Title: Virtus et Iudicium

Author: Anjali Malfoy

Rating: T

Disclaimer: I do not in any way, shape, or form own Harry Potter or its characters.

A/N: Just so I don't get a bunch of questions, the title of the story is Latin for the phrase 'Strength and Decisions' but I felt the title sounded much cooler in Latin. Also, I know these chapters may seem relatively boring but I promise, once Chapter 2 comes around, the interactions between Draco and Hermione will get much more intense so stick with this!

As for the turnover time, I will have each new chapter posted within a week to a week and a half max. I am taking a hardcore physics class right now, so until the end of August the turnover time cannot be shorter. This story will be finished by the end of September as I will be returning to college and will not much time to devote to writing.

Chapter I : Contemno

"Fervidus odium can tribuo voluntas quod voluntas ut an cassus vita." -- Passionate hatred can give meaning and purpose to an empty life.

The Great Hall fell deathly silent as a piercing yell echoed throughout the hall. The lasting noise from that terrible scream hung suspended in the air, its lasting remnants hovering over the tables, coating the mass of students in despair and anxiety.

It was as though life had ceased to exist and all sense of time had fallen away. Half-eaten croissants and toast lay limply on china plates where they had fallen, cups of tea and juice lay empty, the liquid staining the white linen in a multitude of vivid colors.

The scream appeared to have come from the Gryffindor table itself. A small huddle had formed around the far end of the table. A hush had fallen around the Hall. Students were standing or hunching on the table hoping to get a glance of who was in the huddle of the students. It was as though the professors had rehearsed this – so quickly they mobilized. Professors Snape and McGonagall held back the throng of students while Professor Sprout and Madam Pomfrey quickly conjured up a stretcher, lifting the body up onto it, and levitating the body to the hospital.

As the body was removed, whispered of "it's Lavender" started spreading across the room. The efficiency of the professors was testament to the dark times that they had been cursed with and the frequency of such bad news. Though it was not uncommon for students to respond negatively to the endless stream of bad news that they were constantly bombarded with, it was only increasingly getting worse and no one in the castle was becoming accustomed to these situations. Each new episode resulted in twisting the knife of despair and fear and helplessness even deeper and deeper into their heart, even as they tried to pull it out, praying that it never could take away any hope of the light.

Hermione quickly spread open the Daily Prophet and what she saw nearly made her blood freeze. Lavender's parents, both Aurors of the Ministry of Magic, had been mercilessly tortured and hung from their house that had the Dark Mark hovering over like the symbol of death. Sighing, she rested her face in her hand, trying to push back the familiar feeling of despair and utter helplessness that she felt every damn time she read such stories. The frequency at which they occurred, any person could become numb to these events but when the victim was a friend, a mere teenager, it humanized everything, and Hermione didn't think she could ever become accustomed to that. No, if anything, the sorrow and anger she felt only multiplied tenfold as she tried to keep at bay the feelings of uselessness and of giving in.

Their world had changed, as they knew it. In a world that was changing by leaps in bounds, in every waking second, only her friends were there. Her world. These were dark times. Not since the death of Harry's parents had Lord Voldemort seemed so threatening, so frightening, so close...so real. Lord Voldemort had grown stronger.

Death and despair were rampant. Unavoidable. Deaths were strewn across the Daily Prophet. Students ran out of the Great Hall in tears. Others broke down. And every time, Harry put all the burden on his shoulders, all the blame, tried to soak up as much sorrow as possible, causing his best friends and girlfriend to worry.

There was nothing they could do – officially that is. Only six months were separating them from becoming legitimate members of the Order. Until then, they could do nothing except keep their ears alert and eyes open for any signs of Dark wizard entering the once-impassive walls of Hogwarts.

The initial shock had worn off the student body. Some of the students were still staring into space as though unable to believe what had happened, others were reading the Daily Prophet and speaking to each other in hushed voice, no doubt about what had just happened, and several other students were quietly eating, obvious that they too were dwelling on what had happened.

A small nudge from Harry jolted her. Looking toward him, she smiled softly and shook her head, reassuring him that she was ok. Her heart dropped a little when she saw the expression in his eyes – inscrutable, indecipherable, brimming with anger and pain. Gently, she squeezed his forearm, a squeeze of reassurance and love. Ginny, now his girlfriend of a year, say next to him engrossed in the paper Hermione had been pouring over just a few moments ago. The anger was evident in both her eyes and posture.

A small chime from the clock reminded her she had a meeting with Professor McGonagall in a brief fifteen minutes, something that had escaped her mind in the mayhem that had just occurred. It was their usual meeting; Hermione had – not surprisingly- been designated Head Girl and as part of her weekly duties, one of them was to report to her every Monday morning at 10:15 am promptly.

As she neared the professor's office, she heard voices. Unsure of whether to wait to just enter in, Hermione slowed down but with a glance at her watch she realized she had a mere fifteen minutes before Potions started. Praying that her professor would excuse her for her rudeness, Hermione timidly pushed the door open a crack and peeked inside.

Professor McGonagall was - there was no other way to put it - a mess. Her bun was slowly coming undone, the black tendrils falling over her shoulders and down her back. The belongings on her desk were askew; her travel case perched on top, books and potions messily piled inside. Hermione realized with an unpleasant lurch in her stomach that her unkemptness must be related to the death of Lavender's parents. An Order meeting must have been arranged promptly. Draco Malfoy was standing in front of her desk, clearly miffed at her lack of her attention at his presence.

"Professor, you're making this harder than it needs to be. Why can't I just do the project by myself?" Hermione could hear the exasperation and anger though well-masked present in his voice, "You know very well I'm tied for top score in your class. I think I have beyond proven to you that --."

"This is not a matter of competency Mr. Malfoy," their professor said - it was clear her patience with him was wearing thin, "This project was designed to make you collaborate ideas and methods of working and presenting information with another person. It is about compromise. I thought a person of your intelligence would have seen this. " Draco flushed red and Hermione derisively snorted. "If this is finally all, then you may leave. As you can see I am extremely busy at this moment."

It took her a moment to register that Lavender had been Malfoy's partner. As part of their seventh year "training", Professor McGonagall – or more accurately a charmed hat- had assigned the class of Slytherin and Gryffindors into pairs. Each group was given a common Transfiguration spell to research, as much as they felt was necessary. In three weeks time, each group was to present their findings to the class. Hermione had been paired with Theodore Nott and she had been rather surprised; while Nott was not a pleasure to work with, he stuck to the work and kept his comments about her heritage to a bare minimum. Their project was going fairly smoothly and she was looked forward to just two weeks before this would be done.

Sensing that their conversation had terminated, Hermione stepped in, nimbly stepping over the knocked books from the professor's bookshelf.

"Professor," she said cautiously. Malfoy looked up, his lips curling upwards in a sneer; Hermione, never one to be intimidated, countered his look with a glare. "I'm sorry if I have come at a bad time Professor. Perhaps, we should move our meeting to another time?"

"Yes...yes Miss Granger, that would be good," as she hastily zipped up her case, "I think I have everything necessary," she muttered under her breath.

"So this is it Professor," Draco spoke up again, "I join another person's group but you haven't made it clear which one you think it would so called best for..." he trailed off as she hoisted her bag off the table and made for the door.

"Mister Malfoy, just what is it about my directions that you do not understand? Since you are clearly unable to grasp my instructions, you will just..." she looked around as though hoping the answer would appear on the walls. Then her eyes fell on Hermione and her eyes lit up, " just join Ms. Granger's group. You're partnered with Mister Nott, am I right," Hermione nodded dumbstruck. Her professor clearly overlooked the look of surprise and pure hate on her face, "Yes, yes, that will do. Mister Malfoy, you will just join their group. Let the Professor know; now if you will excuse me, I really must be going."

"But Professor, he - he - he..."

"I, I , I what?" Draco mocked. "Have you lost all ability to form coherent sentences?" So rushed was she, Draco's disparaging comment went unheard.

" He just can't!" yelled Hermione, shooting Draco a nasty glare. Draco opened his mouth, clearly to argue against her decision but their professor beat them to it.

"I must say, the two of you are acting rather selfish and childish right now. Considering what happened this morning in the Great Hall, I thought you two would realize that more tragic events are happening in this world right now." A light blush colored Hermione's cheeks as she looked to the floor and even Malfoy had enough shame to look slightly abashed. "Though it clearly is too much to ask, be mature adults and deal with this," she snapped.

With that, she left leaving two very angry teenagers in her wake.

"Great Malfoy, couldn't you have kept your bloody mouth shut and just walked out after she said you needed to join another group?" Hermione burst out. She was shaking with anger.

"Don't you dare blame this fiasco on me. If you hadn't barged in this office when we were clearly talking, she would not have stuck me to a pathetic excuse for a witch. Besides, how in the hell do you know she said that to me?" Draco hissed, "Spying on me were you?"

"Oh please," Hermione rolled her eyes, "Don't flatter yourself. Unlike you, I had a legitimate reason for seeing Professor McGonagall."

"And what was this so-called legitimate reason? To suck up more?"

"No, me and Professor McGonagall do not have a relationship like you and Professor Snape. We needed to talk about the duties that you clearly were not worthy enough of getting," she hissed, " Now if you'll excuse me," her voice changing to one of saccharine sweetness, " I have seen enough pathetic today", before flouncing out of the room, slamming the door behind her, leaving a fuming Slytherin behind.

That insufferable, know-it-all Gryffindor chit. She had once again shoved the fact that she was Head Girl in his face. He had been rather surprised and understandably, rather slighted when he learned that he in fact had not been chosen as Head Boy. His surprise had turned to hate and fury when it came to his attention that it had in fact been none other than Golden Boy, Harry Potter who had been picked. After all, Draco was second only to Hermione in all classes, save for Potions where he was second to no one. "no thanks to Snape", as well, he always added. Needless to say, his father had been most displeased with him and Draco had received an earful though over as time passed his anger and frustration lessened, though there would always be a bruise to his ego that would never be alleviated. The only soothing piece of information was that the Mudblood was the Head Girl -- he was at least saved in part of having to deal with her outside of classes

She had left with the last word, dismissing him like a mere servant. She would be in for it next time.

. & .

Needless to say, neither Ron nor Harry were pleased about Hermione's new project arrangements. Of course, both of them threatened Malfoy with bodily harm if he tried anything, leading Hermione to say that she could handle him herself. The only thing that kept Ron from personally following McGonagall was that the duration of their project was two weeks or more exactly, fourteen days. In her own words, she had dealt with the "twit for seven years, so fourteen days would be a piece of cake."

She couldn't have been more wrong. Their first meeting had been an utter disaster.

"Malfoy, we are researching the Causa Mortis. I could not give a damn as to what you were previously researching," she yelled shooting Madam Pince an apologetic look. "Stop making me yell the library!"

"Don't blame me for your snide voice."

"I do not sound snide," Hermione said shrilly, coloring slightly as Draco's eyebrows raised before mumbling, "I don't."

" Just give me a break, Granger. "

"Break? You want a break? It's only been five minutes since we got here," she said incredulously, "What was that, what did you say?" Hermione snapped, turning to Nott, who had muttered something under his breath.

Unlike Hermione and Draco, Theodore was calmly sitting on the end of the table. His books and quills were neatly arranged on the table, but had not made any move to start working. Instead he was watching the heated exchange between the two who were sitting on his either side.

"Nott, you're the third person here," said Hermione turning in her chair to face him so fast he was surprised he didn't fall backwards from her sheer anger and force, " What do you think? What do you --"

"For someone supposedly one of the smartest person in this class, you're surprisingly dumbwitted," Draco snorted, "Do you really think he's going to take your side?"

"Not everyone's as childish and prejudiced as you are Malfoy. Stop assuming things and maybe you'll realize other qualities besides selfish, prideful, and despicable exist."

"And you're a good example of what good --"

"So where were we Nott," Hermione sat turning away from Malfoy effectively cutting him off, "Yes, tell me your opinion."

She had done it again, Malfoy fumed.

"Frankly, I could not care less both of the spells. I didn't want to do either of those spells in the first place. We should do the spell called --"

For once Hermione and Draco were silent, staring at Nott as though he had grown another head. Then Draco burst out laughing at the sheer stupidity of Nott's statement, making Hermione even more furious.

"Nott!" Hermione yelled looking scandalized kicking Draco under the table to shut him up, "I thought we had decided on a spell. What in Merlin's name --"

"No, you decided on the spell, I merely --"

"That is not the bloody point you brainless fool," Hermione yelled pushing herself away from the table and standing up, "We're stuck with either ours or his. This is getting ridiculous. It's been 20 bloody minutes and nothing has even been accomplished! We have less than 3 weeks and this project requires complete dedication and ---"

"Ok, ok, Merlin, don't get your granny knickers in a twist, woman," Nott snapped, "Draco, look mate, as a Slytherin, I know I am supposed to take your side. But me and know-it-all Granger here have done a lot of the work. It'd be a waste of time to start another spell. "

"Has someone put an Imperius Curse on you Nott?" Draco snarled, "What in Merlin's name has gotten into --"

" I doubt you want to spend more time than necessary in her presence," he said cocking his head in Hermione's direction.

Draco's anger seemed to abate at that statement but his cheeks remained flushed and his breathing heavy. He looked like he'd love nothing more than to hex Nott and Hermione.

"How dare you even -," Hermione whispered angrily,

"You got your side Granger. For once in your life, can you have some form of class." Draco snapped his face wearing a sour look from losing.

"Oh, because the way you behave, walking around as though you own this castle, treating people as though you're better than them, is a perfect example of class. So silly, what was I thinking," Hermione retorted.

"Because the way I walk around," Draco mimicked. "Ow!"

Hermione had pushed her chair back, and unaware of the fact that it had hit a bookshelf behind them, causing the books to fall down on the floor, had stormed over to Draco side and punched his shoulder.

"I swear to God Malfoy, Merlin so help me, " Hermione hissed, " One more word out of your mouth and I will --"

"You'll what? Run to your Potty and Weasel to save your back?"

Malfoy's eyes were full of mirth, as though mocking her, testing her waters, baiting her to attack back. So angry was Hermione at this point that she forgot she wasn't supposed to yell. The next thing she knew, she was flat against the floor of the hallway, either boys on her side, their books, ink pots, and quills around them.

"Thanks a load Granger, look what you did to my book," Draco snarled, holding up an ink-soaked Potions book.

"Clearly enough of your brain cells were killed when you hit this floor that you can't even remember that you can magically remove it," she snapped wincing as she sat up, several books falling off her lap as she sat up.

"Since neither of you can clearly sort this out," Nott said loudly, while shoving his belongings haphazardly into his leather bag, the first signs of annoyance creeping up on his otherwise impassive face, " I have decided we will meet in two days, here same time. Draco, you work on the history of how it's been used, I'll look at the origin of it's name, and Granger, no just shut up," he snapped, seeing her mouth open in protest, "Just shut up. You can look up cases involving this spell and what the outcomes were. Till that time, goodbye."

With a sneer, Draco shoved Hermione roughly before following his housemate. Groaning, Hermione buried her head into her hands.

One Day down. Thirteen to go.


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Until next time,

Cheers, AM