So I'm really really sorry if any of this seems choppy…I was watching Bones while I wrote some of it so there were moments when I was just a teensy bit distracted lol…and I really really apologize for Herm's mini-meltdown in the middle but that's all that came to me when I wrote it (I was also a bit aggravated so I think I took advantage of her character to take out my frustrations on fictional characters rather than the people I was really mad at). Anyway, things should start moving along at a faster pace now, and I can almost see the end! This will be the first story I have ever actually finished!
As always, I love the reviews! They keep me writing, and give me a warm fuzzy feeling in my heart that keeps chanting "someone out there likes this so you gotta keep writing!" every time I get stumped. Special thanks to those who reviewed ch9: xMISSJAYx (I'm so glad you loved it! And I'm glad you agree about their relationship…I do so hate the ones that just throw them together…there's no way that could ever really happen. Not with those two. I hope your finals went well!), litchibi, LMZ (OH BOY OH BOY I CONVERTED ANOTHER TO DRAMIONE FANDOM!), nature love 95, An (I'm glad you are enjoying the fic…and I appreciate the suggestion about DM's POV, and I thought about it but in the end I came to the conclusion that part of the mystery of this particular fic is his mysteriousness and not knowing what he is thinking), lioking46 (Thank you for your suggestion…I was really really close to using that one, and then I decided I wanted a spell created specifically for putting out fires, and unfortunately couldn't find one of those lol), Emma (you're my most loyal reviewer lol! And our dear Herms is going to be getting a break soon…there's going to be one more big tough spot in Ch 11 but it should clear after that), AngelGoneDevil69, edwardsoneandonlylove (I'm so glad you find it both humorous and surprising! I love being unexpected for my readers!)
Disclaimer: I hate this part. This is the part where I realize that, even after all the writing and twisting the characters for my own demented purposes, I really don't own them….but JK is "totally awesome!" for thinking it up!
At breakfast the next morning, the Great Hall was buzzing with excitement.
"Has it occurred to anyone else that this school has more than its fair share of drama?" Hermione asked no one in particular.
"Has it occurred to you that you're the one causing most of that drama?" Ginny countered, eyes focused on the new issue of Witch Weekly.
Hermione looked startled. "But…I…I only react to what others do—I don't create the fuss!"
Ginny shrugged. "All that really matters is what everyone else says. And everyone else's tongues are really wagging about about you."
"Face it, hun, you're a topic of interest."
"On another interesting topic, have either of you heard about the Slytherins last night?" Harry asked.
Ron looked up, muffin in hand. "Some girl in Ravenclaw told Lav that a cursed book got hold of Nott and two other Slytherins. Did more damage than Hagrid's monster book."
Hermione nodded. "That's actually fairly accurate."
Three heads turned to her.
"Well, I was in the infirmary last night," she added quickly.
"Really? What happened?" Ron asked eagerly.
"Yes, do tell," a smooth voice joined them.
Hermione didn't move, but the other three sat up straight and exchanged wary glances.
"Good morning, Malfoy," Hermione said pleasantly, not turning around.
"Good morning," he replied. " How are you feeling?"
"Quite well, thank you. And yourself?"
"Okay, am I the only one who finds this weird?" Ginny murmured. Harry and Ron shook their heads fervently.
"Oh, I am in a good mood. We're having some real nice weather this morning."
"Oh, yes," Hermione agreed. "I expect it will be one of the last this year."
"Okay, that's enough!" Ginny announced. "This is not normal! Either you have a point, Malfoy, or you don't. If you don't, please go away."
He stared at the redhead.
She stared back, unblinking.
The corner of his mouth turned up. "Very well. Professor Snape asked me to tell you to report to your detention tomorrow night instead of tonight."
"Oh. Well, okay. Thank you."
"You're very welcome. See you tonight."
Hermione turned around. "Malfoy?"
"Did you have anything to do with this?"
He smiled down at her. "Why would you ask that?"
"Because there's no way Snape would ever allow a change of detention for me. Or any other Gryffindor, but especially me."
"That was before he knew you were tutoring one of his favorite pupils," he said, smile widening.
She blinked. "Oh. Right. Yes, well, I will see you at seven."
He tilted his head, then bowed slightly and walked away.
Hermione went back to eating her breakfast.
"Um, excuse me? How can you sit there eating like everything is normal?" Ginny demanded.
"Because if I stop eating every time something out of the ordinary happens, it won't take me long to starve to death," Hermione replied matter-of-factly, taking another bite.
"Ugh. Merlin's pants. You are impossible!"
"It makes perfect sense to me."
"Well, yeah, but don't you want to talk about it?"
"Aren't we talking now?" Hermione asked.
"Hey, Hermione! Mind if we join you?"
Hermione closed her eyes. "Sure, guys. Seats are empty."
Dean and Seamus took no extra time in filling the two seats to Hermione's right.
"So. What's everybody doing during free period?" Seamus asked, swiping the last piece of bacon just before Ron picked it up. The redhead glared. Seamus appeared not to notice.
"I am going to class, because I am not in your year," Ginny announced loudly.
Seamus flushed. "Sorry, Gin, I wasn't being rude.
"I'm just a little tired of always being excluded."
This made the Irish boy shift uncomfortably.
"Okay, in an attempt to change the subject," Dean said, looking around Seamus at Hermione, "What was Malfoy doing over here?"
"He had a message from Snape."
"Do you and Malfoy have a relationship?" Seamus asked.
"I beg your pardon?" she asked weakly.
"Well, a lot of people think the two of you are secretly dating."
Ron spit out the bite he was chewing.
Ginny's mouth formed a perfect O.
Hermione looked faint.
Dean even looked astounded at Seamus' incredible stupidity.
"He…is a Slytherin…I am a Gryffindor. And even if we weren't, he still would not look twice at anyone with unpure blood, just as I would never involve myself with someone so annoyingly arrogant. Have I made myself perfectly clear? Or do the rumors still sound more believable?"
Seamus looked properly chastised.
"Hey, man, I wouldn't say anything else. That's two girls you've ticked off in the last three minutes," Ron said.
"I was just trying to make conversation. That's the first thing I thought of."
"I've learned to shut up unless it's sports or school. Sports they ignore. School they correct you on. So unless you're able to snog them into silence, those are your only options."
Everyone turned to stare in shock at Ron.
Ron himself looked surprised.
"Where did that insightful speech come from?" Hermione wondered.
"I have no clue. That was scary."
"Maybe you've spent so much time around Hermione that you can interpret anthropological patterns now," Ginny offered.
"I haven't said anything like that yet," Harry protested.
"That," Ginny said smugly, "is because you have been spending more time with me lately."
The two shared a meaningful look.
"Still eating here," Hermione said, trying not to roll her eyes.
"Well, you and I could go find somewhere private and exchange looks," Dean said suggestively.
Ron snorted. "Ain't gonna happen, mate."
"Hey, I already tried subtle. It's time for not-so-subtle."
"Guys! I'm sitting right here! And for the record, I'm smarter than you, so I understand subtle, usually better than most people. I was ignoring it in the hope that interest would fade," Hermione said, exasperation evident in her voice.
"Is there any chance you're playing hard to get?"
Hermione sighed. "No, Dean, I am not playing hard to get," she informed him, standing to walk away. "I'm sorry."
"Hey, wait, Hermione. Wanna go to Hogsmeade with me?" Seamus asked hopefully.
Hermione groaned and turned around slowly. "Seamus. I am not going to Hogsmeade. I already said that."
"Oh. Well, I just thought maybe you were telling us that to put us off nicely."
"No. I am tutoring Saturday. But I would have said no anyway. You guys are my friends. I have no romantic interest in either of you. I guess I shouldn't really keep trying subtle or nice refusals."
"Told you," Ginny said, smiling proudly.
"Argh! You people! This is school! There shouldn't be romantic drama at all! I am going to the library, where things actually make sense!"
"Whoa! Wait for me!" Ginny said, grabbing a piece of toast and racing after Hermione.
When they were out of earshot, the redhead rounded on her friend. "Okay. What is your problem? Why are you acting like such a prude?"
"Oh, Gin, I'm just tired. Ever since Ron and Lavender got together, I've been fending off advances from about five guys. It makes absolutely no sense. I am not the sort of girl that merits that kind of attention. I just want to go back to where everybody thought I was a know-it-all who lived in the library and only ventured out when her friends needed help with their homework."
"Well, sorry, sweetie, but that ain't going to happen. You're noticed now. Get used to it."
Ginny paused a moment. "You know what we should do? Oh, what's the Muggle word…make-over?"
Hermione stopped and started backing away."Oh, no. No way. I'm staying the way I am. I like the way I am."
"No. Go to class."
Then, without waiting for a reply from the younger girl, Hermione made a beeline for the library.
She was sitting at her usual table, head cradled in hands, when she heard the unmistakable sound of footsteps deliberately approaching.
She looked up.
"Don't you have class?"
"Well, you see, there's no way Trelawney will ever notice me missing," Malfoy said with a satisfied smile.
"She will if I tell her. Which I assure you I will do if you do not leave," Hermione replied.
"Why do you keep threatening me?" he asked gravely, smile gone.
"Because you somehow manage to keep to keep catching me during moments of weakness.
"Ah, so you lash out defensively to protect yourself," Malfoy said.
"I…I am not comfortable talking to you," she replied evasively. Why did he have to barge in and start talking like that?
"You mean you don't want to talk to me because I'm attacking you and you know I'm right," Malfoy amended.
What the hell? Why doesn't he just go away?
Hermione sat up straight. "I do not appreciate what you are implying. And the reason I don't want to talk to you is because it's way too unusual to talk to you without exchanging insults, hexes, or physical blows."
"If you'll think carefully, I haven't physically hit you. A gentleman never hits a lady. Also, there's no proof that I've used magic against you."
"Just as there is no proof that I used my wand against you, and yet you seem to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was me who doused you in Charms," Hermione said smilingly.
Malfoy inclined his head. "Touché. What do you say we call a truce?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"Have you never heard the term before? It means—"
"Don't take that tone with me, Malfoy. I know what it means. I just thought I heard you wrong."
"Why is that?"
"Well, why would you extend an olive branch to me, of all people?"
"Well," Malfoy said slowly, "we are going to be spending an extraordinary amount of time together, between being Potions partners and the Charms work. I have decided that I do not wish to continue fighting pointlessly with you."
Hermione stared at him. "You do remember who you are talking to, correct?"
He didn't seem to comprehend her meaning.
"Oh, don't give me that idiot act. You're not that thick. And I'm no fool. What are you playing at?"
He grinned. "Why must I have a motive?"
Her eyebrows shot up. "You want the entire list?"
"There's a list?"
"You bet there is. You're a Slytherin, you're a Malfoy, you are unbelievably chauvinistic, you're a sneaky—"
"Okay! Whoa! I believe you. There's a list."
"What's your motive?"
There was a slight pause.
"Same as everyone else who approaches you: good grades, of course. Preferably without bodily harm."
She eyed him suspiciously.
"Fine. I will consider abstaining from using my wand or physical means to harm you. For as long as possible, anyway."
"You think you cannot refrain from hurting me?" Malfoy said in a wounded voice. "I can be terribly charming."
"Huh. We'll see. Go away. I will meet you at seven."
The blonde gaped at her for a minute, obviously disconcerted. Finally he gave one of his short bows and left her in peace.
At last, she thought, letting her head fall back to the table.
She woke, feeling extremely well-rested and ready for class. She sat up, surprised her neck wasn't sore.
Then she opened her eyes.
And groaned. "Not again."
"Good afternoon, Miss Granger. So nice to see you, too."
She was back in the hospital wing.
"How did I get in here?"
"Some third years discovered your body and hysterically told Madame Pince that you were dead. She brought you here to rest."
"Wait…afternoon? What time is it?"
Hermione shrieked. "I missed all my classes!"
"I have no doubt that you are chapters ahead in those classes and have perfect scores," the nurse told her unsympathetically. "I am sure you won't fall behind."
"I could have missed something important!"
"Well, I am satisfied that you've rested enough, so you are free to go."
Hermione practically sprinted from the room, hearing Madame Pomfrey laugh softly.
She arrived early to dinner, and sat reading her Ancient Runes notes while she waited for the food and her friends to arrive.
"How are you feeling, Hermione?"
Hermione lifted her head, surprised. "I might ask you the same thing. What are you doing here?"
"Slipped out of Herbology early, of course. Finnegan almost got strangled by a Devil's Snare when he backed into it. Longbottom actually saved him," Malfoy said, chuckling at the memory.
"Yes, well, Neville's actually quite brilliant at Herbology," Hermione replied. "Tell me, do you often leave class early or just blow it off entirely?"
The blonde grinned. "Now why would I tell you that, Hermione? You might threaten to rat me out again."
She raised an eyebrow. "Okay, fine. Answer me this: why are you suddenly calling me by my first name?"
He chuckled. "I knew you were going to ask that."
"I could tell by that eloquent lift of your lovely eyebrow. It says far more than your words actually do. You wanted to say something a few moments ago when I called you Hermione."
"So of course you did it again."
"Yes, of course, one of my favorite pastimes is driving you batty. I find I'm actually quite good at it."
Now her eyes narrowed. "Oh, is that so?"
Malfoy laughed. "Point proven by your reaction just now."
She glared. "Did you have a reason for harassing me?"
"Oh, how you loathe me. I simply noticed you were alone, and since I was the only other person in the Great Hall, I thought I would be polite and see if you were feeling better."
"Gah! Quit making sense! Go back to bullying and insulting everyone!"
He grinned and reached out.
She glared again and grabbed his arm before he could touch her.
"Is there a problem here?" inquired a voice that could only belong to Professor Snape.
Hermione dropped Malfoy's arm like she'd been hit with a Stinging Hex.
"Not at all, Professor," Malfoy replied easily, still grinning.
The Potions master rolled his eyes and continued walking.
"Back up!" Hermione hissed. "Three feet at all times!"
The Slytherins grin grew wider.
Professor Snape stopped and came back to the pair.
"By the way, Miss Granger, in case Mr. Malfoy forgot to tell you, you will report to your detention next Friday. Madame Pomfrey has begged and threatened me to postpone it." He paused. "I suggest you refrain from trying so hard to learn anything found in a book."
Then he swept away.
Hermione stared after him.
"Well, I'm off before your friends come in and hex me into oblivion. Why don't we not meet tonight? I don't want to be responsible for your less-than-perfect grades."
The Gryffindor's lips pursed, making him grin again.
"What, Granger? Are you actually holding your tongue?"
"Are you trying to provoke me, Malfoy?"
"Just looking for your buttons," he said, already walking off.
"Well, stop," she called after him.
"Stop what?" Harry asked, staring suspiciously at Malfoy's back.
"Nothing," Hermione replied irritably, snapping her book shut.
"Why does nothing always sound like something when girls say it like that?" Ron grumbled, sitting down heavily.
"Don't ask," Ginny advised as she joined them.
"How are we supposed to understand girls if you never answer our questions?" Harry asked, sliding an arm around Ginny's waist and pulling her closer.
"Oh, you'll never be able to understand us," Ginny assured him, nuzzling his neck. "Even if we did answer the questions."
"Do you realize how unfair that is?" Ron complained.
"Ron," Hermione said slowly, "life is unfair. Has the last six years taught you anything?"
The redhead chose to ignore her in favor of the food that had just appeared.
"You know," Hermione said thoughtfully, "maybe I should focus more on S.P.E.W."
"Are you crazy?" Ginny asked loudly. "Do you really think you need any more projects right now?"
Ron groaned. "Please, Hermione. Forget about spew!"
"It's not spew!" Hermione replied hotly. "It's S.P.E.W."
"I think it's a wonderful idea."
Ron stared at Harry like he'd been Confunded.
"Seriously?" Hermione asked excitedly.
"Well, it's loads better than your new vendetta against the Slytherins," Harry said wryly.
"Oh, no no no," Ron said, actually putting down his fork to talk. "This is way cooler!"
Hermione rolled her eyes. "Never mind. I should have known better."
"So, Harry, about practice—"
"Hold it right there, you two. Before you start going on about that ridiculous sport, why don't you tell me what I missed in class today?"
There was a long, silent pause during which Harry and Ron exchanged looks.
"Oh, for Merlin's sake. Do you ever pay attention?" she demanded crossly.
"If that wasn't a rhetorical question, it should have been."
"What?" she asked, concentrating innocently on her soup.
"We pay attention!"
"Sure you do," was the sardonic response. "I'm not in any of your classes and I know you only pay attention to Hermione, and that's only when there's homework due or it's the night before an exam."
"Well…we learn better by cramming."
"Yeah! Yeah, that's it."
"Have you ever tried any other way?" Ginny asked.
"That's what I thought. What if Hermione quits helping you? What if something happens and she can't help you?"
While the boys pondered over that scary possibility with sickened expressions, Ginny filled Hermione in on the details of the day.
It didn't take long.
"Truth be told, it was pretty boring," the redhead finished. "Must be because you weren't walking around."
"Oh, ha ha. How witty. I hope your brothers test their next product on you. On the Quidditch pitch in front of the entire school," Hermione said distractedly.
"A bit harsh, don't you think?" Harry commented.
"Oh, I'm sorry. I'm just a little on edge."
"Just a little?" Ginny asked, sounding miffed.
"Yeah," Hermione said quietly. "I have to do something."
"Why does something sound like a dangerous, bad idea that we won't approve of?"
"What do you think you have to do?"
"Accept the olive branch," Hermione answered heavily, standing up.
Preview for Ch11:
"It's not like she's worshipping purebloods or anything. Actually, the more time she spends with Malfoy, the more action she takes against the Slytherins."
DM: HAHAHA! You missed your classes! AND you're going to give in and agree with my proposition! HAHAHA!
HG: Do not mess with me, Mr. I-Can't-Do-Charms.
DM: Hey! That was low!
HG: And your little laughter just now wasn't?
GW: Hey! Will the two of you quit arguing and tell me what's going on? What olive branch?
HG: *flushes and stumbles over her words* It's nothing. The author is going to rewrite it and change it. I am not giving in.
LadyKnight: Sorry, hun, but it ain't getting rewritten. It's time to compromise.
DM: *cackles insanely in background*
HG: *stalks off, muttering darkly*
LadyKnight: Oh, lovely, now she's not going to cooperate for ch11.
DM: *laughs harder, bent over at the waist and holding his sides*
LadyKnight: *grumbles and retreats to her writing desk*
GW: Oh, will you shut up? Or do I have to make you?
DM: *stands up straight, laughter gone*
GW: Thank you. Now tell me what's going on.
DM: *gets that unique deer-in-the-headlights look before running off*
GW: Oh, come on! Somebody tell me!