Chapter Thirty-Four: Monday Afternoon

The characters and canon situations in the following story belong solely to JK Rowling, Scholastic, and WB. I am not making any money from the publishing or writing of this story.

beta credit: bunnyhops and CoquetteKitten.

 

Firstly, the beautiful Transfigurations tome was shrunk down to a more manageable size at Draco’s insistence. Then they set off for the Potions classroom, where the ink was removed quickly, thanks to his presence. Professor Slughorn had nearly tripped on his own feet in his haste to please his favorite student, and was exceedingly polite to her as well. On their way out of the classroom, Harry joked that it was his turn to feel snubbed by the man.

 

Draco requested a few extra minutes in the corridor to see her off, and the professor eagerly agreed. Harry good-naturedly wandered around the corner into the main hallway, and her wizard promptly pulled her into a fierce, long embrace. He acts as though we’re going to be apart longer than just a few hours. Not that I’m complaining. His long arms eventually loosened and he slouched down and tilted his head to bring himself closer to her level. “I’ll see you tonight.” His lips brushed against her ear as he spoke the words quietly.

 

Hermione shivered from the sensation and gave him a sweet kiss on the cheek. “Which is in just a few short hours, Draco.”

 

He pulled her against him by her hips and whispered, “They won’t seem so short to me. I’ll be thinking about the things I’m going to do to you tonight, little witch.”

 

As if the heat of his breath on her ear lit a flame within her, Hermione was instantly on fire. Now he was running his lips along that sensitive spot under her ear. “Draco, mmmmmm . . . that was just . . . that was just . . . mean.”

 

He pulled back and smirked triumphantly at her. “That was for sending me the knickers.”

 

The curly-headed witch tried to shake off the fog of desire that was clouding her mind. Two can play at this game. I just need to remember how to focus. “I promise not to send another pair later tonight, then.”

 

Draco pulled back abruptly with an expression of solemn shock on his face. “Never make rash decisions about such important things, Hermione.”

 

“Then behave yourself, Draco.” She returned his previous smirk with an even greater degree of triumph. Winning isn’t nearly as fun with soggy knickers.

 

He held his hands up in surrender and leaned in for one last kiss. “Slughorn has probably already started class — I’ll see you tonight.” Draco executed a shallow bow and left her in the hall.

 

Hermione walked the few steps back toward Harry in the main dungeon hallway. She paused when she heard footsteps and peeked cautiously around the corner when she heard him say, “What are you doing down here right now, Ron?”

 

She pulled back enough that she was hidden in the dark of the smaller corridor. Ron looked startled to see his old friend. “Nothing! Meeting someone! None of your business!”

 

“Well which is it?” Harry didn’t sound exactly friendly, but he didn’t sound as though he wanted to pick a fight, either.

 

Ron countered, “Aren’t you supposed to be playing watchdog to ‘Mione?” He looked up and down the dungeon hall. He turned to Harry. “Errrrr, we need to talk later. Are you free tonight?”

 

“What could we possibly have to talk about, Ron?” Harry looked almost anguished to Hermione’s eyes, and his voice had a pleading quality to it.

 

“I need to make things right. Meet me in the Owlery right after last class?”

 

“I can’t – I’ll be—“

 

Ron looked a bit desperate. “I stood by you through a lot, Harry. This is a small thing for me to ask in return. After dinner. Owlery. Be there.” He seemed to catch sight of something far beyond her, judging by his squint. “I have to go . . . do something.”

 

Ron took off down the corridor without waiting for an answer, not seeming to notice her in the shadows. Then he was gone, and Harry was coming around the corner toward her, and for one brief moment Hermione was quite sure she heard the high-pitched barking of a small dog.

 

The two friends made their way out of the dungeons, deciding to spend the remainder of their free time outside. Harry suggested the courtyard, and Hermione readily agreed. It would be a perfect place to work on her calculations in peace while Harry napped in the sun.

 

She was surprised by how many upper classmen seemed to be there at the same time, until someone approached them with the news that some of Hagrid’s beasts had gotten loose during class. Apparently the imminent danger to the student population was enough that all students had been sent to the confines of the castle until further notice. That meant several entire classes were now free to wander the school for a while.

 

Instead of napping, Harry chatted with anyone and everyone nearby, and eventually Hermione realized that her hopes of a quiet work time were in vain. She finally stowed her parchment, ink, and quill back in her schoolbag and resigned herself to socializing. It was a shame, too – this Arithmancy project was the first non-academic intellectually stimulating problem she’d been interested in so far this year, and it might be just the thing to convince Lucius to let go of his anxieties regarding Ron.

 

The silver lining of the crowded courtyard came in the form of Astoria Greengrass, who called out to her from a nearby bench. The blonde witch waved Hermione over, and after getting Harry’s attention, she went willingly to sit with her new friend.

 

“Astoria! How was your weekend?”

 

The Ravenclaw gave her a delighted smile and hug. “Wonderful! Theo and Nick are learning shibari! We practiced all weekend at the Nott Manor.” She sighed in a contented manner.

 

“Errrr . . . shibari? I’m sorry, I don’t know what—“

 

Astoria smiled happily. “Rope bondage! Oh, Hermione, it’s so erotic. And just yesterday Theodore said I’ve been such a good girl that he’s going to add—“

 

“No, really – that’s quite enough information, Astoria!” Hermione shook her head to manually clear it. “I mean, I’m really happy you’re happy, and I don’t need to know the exact reason.” Great and merciful Merlin, I’d forgotten so quickly . . .

 

Her new friend smiled apologetically. “Sorry! I keep forgetting you’re such a Gryffindor! But honestly, Hermione – didn’t you ever, just once, wonder what it would be like to—“

 

“Nope! Let’s talk about the weather.” And they did just that, as only two scholarly people can do – they analyzed wind pattern, cloud formation, humidity, and projected dew point, until finally Hermione’s mind was once again cleared of the horrific images painted by Astoria’s few words. She finally offered up, “I suppose your classes have pretty much wound down by now. I know mine have – no real reason to attend at all, really.”

 

Astoria nodded in agreement. “It’s true. The only noteworthy thing that’s happened in the past week was in Advanced Divination, when a housemate of mine had some remarkable readings and correlating waking dreams about a dog. It was quite remarkable, actually. I’ve never seen Professor Trelawney so disturbed by such an event.” She added as an afterthought, “Excepting ones to do with the Dark Lord, of course.”

 

Luna was talking about something similar when she went all funny. Curious. I wonder if all Ravenclaws have a fatal attraction to Divination. Or dogs. Out loud, Hermione said politely, “How interesting. Oh – what do you think of applying Arithmancy principles to a predetermined outcome? Because I’m working on . . .”

 

Astoria was really an ideal conversation partner, aside from talk of her deviant sexual proclivities. With the right style of topic management, she was without doubt one of Hermione’s favorite people with whom to chat. And chat they did – in fact, Harry had to physically drag her away from the blonde witch in the middle of a fascinating discussion about the socioeconomic implications of employing house elves. Harry was less than sympathetic to her complaints. “You don’t want to be late to Arithmancy, do you?”

 

That shut her up. She called a quick goodbye to Astoria over her shoulder as she was hurried away. Harry looked at her in puzzlement as he dragged her along. “Astoria Greengrass, ‘Mione? I know she’s another future House Wife and all, but . . . word has it she is one kinky witch. What could you two possibly have in common?”

 

“Besides a love of school and a passion for learning? Harry, when I keep her away from the topic of sex, she’s like talking to . . . to myself.

 

“Except I’ve heard she’s not at all like you. She couldn’t be – not to end up bespoke for the Nott house.”

 

“Believe me – I get that. I’ve dubbed them the Notties. But she’s erudite and well spoken. There aren’t many people like that around here. No offense, Harry.”

 

He grinned and nodded in an understanding way. “None taken. I guess it must get lonely sometimes, going to school with us mere mortals. I’m glad you have her as a friend. Just don’t . . .”

 

“Develop a sudden fetish for bondage and orgies? You have nothing to worry about there. And thanks for looking out for me. You’re a great ‘brother’.”

 

They’d reached the Advanced Arithmancy classroom at this point. Harry had a conflicted look on his face as he said, “Errr, Ron asked me to meet up with him after class. I asked a few of our friends to get a message to Professor McGonagall and the Headmaster, asking one of them to send a proxy chaperone.”

 

“This had better turn out differently than last Wednesday.” They both frowned at the memory of Professor Vector’s less than helpful role that day. Hermione went on, “I overheard you talking with him in the Dungeons. What is it he wants to set right, Harry? And why was he down in the Dungeons again when he should have been out with Hagrid? Class had barely started.”

 

He looked at her with a mystified expression. “Haven’t a clue on either count, but he’s right – we’ve been through a lot together, and I owe him.”

 

As Harry began walking away down the hall, Hermione called out to him, “You don’t owe him anything, Harry!”

 

Advanced Arithmancy was a small class of highly focused students. Professor Vector had extremely high expectations of each of them, and taught intensely at a furious speed. Today, however, she gave them the class period to work on their final assignment, which was due on the last day. Hermione had finished hers some time ago, and so she pulled out her current project instead.

 

She refined a few calculations and cast a Projection Spell to show her diagrams on the blank classroom wall used for that purpose. Something wasn’t quite right, and after numerous minute adjustments, Hermione approached her teacher.

 

“Professor Vector, would you be willing to look at a diagram of mine?” She hastened to add, “Since I’ve already handed in my final project, I’m working on one of my own making.”

 

Vector looked intrigued and followed the curly-headed witch to the projection wall. She looked over the crisscross of colored lines thoughtfully and then Conjured two chairs. Sinking into one, she motioned for Hermione to do the same. “I see you haven’t labeled your subject and input variables. Why am I looking at such a secretive diagram, Miss Granger?”

 

Hermione was prepared for the question. “I don’t want to influence your interpretation, Professor.”

 

“That is an interesting choice. Very well, my main concerns are these two lines. They run parallel, yet one seems to influence the other. It looks as though the factor represented by the fainter line could move in a different direction in another scenario. What do you make of this?”

 

The young witch waved the suggestion away. “Those two factors have nothing to do with each other, I’m certain. And this is the correct scenario.” The lines in question represented Ron and Pansy, of course. Those two are beginning to irritate me even when they’re not here.

 

“I would run through alternative calculations, nevertheless. This almost looks as if you’ve begun calculations with a predetermined outcome in mind.”

 

Hermione realized the Professor was reiterating Draco’s exact words from earlier. Why does no one else see this the way I do? She kept her frustration to herself, however, and thanked the professor for her insight. After that, she lost interest in her work, choosing instead to daydream about her upcoming visits with her wizards. Her thoughts spiraled out of control rather quickly, and by the end of class she was a foggy-headed, lust-addled mess.

 

No one was there to meet her right after class. When the last student had left, she waited another ten minutes before turning hesitantly to her teacher to ask for help. She turned away quickly. Clearly the professor had reached the same conclusion, and was unhappy with it.

 

Vector frowned. “Miss Granger, I was not hired to ferry students about, regardless of their future socioeconomic status. You may walk with me as far as the entrance hall, and then you will find someone else to escort you.”

 

A feeling of déjà vu passed over Hermione. She sighed, thanking the professor and following her out of the classroom. They walked in silence and reached a very empty entrance hall. “I will wait with you for ten minutes. It just so happens I have some parchment to grade.”

 

Professor Vector settled onto a bench and Transfigured her hat into a small lap-desk. Without acknowledging Hermione’s presence again, she set to work. The young witch wandered the entrance hall rather aimlessly for a short time until her attention was drawn by a scuffling noise coming from the staircase to the dungeons. She approached the dark opening curiously. There, a few steps down, stood a roly-poly little dog with great brown eyes, a smooshed-up sort of nose, and a lolling tongue. It crouched playfully at her, wagging its tail, and Hermione couldn’t help but smile.

 

For the first time that day, the covenant made its presence known within her. She felt the shimmering sensation of its emotion wash over her, but the feeling was unknown to her. If you’re trying to tell me something, you’re going to have to do better than that. Hermione promptly dismissed it, turning her attention back to the dog. She knelt down and stretched out a hand. “Here, puppy,” she called softly. “What are you doing in the castle? Come here.”

 

The little dog only wagged its tail harder and made an eager, whining noise that propelled Hermione toward it down the first few stairs. She lowered herself to sit on the step near the animal. It pounced up to her, letting her run her hands over its soft tan and black fur while it nosed about the pockets of her robe. The sentient presence of the covenant rippled uneasily. Oh, for Merlin’s sake – it’s just a pug! I’m quite good with animals – just calm down.

 

Suddenly it froze for a second, then jumped back and looked at her in almost humanlike triumph. In its mouth it held a long, slender object. Hermione scolded it firmly, “Hey! That’s my wand! Give it back, you!”

 

The dog retreated playfully, then turned and began making its way down toward the dungeons. Hermione looked back toward the entrance hall. Technically, there was no doorway, so she was still in the same room as her chaperone. That pins-and-needles feeling spread over her brain, but she began to head after the dog, all the while arguing with the now-panicking covenant. For Circe’s sake! You weren’t very clear about what was going to happen, were you! We need to learn to communicate better so the next time you know a dog plans to steal my –

 

Hermione never finished the thought. As she rounded the first corner of the dungeon hallway, two things happened almost simultaneously. She was hit with a wave of vertigo stronger than any before, sending her crashing to the floor, and the little dog reappeared and bit her fiercely in the ankle.

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