Disclaimer: I don't own Harry Potter or any characters in this story. They own themselves, obviously. *whisper from off-stage* What? Oh, ok. All characters and places e.t.c. belong to the oh-so-wonderful J.K.Rowling.
A/N: What is there to say but… enjoy! Dedicated to the most wonderful friend in the world, and also my beta-reader (although my feedback from her tends to be 'fine. loved it.') Silent Shadow! Please review, and I promise it will be Draco/Hermione later on. I have much of this written already. I LOVE reviews! *hint hint*
Christmas had come and gone, and the first day of the new term at Hogwarts had dawned, fresh and crisp with the tail end of winter. The year had been quiet so far. There had been no attempts to murder Harry; in fact there had barely been any reports of Dark activity. It seemed Voldemort was biding his time.
Thoughts of Voldemort were far from the minds of Harry, Ron and Hermione, as they left Transfiguration and headed to their last lesson of the day. Hermione went one way, to Ancient Runes, while Harry and Ron had Divination.
'Have a good lesson you two.' said Hermione, smiling. She always loved the first day back at school, the smell of new books, the excitement of new topics, and the joy of having work to do after the long holiday. The pleasure of learning new things, getting perfect marks on a well-researched essay, these things had always been a source of happiness to Hermione.
'Like there is such a thing as a 'good lesson' when some old bat is predicting your death every five minutes.' grumbled Harry.
Hermione smiled her goodbye, and hurried off to the Runes classroom.
Not many people wanted to study Ancient Runes, although Hermione couldn't see why. They were a fascinating subject, full of the mysteries of ages long gone. It was amazing to think that people, wizards and Muggles alike, had once used these to write stories and poems and ballads. And of course, to divine the future, although that particular usage was taught in Divination.
The Gryffindors had this lesson with the Slytherins, which meant there were nine or ten pupils. The teacher, Professor Scripta, was a smiling brown-haired witch, whose easy-going nature tended to result in a very noisy class. She seemed to have a perpetual tan even in winter, and wore glasses in front of her lively brown eyes.
Hermione took her usual seat at the front of the class. She felt, rather than saw, Malfoy smirk at her maliciously from a few rows back. She threw him a returning glare over her shoulder. He and the rest of the Slytherins were the one drawback to an otherwise perfect subject.
'Alright class,' the Professor beamed at her students, 'Today we are starting our new project, so get out some parchment and be ready to take notes.'
Most of the class groaned, and dug in their bags for writing equipment. Hermione sat with quill poised, anticipating.
'Your next project will concern the translation of the 'Laekalia', a famous wizarding story which was originally written in the runic language.' said Professor Scripta. 'Consider it to be the runic version of The Odyssey. We will be translating some of this in class, but most will be done for homework. Due to the complex nature of this story, you will be working on it in pairs.'
A whisper of excitement ran around the class, as whispers of excitement generally did when working in pairs was announced.
'I have chosen the pairs for this project already.' The teacher went on, and the class groaned as one entity.
Professor Scripta took a piece of parchment off her desk, and walked around the classroom, pairing people up. Hermione sat, waiting patiently for the teacher to get to her. She wondered who she would be paired with. She had no special friends in this class, but it should be okay, as long as she wasn't with a Slytherin, and especially not…
'Hermione Granger, you're working with Draco Malfoy.'
She threw a half pleading look at the teacher, but she had already turned away to pair up other people, completely unaware that there was a problem. Grumbling, she grabbed her bag and quills, and stormed over to where Malfoy was regarding her with impassive dislike. She threw herself into her seat, muttering about how fate really had it in for her.
'You'd better not mess this up Malfoy.' she said through gritted teeth.
Malfoy threw her a well-practiced sarcastic look. 'Of course I won't mess it up. You're the Mudblood.'
Hermione bristled inwardly at this name, but showed nothing. 'I may be a muggle-born,' she remarked coolly, 'but I do have the top score in the class.'
They had no more time to exchange insults, as Professor Scripta was handing out thick, heavy copies of the Laekalia, talking meanwhile about the ancient history of the story, and Hermione had to stop arguing in favour of scribbling down notes. The books were old, bound in fading black leather, and imprinted with a gilt title.
The lesson progressed slowly. Hermione was still fuming about being forced to work with Malfoy. Of all the people to be stuck with for a project! He drove her to distraction with his sneers and derogatory remarks. Finally, the lesson ended.
'Wait a minute!' said Professor Scripta, as the bell went and students shoved their things into their bags, hurrying to get back to their common rooms and relax. 'Write down your homework.' She wrote on the board, in flowing yet jagged handwriting, 'Tonight's homework: translate the next five pages of the Laekalia with your partner. Bring your translation to tomorrow's lesson.'
Great. That meant wasting some of her precious time translating the story with Malfoy.
The class headed for the door like a flood, ebbing and flowing as they tried to pour through the door. Hermione turned to Malfoy.
'Library, in half an hour, and don't be late.' she snapped, then turned and walked out the door without even waiting for an answer.
He of course, being Malfoy, was exactly on time. Somehow, he managed to make the act of not being late seem like a snub, as though he was saying 'I'm-better-than-you-because-I'm-a-Malfoy-and-I'm-pureblooded-and-simply-perfect.' Hermione tried to tell herself she was being ridiculous. There was no way you could be maliciously on time. But Malfoy managed it.
They sat in silence at one of the library tables and began the translation, which was very difficult, as they wouldn't talk.
Hermione put a piece of parchment in the middle of the table and titled it neatly: 'Translation, pages 19-25 of the 'Laekalia' She started scribbling on a piece of scrap parchment, trying to decode the runes. Just as she finished the sentence, Malfoy wrote it down on the parchment, having worked it out a second quicker.
Hermione glared at him and was startled to find herself looking directly into his icy-grey eyes. They were not merely cold, but actually frozen, as if all his thoughts and feelings were hidden behind a vast wall of cold. A sarcastic look quickly formed, as if he realised she'd seen something, and Hermione quickly tore her eyes away.
They continued the pattern they had set before, racing to finish the sentence before the other. Hermione felt curious as to the ice she had seen in his eyes. It was not merely the malicious chill of cold hate; there had been another kind of cold… But Hermione could not put her finger on it.
She distracted herself from this line of thought by looking over at the sentence Malfoy had just written down.
'That's wrong. It should be 'Azura stumbled to the river.' not 'Azura struggled to the river.' The words are very similar, watch out for them.' she said sounding exactly like a teacher.
With a casual eye, he looked over the sentence, crossed it out with a perfectly straight line, and wrote the corrected version next to it, without once showing any change in expression.
They sat in silence for a few minutes, wrestling with the next sentence, which proved a difficult one. Finally Malfoy threw his quill down.
'This sentence,' he said, 'is ridiculous. It could translate as, 'While she swam the river, she had to be careful of the jagged rocks below.' 'Meanwhile, she carefully swam the river above the jagged rocks.' or 'Are you pleased to see me or is that a broomstick in your pocket?'
Hermione didn't raise an eyebrow. 'Actually, it couldn't be the third.' she pointed out needlessly.
'I paraphrased. So sue me.'
'It's a bit of a loose paraphrase.'
He shrugged as if this wasn't his problem.
Hermione considered the sentence carefully. 'Its, 'While she swam the river, she had to be careful of the jagged rocks below.' She triumphantly wrote the sentence down.
'Why?' he asked, raising an irritated eyebrow.
Hermione grinned in a know it all fashion, and pointed to a single rune. Malfoy frowned, then rocked backwards in his chair, looking upwards. 'I cannot believe a Mudblood realised that before I did!' He sneered at her, face full of hatred.
'In your face Malfoy.' she remarked sweetly. 'And I wouldn't rock backwards like that, you'll fall over.
'I won't.' he said, rocking further backwards just to show her. 'Although I'm touched by your concern.'
Hermione rolled her eyes and went back to the translation. They only had a page to do and then she could get out of here and go back to Gryffindor Tower. Away from Malfoy and his obnoxious bickering. She was quite lost in this pleasant train of thought when suddenly…
Malfoy, regardless of his assurance that he wouldn't, had gone right over backwards and fallen, loudly, on the floor. The sight of him, lying on the floor and looking slightly startled sent Hermione into near-hysterics.
'Oh yes, just laugh at the boy who fell over backwards.' Malfoy spat, not having moved from his position on the floor, and staring at some random point above him.
Hermione made some effort to compose herself. 'Harry and Ron will die laughing when I tell them.' she said, before breaking into splutters afresh.
Malfoy pushed himself up slowly, almost gracefully disentangling himself from the chair, and setting it upright. 'Right, I'll leave you to finish this page.' He turned to go.
'And where do you think you're going? This is supposed to be a group project remember.'
'Away from you.' He glared, and left the library, cursing at his misfortune.
Hermione hurried back to Gryffindor tower. The time she had spent in the library meant that she now only had an hour before dinner
She'd already done the Charms homework, in the half hour before she met Malfoy – it had been a small assignment, and she hadn't seen Harry or Ron since they split up before Runes, as they'd been practicing Quidditch.
Hurriedly giving the password to the Fat Lady – 'Ignis.' – she entered the Gryffindor common room, and found Harry and Ron sitting by the fireplace, having a heated discussion about broomsticks that bordered on an argument. Hermione quickly stopped them by sitting down very deliberately in the armchair next to them, and giving a loud fake cough.
'Oh, hi Hermione.' said Harry, only just noticing her. 'Where were you? Library?'
'I'm not a library-obsessive you know.' Hermione glared, sinking into the warm red fabric. Her face flushed from the heat of the fire. The Gryffindor common room was one of the most welcoming places she knew, decorated entirely in warm crimsons and golds.
Harry and Ron gave her knowing looks.
'Oh fine. I was in the library. I have more interesting things to tell you than the fact that you seem to be able to predict my every move.'
'Did you get 110% on a pop quiz again?'
'Ron, don't be stupid. We started our new project today…'
'A new project! How could you live without it?'
'Ron, can you please let me finish a sentence?' Hermione gave him a glare. 'Well anyway, we started our new project, translating the 'Laekalia', it's a really famous book in the runic language, written about…'
'Does this have a point besides the advertisement of some old book?'
Hermione threw a gold-embroidered pillow at him. 'Yes, I was getting to it. We have to work with a partner the teacher assigned us to, and you won't believe who I got stuck with.'
'Malfoy.' she said glumly.
The two boys were wide-eyed with sympathetic surprise.
'Not THE Draco Malfoy?'
'The albino ferret who probably dyes his hair?' supplied Harry.
'Are there any other Malfoys in this school?' asked Hermione, suddenly feeling very sorry for herself. 'And now I have to spend time doing my homework with him. It is not fair.'
'Hermione,' Ron said, getting up and coming to face her, and speaking very seriously, 'I want you to know that if that evil ferret does anything to annoy you I will personally rip out his intestines and use them as Christmas tree decorations.'
'Ron, it's the middle of January.'
'Seriously though,' said Harry coming round her other side, 'if he is mean and generally evil, we'll avenge you.'
'Maybe we should go with her to the library?'
'I can handle Malfoy by myself.' Hermione said.
'True.' said Harry.
The two boys sat back down. 'It mightn't be too bad having to work with him. It was quite funny this afternoon.' Hermione added thoughtfully.
'Why?' asked Ron, obviously unable to find the concept of an afternoon with Malfoy 'funny'.
'He fell backwards off his chair.'
The three caught each other's eyes and burst into laughter.
A/N: Did you like it? Hate it? REVIEW!!!