Hermione woke up rather early that following Monday. The clock next to her bed read six in the morning and she couldn't have felt more awake. One might wonder how someone could be that jubilant at such early an hour—and, like so many other things, it had an answer. Today was the start of her classes. A normal student would dread this day, as they had many others like it in the years past, but not Hermione. It was her first day of classes ever and she had a right to be excited, Damnit!
The pre-set alarm on her enchanted clock rung for only a moment before she flicked her wand (hidden discreetly underneath her pillow) and silenced it, not wanting to wake her roommates and have them scold her for being such an early riser. Normally, she would just hex anybody who even came close to ridiculing her, but she was undercover and couldn't afford to make a risk so early in the term. So, with her dignity held high, she snuck out of her bed and began to get ready for the day ahead of her.
She started by taking a long shower to wash that nasty feeling she always had in the mornings away. When she was finished with that, she stepped out into the cool air and proceeded to brush her teeth and dry her hair using her wand, a trick she had learned when she was younger. Already knowing what she was going to wear, she dressed quickly in the uniform that had been atop the bed her first night here; knee-length grey socks, Mary-Jane loafers, a white long sleeved oxford-style shirt, a grey sweater vest with scarlet and gold trimmings, a knee-length black pleaded skirt, and a scarlet and gold striped tie.
When she walked out of the bathroom, she could see a few of the girls begin to stir and smiled, thankful that she had the privilege of having an empty washroom all to herself in the morning. Hermione figured that in five minutes there would be four cranky girls trying to get ready for the day with very limited space, and even smaller patience. Walking over to her bed, she grabbed her book bag and tip-toed out of the room, slinging it over her shoulder as she shut to door quietly behind her. Just as she adjusted the straps, Hermione heard a muffled voice proclaim “Dibs on the bathroom first!” on the other side of the door. She chuckled. Even though she had limited knowledge of other females her age, they were still thoroughly predictable.
She descended the stairs and wasn't surprised when an empty common room was in her line of vision. No one in their right mind would get up this early, unless you were Hermione. She left the tower with a bounce to her step and made her way to the Great Hall, humming to herself along the way. When she got there, she was rewarded with another empty room, although this one being slightly on the larger side. Hermione found a spot at the Gryffindor table and began to load her plate with slices of toast and eggs. It didn't take long for the other students to file into the hall, the moans and groans alerted her a good ten minutes after she had sat down.
“Good morning!” a peppy voice said from beside her.
Hermione looked to her side and saw the smiling face of Ginny Weasley, “Morning Ginny.” She replied politely.
“How long have you been up?” she asked conversationally.
“A while” Hermione answered simply.
“Oh, well the boys will be down shortly. They aren't really morning people like you and me.” Ginny began to load her plate with slices of bacon and sausage as she tried again to make conversation. “So are you excited about your first day?”
Hermione resisted the urge to shout “YES!” in an overly dramatic way, which is what her initial reaction was to do. But instead, she bit her lip and nodded, “Yeah, I guess.”
Ginny smiled at her again. How does this girl smile so much without breaking her cheekbones? Surely, there must be some sort of strain from being that happy all of the time? Hermione thought bitterly. She was saved the stress of actually thinking about logical explanations to her observation by Ginny, who, once again, spoke. “I'm always giddy at the beginning of term… but then, it wears off about halfway through.”
“Why?” Hermione asked out of curiosity.
Ginny looked a little confused at her question, “Well it just gets a tad boring after a while. And then the homework, Merlin the homework gets to be outright brutal. Especially for the upper years! Did you get much homework where you used to go to school?”
“Not really.” Hermione answered truthfully. “It was mostly hands-on work.”
“Well that must have been fun, then? No homework and all play?” Ginny said with a nudge.
You have no idea… “Yeah, it was a very interesting experience.”
Hermione was saved from explaining any further by the arrival of two very tired looking boys stumbling to the table. She had to suppress a giggle when Ron dumped what looked to be a pound of syrup into his cereal. But what really made her brake was when Harry mixed his oatmeal with a pitcher of pumpkin juice. Ginny noticed the two of them as well and joined in on Hermione's quiet laughter. “Told you they weren't morning people.” She whispered in Hermione's ear.
“Wuzz zo f'nny?” Ron asked in a groggy voice.
“Huh, whose laffin'?” Harry asked in an equally muffled voice.
Hermione and Ginny just continued to laugh at them until they began to eat their breakfast, then they were in full out hysterics. Harry spit out his oatmeal onto Ron's face, who was actually consuming his meal. “Oi!” He yelled at Harry, “I'm eating here, Harry!"
“Sorry mate.” He said, wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his jumper.
“Late night, boys?” Ginny asked with a knowing smirk.
Harry and Ron blushed and Hermione could faintly hear the words “last night”, “guys”, and “firewhisky”. It didn't take a genius to figure it out—either they were hung-over or got too drunk to get a decent amount of sleep. Idiots, Hermione thought, wasting their time by drinking. She saw Ginny roll her eyes and knew she shared the same opinion.
“Ohh, timetables!” Ginny squealed, setting down her fork and clamping her hands together.
Hermione turned her neck to where Ginny was looking and saw the woman who had put the sorting hat on her head passing out sheets of parchment. She was wearing another set of dark green robes, and Hermione wondered vaguely if that was the only thing she had in her closet. The woman came over to where she was sitting and handed her a parchment with what seemed to be a map attached. She had a passive look on her face and Hermione found that she couldn't read her like she could many other people. The woman kept her swift pace and continued down the row of students, bringing Hermione out of her thoughts.
She looked down at the parchment at saw that it looked like a schedule of some sort. Before she could get a good look at it, however, the parchment was snatched out of her hands by Ginny, who looked to be jumping up and down in her seat. Hermione was using all the strength she had not to curse her. “You have Charms first? Lucky, I'm stuck with Snape for Double Potions.”
“Bummer” Ron said with a mouth full of… well… Hermione couldn't really tell what.
“I have Charms first.” Harry said with a smile. “I could walk with you, if you'd like.”
Hermione had to bite her tongue and push all retorts out of her conscious thought. She was supposed to be his friend. “Sure, that way I wouldn't risk running into a wall because I was nose deep in the map.”
Harry chuckled and nodded. Hermione couldn't help but let a smile break through. She had to admit it, his laugh was contagious. That thought was immediately crushed. She wasn't supposed to like this… this… pathetic excuse for a human being! He was her enemy, which meant she could not find him amusing in any way… unless he was in pain, and then she had the right to laugh.
“What about you, Ron?” Harry asked.
The redhead shook his head, “I got Care of Magical Creatures.”
“I thought you dropped that?” Ginny asked, taking a bite of her toast.
Ron shrugged his shoulders, “Guess I just took it to skive off.”
Harry and Ginny just rolled their eyes, apparently, this was normal to them. Well, not to Hermione. “Why would you skive off your last year?” She asked intently, anticipating his answer. Surely it would be some witty, somewhat humorous countered response.
Ron looked affronted, “W-well… that is…”
She inwardly laughed. That was the best he could come up with? Well, she would show him. “Don't you know that your scores on the N.E.W.T.s determine how future employers will look at you? How are you going to get a job, buy a home, feed yourself?” Hermione felt her face begin to get warm.
Ron smiled and visibly relaxed, “That's easy, I want to be a professional Quidditch player for the Chudley Cannons.”
Hermione scoffed, “And what if that doesn't work out for you? Don't you have any backup plans?”
She seemed to have stumped him, for his brow creased and his face tensed once more. “Why would I need a backup plan?”
“Well, you might not—” She began, planning on telling him exactly where he would wind up if he didn't make his precious Quidditch team.
Hermione was interrupted by a hand on her shoulder. “Well, I think we should get going to Charms, don't you?”
Hermione looked at Harry with a confused look on her face, wondering why he had stopped her from telling off Ron. Surely, he would have gotten tired of his friend choosing not to care on the career front? She glanced at the enchanted wristwatch she had purchased at Diagon Ally, charmed to tell her the time and where she was supposed to be. “Umm… sure”
She grabbed her book bag and slipped away from the table, returning Ginny's friendly wave goodbye. Ron still looked confused and Hermione had the urge to sprint back over there and finish what she started. But, she didn't want to be late for her first class, so she turned around and walked beside Harry, straying a good few inches from him.
When they left the hall, she chose to speak up, “Why didn't you let me finish? I was on a roll.”
Harry glanced over at her, “Ron is very… sensitive about his career choice.”
Her brow furrowed, “Why?”
Harry inhaled a short amount of breath, “Well, he constantly feels the need to prove himself. He has five older brothers, see? And each of them is tremendously good at what they do. The oldest, Bill, works for Gringotts as a curse-breaker and got all twelve of his O.W.L.s when he was here. The next, Charlie, works with dragons in Romania—”
“Dragons?” Hermione asked in astonishment.
“Yeah” Harry said with a smile, “He was also an amazing seeker and could have gone professional, but chose to work abroad. His twin brothers Fred and George, own a shop in Diagon Ally called Weasley's Wizarding Wheezes, and became tremendously successful. And then there is Ginny, the only Weasley girl to be born in generations. He has a lot to live up to, and he thinks his only strong feat is his keeping skills. Don't get me wrong, he's an incredible keeper, but he has potential to do so much more. But as his friend, I want to encourage him to do whatever he thinks is best."
Hermione was astonished. She didn't think his reasoning for choosing to be a professional Quidditch player had that much reason behind it. Usually, the decisions she was used to making were short and based only upon nerve. She had never actually heard a logical explanation like that before, and a damn good one at that. “Wow, I… I didn't think that—”
“It's alright, you didn't know.” Harry said with a smile. “I mean, I'm pretty sure no one could figure that out the first time they meet Ron. Well, my first impression surely wasn't along the lines of `Well you look like a sad individual who needs to prove himself to his family, want to share my lollipop?'.”
Hermione chuckled. “You're right, it's more like `If you take one more bite of that chicken leg, I'm not cleaning up your vomit'.”
Harry laughed at her, “Hey you're pretty funny.”
“Really?” She asked, clearly surprised.
“Yeah, I don't think I've ever met anyone with a quicker wit than you. Except maybe Ginny, but I've always had the distinct feeling that she stole some of them from her brothers.”
Hermione felt her cheeks grow warm, “No one has really ever called me funny before.”
It was Harry's turn to ask “Really?”
“Yeah” she confessed, “where I grew up, it was a very strict household and I didn't have the nerve to talk back to them”
“You kind of sound like me,” Harry said, “Except I took full advantage of it and mocked them with the old `I could always blow you up if you make me clean the dishes one more time'. I even made up phony spells and pretended to curse my cousin to keep him and his friends from chasing me around. But it didn't last after they found out I couldn't do magic outside of school until I was of age.”
Hermione smiled at him, “Sounds miserable.”
“It was for a time. But then I just kept on reminding myself that it was only for the summer, and then I could see my friends and do magic again. It helped when I was locked in my cousin's old bedroom without dinner. I would just think of warm, pumpkin pastries and chocolate frogs. Of course, it ended up making me hungrier, but the thoughts were enough.”
“You went to bed without food?” Hermione asked, aghast.
“Sometimes, when that witty comment brakes through on more than one occasion. It's hard not to make a joke when my Aunt and Uncle were discussing sending my cousin to fat camp.” He chuckled at the memory.
Hermione laughed and they came to stop in front of an open doorway. He let her pass by him and followed her into the room. She gasped when she took in the classroom. Books were scattered around the front of the class, many stacked atop each other at different angles. The seats were coliseum-like, raised at different levels and circling the room around the books. There was a single chalkboard with notes already written on it in white chalk and Hermione could smell the faint waft of peppermint. She chose a seat towards the front and closest to the board, wanting a good angle to take notes. Harry sat beside her and began to take out his supplies as well. When Harry looked up, however, his face turned stony. Hermione was about to ask what was wrong when he answered her question, “Great, we have class with the Slytherins.”
Hermione craned her neck towards the door and saw students file in with green and silver ties around their necks. Her face paled. She had not faced Draco since the sorting, and didn't feel like sharing a classroom with him at the moment. She immediately turned around when a head of platinum hair filed in with the crowd and busied herself with uncapping the bottle to her ink. Harry took no notice and simply glared at the students as they passed, not caring who saw.
She was saved the displeasure of confrontation when a stout man with a white beard jumped atop a pile of books. He looked to be rather short, no more than two feet. He flipped through a planner quickly and cleared his throat, it was barely a whimper of a thing but he got that classes attention. Hermione couldn't help but be impressed at the man, having such authority over these students. But maybe all professors were like that?
“There, there… settle down now, settle down.” He spoke in a high pitched-voice. Hermione did her best not to giggle, not wanting to draw attention to herself. “Since it is the first day of term and I'm sure many of you are not particularly happy about it, I thought that we should start with a review day to make sure that none of your knowledge was lost over the break.”
Hermione could hear a collective sigh of relief radiating from the class at the announcement. She couldn't help but be relieved as well. She wanted to know if this class, as well as others, would be difficult for her to learn… sure, she knew spells—she knew loads of spells—but not the kind that were advanced in light magic. She knew simple charms like Wingardium Leviosa and Alohamora, but not much more than that. Hopefully, it would be an easy subject to learn; but then again, she had always been quick to grasp things.
“I would like you to open your books to page twenty-seven, please.” He instructed.
The class complied without complaint and Hermione followed. She scanned the page and saw that it was a simple summoning charm, one that she had already mastered years before. They learned this in their sixth year? How pathetic!
“Now, with the person sitting opposite you, I would like you to practice the charm.”
It seemed simple enough, until she realized she would be paired with Harry. It wouldn't be that bad, though… they already had a civilized conversation on their way over here. She had to admit that from what she little she heard about his childhood, that he was making it lighter than what it actually was. A small twinge in her gut took effect when she let her thoughts dwell upon it, though she didn't know why. It couldn't be sympathy—she didn't really know the meaning of the word.
“Have you practiced Accio before” Harry asked from beside her.
Hermione nodded her head simply, “A bit.”
“Well I've known how to do it since fourth year, so I think it's safe to say that we don't need to practice it long.” He explained with a smile.
“Yeah, okay.” She replied breezily.
Harry smiled and took out his wand, Hermione mimicking him. “Let's try on that book” he supplied. Hermione looked to where he pointed his finger and nodded in understanding. She waved her wand lazily and recited the charm, the book flying into her hand. Harry looked at her with widened eyes, “You can summon things without speaking the charm?”
Hermione's heart jumped. She didn't know that she did that! She could have sworn that she had muttered the charm. Of course, she knew she was able to, but she trained herself not to reveal that to onlookers, and, more importantly, him. “Umm… yeah, my f-father taught me.” She explained feebly. Hermione knew there was no use in denying his claim, for he seemed to be the stubborn type, much like herself.
“Well your father must be one hell of a wizard, then! It took me forever to learn how to do that.” He explained in awe.
“Well yeah he's pretty—wait, you can do it, too?” she asked in astonishment.
Harry looked a bit uncomfortable for a moment, shifting himself in his seat. “Well yeah, I need to know this stuff for… you know… future reference.” He explained in a hush. Hermione furrowed her brow. She didn't know that he could do that… she had to report it when the Dark Lord made his first contact with her.
“Oh, right.” She supplied, feigning the hushed, nervous tone.
He smiled at her, thankful that she understood. Hermione assumed that the only reason he was so inconspicuous about the subject were the Slytherin onlookers, their ears straining to hear their conversation. More than half of the Slytherin's knew who she was, and knew about her mission. It made her quite uncomfortable, having all these eyes staring at the back of her head and scrutinizing her every move. She knew she was above all of these people, but it didn't make the situation any less nerve-wracking.
“How did your father teach you, with the age restrictions and all?” he asked curiously.
“I turned seventeen last November, so he taught me over the summer.” She lied breezily.
“You're birthday is in November?” He asked.
She nodded, “Yeah, November nineteenth.”
“November nineteenth…” he muttered to himself, “I'll remember that.”
Hermione furrowed her brow, “Why would you want to remember my birthday?”
“So I can get you a present, of course.” He replied simply, as if it was an obvious answer.
“Why would you want to get me a present?”
Harry looked at her oddly, she didn't know what for. No one had ever cared for her birthday before, except maybe Draco and his annual “gifts”; although she wouldn't really call them gifts, because he benefitted more than she did half of the time. “Well, we're friends aren't we?”
Hermione was floored. Friends, already? Well this was proving easier than expected. “Right, yeah, of course.”
He chuckled a little, “Good, you had me worried for a moment there.”
Hermione smiled, “Well, you were an easy target.”
Harry arched a brow, “Way to boost my self-esteem.”
“It was my pleasure.” She said, faking formality.
They sat like that for a while, just talking. Hermione was surprised how easy it was to hold a conversation with him. First, before class, and now during she was talking to him without so much as a violent thought having to do with his impending doom. The rest of the class was busy working on their shaky summoning charms to notice the two of them laughing, and for that she was thankful. They might think she was actually enjoying herself. Which she wasn't… not really.
“And so then, he runs into the room in just his Chudley Cannons underwear and a white undershirt, pissed as hell. Next thing I knew, he whips the shirt off, jumps on the table and starting spinning the thing around like a cowboy shouting `I'm a lucky idiot, I'm a lucky idiot!'”
Hermione burst out laughing, “No way!”
“Yeah” he nodded frantically, “But not even five minutes later, he found a mop and put it on his head singing, `I'm a horsey, whip me!'”
“Oh gods” she said, he face turning pink. “That's a mental image I didn't need in my brain.”
“Well now you're scarred for life like the rest of Gryffindor house. The lesson to be learned is to never give Ron butterbeer on an empty stomach after a Quidditch match.”
“Dooley noted.” She replied.
It was then that the bell rang, signifying the end of class. They both picked up their bags and supplies and walked out side-by-side. “So what do you have next?” he asked her as they filed out into the crowded hallway.
“Erm…” she pulled out her timetable and looked it over, “Defense Against the Dark Arts.”
“Me too, I guess we're walking together again. Hope you're not tired of me already.”
“Hardly” she replied without thought.
“Good” he smiled at her.
She smiled back and they made their way to the classroom at a steady pace. They got their quickly and entered the room to see Ron already there and waiting for them. Harry waved at his friend and Hermione began uncharacteristically giggling. Harry heard her and whispered through the corner of his mouth, “Just try to picture him before he ripped his shirt off and you'll be fine.”
Hermione just giggled harder and Harry couldn't help but join her. When they reached Ron, his face was contorted in confusion. “What are you guys laughing about?”
They both answered at the same time and erupted in laughs once again. Ron looked at the two of them as if they had gone mental, “You know, I'm not sure if I want to know.”
Eventually, they sobered and sat down, Ron next to one of his housemates which Hermione didn't know the name of, and Harry next to Hermione. Ron looked a little put out at first when Harry chose the seat next to Hermione, but played it off nonchalantly. Hermione was a little surprised as well, but busied herself with getting her supplies to mask her confusion. The class was chatting lightly, waiting for their professor to arrive. He entered the classroom in a stride and the class went into a hush. Hermione's earlier theory was then proven; the professors did have that effect on their students.
“Good morning.” Professor Lupin greeted the class with a smile. Mumbled responses were heard throughout the classroom and Hermione mumbled her own along with them. “For those of you who don't remember me, I'm Professor Lupin. Yes, I am still a werewolf, so whoever has a problem with that can feel free to leave.” He looked over the classroom once and nodded, “That's what I thought. Now, onto the real reason we're all here: Defense Against The Dark Arts. Now that you have N.E.W.T.s to prepare for, I have no choice but to come down hard on you. So yes, that means homework on your first day.”
Many groans emitted throughout the classroom and Hermione resisted the need to sigh. Honestly, it was school, did they expect anything less? “But, to start off the lesson, we are going to take thorough notes on defensive spells. Now, most of these will be review, but they are still crucial to your testing."
He made his way to the chalkboard and removed the cover that had been over it, revealing a diagram and notes. Hermione began to copy the board while listening to Professor Lupin's lecture like many other students. It was true, she knew many of these spells, but the theories behind them were a mystery to her. Most we designed to repel Dark Magic, which she specialized in and used most of her limited knowledge with. She was foreign to the lesson in the sense that these spells were meant to be used in the form of defense from curses, not to repel them back at your enemy. There were so many other uses for these spells that Hermione had never thought possible. Talk about expanding her horizons!
The lesson consisted of long notes and an even longer lecture, but Hermione found herself far from bored like the rest of her classmates. The only other person to be equally enthused about the lesson besides her was Harry, whose notes seemed to be equally in-depth. It was towards the end of the lesson when she heard a quite snoring beside her. She turned around to see Ron resting his head on his hands and breathing heavily. Hermione figured she wasn't the only one who noticed, for quite giggles began to sound from all around her. Lupin seemed to have taken notice as well and stopped mid-sentence to levitate a rather heavy-looking book over to where Ron was seated. Hermione thought lightly that he was going to drop the book on his head in punishment, but all he did was lift the spell and send the book crashing to the edge of his desk, right near his ears.
Ron's head snapped up, “Wha—mum?”
The class erupted in laughter and Ron blushed when he realized where he was. Professor Lupin raised an eyebrow at him, “Does my class bore you Mister Weasley?”
“Well yeah.” He responded truthfully, “Why can't we do lessons like we did in third year?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, Mister Weasley, but you have tests to prepare for. We won't begin the physical part until next week.” The whole class seemed to be effected by this. They all moaned and groaned and Lupin laughed, “Don't worry, it's not all bad. I'll try to make it as bearable as possible for you… at least bearable enough where you won't fall asleep.” The class laughed at the reddening face of Ron.
It was that moment that the bell to signify the end of class sounded. The class began to pack up their things as Professor Lupin called over the chatter, “Your homework is a two foot long essay on the history of the Diffendo spell!”
Hermione, Ron, and Harry made their way out of the classroom with Hermione lagging behind a bit, looking at her timetable once more. She was about to catch up with the two boys when an arm tugged her to the side and into a secluded classroom. Hermione didn't need to think too much on it to figure out who it was.
“You seemed to be enjoying yourself in Charms today.” Draco hissed in her ear as he began to pace the room.
“It's an act, Draco, I need to get close to him, remember?” Hermione said smartly.
“It didn't look like and act to me.” He said matter-of-factly. “I think that you started out acting, and slowly were sucked into the Potter `charm'.”
“Potter charm?” Hermione asked humorously, “I don't think so. I can handle myself Draco; I was born for this job.”
“That may be so, but your walls might not be thick enough to resist the lure of Potter and his Muggle-loving cronies.” Draco said with a sneer.
Hermione's temper began to rise, “Are you insinuating that I can't do this?”
Draco saw her face contort to one of anger and immediately lost his confident demeanor. “W-well…”
“I am fully capable of initiating a false relationship with my sworn enemy; you above all people should know how passionate I am about this.” She said, poking him hard in the chest.
He rubbed the tender spot, “I know, Mia, I know. Look, I'm just saying that I'm worried about you. You haven't been to a school before and you might get sucked into its clutches and lose focus.”
Hermione smiled lightly at him, “Well thank you for your concern but I'm fine. I'm doing fine and I don't need your help.”
Draco smiled at her in return, “You knew you're really sexy when you're angry.” He started to walk over to her but Hermione held out a hand to push him back a fair few inches. He looked put out as Hermione shook her head.
“You're trying to butter me up and it's not going to work. While I'm here, it's strictly business and nothing else.” Draco frowned and Hermione laughed at him. “No.”
“You're no fun.”
Hermione just shook her head. Before she left the room, though, he grabbed her forearm and stared intently at her. She looked at him questioningly as he spun her around to face him. “Don't do anything stupid, Mia… He's watching.”
Hermione just pulled out of his grip and slipped out the door. The halls were emptying and she had to sprint the length to class. She had Divination next and followed the map until it lead her to a tower that smelled of smoke and potpourri. She had to climb a narrow ladder and push open a trap-like door in order to enter the classroom. The bell rang just as she took a seat next to Harry and Ron at one of the circular tables. Harry looked questioningly at her and she replied with a simple lie, “I had to use the washroom.”
He just nodded and didn't question her further. Ron, however, seemed oblivious and was staring intently at the smoking crystal ball that was perched in the middle of the table. Their teacher had yet to enter the classroom and Hermione took that time to think about what Draco had told her. He was watching her. The Dark Lord was watching her. She didn't want to think about how he could do such a thing, she knew he had his methods and didn't bother questioning them. The point was that he was watching her, and that meant she had no room to make a mistake. Even though she was used to him watching her like this, it was a higher-stake situation. The thought of him knowing her every move in this secluded castle made her develop sweat on the back of her neck.
“You alright, Hermione?” Harry asked with concern.
“Yeah” she lied, “Never better.”
A/N: Yeah I know... I should be working on IFH. But hey, you guys seem to like this story so much, I decided to post the next chapter =]
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