All related to the world of Harry Potter belongs to JK Rowling. This plot is my idea.
Chapter One: Sight
Since first setting foot into Hogwarts, Hermione Granger had established herself as one of the brightest students in the whole lot, if not the brightest. Through countless hours spent in libraries and in classrooms she had worked really quite hard to put herself at the top, and through these rigorous practices and more, she held a secret sense of pride in herself and all her accomplishments. Harry and Ron often told her she spent too much time at the library, that now and then it wouldn't hurt to abandon her books temporarily and go socialize for a bit. She knew deep down she could be a bit awkward at times, and her attempts (the very few she had made so far, back in the Muggle world) at flirting or romance had turned out terribly.
I'd rather be in the library, anyway, she'd think, fighting off the embarassment that had pricked at her after those incidents. She had been made fun of for her looks, for her eagerness to answer all the questions the professors gave. She didn't care for it, and would withdraw into her studies again.
That summer, there had been a boy that had caught her fancy in the library she frequented. He had dark hair and brown eyes, was around her height. He smiled at her every time she came in, and they had made small talk a few times as she had checked out books, her heart hammering all the while as she tried to appear calm and not blush. She had wandered the aisles and wondered again and again what might happen if she asked him out for a coffee.
Nothing had come of it. She'd never even gotten the chance. A letter had come from Hogwarts a week before her next planned visit. It was from Dumbledore, requesting her presence at the school a week before the term officially started. She'd immediately messaged Harry and Ron to ask if they'd received a letter, too. They had. None of them knew why but agreed to meet at King's Cross, where Dumbledore had arranged a Portkey for them so they might all arrive at once.
He had specified in his brief letter that he would not be there himself, but most of the staff would. When he arrived, he would greet them all properly and explain why they'd been summoned early. In the meantime, they were free to make themselves at home. That they had, she thought with a small smile as she stepped over a puddle on the cobblestoned floor. They had pored over a great number of books in the library-or at least she had. The boys had gazed out the window at the Quidditch field, longing evident in their eyes. They would have gone out to practice but the entire week they had been there it had been raining. Hard, relentless pouring accompanied by a symphony of thunderclaps and some spectacular shows of lightning as well. Not to mention the harsh winds. Harry and Ron would have no problem walking through the grounds but seeing as she was quite as physically strong as them, she'd have to put up a good resistance against it.
The weather had dampened their spirits, but they decided to hang about inside instead. Reading, exploring the empty classrooms, playing Wizards Chess and Exploding Snap and when the gloominess really got to them, they would sit at the Gryffindor Common Room fire over steaming mugs of tea (courtesy of the House Elves) they would talk about the approaching war, or try to devise strategies to take down Voldemort's growing regime.
So far we have nothing, she thought dimly as she turned 'round a corner.
But that mustn't make us lose our focus, she resolved as she reached her destination.
There it was, the portrait that led into the Head Boy and Head Girls' Common Room. Of course, she knew she was a shoo-in as Head Girl. She had kept track of all the other girls' marks in her year and none of theirs came within spitting distance of hers.
When it came to her grades Hermione was quite vain, to be honest. She worked hard for them. Her peers had made fun of her in the past over her extreme studiousness but that didn't matter to her as long as she had her goals in mind and achieved them.
She was sure Dumbledore had called her here early to tell her she would be Head Girl. As for Harry and Ron, she wasn't sure. Perhaps he thought she might get bored being alone for a week with no one else to talk to, but as long as she had access to the library she didn't want for much else. Perhaps either of them had been chosen as Head Boy? She made a face. Close friends they might all be, but Hermione knew for a fact their grades were not up to par.
Well, that's their own doing, though I've tried to help them all this time.
Hermione could feel it, this was her room. Put her hand on the picture of the beautiful night scenery and ah, it felt so right. No one had worked as hard as she to gain the position. She knew she'd do a good job-the only problem was who she'd be working with. She had no idea who the boy with the highest marks was.
A small crease appeared between her brows. She knew Neville had made an astounding improvement in his classes except for Potions, unfortunately). There was that boy in Hufflepuff who she heard had good marks, but she wasn't sure if he'd graduated or not. A niggling suspicion crawled up her spine; she realized with a jolt Malfoy had good grades as well. Or at least only in Potions, as far as she was aware. No matter. She doubted it would be him, anyway. He had never seemed the overly studious sort, and she rarely saw him in the library, at that. No, it had to be someone else.
With a last, longing look at the portrait she turned, her long brown curls swishing heavily over her shoulder and left towards the Great Hall. It was nearly suppertime, and Professor Dumbledore was due to arrive today.
Hermione entered the Great Hall, immediately spotting her best friends at the Gryffindor table.
"'Ermione! Where 'ave 'ou been?" Ron asked around a large mouthful of steak. Harry looked up from his plate, flashing a grin at Hermione, who smiled back and crinkled her nose at Ron.
"I've been walking around, reflecting on things." She replied with a vague wave of her hand. "Ronald, I really don't want to see what's in your mouth. Honestly!" Even as she scolded him, she couldn't help but smile as she sat next to Harry. Ron looked apologetic as he heaped some steak onto his plate and struggled to swallow. Harry laughed and turned to Hermione.
"Reflecting on what?" he inquired. "Is it about the Head Boy again?"
Hermione nodded as she began to fill her plate. Harry shook his head, placing his hand on her shoulder, giving it a comforting squeeze.
"Don't stress out about it, whoever it is, I'm sure he'll be great."
And with that, he returned his attention to his pie. Hermione scanned the staff table as she ate some lentil soup. Professor McGonagall was in a conversation with Professor Sprout and Hagrid, who caught her eye and waved. She smiled and waved back, and turned back to her soup. Harry and Ron were now devouring their deserts while maintaining an ongoing debate on which Quidditch team was better. Shaking her head, Hermione stared at her plate. Suddenly she felt very nervous. Ron had noticed and was about to ask her what was wrong when an owl swooped in and dropped a small note at Hermione's plate.
"Who's it from?" He pointed at the note.
Hermione opened it. Scanning its contents, she replied, "It's from Dumbledore. He wants to speak to me about the Head Girl position."
She smiled. She'd been right.
Rushing out of her seat, she almost tripped over the bench. She called out a hasty good-by and set on her way to the Headmasters' office, smiling to herself. A light bounce in her step, she ascended the main entrance stairs that led to the second floor. The torches lined against the wall cast a soft glow on the ancient statues and suits of armor that inhabited the halls of Hogwarts.
The large, swollen passageways normally held hundreds of students as they swarmed to get to their next class but on this night, they only held the brilliant, formidable witch as she navigated to her destination.
Or was it really only her?
The fine hairs on her arms suddenly stood at ends and her skin prickled. Someone was watching her.
She was a bit nervous to look around-suddenly she recalled the very unpleasant memory of facing the Basilisk through her reflection in second year. She had been prepared for it, but it hadn't lessened the ugly shock of finding it near her. She forced herself to turn anyway despite the fear, knowing the Basilisk was long gone, sweeping those intelligent eyes around the empty space before her. There was nothing. Didn't mean there wasn't anyone there, though. Hogwarts was always full of surprises, and there were plenty of large objects one could hide behind around her.
"Who's there?" She called out. Silence rang in her ears. She turned and eyed the space around her warily before moving on. The sensation had gone, and she needed to get on her way anyway.
If there was another thing she prided herself on, it was her punctuality. She was never late and didn't intend to start now. She shook the last few moments away mentally and walked on.
Draco Malfoy had just arrived at Hogwarts, peeling off his rain-sodden clothing and changing into a fresh pair of robes. That damned rain. It had rained all this past week, holing him up inside his Manor. He'd been fine with it for the first day or two, but after the third day, his body had been screaming for action. He played Quidditch daily just by himself. He'd fly around his home, chasing after the Snitch his father had bought him in his second year at Hogwarts. But it had rained and it had rained hard, just as much as it was still raining now. His mother had prohibited him from taking one step outside, fearing for his safety. And then the Headmaster had requested him to come a few days early to Hogwarts on undisclosed business-he'd been secretly happy to get away from his home. He had been sent to King's Cross where a Portkey had waited for him, but it had only been able to take him as far as the school gates where he had been received by the sour-faced Filch, who seemed to be secretly pleased that the Malfoy boy in all his fine clothing was wet to the bone and very cross indeed.
He'd entered the Slytherin Common Room and went to the boy's dorms, not bothering to unpack his trunks; he would be moving into the Head Dorm anyway, so what was the point? Anyone might have laughed at his presumption, but for what other reason could he have been called in so early? If he was in trouble, they'd have sent the letter and begun an inquiry, or Dumbledore would have visited the Malfoy Manor himself. Draco knew his marks had been at their best in the last two years-he had not aimed to do so, but company had been lacking lately (i.e, he had finally shed the obnoxious, dull weight of Crabbe and Goyle) and he liked to challenge himself.
Draco had been just about to summon a House Elf for a cup of tea when the note had arrived at his window. The silly owl outside his window was drenched; as soon as he'd untied the paper it had slogged off in a watery flight to the Owlery. The note was from Dumbledore, requesting his presence in his office shortly. Groaning, Draco threw the note into the fire where it landed with a loud pop and a sizzle. He slipped on his shoes and went on his way.
There was no doubt as to whom the Head Girl would be. Who else but Granger? No other girl at this school studied as hard or performed as well as she did. Grudges and dislikes aside, he had to give credit where credit was due. The witch was dedicated-doggedly so, to become the world's biggest smartass. Countless times he'd shove past her in the library, her pert nose buried in another ancient tome. How many times had she beaten him for top marks in their exams, even by a mere few points? Give her any question and no matter the difficulty she would rattle off an answer. He found himself wondering, sometimes, just what it would take to stump her.
He suddenly remembered with a small grimace an incident in his first year at Hogwarts. His father had paid a surprise visit in December to check on him. He'd snuck into one of his classes, where Granger had answered every question at lightning speed and had earned her house a boatload of points for performing a simple charm correctly. He hadn't noticed his father standing just in front of the door, barely visible, watching the girl with a bright glint in his eye and an amused smile.
After that class, his father had pulled him aside, to his immense surprise. They had walked into an empty classroom, his father inquiring about his classes and grades. Draco had answered politely, talking positively about his classes, albeit in a bored tone.
His father had his back turned to him, facing a chart on the wall depicting a list of poisons. Malfoy had sat there at a desk, wondering if the interview was over when his father turned around suddenly.
"Tell me, son, who was that girl in your class? The one with the strange hair who answered every question."
Draco frowned. "Granger?"
His father frowned slightly. "Is that her name? How...unusual."
"No, it's Hermione." Her first name sounded alien and strange on his tongue. He'd never said it before. "Hermione Granger."
His father had repeated her name, sounding out the syllables and vowels like he was reading it from a dictionary. Draco had thought this very odd. "Her-mi-o-ne Granger. Tell me, Draco. What is this girl like?"
Draco had found this an odd question but hastened to reply. "She's rather intelligent, I suppose. Always with her nose in a book. She practically lives in the library. She always beats me in every exam, and she's very bossy. She talks a lot, too. Always prattling on about something or another just to show off."
His father had listened very keenly, looking at Draco with an odd look on his face. "You don't like her then," he said flatly. Draco had almost jumped out of his seat with shock and rage.
"Like her? Why on earth would I like her? Big teeth and horrible hair, she never stops bossing people around and thinks she's better than everyone. Always prancing about with Potter and Weasely and they never get in trouble. They have all the Professors wrapped around their fingers."
His father had turned back to the wall. "A Gryffindor then? And is friends with the Potter boy. Interesting indeed…"
Draco, who had recovered his breath from his rant, added, "She's Muggleborn, too."
That certainly had caught his father's attention. He'd stopped his musings, real disappointment showing on his handsome, regal face.
"A Muggleborn? Are you sure?" Draco nodded, confused. His father cast a mysterious look at the door, where students were still passing by outside to their classes. "What a pity. Such a good prospect, too."
By this point, young Draco had been confused. What was his father going on about?
"Candidate for what, father?"
His father had looked at him as if surprised.
"Why, my boy, surely you must know! The future Lady Malfoy is somewhere in this castle! Such a shame Miss Granger is Mudblood, such a shame. She'll be quite a beauty in a few years' time, and intelligence in a Malfoy Lady is a must, son. Don't go after the brainless ones. The smart ones give more of a challenge." He clapped his son on the shoulder and swept from the room, and an eleven year old Draco Malfoy had stood in the empty Transfiguration classroom, shivering with disgust at the thought of marrying Granger, and marriage in general.
Back in the present and still grimacing, Draco rose up the stairs from the dungeons where the Slytherin Common Room was hidden. Lost in his thoughts, he'd continued onward until he heard the sound of determined footsteps coming his way. Immediately, almost like a sixth sense, he knew who those footsteps belonged to so he hid behind a thick pillar and scanned his eyes along the corridor until he found her and resisted the urge to roll his eyes.
Her lips were curved upwards the tiniest bit; those damned brown curls were cascading down her back and shoulders, swaying gently as she walked. That pale face shone in the shadows and light cast by the torches on the walls. Her muggle attire caught his attention and irritated him until he remembered he was wearing muggle clothing as well, but at least his were hidden under his robes. He knew when she suddenly sensed him. She turned around, calling out to whoever was there, grasping her wand, slight discomfort etched into her face. He found the situation they were in ripe for a prank, she not knowing he was there. He would have stayed to toss her a hex or two maybe cast a Disillusionment charm over himself and frighten her a bit, but he had matters to attend to. When she finally walked off, he waited a minute, then resumed walking, trying not to walk too quickly so he wouldn't end up walking with her to the Headmaster's office-but having long legs and being a fast walker by habit, it happened anyway.
He resolved not to be too annoyed over it-if he was to work with Granger for the entirety of the school year, then he might as well begin the exposure now. Even if he didn't like it. Besides, walking too slowly wouldn't do-she was bound to reach the office before him, and if he entered a minute later he'd be perceived as late, even if he was on time.
Draco Malfoy was a bully. He was the son of a Death Eater and lazy, sometimes. He was a smartass and sharp-tongued and admittedly quick-tempered, but one thing he could not stand to be, after numerous lectures from his mother in his childhood, was late.