.