Hermione Granger, at twenty years old, had done rather well for herself they all said.
A book published on the theory of Charms and another on the 'Geneology of the Modern Wizarding World - A Scientific View on Magic' publushed at the age of 19, allowed her the pick of the crop for whatever career she so desired even being tipped in some polls in Witch Weekly as the next (and first female) Minister of Magic. These rumours were quashed, however, when it was announced that Hermione Granger had no greater desire than to return to Hogwarts to teach: some praised this, some referred to it as 'nostalgia for the old days' (the whole hubbub and awe of the 'Golden Trio' was dying down), and some cattily remarked she was doing it as an attention bid, or as a way to recapture the brief romance she enjoyed with Chudley Cannons Keeper, Ronald Weasley. This last one stung slightly: no-one knew the complete truth about her and Ronald, so how people thought they could comment was beyond her.
She and Harry, newly appointed Head of Magical Law Enforcement, still kept in touch, even though other old friendships were waning under the pressure of aging and growing up (and out) of the Hogwarts days, and the Second Wizarding War. They regularly wrote each other: short letters, polite, cordial. The correct social etiquette and concern reserved for those that you care about, but are not as close as you used to be to.
She signed the usual 'H x' at the end (an in-joke of theirs was to sign the same signature at the end), and tied the sealed envelope onto her tawny owl Pallas' waiting leg, and opened the window, letting her fly out into the open sky.
Everything had changed, after seventh year: her and Ron had broken up, Harry had defeated Voldemort and married Ginny, and Ronald had made it clear that now that Ginny was no longer at the Burrow, and Harry was 'his friend first', she should have as little contact with them as possible.
Fred's death had hit him hard: he was difficult with emotions before that, but after... well, after he had become unreachable, and this had been one of the major flaws in his and Hermione's relationship. She sighed, stretching out in the mahogany chair, he had never quite forgiven her for that, she thought.
Tying her hair up into a knot on her head, she set about cleaning out the study she shared with Firenze: he was branching out into different sorts of magic, having returned after the end of the War to continue teaching Divination, but wanting to learn more about wizards and witchcraft. She thought this was admirable, and did all she could in helping to 'bridge the gap' between the species (she liked the irony in this, a mudblood helping a 'halfbreed'. She often chuckled to herself, wondering what Umbridge would say if she could see it.) Books were scattered about, 'Enchanting Charms for the Charming Enchantress' by Leba Anata, 'Charms: A History and Study of Charms and Charmwork Throughout the Ages' by Aiken Adelbert and 'The Time Travellers Wife' by Audrey Niffenegger were all carefully swept into the Undetectably Concealed Enlarged inside of her bag, and with a swish of her wand the rest of the room was tidy.
Hermione was enjoying being back at Hogwarts: she knew she would have returned sooner or later, and it seemed that some of the other old Students had thought the same thing. It was slightly nostalgic, seeing them around and about, but also comforting in the way that she could see some things never change: Neville was now Professor of Herbology, and also Head of Gryffindor House, Ginny now taught Quidditch and was guest Umpire and present at most games (when she wasn't playing with the Holyhead Harpies), and Parvati Patil had returned (after a sharp jolt to the head during the Battle of Hogwarts), with a newfound gift for Divination, and had recently joined the empty place the newly retired (and dearly beloved of Parvati) Professor Trelawney, and also rejoined her old classmates as Professors of Hogwarts. Hermione was rather surprised, and taken aback, at the return of Draco Malfoy, as none other than Professor of Defence Against the Dark Arts, and unsurprisingly, as Head of Slytherin.
She had wondered what had possessed Headmistress McGonnagall to instate him as that: she had assumed that she, like herself, would see Draco Malfoy in any position of power and influence over the young impressionable minds of post-War students as nothing other than a bad thing.
McGonnagall had, politely as possible but reassuring Hermione quite sternly that it was none of her concern, and that Mister Malfoy had reinvented himself as a 'poster boy' for reform and change. Hermione had snippily said (in her head, but also to Ginny later over a cup of tea) that 'leopards never change their spots'. She didn't think Ginny understood her meaning, but counteracted her point with something similar of a wizarding variety.
She smiled at the memory, and found herself walking towards to Quidditch Pitch, in an attempt to see 'Professor' Potter (Ginny had taken Harry's name when they had married: the children would take a mixture of both names, she had been told, when they begin school), and saw her flying around the pitch on her own.
Lithe and quick, her figure swooped and dived, like a kite caught in a breeze: random and rhythmic, both at the same time; rising and falling with the dip of the breeze, almost becoming a part of it herself. She assumed Ginny had traded in her usual black helmet for a silver one, as the sunlight caught the top of her hair. Her body was oddly masculine, she could see, even from this distance, but she thought nothing of it as underneath all the padding and the robes, she mused, anyone would lose their figure. Sitting on the benches, she pulled out her book and decided to wait for Ginny to finish what she was doing.
She pulled her sunglasses out of her bag, for it was early September and the summer weather had not quite faded yet, and the sun reflecting off the lake caused the most awful flashes, and she pulled out 'The Time Travellers Wife' and began to read, becoming so engrossed in the novel that she did not notice the figure drop out of the sky like a swallow to ground, and slope over to her in a lazy arrogant gait, extremely unlike the ladylike stride of Ginevra Potter.
'Enjoy watching me play, Granger?' a familiar drawl broke the quiet sunny silence Hermione was joining as she read. Startled, she dropped the book and clasped a hand to her chest.
Draco Malfoy gingerly picked up the book, the gloves he was wearing to protect his hands making his movements clumsy: Hermione couldn't surpress a smirk at the sight of him struggling. 'A muggle book, Granger? How unlike you.' He unchivalrously tossed it back onto her lap, his tall broad shadow eclipsing the sun, making the rays fan out about his head in a silvery halo, and she couldn't help noticing how iridescent and colourful it made his eyes look - almost enough to take her breath away...
She snapped out of it, blushing under his curious gaze - stop blushing! She shouted at herself, furious for letting him embarrass her, and retorted: 'As a matter of fact, Malfoy, there is no way on this Earth that I would ever be waiting here for you.' She stood, shoving the book carelessly into her bag, riled at having her peace disturbed, by none other than him, and turned sharply, stalking to the end of the bench. She turned around, her gaze venemous and threatening, before she said 'Infact, I doubt anybody cares enough about you to wait for you.' And turning back around, she returned to the castle.
Hurriedly bustling back on up to her study, she found herself quarreling internally with herself, for some reason unable to shake of the feeling of guilt that she had been unnecessary cruel and harsh to Malfoy. He was Malfoy she reasoned, he deserved that and a lot more! But still, there was disquiet and an unsettling feeling within herself, that something she had done was not right.
The hours dragged by, and she noticed at Dinner he was absent: again, the uncomfortable feeling in her stomach caused her skin to prickle, but she pushed it aside as she enjoyed a glass of Butterbeer with Neville and Luna (who were engaged to marry the next May), and Ginny, until she was alone.
Then it finally hit her.
It had been her to instigate the rudeness, the unpleasantness: her who began the taunting and the sly references. But something unsettled her even greater as she lay in bed that night, unable to sleep as she rolled the day through her mind.
He hadn't even called her Mudblood once.