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Signum Vitalis

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"Good morning students!" The old man's voice carried across the break room and gradually the chatting died down. Hermione was still cornered by Malfoy and watched his face relax infinitesimally once the old man began speaking. "I hope you have all enjoyed exchanging pleasantries with your fellow wizards and witches," the old man continued. "We are going to begin orientation in the lecture hall, so if you would all please follow me?"

"Malfoy," Hermione began as the students started chatting again. "Why can't I say you are a-"

At this, Malfoy shot her a glare.

"You-know-what?" she finished.

"What, something else you don't know, Granger?"

"I thought you were always proud of your status?" Hermione asked, and that's putting it mildly she added mentally.

Malfoy's lips thinned and he looked away, watching as the other students began to make their way to the door that the old man had exited from. Hermione carefully tucked her wand away again. Finally he turned back to her, his lip curled. "Granger, just keep it to yourself, please." He spat the last word with a snarl.

"Fine," the word escaped her before she had time to think about it. "I will," she amended quickly, "as long as I don't have any reason to share it."

His eyebrows furrowed and he squinted a little at her, "Granger… was that a threat?"

Hermione put a hand on her hip, "Only if it needs to be, I don't feel comfortable promising anything to you. I'm sure you understand."

A emotion flashed across his face but, before she recognized it, he smirked, "I'm a Slytherin, of course I understand. I'm just wondering how much of a Slytherin you are."

"Like I would ever let myself be like you!" Hermione responded hotly. She glanced around in embarrassment when she accidentally said it too loud and realized how few students there were left.

Malfoy noticed as well and straightened. He ran a hand through his hair and glanced down at Hermione.

"Guess I'll just have to survive lecture without any tea," he sighed to himself, the sentence barely audible to her.

Hermione eyed her tea, realizing that she had not gained any more appetite for it than she had started with. Trying not to think too much, she shoved it into his hand. "Its only red tea, but I don't have the stomach for it right now, anyways."

He automatically grabbed the cup when she pushed it towards his chest, but now stood still, staring down at it.

Hermione let out a breath between her teeth, "Honestly, Malfoy, I haven't drunk any of it yet. But, if even the thought of me touching something you drink disturbs you, then just give it back to me." She held her hand out impatiently.

He held the styrofoam cup a little tighter and pulled it closer to him.

"You can't change your mind so quickly, you gave it to me and I'm keeping it."

Hermione rolled her eyes and held her hands up in mock surrender. Adjusting her book bag, she followed the last of the students out the door. Malfoy followed and, with his longer legs, was soon ahead of her. As they walked down the hallway, she watched as he first took a small sip, swished it in his mouth, and then tilted the cup up to take a longer swallow. She couldn't see his face but, as far as she could tell, he hadn't spit it back out. Once they reached the lecture hall he disappeared among the desks teeming with students. Hermione, grateful she no longer had to deal with the strange experience of being half friendly with a long established enemy, found a seat close to the front, careful to avoid the noisier groups. She began organizing her supplies on her desk.

"Woah, quill and scroll?" A freckled boy next to her leaned over to watch her dip the quill and begin writing the date. "I haven't seen that in awhile!"

"It's standard in Hogwarts, where did you go?"

"Muggle school, but I went to magical school during the summer."

"During the summer? How did you learn everything!" Hermione couldn't help feeling a little aghast.

"We probably learned a lot less than you English people," he said with a smile. "We mainly just learned the practical things."

Hermione opened her mouth, internally struggling whether to voice her indignation at the boy's use of 'practical' or just return his charming smile. She was interrupted by the Sonorused voice of a professor echoing aross the hall and so she settled on the smile before turning to the front.

At first she took scrupulous notes but the Professor seemed to be going in circles. This felt like at least the third time the Professor had mentioned how doing well in their studies would prepare them to be skilled healers. She scanned her notes. Yes, she was right. There it was at the beginning of the lecture and stated slightly differently in another bullet point further down the page. As the Professor began speaking about the wards cast on the school, her interest peaked but it fell fairly quickly as she realized he was only mentioning it to emphasize that cheaters would easily be caught. As the lecture continued about the consequences of cheating, she worked out the most likely charms that the professors had used to ward the school. Once she had determined them, she felt, unless they had charms she was unfamiliar with, that the Professor had been exaggerating a tad about how well the charms worked.

The boy who had talked to her earlier was busy playing what suspiciously looked like an Nintendo game, which he must have magicked to work within all the school's wards. That was tricky spellwork and Hermione studied him awhile, wondering if he had cast the spell. It would probably fall under the boy's definition of 'practical' magic but she doubted he could have cast it without knowledge of a tad of preliminary 'unpractical' magic.

From her position a little farther back than normal, Hermione noticed that several wizards and witches were similarly occupied. As she scanned the rest of the students, her eyes were inadvertently drawn to the platinum blonde hair of Draco Malfoy. Bored, she watched as he played with a mixing stick she had put in the tea. He threw a tight smirk at a girl beside him that had turned in her seat to completely face him. She was talking animatedly at him and the end of particular dramatic sentence she flipped her hair over her shoulder. It probably was the girl from the break room… Shandra. Malfoy stretched his legs out onto the back of the chair in front of him and massaged his temples. Hermione was torn between feeling pity or gloating at his misfortune. He glanced up in her direction and Hermione quickly turned back to the lecture.

She tried to refocus on the Professor, who was stressing the importance of high grades, and sighed, wishing they would get to actual lesson material. When class finally ended, Hermione began reorganizing her materials in preparation for the next class, and the Nintendo boy leaned over to talk to her.

"So, Hogwarts, that means you're from England? Thats pretty cool, you've got a nice accent."

Hermione smiled, grateful that he had enough tact to keep to safe subjects, "Thank you."

"What was your name?"

"Please call me Granger," she said, learning from introducing herself last time.

"John Thomson."

The boy reached out to grab her hand and shook it. His fingers were calloused.

"Why did you come to America? I mean, I'm glad you're here-"

Hermione laughed and interrupted the start of his awkward rambling, "I understand. There were a lot of reasons. Some of them… personal. I heard that this school was very progressive. I like when the learning process is coupled with evolving theories and research…" Hermione trailed off as she recognized the expression on the boy's face. Ron and Harry always wore it whenever she wanted to share something interesting she had read, at least before she learned better of it. "And… er, why did you come here?"

John smiled again, "Dad wanted me to. He's got-"

He stopped as someone came up behind Hermione and brushed past her knees. She didn't think much of it until that person sat down right between her and Nintendo boy. Someone with blonde hair.

"Malfoy?"

To her exasperation, it was. "Yes, Granger?"


Author's Note:

THANK YOU, THANK YOU you lovely people who gave kudos and comments!

I'm planning on updating this fic on Fridays.

I also would love to know what parts you think are working and what parts not so much. Are house points still a good bribe?