Hermione stirred her tea in its styrofoam cup and wished she was actually interested in its contents. Around her, her American classmates had begun to form huddled groups, chatting and laughing over their steaming coffee cups. She was reminded of her first year and fought down the urge to pull one of the textbooks from her book-bag and start reading.
She scanned the break room, trying to find a familiar face. The school was completely different from Hogwarts, filled with metal chairs and several distinctly muggle-looking contraptions along the walls. It was too sleek and modern, just like the students. At least half of them weren't wearing robes, and most of those who wore 'robes' would still have easily blended in with the muggles outside. Near one of the doors, she spotted a short girl with red hair, similar to Ginny's, wearing a brilliant color of green robes. After a deep breath, she edged from her corner towards the girl, weaving around the other students.
Once she reached the girl's side, Hermione realized that the girl had little resemblance to Ginny besides her hair color. This girl wore a noticeable amount of makeup and was whispering snarkily behind her hand to a short-haired girl across from her. Hermione swallowed, searching around for a different reason to be there, but the red-haired girl looked over and raised an eyebrow.
"Er, Hi!" Hermione tried to say brightly. "My name is Hermione Granger, how about you?"
The red-haired girl glanced from Hermione's shoes up to her hair, "Hermione Granger? Weren't you always in that London paper… The Seer was it?"
"The Prophet, yes, I was occasionally. Though-"
"Caught up in the middle of that nasty pureblood business weren't you?"
"Er… I'm a muggle-born who fought with many others against Voldemort to protect the lives and magical rights of all witches and wizards." Hermione responded, trying to keep the terseness out of her voice. "I'm sorry, what did you say your name was?"
"Shandra," the girl responded, flipping her hair over her shoulder and staring Hermione down with her brown eyes.
"Nice to meet you," Hermione said as genuinely as she could. "How about you?" Hermione turned to the short-haired girl.
"Lorraine," the girl said with a large smile. "Kinda cool to be meeting a magical celebrity like you, Hermione. What was it like, fighting in a war with magic?"
Hermione bit her lip and swallowed. "Probably very similar to one without magic." She had to get out of there before these girls said something to trigger her flashbacks. She could already feel the sweat at the back of her neck. "Excuse me, I need to-" she trailed off when nothing good came to mind. She turned away, looking for a large group to duck behind before things could get worse. Instead, she nearly spilled her tea all over a boy's front.
"I'm so sorry!" Hermione stepped backwards and fought the burn in her cheeks and eyes. She quickly whipped out her wand to remove a few tea droplets on herself with a quick 'tergeo' and examined the boys sweater vest as well. "I don't think I got anything on you…" she trailed off as she recognized the green and silver stripes along the sweater's neck. Her breath stopped, and inevitably her eyes trailed up to meet unmistakably grey ones. Her hand had already changed positions on her wand before she formed a complete thought. Adrenaline beat against her temples, and her vision narrowed so she could make out his eye's dark blue outline and the gold specks around his pupils.
"Granger." His voice had gotten deeper, or maybe she could only remember it from when he still had his high boy's voice.
"...Malfoy?" she was still bracing herself for… a curse? a taunt? She wasn't sure. The adrenaline was still pumping and she had already identified the closest exit and the best spell to throw in a crowded place.
"What are the chances of meeting an old schoolmate here of all places?"
"Yes," she replied a bit numbly. "What are you doing here Malfoy?"
"I thought someone with a supposedly brilliant mind like you would be able to deduce that easily," Malfoy sneered, and even with his deeper voice and mature face, he sounded like the old Malfoy. The one she had slapped after he insulted Hagrid.
"I meant in New York, Malfoy," she answered in her prefect tone saved for snogging tossers who pretended they didn't know they were out past curfew.
Malfoy leered over her and said condescendingly, "I'll take pity on you, since it seems your hair finally grew enough to take over you brain, I'm going to Healer's School."
Hermione gritted her teeth. Ignoring how much she wanted to bite out a sharp reply to his insult, she smiled tightly, "Well, good luck." She turned back to the lesser evils, but Shandra and Lorraine were both looking over her shoulder.
"Hermione, please introduce us to your friend!" Lorraine smiled her large smile full of beautiful teeth. Shandra batted her eyes at Malfoy and didn't bother looking at Hermione at all.
Hermione winced, "Girls, this is Draco Malfoy, we went to school together. I'm sure he'd be better at introducing himself beyond that." She moved away from the group, hoping that she had just hit three birds with the same stone.
"Aw, Hermione, I think it would be much more entertaining coming from you," Malfoy caught the wrist of her wand hand.
Hermione froze and then turned to glare at him. "We are not friends, as you well know. Do not address me informally and remove your hand immediately," she hissed. She glanced over to Shandra and Lorraine who were watching the exchange with fascination.
Instead of answering, Malfoy was looking past her, "is that tea, Granger?"
Hermione registered the cup of tea in her other hand.
"Breakfast tea?" he asked.
"Let me go, Malfoy."
Surprisingly, he did.
"Where is the tea? I can't drink coffee," he scanned the room behind her.
"What, didn't bring your own special pureblood blend with you?" Hermione asked sarcastically as she backed out of reach.
"Shut it, Granger," Malfoy said fiercely, backing her against another group of students. "Don't mention that I'm a pureblood around here," he leaned down to breath the last part angrily into her ear.
"What?" Hermione asked.
Right behind Malfoy, an older man in healer's robes cleared his throat and Malfoy froze.
Hey Guys this is my Author's Note.
I've read quite a few fanfics but I'm rather new at actually writing one! I would REALLY appreciate any feedback on anything about this- really. House points and eternal gratitude to anyone who is so kind as to review!
Chapter 2: In which Hermione shares her tea
"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.
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.
To her exasperation, it was. "Yes, Granger?"
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?
Chapter 3: In which Hermione takes her seat
She wasn't sure which obvious fact she should state first. "We're in the middle of a conversation and there are still quite a few empty seats that aren't by me!"
"Yes, but I needed a seat flanked by two people."
"Dear Granger, don't you understand the art of avoiding someone?"
"Normally they are trying to avoid me as well, not interrupting my conversations," Hermione replied, mystified.
Draco brushed a hand over his mouth and looked over at her with a raised eyebrow. "Not you, Granger, I'm trying to avoid another daft girl."
"Well, good luck," Hermione angrily started gathering her things to move to the other side of Nintendo boy but Malfoy reached out and blocked her path with an arm. She started down at it, debating whether she should just push past it or verbally thrash him until he moved it himself.
"Please, Granger, she is giving me headache and I can't hear a word the Professors are saying. Surely as a bookworm you can pity me that much?"
Hermione bristled, "What, your usual lack of tact isn't scaring her off or…" Hermione thought of several things she could say about why he wasn't being rude to this girl but decided she didn't want him to know she had thought of any of them.
"Fine I'll try to reign in my 'lack of tack' just let me stay here, just for today. I haven't found any groupies to protect me yet."
"Poor Malfoy," She responded sarcastically, remembering some of his groupies with a sick twist in her gut. She had just decided to shove past Malfoy when Nintendo boy spoke up.
"Come on, lets take pity on him, Granger."
Hermione turned on him, trying to keep her expression from reading 'are you daft?'
"The guy is practically on his knees, she must be pretty scary," the Nintendo boy, John, said with an appeasing smile.
"She's-" Hermione stopped as she realized she had almost revealed she had watched Shandra chat Draco up and therefore knew who Draco was referring to. She tried to think of something else to say without making her look like a insensitive prat.
She gestured towards Malfoy and said in a wheedling tone, "but he and I aren't… on civil terms. If you know what I mean?" She tried to add a cute smile at the end, like she had seen Ginny use on Harry, but had a feeling she failed when Malfoy snorted. She shot a glare at him, running through her nonverbal spell arsenal to see if she had any she could use inconspicuously.
"It sounds like you guys have quite the history," John said instead.
Hermione wanted to strangle the boy. Was he being oblivious on purpose? "A history I don't want to be reminded of." She hoped he got the hint.
"There you are Draco!" came a girlish voice behind her that gave her flashbacks to Hogwarts. She turned reluctantly to meet the pretty face of Shandra.
"Draco, is that seat taken?" Shandra was again completely ignoring Hermione, who's bookbag still rested on said seat. Suddenly, Hermione felt irrationally possessive of the seat she had been trying to escape.
"Actually, er... Shandra, that's Granger's seat."
"Oh, you mean Hermione?" Shandra spared a disinterested glance. Hermione clenched her teeth.
"Please call me Granger," she said, staring Shandra down coolly.
"Good Morning class, I'm Professor Greythorn," a woman's voice echoed through the hall this time. Hermione's good student mode kicked in and she automatically sat down in the closest chair, turning her head attentively. When Sandra shoved past, Hermione remembered that she was still sitting next to Draco. She looked around for the nearest open seat and saw some towards the middle of the row. However, getting to them would require stepping over the feet of at least six or seven people while the professor was speaking. She sighed, settling back into her seat, and hoped that the class would be uneventful.
"I will be in charge of all of your clinical classes this semester," the Professor continued. "Here you will learn the charms that form a foundation for all of your other diagnostic spells. That means I expect none of you to slack off in my classes." Hermione idly wondered if they had been preceded by such an incompetent class that all the professors felt a need to drill diligence and honesty in their heads right off the bat.
This professor's orientation speech wasn't as bad as the previous one, but she still spent quite a bit of time breaking down magical concepts for her less educated classmates. The scratching of a quill on parchment distracted her. As far as she could tell, her American classmates didn't use quills or parchment on a regular basis: they all were very fond of their bic pens and lined paper. That meant the most likely culprit was sitting right next to her. Some dimwit asked the teacher about the relatively simple 'Reperio Alica' spell the Professor had already explained. The scribbling continued.
Hadn't they covered this extensively in fourth year charms class? Maybe she had been fooled about his intelligence in school. Her curiosity getting the better of her, Hermione pretended to be interested in something in the front corner but instead peeked sideways at Malfoy. He was pouring over a book and scribbling notes from it on a piece of parchment. As far as she could tell by the size and cover color, it was the textbook for this class, Basic Healing Charms and When to Use Them.
He was studying during class! What if the Professor actually said something important? She quelled her perturbation and started taking notes again, purposefully blocking out the sound of Malfoy's pen.
"The spells we've started talking about, Reperio Alica and Detectis Inaequalitas, as well as some basic spells to monitor vital signs will be the charms we will start on at the beginning of this semester. These will be studied and practiced within your lab groups. I would suggest practicing, at least initially, during school hours or within easy access of a wizarding hospital."
This caused a small stir among the students. Over the murmuring of her classmates Hermione strained to hear the next few sentences of the Professor.
"I have used your sitting arrangement to organize you into your lab groups," the Professor continued over the noise and waved her wand over the large board in front of the class. On it there were names arranged into clumps. Hermione's stomach clenched. "These groups will consist of five students that I have listed on the board, here. Feel free to come and look at them once class finishes. You will not need to meet officially until after next class period but I encourage to you to get to know your new lab group during the lunch break. Are there any questions?"
Hermione whispered "Oculi Accipitrem," and scanned the board with her stronger vision to find her name. Under a group labeled 'Alpha-Lambda' she found it, along with a name she didn't recognize, John Thomson, Shandra King, and Draco Malfoy.
She turned on him and whispered angrily, "this is all your fault!"
Malfoy looked up from his parchment and quirked his eyebrow. With the spell still in effect, she could see all the individual hair roots of that eyebrow. Disturbed, she cast a nonverbal 'Finite.'
"What are you on about Granger?"
"Because you decided to sit next to me, not only am I stuck with you in my group but Shandra as well!"
Malfoy grimaced at the board of names, "yes, it was part of my mastermind plan to get all of us stuck in a group together."
Ignoring his sarcasm, Hermione gathered her things and said sharply, "well, congratulations."
She heard him sigh, "Granger…"
"I cannot work with you for a whole semester. I'm sure the Professor will understand." She picked Professor Greythorn out of the crowd of students leaving for lunch break and started prepping her arguments as she shuffled past John and Shandra.
"Shit, Granger, wait!" Malfoy called behind her.
AN: Thanks to the those who have left comments and kudos! :)
I want to improve my writing abilities and I'm a bit lost as to whats working and whats not so I would REALLY REALLY appreciate some feedback- even if it is critical. Thanks for reading :)
Chapter 4: In which blood is discussed
She ignored him and started walking down the aisle against the student traffic. It was easier for her to slip between the students because of her smaller size, and thus made it hard for Malfoy to catch up with her. Once she reached the front of the classroom, the students thinned considerably. Professor Greythorn was still standing at the front, talking with two students.
Malfoy caught her arm as she waited for the other students to finish.
"Why are you trying to stop me?" she asked as he smoothed his hair and robe.
He scoffed, "I'm not trying to stop you. I just don't want you to mention my status," he dropped his voice on the last word, "in front of the other students."
She raised her eyebrows as she tried to figure out why he was so anal about this.
"I thought you might be angry enough to forget or maybe this was a good enough 'reason' for you." He actually sounded anxious.
"What is wrong with you, Malfoy?" Hermione asked, completely serious. He winced. "Fine, I will keep your dirty little secret," she smiled at her irony. Malfoy didn't seem to appreciate it, though.
Hermione moved closer and caught the last part of Professor Greythorn's conversation. "... I understand your desire as a couple to not be separated. However, I find it very unprofessional to bring personal matters into school work. I'm sure you can find other times to be together." Hermione felt a sense of foreboding at the Professor's prim tone.
The couple exchanged pained glances and brushed past Hermione, whispering to each other unhappily. She almost lost her courage altogether.
"Yes?" the woman turned her eyebrows raised expectantly and her lips pursed like she tasted lemons.
"Er, he and I have been placed in the same group but we have a very long unpleasant history together. Both of our school work would be hurt if we worked together. Would you please allow one of us to switch groups with that couple who just spoke to you?" Hermione was dismayed at how feeble all her arguments sounded spoken out loud.
"Ms., by your accent, I assume you are from England?"
"I hope this aversion is not rooted in blood prejudices?"
"Uh…" Hermione debated how to dodge such a direct question.
"I will let you know we do not tolerate prejudice here. If you will not work with this man because he is muggle born then I would suggest you seriously reconsider your ethical code."
"What? No!" Hermione was completely blindsided. "I mean, its nothing like that, Professor. We just have… irreconcilable differences."
"Hhm," the Professor did not sound convinced. Where was all that Malfoy persuasion when it would actually be helpful? "So then this is merely a childish rivalry rooted in grade school?"
She thought about mentioning seventh year, but she couldn't justify that to herself. Ron had always said she was too soft-hearted. Unconsciously, she rubbed her left forearm, fingers sliding over the faint scar.
"Professor," Malfoy cut in. "It wasn't really a rivalry… I bullied her. I was cruel. She shouldn't have to study with me."
Hermione stared at Malfoy with her mouth slightly open.
"Hmm…" the Professor mused. "It seems like you have matured since then."
Malfoy opened his mouth and then closed it without saying anything, pressing his lips together.
"I think you should stay in the same group. It will give both of you a chance to practice your professional behavior," Professor gave both of them a pointed stare and then walked away from them back to her desk.
"Look Hermione... about, you know. I-," he grimaced, his expression reminding her of the conflicted one she saw on his face in the manor during the war. Unbidden, Bellatrix's high maniacal laugh echoed in her head. She winced, trying to ignore the sharp pain that now pierced her left arm. Her heart rate was speeding up and her palms were already sweaty. She was familiar with this pattern and knew what was coming next.
"Sod off, Malfoy," she said, not looking at him, knowing only her eyes would give her distress away. She hoped this would put him off of this 'good will' and stop him from following her as she walked purposefully away. She focused on keeping her breath as normal as possible as she hunted down the closest loo and locked herself in it. Her tight control slipped at the click of the lock and sobs choked in her chest, escaping in rattling gasps, ugly and painful. She sank onto the loo and slumped against the stall wall, biting her fist to muffle herself.
This was absurd, she thought, why had this affected her so strongly? He had been nearly civil to her ever since they met this morning, despite still being extremely annoying. She had thought leaving Europe would allow her to avoid anything that triggered these attacks until she managed to get them under control. Apparently fate had other plans. She sighed, wiping her eyes on loo paper, and blew her nose. She cast a 'frigus' to cool her eyes and nose and decrease their redness. She watched the shadows under the door to see if anyone was outside and cast a 'Homenum Revelio' just to be sure, even while knowing it was a tad paranoid.
Exiting the stall, she checked her reflection in the mirror. Her eyes were a little bloodshot, but overall it was hard to tell she had been crying. Her hair had gotten a little out of control, probably because of some accidental magic. She pulled some of it back with a barrette she had in her bag to disguise it a little. She had given up trying to manage her hair with magic, as it only seemed to make her hair frizz more.
By the time she left the loo, Hermione felt put together and had enough of an appetite to try whatever the school had served for lunch. She was relieved to be able to make a sandwich from what was left of the spread and find a table of students to sit with without seeing so much as glimpse of Malfoy. She began eating, savoring the sharp cheddar cheese in her sandwich.
When she went back to her seat for the afternoon lecture, Shandra and Malfoy were no longer there and she was able to share pleasant small talk with John. Although these lectures were very similar to the morning's, she passed the worst of it thinking of about when she returned home. They had only arrived in America the day before yesterday and so she had left the apartment in quite a bit of disarray. She wasn't sure she wanted to see how it had been sorted out when she got back, but was quite happy when classes ended for the day and she lined up after the other students to floo home.
From this point on, Fleurdelys21 has agreed to beta this story for me! So many thanks to the lovely Fleurdelys21 for catching all my stupid mistakes and helping me write this. *heart*
Thank you so much to those who have commented (and gave kudos) on this story!
This is where it starts taking some twists that I'm really curious what you think of. I hope you enjoyed it and please let me know what you think!
Chapter 5: In which creatures are discussed
The only fireplace in the apartment was in one of the bedrooms and so she was met by the piles of unpacked boxes scattered around an unmade bed when she flooed home. She distantly heard the sound of running water and made her way around the boxes to the front room. Bowls of water were crowding the counter-space of the kitchen and saw one of her favorite mugs brimming with water on the kitchen table. The floor was occupied by a fish tank, some pots, and their rubbish can: all full of water. The sound seemed to be coming from the bathroom.
"Luna?" Hermione called, hand over her wand pocket.
"Hermione, you're back?" Luna's high voice floated out from the bathroom.
Hermione relaxed a little and peaked her head into the bathroom. Luna was leaning over the bathtub with the faucet running full force. Water had splashed onto the bathroom floor and across Luna's neon yellow skirt. A curious green film floated on the puddles around the tub.
"What are you doing, Luna?" Hermione asked.
"Trying to attract Dabberblimps. They are fond of water, you know," Luna bent to shut off the water and a few strands of her long hair trailed down into the tub, slick with water.
"Oh, is this one of the creatures you're researching for your job?"
"No, but Web-toed Diricawls like to snack on Dabberblimps," Luna reached over to a few small packets that were sitting on the loo and grabbed a pinch of green substance from one of them. "The Web-toed Diricawls have a higher concentration in Boston because Dabberblimps have migrated here in Muggles' bottled water."
"Oh, well, have you seen any Web-toed Diricawls?" Hermione asked as Luna continued to add various amounts of the packets into whatever was sitting in the tub.
"Very briefly," Luna tossed her hair over her shoulder and pulled a bucket out of the bathtub, the green mixture flurried about in the swirling water. "He disappeared when I tried to get a photograph of him. They are shy creatures, much like Nargles and most magical creatures."
Hermione decided not to bring up a few of the beasts they had encountered in Hagrid's classes and settled on "Oh."
"The photo did not turn out well, but you can still see the Diricawl if you look closely," Luna gestured towards the sink. Hermione looked down to see a Wizard photo, its edges soaked with the green sludge. There was a momentary picture of a dodo before a splash of liquid filled the photo and the view swung upwards to the ceiling and part of Luna's earrings and hair.
"What happened when you were taking the photo?" Hermione asked very curiously.
"The Diricawl ran into one of the bowls, and tipped all of the contents onto himself and I," Luna said matter of factly. "He wasn't happy with me for getting him wet in the middle of his snack and disappeared after expressing that frustration thoroughly in Diricawl."
"You understand Diricawl?" Hermione asked hesitantly.
"No, but it's a very distinct honking sound, I'm sure you would recognize it if you heard it," Luna leaned down and stirred whatever she was concocting.
"Oh, um... do you think if we placed a few fish tanks in the spare bedroom it would have the same effect as the mass of dishes in our living room right now?" Hermione asked, thinking of the possibility of flying green sludge threatening her future mornings. "We could even set up the spare bedroom for your mazizoologist work."
Luna tipped her head, her purple carrot-like earrings jangling. "Yes, that would work. Three big ones would probably do the trick." Luna hefted the bucket and lugged it past Hermione into the front room. Luna then plonked it down between the rubbish can and a spaghetti pot, both full of the curious concoction.
"What else attracts the Diricawls and Dabber...blimps?"
"I've added the Dabberblimp's favorite mix of plant algae to the water containers," Luna airily gestured with her green-caked hands. Hermione was relieved that the green substance was something as relatively harmless as algae. "The Web-toed Diricawl is fond of darker areas like caves or the underside of bridges at night. I need to somehow keep the room dark even when the windows are open in the daytime."
"I think I have a book that mentioned a similar spell used for vampires. Gimme a minute… I think I know which box I packed it in." Hermione hurried off to the master bedroom. She was pretty sure she put it in the box of books about magical creatures. They had shrunk all the boxes when they were moving, but they hadn't yet engorgio-ed them all back to normal size. Now, she just had to find where that box had ended up.
She was sprawled across the unmade bed, absorbed in her book, when Luna tapped on her shoulder a while later.
"The 'tellaphone' is ringing, Hermione. I got rid of the Fulmentrice pixies so it should be safe to use."
"Oh, thanks Luna..." Hermione muttered before she realized what Luna had said. "The telephone? Blast!" She quickly marked her place and sprang from the bed. She slid across the wood floor in her socks and weaved through the sundry water containers before making it to the wall phone. "Yes?" She said breathlessly, snatching the phone up as it rung again.
"There you are!" came Harry's voice over the phone. "I thought I might have the wrong number."
"No, I just got caught up in some reading and lost track of time."
"Why am I not surprised- prepping for class?"
"Actually, Luna is trying to attract some Diricawls and there was this spell I remembered-"
"Speaking of Luna, I think I've got this 'speakerphone' gadget working. Want to have it on both sides so Luna and the guys over here can join us?"
"Of course! You've got Ron and Ginny with you?" Hermione asked happily. "Luna! Harry is on the phone. Want to join us?"
Luna looked up from a measuring cup she had been filling. "Yes, I like talking with him," she smiled. Luna joined Hermione as Hermione played with the phone a little.
"There, can you hear us, Harry?"
"Hi, Harry!" Luna joined in.
"Yep, we hear you on our end. Nice to hear you, Luna!"
"Hey, Hermione. Luna," came Ron's voice. "Ginny's here too."
"Ron, I can tell them myself!" Ginny scolded. "Hi guys!"
They all exchanged greetings and Hermione felt herself relax a little.
"Anyways, what were you saying, Hermione?" Harry said.
"About Luna? Good news! She's on her first assignment!"
"Yes, I'm studying the Web-toed Diricawl. Rolf Scamander was quite impressed with my study of Wrackspurts and wanted me to join him. I like that he listens to my theories about rare magical creatures."
"Congratulations, Luna!" Harry said. "That's great!"
"Thank you, how is Auror training? I know Ron wanted to imitate your decision to be one."
Harry laughed a little awkwardly, "Yeah, Ron joined a little while back."
"Oi, I'm doing good. Don't make that face, Harry!"
"Of course, of course."
"He's black and blue!" Ginny chirped in. "He barely has the energy to eat when he gets home, and that's saying something!"
Hermione and Harry laughed.
"Oh, stop pouting, Ron," Harry continued. "He's doing great. It's quite a bit different than during the war, though. Seeing as we are hunting people down instead of just trying to hide from them for the most part."
"I went on my first mission yesterday," Ron quickly added in. "It felt good to help hunt down the bastards and lock them up. Say, Hermione, it'd be really great to have you with us. I'm sure you'd be bloody brilliant at it. You'd make sure they put them away for good."
"Sorry, Ron. I just started school. I'm going to be here for awhile."
"But you already know practically everything, Hermione. Why do you want to go to more school? You should use your skills with us, you are bloody scary with a wand. Why'd you ditch us anyway?"
"I like the school I'm going to and the creature Luna is researching traveled over to the Americas. It's the best place for both of us right now." Hermione looked over at Luna pleadingly.
"Have you guys play Quidditch recently?" Luna asked. "I liked commenting when the Gryffindor team played."
"Yeah, actually!" Ron said brightly.
"It's not the same without your commentary, though," Ginny added. "We got George to play as one of the seekers against Harry."
"Yeah, Harry won't let him win though."
"And why does Harry have to go easy on George?" Ginny asked hotly.
"Maybe because his twin just died? Harry's already soft on his girlfriend during the games, shouldn't be too hard."
"Ginny is on my team, how could I go easy on her, Ron?"
"Ron, stop being silly, going easy on George during a Quidditch game won't help him. Besides, isn't beating things up cathartic for boys?" Hermione asked.
"Er…" Ron paused.
"Yes," Luna joined. "George might be able to vent some of his pain through the violence inherent in Quidditch."
"Oh, you're brilliant! Harry, we've got to get George as a seeker or something else that gets smashed a lot."
"No no! I do not condone mauling your brother, Ron! Some friendly competition is good, but everyone is hurt enough as it is," Hermione jumped in.
"Yeah, that's why we need you back here, Hermione, everyone is hurt."
"Ron, we've already gone over this."
"I don't see why you left- why you left me."
"I need some time to work things out by myself. Maybe this is a good time to help George around the shop. He-he probably needs it. Or how about your mum. How is she doing?"
As the other line went quiet, Hermione knew she said something wrong.
"We all miss Fred. George isn't the same without him. It's been hard for everyone without them causing chaos everywhere," Ginny said. There was shuffling and a disgusted huff. Hermione imagined Harry putting his arm around Ginny and Ron glaring at them. It had been a pretty frequent occurrence right before she left.
"I'm sorry, you guys."
"We know it's been hard for you too, Hermione. And you, Luna."
"Yes, the Wrackspurts have been heavy with all of us lately." Luna agreed. "My father has been using the siphon quite frequently, but thoughts from the war keep attracting them. He is trying to form groups that meet and work together to help dispel the plague of Wrackspurts within the Wizarding community."
"That's really good of him, Luna," Ginny said, she sounded subdued. Hermione nodded her agreement but didn't feel up to adding anything. The mood had sobered quickly.
"It's pretty late over there isn't it?" Luna added. "We're all pretty vulnerable to Wrackspurts right now. We should go bed early and talk some other time when there aren't so many around us."
"Yeah, good idea, Luna," Harry agreed. "Good night Luna, Hermione."
"Talk to you guys later," Hermione replied.
After a chorus of goodbyes Hermione hung up the phone.
"Luna," Hermione sighed, "Was coming out here a good idea?"
"Don't pay attention to the Wrackspurts in your head. Come with me outside, I hear there is a good ice cream parlor on the way to the fish store."
"Actually, that sounds amazing. Thanks Luna." Hermione rubbed her eyes and replaced the phone on its hook. The weather was still pleasant outside so Hermione only went to hunt down her shoes.
I love Luna so I had to find some excuse to get her in the story ;) Thank you guys for your continued support! -Sam
Chapter 6: Introduction of alpha-lambda
The rest of the week went a lot more smoothly than that first day. Once the Professors got off of their soap boxes, the classes actually started to get interesting. Hermione found herself quickly getting buried in schoolwork, especially with all of the extra studying she felt was necessary. She had taken up studying biochemistry in the mornings to supplement what they were studying in physiology. She felt like she had more catching up to do on the hard science front than her American classmates, a familiar feeling from her early Hogwarts days.
An alarm alerted her she need to go grab breakfast before school. Luna was already in the kitchen eating a bowl of pudding. The green sludge had yet to make any reappearances outside of the spare room, for which Hermione was grateful. Hermione poured herself some tea from the teapot she had put on earlier and put some bread in the toaster.
"Morning, Luna," she called as she sorted through their fruit bowl for an edible piece of fruit.
"Morning, I would be careful of the bananas, it seems like they've attracted too many fruit pixies."
Hermione pulled out a very ripe banana from the bottom of the bowl. "Hm… I guess you're right," she agreed then decided on a gala apple as a safer choice. She spread jam on her toast and joined Luna at the table. "You came in rather late last night, how'd it go?"
Luna licked her spoon and turned it in her hand as she talked. "Well, Rolf said we should try when things were quiet and dark…so we were out pretty late," Luna paused and looked off into the distance. "We actually got a very good picture and some new information but Rolf was acting a little odd."
Hermione wondered what could possibly be considered odd to Luna. She opened her mouth to ask but Luna suddenly stood up from the table.
"Well, we've got a lot to get done before the weekend. Enjoy school, Hermione, I'm sure you will." With a 'scourgify' directed at her dish, Luna floated out of the kitchen. Hermione finished her breakfast, puzzling over her unvoiced question.
She arrived at school early enough to get everything in order and sat in what had come to be her normal spot. John joined her right before the professor began her lecture. He always managed to slide in right before the lecture began, leaving Hermione miffed and impressed at the same time. She had gotten used to this routine and so smiled at his friendly greeting before immersing herself in the rest of the day's lecture.
During the break, John leaned over and asked, "What's the difference between the flare corde and signum vitalis spells?"
Hermione breezed into an explanation and then stopped as she saw his face and settled for a shorter answer.
"Fundamentally, signum vitalis encompasses flare corde as well as other spells such as qualitas anima. It's a general spell used to rule out the body's vital systems as the source of the ailment."
"Ah, makes sense," he nodded and leaned back into his chair. Hermione could never tell if he meant it.
The next class was their first lab class from Professor Greythorn. The professor started by reviewing the spell that they had been talking about in lecture. She asked a relatively simple question from the reading but the class sat silently. Hermione sat on her hands and counted several seconds before compulsively raising her hand.
"The signum vitalis monitors the signals sent in and out of the medulla oblongata to determine irregularities in breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure."
Hermione felt the thrill of a small victory run through her but it was quickly quenched when the professor announced soon after that they would be splitting up into their lab groups. The class abruptly became chaos once they were told to meet their groups.
"Can you see anything?" she asked John.
"Like our lab group?" John shrugged. "We could just wait it out."
Hermione thought that Malfoy was probably waiting for everyone to try and find him. Therefore, that probably wouldn't pan out so well.
"What was our group name?" she asked John. "Alpha-Lambda?"
"Um…" John flipped through his disorganized folder. "Yeah, an A and an upside-down V."
Hermione nodded and climbed up onto her desk.
"Woah, what are you doing?" John exclaimed, adopting a wide stance and holding his hands.
"This," Hermione wrote the symbols Alpha and Lambda in the air with her wand. They stayed glowing afterwards in a pale yellow light.
"Oh, well that's a good idea. Here, let me help you down," John reached out with his hand and Hermione took it as she stepped down.
"Er, thank you," Hermione wanted to tell him that she could manage a less than a metre drop but was also pleased by his gallantry. Ron had never acted like that.
"Hey, look," John pointed. Someone else had traced their group name into the air. "You're so smart everybody is using your idea," he turned and smiled at her.
Hermione, used to that compliment, was only taken back by how often he could flash that winning smile at her. "Th-Thanks."
She looked away, feeling the colour in her cheeks, when her eyes met Malfoy's as he was walking down the aisle towards her. She froze.
He met her with a cold stare then turned his attention to John. Malfoy greeted him with his self assured smile and started up a little small talk she hadn't known he was capable of. She turned to Shandra uncertainly but Shandra was waving at someone behind her. Hermione looked over her shoulder to see who it was. A tall but sturdily built young man in muggle clothes smiled and waved back.
"Daryn! It's so nice to see you again!" Shandra called.
"So this is the alpha-lambda group?" he asked, his voice lyrical but not quite as deep as she had been expecting.
"Yes, so you know John already and here's Draco." Shandra proceeded to introduce him to the other group members. "And here's Hermione," Shandra's voice lost all of its enthusiasm.
"Granger. I'm Hermione Granger." Hermione corrected.
"Nice to meet you, I'm Daryn Williams," he replied formally. "I'm sorry, are you The Hermione Granger?"
Hermione gulped. "Yes, the one in the papers. Er, where are you from?" She hurriedly changed the topic.
"That's south of here right?" Hermione asked, her geography not as perfect as she'd like.
"Yes, a few states down. Not too much a commute, and it's nice to come up here and be closer to the hum of the wizarding community."
"Anyways… did you check it out like I told you?" Shandra interrupted.
"The wizard's music cafe?" Daryn asked. "Yes, it was certainly interesting. There were a few alternative and jazz musicians I enjoyed."
"Yeah, not like those stuffy stuck up pureblood clubs right? They're so self righteous about being soooo better than all of us 'lesser' wizards but have horrible taste in music. It's disgusting, really," Shandra slid her hand onto Daryn's arm. Hermione glanced over at Malfoy to see his reaction, but he hadn't seemed to hear the conversation.
"I wouldn't go that far," Daryn stated diplomatically, "but their music is a bit stale."
"That's so great, we should totally go together some time! I haven't been there in forever."
Hermione played with her wand and glanced between the two groups that were still chatting. Wouldn't groups of four or six had made more sense, she thought. "Er, guys? Anyone have a good idea for how we should practice together?" She asked.
John and Malfoy paused in the conversation, but only John looked up. Daryn cleared his throat as Shandra continued talking.
"The spell isn't too complicated so two people could practice on the same person, but since we are relatively unpracticed at this spell there is always the possibility of negative side effects from our magic interacting," she babbled.
"How about I team up with you and watch you practice on Draco?" asked John.
"Um… or maybe Daryn?" Hermione interrupted quickly. "And then Draco and Shandra can team up as well." She silently prayed that everyone would agree.
John just shrugged. Daryn took in the purposeful non-eye contact between more than half the group and said, "Sure, that sounds like it would work out great."
Hermione sighed in relief.
AN: Can I continue to sing the praises of my beta reader? I will cause shes amazing. :) Thank you thank you for the reviews! They really are encouraging! House points for all!
If there are any anatomists or you know, people who actually know the human body well- I apologize if my cobbled together psudeo-healer-science is completely unbelievable and feel free to give me pointers. ;)
Chapter 7: Signum Vitalis
"Have either of you practiced this spell by yourselves?" Hermione asked of the two young men once everyone and settled into their spots. Daryn nodded and John shook his head. "Er… okay. How comfortable do you feel with it, Daryn?"
"Well, I've only practiced it on my little sister's familiar but it seemed to work on it."
"On your sister's familiar?" John snorted.
"Oh, I see you've volunteered to be my first human subject?" Daryn countered.
Hermione looked up to see Professor Greythorn with a cage of mice.
"Which group is this?" asked the professor.
"Alpha-Lambda," Hermione answered helpfully.
"I see, here are the mice you will practice on before any spells on human subjects are attempted."
Hermione glanced at Daryn but his face was impassive. The professor opened the cage and distributed a mouse to each of the group members.
"I will demonstrate the spell, and each of you will attempt to copy me." Professor Greythorn pointed her wand at Hermione's mouse and with a quiver and a flick of her wand she pronounced "Sig-noom vee-tal-iss" the s hissing between her teeth. It didn't sound very comforting.
"Well?" Professor Greythorn asked. "Questions?"
"Does the s have to be hard during the pronunciation?" Hermione asked.
The professor looked down at her nose at Hermione and huffed, "Not that I know of. You can use your practice time to discover the answer. Well, go on." The professor gestured to Hermione.
Hermione took that as a cue to practice and so she turned and focused on her mouse. Holding her wand trained on the small target of the mouse's head, she tried to mimic the professor's wand and voice. "Signum vitalis!" She saw a yellow-green glow around the mouse's head which quickly faded.
"I see a green colour but humans should be in the blue toned range. I assume animals have different normal colour ranges than humans," Hermione turned to the professor.
"Correct," the professor promptly turned her eyes on the others. "Go ahead."
Daryn and Malfoy both performed the spell with very little comment from the professor. Shandra forgot the quiver of the wand the first time, but she grasped it on the second try. However, John was still struggling with the pronunciation after a few tries.
"Help him," Professor Greythorn instructed briefly and moved onto the next group.
Hermione turned to John who shrugged with an ingratiating smile.
"You've almost got it right," Hermione encouraged. "You just need to pronounce signum with an -oom instead of an -um."
"Or you could sing it, like this sig-nOM vi-TAL-is." Daryn added, singing the spell in a clear tenor.
"Y-you could," agreed Hermione.
"Using a tune always helps me remember how to the pronounce a spell. It saved my butt in cram school," Daryn explained.
John laughed dryly, "Okay, -om not -um. Sig-nOM vi-TAL-iss." He copied Daryn's tune but his singing was breathy and a tad strained.
Hermione ignored this and smiled encouragingly.
John turned to his desk, but his mouse had disappeared.
"Accio John's mouse." Hermione said and the mouse flew towards her from under one of the desks. Once John's mouse and been returned, he proceeded to practice the spell using the sing-song tone.
He blinked. "I saw something," he said cheerfully. "Now I can practice-" he turned towards Hermione with his wand raised and Hermione automatically raised her own.
"Er, not yet," she interrupted quickly. John quirked his eyebrow and Hermione explained further. "You need to get your wand-work down a little better before I let you point a wand at me," she added a smile to hopefully soften the blow.
She watched his face flash through two consecutive expressions before he smiled and turned to the mouse again.
"Here, I'll show you," Daryn offered. He proceeded to explain the wand movements more in depth and Hermione glanced up to see how the other two in their group were doing. She was surprised to see that Shandra was already practicing on Malfoy, her wand pointed directly at his forehead. When she looked closer, she saw Malfoy's wand resting in his hand, hidden under the table. That seemed a lot more accurate. They switched then, with Draco openly pointing his wand at the girl's head. Hermione watched, fascinated by how relaxed Shandra seemed to be under his wand. Malfoy's eyes flicked over in her direction and Hermione quickly re-focused on what Daryn was saying.
"Here, I'll show you on Hermione."
"Woah, what?" she asked, panicked. "Let me see you do it on the mouse one more time to make sure everything is okay."
"Wow, Hermione," John said jokingly. "You don't seem very comfortable on the receiving end of a wand. I wonder if its because you're-"
"There's nothing wrong with wanting to be safe," Hermione cut in. A flash of realization lit Daryn's brown eyes.
"Don't worry," he assured. "Watch, I've got it down." He executed a perfect spell on his mouse.
"Okay. You do have it down," Hermione agreed reluctantly but still felt her breathing hitch as he pointed his wand towards her. Nobody had had to point a wand at her for a long time and she hadn't realized until just now that it would affect her so strongly. Too many times she had been staring down a malicious wand point. Too many times to try to block all of them out of her brain. Don't think about it, don't think about it, she chanted to herself. Deciding to follow Malfoy's suite, she gripped her wand in a way easy to throw a 'protego' from.
"Don't worry," Daryn repeated, with a hint of the tone you used on small animals or scared children. She wished he would just get it over with. He was taking long enough as it was, and her mind was slowing things down on top of it. Her breathing became a little ragged as her control slipped and she knew her heart was beating too fast. She watched Daryn's wand bob and trace in a perfect arc as he sang in his beautiful voice, "Signum vitalis!"
Her head buzzed in a foreign way, but the sensation quickly lifted. She did a mental inventory as discretely as possible. Everything seemed fine. He had only done the one spell, which had seemed to have gone perfectly.
"Huh," Daryn muttered, leaning over their textbook. He pointed to one of the hues and said, "I'm pretty sure this was the color I saw. It says that this is a little high for a human of your size. I wonder if I did it correctly?"
"Oh, I'm pretty sure you did," Hermione said as offhandedly as possible. They exchanged another look and Hermione wondered exactly what he was thinking and how much he guessed. He's probably a good person, she tried to reassure herself. You've seen both of his forearms, he's not a Death Eater. "There was this buzz in my head when you cast the spell," she continued, trying to distract herself. "I was thinking it could be I felt the disruption of the nerve impulses when your spell hit them. I wonder if that has anything to do with the colors? Maybe the sodium or potassium trigger part of the colors?" Really, now, she was just throwing out random things to block out her thoughts.
"You mean I have to memorize what all these colors mean?" John asked with a laugh. "I didn't sign up to be an interior decorator."
"Being a healer requires finesse just like any other artist. Only for a healer, the orchestra is the the body and each of the systems sings in a different instrument's voice."
"Uh, huh. Sure," John said, quirking his eyebrow. It seemed like Daryn was a frustrated musician. Good, music was safe. She imagined Daryn sitting and playing a violin with the sunlight golden on his dark brown skin. Safe, sunlight, happy. She held onto the image with a fiery will and started to get a headache from her clenched jaw.
"Well I'm going to see how those two are doing," John said and got up to wander over to Shandra and Draco. He started chatting and Hermione turned and looked back at Daryn.
"I guess its my turn?" she asked, falsely cheery.
AN: Hopefully this doesn't feel like a filler chapter. I got excited about the spells and stuff and before I realized it I had taken a whole chapter on the lab class. Do you guys find it boring or is it okay? I would love the feedback. And... this story just hit over 10,000 words. Kinda exciting :) Many thanks! (and of course to my lovely beta) Cheers!
Chapter 8: In which there are many discussions
"Harry!" she called his name desperately when he finally picked up. Once class got out, she had burst out onto the muggle streets and had quickly dialed him on the nearest payphone.
"Hermione? What's the matter?"
"It's not working, my plan isn't working. This is the second episode I've had in a week!"
"Calm down. Tell me what happened."
"He pointed a wand at me."
"Williams, he's a classmate."
"We were practicing a spell for class."
"And you panicked?" Harry asked patiently.
"Yes, it wasn't that bad but I'm going to have a wand pointed at me at least once a week, maybe more. I can't freak out like this every time!"
"It's okay, you'll get used to it," Harry soothed.
"Things aren't getting better, though, Harry. I thought things would change!"
"Well, you've researched it, haven't you. What do the books say?"
"Pills and therapy."
"Then why don't you do that?"
"But why didn't you do that Harry, you went through worse than I did."
"Hermione, you were tortured." She winced. "You need to talk about this with someone and since you refuse to talk to Ron or your parents about it, you need to talk about this with someone else."
"I-I can't," Hermione begged into the phone. "I can't talk about it. Especially not on the phone or in front of Luna. Harry-"
"Then go to a therapist, but you can't avoid this forever. It's just going to keep haunting you until you confront it."
"I can't talk to a muggle about this, Harry. They'll try to get information about my attackers and- and-"
"Then find a wizard therapist. There's got to be at least one in all of the Americas and probably one within apparating range, too."
"I'm not crazy, Harry. I don't want to talk to a shrink who will try to practice some pseudo-magic on me like horoscopes or crystal balls or force me to take several pills a day. I'm fine! Not crazy!" A passer by gave her a funny look and Hermione muttered quieter, "I'm not crazy."
"Hermione, I know you don't like this idea and you'll be able to find a thousand reasons not to, but you can just say no if you don't like them. Just give it a chance, please."
"Look, if nothing else, just do it for my peace of mind. You don't have to do anything other than make an appointment and go into the office. That's it. Please," Harry was begging and Hermione felt awful now for piling all her problems on him.
"Yeah, sorry Harry. I can do that. I'll do it tonight."
"Good girl," Harry's voice was considerably less tense.
"Um… anyway," Hermione wiped her eyes. "How are things with you and Ginny?"
Silence reigned on the other side of the phone.
"Er, Harry? Did I say something wrong?"
"Uh… no, nothing's wrong. It's just… I'm a little worried about something. Oh, that's Ginny at the floo. I'll talk to you about it later, okay?"
"Sure, Harry. Whenever you need to, just let me know. I'll talk to you guys on Sunday."
"Okay, sure that's good. Thanks. And Hermione? Find a therapist, okay?"
"Yes, Harry," Hermione made a face at the phone. They said their goodbyes and after she hung up Hermione mentally calculated how much she had just spent on the phone call. She winced. "That is where having mental breakdowns gets you," she muttered to herself.
Draco was distracted from his conversation with Shandra and John when Granger abruptly clonked her backpack on the desk she had been sitting at.
"Ah, well, this was good," she yammered as she hurriedly packed her bag. "Er.. see you guys tomorrow!" she yelled over her shoulder and she raced to get ahead of the other students. As she ran she somehow managed to slip out of her robes and pull on a muggle jacket and scarf. She was shoving the robe into her backpack as she disappeared out the door.
Her distracted behavior reminded him of the first day of class when she had brushed him off so coldly. Maybe, it wasn't just him? He got up and walked over to Daryn.
"Does she normally act like that?" Draco asked offhandedly.
"Hm?" Daryn looked up and raised his eyebrows.
"Granger, does she normally end conversations with a barely veiled desire to escape as fast as possible?"
"Well, I just met her today so I don't think I'm qualified to answer that," Daryn replied. "Why do you ask?"
Draco's mind stumbled for a fitting response. "I just remember her being a teacher's pet back at Hogwarts so it's a surprise to see her scrambling to get out of a classroom so quickly."
"Mmh… so you went to school with her?"
"We weren't on a first name basis, but it's not like here where everyone and their dog decides it's okay to call you by your first name." Draco huffed in irritation. It was still grating to have everybody calling him 'Draco.' It was like they were assuming they were good friends even though they had just barely met. When it first started he had been sorely tempted to avada someone, well, at least rant in his head about avada-ing someone.
"Well you would probably understand how she feels better than anyone here, right?"
Draco gave him a funny look. "Understand what?"
"Since you were in England when it happened," Daryn said in tone the implied he should know whatever he was blabbering on about.
Draco decided to just use a look that implied what he thought of Daryn's senseless chatter rather than attempt to actually try to respond to this idiocy.
Draco rolled his eyes, "Yes, Shandra?"
"We're going to go have lunch this weekend at the wizard cafe I was talking about. Care to join us?"
"Actually, I've got plans," Draco didn't care to elaborate.
"Aw, come on man," John coerced. "All four of us could go, it would be fun!"
Draco hesitated. He didn't actually look forward to spending most of the day by himself or wandering around pretending he wasn't alone.
"I really do have something around noon. It would have to be another time if I were to join you," he didn't want them to think he was actually interested in such silly things, so he left the inflection out of his voice.
Hermione still felt out of sorts even though Harry had helped her calm down quite a bit. She rummaged up her things from the payphone and decided to go for a nice walk first. It ended up being a rather long walk because the sky was beautiful and she got caught up in the bustle of the city, but by the end of it she was feeling refreshed and ready to hit the books for the rest of the day. She returned to the school to use their library as it was the most useful and comfortable spot. She had just gotten into the swing of studying when a voice drawled behind her.
"There's the Granger I know: nose always stuck in her book."
Hermione didn't bothering looking up, "Sod off, Malfoy."
"What happened earlier?" he continued as if she hadn't said anything, "Weaselbee and Pothead have a crisis?"
Hermione debated casting a 'silencio' but assumed that it would quickly escalate into a full scale wand duel and she would lose her dear studying oasis. She compromised with a 'muffliato' directed at herself and happily settled back into reading. It didn't take long before he was waving his hands in front of her. Irritated she cast a 'finite' and turned on him.
"What do you want?" she bit out.
"Did you cast that muffliato at yourself?"
"Yes, Malfoy, congratulations! Now say whatever it is you are so desperate to tell me and then leave. Me. Alone. Some people actually use the library to study," she hissed.
"You wound me, Granger," he mockingly put his hand against his chest.
She rolled her eyes and waited.
He paused and stared into her eyes with what seemed like a sincere expression. "Granger, being a muggleborn, you know what these muggle professions like doctor, dentist, and uh… therapist mean?"
Hermione sighed irritably. "They all have definitions in the back of our Wizarding and Muggle Professions book. They're for this exact purpose and all are written out clearly so your kind can understand it," she didn't bother controlling her sarcasm.
"What's stuck up your-"
"Shut it, Malfoy."
"I thought the little know-it-all liked helping people study?"
"Go read your book, Malfoy." She turned back to her own reading and recast the 'muffliato' spell. She finished her study session without any further interruptions except the librarian when he shook her shoulder to tell her the school was closing.
A/N: I had a rough time with this and the next chapter. Many thanks to my beta who patiently stuck with me through it and gave me lots of advice. We finally made it!
And... Draco appeared earlier than I expected. Happy Birthday? Hope you guys enjoy the chapter!
As always, I would love to hear what you guys think: like or dislike. Many thanks! Especially to my consistent reviewers *hugs*
Chapter 9: Hermione travels to Wizarding NYC
The following day was Friday and she spent a good deal of her breaks absently debating on how to follow Harry's advice. There wasn't really a wizarding yellow pages, at least that she knew of, so she had to figure out a different discrete way of finding a wizard therapist. Maybe she could ask a professor under the guise of professional curiosity? She'd rather not have anyone know about her trying to find a therapist, but, since it was still early in her scholastic career here, Hermione figured that the incident would be quickly forgotten. When nothing better came to her the remainder of the day, Hermione resolved to ask her Professor after classes.
Once they ended Hermione distractedly packed her things, rehearsing the white lies she would feed her professor.
"Oh, Hermione, I just remembered something," John said as he finished packing his own things.
"Shandra found a cool cafe we're going to check out. Want to come?"
"Erm, Shandra and you?"
"No, it's our whole lab group. We had to move it to two o'clock because Draco already had plans at noon. Probably some hot chick."
"Hmm," Hermione replied noncommittally.
"Don't worry, I can totally be your wingman if you are interested in him. I'm pretty good."
"Malfoy?" Hermione gagged. "That foul little- ...I mean. He appeals to me about as much as a ferret shedding in my soup. That," Hermione shivered involuntarily. "Please don't disturb me by ever mentioning that ever again."
"Ooookay, no worries. I guess he just isn't your cup of tea?" John grinned expectantly. Hermione figured he might have made a joke and smiled obligingly.
"Well, we'll be at the Tuneful Brew in wizarding New York," John replied as he started down the aisle. "See you there!" he waved and then headed for the door.
"Er…" Hermione's protest was left on her tongue. She sighed and thought, things couldn't go too badly, right? Shouldering her bag, she continued to the professor's offices, figuring Professor Nightingale was her best bet.
Professor Nightingale was the older man who had led the students to the lecture hall the first day. In class he seemed interested in helping his students beyond just the grades and curriculum of the classroom. Arriving, she knocked on his door.
He opened his door and peered down his glasses at her.
"Professor, I'm Hermione Granger. I'm taking your Collaboration with Wizarding and Muggle Health Professionals class."
"Ah, come in dear, did you have a question?" the older man left the door cracked and ambled back to his desk.
"Yes, I was really fascinated by your lecture yesterday about how many different branches there were in the wizard medical field. I was wondering if you had a list of all the different wizard health professionals in the area? Being muggle-born, I haven't had too much experience with these things and would like to go visit them over the weekend."
"Oh," the professor seemed pleased and Hermione started to feel guilty. She really was going to visit some of the list, she reasoned with herself. "Just a moment, I can make a list for you of the ones I know."
"Thank you very much, professor," she said primly.
Hermione waited as the professor scratched out a list on a piece of scroll. When he was finished, he handed it to her saying, "Some of these have decided to work in the muggle world, but they do wizarding work on the side. Normally on the weekends so you're in luck. I left the information you need to access their wizarding services."
"Thank you again, professor," she said sincerely. "You have been a great help."
"Yes, have a good weekend, dear," he called as she left his office.
She waved goodbye and walked back down the hall, figuring she could get a few hours of studying in before she had dinner with Luna.
After some light studying Saturday morning, she plotted out her path for the rest of the day on a map of New York so she could efficiently visit the majority of the relevant names on the Professor's list. She was actually surprised by how many names the professor had listed under 'counseling.' Grabbing some breakfast, she left the house to walk to her first destination. There was a slight drizzle but the sky was still a clear blue. She was working up to a pretty good mood until she saw her destination. She stopped short.
"That can't be right," she muttered to herself and double checked her map.
Faded and tasseled curtains covered the windows, a hand-printed sign rested outside with a large hand drawn in the middle, and the words 'Psychic and Tarot Reader' glowed faintly in neon lettering from the window. She paused and rubbed her head gently. Maybe it's just a front, she reasoned with herself, just hiding in plain sight. Taking a deep breath as she shouldered her bag, she opened the door and pushed aside the heavy velvet curtain covering the door.
The room was dark and Hermione waited for her eyes to readjust. "Hello?" she called.
"Welcome, my child," a voice floated from the back.
A woman swept out and turned on a lamp with a stained-glass cover. By it's tinted light Hermione determined that the woman was probably wearing dress robes in some jewel tone.
"I'm your psychic, Serena." Hermione groaned in her head, laying it on a bit thick wasn't she?
"Er…" Hermione thought back to the password that the professor gave her. "I seek, er, 'praecantatio' of the counseling variety?"
"Ah, a witch is it?" the woman gestured towards the two seats around a circular table. "Sit down, I'll make some tea and we can talk."
"Erm, I know this will be a bit uncouth, but how much are your counseling sessions?"
"Oh, I charge two sickles a minute, I assure you its a very competitive price," the woman said as disappeared into the back again.
The pricing method seemed a little odd, but she hadn't done this sort of thing before, she reasoned again. Hermione did some quick mental calculations and winced when she realized it was nearly eighteen pounds for half an hour. To make sure she kept it short, she set a fifteen minute timer on her watch and took a seat.
Serena returned with two cups of tea on saucers and placed one in front of Hermione. Serena sat across from her and then waited, glancing down at the tea cup. She supposed that Serena was waiting for her to drink the tea. She hesitantly lifted it to her lips and inhaled it's steam. She couldn't detect anything malicious or any flavors strong enough to mask them. She decided it was probably fine to drink. It was surprisingly pleasant.
"That's rather good," she said for the woman's benefit. Seemingly satisfied, the woman nodded and settled in.
"Now, what's the nature of your problem, child?"
"Er… I'm from England and was part of the… war," she took a nervous sip.
"Well, I've had trouble with dreams and remembering things at bad times. I think I've got PTSD or maybe some sort of anxiety problem?" Hermione offered, a little rushed. Those were her best guesses from the research she had done.
"Tell me about these dreams," Serena prompted and sipped her tea again.
Almost automatically, Hermione followed suit. "Er, they're mostly flashbacks to what happened back then. Though sometimes my brain spits out the craziest dreams-"
"Do you remember them?"
Hermione hesitated, a familiar nagging about this whole situation. She swallowed more tea as she considered. You promised Harry, part of her whispered, he said you'd try to find ways to get out of this. She sighed and continued, "Well, the setting changes but a lot of the time its in Hogwarts and someone's chasing me and just as I get onto one of the moving staircases it will just disappear underneath me and as I start to fall I wake up. Just normal nightmares, really."
"Hm… do you remember any more details from these dreams?"
"I don't see why it matters," Hermione muttered into her tea cup. "I'm not really bothered by those dreams as much as everything else." She noticed that all that was left were the dregs, so she put her cup down.
"These things will help me get a better reading."
"Reading?" Hermione asked incredulously, the warning bells now very clear in her head. "But I thought-"
"I see you're done with your tea." The woman reached out and took Hermione's cup from in front of her.
"Er, this is a counseling session, right? Not divination. I didn't come for a psychic reading."
The woman was looking intently at the dregs of her tea cup.
"Hmm… I see a snake or perhaps a circle? No… a circle around the snake. Do you see it, child?" Serena held them the cup out to Hermione.
Hermione reflexively jerked backwards bringing up her hand to push away whatever the woman was trying to show her. "I have no interest in that rubbish!" She exclaimed angrily. When her hand hit the tea cup, it tilted and spilled it's dregs down her shirt. Immediately afterwards, her watch timer started beeping incessantly.
"Oh dear, let me get a rag for that, child."
Hermione roughly turned off her watch. "Honestly, stop calling me that, I'm not a child!" she muttered angrily at the retreating figure. Is she really a witch, she thought, I can just magic it off. She directed her wand to her shirt. "Tergeo!" Nothing happened. "Scourgify! Evanesco! Purgo!" The stain remained.
"Oh, child, that won't work. I bought this specific tea because it is immune to most enchantments. It makes my readings more accurate and less likely to be tampered with."
Hermione snorted incredulously but still expressed her gratitude when Serena gave her the wet rag. Hermione carefully dabbed up most of it, but there was still a light reddish-brown stain running down her front. She felt any semblance of a good mood draining out of her.
"So, thirty sickles." She stated, rather than asked. She fished a galleon and thirteen sickles out of her purse and dumped them onto the witch's table.
"You don't want to hear your reading?"
"I came here for counseling, not that imprecise magic you call divination," Hermione bit out.
"The fates can bring guidance to those lost to their own course," Serena said very sincerely.
Hermione barely forced a smile and turned to leave. As her hand pushed aside the curtain, the woman called, "You seek to use your pride to hide from what haunts you but, you must face it in order to find the love you're destined for."
"Yeah, thanks," Hermione said sarcastically and rushed back onto the New York streets. She paused and blinked into the bright sky, suddenly surrounded by people again. She shook her head clear of the nonsense that the psychic had spouted, readjusted her book-bag, and started out for the next 'counselor.' It turned out that the next few on her listed all ended up located in psychic shops. With no desire to have a repeat of the first shop's antics, Hermione didn't even breach their doorsteps. Finally, all that were left were the hospital and a therapist's office only available on weekends.
Hermione checked her watch. Thirty minutes until two. It would be nice to take a break at the Tuneful Brew, maybe even get some reading in before everyone showed up. That settled it for her, and she found a subway entrance and descended into the bustle of a New York subway station. When a train pulled up she followed the other passengers into it and quickly claimed a corner. She pressed her back to the wall and watched the myriad of muggles (and probably non-muggles) who were all heading in the same direction as her for one reason or another.
She got off in an area little less crowded than the previous streets which made it feel like she wasn't in such a huge city anymore. The entrance to wizarding New York was a park tucked snugly between two buildings. It wasn't really a park by most standards, though, because it only housed a bunch of trees in planters stuck every few feet into the cement. Muggles sat on patio chairs clustered around the patches of sunlight streaming between the tree branches, but Hermione made her way towards the waterfall located at the far end of the park. Once there, she discreetly stepped behind one of the ivy walls that lined the park and inched along the slick stone towards the back of the waterfall. The water droplets splashed and drenched her back as she made her way towards the colored mosaic located behind the rushing water. When she was in reach, she quickly tapped the required tiles with her wand and the wall slid away noiselessly to allow her into the wizarding side of New York.
As the wall closed behind her, Hermione cast a hot-air charm on her clothes and hair before starting down the cobblestone street.
The second part of the rather challenging chapters yay!
Also, I'm one of the mods at hpwordsprints on twitter if you want to join me for some friendly competition during NaNoWriMo!
Chapter 10: The Tuneful Brew
Hermione started to pull out her robes so she could hide her stained shirt, but was interrupted by a voice.
"Well, what do we have here?"
Her hand paused in her purse at the all too familiar tone. She directed a baleful glare at the blonde man who had spoken. He was wearing a casual robe, his usual sleek appearance more ruffled, but his smirk bordered on a smile. Seeing him in such a pleasant mood irked her.
"What do you think?" she asked sharply before she continued walking. Hermione heard Malfoy start to follow her.
"Actually I was thinking-"
"That was rhetorical, Malfoy."
There was a pause, and then Malfoy spoke up again, "Granger, do the-"
"I said-" Hermione interrupted.
"-agree with you?"
Hermione paused and glanced back at Malfoy, a few steps behind her.
"Did you always have this cheery disposition or shall we blame the Yankees?" he rephrased and really smirked this time. Hermione knew he was mocking her but couldn't pin down why she was so irritated.
"I'm going to blame you," she said petulantly.
He glanced off over her shoulder and tilted his head as if thinking. "I can't see why... I'll stick with the Yank theory."
Hermione rolled her eyes and started down the road again. Malfoy continued to follow her. She waited for several seconds to see if he would leave; however, each step with Malfoy behind her back made her clench her teeth and hands harder.
"Malfoy, stop following me."
"Hmf, I'm not following you. You're the one in the way of where I want to go," he still managed to say it arrogantly despite its ridiculousness.
"Clever," Hermione responded sarcastically and tried very hard to ignore him again. They continued to walk down the streets of wizarding New York. The passing shops had a very distinct Victorian influence and looked newer than London's.
Eventually, Malfoy spoke up again. "Granger, where are you going? The Tuneful Brew?" he guessed as it came into view.
"What's it to you?" she said without turning around.
"How silly of me not to guess the great Hermione Granger would be early even to a lunch date."
"I actually came early for a break by myself, alone, before everyone else showed up."
"You should rethink that and spend it lion-taming instead."
"Excuse me?" she rounded on him.
Malfoy merely pointed his long finger lazily at her hair. She reached up to touch a much puffier mess than she had had that morning. She groaned as she remembered the hot-air spell.
"And I know you're a muggle-lover, but it's taking it too far if you won't even use a charm on that." His finger trailed down to point at her blouse. She had never gotten her robes on to cover the stain because she had been interrupted by a certain blonde git.
"Honestly, take a little pride in your appearance. I'll show you a spell-"
Her wand was out and at his throat before she had thought about it.
"Don't you even think about pointing a wand at me, Draco Malfoy." He swallowed visibly. "And don't you dare insult my appearance ever again. I'm sick of having those petty and childish taunts thrown at me. You understand?" Hermione could feel the sparks of magic dancing along her fly-away strands of hair.
"I get it, Granger. Now remove your wand before I feel the need to retaliate." Hermione hadn't realized how friendly his voice had been until that tone disappeared. Malfoy stared down at her, his lips a thin line.
She huffed angrily and removed her wand. "As long as we understand each other," she gritted out. After a good glare to make sure he didn't do anything else stupid, she disappeared into the cafe to follow his advice, however loathe she was to admit it.
There went her precious time with her book.
Hermione assessed the damage in the mirror and concluded it wasn't salvageable with magic. She dampened her hair and cast a spell to pull it into a tight plait. As it didn't interfere with the nature of her hair, she hadn't had a problem with that spell. She rummaged around in her purse in hopes of finding a random shirt. Eventually she pulled out the Holyhead Harpies jersey that Ginny had given her shortly after she had joined the team. Hermione pulled it on. It was rather baggy and the colors were a bit gaudy, but it would work. She banished her stained shirt to what she hoped was the dirty laundry in her apartment. Fixed in under five minutes. She nodded proudly at her appearance and her stomach grumbled in reply. Food and book, here she came. She pulled her robes on and went to hunt down the cash-register.
"Hey! Hermione!" John half yelled from the cafe door.
Hermione, still caught in her book, glanced up and gave him a half smile.
"You look really different from school." Hermione assumed he meant her hair pulled back and the casual attire. "I didn't recognize you- Draco had to point you out to me."
"Oh," Hermione didn't really have anything to say. She marked her place and slipped the book into her purse.
"In fact, he seemed like he knew exactly where you were. Are you sure there weren't any not-so-chance meetings-?"
"Are you trying to make me gag or do you really not see that we hate each other?" she asked, her patience spent for the day.
"Um…" John paused a few seconds before he clapped her on the back. "I'm joking. Of course, I'm joking." He turned back towards the cafe, "Hey guys, I found her!"
From the cafe door spilled the rest of their school group. Shandra had opted for a much more muggle wardrobe with several beaded necklaces and a peasant top but the blokes didn't look any different than normal.
"Sit down, everyone! Looks like Hermione already got her lunch!"
They pushed together two of the patio tables and everyone settled down around them. Everyone arranged their food across the tables and began to eat. Pleasant chatter of several conversations weaved in and out of each other; Hermione closed her eyes and let them flow around her, content to enjoy her food silently.
"Hey, Hermione, you didn't grab a drink. Don't you like tea? Their iced tea is amazing," John said as the conversation lulled. "Isn't it, Shandra? She got some sort of fruit tea."
Shandra made an agreeing noise but didn't attempt to continue the conversation.
John seemed to actually expect an answer from her, so Hermione replied dryly, "I've had enough of tea for one day. I've got some water in my bag, thanks. Anyways," Hermione continued on in an attempt to escape anymore of John's awkward conversational attempts. "Daryn, were you guys talking about the music here?"
"Yes, well, we were talking about the gig my band has."
"What type of music do you play?"
"We've been described as similar to The Rhythmic Runes… or the Dave Matthews Band if you listen to muggle music."
"I think I've heard of them," confirmed Hermione, vaguely recalling the name.
"Oh, I really like that band! It's nice that wizards are drawing from modern music," Shandra joined. "I can't wait to hear you live!"
"Yeah, it's just some of my high school band friends," Daryn said modestly.
"Hey, we could all go together!" John joined in. "When are you playing?"
"We're playing at the bar down the street tonight."
"Sounds sweet, bro. What do you think, Draco?" John swung his arm around Draco.
Malfoy shrugged it off. "I don't go to pubs."
"I'm sure it's a nice place if Daryn is playing there," Shandra joined in.
"I don't care how nice it is, I'm not going," Malfoy said flatly. Shandra and John shared a look and John shrugged behind Malfoy's back.
"Is anyone else playing at the bar?" John continued on brazenly, despite the sinking mood.
"There's an older group who play some wizarding classics like 'Magic Works' and 'A Cauldron Full of Hot, Strong Love.'"
"Oh, gag!" Shandra exclaimed. "Those songs are horrible! We'll have to make sure to escape before they start. How can a decent place still play that stuff? Civilized witches and wizards don't like that outdated pureblood crap!"
"Would you stop insulting purebloods?" Hermione almost hissed when Shandra finished.
Shandra scoffed. "You're the last person I would expect saying things like that. Besides, everyone thinks like that. Purebloods are awful for what they did."
"Stop talking about things you don't understand!" Hermione said angrily. "Some of my best friends were purebloods and fought for the Light! During the- they were... some were ki-kil- ...and the others- they-" she sputtered. Flashes of that night came unbidden to her. She gritted her teeth as she started to cry and rushed on quickly, "If you assume all of them were the same just because of blood you are exactly like those purebloods you always insult!" She stood up quickly, her chair clattering to the ground. Hermione barely registered Shandra's mouth hanging slightly open. She had to get away until the memories stopped. She rushed towards the gate that lead out to the main street in wizarding New York.
"Hermione!" Daryn called when he caught up to her. "Hermione, are you okay?"
"I just- too many things today. S-sorry," instead of looking at him, she hunted for a tissue in her bag, hoping he would just leave.
"Is talking about the War still hard?"
What an understatement, Hermione thought, but she only nodded. She gave up fishing in her bag and wiped her eyes with the heel of her hand.
Daryn patted her back with his hand a little awkwardly. That just set her off again, tears spilled down her face and snot running out of her nose. She sniffed and rubbed it with the back of her hand, acutely embarrassed.
"Um…" Daryn summoned a tissue. "Here."
"Thanks," she half-sobbed, desperate to get control of herself again.
"Listen, if you ever need to talk."
She knew he was being sincere, but how could she take up an offer from a young man she had barely met.
"Thanks, Williams. I'll let you know if I feel up to it."
"Oh, sorry, Daryn."
"Old habits die hard? Draco was grumbling about that the other day."
"About old habits?" Hermione asked, wondering about what sort of old habits Malfoy would complain about. Surely he didn't just talk about his old Death Eater ways to blokes off the street?
"No, the last name versus first name thing."
"Listen, about Shandra…"
"Tell her I'm sorry I snapped."
"She's just voicing a pretty prevalent viewpoint of the war from this side of the Atlantic. Don't be too hard on her. Most people are ignorant, but she's also clung onto it to help her cope."
"Sorry… I should probably let her tell you about that."
"Erm… okay. Good luck at your gig tonight, I'll try to make it to your next one but-"
"I understand. Hope you feel better, Hermione."
Hermione nodded awkwardly and they parted ways.
A/N: Another chapter!
Thank you again for the reviews! I really love you guys for your support so far! I'd love to know what you thought of the chapter! Have a lovely weekend :)
Chapter 11: In which a phone is used to argue
Sunday Harry called again. Hermione started to beckon Luna over to the phone, but paused when Harry asked for a private word. Hermione quickly held up her hand instead and mouthed 'wait a minute' away from the receiver. Luna nodded and sat back down to work on the scroll she had been writing on.
"What is it, Harry?" Hermione asked.
"Do you what Ginny's life goals are?"
"Erm… other than Quidditch? No, it's not something we normally include in our 'girl talk.'"
"Oh… well, do you know if she wants to do anything before she settles down?"
"You want to know if she wants to travel?" Hermione guessed, but Harry sighed frustratedly. "What are you trying to get at," Hermione finally huffed.
"You know, does she..."
"Does she what?" Hermione prompted as the silence lengthened.
"There's my girl!" it sounded like Harry's mouth was away from the phone. Hermione heard him put down the phone and Ron's irritated voice in the background. A moment later Harry was back on the phone, "speakerphone is on!"
"Hermione, tell Harry that he needs to stop with the PDA!" Ron jumped in right away.
"Ron, Harry's house is not public; therefore, it is not a 'Public Display of Affection,'" Hermione replied patiently.
"Fine, tell him that snogging my little sister is disgusting and he has to wait until she's older."
"Not that again, Ronald," Ginny cut in. "I'm twenty one! It's none of your business what we do!"
"Yeah, but just barely," Ron grumbled.
Everyone's voices were short and snippy and Hermione figured this had become a near constant argument amongst them when they met up.
"Besides, Ron," Harry joined. "You didn't seem to be bothered when you snogged Hermione. She was only eighteen then, right?"
Hermione silently groaned, Harry had encroached on the 'forbidden subject.' Ron sputtered.
"Harry!" Ginny whispered indignantly.
"Look where that got me!" Ron answered angrily. "She's on the other side of the planet now."
Hermione stayed silent as her mind rushed for an answer. It wasn't like he was the only reason she had moved, but he had been a deciding factor. Everyone asking about her and Ron had really started to grate on her already thin nerves.
"I don't think that's why Hermione moved to America, right?" Harry asked.
"Erm... of course not!" Hermione tried to laugh.
"So, she still left me!"
Hermione winced. This was also a oft repeated conversation. Hermione never came out and said that she wanted to break up since they never officially 'got together.' However, it seemed that Ron thought they had.
"Well, Hermione?" Ron pressed. "Why did you ditch me?"
"I'm not 'ditching' you."
"No, you're just being a coward! You are running from us just like you've run away from anything that has to do with the war!" Ron sounded like he was working himself up to being furious.
"Ron, go cool off in the kitchen!" Ginny had decided to interrupt their 'lover's spat.' There was a small scuffle and then Ginny continued, falsely cheery, "he's gone!"
"I'm sorry," Hermione continued desperately. She silently begging her friends to forgive her, worried they hated her for how she treated Ron.
"Hermione," Harry started and paused. "If you had to break it off, it was better you did it earlier." Harry's statement left an unsaid 'but' hanging in the air.
"So, what are you planning on doing for your birthday?" Ginny broke in, pouring the cheeriness on strong.
"What?" Hermione asked, caught off guard.
"It's only two weeks away, what are you going to do? Who are you going out with?"
"Erm… Luna, I guess, if she isn't busy?" Hermione started when she realized Luna was still working on her scroll. "Luna!" Luna looked up with a sedated smile, ink spread across her lower lip where she had tapped it with her quill. "Please, come join us!" As Luna got up, Hermione explained, "we were talking about my birthday, are you free on the nineteenth?"
"For your birthday?" Luna asked. "That's next Thursday, isn't it?"
"You've been keeping track?" Hermione asked, surprised.
"Of course! That's what a friend does, isn't it? Keep track of important information about someone?"
"Or a stalker," Ginny muttered, barely audible.
"Ginny!" Hermione scolded, but continued, "Thank you, Luna!" She gave into the impulse to give Luna a quick embrace.
"Oh!" Luna said, and delicately patted Hermione on the back.
"So," Ginny prompted. "What are you going to do? You can't hide at home with a book now that I'm not there to take you out!"
"There is a full moon that weekend," Luna explained. "I thought we could go stargazing that night and watch as the mooncalves come out, and maybe collect their feces."
Hermione was too busy being touched that Luna had thought about her to debate the attractions of mooncalf feces.
Ginny was not in similar awe. "Have you made any friends at school, Hermione?"
"Kind of?" Hermione hedged.
"You could do something with them too, right?"
"Okay, Hermione, out with it, what's the problem?"
"Well, the friends I have made are in my lab group."
"Well, if I invited some of them, it would probably be uncouth to not invite all of them."
"I don't see the problem. The more the merrier!"
"Draco Malfoy is in my lab group."
"Dragon bogeys!" Harry and Ginny exclaimed their disbelief almost simultaneously.
"What? What did I miss?" came Ron's voice in the background, suspiciously sounding like he was talking around food.
"How is Draco Malfoy going to your school?" Harry cried.
"That bastard!" Ron joined and Hermione could determine that his mouth was indeed full of something. "Why he'd come out of hiding there… or at all?"
"How did he manage to go to the exact school as you, Hermione?" Ginny asked.
Hermione shrugged, she had asked herself the same question. "The school is the most prestigious in the Eastern United States. It figures that Malfoy would want to go a prestigious university, right?"
"Of all the rotten luck," Ginny commiserated.
"Do they know who he is? You should get him kicked out!" Ron added.
"He's put on this 'reformed' act," Hermione sighed. "He told the teacher the he's 'changed' and that he's sorry for what he did."
"Maybe he is sorry," Luna joined in.
"Rubbish!" Ron exclaimed angrily.
"How is he treating you, Hermione?" Harry cut in.
"He's always throwing around childish insults but he hasn't called me a mudblood," Hermione replied. "I think he's scared of how people will see him. There's this weird prejudice against purebloods over here. They assume all purebloods acted and believed like the Death Eaters."
"That's backward," Harry commented. "Just look at the Weasley family."
"That's what I told them!" Hermione joined heatedly.
"Keep an eye on him, Hermione, he's still Malfoy," Harry said in a worried tone. "Has he done anything suspicious?"
"No… he seems almost civil?" Hermione mused. "I'll let you guys know if he does, though."
"Civil? Malfoy?" Ron snorted.
"Yeah, I know. That's why it seems suspicious."
"Keep us updated, okay Hermione?" Harry said.
With that, they said their goodbyes. Hermione hung up the phone and realized Harry hadn't finished their initial conversation or anything else, for that matter. She decided that she rather leave it at that, though. Everyone had forgotten their annoyances with her once Malfoy had been brought up and she wanted it to stay that way. He's actually good for something, she thought, amused.
"We didn't talk about you, Luna," Hermione continued as the thought occurred to her. "How is it going with your work and your boss?" She remembered the question from the other day. "You said your boss was acting weird?"
"Yes, that…" Luna acknowledged. "He'll be talking and then trail off and stare at me. He jumped when our hands accidentally touched and was very adamant that someone else join us when we observed Diriclaw under the Brooklyn bridge the other night."
Hermione's eyebrows raised, "He sounds very gentlemanly."
"He is very traditional in his dress and customs. There are some who are very rude to him because he holds on to the old ways."
"That's horrible," Hermione sympathized.
"Yes, he doesn't let it bother him, though."
"So, maybe you could invite him when we go mooncalf watching? I'd like to meet him."
"I'll see if he is available," Luna acquiesced. "I'll see if your friends are available on your birthday and we celebrate with them as well."
"Oh, you don't have to do that, Luna!" Hermione wondered if Luna had somehow missed the Draco Malfoy fiasco that had just occurred on the phone.
"But don't you like celebrating your birthday with your friends?" Luna asked.
"Er… yes, but Luna…"
"Don't worry," Luna said in her soft, airy voice. "Do you plan on getting the day off?"
"No, there will be plenty of time after school if we do something."
"Speaking of which, what are you doing on Wednesday?"
"Yes, it's September 11th."
Hermione felt the pit of her stomach drop. She had forgotten. She had seen it on the television and felt that horror that radiated from the people of New York, but she had soon been caught up again in her own life and it's troubles. Now she was in New York, the place where it happened, only a year afterwards and all the memories from that day rushed in again. She shrugged helplessly.
"I hadn't thought about it, I probably still have school."
"Tell me once you know."
Hermione nodded as Luna wandered off into her room.
A/N: Hey guys! I probably sound like a broken record but thank you so much for the reviews and to my patient beta! It really means a lot. I'm a novice writer so feedback about everything, even or esp. critical, is much appreciated because I want to become better! Also, knowing which parts you like helps me decide what I will write about in future chapters ;) No Draco in this or the next chapter, but he's at least mentioned in this one?
Again, thank you my lovely readers and have a great week
Chapter 12: September Eleventh
At school on Tuesday, the Professors announced that there would be no school the following day, both in memoriam for those who were murdered that day and because there would be a large influx of muggles in New York City. Hermione glanced over the student body as they murmured to each other. There were quite a few who had arms around each other or a hand over their mouth. She turned to Daryn who was sitting next to her that day. He was watching the other students as well.
"What are you going to do tomorrow?" She asked, remembering Luna's question.
"My sister and I are going to go down to Ground Zero to watch part of the ceremony," he looked at her and continued. "Would you like to join us?"
Relieved, she quickly responded in the affirmative. Hermione didn't really want to try to navigate New York City while it was so crowded. "Could my roommate, Luna, join us too?"
"Of course. I'd like to meet one of your friends. In fact, could we floo to your place? Then we could just take public transportation down."
Hermione agreed gladly and they shared information so Daryn could access their fireplace. Hermione promised to drop her wards before eight tomorrow, which was when they decided to meet.
"But, do you think there will be another terrorist attack?" Hermione asked.
"The city has been preparing for this, the security will be very tight tomorrow," Daryn replied. "I pray there won't be."
Hermione nodded hesitantly.
That morning she woke up early and knew that she wasn't going to fall back asleep. Hermione decided to make it a slow morning and prepared some tea and toast while she studied spells for her Diagnostic and Healing Charms Class. She was eating her second piece of toast when Luna appeared from her room.
"Morning," Luna greeted before making her way over to the television. She carefully placed two boom boxes and their cords in a circle around the telly. She then threaded a keyboard's cord through the other cords to make a continuous plait, resting the keyboard itself haphazardly against one of the boom boxes. Hermione watched the proceedings over her cup of tea, debating whether she felt up to asking what Luna was up to. Seemingly satisfied, Luna turned the telly on. She executed poses similar to a modern dancer each time she flipped through the channels. Hermione just watched with resigned amusement and continued to eat her toast until Luna found a news station and stopped at that channel.
They were replaying footage from last year. Hermione immediately lost her appetite. They had turned it on just in time to see the plane speed up and crash into the second tower. Someone was screaming expletives, the camera swinging wildly as they ran, catching occasional glimpses of the sky full of fire and smoke. From another angle, she watched as the first tower collapsed in on itself, crushing the thousands of occupants trapped on its floors. The cloud of smoke and ash bore down with terrifying speed, the people on the streets trying to outrace it as they searched for shelter. A man forcibly dragged a woman away who was sobbing about her daughter as the ash filled the rest of the screen behind them. Hermione cupped her mouth with her hands, eyes still transfixed on the television, and swayed in her seat. Someone was groaning off camera, expressing their shock over and over.
Hermione couldn't decide whether she wanted to beg Luna to turn it off or to just let it play. She focused on keeping her breathing even but was distracted by a rattling sound. Looking down, she saw it was the tea cup she was holding rapidly hitting her plate. She put the cup down and placed both of her trembling hands into her lap. Her breathing was getting worse. She gasped quietly, trying to block out the sudden onslaught of her own memories. Dementors filling the skies with their dark ghostly tails. The death eaters closing in. Her own terror choking her throat.
Something slightly cold touched her hand. Hermione looked up. It was Luna's hand, her wrist covered in cold metal bangles.
"Wrackspurts?" Luna asked.
"Er... not quite," Hermione answered, clearing her throat, and tried to get air back into lungs. She felt Luna's hand tighten lightly around her hand and she gripped Luna's hand back. Then Hermione saw the time and the moment was broken. She quickly released Luna's hand, "Luna, Daryn is going to be here in less than fifteen minutes!" Hermione scrambled to lower the wards before sprinting off to her own bedroom.
When she resurfaced Luna was on the sofa again but Daryn and a young girl had joined her. The girl's mouth was slightly open and she followed Luna's movements with fascination. Hermione looked back at Luna, who was wearing a red and white striped shirt, a jean cut off jacket with an American flag stitched onto it, a patchwork skirt of dozens of different star patterns and streams of red, white and blue Mardi Gras necklaces everywhere she could find to hang them. Tiny American flags were tangled into Luna's hair as well as what looked like tinsel.
Luna was talking about boom boxes and Fulmentrice pixies and Daryn was nodding with a faint flummoxed expression fighting to take over his polite smile. Hermione supposed she might have forgotten over the five years that she had known Luna how overwhelming it could be when one first met her.
"...and so the Fulmentrice pixies are distracted by the interwoven e-lick-trick-see-tea... oh and Hermione is finished changing," Luna finished breezily.
"Hermione!" Daryn said, looking up at her. "This is my little sister, Jordan." He gestured to the girl sitting next to him. She couldn't have been more than ten. The girl was dressed with American patriotism like Luna but much more conservatively. An American flag bandana was wrapped around her head and her hair was braided with plastic red, white and blue beads at the tips.
Hermione bent down with a smile and reached her hand out towards the little girl. "Hi Jordan, my name is Hermione."
The girl reached her hand out and grasped Hermione's, giving her a small shy smile back. Luna made her way over to the kitchen.
"I made some lunch for us because I didn't know how long we'd be out," Luna said as she pulled out a colorful bag from the fridge.
"What did you make?" Hermione asked, comprehensive.
"A typical American lunch- PB and J's, fruit juice and a snack."
Luna held up a bag of corn nuts. Hermione suspected it was one of the more bizarre flavors.
"I love corn nuts!" Jordan said. Looking at Jordan's grin, Hermione figured she could manage eating flavored fried corn for a day.
After repacking Luna's lunches, they left their apartment and took the subway as far as it went before the city had shut it down as a safety precaution. They were redirected to buses that would take them to the actual site. As they traveled, Hermione was struck by the sheer volume of American flags surrounding her.
Flags flew half-mast, tugging fitfully in the strong wind. Some people wore flags around their shoulders, and many more wore bandanas similar to Jordan's or t-shirts with flags on them, but the most common were the small flags being waved from small wood sticks. The closer they drew, the more frequent these displays of American patriotism became as well as the frequency of uniforms walking the streets. It also became more and more crowded. At first Daryn and Hermione had gripped tightly onto Jordan's hands to make sure she wasn't lost, but eventually Daryn pulled her up onto his shoulders. Jordan giggled and clung onto Daryn's forehead, her head turning rapidly to observe the crowd.
"Ow, watch the eyes, Jordan," he said lightly as her hands slipped over his face. "Can't get anywhere if you cover those."
Hermione felt her panic rise at being pressed up against so many other bodies. She reached out to find Luna's hand again. At her touch, Luna looked up and saw Hermione's expression. Luna pulled Hermione's hood as far over her face as possible.
"Luna?" Hermione asked.
"This always helped my second-cousin calm down if he couldn't stop crying when I babysat him."
Luna pulled out her wand, which she had disguised with a glittery silver star and tinsel streamers, and tapped Hermione on the forehead with it. Suddenly, it felt like she was underwater- both sound and light had been dampened. It was actually calming in her state and, despite the fact that this spell seemed to have been invented for an infant, she didn't break it with her own nonverbal 'finite' until she was sure the panic had completely subsided.
After a bit Jordan tugged on Daryn's ear. "Daryn, go over there!" She was pointing away from the crowd a little where there was a very small park. Daryn glanced back at Hermione and Luna, but Luna was already making her way over towards where Jordan had pointed. Hermione simply shrugged and followed suit. When she was closer, Hermione saw what had drawn Jordan's attention. Along the fence that enclosed the park, several people had set up artistic monuments in tribute. Daryn swung Jordan off of his shoulders and set her gently on the ground. Hermione caught herself admiring his strength to do that with ease with a ten year old and quickly stopped.
Jordan went up to admire the displays and Hermione followed. Hermione noticed that many photos had been attached onto the fence with flags and flowers woven through the cross-links surrounded them. One of the photos that had the words 'Missing' at the bottom and she realized that some of these people would never have anymore than the ash of the towers as the answer to whether their loved ones were dead. She thought of Lisa Turpin's family. They never had been able to find her body at Hogwarts. She wondered if the gut-wrenching hope that she might still be alive was a blessing or a curse. She had seen Turpin's family at the mass funeral service they had had. They had struggled between giving her a grave or not, reluctant to commit to something so final about her death. She was wondering about the man in the photo, a candid of a man smiling at a party, and if his own family went through the same thing when someone tugged at her shirt. Hermione wiped her eyes and bent down to listen to Jordan explain a piece of art to her. She glanced back to see Luna and Daryn conversing a little way back but turned her attention back to Jordan.
"This is what Uncle wore when he went to heaven with the towers," Jordan was pointing to a firefighter's hat.
"Uncle?" Hermione asked.
Jordan nodded and then leaned close, cupping her fingers around Hermione's ear, "Uncle's a muggle. Daryn says he is the bravest of muggles and wizards."
Hermione nodded and tried to smile. "I'm sure he was, darling."
They walked on to where a parade of fire trucks and uniformed men and women were walking down the cleared streets. The crowd held signs of gratitude and other officers saluted as the parade passed. Amongst the crowd there were some who held photographs or had them pinned onto their clothes. A visible sign of the loss they felt in their chests everyday. Hermione turned and buried her face into Luna's shoulder. Luna simply patted her back and said nothing, continuing to watch the solemn parade. They stayed and listened to some of the names of the victims being read at the site, but left for a nearby park once Jordan became too tired and hungry.
Later, in the evening, they attended a memorial service at a local church. They listened to the stories of survivors, bravery of the firefighters and civilians in the buildings and planes and from family members left behind. Afterwards, Hermione joined the group as they lit candles and placed small objects and flowers around photos as makeshift shrines for their loved ones. A woman sobbed openly over the photo of what Hermione assumed was her husband. Luna and Daryn were gone and, in their absence, she was able to drop the need to be the strong Hermione Granger, war hero. Instead of fighting the terror and sadness that seeped into her conscious when her control slipped, she gave into it. It was ugly and loud but she let herself be justified in it. She cried for these people she had never met and she cried for Ron and the Weasleys, for George whose life literally was cut in half, for Teddy Lupin who would never know his parents. She let herself cry for herself. For the pain of betraying her parents, of being hurt over and over again, for losing her trust in the world being a good place. She stopped telling herself how much worse off everyone else was and just let herself feel the pain that she had tried to suffocate. Gradually her sobs decreased and she realized a hand was on her shoulder. It was the woman she had been watching earlier.
"They are in God's hands now." The candle the woman held threw flickering light across the woman's face so that Hermione could see a reassuring smile framed by tears.
Hermione tried to smile back, but she felt it stretch brokenly across her face, tears slipping over her lips into her mouth. They sat beside each other, the woman's arm wrapped around Hermione's back, until a bell called them back for a final prayer.
A/N: You guys are amazing. Thank you so much for the new reviews! *hugs* Fleurdelys21's advice really helped me out this time so hats off to her too of course.
Chapter 13: In which there are potion problems
She woke to her curtains on fire and her wand gone. Lavender and Parvati were screaming and when Hermione moved to the door she saw it was on fire as well. She went to the window only to see she was hundreds of stories up. When she turned back around the Gryffindor tower had become a stairwell. Muggles were running past her but when she started to follow someone caught her by her hair. It was Malfoy. Fire still burned the door and Voldemort's face emerged from the flames, seemingly unscathed and alive. She tried to scream but nothing came and as she struggled it was now Bellatrix that held her down. Bellatrix laughed and threw a curse in her face.
Hermione dropped to the ground, blood pouring from her arm. She watched it run down the empty staircase into a pool of blood that surrounded Luna. Hermione tried to get up to go to her, but her muscles didn't work. She cried in frustration. Ron bent over Luna's lifeless form and then looked up angrily and yelled that she had let Luna die. She tried to tell him he was wrong but she still couldn't speak. Suddenly, there was a rumble that shook the stairwell, and the floor dropped beneath her.
She woke up as her body jerked in anticipation of falling. She was covered in a cold sweat, her blankets twisted around her feet but mostly shoved onto the floor. Her breath was still heavy and she was too alert and scared to lie back down. She shuddered at the empty room, wishing she had roommates like she did back in Hogwarts. She flicked on a light, but didn't feel brave enough to leave her bed yet. Groping around on her bed stand, Hermione found a book she had left from a few nights before. It seemed like her sleeping draught had worn off, but it was too late to take another dose so she resolved to read until she felt tired again.
The next time she looked at the clock it was almost five in the morning. She still didn't feel tired enough to fall back asleep. Sighing, she pulled out the vial of sleeping draught she kept by her bed. She figured that taking a draught this late was justified since she needed at least a few hours of sleep to function at school. Taking a dose that allowed her fifteen minutes to prep for school in the morning, she lay back down and waited for the potion to take effect. After ten minutes Hermione got up frustratedly and rummaged around in her potions box. Finding a vial of dreamless sleep, she tapped out a drop onto her finger and licked it. The effects were almost instantaneous. With great effort, she drunkenly placed the vial on the floor before collapsing onto the bedding spread on the floor.
Hermione's incessant alarm blurred in and out of her consciousness. Her body felt like it was full of lead, weighing her down to the floor. As well her head was aching, the effort to pull herself into wakefulness was physical pain to her mind. She searched blindly for her alarm but it wasn't within reach. Hermione slipped back into unconsciousness.
"Hermione, your alarm has been going off for the past five minutes," Luna called from the doorway. "Why are you on the floor? Is it more comfortable?"
Hermione merely groaned as she rolled into a sitting position and peaked through the slit of her eye at Luna.
"You look terrible." Luna commented.
"Urg-" Hermione said thickly.
"Something is wrong with you, Hermione? Are you staying home today?"
"No! School is important!" Hermione used that bit of adrenaline to locate her wand on the bedside table. She accio-ed a pepper-up potion and some clothes. After knocking back the potion, an annoying buzzing started up in her head but now she now felt up to only bothered with changing her trousers and slipped the robe over her pyjama top.
"You always did put schoolwork before your health at Hogwarts."
"I'm fine, Luna, thanks for your help," Hermione said. She grabbed her wand and her bag and stumbled towards the floo. "Enjoy work."
At school she collapsed into her seat, resting her head in her arms. She drifted into a somewhat pleasant half-consciousness that was interrupted when John tried to talk to her. He stopped when she shrugged him off. She must have really fell asleep because the next thing she knew everyone was forming lab groups. Looking blearily around, she lifted her head from her arms. She knew she should feel horror at sleeping through class but her mind was still hazy and it made it hard to care or think.
"Good morning," John joked and Hermione attempted a smile despite her irritation.
Embarrassed, she asked, "So, diagnostic spells, right?"
"Yeah," confirmed Daryn. "Reperio Veneficium and it's derivatives."
Hermione nodded, she had studied that chapter.
"Don't worry, Granger," Malfoy said snarkily. "I'm sure you already know more than the teacher does about the subject even if you slept through class."
Hermione merely sniffed in his direction, and proceed to ignore him. It hadn't been a blatant insult so she wasn't sure how to respond in mixed-company.
They split into their normal groups and things proceeded typically, except that Hermione had an awful headache and thinking required slogging through a dense fog in her mind.
When Daryn practiced on her, the warning bells clanged in her head and emotions quickly welled up in her. However, she sat and quietly focused on breathing, telling herself it would be done shortly. It was but Daryn was again staring puzzledly at their textbook.
"Hermione, do you have any long term spells on you or taken any potions recently?"
Hermione opened her mouth but Daryn interrupted.
"No, let me see if I can figure out what it is. Reperio Incantatio!" He paused "Hm… don't think so. Reperio Venenum!" Daryn consulted the book again. "Got it, I think it's a potion. Not a polyjuice potion is it?" Daryn laughed.
Hermione, who had been practicing breathing exercises attempted a weak laugh. "If that were true, I would have warded myself against simple spells like that, wouldn't I?"
"If you were smart, yes. What is it then, what long term potions would you be using?"
"I took a pepper-up potion this morning."
"But that was over three hours ago. Would it still show up?"
"Maybe," Hermione shrugged but her sluggish mind was slowly putting together the pieces. "Oh."
"Granger you didn't happen to mix potions you weren't supposed to?" Malfoy's drawl came from the other table.
"Mind your own business, Malfoy!" she glared at him and he leaned back with a smirk.
"How in Merlin's beard could I? Granger making a mistake with potions. This has got to be a first, and I don't want to miss it."
Hermione's eyebrow twitched. Good thing he never learned about second year's incident.
"What are you talking about?" John asked, sounding bewildered.
Hermione spared him a glance before continuing to stare down Malfoy.
"Short-term potions, if combined improperly, will result in more long-term side-effects," Hermione answered.
"Like a bookworm sleeping through class," Malfoy supplied smugly. "What was it, hair potion gone wrong? I can only see multiple potions being able to subdue that." Malfoy gestured at the hair she had left in it's frizzy plait. "Or maybe a beauty potion? Trying out Madame Sullivan's Potions? I heard she's a fraud."
"It was just some sleeping draughts, I told you to stop insulting up my appearance!" Hermione was angry and her control slipped.
Malfoy smirked but said more seriously, "Combining those are dangerous. Don't assume as 'the Great Granger' you can solve everything and go check at the hospital to see if you permanently screwed anything up."
Hermione was fully prepared to snap at him when Daryn put a hand on her arm.
"He's right. Sometimes people just don't wake up after they mix sleeping draughts. It's sometimes used by severely depressed witches to-"
Hermione looked up towards Malfoy but he angrily turned away, his expression masked again. Judging by his reaction, Hermione assumed the warning had come from personal experience.
"Why isn't anyone working?" It was Professor Greythorn's voice.
"We discovered that Hermione had-" John started.
Hermione quickly sat up and tried to give him a look that said 'don't you say another word.' Apparently John didn't understand Hermione-facial language or choose to ignore it. He continued, "-mixed potions and we could detect the side effects with the spells." He looked proud of himself for figuring it out. Hermione just felt irritation, she didn't want the professor to know about her mistake.
"Hm… well then. All of you will accompany… Hermione… to the hospital."
"What?" Hermione asked, involuntarily.
"Yes, it will be very instructive for all of you."
Hermione wavered, she would've wanted to go if it had been anyone else.
"Well, go on," the professor said. Everybody started packing up their things.
When the professor was out of earshot, Hermione turned on everyone. "Only for the initial examination."
"Lighten up, Hermione, it will be fun!" John said.
Yes, Hermione thought sarcastically, that's exactly what this will be. She glared at Malfoy who was feigning ignorance.
Hermione filled out several sheets of questionnaires before they even let her past the reception desk. When the healers asked, she refused to say out loud all the potions she had consumed in the past twenty-four hours and wrote them down instead. She didn't want to admit to several doses of calming draught, two doses of sleeping draught, another dose of dreamless sleep and a pepper-up potion all in such quick succession in front of her classmates. She wasn't sure how this would affect what they thought of her, and she sure didn't want Malfoy to know any personal information about her he hadn't already managed to gain.
The healers made quick work of running through several of the diagnostic spells they had already learned and jumped into discussing some potion theory that Hermione half followed. She wished she had all of her brain to help her decipher what they were saying. It didn't help that Daryn and Malfoy were discussing something in low voices while the healers worked. Finally the healers left, promising to come back with the anecdotal potion within half an hour. Once they did Hermione quickly attempted to oust all of her classmates.
"The examination part is finished, show's over."
They acquiesced for the most part.
"Thanks for getting sick and taking us on a field trip!" John called as he exited her room.
Hermione rolled her eyes.
Daryn hung back for a moment after the others left. "Was it because of yesterday?" he asked.
Hermione pressed her lips together and looked away.
"Yesterday triggered something, right?" Daryn pressed.
"Daryn, I know you're trying to help-" Hermione started.
"I am, so listen. I think I know something that might help. Are you available tomorrow after school?"
Hermione hesitated, "I guess."
Daryn smiled and left.
A/N: Happy Thanksgiving to any American readers! I'm so sorry about last week: I saved it as a draft and didn't realize it never published until today. So you get double chapters this week? Hope you are all well!
Chapter 14: In which Hermione is confronted
Hermione rolled the vial of sleeping draught around in her hand, its inky depths had become synonymous with peaceful sleep for her. The guardian of her nights. Her healers had said she couldn't take any potions so her systems could normalize but she was scared what might happen if she didn't take anything. It had been months since she hadn't taken a potion before bed.
Although the anecdotal potion had taken the edge away, Hermione still felt slightly sedated. Maybe, she thought, it would be enough to help her fall asleep tonight. Luna had to stay out late that night for her job again and Hermione also worried Luna's quite entrance might wake her even if she could sleep. In the end, Hermione cast a silencing ward around her room, made sure to block the city's lights from filtering through her window and settled among her sheets, hoping sleep would not elude her.
That Friday Hermione woke to an unusual lack of foreboding. She was used to shaking off a sense of malaise by diving right into studying. Puzzled, she continued her routine, only remembering to cancel her wards when Luna walked past and Hermione couldn't hear her usual humming.
After school, Hermione flooed with Daryn to his mysterious location. He had been rather tight-lipped about it when she asked. Hermione stepped out of the fireplace, dusting her clothes off, and looked around. There were several children running around. She saw a young child sitting with on the floor, the toys around them moving on their own.
"Is this a magical baby-sitting place?" Hermione asked.
"Pretty close." Daryn replied as he came out after her. "It's basically the equivalent of a wizarding Boys and Girls Club."
"Oh," Hermione's head buzzed with curiosity.
"Listen," Daryn said. "When I was going through a tough time in my life, it really helped to have someone who needed me. I was thinking that volunteering might help you with… you know."
"But why didn't you say anything before?" Hermione asked.
"Daryn," someone called from behind Hermione. It was a civil tone, but Hermione was almost positive she knew who it belonged to. She turned to face him.
"So we-" Malfoy trailed off as he saw her, his face changing slightly. "Oh. Granger." Malfoy sounded resigned.
"Why?" Hermione rounded on Daryn.
"I don't know wizarding New York very well so I asked Draco," Daryn said defensively under her glare. "Besides, you two have gone through similar experiences…" Hermione snorted. "I thought…" Daryn trailed off into a sigh. "You can still help her sign up, right Draco?" he finished.
"When you asked about volunteering I thought it was for you," Malfoy accused.
Daryn shrugged helplessly under Malfoy's scowl. "I'm just trying to help."
"Help?" Malfoy repeated incredulously.
"Both of you don't like each other, I understand, but wouldn't it be better to bond over your shared experience instead of focusing on whatever divides you?"
Hermione let out a high, disbelieving laugh.
"Do they run any sort of background check?" Hermione asked.
"Um… not that I know of," Daryn responded, nonplussed.
"Hermione," Malfoy suddenly said saccharinely, putting his arm around her shoulder. All of her muscles tensed. "Dear, I think we can discuss some of the finer details outside, alone." Hermione stepped out from under his arm but her curiosity got the better of her and she still followed him as he moved towards an exit.
"Guys," Daryn started hesitantly. "I've got somewhere I need to be soon..."
"By all means," Malfoy adopted a faux courteous attitude and gestured to the floo.
"Don't worry!" Hermione called over her shoulder. "I've got my wand."
"That's not comforting," Hermione thought she heard Daryn say as they disappeared around the corner.
Malfoy led Hermione to the top of the building. The wind whipped their hair around their faces as they settled in the middle of the roof. Hermione was very careful to avoid any views that allowed her to look down.
Malfoy pulled out his wand and Hermione immediately palmed hers, adrenaline tingling her senses.
"Relax, Granger," Malfoy cast a muffliato spell.
Hermione did relax, but did not sheath her wand, "What did you want dear Draco?" Hermione echoed.
Malfoy shuddered and collected himself.
"Granger, I want to make a deal."
"A deal? What are you up to Malfoy?"
"I'm sick of you bringing up my past."
"Did you think that it might not be a coincidence that we are both in America?"
"It did seem like a rather big one," Hermione agreed.
"Did it occur in your bushy brain that I also came out here to avoid certain things?"
"Enlighten me," Hermione said sarcastically.
"Oh, you know. Don't tell me you didn't see the things in the papers, or watch people spit at those with any ties to the Dark Lord. And those were the conservative ones."
"Poor Malfoy," Hermione didn't even try to empathize
"I'm trying to leave that person behind, and here you are throwing it back in my face. If you don't keep your fat lips shut someone is going to figure it out!"
"Which part?" Hermione felt herself slipping into a dangerous mood.
Malfoy seemed to sense it as well and looked cautious.
"About how you hate Mudbloods?"
"Or maybe how you are a Death Eater?"
"Was! I was one!" Malfoy said vehemently.
"Or how you betrayed the whole school to Voldemort? Tried to kill Dumbledore? Insulted my friends and I for years. Let us rot in your manor? Let Bellatrix torture me?" Hermione was hysterical. "Which part of it, Malfoy?"
He looked haunted. "All of it! Damn you Granger!"
It felt empowering to throw it in his face instead of mincing around it, Hermione thought. It was nice to have anger burn up the sadness for once. Hermione stood tall, feeling self-righteous.
"I guess there are limits, even for the champion of house-elves," he snarled half-heartedly.
"How did you know that?" Hermione asked, her voice losing some of it's anger in her surprise.
"One of my friends loved being at the center of gossip-mill. Spew: it was good for a laugh."
Hermione growled, after all, he was Dobby's owner.
Malfoy looked tired. He paused, dragging his head over his face and down his mouth. "Look, Granger. I didn't come out here to fight. I have a horrible past, as you have been so kind as to point out. I have no excuse for what I have done. I only want to change and I want your help. Every time you throw that accusatory glare at me I'm brought right back to Hogwarts. It's hard to fight something like that pulling me back to my old-ways."
Hermione mulled it over.
"So, do we have a deal? What are your terms?"
Hermione stopped and looked up at him with squinted eyes. "That whole 'I've changed' charade. 'I need your help'. You are trying to manipulate me!" she accused.
Malfoy smirked and shrugged. "Yeah, but with the truth, mostly. I figured it might work on a bleeding-heart Gryffindor."
Hermione scoffed but considered it. If anything would have worked, this was his best shot. "Well played. Maybe you are more snake than ferret," Hermione mused.
"Please don't voice those sorts of thoughts out loud," Malfoy grumbled.
Hermione laughed, surprised, an awkward tension hung in the air.
"So?" Malfoy asked. "Do we have a deal?"
He held out his left hand. Hermione walked cautiously towards him and then gripped his hand with her left, their right hands occupied with their wands.
"No," Hermione said. Malfoy looked hurt for a split second and then angry, trying to free his hand from her grip.
"But," Hermione continued while trying to hold him there for a second more. "I have a counter-offer."
Malfoy paused and watched her suspiciously. Hermione freed their hands when he made no inclination to move away.
"As you have said, I am a Gryffindor at heart. As one, my emotional reactions tend to be… honest."
"So?" Malfoy was analyzing her as he tried to follow her train of thought.
"If you want me to stop looking at you like that, you'll have to prove to me you aren't that person anymore," Hermione summarized.
"Done," Malfoy grabbed her hand again quite willingly, startling Hermione.
Hermione paused to regroup, not expecting such an immediate reaction or such a positive response. She quickly ran through her statement to see what might be manipulated by him. It was a very one-sided agreement that put the cards in her favor, as far as she could tell. It was based on her own judgement and really not an agreement at all, just a challenge directed at Malfoy.
He crossed the roof and opened the door to the stairwell.
"Come on, know-it-all, before your brain shorts out from too many neurons firing at once."
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him, "Not off to a great start, Malfoy."
Malfoy shrugged, the wind lifting his hair softly around his face. "I'm not a saint, Granger. And I'm definitely not Scar-head or Weasel."
Hermione quirked her eyebrow farther, crossing her arms.
"No deal, Granger. You aren't turning me into a pansy."
Hermione snorted and Malfoy narrowed his eyes.
"I don't want you to turn into Parkinson either," she quipped.
Malfoy groaned. "Just get inside, Granger, who knows what catastrophe the ankle-biters have gotten into."
Hermione, detecting his words were a possibility, followed.
As they climbed back down, Hermione realized something, "Malfoy, you were listening during that lecture about neurons?"
"What, surprised someone else pays attention in physiology?" Malfoy said over his shoulder.
Hermione merely met him with a pointed glare.
Malfoy sighed. "Yes Granger, it's important to several spell theories."
"But it's mainly muggle-borns who think that."
Malfoy rolled his eyes, "So as a pureblood I can't say it has credence?"
Hermione supposed she had to give him the points this round, but his words triggered something else. "Malfoy… the pureblood thing. When you begged me not to say anything?"
"Of course, still keep it to yourself." Malfoy answered.
Malfoy paused as they reached the entrance to the 'club.' "Granger, I told you I wasn't going to become like one of your friends as part of this deal. That certainly means I'm not going to suddenly have your 'heart-to-hearts,'" He sneered.
"Malfoy!" Hermione called angrily but he was already through the door, reversing the transfiguration of a quill flopping about on the floor. She grumbled angrily under her breath and followed.
When Hermione exited the bedroom after flooing home, she was startled by Luna sitting at the kitchen table. Luna was sitting upright, her normally dazed expression a little sharper. It reminded Hermione of her mother waiting for her father to come home when they were going to have a 'discussion.' This immediately made her wary as she approached Luna.
"Why are you home so early, Luna?" Hermione asked, glancing at the clock.
"Your school owled," Luna said simply.
"About what?" Hermione asked, running through a seemingly uneventful day.
"You were going to the hospital because you mixed potions improperly."
"Oh, but that was yesterday."
"Yesterday was too chaotic to leave, but Rolf felt guilty so he told me to come home early today to handle it."
"Oh, sorry they called. It's nothing. I'm fine now."
"Hermione Granger, don't lie to me!"
Hermione straightened a little and watched Luna, puzzled. Luna held up the dreamless sleep and sleep draught vials.
"Both of these were full when I unpacked them two weeks ago. I don't know of any creatures that will consistently feed off sleep draughts this strong and this bottle is more than half gone!"
"I've just had problems sleeping, Luna."
"No, there is something wrong with you, Hermione, and you refuse to talk about it."
Hermione sighed, and rubbed her head, unused to Luna's aggressive side.
"Fine, I have nightmares that keep me up for hours. I use these draughts so they won't wake me up in the middle of the night and I can keep a regular schedule."
Luna waited, head tilted slightly to the side.
"I've been fine, really!" Hermione protested. "The problems I had after the war just suddenly started up again last year. I'll figure it out."
"But that's silly," Luna replied gently.
Hermione looked up quizzically.
"I'm not as clueless as Ron. I know that you are not as strong as you pretend," Luna continued and Hermione bristled. "You don't have to 'figure it out' alone when you have friends to help. Like me, we're friends."
"That's true. Thanks Luna." Her words dissipated fears Hermione didn't even know had been weighing her down. She felt her posture ease more upright.
Luna smiled and got up from the table to open the fridge.
"Actually, I'm ravenous. Yes please."
Luna pulled out an Eve's pudding and Hermione's stomach grumbled.
Once they both had been served, Hermione asked a little worriedly, "Did the owl interrupt anything important?"
"It was a pigeon, actually. Most city wizards use pigeons. It came when a client was trying to convince us to exploit the Demiguise we have under our custody. We all wanted to cast a tongue-tying curse on him anyway."
Hermione half choked on a piece of apple as she started to laugh.
As they ate Hermione continued to quiz Luna about the latest happenings at work. She even tried to covertly glean more information about Rolf Scamander's apparent crush. However, Luna seemed oblivious to her attempted intelligence work and his overtures to pureblood flirtation, so Hermione's curiosity was left unquenched.
Thanks you guys for the reviews and welcome to my new readers! I'd love to know what you think of this chapter ;)
Have a good weekend!