Murder at Castle Hogwarts
Pairing: Draco Malfoy/Hermione Granger
Genre(s): Mystery, Romance
Canon: Mostly Canon, EWE
Other characters: Neville, Pansy, Luna, Ginny
Summary: Murder, mystery and a little romance ensue when Hermione and Draco return to Hogwarts to complete their final year.
Author's Notes: I've been watching a lot of Jonathan Creek lately and I think it's influenced my plot. *laughs* I hope you like it all the same.
Disclaimer: This story is based on characters and situations created and owned by JK Rowling, various publishers including but not limited to Bloomsbury Books, Scholastic Books and Raincoast Books, and Warner Bros., Inc. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Although she had made all the appropriate sounds and arguments of disappointment, Hermione Granger could not deny the soft edge of relief that came with the fact that Harry and Ron would not be completing their seventh year at Hogwarts with her.
In all honesty, although she would not trade the years that she had been their friend and the adventures they’d had for anything, it would be nice to enjoy a safe final year.
Alright, so all the trouble, the danger, the flying of Hippogriffs hadn’t exactly been their fault. There were outside influences, elements that the two boys could not have avoided even if they had wished it... She blew a lock of hair out of her eyes and sat back more comfortably in her seat. Of course they hadn’t tried very hard to avoid the danger.
Yes this was going to be a very good year. She planned to study hard and score record high Newts. Work her way through those remaining books she was yet to read in the library and forget her silly, childish, and completely stupid feelings for Ron.
A month after the war had ended they made love for the first time and soon after he had announced that sex was just too much fun and felt way too good to waste in a monogamous relationship. He wanted to explore the world and find out more about his sexuality. Over all Hermione had taken the news rather well and after a few weeks of thinking time their friendship had settled again. He was just Ron and that was all he would ever be. And she decided that in all honesty it showed a great deal of respect that he had been honest rather then going behind her back.
Outside the train whistle sounded and loud, tearful goodbyes drifted through her carriage window. It rocked a little and finally started to move forwards along the track to Hogwarts and to her destiny.
She smiled at this silly thought and was still smiling when the carriage door flew open and a tall wizard stepped in. She couldn’t see his face as he lifted his trunk onto the rack but Hermione couldn’t help but admire his robes. They were of an expensive cut, a Hamilton Roe design unless she was mistaken. They were of deep dark green; one would think they were black if not for the contrast of black edgings around the cuffs and down the front. Impressive.
Her awed expression dropped the moment the newcomer had his trunk secure and turned back to take his seat. Their eyes met and recognition was instantaneous for them both. He had grown some, his shoulders were a little broader, his face a little more mature, his hair was longer, cut jaggedly just above his shoulders and there was a new shadow behind his gaze a dark knowledge that no boy of his age should hold. She recognized it only because she saw that same shadow behind her own eyes in the mirror each morning.
She noticed that he was observing her with the same mixture of curiosity and discomfort. The silence stretched on until Hermione couldn’t take any more and nodded politely.
“Malfoy,” she acknowledged.
“Granger,” he replied and returned her polite nod then sat down.
She stifled a sigh. This was going to be a long ride.
Hermione reopened her Prophet and noticed that Draco did the same and they read in silence until the lunch lady arrived. Loud and rickety there was no missing the sound as she trundled up the train towards their carriage.
“Anything to eat, dears?” she asked her voice high pitched and croaky. An odd combination.
Hermione ordered a chicken salad, Draco chose the Tuna Salad. They exchanged a brief look then ordered drinks and Hermione brought a large bowl of mixed summer fruit.
Again they ate in silence but all the while Hermione caught Draco eyeing the bowel of fruit. After another moment of this she slid the bowl into the middle.
“Have some, there’s too much here for just me,” she said and cringed at how small her voice sounded.
For a moment she thought he would make some snide comment but he surprised her and himself, by the expression on his face, by accepting and taking a ripe plumb from the top.
It was another half an hour of silence before Draco suddenly folded his paper and placed it on the table with a determined slap. The act was meant to draw her attention and it succeeded. Hermione looked at Draco for a full minute while he fidgeted and chose his words.
“I - um - I’m sorry...” His voice was barely audible but it got louder as he spoke. “About what happened to you... What my aunt did to you.”
Hermione was gob-smacked. Of all the things she expected him to say, an apology was not one of them. She sat and stared for a long time. She couldn’t say it was alright, because it wasn’t. She couldn’t say it wasn’t his fault because it was - he had been the one who complained to his father and later his Aunt Belatrix about the know-it-all Muggleborn living above her station, he had been the one to identify them when they had been captured during the war... But at the same time here he sat, had sat for the passed few hours without so much a mean remark or a putdown of any kind. And he was asking for forgiveness. That had to mean something.
She nodded in acknowledgement. It was the best she could offer right now. “I was sorry to hear about Crabbe.” She responded.
He nodded. “Yeah, me too.”
Hermione couldn’t help but let out a little laugh. “You sound surprised.”
“I am!” he exclaimed and gave a laugh of his own. “The stupid fat git could barely put two words together and even that was only on the rare occasion that he didn’t have something stuffed in his mouth. But now he’s gone and he won’t do anything, he won’t get any smarter or any thinner. He won’t have my back like he always did.”
The train lurched and came to a stop and they were enveloped by the sounds of stomping feet and excited voices. They had reached Hogwarts.
Draco stood up and turned to get his trunk.
“Thank you,” Hermione managed to say, her voice croaking a bit. “For sharing that with me.”
It was a mistake.
She had spoken to Draco’s turned back and she cringed when she saw him stiffen.
He spun around on his heel his lips already curled into a sneer that chilled her blood. Without thinking Hermione reached for her wand, curled her fingers around the warm, familiar wood but did not pull it out.
Draco’s gaze dropped to where her hand disappeared into her robe and his expression turned knowing and a dark sort of cynicism lit behind his eyes.
“Nothing’s changed, Granger,” he said through tight lips. “Don’t go thinking we’re friends.”
“I wouldn’t think of it,” Hermione replied in and equally sharp tone.
They stayed that way for what felt like a full minute though it could have been only a few seconds. Draco’s gaze dropped again to where Hermione still gripped her wand and a muscle ticked in his jaw. He closed his eyes, licked his lips, obviously calming himself then swung back towards his trunk.
Without another word Draco took his things and left her alone in the compartment.
The waxing moon hung high in the night sky as the Thestral-drawn-carts carried the senior students the rest of the way towards the castle. Hermione sat back with a sigh, glad that Draco had taken a different cart.
The Thestrals were just as ugly as Harry had described them. Ugly and fearsome... And yet they drew the carts carefully, fast yet smooth so as not to harm any of the students. She watched as one took a slight detour to avoid a hole in the dirt path and thus protect the passengers from the turbulence it would have caused. And all the while the creatures watched the forest with warning eyes, ready to strike if an enemy or dangerous beast should decide to attack. Hermione smiled. Nothing could get past these creatures, they were dangerous and vicious and they would protect her and the other students with their very lives if need be.
The word misunderstood could not have been more correctly used then at this moment. These things that one had to behold death of another to see were quite simply the most powerful, incredible and beautiful of all the creatures she had seen, forgiving and brave in a way that she could never imagine.
“You’re not really going to kill her are you?”
Hermione jumped when Luna’s dreamy voice spoke up at her side, breaking into her musing. “What?” she asked incredulously. “Kill who?”
“Well, Ginny of course.” Luna was looking right at her, that blue-eyed gaze seeming to see right inside Hermione’s head.
“Don’t be ridiculous! Why would I want to kill anyone, let alone Ginny?”
Luna leaned closer and spoke in a hushed voice, as though she needed to. “Well Ginny is Head Girl this year. You wouldn’t be the first to kill for the position.”
Hermione blanched. Luna was speaking as though Hermione had done the deed already. “Now just a minute! There are many things on my agenda this year, but murder is definitely not one of them and you can tell that to anyone else who has that suspicion.”
Hermione shook her head. She couldn’t believe she had even had this conversation. Luna gave her a long meaningful look. Not quite accusing but not quite trusting either.
In the Great Hall Hermione made no short notice of tracking Ginny and pulling her to the side. “Tell me you don’t think what I think you think,” she demanded without premise.
Ginny blinked. “You want to run that by me again?”
“You know what I’m talking about.”
Ginny looked shamefaced for a moment then looked back at Hermione. “But are you angry?”
Hermione took a breath and silently counted to ten. “Ginny how long have we been friends?”
“Pretty much since I started here at Hogwarts. You’re advice about Harry was right and you always helped me study. I never would have gotten the OWLS I did without your help.”
“Have I ever given you any indication that I could willingly harm another person?”
Ginny nibbled her lower lip. “Well there was the girl in the DA that you jinx’ed.”
Her mouth fell open. “Are you joking?! She betrayed us! I was protecting my friends.”
“I know, I know. But - Well - I kind of betrayed you too. First I stole Harry from under your nose then I got Head Girl when everyone knows that you really deserved the position.”
Hermione closed her eyes and sucked in some more air. This was as frustrating as speaking to Luna. “Alright let’s take this in steps,” she said as calmly as she could. “First I love Harry but I was never interested in him romantically...” She held up a hand to stop Ginny’s interruption. “I don’t care what the Prophet said - that was a lie spread by Rita to make me look bad. And I guess it worked.” The last she added with a note of scorn but tried to shove back the hurt feelings.
She went on, ignoring Ginny’s guilty expression. “I was always so happy when you two finally got together because I knew that you really loved him, not for his name but for him, for all he was and because if anyone could keep him in line after Hogwarts it would be you.”
Ginny blushed but smiled, looking a little lighter.
“Secondly,” Hermione continued. “I think we both know that I was indeed a shoe-in for Head Girl in my seventh year - But I was on the run that year. I made my choice and I don’t regret it. When I decided to return to finish my NEWTS I never expected to get the position. If anyone should have gotten the role it should have been someone from you’re year and you deserve to have it.”
It was Hermione’s turn to look startled. “Yes! Last year you were braver then all of us. You stayed in school although you knew it would be dangerous and you never stopped looking out for the other students, you went above and beyond to protect the younger ones.”
“I never really thought of it like that.” Ginny admitted then looked horrified. “Oh my God! How could I ever think something so awful? You must hate me.”
She noticed the way Ginny’s eyes shimmered and the trembling of her lower lip. The younger girl’s sobbed apology meant so much Hermione felt her own eyes prick sharply. Hermione hugged her and closed her eyes when Ginny hugged right back.
“Let’s just forget this whole thing, OK?” Hermione whispered. It was hard to find her voice right then.
But before Ginny could respond there was a loud, obnoxious wolf-whistle from behind. They pulled apart and turned to face the smirking form of Draco Malfoy.
He held up his hands in mock apology. “Oh no, don’t stop your sexy girl-on-girl moment for me.”
“In your dreams, ferret,” Ginny snapped.
His gaze shifted to Hermione and a lopsided grin curved his mouth. “I guess we’ll just have to see about that.”
Without another word he shoved between them and strolled off towards a small circle of Slytherin boys.
Hermione spared him a quick look over her shoulder. He was such a pig. That smile flashed into her mind again and she felt her cheeks heat up.
“What’s that pervert doing here this year anyway?” Ginny growled.
“Same reason I am I guess,” Hermione mused and looked over her shoulder again only to look away sharply when her brown eyes met his silvery grey gaze. “We’ll just keep our distance this year. The last thing we need is another war.”
Settled at the Gryffindor table Hermione made a point of smiling brightly around at her other housemates. She was very relieved that the sorting hat was brought out before she could be questioned by her housemates. There would be time for that later and she needed a good night sleep first.
The Sorting Hat cleared its throat and began to sing:
Over the years of rise and fall
So much importance put on class
Put above the rights of all
But now the war has come to an end
We must put old grudges behind us
We must forgive
We must forgive
But never must we forget
Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw shall dance around the maypole
Slytherin and Gryffindor shall meet and part and meet again.
Love shall bind them.
Love shall break them.
Love shall set them free.
The song was the strangest yet but Hermione clapped and cheered along with her classmates. During the sorting she watched as the new first years were applauded and welcomed to their new families and she joined in just as loudly for each new Gryffindor.
A quick glance towards the Slytherin table had her watching as three first years stared up at Draco with awe filled expressions. But though he was polite he did not gloat and bask in it the way he once would have. The war really had changed him. He was still obnoxious of course but maybe not as much.
They ate dinner and Hermione chatted with Colin about his new position as head Photographer in the Hogwarts Newsletter. He was so proud and his smiles and jokes were infectious. Being Muggleborn as well he was also up to date on many of the current Muggle movies, music and politics. She found herself wondering why she hadn’t spoken to him sooner and made a silent vow then and there to take more time to spend with these people who were her family now.
“Miss Granger,” Headmistress McGonagall was suddenly at her side. “A word please.”
She followed the Headmistress, barely matching the older woman’s brisk clip. All the while her mind raced. Had she heard the Rumor? Surely Miss McGonagall wouldn’t believe such rot, after all she had known Hermione since she was eleven.
“Professor, you can’t possibly believe that I would harm one of my housemates?” Hermione started having to almost run to keep up. “It’s just a stupid rumor and totally preposterous that I would go to such lengths for something as frivolous as Head Girl...” Hermione gave a slightly light-headed giggle. “Not that Head Girl isn’t an important roll but...”
The Headmistress stopped abruptly and spun on her heel. Hermione skidded to a stop behind only barely avoiding knocking them both to the floor.
“Miss Granger, you will cease this prattling right this moment.” She seized Hermione in a piercing stare that seemed to delve even deeper then that of Dumbledore. “I have heard no such rumors and let me inform you that had I heard I would no more believe them then I would believe that pigs were flying from your behind.”
Hermione’s eyes flew wide and she had to bite her lip to hold in the laugh. After a second and another she managed a shaky smile. “Thank you, Professor.”
With a nod the Headmistress turned and continued to lead the way. She led the way up one stair case, down another and up a hallway to a large painting of a knight in shining armor standing against the backdrop of a field and a small cottage.
Hermione would recognize the man’s stance and swagger anywhere.
The Knight bowed deeply in his portrait. “Headmistress, it is a pleasure to see you again.” He looked at the younger woman and a wider grin spread across his face. “Miss Granger, I had heard you were due to return but did not dare to dream it.”
She smiled back and felt her cheeks flush. “Sir Cadogan, you are charming as always.” Hermione placed one foot carefully behind the other and performed a deep, graceful curtsy.
He clapped and laughed. “Perfect, my dear.”
“I’ve been practicing.” She beamed back at him remembering how many hours he had spent teaching her such graces back in her sixth year.
“Ahem,” Professor McGonagall interrupted but did not look displeased when they both looked her way. “As entertaining as this is, I really must insist that we return to the business at hand.” She turned her attention to Sir Cadogan. “I trust all has been completed?”
“Yes indeed and the other students are already inside and awaiting your presence.” The knight bowed again to both ladies. “Headmistress. Milady.”
Inside Hermione looked around curiously at the large common room, noticing offhandedly that four other students were sitting in various armchairs. A large chandelier floated above casting ample light around the extravagantly decorated room. The chairs were homey, autumn colors of brown and cream and overstuffed. The walls were decorated with wide, intricately stitched tapestries depicting wizards dueling, dragons blowing fire and gardens of flowers and vines.
Finally her gaze settled on the husky form of Neville Longbottom and she let out a cry of pure delight. It had been so long since she had seen any of her old school friends, not since the war. After all the horror and death no-one had really wanted to be reminded and she was ashamed to admit that she’d avoided most of the other students that she could, Harry and Ron were the unavoidable exception. But at this moment she knew it was a mistake.
Neville grinned so wide she thought his face might split. Hermione laughed and ran into his open arms. She hugged him and hugged him with all she was worth, ignoring the tears on her cheeks. He felt good. He felt like home.
“Hermione, I didn’t know you were coming back this year.” He pulled back still smiling and she didn’t miss the way his eyes shimmered just a little.
She held him at arms length. “Like an honorary pass was ever going to suit me,” she huffed mockingly. “Where were you? I didn’t see you at dinner.”
“I arrived late.”
“Merlin!” The high-pitched purr came from a loveseat where Pansy Parkinson sat dangerously close to Draco Malfoy. “Do you think we could hear the Headmistress’ explanation of us being here some time tonight? Only I would like to get to sleep before midnight.”
Draco was looking very bored. “Yeah, Longbottom, either snog her or shut up so we can get this over with.” He finished with an angry glare at Hermione that she was sure was unwarranted.
“That is enough!” Professor McGonagall’s voice came out louder then her slight body should have allowed and all five of them snapped to attention. “Thank you. Now that you are all adults I expect you to behave like it.”
The statement was met by a chorus of, “Yes, Miss.”
She nodded and went on. “Now I suppose you are all wondering why you are here.” This was met by nods around the room. “As I have said you are no longer children, you are adults and technically you should have all completed your schooling. But considering the events of the past year you have been given this chance to take the final year again.”
Hermione frowned. “We understand that, Professor but why are we here?”
“Why, Miss Granger, this is the adult’s dorm.” The Headmistress said as though it should have been obvious. “It is against regulations to allow adults to sleep in the same dorms as children so you are to be housed here.”
With that Professor McGonagall turned and walked not checking to see if they followed as she continued. “You will each have your own rooms,” she began and with a flick of her wand five doors flew open and each of their names were magically engraved on the golden name-plates. “Each room has its own bathroom and toilet and over here...” she flicked her wand and another door swung open to a small kitchenette. “You will find basic ingredients for tea and coffee, some sandwich makings and cereals and drinks. You may lunch and breakfast here if you wish but you are all expected to join us for dinner.”
“Are we still in our same houses?” Draco asked from the back.
“You are,” she replied with a brisk nod. “And you will be more then welcome to decorate your rooms with your house colors if you please. And it goes without saying that the same rules apply, good and bad behavior will earn and lose your house points.” She looked pointedly around at all their faces. “As adult it is expected that your behavior will be impeccable. Wrong-doing will lose your house double points.”
Hermione shot her hand into the air with a well practiced flick and at the Headmistress’ nod she asked, “Does that mean that when we do well we earn double points?”
“No.” The older woman responded pronouncing the word slowly.
There was a snickering sound coming from behind her and Hermione had to fist her hands to stop herself turning to glare at the two slytherins.
Professor McGonagall gave some more instructions, another lecture on the behavior expected of adult students and another on the rules involving romantic entanglement between the adult students and underage students.
This last lecture received another chorus of snickers and snorts from Draco and Pansy. Hermione turned to gift them with a disapproving glare. Her gaze dropped to where Pansy’s long-fingered hands gripped Draco’s arm and she felt herself frown. She didn’t miss the catlike smile stretching Pansy’s lips and quickly turned away.
The Headmistress finally left them alone with a warm goodnight that again didn’t quite match her small, birdlike appearance.
For a moment Hermione felt lost till she turned to see Neville speaking with a petite young woman with long black hair and large blue eyes. He smiled and waved her over.
“This is Abby Winthrope, she’s in Hufflepuff,” he introduced his new friend. “We both missed the train.”
Hermione held out her hand and smiled when Abby took it firmly. She always thought a handshake said a lot about a person. “Hi, I’m Hermione Granger.” Then she turned her attention back to Neville. “How did you get here if you missed the train? You didn’t steal a car did you?”
“What!?” Abby cried outraged.
Neville was quick to sooth the clash, laughing and shaking his head. “It’s a long story, Abby.” Then to Hermione. “Don’t be daft; we called the Night Bus.”
Hermione noticed the way his ears turned pink when he spoke about himself and Abby. “Is Ernie still taking that defensive driving course?”
Neville shuddered. “Yes, if he drove any more defensively he’d have wiped out half of Scotland.”
“And he didn’t even drop us off at the castle!” Abby sounded outraged. “Babbled something about the Wards before he just shot off and left us at Hogsmead.”
Hermione tried hard but just couldn’t hold it back. “No, it’s in Hogwarts a History. Nobody can apparate or take any form of magical transport into the grounds without prior consent and Ward allowances from the Headmaster.”
Pansy groaned loudly, sounding very bored as she passed by with a bottle of soda in each hand. “Well of course you’re the only one who would know that,” she sneered. “You’re the only one dull enough to have nothing better to do but read such a stupid book.”
“Not totally stupid.” Draco’s voice shocked them all and they turned towards where he stood next to the willowy Slytherin girl.
Pansy’s head shot around to glare at him while Hermione simply looked shocked at the tall, cool-eyed wizard.
Under the scrutiny Draco looked first from Hermione to Pansy and back to Hermione. He cleared his throat and shrugged, throwing a lopsided grin at Pansy. “The old man made me read it.”
Pansy nudged him with her shoulder and tipped her head back, giving him a good view of her throat and low-cut robe. “Well we’ll just have to work at clearing your mind of all that boring stuff.” She shifted closer, pressing her slim form against his larger, harder body. “Maybe we can fill it with something more - fun.” She took her time sounding out the F’s and added more tongue then was needed for the L’s.
Hermione wanted to retch.
Neville rolled his eyes when the two Slytherin’s moved away towards Pansy’s room. “So anyway, the walk up the hill was a killer. I’d forgotten how far it was and we had to lug our trunks and all.”
A shrill squealing laugh came from Pansy. “I thought you would have appreciated a spot of exercise. It’s not like you’re fat arse couldn’t use it.” She paused to flash them all a meanly delighted smirk before yanking a blank-faced Draco through her door. It slammed with a loud and final clap.
“Wow, I think we might be minor characters in, “I was a Teenage Bitch.”” Hermione drawled then turned back to see both Neville and Abby looking at her like she’d grown a second head. She gave a half-hearted giggle. “I guess that’s more of a Muggle joke. Look don’t listen to her Neville, she’s just being mean for means sake.”
He shook his head, throwing a dark look at the Slytherin girl’s door then back to Hermione. “Forget it,” he mumbled and backed away. “I was a bloody idiot to think that this year would be any different.” He turned away, red faced and slammed into his own room.
For a moment Hermione and Abby stood in silence, alone for the first time and having only just met. Hermione smiled politely and Abby smiled back.
“I’m sure he’ll feel better after a good night sleep,” Hermione said, more to break the silence then for want to discuss the issue.
“Hmm, yeah I guess. I don’t get the problem, what’s so bad about being warm and husky?”
“Agreed.” Hermione decided that she liked Abby.
“So...” Abby started and Hermione was sure that she knew what was coming. “You’re the Muggleborn who helped Harry Potter.”
She squelched a sigh and bit her cheek to stop the oncoming eye-roll. “Yes, I am the witch who helped Harry Potter.”
If Abby noticed the slight tone she didn’t show it. “That was awfully brave. My family and I went into hiding with my uncle in Japan.” She fidgeted her fingers and scrunched her lips in thought. “But sometimes I think I should have stayed behind. I love this school as much as any of the others. I should have stayed to defend it.”
This time Hermione did laugh. “Don’t you think that anyone who was here when the war really hit would have rather have been in hiding. I know I did.”
She scrunched her lips again. “Yeah but you didn’t - Hide.”
Hermione shrugged. There really wasn’t much to say to that. “Well, I guess you’re here for another whole year, I’m sure you could find some way to make it up. Maybe find a way to make the School a better place.” Hermione gave an internal sigh. That was the lamest thing she’d ever said.
But Abby didn’t seem to notice. In fact it seemed to make her feel better. Her face brightened and she stood a little taller. “Yeah! I bet I could do just that.” She threw a long look at Pansy’s door and with a brisk nod to herself she bid Hermione goodnight and retreated to her own room.
Hermione took a breath and smiled. She was back where she belonged within the thick stone walls of Hogwarts. “For another whole year,” she said quietly and disappeared into her room to redecorate as the Headmistress had suggested.
A week passed in calm routine. Professor Slughorn slapped Hermione and Draco together during potions for some Merlin-forsaken reason involving their ages and mumbling something about rebuilding bridges. As though there was ever even the possibility of a bridge between a Muggleborn and the son of a Malfoy. Still they suffered it well remaining behind a cooperatively built wall of politeness and ignorance.
That wall crumbled on a Thursday morning just as Hermione had finished dressing and was about to leave her room to help herself to breakfast. First came a loud screeching cry of outrage that could only have come from Pansy. It was followed by a deep masculine roar that though louder was obviously Draco. She couldn’t understand the words but there was no mistaking the raw, unadulterated rage boiling from each.
Hermione sighed and leaned against her door. She’d just wait till they were done before going out; no way in hell did she want to get caught in the middle of that.
And she waited...
After twenty minutes her stomach growled and her teeth began to grit under the sound of Pansy’s shrill voice slicing through the door. Hermione took a breath, rolled her eyes and opened the damn door.
“You lying cad!” Pansy yelled. “You knew all along! You were never going to keep your promise. You used me - Led me on.”
Draco gripped her arms and bellowed back. “I made no promises and you knew it. If anyone should be accused of leading on it should be you.” He lowered his voice and leaned closer so his face was in hers. “You had those robes off faster then a whore with a lord I just took what you offered so easily.”
Hermione sunk her teeth into her bottom lip and began a slow, silent crabwalk across the wall towards the kitchenette. They hadn’t seen her yet and she was sure that if she could just last out another minute she’d be in.
Pansy shrill scream pierced the air. She yanked herself free from Draco’s gasp and slapped him smartly across the face.
Hermione stopped dead. She’d never in her life seen anyone strike the proud Slytherin; except herself and that was many years ago. She couldn’t see his face but by the way Pansy paled it was clear that his expression was dark and dangerous.
He stood still as stone, his back to Hermione, unaware that he was being watched. He wore fitted black trousers and his shirt had been discarded for a sleeveless black vest. She watched silently as he pulled himself to his full height and the defined muscles in his arms flexed when his large hands fisted at his sides.
He was going to hit her. Draco was going to strike Pansy. Hermione swallowed and dipped her hand inside her robes to grip her wand. Pansy was a first class bitch and bigot, but she was also a woman and Hermione could not stand by while she was beaten.
But as quick as it happened it was over. Draco unclenched his fist, muttered a brutal, “We’re through.” Then spun on his heel and marched right passed Hermione, seeming to not see her and continued out the door.
Finally Pansy’s gaze shifted from the door to Hermione then to where her hand gripped her wand. It didn’t take a genius to work out what was coming.
The pureblood’s lips curled and her long-nailed fingers clawed. “You gonna save me, Granger?” She purred, her voice deathly soft even as her eyes narrowed. “Well save it and keep that silly toy hidden. I will never need the help of a Mudblood.” Pansy drew closer till Hermione could feel Pansy’s breath against her face. It smelt bad. “I’d rather die then receive your help. Understood?” She smiled sweetly on that last word, a switch that came with eerily quick ease.
“Loud and clear,” Hermione muttered and kept her hand firmly on her wand till Pansy was out of the common room and the Muggleborn was alone.
For the next few days Pansy was impossible to deal with. It seemed that her cruel sense of humor and sharp tongue knew no bounds. Neville caught the brunt of it. He could barely sample a spoon of cereal or a slice of beef without that shrill laugh slicing the air followed by loud obnoxious oinking sounds. He and anyone else within her sights was tripped and pranked mercilessly to the extent that points were taken from Slytherin on a daily basis.
Neville started keeping more and more to himself until Hermione barely saw him outside of classes any more and Draco was even scarcer. In fact she couldn’t remember seeing him once since the confrontation with Pansy.
They had a paper due in Potions in three days and Hermione hadn’t had a chance to start. Avoiding Pansy was becoming more and more tiresome, almost as much as envisioning what the rest of Slytherin house would do to the bitch if she didn’t stop losing them points.
Hermione weaved in and out of the stacks with a list in her hand of the books she was going to need. Finally she found the right shelf but huffed when she saw that the book was gone. Sighing she checked her list and went looking for the next book. Gone.
“Damn!” she muttered. “It’s not due for three days, those morons shouldn’t have even started thinking about starting yet.”
“That’s a rather negative way to speak of your classmates,” a familiar voice spoke from nowhere. “Better be careful of that Golden-girl reputation.”
“Draco?” Hermione looked this way and that but couldn’t see him. He sounded really close. “Did you steal an invisibility cloak?”
He chuckled. “I’d like to think that I’ve outgrown stealing silly trinkets.”
“Then why can’t I see you?” She suddenly grinned. “Ha! You’re hiding from the hell-bitch too aren’t you?”
“Language, Miss Granger.” Then he sighed and the bookcase beside her slid soundlessly to the side to reveal a cozy study space complete with two chairs, a medium sized desk and a stack of books.
She stepped inside and her gaze immediately dropped to the stack of books. Wordlessly she ripped the list from her pocket and looked again. “You arrogant jerk! These are all the books on my list!?” She waved the list at him to prove her point.
“Correction,” Draco replied, standing to face her. “These are all the books on my list.” He pulled a similar list from his own pocket and imitated her impotent wave. “How was I to know you wanted them?”
“The assignment is due in three days, of course I wanted them.”
“Well you said it yourself. Most of those morons wouldn’t have even thought of starting yet so I assumed I had plenty of time.”
“Are you...” She gaped at him. His arrogance knew no bounds. “Are you roping me in with said morons?”
He grinned. “Well I wasn’t going to say it to your face.”
“Why you...” She never finished her exclamation.
At that moment an all too familiar screeching laugh shot through the library, announcing that Pansy was on the lookout for more swotty victims to torture.
Draco swore, yanked Hermione inside, slammed the door and shoved her against it. She opened her mouth to protest but he closed in. One large hand covered her mouth, the other settled on the shelf at her back. His face was determined but closed as he waited. Hermione struggled but his weight against her was heavy and his hand stronger.
He lowered his lips so they rested by her ear. “I think we would both rather she didn’t see us, so shut up and wait.”
Her breath caught and for a moment everything inside her halted. He always looked so cold and yet his body was hot as it pressed her into the shelf. His hand seemed even larger when placed over her mouth and his breath gusted against her ear, teasing her hair. Hermione stood completely still where he held her. Her heart was beating so fast it seemed to vibrate through her entire body and somehow her blood had turned to warm, liquid honey in her veins spreading something tingly all the way to her toes and fingertips.
Hermione was no stranger to a man’s touch. She was no virgin by any standards. But she had never felt quite like this. She felt his face turn towards her and his eyes seemed to be roaming her face and throat with an odd sort of curiosity. Was she imagining it or was his breath coming faster as well and as they stood there she was sure she could feel his heartbeat quickening against her chest.
After another moment he pulled back. “I think she’s gone,” Draco said his voice gruffer then it was before. Slowly he removed his hand from her mouth and backed up another couple of steps. “Sorry about that.” Then he turned quickly and sat down behind his desk, pulling his chair in even closer then he was before.
Hermione stood for another moment while she regained her composure then with a few sucks of air and a stiff nod she spoke. “I still need those books.”
He closed his eyes and that muscle ticked in his jaw again. When he opened them his expression was back to his usual cool, disinterest. “And here I was thinking you Goody-goody Gryffs were all about the sharing and the good manners.”
“Sit down,” he said slowly. “The books are here, we’re here; let’s just get the bloody thing written.”
Was he offering to share with her? He shoved out the second chair with his foot and took two pieces of parchment from his robes and slapped them on the desk in front of her.
With a mumbled “Thank you.” Hermione took her seat, claimed one of the books and got to work. Two hours passed and neither spoke either about the assignment or what has happened in those moments against the shelf. They worked in silence, passing books, parchment and ink wordlessly until they both had the required length complete and then some.
They packed up their parchment and quills and Hermione helped Draco to stack the books neatly then charmed them to return to their shelves. Draco stood and opened the door, allowed her to pass through then followed.
Outside they went their separate ways without a word.
The night was the first that she was unable to sleep. Each time she closed her eyes she was back against that shelf, Draco’s hand covering her lips, his hard body pressing her into the hard wood and books. She opened her eyes with a start and flew out of the bed. No. This was not going to happen. There was no way on earth she could allow herself to be attracted to Malfoy. First off he hated her, second she hated him, third...
Third it was just wrong. Ron was one of the good-guys and he’d broken her heart as though it were an old quill, she could only imagine the kind of cruelty a man like Draco would inflict if she allowed herself to care about him.
With a sigh she moved to the window seat and sat looking out at the sky. Above, the moon was full and she could see the Sirius constellation so clearly. If the two remaining marauders were alive they would be out and free under that sky. Running and playing and enjoying the cool night air. She missed them.
But even as she mused on such morbid topics her gaze drifted downwards. She jumped up when she saw movement. Someone was down there walking in the grounds. But nobody was allowed on the grounds after dark.
There was no mistaking who it was breaking the rules. His black robes fluttered in the breeze and his alabaster skin seemed to glow in the moonlight. What was Draco doing outside at night? Didn’t he know how dangerous it was? Her first impulse was to snatch up her wand and go drag him back inside before he got himself killed.
She was at her door when Pansy’s words flooded her mind. “I would never want the help of a Mudblood. I’d rather die... ” It would be foolish to believe that Draco felt any different about her bloodline or lack of. With a determined slap, Hermione placed her wand back on her side-table.
But when she sat down Hermione felt more edgy then before. To be honest she really needed a familiar face, something to yank her back into herself. What she needed was her old friend. With that Hermione stood again and walked out into the common room and towards Neville’s room. She knocked lightly.
Again she knocked, a little harder this time. “Neville? Can we talk for a bit?”
Well that was just rude! No more then three days ago Neville had come knocking on her door because he’d had that clown dream again and she’d sat up with him for hours till he felt better. The least he could do was return the favor.
Compressing her lips Hermione turned the knob for his door and gently pushing it open. “Neville? I know it’s late but I could really...” There was nobody there.
Neville’s bed was perfectly made and had obviously not been slept in. Where could he possibly be? She was sure that he had never been one for wondering before and had been an even bigger stickler for the rules then she was. Seemed everyone had a case of insomnia tonight.
Morning broke with a bloodcurdling scream that had Hermione flying out of bed and out into the common room before she even had time to wake up. Robed only in a simple slip dress and bare feet she threw the door to Pansy’s room wide and entered, wand drawn.
Pansy stood stock still, obviously shocked to see Hermione but too upset to care about her status. “Get it out!!” Pansy screamed hopping from one foot to the other. “Get it out, get it out, get it out!”
“Pansy calm down.” Hermione’s voice was thick and gruff having just woken. “Get what out? Where? Who?”
“What the bloody hell!?” Draco barged in, shoving the door against the wall roughly, almost falling against it.
He was in his night clothes, silk pajama bottoms and bare-chested. Hermione didn’t miss the way his broad back glistened with the sweat of sleep. For a moment they simply looked at each other but quickly turned towards Pansy who was still screeching.
“What is wrong with you, Parkinson?” Draco barked. “It’s Saturday morning, the one morning we can sleep in and you’re waling like a banshee.”
Pansy’s fiery gaze turned on him. “You!” She screamed. “You did this.”
He waved her off. “Stop it; of course I didn’t do anything.”
That was when Hermione saw the blood. “Oh my god!” Her hand flew over her mouth and she thought she might be sick. There was a rat in Pansy’s bed and it seemed to have been disembowel right there on the pristine white sheets, now a deep repulsive shade of red.
Hermione’s head went light and for a moment it felt like it was filled with an extra layer of cold air. Her legs wobbled and all at once she felt herself going down.
A strong arm grasped her around the waist and Hermione turned to see Draco holding her up. She gave him a slightly giddy smile before everything went black.
She wasn’t sure how much time passed before she opened her eyes to find herself lying in the school hospital. Ginny was at one side and Luna was sitting on the other. Neville was hovering at the end of the bed and looking uncomfortable.
“How long was I out?” Hermione asked and sat up, brushing off Ginny and Luna’s attempts to stop her.
“A couple of hours,” Neville replied. “I heard the chaos and came out just in time to see Malfoy carrying you out of Pansy’s room.”
“Oh Merlin,” Ginny moaned, sounding grim. “What did they do to you? Did he hurt you? Malfoy said you just passed out, if I’d know he was...”
Hermione was quick to correct Ginny’s line of thought. “No! Draco didn’t do anything to me - And neither did Pansy.” She added the last part as an after thought. She looked at Neville. “Didn’t you see?”
He shook his head. “There was a lot of blood.”
Both Luna and Ginny gasped and Hermione rolled her eyes at the boy standing at her feet. “It was from the rat. Someone put a dead rat in Pansy’s bed while she was sleeping. She screamed and Draco and I ran in...” She remembered Draco’s disheveled hair and lack of clothing and felt her cheek flame. Quickly she added. “I saw the blood and I guess I passed out.”
Her three friends seemed to explode with excitement as they tried to make her feel better about fainting and discussed who could have put a rat in Pansy’s bed. The school wasn’t short of suspects who wanted to do Pansy harm, but few would have gone as far as to put a dead animal in the pureblood’s bed. The sight of that animal, dead and bloodied was disturbing at best. This was not merely the act of someone out for revenge. This was the action of a truly sick mind. Someone willing to kill to send a message.
Next day Hermione woke to blissful silence. There was something honestly wonderful about waking on a quiet Sunday morning and knowing that nothing was going to happen. Just some rest, some food and a little reading under her favorite tree.
She wondered if Draco was still sleeping and quickly shut the thought out when her traitorous brain sent her the image of how he looked the morning before; his hair disheveled and only wearing those silk pajama bottoms. His chest was broader then most wizards and more muscular too. Usually she only noticed that physique on Muggle men, since wizards really didn’t do any strenuous lifting or workouts that would build up the muscle-tone... Not that he was bulgy or anything, more defined.
Stop that! There will be no thoughts of Malfoy’s hot naked...
Hermione shoved her blankets to the side and swung out of bed. “I think that’s quite enough thinking for today.” She spoke in her bossiest voice and felt a little better.
After a long, hot, steaming shower Hermione pulled on her favorite jeans and a loose pink sweater then headed out to find some breakfast. She was just considering whether to be social and have bacon and eggs down in the great hall or have some coffee and cereal in the kitchenette when Draco flung open his door and exited with a flourish.
She couldn’t help noticing the waves of steam pouring from his room or the very relaxed expression on his usually pinched face. The smile came naturally to her lips.
“Good morning,” she sang.
He stopped and his expression shifted quickly from shock to something like embarrassment then quickly settled on his usual cool façade.
“Morning,” he replied and quickly headed for the common room door and he was gone.
Was it so hard to relax when she was around? Did her lack of bloodline really disturb him that much?
Hermione nipped at her bottom lip mainly to stop it from trembling. She didn’t really feel hungry any more but headed down to the Great Hall anyway.
There was little reprieve to be found at breakfast. Hermione found the Great hall in uproar. Professor Slughorn was waving his arms and bellowing while the Headmistress tried to calm him down, not an easy task at the best of times and the excited chatter coming from the students didn’t seem to be helping.
“Really, Headmistress, this is beyond unacceptable,” the Potions professor spoke in a lower voice but obviously had a hard time controlling it. “Back when I first taught at this school we had none of these problems.”
This brought on a barrage of manic laughter from several of the older students and even the other professors. Slughorn of course had been Potion’s professor in the time of several of the most mischievous of students including the Marauders and the infamous Tom Riddle.
While he continued to rant Hermione made her way to the Gryffindor table. “What’s happening?” she whispered to Ginny.
Her friend grinned, eyes watering with barely controlled laughter. “Someone broke into Slughorn’s storeroom last night.”
So much for Hermione’s plan to enjoy a quiet Sunday.
After settling Slughorn and promising again and again to find and punish the person responsible, Professor McGonagall made an announcement.
“Though I dearly hope that there is a reasonable explanation for this supposed break-in, I must, for the moment, assume that one of you have been up to no good.” She looked very disturbed. “I ask that who-ever stole from Professor Slughorn’s supply closet come forward, return the items and I promise that the school will be lenient.”
She gave a long sigh. “Over the next hour I will compile a list of names of people I feel should be questioned. If you receive a notice to come speak with me please do not believe that we suspect you of any wrong doing, just that we feel you may have information that can help.” She looked around at the now silent faces. “You’re co-operation in this matter is mandatory.”
For the rest of the day small pieces of paper flittered around the castle informing various students that they were required for questioning. Hermione noticed that most of the Slytherin table was called, nearly none of Ravenclaw, and no Hufflepuffs. It seemed a bit unfair to blame Slytherin without any real evidence. And why would anyone want to steal from the Potion’s supply room anyway? All they had to do was ask and Slughorn was always only too happy to let them take what they needed, even the occasional mischievous endeavor was taken with a smile and a tap on the side of his nose...
It all seemed a bit too close. First the dead rat in Pansy’s bed and now this? It didn’t seem like they could be connected and yet something about the two events happening so close together gave Hermione a bad feeling. Potter Intuition she used to call it, because usually it happened when Harry was around and about to get into trouble. But Harry wasn’t here now. Riddle was dead and this was none of her business so she would just stay right out.
Not a moment passed after that thought when a tiny letter landed in her lap.
The Headmistress requires your presence for questioning immediately on a matter of great concern.
“Well if you were not in your room then you must be able to tell us where you were!” Professor McGonagall’s voice rang out loud and impatient through the door and Hermione cringed, very glad that she wasn’t the one being questioned.
As quietly as she could, Hermione took her seat just outside the door. She didn’t like eavesdropping but it was hard not to hear with the Headmistress’ loud voice. Unfortunately whoever was being interviewed was not quite as loud in their responses so it was rather like listening to a phone conversation.
“What do you mean you were out walking? Walking where?”
There was an unheard response.
“You are aware that it is against the rules to go wandering the grounds after curfew?”
Another muttered response.
“And so you should be! Do you know how dangerous it is out there after dark?”
The student must have been speaking but again Hermione couldn’t hear.
“I have to say I’m disappointed Mr. Malfoy.” Hermione’s ears pricked and she turned to look at the huge brown door. “I really had hoped that you would return to us with your priorities more constructively placed. You may go.”
The door flew open and Hermione tried to look as though she had been doing anything other then listening. She settled on examining her nails but one look at the expression on Draco’s face told her that she was fooling nobody. He gave a single raised eyebrow look and what was almost a smirk before striding away down the steps and out.
She could feel the heat stealing up her cheeks and gave a grunt of disgust. What the hell was wrong with her? It was as though her brain had fallen out and been replaced that of some giggly ditz.
“You may enter now, Miss Granger.”
Hermione entered and sat down in the seat pointed out to her.
“Now, Miss Granger you understand that this is just a questioning session and we are in no way accusing you of any wrong-doing.” Professor McGonagall started. “But it is very important that you tell us the truth, as a lie will incriminate you and lose you several points from your house.”
She nodded. “I understand.”
“Alright, before compiling the list of names we performed a general search and show charm to reveal all current students found guilty of stealing from the Potions closet so far.” She held up a hand to halt Hermione’s outraged interruption. “Yes I agree it isn’t fare to persecute a student for past crimes but we needed an idea of what kind of student we were searching for. I must say I was most surprised when your name popped up.”
Hermione’s cheeks flushed a deep red and she wanted to just melt into her chair. “Please, Professor, it was in my second year and only to aid Harry.”
McGonagall arched a single eyebrow. “Do not give me that greater good nonsense. I am very aware that Harry performed just as many acts of mischief as he did do-gooding, and stealing is stealing no matter what the circumstances.” She leaned forward and looked Hermione in the eye. “Did you ransack Professor Slughorn’s supply closet.”
“No!” Hermione lunged to her feet. “How could you even think it!? I have been an outstanding student from the first day I arrived and have done nothing but try to protect those I love and prove my worth. All I wanted was a quiet final year and already everything is going to pot. I mean with Draco all one minute friendly the next an ass and that dead Rat in Pansy’s bed and now this... Harry and Ron may as well have stayed on and tied themselves to my legs with super adhesive hexing balm.”
The Headmistress listened calmly and waited a moment before speaking. “Are you quite finished, Miss Granger?”
She wanted to scream but managed to take a breath and reply calmly. “Yes.”
“Good, as I stated very clearly to you earlier this is not an accusation we are asking these same questions to each of the students on the list.” McGonagall looked at her hands briefly before going on. “But I do understand that you have been under a great deal of stress with the war and recovery not to mention the rat incident. That said I need you to tell me where you were last night.”
Hermione calmed down and nodded. “I went to the library to research the potion’s assignment that Professor Slughorn gave us.”
“Did you see anyone else while you were there?”
That made her pause. A lie would incriminate her, but Draco would never want anyone to know that they had been together. A quick flash of being sandwiched between his hard body and the bookshelf made her flush but she recovered quickly.
“No, I mean there might have been some other students there but I was too busy to notice.”
McGonagall nodded her understanding then asked, “And when you returned to your room did you notice anyone else out of their rooms?”
Her breath caught in her throat. Neville had been out of his room last night but it was quite simply unbelievable that he would risk expulsion or losing house points for a few potion ingredients. Another voice niggled at her but she shoved it back.
“No, I don’t know if anyone else was out of their room.” The lie left her lips with an ease that reminded her of just how much she’d changed over the last few years.
“Very well, you may go.”
She needed to speak to Neville. No way was she covering for him again unless he had a damned good reason for breaking the rules. At dinner he sat too far away for her to grab so she chatted to Ginny, passing on that Draco had gotten a royal bellowing at from the Headmistress for leaving his room at night.
“So do you think he did it?” Ginny asked wide-eyed. “Malfoy I mean.”
Hermione thought about that then shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. He’s been kind of different since the war, quieter, keeping more to himself.”
“So he should be,” Ginny said darkly. “If you ask me his whole family deserves to be sent to Azkaban.”
Hermione didn’t really know what to say to that. Not so long ago she would have agreed but now she wasn’t so sure, not that she thought the family was good exactly, but they didn’t seem evil either. She was so busy frowning into her roast beef that she didn’t notice Neville get up and leave the table.
It was a while later that she managed to get away from her friends and go find him. She walked quickly to his room and knocked. “Neville? I need to talk to you, it’ll only take a moment.”
Just like the night before there was no response. She set back her shoulders and opened the door to find the room empty again. “Damn it, Neville!”
She was so angry she slammed into her own room and sat heavily down on the window. She hated feeling this way. Neville was one of her oldest friends. He was reliable and trustworthy just like she was or at least he had been. She wiped away a trail of angry tears, why did everything have to change. She missed the nights when she and Harry and Ron would sneak out to see Hagrid or track down Draco doing something devious, now even he couldn’t be trusted to be the bad guy.
She looked out the window and hissed when she saw none other then Malfoy himself wandering the grounds - Again. Hermione gritted her teeth then, mind made up; she grabbed her cloak and headed outside. Since nobody else saw the importance of obeying the rules, she would just do as she liked.
She found Draco leaning against the castle wall facing the lake. “You know walking the grounds after dark is completely against the rules,” she sniped.
“I’d never have known if you hadn’t told me,” Draco drawled then turned his back and strolled away.
She caught up and kept his slow easy stride. “You’re going to get yourself expelled. Is that what you want? To do all this work then get kicked out because you like to walk.
Draco laughed. It was a first and it lightened his face and brought a certain twinkle into his eyes. “They won’t expel me.”
“And why now?” She demanded. “You think your family name still has so much pull?”
“Yes the name has, “pull,” as you put it but it’s the power and money behind the name that does the work.” He threw her a quick look. “But I won’t get expelled because I don’t intend to get caught. I’m careful, nobody would know at all if certain know-it-alls weren’t spying.”
“I was not spying!”
“So you were just randomly breaking the rules as well, were you?”
She gritted her teeth but continued to stroll at his side.
It was nice in the grounds at night. Very quiet and a cool breeze made her curls dance around her shoulders. She looked at Draco just in time to catch him looking at her. He looked away and down at his feet.
“Why do you come out here?” she asked softly.
She nodded, immediately understanding. “Seems to be going around.”
A few more minutes passed in silence before he spoke again. “So does she think I did it?”
“Did what? Ransacking the supply closet or slapping the gutted rat in Pansy’s bed?”
He grinned again. “Yeah they are kind of close together, both happened on the same night and I have no alibi apart from the fact that I was out here breaking the rules.”
Hermione pursed her lips mainly to hold in that bossy little voice. It didn’t work. “Well you know if you hadn’t been out here wandering you wouldn’t be a suspect at all.”
“Yeah well I assumed that once the bleeding-hearts took over the school again all would be well. The birds would sing and the rainbows would all dance with to the lovey-dovey peace-time melodies.”
“You know we’re not bleeding-hearts we just don’t see why everything needs to be solved with violence and bloodshed.”
He stopped and spun on her. “And you think that’s what I want? Of course I do, I’m the son of a Death Eater I must be evil.”
“I - I didn’t say that...” she stuttered.
“I’m not stupid you know, Granger. I know what you think, know what they all think. Well they can all go to hell!” He glared down at his feet. “Yeah alright so my dad was a Death Eater and for a while I thought that was cool. What else was I supposed to think? I was raised on those stupid fucking stories about how amazing and powerful the Dark Lord was, how he was going to take us all to a brilliant new world where we’d be worshiped... It sounded cool.
“Then people started dying. Really dying - right in front of me - one minute alive then... Northing - dead...”
He gripped the sides of his head and let out a low sound that was a cross between a cry and a yell. Hermione’s heart wrenched painfully at the sound.
“Draco,” she laid her hands on his arms and slowly brought them down. “I can’t even imagine what the war was like for you, I can hardly bare to remember it myself. But it’s over now, what’s done is done all is left is for us to make right what we can and move on. Don’t you see you have the chance to make a fresh start, you can be whoever you want to be.”
He looked up at her from beneath his overgrown blonde fringe and slowly moved closer. His movement was predatory, deliberate and Hermione found herself backing away. She wasn’t afraid exactly but still she backed up until her back hit the cool castle wall. Draco closed in and planted both hands against the thick stones either side of her shoulders.
He gave her a lopsided grin and kept his gaze on hers, very aware of her caution. “You make is sound so easy, Granger.” He tipped his face to the side. “And what if I choose to be bad?”
“Is that what you want?” She managed to rasp, forcing herself to breath and willing her heartbeat to slow down. He smelt of expensive aftershave and sandalwood and it was oddly intoxicating.
“Doesn’t matter what I want, I am bound.”
She almost laughed. “Is a trust fund really worth giving up your life?”
He shook his head. “You really don’t get it do you. What about you? What do you want? What if one day you didn’t want to be a goody-goody little swot any more? Could you just up and choose that?” He leaned in closer and she felt more then saw his gaze shift to her mouth. “Could you be bad if you wanted to be?”
“What do you want, Draco?” She whispered. She could feel his warm breath on her lips, feel the heat of his body radiating against hers.
Without words he dipped his head that last inch and kissed her. The kiss was neither easy nor testing; he took her lips with a roughness that made her gasp and he took the brief parting of her lips as an invitation to deepen the contact. He captured first her top lip then the bottom then slanted his mouth over hers and flicked his tongue against hers.
The sigh escaped without her knowledge and her hands reached out blindly to wrap around his back and hook around his shoulders. His returning groan of approval was followed by his hands closing in from the wall to carefully cup her face in complete contrast to the forcefulness of the mouth.
It was a long time before they parted for air and it was all they could do to simply grin and breathe. Draco leaned his forehead against hers. “My dad is going to kill me.”
The school buzzed around her. Professors rushed in and out, students spoke excitedly with wide-eyed mixtures of horror and shock, still dressed in Pajamas and sleeping robes. All the while Hermione sat in the corner of the Great Hall. Nobody had noticed her yet.
After she screamed McGonagall had been the first one down. Grasping her shoulders the Headmistress shook her roughly yelling, “What happened here - Talk girl!”
Hermione somehow managed to stutter out that she had found Pansy the way she was then she was left alone as the older woman rushed off to alert - whoever. Hermione didn’t know what everyone was doing; from where she sat they seemed to be reenacting some kind of rabid version of Swan Lake, squawking and flittering back and forth.
There was no sign of Draco. She wondered if he knew that his Ex-girlfriend was dead. She wondered if he cared. Only a few moments ago things had been so light and fluffy now her head felt like it was full of air, she felt empty and numb like she wasn’t really here.
A pair of high-heeled feet stopped in front of her then suddenly crouched. Hermione looked up to see McGonagall looking more concerned then she’d ever seen her.
“Miss Granger,” she spoke in hushed tones. “Sweetheart what are you still doing here?” The words were so completely out of character for the woman.
“I - I didn’t know where to go.”
McGonagall sucked in some air and an odd expression crossed her eyes. Abruptly she stood up and strode away barking instructions to someone nearby. Next Hermione was picked up by a rather strong looking Hufflepuff boy and carried out of the Great Hall. She suddenly felt so tired. She laid her head on his shoulder and closed her eyes and when she woke up she was in the Hospital wing.
The room was dark and a single figure sat at her side. Hermione’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the platinum blood hair. She must have sucked in a sharp breath because the figure raised her face.
“You’re awake then?” Luna asked. Her tone was hushed and a little raspy.
“I guess.” Hermione really didn’t know what to say. “Is it true? Is she really...?
“Dead?” Luna nodded and leaned forward to see her better, seeming to watch her more closely now. “She wasn’t a very nice girl really.”
“No,” Hermione gave a half-hearted laugh and shook her head. “No, she really wasn’t.”
“Yeah, always teasing and hexing everyone who even looked at her sideways. What do you think her problem was anyway?”
“I don’t know,” Hermione answered keeping her tone hushed. “I guess she just wasn’t a very happy person. She might have been hiding problems or fears that we could only guess at.”
“Or maybe she was just a bitch,” Luna said more sharply. “I should go tell someone that you’re awake.” And with that she was gone leaving Hermione staring at the now empty chair.
Hermione slept the rest of the night in the Hospital wing then was returned to her own room in the morning.
“So do they know who did it?” Hermione asked Ginny, who she’d invited to come have breakfast with her. If anyone would know what was supposed to be secret it was Ginny Weasley.
“Well they have a list but they’re still narrowing it down.” She flicked Hermione a carful look then quickly sipped her coffee.
“It’s alright, Ginny I guessed that I would be on it.” Hermione sat up straighter. “You know I didn’t though, right?”
“Yes!” Ginny smiled a bit too brightly. “Of course you didn’t. The thought never crossed my mind and they obviously only have your name down as a technicality.”
“Besides, everyone’s got their Sickles on Malfoy.” She shifted closer and lowered her voice. “Apparently he says that he was out walking the grounds again - says he was alone.”
Hermione’s jaw dropped. “But if he was out walking alone that makes him the prime suspect! With his history he could be sent to Azkaban until the trial.”
“That’s what McGonagall told him but he insisted that he was walking alone.” Ginny pursed her lips, thinking. “But he’s also insisting that he didn’t kill her, didn’t even see her last night and didn’t care enough about her to take the effort.” She seemed to take this as a point in his favor, after all that last part was very believable.
Hermione nodded in agreement but only to hide the sharp pain in her chest. Draco would rather go to Azkaban then admit to being involved with a Muggleborn. Not that they were really involved she decided. One kiss didn’t exactly make them a couple.
But it had changed something - Hadn’t it? Over the weeks since they had met again something had changed between them. Alright so they hadn’t become bestest buddies or even friends really, but there was a new understanding there almost a respect for one another. Even if the kiss had meant nothing to him and the attraction Hermione felt building was only on her side, surely he saw her differently now.
Hermione responded numbly as Ginny recounted everything she had learned about the murder of Pansy but she wasn’t really listening. She felt very small and very silly. Draco really didn’t see her as anything other then the nosy, bossy Muggleborn she had been before the war. He hadn’t been kissing her; he’d been venting some of that male testosterone that she was sure hadn’t been used since he broke up with Pansy and Hermione had been there and more then willing... She took another long sip of coffee to hide her trembling bottom lip.
Well if he wanted to forget last night, then so did she. Who was she anyway to deny the boy the right to his own decisions? If he would rather go to prison then have people know that for a moment he almost liked her, then so be it. She hoped he packed a cloak and some extra thick socks, cause from what she heard Azkaban was awfully cold this time of year.
“Hermione?” Ginny broke into her thoughts. “Are you alright?”
“Sure!” Hermione gave her a wide grin. “Fine and dandy like sugar candy. I’m still a bit in shock I think.”
“I guess that’s not so surprising. It must have been horrifying finding Pansy like that.”
“So what’s going to happen now? What if the school has to close again!?”
Ginny laughed. “I don’t think they’ll close the school. This can hardly be the first time someone’s died - Not that it’s a common occurrence but statistically it must happen every now and then.”
“I guess.” Hermione wasn’t so sure and immediately felt guilty for caring more about her own schooling rather then the girl who’s life was so cruelly stolen. “Do you think they’ll send her body home?”
Ginny shook her head, no. “I heard that they’ve put her body under a stasis charm since her parents are out of the country for the next few weeks. I’m guessing they want to keep the whole thing quiet till they get it all worked out.”
Hermione nodded. “That makes sense, it’s going to look a lot better if they can show them that the murderer has been caught and punished.” Even as the words left her lips they sounded like cold comfort. Sure there would be closure but their daughter would still be dead.
Hermione suddenly felt very sad. “You know Pansy was a royal bitch, but I don’t think anybody actually wanted her to die and she definitely didn’t deserve to be killed and dumped that way. After the war I would have thought we’d all seen enough death.”
“How are you feeling this evening, Miss Granger?” Professor McGonagall asked and her tone was clipped and her face more gaunt then usual.
“I’m feeling much better now thank you, Professor.”
The Headmistress nodded and stared down at her parchment almost as though if she looked hard enough the answer to the mystery would simply jump out at her.
“This is a very serious matter indeed and not what I had expected to happen during my first year as Headmistress.” She debated this thought in her head and Hermione watched the various expressions shift across the older woman’s face. “I had so many hopes for my first year, so many hopes for the world after the war was finally over... You know this is the kind of thing that could lose me my position. The year has barely started and already one of my students is dead!”
Hermione had never seen McGonagall this way and wasn’t quite sure how to respond so she remained quiet.
The older woman looked up and seemed almost shocked to see Hermione still sitting there. “Yes... Well, I suppose that is hardly your problem now is it, Miss Granger.” Before her eyes the Headmistress seemed to pull herself back together and was once again the authoritative figure she was before all this. “This is all most disturbing and too coincidental to not be linked. First the rat in Miss Parkinson’s bed, then the Potions storeroom ransacked, and now Pansy is dead. The rat was obviously a warning that the silly girl refused to adhere to.” She shook her head then looked back at Hermione.
“Yes, very disturbing.” Hermione didn’t quite know what to say so she stuck to the basics. “I’m very sorry that this is happening and it’s not fair that you’re first year has started so badly but surely everyone would agree that this is out of your hands, you’ve worked hard to earn the position and deserve to prove yourself.”
“Miss Ganger, when I need coddling I will ask for it.” She sighed and looked very tired again. “I need to know where you were last night, and not arguments or tantrums this time.”
“Yes, Professor,” Hermione replied. “I couldn’t sleep you see so I went for a walk, I had intended to simply get some air but then the lake looked so pretty in the moonlight that I...” Her words drifted off when McGonagall held up a single hand to shush her.
“Young lady, are you telling me that you broke school rules and left the castle after dark?” At Hermione’s slow, guilty nod she sighed again. “Well we’ll just leave that - for now. Mr. Malfoy said that he was out walking as well; this new tradition of nightly rule breaking seems to be contagious amongst our adult students.”
“If you please, Professor, I did not intend to break the rules simply to get some fresh air. Sleep has been more difficult for me since the war and I’d hoped a walk would help.”
The Headmistress pinched the bridge of her nose and seemed to be counting down from ten. “Malfoy didn’t mention seeing anyone else while he was walking, although he too mentioned sitting by the lake. You didn’t by any chance see anyone, or for that matter, Malfoy himself? Remembering just how serious this matter is.”
Hermione licked her lips and squared her shoulders. “No, I didn’t see anybody last night.”
Hermione sat in front of her mirror the next morning staring at her reflection. She refused to feel in any way guilty for what had happened. It was completely Draco’s doing if he went to Azkaban for killing Pansy. Of course she was pretty sure that he hadn’t and if he was convicted then the real murderer would walk free... She gritted her teeth. Damn there was always a catch to the best revenge.
They had potions class first up together and she was more then a little nervous. Would he be different? Did she want him to be? Well for her part she intended to continue to ignore the spoilt pureblood the way she had before, as though nothing had happened between them. He would probably be relieved to avoid the humiliation of being involved with her. Her traitorous bottom lip trembled again and she sank her teeth into it, biting hard.
“You silly little Muggleborn,” she spoke to herself in the mirror. “Did you really think any pureblood would be willing to settle with you? Be willing to break his bloodline for you?”
Ron certainly didn’t so it was laughable to think that Draco would have ever even considered it. Books and cleverness were all well and good but it was the pretty girls that really made a difference. Girls like Ginny and Lavender that made boys heads turn and toss their stupid beliefs to the wind. Hermione twisted one curl around her fingers and tipped her head to the side. She wasn’t really unattractive but she never seemed to have time to preen and gloss the way other girls did.
There was at least two hours until the first class. She turned her face this way and that then stood up in her uniform, pulled her tartan skirt an inch higher, opened the top button of her crisp white blouse. Why couldn’t she be bookish and clever and a girl too? And if Malfoy happened to notice what he was missing out on with his bigoted attitude well that would just be coincidental.
An hour later Hermione stepped out of her rooms and into the common room feeling good. All that twirling and smoothing, applying makeup and nail polish had been oddly relaxing. One could get quite a bit of thinking done while applying nail polish and the quiet calm of sitting alone had settled her nerves. She supposed that there was more to girlish preening then just looking pretty, although that part was nice too.
In the end she had shortened her skirt by two inches and was surprised by the difference such a small amount could make to her legs, which now appeared longer. Her long soft curls cascaded over her shoulders all smooth and silky but she’d left her blouse buttons fastened. A girl could only go so far so fast.
Stepping out the first person she saw was Neville. The husky boy stopped dead in his tracks and his eyes looked like they might pop out of his head as he looked her up and down.
“Her - Hermione?” He squeaked. “Have you changed your h-hair?”
She gave him a seductively slow smile and looked at him from behind her eyelashes for a brief second. “Only a little,” she purred then glided out the door swaying her hips as she went.
Hermione couldn’t believe the reactions her new look attracted. She didn’t look that different really but as it turned out a little effort could go a long way. As she made her way down to breakfast Lord Cadogan fell into a coughing fit while simultaneously bowing and saluting, Colin turned an odd shade of red and started babbling inanely about the weather, charms class and the new decorations in the library, anything to keep her talking to him.
After a few minutes of this attention she risked a quick glance at the Slytherin table just in time to meet Draco’s silver-eyed glare. She met it coolly; rather proud of the way she managed to hold her expression. With a tilt of her head she acknowledged him politely then deliberately turned her gaze away to throw a dazzling smile at Colin.
She could feel his glare on her as she stood up, picked up her books and headed towards Potions class. She strode past the Slytherin table ignoring the catcalls and wolf-whistles but glanced at him from the corner of her eye and felt a smile tick at her lips as she watched his gaze sweep her up and down.
She heard Draco lop up behind her and fall into step but didn’t grace him with an acknowledgement. Finally he grabbed her elbow and pulled her aside, waiting for the other students to pass and ignoring their curious glances. He pulled her further into the dark, unused hallway and gave her the full force of his dark expression.
“Are you always so vindictive or just with the people you know?” He growled.
“Who’s being vindictive? I’m just walking to class!” She returned equally as angry. “You’re the one doing all the grabbing and dragging into dark corners.”
“Oh you’d like that, wouldn’t you?”
Her temper spiked and she pulled away sharply but his hold was like iron. “Go to hell, Ferret,” she gritted out and pulled again against his grasp but to no avail.
“Why didn’t you tell them where you really were last night?”
Hermione blinked. Was he joking? “Why? Why didn’t you? But oh no, you wouldn’t want anyone to know you’d spent time canoodling with a filthy mudblo...” She never finished that last word.
He cut her off with a vicious shake. “Don’t you dare say that word! That’s that kind of thinking that sent my dad to Azkaban and got my best mate killed.” He let her go and seemed to be composing himself with some deep breathing. “Besides, Potty and Weasley would have a conniption if they found out you actually liked me.”
Hermione took the opportunity to sneer and laughed. “Who ever said I liked you?”
She walked away but he quickly fell into step again.
“Don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing,” he hissed.
“What exactly am I doing?” she replied coolly and he pulled back slightly at her tone but recovered fast.
“You’re trying to make me jealous - Well it won’t work.”
“Make you jealous? That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” She looked at him incredulously, quite proud of herself and couldn’t resist a retort. “Besides there’s hardly a need, if you want a skirt like mine just go buy one already. I’m sure it would look great with your long legs.”
His lip curled. “Think you’re funny don’t you.”
“Oh, Draco, I’m a riot when you get me going.” And with that she spun away and entered the classroom.
The potions class was thriving with conversation and speculation on the death of Pansy. People weren’t so much mourned as shocked and that struck Hermione as very sad. She noticed more then a few looks thrown at Draco and herself. But surely they couldn’t actually believe that either of them were capable of murder... Still the looks came.
Slughorn entered and the class quieted down. He made a long speech about the frailty of life and the great circle, in short death was sad but life goes on. Hermione snickered and leaned into Draco murmuring, “Death is terrible, but hey, shit happens.”
He stifled a laugh and nudged her shoulder in acknowledgement. Slughorn may have been a good Potions Master but he did waffle on. They looked at each other and she remembered herself just as he did. They were not friends and just like that the wall was back up.
“Today we’re going to take a step back to a potion most of you should have mastered in your 6th year,” Slughorn said and with a flick of his wand the instructions appeared on the board. “The Draft of Living Death!”
Hermione’s hand shot into the air. “Excuse me, Professor, but why? As you said we mastered the potion in 6th year.”
“Ah,” he grinned widely at Hermione and placed a finger against his nose. “This is only the start, today we make Draft of Living Death, next week we will make the remedy. But you must have one fresh in your mind before you can make the other.”
Draco’s hand flew into the air. “But, Professor, none of us managed to master the potion the first time.”
“Well now is your chance, Mr. Malfoy.” Slughorn looked between Hermione and Draco. “And I do believe at least one of my students managed to brew it perfectly. Harry Potter if I’m not mistaken.” He nodded looking very proud to have been the teacher during that time and turned away, waving a hand as he continued. “And the same incentives apply - a bottle of Felix Felicis to whoever makes it perfectly.”
Draco leaned in and muttered from the corner of his mouth, “Last time I followed the text book exactly and it came out rubbish.” He started pulling out ingredients and laying them out neatly on the table in front of them. “Potter cheated, yeah?”
“He most defiantly did not cheat!” She hissed back and they both smiled brilliantly at Slughorn when the sound drew his attention, when he back was turned again Hermione hissed more quietly, “But he may have had a few extra pointers and suggestions then the rest of us.”
“I knew it! You know what they were, right?”
Hermione gave him a haughty look. “I might.”
“Maybe I don’t want to share,” she said mysteriously.
“Maybe you do.”
“Maybe you want to say something nice about my hair,” she said giving her long, silky curls a flick over her shoulder with her newly manicured hands.
His lips twitched. “It looks beautiful and accentuates your pretty face.”
Her eyes narrowed. “You’re just saying that.”
“I wish I was.” He gave her a charming smile that made his face glow and his silver eyes sparkle. Shifty snake.
They worked together quickly and efficiently. As they went Hermione made sure to remember the variation Harry had made. Most of them made sense, more logic then special knowhow they were easy to implement. Draco stirred the way she instructed while Hermione added each ingredient carful of timing.
By the end of the class Slughorn was walking from desk to desk tutting and shaking his head. “Dear oh dear, see I told you that you would need to go over this potion again.” He continued to tut and groan as he moved around. “Really, you are seventh years, you should be... Ah, now this is more like it.”
Draco looked up sharply and jumped away. “I didn’t do it.”
“Get back here,” Hermione whispered and grabbed his arm then she smiled Slughorn. “Thank you, Professor.”
Draco cleared his throat and hung loose at her side.
“I am impressed,” Slughorn gushed looking closely at the potion and dipping in the tip of a stirring swizzle. “Perfect color and constancy, you’ve even manage to give it that softly down gloss. Impressive.” He looked from Hermione to Draco. “I knew that putting the two of you together was a wise choice. Don’t you agree?”
Hermione and Draco exchanged an amused look. “Yes, Professor,” they said together and Hermione didn’t miss the way Draco stood just a little taller, his smile bright and proud and real. Amazing what a little positive attention could achieve.
“Well as agreed, here is your prize.” Slughorn pulled two tiny, identical flasks from his pocket and gave them one each. “And I should inform you that I am having an impromptu memorial dinner for the poor young woman who passed,” he whispered that last word. “You are both invited as my special guests of course.” He threw them a final smile, tapped the side of his nose and flounced away.
As the two walked out of Potions quickly to avoid the curious and accusing looks of their classmates Hermione nudged his shoulder and grinned. “How’s that huh? Getting praise for doing something good.” She laughed and jumped away when he threw her a playful slap. “We won fair and square by the grey matter between our ears, Malfoy. How does it feel? Did you hurt yourself?”
“Please, Granger,” Draco sneered derisively. “We cheated, fair and square. It’s not fair to have extra pointers and hints that aren’t shared with the whole class. So how’s it feel to be a bad girl? Did you hurt your self?”
“I feel pretty good about it,” she replied raising her chin higher. “And we so did not cheat. Anyone of them could have checked the updated facts on potions and found out the methods we used.”
“What ever helps you sleep.”
Later that day Hermione and Draco had retreated to their secret study room. There was no longer a threat from Pansy’s squealing laugh but neither of them were in a rush to be seen together.
They had been studying in silence for half an hour when finally Hermione couldn’t hold it in any more. “Do you care? You know about Pansy?”
Draco went very still and when he looked up at her his expression was guarded. “Why do you ask that?”
“Because nobody seems to!” Even Hermione was shocked by how shrill her voice sounded. She took a breath and spoke again. “Everyone is behaving like nothing happened, like it was no big loss and I know she wasn’t a very nice person but she didn’t deserve to die.”
Draco nodded and visibly relaxed. “I agree, she wasn’t a very nice person but then neither were her parents. They were silent supporters of the Dark Lord, greedy to the bone and happy to use anything and everything to gain a higher position or more money - including her.” He stared down at his hands. “That’s why we broke up, she was instructed to marry me using any wiles necessary. Sex and preferably pregnancy were the favorite choices. I found a letter from her mother with instructions on how to botch a contraception charm.”
“Merlin, that’s awful for both of you.”
Draco nodded but his hands were trembling now. “I was so mad, but it wasn’t really her fault.” He laughed bitterly. “Parents have their ways.” He dropped his head into his hands and his shoulders shook. “She was such a bitch - that’s what I liked about her. But everything was different after the war - being a mean little prat just wasn’t fun any more. You could say I grew out of it. But not her. She was just so angry and bitter. I couldn’t stand to be near her any more.”
Hermione listened silently as he spoke and had to stifle the need to wrap her arms around him. “McGonagall thinks that the dead rat was a warning that Pansy obviously refused to adhere to,” she said, trying to keep her mind distracted. “But a warning from who?”
Draco sniggered. “She had a way of bringing out the dark side of everyone.”
“Hmm I guess we’d need to narrow the list.” Hermione stood up and paced the floor. “Alright well it needs to be someone she really hit hard, where it hurt. And that someone needs to have had the means and opportunity to put that rat in her bed.”
“Where are you getting that?”
“Agatha Christie,” Hermione answered. “And in case you haven’t noticed you and I are the prime suspects. We both have motive and according to the facts we’ve given our alibis are sketchy at best and we both had opportunity.”
“So we come clean, say we were together when she was killed.”
“Oh will you be telling your father then or just let him read it in the Prophet when we testify?”
Draco sighed. “So we’re looking for someone who she hit hard and where it hurt enough to make him or her commit murder.”
Hermione sank her teeth into her lower lip. She had a name.
“What?” Draco shifted closer and looked her in the eye. “What were you thinking just now?”
“It’s not possible and I don’t even what to think it. He’s just not a...”
“Granger.” Draco’s tone was warning.
“Neville - he wasn’t in his room last night or the night the rat was put in Pansy’s bed. When she was at her worst he seemed to be her pet favorite to hex and torment and he’s been acting - different kind of distant and sometimes it’s like he’s trying to avoid me.” Hermione shrugged “But there could be lots of reasons for his odd behavior.”
“Hmm, or maybe he knows something.” Draco placed his hand over hers. “Look, I really don’t think it could be Neville but it wouldn’t hurt to make sure, yeah?”
Hermione nodded. “Alright.”
She sighed and pulled her books back in front of her. They had research and several feet of parchment to write in Potions, Charms, and Defense against the Dark Arts. She didn’t notice when Draco moved his books around the table so he was sitting beside her. She did notice when he leaned in close and breathed a gust of warm air against her ear.
When she turned to look at him they were very close. “What are you doing?” Her voice was barely a whisper and in complete contrast with the loud beating her heart.
He reached up and gently combed his fingers through her silky curls. “Is this for me?” He murmured but his smile was neither mocking nor cynical. It was a nice smile, soft and curious.
Hermione returned his smile and looked away, licking her suddenly dry lips. “There were quite a few different reasons actually.” She looked back at him and felt her cheeks flush. “You might have been one of them.”
He wound a curl around his finger and gently pulled her closer. “I like that answer.”
This time the kiss was slower, more intimate. That first kiss had been born of anger and passion and true there was passion here too but a different kind. Their lips touched, a bare brush of the sensitive flesh, preparing for the deeper press of mouth against mouth. She parted her lips to let him in and with a moan he pulled her against him and deepened the kiss.
Unable to be a placid receiver any longer, Hermione pushed at his shoulder and maneuvered them so she was straddling his hips. She liked this position and there was something very exciting about having control over Draco Malfoy. Her hands rested either side on his throat and she captured his lips again and again. It was her turn now to show him that she was not quite the innocent little Golden girl he thought she was.
A sensual flick of her tongue against his upper lip then the lower made him moan, a rumbling sound and feeling that vibrated through her own body. When she deepened the kiss and sucked his tongue into her mouth he groaned and his hands slid up her thighs slowly pushing her skirt upwards.
Hermione trembled and moaned. His hands felt so good. His fingers were cool but his palms were warm and before she realized his fingers were bushing the edge of her panties.
“Hermione,” his rasping voice purred into her ear. “Merlin you get me so hot.”
His words made her flush, the warm glow flooding her mind and her chest. There was no shakiness, no sarcasm just honest need and passion. Draco’s hands moved slowly, as though engraving each sensation to memory. Unlike Ron, Draco already knew the feel of a woman’s body so there was no impatient rushing or fumbling. He was content to take his time, learn her, play her and worship her.
She in-turn wanted to learn him. Like Draco she had known another’s body so did not rush or fumble. Her hands slid up his arms and she felt her lower body quiver and dampen at the feel of his defined muscles. There was a scar here, a burn there; the price of war.
With a growl Draco shoved and pushed her onto her back. He gave her a wolfish grin and swooped down only to jump up and away when a voice sounded. The voice reverberated around the small study area and through out the library.
“Announcement: The Library will be closing for dinner in five minutes.”
Hermione’s heart was beating so hard her chest hurt and she could see Draco breathing quickly and sharply where he sat. They looked at each other for a long time. Hermione was the first to break a nervous smile and was followed by Draco instantly.
“Are we...” He was still breathing hard. “Are we caring about that?” He tipped his head upwards, referring to the voice.
Hermione sighed and reached up to neaten her hair then straighten her robes. “We should, I want to talk to Neville.”
He nodded and adjusted his own robes. “You’re right, the sooner we get this sorted the better.”
Their eyes met across the room again. There were things that normal people said at times like this. Normal, flirty statements, promises of later meetings, maybe an exchange of romantic sentiments. But they weren’t that couple.
Hermione worried her lower lip. She wanted to tell him how much she enjoyed just being near him, touching him. How very different he was to the other men she had been with, how easy it would be to like him very, very much... But how could she say those things to Draco Malfoy?
Again Neville was sitting at the other end of the table at dinner but this time Hermione had backup. She looked across the hall to see Draco listening to the fourth-year beside him but keeping an eye on the husky Gryffindor. Briefly he looked at her and they exchanged an unreadable glance. Draco’s face was as guarded as her own. She wished she knew what he was thinking.
At length she pulled her gaze away to check that Neville was still in his place. He was and chatting happily to a third-year she only barely recognized. It felt wrong that he looked so cheery after the recent events, although in all truth she couldn’t really talk about proper mourning practices...
“You know I think people would be more respectful if she wasn’t such a bitch,” Ginny said at her side. “You can’t blame Neville for not missing her mean absence.”
Hermione sighed and nodded, smiling at her friend. “I know. Neville’s been getting hexed three ways from Sunday since he arrived. I can’t blame him for enjoying a reprieve.”
“It’s sad though isn’t it? That nobody misses her.”
“The only thing worse then being talked about is not being talked about.”
Hermione smiled and gave Ginny a rueful smile. “Muggle joke, sort of.”
They went back to eating for a few minutes before Ginny spoke up again. “Hermione, have you noticed anything different about Luna, lately?”
“Luna? You mean besides the usual weirdness?”
Ginny nodded but she wasn’t smiling. In fact she looked nervous possibly even a little afraid; an odd expression for the youngest sister of Fred and George Weasley. The Weasley twins were renowned pranksters of Hogwarts past.
“Not really but then I guess I never really talk to Luna...” A sudden memory struck her of the night that Pansy died.
Hermione told Ginny about that night and how Luna was sitting next to her in the hospital while she slept. That conversation had been odd at best and there was something disturbing in Luna’s tone.
“Why? Have you noticed something wrong?” Hermione asked.
“Yes - and no. I don’t know,” Ginny said and her voice sounded shaky. “I guess she feels the same way we do. She’s sad and scared by Pansy’s death but probably disturbed by how little anyone cares. Just like the rest of us...”
They watched as Luna took a long drink from a personal drink bottle, stood up without looking at any of her Ravenclaw housemates and headed for the door to the dorms.
“I should go talk to her,” Ginny said thoughtfully then she jumped to her feet and followed the blonde girl out.
Hermione watched her go. She couldn’t quite explain the squirmy feeling ion her stomach but it was there all the same. She exhaled roughly then looked towards Neville only to find that he was gone.
Neville was gone! Damn, she’d lost him again. Frustrated she looked towards Draco only to notice his seat was also empty. He must have followed Neville out. Again - Damn!
Hermione shoved her plate forward and jumped up. She ran to the adult-student rooms and gasped the password to a rather shocked looking Sir Cadogan.
“Maiden, you are the third to come rushing in here tonight,” he said, haughtily. “I trust there is no problem I need be informed of, or possibly that I need to speak with the Headmistress about?”
“I’m really not sure yet, Sir Cadogan,” she puffed. “Tell me; were the other two Draco and Neville?”
“Indeed they were! Neville left again directly but Mr. Malfoy stays within.” The painting swung open and Hermione ran in.
She almost ran into Draco as he was coming out. He dragged her in and steadied her on her feet before saying, “Did you see him? He just left, I didn’t even get a chance to get one word out.”
“Well where did he go?”
Draco shrugged. “I honestly thought you would have seen him, he left just a few moments ago.”
They stepped out of the common room and back into the hallway. “Well I came from that way and I didn’t pass him in the hall.” Hermione said thoughtfully, pointing to the right. “So he must have gone that way.”
They headed left, walking fast in order to catch up. He had never been a quick walker so he couldn’t have gotten that far. They walked up this hallway and that, up one stair case and down another.
On one staircase it began to move swiftly, smoothly as they stood on it. Hermione gripped the handrail tightly and Draco gripped one hand on the rail and wound one around her waist, obviously to steady her. But as they swung around with the moving stairs she leaned into him, enjoying the secure feeling of his larger form and his warmth.
When the stairs finally came to s stop she mumbled a quick, “Thank you,” and scurried the rest of the way up.
“I think we lost him,” Draco muttered looking this way and that. “Of all the bloody cheek.”
Hermione tried to hold back the titter but couldn’t. “Yeah, how dare he be more slimy and sneaky then you.”
“Oh ha ha ha,” Draco returned drolly, giving her a mock sneer. But just as fast he suddenly looked up and away. If it were possible his ears would have pricked.
He held up a hand and kept listening. “Someone’s moaning... Sounds like he’s in pain.”
Hermione tipped her head to the side and closed her eyes. After a moment she heard it too. “Oh Merlin no, he wouldn’t...”
Without another word they followed the sound as it got louder and finally they cold hear a female voice crying out but breathless. “No, please don’t - not again. I can’t bare it.”
Hermione stifled a sob. After so much loss she couldn’t bare to find out Neville had turned bad. Draco’s hand took hers and he squeezed. When she looked at him he was looking right back at her, his eyes were knowing and sad.
“I’m so sorry, Hermione,” he whispered, pulling her closer so he could place a warming kiss to her forehead. “But we need to know for sure.”
She took a breath then another and nodded. “I’m alright, but after we get her out and safe I get to hex him to next week.”
He chuckled into her hair then pulled away and they headed for the classroom at the end of the hall... Only to stop dead.
Hermione slapped her hands over her mouth and gasped, her eyes going wide and her cheeks flushing a deep crimson.
The classroom was lit by a single candle. Abby Winthrope lay back on the desk, gripping the edge with white knuckles while Neville Longbottom knelt between her thighs. He appeared to be orally pleasuring her.
Not what they were expecting.
Draco and Hermione spun away from the door and plastered themselves against the wall. Hermione was still blushing and breathing hard. Draco was still grinning like a leering loon. They looked at each other and collapsed into shocked, surprised, relieved laughter.
His hand flew to cover her mouth just as her hand flew to cover his and they stood there for a good minute stifling coughs and laughs.
“Did you hear that?” Abby’s voice came from inside the room.
“Huh? No one ever comes down this way.” Neville replied. “Come on, Abe, We’ve been coming here all week and haven’t been caught yet.”
Draco grabbed Hermione’s hand and they both ran back down the hall, down the stairs, down the hall and swung around a corner and were back in front of the portrait. They both gasped the password and Draco swung her into the common room and ran in behind her.
Alone in the common room they laughed out loud, falling against one another and turning in a circle with the force of it.
“I guess it’s not Neville then,” Hermione said grinning as she fell into an overstuffed armchair.
Draco sat in the chair across from her. “Yeah but that boy just went up five points in my book.”
Hermione threw a pillow at him and he dodged it effortlessly with a smirk. He threw her an easy wink and threw another one back which she caught and placed behind her head.
“This pretty much puts us back in the dark again.”
Just then the door flew open so fast sparks flew from the hinges and Professor McGonagall and Flintwick marched through the door. Both looked extremely serious and without a word the Headmistress pulled her wand and paralyzed Draco.
Hermione screamed and jumped to her feet but it all happened so fast. Professor Flintwick, who also had his wand drawn, levitated the younger man into the air and guided him effortlessly out the door.
Hermione finally got her breath back just in time to yell, “What’s happening? Where are you taking him?”
McGonagall sucked in some air before turning to face Hermione, her face was sober but closed. “Go to bed, Miss Granger. I have no doubt this news will be all over the school by morning.”
“What?” Hermione shook her head. “You can’t just arrest him without charge. Please, Professor, think about what you’re doing. This is against at least three regulations of the...”
“Do not try to recite regulations to me, madam.” McGonagall’s voice boomed and vibrated through the room. “I am Headmistress of Hogwarts and you will do as you’re told!” With that she flicked away and strode out the door.
Hermione could see the rage radiating from the older woman’s robes. “Please tell me why?” Hermione’s voice was soft but she had to know.
The Headmistress didn’t turn but she did speak ten final few words before the door slammed. “Ginny Weasley has been found dead in the charms classroom.”
Hermione didn’t think she just ran. Her mind was a muddle of pictures and sounds. Ginny smiling - Ginny laughing - chatting - kissing Harry. Oh Merlin, Harry! He was due to meet her at Hogsmead next weekend. Her old friend had suffered so much, lost so many people he loved how could world take this from him too?
Hermione stopped and fell against the wall. Her hand flew to her mouth and for a moment she thought she might be sick. Tears streamed down her face and she sobbed piteously.
Finally she made it to the hospital wing and managed to sneak in unnoticed. She slipped behind a curtain and waited for one of the nurses to pass by then quickly quietly made her way to the last two hospital beds. Hidden behind a long black curtain were the motionless bodies of Pansy Parkinson and now Ginny Weasley.
Hermione sat at Ginny’s side and took her cool hand in her own. Oh Ginny, she thought, I’m so sorry. I should have gone with you. I knew you were worried and scared and I let you go off alone.
“I have no words for this Nurse Watkins,” Professor McGonagall’s voice filtered through from down the hall and sounded like it was getting closer. “I really thought that things would calm down after the war. My stars, things weren’t this bad during the war! Two students dead before Christmas, it’s never happened as long as I’ve been here.”
Hermione felt her heart stop as a hand poked through the curtain to make an entrance. Quickly she ducked down and rolled under the bed, using all her willpower to keep her breathing light.
Two forms entered the closed off space and stopped beside Ginny’s bed. “Have you informed the parents yet, Headmistress?” A softer voice that must have been the nurse asked.
“No yet,” McGonagall answered and her voice sounded more hushed and very tired. “Pansy’s parents are still away and won’t return for a few weeks. I’ll wait till morning to inform Molly and Arthur that another of their children is...” A broken sound that may have been a sob took the place of the last word.
Hermione’s heart ached. Her own sorrow matched that of the Headmistress.
“What of the boy?” Nurse Watkins asked.
“Malfoy,” McGonagall spat. “That boy has been nothing but a plague on this school since the day he arrived and so was his father and his father’s father. That family has left a stain on the grounds of Hogwarts but no more. The Dementors will be here to take him away at midnight. It will be at least cold comfort to know that their daughter’s murderer has been dealt with.”
The two continued to speak quietly as they moved away back down the hall but Hermione was deaf to all but her thumping heart.
How could they do that?
They couldn’t could they?
They were going to send him to Azkaban without trial. Had they learned nothing!? A vision of Sirius Black, back when she’d first met him, floated before her eyes and she almost cried out. This was beyond cruel.
They were going to hand Draco over to Dementors? After everything he’d seen and done. It would kill him.
Her first thought was to floo Harry. He was first the boy-who-live-and-conquered and secondly he was a trainee Auror. Surely he would be able to...
Hermione nearly slapped her head with the palm of her hand. If Harry knew what had happened here he’d probably kill Draco himself. She searched her mind for other name, people with influence, people who could talk some sense into the Headmistress. But who? Two students were dead, one was Draco’s ex-girlfriend and the other was referred to by his own words as a Bloodtraitor.
But he didn’t do it! Hermione had been with him on both occasions. But he didn’t want anyone to know that. That thought stung but she shoved it away. There was no time for hurt feelings. Draco was being given a death sentence due to his bloodline, how was that any different from attacking muggleborns?
First things first. She needed to get Draco out and safe. Being on the run had to be better then Azkaban. The problem was she had no idea where he was being kept.
As quietly as she snuck in, Hermione snuck out of the hospital wing and moved quickly and quietly back to her rooms. She checked Draco’s room and almost snickered at her own naivety. Where had they kept Sirius when he’d been arrested? It was so long ago now and so much had happened since.
All at once she had a flash of memory. Not of Sirius but of Harry. Just before she’d returned to Hogwarts Harry had pulled her aside and slipped something into her hand, with the words, “Just in case you need it.” She hadn’t paid it much attention at the time. She’d been too busy hugging him and assuring him that she was fine with returning to school alone and more then fine about breaking up with Ron.
It had been a folded piece of parchment... “The Marauders Map!” Hermione gasped out loud and sent silent kisses and thanks to that great wizard as she dug through her trunk and pulled it out.
She placed her wand against the parchment and spoke, “I solemnly swear I am up to no good.” Before her wide eyes the map parchment filled with ink paths and symbols.
She laid on the floor and spread the map out in front of her. Draco, she had to find Draco. She searched tirelessly. McGonagall was pacing in her office; Slughorn was in the greenhouse, no double nicking samples again. “Hah!” She grinned and looked at the spot where they were holding Draco - The Astrology Tower, of course.
She was about to jump up and go when another name grabbed her eye. The tiny footsteps walked down a hallway, turned and walked down the next, they moved down one set of stairs and up another. The actions didn’t bother her, the path was not what interested her. It was the name. Pansy Parkinson.
There was no time. Too much was happening in the few moments she had so Hermione wasted none. She ran out into the grounds and down to the edge of the Forbidden Forest. She never did like flying but if the time called for it she was better on a Thestral then a broom. She lured a female over with a piece of meat and some kind words. Softly she harnessed the grotesque yet wonderful creature, climbed on and flew.
Up and up, higher and higher, the moon at her back and the wind in her hair. When she didn’t look down it was actually rather nice up high. She flew up around and around the tower till she reached the window. Draco was inside alone, sitting very still but with eyes too wide to be sleepy. When Hermione tapped the window, he jumped a foot and ran to swing it open.
“Have you run short of your senses?” he hissed. “If they catch you here they’ll lock you up too.”
“They’re going to send you to Azkaban without trial. There’s a Dementor coming at Midnight to take you away.”
His face paled. “They can’t do that - can they? They can’t just...” He was breathing hard.
“Pull it together, Malfoy. One, I’m here to save you and two, I have new information that is going to clear your name.”
He didn’t waste any time climbing out the window and onto the back of the Thestral. “I thought you hated flying.”
“I do,” she replied and took them back down.
Once on the ground she fed the creature another piece of meat and sent it on its way. She then pulled out the map and tapped it with her wand. Draco watched wide-eyed as the map unfolded. He reached out to touch it but she slapped his hand away sharply.
“Look,” She searched the map again and pointed excitedly when she found the name again. “Look there,” she said pointing to the footsteps walking straight into Slughorn’s office.
“Pansy,” Draco spat the name. “Are you sure this thing really works?”
“It always has before and Harry swears that it’s never been wrong.”
“Well if Potty says so.”
“This isn’t the time!” Hermione grabbed his arm and together they ran for Slughorn’s office.
But when they got there the office was empty. Hermione swore. Draco looked sick. And on top of all that someone was coming. She pulled Draco into the office and closed the door as carefully as she could. They stood either side of the door as the footsteps grew closer. Hermione took a peak at the map and breathed with relief when she saw it was Professor Sinasta. The teacher walked by without as much as a look towards the door.
“What was she doing in here?” Hermione spoke to herself, keeping her voice hushed.
“If she was here at all.”
She chose to ignore that but moved to the small supplies closet. The lock had been broken. She moved to the desk and spotted a list on Slughorn’s desk. It was a list of things stolen in the first storeroom ransacking.
As she looked at the ingredients and elements a few stood out as familiar. They seemed random, but why steal when Slughorn made it clear that they could take what they needed for their class assignments? She read through the list and felt an odd sense of déjŕ-vu.
“You know if you separate these out.” She used her wand to move the words around the paper, taking a number of the items and moving them into their own column. “You get Polyjuice Potion.”
“How do you know that?” Draco moved up beside her, looking closer at the two lists.
She threw him a grin and tapped the side of her nose. “But what about the rest?”
Draco gave her a sly look before turning his attention back to the lists. “Well that’s easy. We just did this one in Potions.” He looked at her again and smiled looking way too smug. “Those ingredients make up the Draught of Living Death.”
The door suddenly flew open. “What in Merlin’s name is going on in here?!” Professor Slughorn marched into the office. His eyes opened wide when he saw Draco. “You!”
“Professor, please let me explain. This whole thing is some kind of practical joke.” Hermione stepped in front of Draco but grabbed Slughorn’s robe.
“Practical joke?” he cried, outraged. “You call two dead girls funny?”
“No! But then it’s not our joke.” Hermione pulled up the list. As quickly as she could manage she explained what she had had learned.
He hummed and hrumphed as he looked at the list. He looked at Hermione then at Draco then back at the list. Finally he sighed and threw them each a stern look before moving to the fireplace and connected to the Headmistress’s office. “Headmistress, could I have a word. It is rather important.”
There was a soft reply moments before the fireplace glowed green.
“But, Professor...!” Hermione pointed at Draco.
“Oh, oh yes - Get under the desk boy. That’s the way.”
Draco managed to slip out of sight just as Professor McGonagall flooed into the office.
Explaining her theory to the Headmistress proved easier then expected. Glad to grip on to any alternative to two students being deceased she ordered Slughorn to brew an antidote to the Draught of Living Death.
“At once, Headmistress, I will have it complete within the hour and will meet you in the Hospital Wing.” Professor Slughorn spoke briskly and bustled out, his robes flapping around his large form.
Left alone, Headmistress McGonagall turned to Hermione and tutted. “I should have known that you would be somehow involved.” She shook her head. “And here I was thinking that it was all Mr. Potter’s influence.”
“I’m sorry, Professor,” Hermione said trying not to smile. “I was sure this would be a much quieter year without Harry and Ron.”
A smile twitched at the corners of McGonagall’s tight lips. “Indeed, it seems that we were wrong about a great many things.” She turned and strode towards the door. “Come we should go wait in the hospital wing.” Without turning she added, “And if Mr. Malfoy would like to come out from under that desk, he may accompany us.”
An hour later professor Slughorn bustled into the Hospital Wing. The Headmistress, Hermione, and Draco who had been sitting in awkward, earnest silence, immediately jumped to their feet to greet him.
“Alright, alright,” he flushed them back with a wave of his hand. “Who shall we try first eh?”
“Pansy.” All three responded quickly.
McGonagall waved her wand to remove the stasis charm and Slughorn opened her mouth and pored in the contents of the first vial.
A moment passed. Nothing.
Pansy suddenly sat up coughing and spluttering. She took several deep, shuddering breaths and coughed some more. Finally she looked around at the concerned faces surrounding her and asked in a voice not her own, “What happened? Did I blow something up?”
Hermione exhaled and almost laughed. She knew that voice. “Luna?”
“Yes,” she answered with a very un-Pansy-like smile, her eyes holding that off kilter dreaminess. “Why, have I been terribly scarred?”
Slughorn tutted and moved forward again. “No, my dear. I appears that you have swallowed a potion you shouldn’t have.” He handed her another vial which Luna-Pansy drank.
Almost immediately her skin began to bubble and change. Her hair faded from black to blonde and her face softened and became a little plumper.
“Well, how about that,” Slughorn gushed. “How are you feeling my dear?”
“I feel like I have pins and needles in my fingers and toes but otherwise I think I’m quite well.” She looked around again and gasped when her gaze settled on the bed next to hers. “Ginny? What happened to Ginny?”
“Oh indeed! Quite right, quite right.” Slughorn moved to the youngest Weasley and administered the antidote.
Ginny woke up coughing and spluttering and soon after a nurse rushed in to check the girls vitals.
While they waited for the nurse to finish, McGonagall called up three house elves. She handed them each a small sweet, throwing Hermione a look, daring her to look smug. “I need your help, my friends. There is a girl in this castle disguised as Luna Lovegood. I need you to find her and bring her here as fast as possible.”
“Yes, Mistress!” All three elves gushed, virtually jumping out of their tiny skins before disappearing with a pop.
The nurse left and Hermione took her chance to sit with Ginny. She opened her mouth to speak but no words could come out. Instead she chose to hug her, tight. Finally her voice returned. “Don’t ever die on me again.”
A loud pop was followed by a shrill screeching cry of outrage. “What, the fuck, are you little toe-rags doing?!”
They all turned to see Luna swearing and struggling against the magical bonds the House Elves were using to restrain her. Slughorn quickly moved forward, grabbed her chin roughly and poured the Polyjuice antidote down her throat. Luna coughed and gagged and before their eyes her hair turned black and her face slimmed and darkened slightly. She was herself again. Pansy Parkinson.
Looking around she was breathing hard and Hermione could almost hear the cogs in the selfish pureblood mind turning. But there was no way out of this one and Hermione saw the moment that realization hit.
Finally her gaze settled on Draco and her face flushed red with rage. “You! What are you doing here you lying, cheating bastard?! You should be in Azkaban by now, getting your soul sucked out. That’s just what a heartless cad like you deserves.”
He fisted his hands but didn’t respond at first. He took a breath and another. “I have seen some truly cruel and sick things over the last few years,” he managed from between clenched teeth. “But this is beyond disgusting. I am sorry that I couldn’t be what you wanted and maybe I do deserve to be punished for my past sins. But I didn’t deserve this.” With that he turned his back and strode away.
Hermione watched him go and wished she could follow. In his place she probably would have hexed the bitch. She was so proud of him she felt like she might burst with it. Instead she settled for giving Ginny another extra tight hug and telling the pretty redhead everything that had been happening, extracting of cause the parts involving her growing feelings for a certain blond pureblood.
Next day, Hermione left the castle early and went to sit under her favorite tree by the lake. So much had happened. So much had changed. She’d changed. Pansy had been expelled and her Parents had to cut their holiday short to come to the school and pick her up. It was a toss up which annoyed them more - their daughter’s behavior or the fact that they had to come home early.
After, McGonagall had called Hermione and Draco into her office and both commended and reprimanded them. They broke several school rules bringing Pansy to justice, but had also showed an accomplished knowledge of Potions theory, Care of Magical Creatures practical, and had done a great service to the school stopping a potentially dangerous and obviously delusional student.
They were given a month’s detention and awarded 50 points each to their houses.
With a sigh she pulled out her book and began to read. It would be at least an hour before classes started and she wanted to get the next chapter of battling the Dark Arts with Wit and Craftiness read before class.
A shadow fell over her but she didn’t look up. Grass crushed beneath the newcomer’s feet but she still did not avert her attention. Finally he sat and snatched her book away and threw it behind him, ignoring her indignant yell
“Are you avoiding me?” Draco asked looking her in the eye.
She met his gaze then quickly looked away. “Why would I do that?”
He shrugged but kept his gaze on her, forcing her to meet his eyes then holding them captive. “There’s a Hogsmeade weekend coming up soon.”
That wasn’t what she was expecting. “Yes?” She raised her eyebrows at him.
“Well I was going to ask if you wanted to go with me, you know we could have a butterbeer and a meal somewhere then check out the bookstores.”
Hermione blinked. “Wouldn’t that involve us being seen together?”
He grinned and pulled a tiny vial of golden liquid from his robes. “With a little luck I’m sure we can pull it off.”
A smile tugged at her lips and she reached into her pocket and pulled out her own vial of luck. “Snap.”