“How bloody long did I sit there?” She bellowed, her anger skyrocketing at the question. “I sat there bloody long enough for the fucking bar to close! You were supposed to meet me at five. FIVE, Ronald! Can you do the damn math?”
Ron had paled under his freckles - Hermione only cursed when she was past the point of mad – he struggled for something, anything, to tell her - other than the truth, of course. Damn, she looks fantastic mad. He was brought out of his thoughts by the sound of glass shattering.
“Bloody hell, ‘Mione, you broke a vase?”
“Over, Ronald. We are over!” She grabbed his hand and pulled him roughly over to the oversized couch and gestured for him to sit beside her, before she continued in a softer voice, her anger fading, “We both knew this was coming. The transition will be awkward,” his eyes flicked up quickly to meet hers, having noted the return of the slightly bossy, signature Hermione tone, “but we will revert back to our friendship - eventually.”
Ron merely nodded before slipping out into the garden. Dropping to the ground beside Harry, he dramatically covered his face with his hands. He sat there in silence for several minutes, waiting for Harry to ask what was bothering him. Finally, he spoke, “She did it, mate.”
Harry merely looked over at him, seemingly unmoved by Ron’s obvious pain, before he climbed to his feet. Ron watched him leave, unnerved by Harry’s show of not caring.
“Harry,” he called out and waited for his friend to turn, “You know, don’t you?”
Harry paused, staring at Ron for a beat, “We all know. Hermione even knows. In fact, she was the one who told me.”
He watched as Harry went inside. Ron could see, through the window, Harry embracing a dry eyed Hermione, whispering comforting words into her distraught ears.
She tapped her toes impatiently, once again waiting on Ron. The Weasley’s, along with Harry and herself, were headed off to the newly remodeled Diagon Alley to purchase school supplies for the upcoming year at Hogwarts. Hermione herself had happily agreed whereas Harry was only returning to spend the year with Ginny and Ron on the threat of beheading by Mrs. Weasley. She knew several of her peers weren’t returning, many already had jobs and lives that didn’t revolve around the next four foot Potions essay; that was okay, but Hermione could not see herself anywhere but Hogwarts with her best friends, even if Ron and her weren’t exactly cordial at the moment.
Ugh, where is that fowl, pigheaded, oaf of a . . . her train of nasty thoughts were interrupted as Ron finally emerged from the kitchen, his mouth stuffed with what appeared to be several pieces of bacon. Stifling her giggles, Hermione met Harry’s eyes and rolled hers. Nobody was surprised that food had once again distracted Ron.
One by one, the stepped through the fireplace, flooing to the top floor of George’s new show in Diagon Alley. Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes was extremely large compared to the sister store in Hogsmead. With six themed levels, a seventh level strictly for new release products, and a basement where George housed specialty items like firework displays, enchanted hang-glides, and other big items, George had done well expanding the shop. The group brushed themselves off and left the eighth floor (testing center and employee break room), before splitting into smaller groups to get different items. Ginny and Hermione were on book and potions detail, Harry and Ron were in charge of getting Quidditch supplies, and Mr. and Mrs. Weasley were getting the children new robes and school uniforms. Hermione felt, and Ginny and Mrs. Weasley agreed, that this would make their shopping trip take less time.
“Gingie, I’m going to RBR. Meet me at Rosario’s in half an hour?”
“’Mione, don’t call me that! And where are you going? I have never heard of that.”
“It’s like you didn’t even read the pamphlets about the new shops I left by your bed . . .” Hermione ignored Ginny’s burst of laughter and continued, “RBR is a new shop. It stands for Rare Books Room. It’s in the attic of Ollivander’s.”
“Thirty minutes, Hermione. Thirty.”
Hermione waved to Ginny as acknowledgement of the reminder before slipping into the crowd. It was hard for her and her friends to go anywhere without attracting attention from strangers. Most people just wanted to thank them for their part in ending the war, but some yelled insults or tried to curse them. As a result, Hermione never left the house alone without a disguise. Today, her hair was dirty blonde and she wore black, oversized glasses to hide her eyes. Her black silk dress made her look like one of the old-world, elite purebloods, earning her grave nods and an empty path as she headed for the new shop. It was nice to be somebody else, if only in a crowd.
As she climbed the rickety flight of stairs along the back wall of the wand shop, she was vaguely thankful she had told Ginny where she was going. The door to the shop was unmarked, hung slightly crooked, except for an ancient ruin meaning books in faded black paint. Overall, the outside of the shop looked suspicious. Pushing the odd door open, she inhaled the scent of ancient books and dust as she entered the shop.
An extremely old gentleman nodded at her as she closed the door behind her.
“Anything I can help you find, mistress?”
Hermione shook her head and disappeared into stacks. She wasn’t sure what she was looking for, only that she was looking for something. She pulled out several books as she went along, ending up with a teetering stack including old volumes on werewolves, vampires, blood bonds, dark magic, soul splicing (she was pretty sure these two books on the subject were illegal to sell), and a set of books on the history of purebloods in England and America.
“Anything else I can find for you, mistress?” The old man inquired as he wrote out a slip for her purchase.
“No thank you, sir. I believe I have everything I need. However, if I find I am missing something, perhaps I could owl for a book?”
“Of course, mistress,” he bowed his head low, too low. “I would be more than happy to acquire any book for a lady of your station.”
She gave him a small smile and passed him several galleons, before sliding the books into her handbag. Donning her glasses, she pushed open the door, blinking at the shock sunlight after the extremely dark store interior.
“Good day, Mistress Granger.”
Shocked, she almost dropped her purse, but recovered and, after nodding to the man again, let the door close behind her.
Draco watched the witch delicately climb down the decaying staircase and wondered what she could have possibly been after. There were only two reasons a person ever visited a RBR: power and knowledge.
The witch, a pureblood no doubt by her immaculate inky clothing and posture, had been inside the store for less than twenty minutes. As Draco approached her, he noted that she carried no bag except her handbag, which had no unsightly bulges like one had stuffed a book into its depths.
“Excuse me, miss, but. . .”
He trailed off as she turned around, shocked. The witch was none other than Hermione Granger.
“Merlin, what did you do to your hair, Granger? What are you playing at, dressing like a pureblood?”
Her sigh reminded him countless conversations the two had shared during the last few months of the war.
“Malfoy, I am allowed to do whatever I please with my hair, thank you very much. As for the clothing, I wasn’t aware that blood status was a prerequisite for wearing black.” She paused, and then decided to continue, “But, how did you recognize me?”
“Your hair may be blonde, but the curls are the same. Besides, I’d know your face anywhere. I spent how many months stuck in a house with it?”
“Too many months, if you ask me,” a silvery voice intoned.
“Nobody did, Astoria.” Draco knew his tone was too cold and hostile for his girlfriend, but she needed to learn to stay out of business that didn’t concern her if they were to be married one day.
“As fun as this was, I have to go. I’ll see you at school, Malfoy.”
Draco watched as she turned and disappeared into the crowd, leaving him with more questions than when he stopped her.
September first dawned bright despite the thick fog covering London. Draco had packed the previous night and sat at his kitchen table, thoroughly enjoying his breakfast and morning tea. Astoria frantically flew around his flat, collecting her books, various clothing items, and throwing them haphazardly into her trunk. Draco discreetly rolled his eyes and then mentally berated himself for picking up the horrid habit from Pansy. Despite Astoria’s outward appearance of being put together, she was a slob and never managed to be ready on time. Finishing his plate of fruit, Draco cleared the table.
“Astoria, please,” Draco said, walking into the bedroom where she was currently throwing clothes around like a crazy person. “You really must hurry. We need to leave in fifteen minutes. If you have forgotten anything, Sanie can owl it to you.”
“Okay, Draco,” She replied, almost meekly.
Draco sighed and walked out of the room to finish his tea; Astoria was the perfect pureblood princess, from her well-tailored clothing down to her meek demeanor. Unfortunately, aside from wishing to make his mother happy, dating Astoria did nothing for him. He wanted – needed – a more challenging relationship. Astoria finally emerged from his room, her trunk floating behind her and they apperated to the station. Kissing her gently on the cheek, Draco left her side in order to find his friends, knowing she planned on sitting with some of the girls from her year.
“It’s a cliché, that’s what it is,” Hermione pouted from her seat across from Ron.
The other students in her compartment murmured agreement as she turned to stare petulantly out the window. She’d found out, only that morning, that Draco Malfoy was the Head Boy. Normally, this wouldn’t concern her too much and she’d be able to see the headmistress’ point of promoting school unity. That is, if she wasn’t Head Girl. McGonagall obviously knew that she’d be unhappy because the letter that had accompanied her badge – the same letter that had failed to inform her of her counterpart – had informed her that she would be sharing a dorm with the Head Boy, a tradition McGonagall was resurrecting from over 100 years ago. What made it worse was that she only found out when Malfoy had passed her on the platform, badge displayed on his sweater.
Hermione must have drifted off, because next thing she knew Harry was shaking her awake and they were at the Hogsmead station. Smiling gratefully, Hermione gathered her things and followed Harry and Ginny off the train and into the crowd of students.
“Wait, ‘Mione,” Harry made to stop her as she split off from the two of them. “Where ya going?”
Hermione shrugged, “I have to ride up to the castle in the Head’s carriage.”
Ginny nodded absently and pulled Harry away as he looked at Hermione sheepishly. Despite the fact that Harry had been more attentive to Ginny over the summer, Ginny was becoming more and more hostile with Hermione. It had started with tiny things, always sitting between Harry and Hermione, no matter the situation, but since Hermione had broken up with Ron, Ginny had been treating her with more and more disdain each day. Harry had been doing his best to stay out of it while still treating Hermione as he always had.
Climbing into her carriage, Hermione was pleased to see she beat Malfoy. It gave her a few moments to gather her thoughts and composure. Unfortunately, her moments alone were cut short when the arrogant Slytherin slid into the seat across from her. He regarded her silently, but without a smirk. Hermione took the opportunity to observe him when he turned to the window. His hair was longer than when he moved out of Number 12 last year, but he looked more rested. The purple bags under his grey eyes had disappeared and the sallowness of his cheeks had filled out. He, like her and the rest of the student body, wore the assigned uniform. Unlike her, with her loose tie and untucked shirt, his uniform was perfectly put together with presumably expensive loafers. The carriage rattled to a stop in front of the castle and he turned and finally met her eyes. But still, he remained silent. Unnerved, Hermione hopped out of the carriage without a second look in his direction.
Harry impatiently tapped his fingers as the Sorting Hat meticulously placed students in their rightful houses. Ginny sat on one side of him, her feet tanged with his and her arms wrapped around him possessively. On his other side, Hermione was enthralled by the sorting; gleefully clapping after each student was placed in their house. Ron and Lavender Brown were significantly farther down the Gryffindor table, surrounded by third years, practically shunned by everybody in their year.
As if hearing his thoughts on the two, Hermione turned to him with a rueful look, “The only good thing about sharing a dorm with the Slytherin Prince is that I don’t have to see Lav-lav first thing each morning.”
Harry chuckled at her obvious disdain for both blondes, earning him a distasteful glare from Ginny. Hermione turned her attention back to the sorting and Harry decided to observe the crowd. Most of his peers were focused intently on the sorting, save Luna Lovegood who was sitting with her back toward her table reading an upside magazine, a Ravenclaw Harry didn’t know, and Draco Malfoy who was also scanning the crowd. Harry met his eyes and they both nodded. Unsettled, Harry turned toward the front of the room, noticing for the first time that instead on one raised dais at the front of the hall, there were two. The force of professors had doubled in size. Harry made a mental note to ask Hermione about it after the sorting, she was sure to know.
Ginny elbowed him and he realized that the entire hall was clapping. Ah, the sorting is over! Happily, Harry joined in the clapping, realizing that he was so eager because he was extremely hungry. His stomach sunk when McGonagall stepped to the podium.
“Good evening students! If you would join me in welcoming our new students to their new home” the headmistress paused as the crowd once again clapped. “Enjoy the feast!”
Harry, Dean, and Seamus fell into conversation as they loaded their plates. Harry was acutely aware that Ginny refused to remover her left hand from his waist, despite her attempting to eat. Shaking off his annoyance, Harry tucked into his meat pie with gusto.
Hermione waited patiently as the golden plates cleared and McGonagall stepped back up to the podium, “A few points before we retire for the evening. As in previous years, the Forbidden Forrest is off limits, as are products from Weasleys’ Wizarding Wheezes. A comprehensive list of items that aren’t to be had will be posted in each common room. Classes will begin on Monday; please use the brief break to reacquaint yourselves with the castle and some of the new renovations. Unlike previous years, classes and restrictions will be taken very seriously.” Here she shot Harry and Hermione a very direct look amid giggles, before continuing, “The governors and I have worked diligently over the last year in order to expand the curriculum offered at Hogwarts. As a result, the curriculum for seventh years will be tailored toward your intended career. In addition, the Muggle Studies department has expanded. Knowledge is key to peaceful cohabitation. Over the course of the next two days, years four and up will begin meeting with the heads of their houses in order to establish classes for this year. Timetables will be handed out on Friday at breakfast.” The headmistress paused as chatter spread through the hall, “Silence, if you please.” Once the hall had quieted, McGonagall invited Hermione and Draco to the front.
“I’m incredibly honored to be standing in front of you this year as your Head Girl,” Hermione began. “I hope you will feel comfortable coming to me with any problems you may have.”
Turning to Draco, Hermione subtly motioned for him to speak.
“I’m grateful for this opportunity to -” Draco was cut off by a group of Slytherin’s shouting ‘blood traitor’ rather loudly. Maybe that’s why McGonagall made us share a dorm – maybe he’s safer away from his house. Ignoring the interruption, he continued, “to lead and serve my fellow Hogwarts’ students.”
He looked like he was about to say more, but when he didn’t, Hermione spoke again, “Many of you have preconceived notions about who Draco Malfoy is, many of you are uncertain about his appointment to this position. I understand your reservations, but what you must understand now is that, despite any altercation or interaction you have had with him in the past, Draco Malfoy is deserving of this position. Three years ago,” Hermione thought she saw Draco shake his head subtly; indicating she shouldn’t continue, but she ignored it. “Draco came to The Order and offered of himself to help our cause. He was instrumental in the recovery of horcruxes and, ultimately, in winning the battle fought in this very castle.”
The silence in the hall was deafening, until it wasn’t. Like an explosion, the crowd began to clap dramatically. The headmistress dismissed the students, but asked Hermione and Draco to wait until the hall was empty so that they could be shown their dorm. Hermione started back toward the Gryffindor table, intending to inform Harry of her instructions, but Malfoy stepped in front of her, blocking her path. She looked up at him, her expression blank, waiting for him to speak.
He sneered down at her for a brief moment, “I do not need a mu- muggle born to fight my battles for me. Stay out of my way, Granger.”
“Accepting help doesn’t make you weak, Malfoy.” She pushed by him and continued on her way.
Draco watched her walk away, conflicted. It had been – nice what she did for him, but he wished she wouldn’t cause a scene. It would only make things worse.
A touch on his arm broke him from his thoughts, “Draco, can we speak for a moment.”
Looking down into Astoria’s bright eyes, he tentatively acquiesced. She rarely came to him asking for anything, but when she had he had always granted her request without the slightest hesitation. He might not be overly found of his girlfriend, but he did like making her happy. Leading her away from the thinning crowd, Draco motioned for her to speak.
“I wasn’t aware – I mean I didn’t know what it would be like, being back. I cannot continue dating you,” she sighed softly. “This isn’t what I signed up for; I’m sorry, Draco.”
Astoria tiptoed in order to brush her lips against his before joining her friends waiting who were waiting for her by the door. They linked arms with her and bounced out of the hall, giggling softly. Draco fought to restrain the laugh that threatened to bubble from his lips. He had never been broken up with – all of his relationships had been ended by him.
“Mr. Malfoy, if you please?” He looked over to see the headmistress and Granger clearly waiting for him.
Falling in step behind the two women, Draco followed them to the fifth floor where they stopped directly in front of a rather large, incredibly ornate frame with gold detailing. The headmistress opened the portrait before she handed each of them thin slips of paper with instructions to burn them after memorizing their passwords. Bidding them goodnight and reminding them of their meeting with her the following afternoon, McGonagall disappeared down the hallway. Draco climbed through the portrait and Hermione followed him.
“Merlin,” he breathed, unaware that he had spoken out loud.
Their dorm was larger than he’d expected with high vaulted ceilings, a colossal fireplace, and several plush, oversized chairs with two matching couches. It was all dark wood and black leather – No house colors; how diplomatic – except for a Hogwarts crest hanging grandly above the fireplace.. A small kitchenette stood to his left, completing the first floor. Directly in front of him two staircases led to two thick, wooden doors. Hermione was already headed up the left staircase, so he took the right. Pushing open the heavy door, he studied the room. More than adequate! A large bed dominated the wall in front of him. To his left, a desk stood between him and a door that, he assumed, led to a bathroom. Lovely, my own loo. Along the wall to his right, a dresser stood perfectly centered across from a large bay window that overlooked the back of the Hogwarts grounds. Shutting the door firmly behind him, Draco charmed the various pieces of furniture to suit his liking – the wood walls became a deep eggplant color, the wood flooring became black carpet to match the window drapes and bed clothes. The desk and dresser stayed the same, but a large painting now hung above the desk and a small trio above the dresser.
With a small contented smile, Draco headed toward his bathroom for a shower. Flinging open the door, he huffed, annoyance filling him quickly. Granger stood at one of the two sinks brushing her teeth. So much for my own loo. Leaning against the door, he examined the room while he waited for her to finish. A huge bathtub stood in the far corner of the room, opposite an equally large shower stall. Two porcelain sinks stood flanking an extra-wide floor to ceiling mirror. A large towel rack filled the wall between the tub and the shower. Hermione rinsed and looked over to where he stood her face blank.
She started to leave, but turned around to face him abruptly, “I’m going to be blunt with you, Malfoy. We will be working together all year, for better or for worse. Can we at least be civil in our dorm and cordial in public?”
He stared at her, thinking hard. It would make the year easier and it wasn’t like he had anything to prove anymore. His reputation in his house was already ruined and he’d gained nothing from their squabbling at Number 12, “Sure, Granger.”
Her answering smile was so small, he almost missed it.
Hey, lovely readers - would you be ever so kind as to drop a review for me? Pretty please? I'd appreciate it so very much.
Thanks a mil, loves.
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