Hermione was nearing the end of her favorite class hour with her favorite set of students. Her advanced History Of Magic group made up the best parts of her week and she looked forward to every hour she got to spend with this lot. Not only because they were smart, no, she loved them because only students dedicated and interested in History Of Magic ever took the advanced class. This made for and open discussion period full of wit and intrigue. But the best part she must confess, was the fact that the house boundaries didn't exist.
Only in this one class, did Slytherins and Gryffindors pare up, and Hufflepuffs and Ravenclaws compare notes. If only it were her last class of the day. But alas, it was not. Hermione could think of plenty of things that could ruin a day, bad weather, a cold, finding out that your boyfriend is cheating on you. She'd had all those things happen and worse, still never once was she depressed enough to want to quit her job and leave Hogwarts behind. In fact, she was sure that only one thing in the world made her feel like crawling into a corner, and it was entering her room as we speak. Double History Of Magic with the Gryffindor and Slytherin First years.
You can imagine how hard it is to get first years to pay attention, let alone to History Of Magic. Add to that an ancient feud and a Defense Against The Dark Arts teacher who loves to fan the flames. Not to mention that all these irritated students came from that said teachers class to a double hour of their least favorite subject with their least favorite group of people.
Hermione watched as they entered the room and began the natural division which was now tradition. The air was thick with animosity and she could see that there would be no willingness for discussion judging from the grimaces, scowls and glares present around the room.
He did it on purpose of course. He did a lot of things on purpose she knew, and today she would suffer through this class, just as much as her students. All thanks to him.
"Professor Granger?" came a small voice.
Hermione was taken aback by the utterance. It had become set in stone for months now. No one spoke in this class unless spoken to and even then Hermione was pulling teeth.
She shook her head clear of the shock and answered. "Yes Devin?"
Hermione was particularly fond of Devin, the first of his six generation family who wasn't sorted into Hufflepuff. He was a very cute, very simple minded ginger Slytherin boy who, try as he might, wanted to befriend everyone from all houses. Unfortunately it didn't bode well with anyone, leaving him more friendless than anything.
The boy cleared his throat calling the attention of the class.
"Is it true that throughout history the greatest and most famous witches and wizards have all been pure bloods?"
Hermione felt like she'd just been punched in the gut. What kind of nonsense? But she knew then why everyone was in such a foul mood. Damn him. He was always doing this, putting her in awkward spots with his idiotic mouth.
Hermione glanced around the room and every face was awaiting an answer. On the left, a sea of green and silver was a smug mess. On the right, red and gold rolled their eyes and gritted their teeth.
"Let's see," Hermione began. To be frank, it was true but also a matter of opinion. And he knew it would be, she thought angrily. He also knew she couldn't lie. The only thing she could do was to put it in less his words and more hers. "It is true, the pure bloods have done a lot for the establishment of magical society but that is only because a long time ago there were only purebloods, then there were mostly pure bloods, and now there are more witches and wizards with muggle blood in them than pureblooded ones. And most of our society is and will continue to be expanded on by muggle borns and half bloods everyday. So we owe it to our pure blood ancestors for what they've done and to our mixed heritage for our advances." Hermione summed.
The Gryffindors looked happier than Hermione could ever remember. And the Slytherins toned down their smugness. For the first time in months, she'd done something right with this class, and she could hardly believe it.
"Anything else, Devin?" Hermione asked, feeling the happiest she'd felt in weeks. Maybe today was the beginning of a new chapter with this class.
"Yeah," Devin began, "what's a mudblood?" From there, all hell broke loose. Shouting, punching, hexing, cursing, and jinxing. If Hermione, having been not only the brightest witch of her time, but also the quickest with spells, hadn't stopped it and blocked as many nasty curses as she could, poor simple Devin, may have been in disrepair. Even after disarming most of them the brawling continued until a neighboring class of 7th years helped pull the children off of each other. By the end of it there was a loss of 150 points to each house and a few broken bones, bloodied noses, disgusting rash jinxes, and a new program to be put into action immediately by the order of the Headmaster of Hogwarts Minerva McGonagall. As of next week, special events were to take place as to promote 'interhouse relations.'
The announcement was made at the start of dinner. There was definitely a dark aura in the Great Hall that night, and while the end of class and beginning of dinner was usually a loud and rowdy affair, tonight, all that could be heard were the clinking of forks to plates and seldom a cough or the clearing of a throat.
As Hermione sat at the staff table picking at her food, she couldn't help but notice that quite a lot of eyes were looking her way. There was no way that anyone should be under the impression that this was her fault. Of course it happened in her class, but was anyone going to question how tensions got to so high between those first years. As if on cue a heavy sigh sounded beside her as the chair was pulled out, sat in and Professor Malfoy began loading his plate while complaining.
"I can't believe this tripe." he began, just loud enough for Hermione to hear. "I'll have McGonagall know that I have never had any problems like this in my class. So why is it that I have to go through with this as well? How incredibly selfish can people be?"
Was Hermione really hearing this? She wanted to slap him, wring his neck. How could he possible even utter such words?
But Hermione calmed herself. She was a Hogwarts professor and as such, was sure that the childish display she was about to cause, was out of the question.
Instead, she cleared her throat and addressed him casually. "Indeed Professor Malfoy, selfish. But honestly I can't wait. This school has needed something like this desperately and I'm just glad I get to be part of Hogwarts history." Hermione confided. They may be in school but they weren't students anymore. Hermione wasn't a Gryffindor nor was Malfoy a Slytherin. Here as Hogwarts professors they were just people, co workers. She promised herself at the beginning of the year that she would remember that.
Draco scoffed. "How vary valiant of you Granger, but to try and change what has determined the way Hogwarts student have lived since it was founded. And who are you, let alone me or anyone else, to try and change a time honored tradition" he laughed.
Screw coming off childish, Hermione thought.
"This is your fault Malfoy. The least you can do is acknowledge the problem." Hermione said a little louder than she meant to. There were eyes on them around the room.
"It wasn't my classroom Granger." He retorted loudly.
"It may as well have been, the way you send them to me ready to fight to the death. It most certainly couldn't have been my doing that within the first three minutes of my class a war breaks out from the animosity they bring with them from your lessons." Hermione spat.
"I don't know what you're talking about, but your class must be pretty dreadful if they can't stand three minutes of a double hour class eh?" he countered with that flippant air of his that made her want to kill him.
"Don't know what I'm-" she began in outrage. "So telling them that purebloods are the better of the wizarding world, wasn't your doing?" Hermione yelled.
" I did no such thing. I can't help how first years interpret things in their heads. Especially Devin Marcy for god's sake," he said with a wave of dismissal.
"Enough Professor Granger." McGonagall began. "Would you and Professor Malfoy join me for a moment?" She stood from her seat and when she got to the back door of the staff table she turned back to the two of them. "Now." She said firmly.
Hermione and Draco followed wordlessly until they were down a hall and out of earshot of the other teachers.
"I see now what may be causing the problems we are having," said McGonagall.
Hermione, knowing exactly what she was about to say, was ready to interject and tell her that she and Draco can't be souly laid to blame for the hundreds of years of Hogwarts house hatred, when McGonagall gave her a look that commanded silence.
"You two," She began, "are the heads of your former houses and have gained enough knowledge to understand that there's more to life than silly childhood titles and yet you set such a poor example of that to your students and their susceptible minds. You two are both old enough to set differences aside and young enough to inspire your pupils to do the same. You'll work together and civility will be present between you at all times. Is that understood?" she finished with her mouth pulled in a tight line. Hermione could remember the last time she'd ever been scolded and it was by the very same woman who stood before her now. Even many years later this woman could make her feel like a child and beside her she was sure Draco felt the same from the way his arms were crossed defensively and his eyes were directed at anything but toward McGonagall. Hermione smiled to herself. McGonagall took their silence as an agreement.
"Now," she continued, "Refrain from embarrassing yourselves further for the rest of dinner and I expect both of you to reassure your students in their common rooms tonight of the knowledge there is to be had in these coming weeks, before lights out. Miss Granger, as always, perform your duties with the prefects then both of you should report to my office together for further discussion."
She gave both of them a hard look before turning on her heel and re-entering the Great Hall.
"Well," Draco started, "I'll be in my room. Retrieve me before you head to McGonagall's office later, will you?"
Hermione was in such a state of shock by the gall of his words that she didn't have time to tell him to go screw himself before he disappeared down the hall and around the corner. She huffed an exasperated sigh and re-entered the Great Hall to find that the heavy mood had not lifted, though there were at least a few murmurs now.
Finally the eerie dinner ended. Hermione set off for the Gryffindor tower and waited a while until everyone returned from dinner. She did as McGonagall had instructed and although the students were not looking forward to it, they all reassured her that they knew that it wasn't her fault and that Professor Malfoy often goaded them on in the house rivalry. The first years which were the culprits of today's earlier events apologized and were greeted with cheers and congratulations for their hard work in defending Gryffindor's title, breaking an arm and landing some "wicked" jinxes. Hermione smiled and shook her head. This was Gryffindor house for you.
"Okay, okay…" Hermione interrupted the cheers and hi-fives, "I would like to ask that all of you try your best, even knowing that the Slytherins aren't likely to do the same."
There were scoffs and boos.
"I know, I know, but if I have to deal with Professor Malfoy, I ask that you guys be grateful for having it easy."
"You can do it, Professor Granger!" shouted Evan, a first year from the incident.
Everyone howled with laughter and encouragement.
Hermione laughed alongside, "Thanks everyone and I'm sure you lot can do it too."
"Yeah!" shouted Michelle, "Let's kill them with kindness! Let's show them what Gryffindors are made of!"
More hysterical laughter.
Before leaving to the prefect's meeting she was showered with reassurances that the best of behaviors would be used in handling all situations. She was thankful for that, but was sure that it was only a matter of time before that rowdy bunch ended up in another fight.
Hermione sent the prefects on patrol and was headed to McGonagall's office when she remembered something.
Knock, knock, knock.
She was in a hall one over from the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom. She was full well ready to go without the pompous jerk, but was all too aware that McGonagall would scold her again, this time for showing up without him. After all, this was the start of interhouse relations and as such, she was sure that having to pick up Draco from his room would be considered friendly. If only she could face him without being hostile for having to do it in the first place.
Knock, knock, knock.
Even McGonagall would have to admit that this was ridiculous (of course she wouldn't) but honestly…
"Malfoy!," Hermione yelled at the door.
She shook the knob and the door fell open.
"Malfoy..?" she whispered now, seeing the empty room.
She crept around corners surprised by how cozy his room was. She'd always imagined spotless black leather sofas, green silk curtains and cold marble floors, but this looked like a cozy, old, reading room; rows and rows of books lining the walls, dark stained wood furnishing, a large brown armchair by the fire and a deep red love seat across from it, cream-colored carpet with blue, floral, throw rugs here and there. Indeed not what one would expect.
Hermione continued through the small room, down a hall, and knocked on a door that was most certainly the bedroom.
She tried the knob and it too was unlocked. She poked her head into the small bedroom littered with parchments but he wasn't there. She huffed a sigh and stepped into the room. More books, a very lavish writing desk, and maybe one of the largest comforters she'd ever seen. She turned to leave and in the doorway stood Malfoy.
"What are you doing?" he didn't sound angry. More exasperated than anything, as he stepped past her and began picking up the loose parchment everywhere.
"I came here to get you, you prat." Hermione explained.
"I didn't really expect you to come and get me Granger, I was only teasing." He said nonchalantly as always. Hermione's cheeks burned a little as he continued. "Thanks to you I got an ear full. 'I asked for Granger and yourself to be here together did I not?'… sent me to off to retrieve you." He said, imitating McGonagall's voice to a tee.
Hermione laughed. "I knew that would happen, which is why I came here first."
He looked at her with an amused expression and stacked the pile of parchment on his writing desk.
"Yes well, shall we be on our way then?" He asked, escorting her all the way back to the front door with a hand on the small of her back like some olden day gentleman. Hermione didn't comment on it and neither of them spoke on the way to the headmasters office.
Upon entering, McGonagall stood and gestured for them to take a seat.
"I see you found miss Granger." She began and waited for them to be seated before sitting herself and continuing. "As you well know, tomorrow is our next Hogsmead trip. I would like the both of you to pare up your students. Gryffindor, Slytherin mix if you please. The two of you should put a roster together and by morning, I expect a copy. The heads of Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are doing the same although we all here can admit that the problem lies in your houses. Any questions?"
Draco took the reins and asked the question that was on her mind as well.
"And how are we supposed to make sure they stay pared?" Draco asked. Hermione also knew it would be impossible to force them.
McGonagall looked them in face and answered. "There are plenty of charms, if not jinxes to insure that." was her flippant answer.
At that moment both Draco and Hermione realized how serious she really was. House hatred was one of, if not the biggest problem in Hogwarts but no one ever dreamed of really putting in the kind of time and effort it would take to stop it. But here today they knew, even if the students didn't, that they were being given no choice but to get along and McGonagall was willing to reinforce this even if it took all year.
They left her office and recommenced in Hermione's to set to work on this horrible task.
"How are we supposed to damn our students to this suffering for however long this will take. I feel like a monster and I'm sure that after this, they'll think me one as well?" Hermione felt heartbroken for them.
Draco shrugged. "True. Even I feel somewhat sorry for them. Imagine, had something like this happened in our years at Hogwarts…"
They both shivered at the thought.
"Well," Hermione began, desperately wanting to leave the horrors of that thought behind. "Shall we begin?"
Four very long hours later they had a roster.
They decided to go with boy, girl coupling to minimize the likely hood of fights. Then they tried to pare the stronger willed and the ill willed together. Then the weak and mild mannered together to minimize emotional damage. They worked harder on the 3rd through 5th years because they perhaps still had a chance of making friends, well more of a chance than the 6th and 7th years who were too set in their was.
The only problem they were facing now was the spawn of the devil if there ever was one, aptly named Damien. A 5th year 'boy' if you could even call the demon spawn remotely human.
"What should we do with him?" Hermione pointed at the parchment were the spot for a girls' name was empty.
Draco sighed. "No matter who we put him with it will be that persons worst Hogsmead experience yet. No doubt it will end in tears for the poor girl." he smiled a little.
"It's not funny Malfoy, that boy is a monster."
He cleared his throat and examined the paper closely. "How… about…her?" He pointed to the parchment.
Hermione sucked in a deep breath. "No!" She protested.
"Why not, she's… head strong. I'm sure she can deal with him." He said.
"Are you purposefully pawning him off on one of the brightest students In school just because your jealous that she's in Gryffindor?" Hermione demanded.
"That's ridiculous. She's the only girl in this school who could handle a boy like him." he sighed.
"He'll eat her alive." Hermione argued.
"Give her some credit Granger. You see how well she handles him during classes."
"Yes, but I also know about how she cries to her best friend in the Gryffindor tower later." Hermione seethed.
"As long as he doesn't see it, then we're fine."
Hermione looked flabbergasted.
Draco continued. "Look, it might toughen her up a bit and she ignores him and his jeering so well that he might figure it doesn't work and give up. If we're lucky they'll just sit on a bench and ignore each other. It's just for a day. No one is going to die. Besides, unless you think there is someone else who can stand a chance then we really don't have much of another choice."
Hermione thought it over. Danielle was one of her favorite students. How would she ever forgive Hermione for doing this to her. But he was right…
"Fine." She conceded.
She and Malfoy finished up the last minute changes and decided on a charm to use that no student could break, then headed to bed.
Tomorrow was sure to be one of the worst days in Hogwarts history and know one knew Hogwarts history better than Hermione.