I know it has been a long wait and I am sorry. Both my beta and myself returned to University and have been swamped with work and other assignments.
This is however the longest chapter I have done to date (for any of my fics) so I do hope you enjoy it. I quite like how it turned out.
Hermione slowed down only once she reached the entrance to the classroom. Letting out the breath she was holding, she smoothed out her hair, fixed her robes, and readjusted the bag on her shoulder before pushing the door to the classroom open as quietly as she could.
She noticed that there were only two spare seats at the front of the classroom; she had arrived late to class despite all her rushing after lunch. After she took the seat on the right, she eagerly turned to Ginny and Lavender, who were seated behind her. The three of them conversed about their summer and what they had planned for the upcoming holidays. Hermione was just glad to not have the two boys on her mind for at least five minutes, and luckily Professor McGonagall wasn't in the classroom just yet.
"How is Harry?" Hermione teased.
"Why would you ask me that?" Ginny stammered and blushed while Hermione gave her a knowing look.
"Later," Hermione mouthed.
Ginny's smile crept delicately onto her face and she just nodded at her friend. She felt a nudge from Lavender, followed by a questioning look.
Turning back to the front, Hermione saw a very familiar cat sneak in and jump onto the table. This was the professor's favourite way to start off the year. She quickly jumped off and transformed back into her human self with a little smile tugging at the corners of her lips.
"Welcome to another year of Transfig…"
At that moment, a very smug Draco Malfoy made his way into the classroom and, of course, saw only one seat available to him: the one next to Granger. His face dropped immediately as he made his way to the front of the classroom, every cell in his body resisting being anywhere near her, yet his feet carried him numbly, knowing that he could not make a scene no matter how much he detested the thought of having to sit next to her for the rest of the semester. It was well known that McGonagall's desks were charmed to remember who sat in which seat and therefore seats were assigned for every class until after the Christmas holidays. Just my luck. He looked at the desk and tried to stand up again, but realised he was basically glued to his seat. He clenched his fists in his robe pocket until his knuckles turned white, unsure of what he was feeling. Ah yes, the second part of the charm: you weren't allowed out of your seat without permission, especially not with class under way.
His head was swimming with ponderings of Granger, all leading back to this morning in his shower. He shuddered, still not believing he tossed off to images of the Mudblood. She was invading every personal space of his, since she was placed in the Heads common room and there was nowhere to go anymore to avoid her. When his thoughts finally returned to the classroom, he was not expecting the subtle scent of vanilla to invade his nostrils so quickly. He felt himself relax a bit and he couldn't fathom why.
He heard the sharp tapping of a foot and only then realised that he had actually interrupted McGonagall in the middle of her sentence. He looked at her sheepishly and muttered an apology before adding, "you old hag," under his breath. It was no secret that he couldn't stand any of the Gryffindors, the professor included. McGonagall either pretended not to hear his comment or didn't because she just ignored him and went on with her lesson.
"…uration. Now, please turn to page eleven of your book and take note of what we will be learning these next couple of weeks."
Draco's books were already on his desk and while he waited for everyone else to be ready, he watched Hermione bend over to pull out her materials out of the corner of his eye without turning his head. He noticed that her hair fell over her shoulder, exposing her slender, creamy neck, and her shirt rose up a bit so a sliver of skin showed between her skirt and her jumper. All of this mixed in with her scent led to Draco feeling turned on, again. He clenched his jaw and tried to concentrate on his book, but he couldn't help looking over at her every few seconds until she was finally done rummaging through her bag for a quill and several rolls of blank parchment. It would seem that she had forgotten to pick up her book during her free period. This is so unlike me. She daintily placed everything front of her, peeking at the desired page in Draco's book, which sat conveniently in the middle of the table. She gasped a little when she looked at the information displayed on the page.
Merlin, this looks complicated. No wonder McGonagall said we would be working on this for the next couple of weeks. This is the most complicated Transfiguration we have ever done.
McGonagall smiled knowingly at Hermione's facial expression and began the explanation of the new charm they would be learning.
"I am well aware that a lot of hard work will have to be put into this and some of it will be dealt with outside of class with your partner. I must warn you, if done incorrectly, it can cause some dire consequences. Listen carefully to my instructions and if you are unclear, make sure you read the book's instructions and then come to me," she advised.
Partner?Draco thought flabbergasted. Outside of class? This could very well be a nightmare.He took a couple of deep breaths to calm the thoughts flying through his brain.
Hermione was trying so hard to pay attention to the professor but she couldn't ignore Malfoy's heavy breathing. She turned to face him and gave him her fiercest glare. He just mirrored her, then smirked and turned back to look at his book. Hermione started noticing, once again, how taut Draco's shoulders have become and how the creases of his shirt hugged the muscles on his arms. She trailed her eyes secretly down his body, glancing at his strong legs, when she noticed it: a very prominent bulge in his pants. She blushed and quickly dropped her eyes to the textbook, trying to keep her body as far away from Malfoy's as possible, once again trying to follow what McGonagall was saying.
"You and your partner will be able to perform this spell after some preparation, of course," McGonagall instructed. "The effects will remain a mystery until the final stage of preparation is complete. Be prepared to work with your partner for a total of ten days, consecutively or not, because that is how long the preparation will take," she continued.
Great, I will be stuck with Granger, doing God knows what for ten days. This cannot be good. True, it will let me get close to her, but is that what I really want? I should hate her, shouldn't I?Draco tried clearing his head once again by pressing his long fingers against his temple and taking another deep breath.
Hermione glanced over at him once again, and a look of worry crossed her face briefly. Is he that worried about working with me? It is true that the effects of this whole thing will be unknown, so maybe that is why he is worried.
McGonagall paused to make sure she had everyone's attention. Her eyes scraped across the whole room before they landed on a very sick-looking Draco. She frowned but continued. "There is no way this transfiguration spell can be done with only one person. If one of you decides not to cooperate, you both will fail and this is worth the largest percentage of your mark so I expect both people in the pair to work very hard if not for each other then for themselves."
Hermione and Draco instantly shot daggers at one another with their eyes and turned away. Hermione crossed her arms over her chest and huffed. Draco mimicked her and she wondered if he was only doing that to be a prat as always. Hermione frustratingly dipped her quill into her self-replenishing bottle of ink and started scribbling furiously. The scratching of the quill caused Draco to look over at her work and noticed that they were just extensive notes of what McGonagall was saying. Great, at least one of us is paying attention.No matter what Draco did he could not revert his attention back on McGonagall. It was first concentrated on the ceiling, then on Quidditch, and every so often it would flicker back to the girl seated next to him. Every so often being an understatement. He heard finality in the professor's voice and decided to look up just in time to see a dozen miniature black cubes flying at them. Each one went to a separate couple and landed on the desk in front of them with a soft clunk.Draco and Hermione warily observed theirs and raised their eyes towards the professor once more waiting for her to continue.
"This is what you will be transforming. You will have to use Engorgioon this and I would suggest a place with high ceilings and lots of room just in case. Maybe even outside. Be sure to have the object you wish to transfigurate this to clearly in your mind and be careful not to let your partner know what it is. Concentrate, imagine and speak the incantation mutator formarumvery clearly. Keep the black cube you have just received safe and I will see you all tomorrow," McGonagall dismissed them.
Hermione placed her things back into her bag as slowly and carefully as she got them out, feeling a pair of eyes on her the whole time. She stiffened and turned around, her brow creasing as she eyed Malfoy's face.
"Isn't there something more attractive you can look at than me?" she snorted.
"I'm not looking at you because you are attractive, it just annoys me to no end how much of a perfectionist you are. Do you realise how long it has taken you to get all your things together?" Draco asked, while holding his already packed bag in his lap, staring at her amusedly, "Or is this common among all Muggleborns?" he continued.
Hermione glared at him.
"I don't remember asking for your opinion on anything really, Malfoy," she sneered.
"It's also good to know that you can use a mirror. Have you looked at yourself lately, Granger?" he taunted.
Hermione blushed a bit remembering her time spent in the library with Nate, but her face hardened again when she noticed Draco's amused expression.
Why I am fishing so badly. Do I really care about what happened today in the library between her and Nate? Not at all, it is just curiosity, right? Nothing more. Although, her less-than-perfect appearance is helping her look more human. Her clothes are always ironed and her hair, as bushy as it is, is at least neat. The dust covering her robes and her hair all mussed looks almost, sexy.Draco quickly erased that last thought from his mind as his eyes bore into hers, waiting for a response.
She didn't answer. She decided that feeding fuel to the fire was just what he was expecting her to do. That is the way it always worked these past several years, ever since he called her a Mudblood in second year to be precise. Not this year, however. This year she was an adult and Head Girl, no less. As hard as it was for her she just nodded at him, threw her bag over her shoulder and waltzed out of the room without looking back, leaving a very shocked Draco to trudge out after her.
Nate heard a door slam and he looked up from his reading. He had almost finished the first part of the project and he couldn't wait to tell Hermione. Speaking of which, that must be her, because we have Care of Magical Creatures together.Nate grabbed all of the books he needed for the rest of the day and exited his room, sitting down on the couch in front of the fire to wait for her.
At that moment the portrait hole opened and Draco swaggered in, looking slightly pissed off.
"What happened to you? You were fine an hour ago," Nate shot at him.
"I don't want to talk about it." Draco returned, not giving Nate an unkind look but warning him not to push the subject any further with his strong gaze.
Hermione was inside her room, scourgifyingher robes and combing out her bushy hair with a quick spell when she heard voices.
She smirked at Draco's obvious annoyance and tossed-up whether to exit her room yet or not. She was all packed and ready to go to her next class with Nate, so there was no use dawdling. Quickly opening her door, she stepped into the common room.
Nate felt the tension, which was as thick as morning dew, consume the room, so he remained seated with a baffled expression on his face. He saw the other two people stiffen and glare at each other as if they were the only ones there.
Hermione focused all her energy to look away from Draco and onto Nate when she realised how close she had come to biting Draco's head off at that moment. That was not something a Head Girl should be displaying, especially not in front of a new student who was meant to be getting along with the both of them.
Draco felt a fire surge through his system when her eyes lost contact with his. How dare she ignore me like that? Filthy know-it-all. The least she could do was argue back.He definitely wasn't used to this non-confrontational Granger. Even her punching me in the face is better than this.He stalked off to his room with a curt nod in Nate's direction making a mental note to pick Nate up from his next class so he could escort him to Potions. Now he had an hour with no classes, so he could simmer down.
Nate raised one unsure eyebrow at Hermione, but she just waved it off. He didn't really know what to say to her after the display he had just witnessed, so he trailed closely behind her not daring to disrupt the silence in case she took whatever rage she had bottled up inside her, out on him.
When they finally reached the giant wooden doors that were the entry to the grounds outside he pushed them open for her and let her out first. She gave him a slow smile and proceeded past him and out onto a covered wooden bridge.
"Thank you, no one has ever held the door open for me before," Hermione said shyly as they made their way towards Hagrid's hut.
"Don't people here know what manners are?" Nate joked.
"Obviously not," Hermione returned.
They grinned at each other and continued walking until they spotted a circular dark brown hut, edging closer to it slowly. Nate noticed Hermione's hesitation and when he finally got her attention, he raised a questioning eyebrow at her.
"Hagrid has a certain…knack for presenting particularly dangerous creatures in class, so I am always weary when heading off to his class.
Nate swallowed hard. If she is nervous then I should be, too. I have no idea what kind of creatures the wizarding world has and if they are dangerous…
"Come on Hermione, I am sure it will be fine," Nate said putting on a brave face and grabbing her hand.
She gasped at the warmth and feel of her hand against his as he bravely led her down to where he could see a group of people making a pretty wide circle as far away from the giant as possible.
"Hey, I remember seeing him. He was the one waiting for us when we got off the train," Nate stated.
Hermione nodded in response as they approached the hut noticing that everyone was talking amongst themselves, so class obviously hasn't started just yet.
Hagrid had a wild smile on his face that brightened even more when he noticed Hermione. He lowered his gaze slightly at their hands, which were still grasped together and then gave them a pointed look. Hermione quickly pulled her hand away with a sheepish smile pretending to scratch her leg instead.
"How are ye' two goin'? I do hope Nate o'er 'ere is settlin' well," Hagrid nodded, looking at the pair of them.
"Yes, it's going very well," Hermione answered.
"I am settling in quite well, sir," Nate answered nervously.
"No need to be callin' me tha', it's Hagrid."
"Okay, Hagrid," Nate smiled back at his new professor.
Hagrid raised his voice so the rest of the group could hear:
"Come 'round e'ryone. There's somethin' I wan' ter be show'n' ya."
The rest of the class followed Hagrid to the other side of his hut, a mix of fear and excitement etched on their faces.
Nate stuck close to Hermione as he saw Hagrid pointing to a thin, pale-grey serpent with glowing red eyes that carefully surveyed them. It was barely visible underneath the hut's outside enclosed storage area and the only tell-tale sign that it was there was the ashy trail leading to it from the outdoor fireplace.
"Not too close, not too close," Hagrid commanded.
The class took one step back and they saw the snake relax again.
"Do any of ya want ter explain wha' this is?" Hagrid asked.
Hermione almost instantly spoke, "It is an Ashwinder, and it is created when a magical fire, such as Floo powder, is left to burn for too long. Once it emerges from the ashes, it slithers away to a dark dwelling near where it was created to lay its eggs."
"Very good Hermione, ten points ta Gryffindor," Hagrid beamed.
The rest of the class continued surveying the serpent, knowing that this can't be it. This creature had to be more interesting if Hagrid was to deem it worthy of presenting. At that moment the snake let out a tiny hiss and unraveled its coils a bit, revealing two brilliantly bright red eggs. Nate could feel the heat emerging from the eggs, so he took another step back cautiously. At that moment, the serpent disintegrated back into ash, which slowly blew away in the wind. The class stood back and watched in awe, some even getting closer to the eggs. Hermione's eyes were darting this way and that, surveying both Hagrid and the rest of the class as if waiting for something to happen.
She jumped forward her wand extended at the burning eggs. "Glacius!"The eggs immediately froze. "The eggs will ignite the dwelling within minutes if not frozen properly; they are of great value once frozen, to be used in love potions and even eaten as a cure for ague," she recited as if reading from a textbook. Hermione was trying to catch her breath as she looked at the rest of the class.
"Sorry, forgo' 'bout tha'," Hagrid said sheepishly. "Class dismissed, see you soon!" he continued. "Hermione, would ya be able to bring these to the Hospital Wing fo' me?" Hagrid pointed to the frozen eggs. "As ye said, they're a good cure fo' ague."
"Sure thing, Hagrid. I have a spare class now anyways," Hermione gave him a small smile as she bent over to pick up the two, now blue, eggs which felt quite a neutral temperature in her hand despite the fact that they were frozen.
"Goodbye, Hagrid," Nate added.
"Take care o' yerselves you two!"
Nate and Hermione began to make their way up the hill towards the bridge again when they saw a pale face with blond hair making its way towards them. Draco Malfoy.
"I see you are an expert at handling round objects, especially if there are two of them," Draco smirked at the eggs in Hermione's hands.Blue balls, how appropriate, he thought.
"Not that it's any of your business, but I was just going to the infirmary to give these to Madame Pomfrey. Have fun in Potions Nate!" And with that, she was gone.
"I expect you had an interesting time with that bumbling oaf, Hagrid."
"I did, indeed. He just might be my favourite professor," Nate returned, unfazed by the shock splayed across Draco's face.
"Oh…" was all Draco could come up with in return. "Ready for Potions?" he asked quickly changing the subject. "We have Snape again," Draco added with a bit of pride in his voice.
"Yes, I guess I am," Nate answered not too sure how he felt about the greasy-haired professor that seemed to hate the Gryffindors. "Let's get on with it then."
Hermione swiftly made her way to the hospital wing, holding the eggs carefully and close to her body. They were amazing and she couldn't believe she saw them being laid with her own eyes. Her thoughts, however, didn't stay on the eggs for too long.
What a foul loathsome git Malfoy is! How dare speak to me like that, and question my motives? I don't care how handsome he is. Wait…handsome? Shut up Hermione, you are being silly.Hermione shook her head trying to eradicate the muddled thoughts in her brain but that did nothing except make them shift. Nate is subtly sweet. It is flattering and sickening at the same time. But the warmth of his hand was absolutely lovely! She smiled a bit and then her smile dropped again as her thoughts returned to Malfoy. How could he stare at me and notice how slowly I am packing, or that I am carrying things, and then actually comment? He used to act like I wasn't worth noticing. What is happening with him? I am a Muggle-born after all, yet his actions and his words tell two different stories indeed. He is hot and cold at the same time and it is driving me insane.Hermione turned her flushed face to the infirmary, which she had just happened upon, opening it with her right hand and making her way inside.
She saw Madame Pomfrey, who looked quite pleased at the objects Hermione was holding. She all but snatched them away and levitated them to the top of the medicine cabinet quickly thanking Hermione and then dismissing her on the basis of having to take care of some patients.
Luckily the Hospital Wing wasn't more than a couple of corridors away from the Head's dorm room.
Once inside, she spotted three envelopes on the table in front of the fireplace, each with one of their respective names on it and the Hogwarts crest. She opened the one with her name on it eagerly and read the fine scrawl of Dumbledore's handwriting inside.
Dear Miss Granger,
I apologise for forgetting to mention this earlier but, alas, it is better late than never. Inside your dorm on the far wall near your bed, there is an empty portrait. If you knock on the middle of it three times, one of the house elves will make its way up to you and open up the door to the other side. This door will lead you to the Gryffindor common rooms. The same blank portrait is found there as well, should you wish to return, but it is bewitched so only you can use it unless you wish to bring someone into the Head's common room with you. I hope that this makes your stay here more enjoyable. I know how hard the thought of being separated from your house must have been for you.
Hermione all but squealed when she read the message and she quickly made her way to her room and past her bed and stood in front of the empty portrait. She extended her hand and rapped three times on it. She could see a funny looking creature coming towards her from a distance and it grew as it got closer and closer. Hermione waited patiently for it to extend an arm out and open the portrait for her. She was going to talk to Dumbledore about using House Elves for this job later, but right now she was too excited about the prospect of being back in a room she has called home for the past six years.
"Harry, Ron, Ginny!" Hermione called when she saw them huddled on the couch together reading the Daily Prophet.
The three of them jumped but noticed the empty portrait closing behind her so they finally knew what the new edition to their common room was for and they weren't surprised. Just extremely pleased.
"I didn't know you guys had a free period now," she continued excitedly.
"That's because you abandoned us," Ron joked.
Hermione just scowled at him teasingly.
"Good to see you too Ron, now that you aren't stuffing your face with two chicken drumsticks at once."
All four of them burst out laughing mirthfully.
They spent the next hour talking, joking and giggling over the most pointless stuff and Hermione couldn't help but notice Ginny's obvious flirting with Harry. She also noticed that Harry was returning it, and she just smiled knowingly. Ron was, of course, oblivious to it all and that made Hermione smile wider. She loved her friends.
Time was, however, running out seeing as how they only had a spare hour so Hermione slowly made her way back to the portrait as Harry, Ron and Ginny said their goodbyes to her.
"I will come visit you at the same time tomorrow," Hermione answered happily. "Oh, and Ginny, we need to have a girl-talk soon, so I will come pick you up some time so we can go back to my dorm."
"Ooooooh girl talk," Harry and Ron mocked in a sing-song voice causing the two girls to give them dirty looks.
With a final wave Hermione knocked on the portrait three times and re-entered her dorm.
Picking up her Charms books in preparation for her last class of the day, she exited the Head's Dormitory and headed down to the second floor to Charms. For the second time since the train, her mind was on things other than Nate and Draco. At least until she saw them again.
Draco and Nate filed into the Potions classroom in the dungeons, grabbing the pair of desks at the back. They listened to Snape drawl on about the most combustible potions and cringed when he gave them an assignment that required two feet of parchment to complete. Nate couldn't wait to get out of there. It was damp and cold and he didn't feel very safe. Especially not with Snape shooting daggers at him with his eyes. He didn't know why, but he had never felt so small in his life. Snape as a Potion's professor felt immensely different than Snape as a Defense Against the Dark Arts professor did. He seemed more angry for some reason. Or maybe that was just Nate's interpretation. He could hear Draco chuckling beside him when a couple of Hufflepuff girls got ten points taken off their house for talking out of turn, and another five for forgetting their books. Nate couldn't understand Draco's appreciation for the professor at all. Not soon even after, class was finally over and Nate packed his books as quickly as he could while waiting for Draco. They left together and made their way up to the second floor for Charms.
Chapter End Notes:
The source I used for the Ashwinder was the book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them.
The next chapter should be out in about three weeks or so. I am really sorry for yet another delay but all of my biggest essays and assignments are due a couple of weeks from now.