“What should I wear?” I asked Ginny. She was sitting on my bed as I frantically ransacked my trunk. What were all of these clothes? Did I truly wear dresses that short these days?
Ginny giggled, looking startled. “Hermione, it’s a detention – and with Malfoy, of all people. Knowing McGonagall, you’ll be doing something disgusting. You may as well wear old clothes.”
“But this isn’t old,” I said, picking up the jumper she’d indicated, “I only just got it – oh. Right. I guess it’s pretty old now, isn’t it?”
Ginny gave me a sad smile, seeming to sense my disconsolate mood. “It’ll be okay, Hermione. You can just make new memories. Better ones.”
I sighed, rubbing my eyes. “I guess so. It’s just so frustrating. I only have five months before NEWTS, and there’s so much to learn. Oh, and I found this. I guess that I’ve got something to live up to.” I held up my OWL results I’d found a few days ago, flattened between the pages of a book and lost at the bottom of my trunk. Ginny beamed at me.
“You were so frantic about those, you know. And look at the results you got… Bloody genius, you are.”
She was trying to cheer me up, and I gave her a small smile. One thing I’d noticed was that Ginny always put a smile on things these days. However, I knew by the way she picked at her food and the lack of sparkle in her eyes that she wasn’t okay. But how was I meant to cheer her up when sometimes I felt like I didn’t quite know her? We’d always been friendly before fifth year, but I knew that we were very close now. Guilt stabbed at my stomach, and the smile fell of my face. I couldn’t even remember my best friend.
“Not a genius anymore. At least we’ll be sitting NEWTS together.”
“True. I can’t wait to get out of this place, though. I’ve got so many bad memories here now.”
I heaved some thick books off my bedside table and replaced them with socks and underwear. “Why did you come back? Why did any of us come back?”
Ginny shrugged. “Ron and Harry weren’t going to. But when you decided to come back, Ron followed. And I guess Harry wants something to fall back on.” A true smile played on her lips when she spoke of Harry, and I smiled too.
“You really love him, don’t you?”
She nodded fervently. “I do. I was worried sick the whole of last year. I never knew when I’d open the Prophet and see the news I’d been dreading the most. And then when Hagrid carried him back from the Forbidden Forest during the war, I felt as if the whole world had caved in, you know?”
I didn’t know – I supposed that I used to, what with Ron and all – but I nodded anyway. “I’m glad you’re happy.”
“I wish you could be just as happy too. You were happy, before that damn quiddich match. Not happy in the whole sense of the word, but happy with Ron at least.”
“I’m starting to get that impression,” I said dryly, “I talked to him last night after dinner. He apologized for being a scatterbrain. He’s a good guy, but he really just needs to give me space, I need some time to process everything.”
“Hermione, you’ve been back at school for three weeks. To Ron, that’s a whole lifetime for someone like you to ‘process’ everything.”
“I know, but – Merlin, I’m going to be late!”
I jumped up and grabbed some jeans and a jumper from the steadily growing pile of discarded clothes. Ginny threw my underwear after me as I ran into the bathroom to change out of my school uniform. As always, it was a surprise to see myself in the mirror; thinner, but curvier in other places. Hair that wasn’t as bushy as it once was, and an unpractised smile. I turned my back on my reflection and quickly dressed. Waving goodbye to a bemused Ginny and avoiding being waylaid by Ron in the common room, I was soon running down the corridors to library.
I skidded to a stop outside the library doors, panting. I’d never been fit, and I supposed nothing had changed in the last three years.
“You’re almost late, Miss Granger,” McGonagall greeted me, raising an eyebrow at my flushed cheeks and lack of breath.
“Sorry, Professor!” I gasped, deeply embarrassed to have kept my professor waiting.
“Mr Malfoy is already inside. Come along!”
I followed her into the depths of the library, already partially relaxing into my happy place. A war had changed my world, people had died, but the library would always be the same.
“For the next few weeks, you’ll be going through these displaced books and returning them to their rightful section,” McGonagall said, gesturing to a rather ridiculously large stack of books. They were piled onto tables, chairs, shelves and even window sills. “These books are those which were deemed by the Carrows unsuitable for students to read – almost two thirds of the library, it seems.”
I felt indignant that anyone would believe a book to be unsuitable to read. McGonagall’s voice had been dryly amused, and I briefly marvelled at her resilient nature – amused by those who had caused so much pain? I would never be.
I glanced around for Malfoy to distract myself, and spotted his head of hair behind a stack of books. Was he always early to detention or was he just trying to make me look bad?
“You’re to work with Mr Malfoy without any harsh words or drawn wands until ten o’clock – if I hear of any altercations, your punishment will be extended to the end of your Hogwarts career.”
I was alarmed by her words. Five months of detention with Malfoy? Not likely.
“Yes, Professor,” I said again, and she nodded sharply before leaving us alone.
I wandered over to the window, where several books were hazardously balanced on the edge of a chair. I shifted them onto my lap as I sat down, idly running my fingertips over the cover of the top book. Books had always brought me peace, and at the end of a very long week they were all I needed.
“You’re in my way, Granger,” Malfoy’s low voice interrupted my peace, and I opened my eye to see him standing in front of me, two books in his hands.
“Considering I’m literally sitting against the wall as far away as possible from the section where those books belong, I think you’re mistaken, Malfoy,” I said quietly, nodding my head at his books. I didn’t mean to embarrass him, but still felt victorious when his pale cheeks flushed a slight pink.
“Just move your damn legs,” he said. Without waiting for me to tuck them to the side, he pushed past, causing the books to tumble from my lap.
“Really, Malfoy? Is this how it’s going to be until Easter?”
He stopped walking and raised an eyebrow. “What do you think, mudblood?”
“I have a name, and it’s Hermione.” When he didn’t reply, I sighed. “Go jump, Malfoy,”
I picked up the books he’d knocked off my lap and turned away. He didn’t say anything as he walked away to shelve some novels, and for the next couple of hours everything was quiet as we continued our work. No matter how many books I put away, I hardly made a dint in the mass of texts.
“Oof!” I gasped as I lifted a particularly heavy book, sweat starting to bead on my forehead. The library was over-warm, and my jumper was thick. Dropping the ginormous book on a desk, I pulled my jumper off and slung it over the back of a chair.
“Where is – never mind,” Malfoy’s voice seemed to appear from nowhere, and I jumped. I hadn’t even noticed him lurking behind a nearby shelf, too absorbed in the task at hand.
“Where’s what?” I frowned, unnerved. His eyes were glued to my … arms?
“Well, your scars.”
“What do you know about my scars, Malfoy?” I planted my hands on my hips and faced him as he came around the shelf towards me.
“More than you, apparently. They didn’t tell you?”
“Tell me what? Who?”
“Wow,” he muttered, looking surprised, “Maybe this is a conversation you should be having with Potty.”
“Right…” I trailed off, uncertain. Malfoy looked genuinely uncomfortable, shifting his feet and rubbing the back of his neck. I noticed how much taller he’d gotten, and wondered how much I’d grown.
“Really, though. You should probably ask someone about Malfoy Manor…”
“Lavender mentioned it yesterday. What does everyone know what I don’t?”
Our conversation had taken on a guarded tone, and we stood facing each other awkwardly. I noticed that he had a few books in his arms, and I had dust all over my hands.
“I don’t think it’s my place-“
“Your place? Sounds to me like you’re trying to spare my feelings, Malfoy. Spit it out.”
It was strange, that whenever I was with Malfoy it was as if things were back to normal. I got angry at him, he got angry at me, life was good and it didn’t matter that I hadn’t any memories of the war.
“Just sod off, Granger, yeah? I’m not interested in having a conversation, especially with someone like you.”
“What – you started the conversation, for Merlin’s sake! Just put the books away and don’t speak to me,” I hissed, breathing heavily. How he made my blood boil! I stalked away and threw a few books onto their rightful shelf so hard that they fell off the other side.
And without warning, I burst into tears.
“Hermione?” I heard an incredulous voice, and looked up through my tears to see a familiar mop of red hair.
“Oh, Ron!” I cried, hating myself for crying but needing support. It had been such a horrible week, and Malfoy was too difficult to even deal with.
“What is it? Did he hurt you?” Ron said savagely, pulling me to him and enfolding me in a hug. I buried my face in his shirt without thinking, making a mess with my tears.
“No, it’s just – it’s just – I’m so tired, and I miss my parents,” I babbled. My noise must have drawn Malfoy, because Ron suddenly stiffened and spoke.
“I swear to Merlin, Malfoy. If you hurt her, or are ever involved in more plans to hurt her, I will kill you.”
I’d never heard him so hostile, so protective, and it scared me a bit. I pulled myself away and tugged my shirt out of his grip, forcing a watery smile. My hips felt tender from where his fingers had dug into my flesh.
“Please, Weasel. Like she’s even worth my time,” Malfoy drawled. I almost snorted –why did he bother talking to me before, if that was the case?
“It wasn’t him, although he hardly helps matters. Just leave it, Ron. What are you even doing here?” I said, turning my back pointedly on Malfoy and wiping my eyes.
“I was just checking up on you, only to find you in this state. Come on, you’ve had enough for one night,” he said, grabbing my hand and pulling me towards the library exit.
For once, I didn’t even argue with his domineering ways, worn out enough to be content with being pulled along. Besides, his large hand enfolding mine felt almost… nice. It wasn’t until he had handed me over to Ginny and I was tucked into bed that I realised I’d left my jumper in the library.
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