Chapter 16 : Bruised Egos
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She was doomed to public humiliation as assistant to groundskeeper; cleaning up after the students whose life she made a miserable hell. Sweeping, garbage duty, cleaning the loos…it couldn’t get much worse. She supposed she should have been grateful. After being released from St. Mungo’s, memory restored, and relaying her story to the healers, they almost put her back in the hospital. But she was given a second chance; working at the school she nearly destroyed. A type of penance, she supposed, for the crap both staff and students had to deal with.
But, she did notice those same staff and students managed to miss garbage receptacles and loos when others noticed her around. She tried not to let that bother her too much.
Add Filch, crazy creepy Filch and his bizarre cat, Mrs. Norris to the mix, and things couldn’t really get any worse. Both tended to stare at her like she was a piece of meat.
All in all, she came to the conclusion that her life, indeed, blowed. She did not plan on being Mary Maid forever. She needed a way out. And fast.
“That was so awesome!”
As his students eyed him in shocked horror, Ethan rolled in hysterical glee, and tried, almost successfully, to compose himself before the fried Colin Creevey could pass out.
“I’m sorry. So sorry.” No he wasn’t. He began to calm down, then sighed, as neither Colin nor his class was moving. Folding his arms, he made his best attempt not to roll his eyes. “Look, I tried to explain the Fire Crab’s defense mechanism before something like that would happen.”
As if in a trance, he students simultaneously glanced down at the tortoise-like creature now happily nestled in its jeweled shell.
Ginny pointed an accusing finger at the Fire Crab. “That thing just shot flames out of its arse.”
Her recent need for adult vulgarity would have been tsked-tsked by her mother, but it only made Ethan grin.
“If that genius over there hadn’t scared it with his camera, he wouldn’t have shot anything out of its ass.” He jerked a thumb at Colin, who was just beginning to find his vocabulary.
“I-didn’t know it would be afraid of cameras, I-I just wanted a picture.”
“This is why we have textbooks, kid. If someone started flashing me with an unknown object, I’d probably shoot flammable entities out of my ass, too.” He stopped, considered. “That would be so awesome!”
That made his students laugh, and Colin start to feel remotely better. When an idea dawned on him, he grinned and turned to Luna. “Hey, Spacey, pull my finger.”
Luna raised a lazy eyebrow, and was about to, when Ginny stepped between them. “I don’t think that’s such a good idea. I wouldn’t think you’d want to send any more students to the hospital wing with third degree burns.”
“Hey…good one, Red. I like you.”
Ethan glanced at his watch and estimated the time it would take him to, uh, “pass by” the divination tower on his way to dinner. “All right, fun’s over. Ya’ll got your assignments, so hand ‘em over tomorrow.”
As his students headed to gather their things, he heaved the still-hiding fire crab into its tank and smiled to himself. He had another temperamental creature to deal with.
The dueling club had to be split into two nights. With the Julius sisters headlining, and Harry as wingman, a lot of curious people signed up to get first hand experience. Even Ethan and Wood hung back after dinner to watch, but more to observe the two girls than anything.
Ethan tipped back his chair and crossed his arms, preparing to enjoy the show. Wood sat next to him, forearms resting on his thighs as he watched Azura lean comfortably on a post.
Season, the restless one, paced up and down the platform they were on, counting bodies and making mental notes on what spells she wanted to try with specific students.
Snape lurked in a shadowy corner and watched menacingly at Harry give instructions over what had been taught the previous year.
All three had removed their cloaks and rolled up their sleeves to their elbows. Almost, Ethan thought with a lusty sigh, as if each were preparing for their own private battle.
When Wood began to bite his nails, Ethan gave him a sympathetic pat on the back.
The twins agreed with Harry's tactics on starting from scratch. Too many wizards have neglected the basics, resulting in deadly or injurious hesitation. These students were going to be taught not to hesitate. And after the first fifteen minutes, Azura was feeling very relieved. This was a group who was prepared to learn.
Season cleared her throat as Azura took her habitual leaning position against the post. “I need a volunteer.”
Nobody raised their hands. The first few volunteers selected against the sisters were still healing.
“I’ll do it.”
All eyes turned to a smug Ethan and Season’s expression twisted from amused teacher to one of a big cat about to chow down on unsuspecting prey.
The second he saw her wand pulse and glow at the tip from suppressed emotion, Ethan immediately regretted his decision. This time it was Wood’s turn to offer sympathy. He gave him a wry smile as Ethan stood precariously to his feet.
Even Snape felt a tiny flicker of pity. The twins may be a royal pain in his side, but they were good.
“Front and center, Knox, we haven’t got all night.” Season prompted.
“Alright, alright, I’m coming. Jeeze.” But his voice wasn’t steady.
Trying to stifle a grin, Azura nimbly leapt off the platform and took his empty seat next to Wood, whose stomach decided to practice back handsprings.
She sent him a quick grin. “Let’s enjoy, shall we?”
“Fuck!” The word was out before he could prevent it, and had a few younger students sniggering. But since Season had him flat on his back in under two seconds, he didn’t think any other word was appropriate.
“Accio wand.” Ethan’s wand flew from his hand and deftly into Season’s. “Never let up your guard.” She explained. “And always think ahead.” She waved Ethan’s wand for definition.
Ethan shifted, praying his backbone was still in place, and lifted to rest on his elbows. Scowling, he held his hand out to Season. “Give me my wand.”
She didn’t even look at him. “No. Now,” she continued, “You need to make sure you have an eye on your opponent at all times. If not, your guard goes down, making you vulnerable. Dark wizards will not take sympathy to absentmindedness.”
She did look at Ethan now, and let out a few vulgarities of her own as he leapt and pinned her to the floor beneath him. The students’ ears and eyes were tuned in full now.
“See, kids,” Ethan explained cheerfully as Season bucked underneath him, “this is what happens when your guard goes down.”
Season cursed one more time, lifted her knee, and got him smartly where his pride mattered most, sending him five feet behind her.
Wood took a chance to glance at Azura as all the males in the room groaned in sympathy for Ethan. She was beaming like a proud mamma at her first-born’s spelling bee. Smiling, she leaned close to him. “I taught her that one.”
Wood gulped and faced forward.
Season now had the panicked Ethan, much to Snape’s secret excitement, dangling ten feet in midair, bruised pride with him.
“Want to volunteer for the next round?” Azura asked Wood.
“No thanks. I’m not sure I can handle your sister in this state.”
“Not her, Oliver. Me.”
He glanced at her then, which was a mistake, because the way she was smiling at him made all his coherent thoughts fly out the window. So he just shook his head. “I’m not sure if I can handle you, either.” He murmured.
She softened, and rather than comment, focused her attention on the center platform. Season was burning laser beams into Ethan’s eyes. He mimicked her.
“Julius,” he began, slowly, checking his temper, “put me down right now. I think they get the picture.”
Season fixed her gaze on Azura. “Are we done here, sister?”
“Erm…” baffled, he locked eyes with Ethan, then Season. “Yeah. I think so.”
“Okay.” She flicked her gaze back to Ethan, deliberately curving her lips in a mocking gesture.
Ethan fell to the ground with a resounding thud.
Hermione decided her week couldn’t have gotten any worse.
First, she and her boyfriend, Logan, decided to call it quits. And however amicable, it still hurt.
Her recent attempt to rally more supporters for S.P.E.W proved both hopeless and pointless. With all of her extra assignments and classes this year; she wouldn’t have the time anyway.
Ah. And then there were the tutoring sessions with Malfoy. Those in particular irritated her the most. He was often uncooperative and moody, almost always refusing to do as she instructed. She hated when people refused to listen to her.
She absolutely refused to tell Azura about this problem. Bringing it up made Hermione feel like a tattling kindergartner.
Though she felt as though her time was being wasted, she was determined to help the little prick succeed.
She did notice he wasn’t his usual self lately. True, he still picked arguments with she, Harry and Ron, but they were almost…like he wasn’t trying to make an effort. And he often sat alone, even without his goonies. She’d even caught some of the Slytherins sniggering at him, teasing him over something; usually about his father.
But, she thought, as she stomped bad-temperedly though the corridors, she refused to let her semi-sympathy throw off her better judgment.
What she was not aware of, however, was that during every session, Malfoy would memorize everything he was taught to the detail, and then practice in solitude later on, hardly ever getting to sleep before midnight.
When Hermione reached the doorway of the empty classroom they used, she stopped and stared at him.
He was early, as usual, and was unaware of her presence- or pretended not to be. He prowled the room like an impatient leopard, biting his thumbnail; a habit Hermione came to realize was irritated nerves.
His cloak was off, but instead of throwing it to the side or somewhere on the floor like Ron and Harry normally did, it was folded neatly over an empty chair.
His shirtsleeves were rolled up to his elbows, his slacks still perfectly pleated hours after preceding classes.
His hair wasn’t slicked back like usual, something she also noticed as a new and sudden change. It hung in his eyes, giving his appeal more danger.
He really was quite handsome, Hermione admitted with a sigh. Too bad his personality was a problem. His body wasn’t half bad either. He had that perfect Quidditch build- broad shouldered, muscular upper body, and narrow hips.
Malfoy turned to her then, just as she began to scold herself to where her thoughts were headed.
His thumbnail paused just between his lips as he studied her. She looked harassed, her hurriedly- looking bun began to fall from its quill foundation. Small tendrils hung in her honey-colored eyes, giving her an interesting and annoying appeal.
Locking those sexy gray eyes on her, he casually stuck his hands in his pockets and said, “You’re late.”
She ignored the little thud in her chest and glared at him. “I am not. You’re early. I’m never late. And besides,” she added as she made her way passed him, “I got caught up in something. Not that it’s any of your business.”
He grinned at her retreating back as she began to fuss with her things and fix that ridiculously sexy bun. She got this little line between her brows when she was annoyed or frustrated. He enjoyed putting it there. And he would admit to nobody that his previous pacing was due to anticipation to her arrival.
“Granger, it may be hard for you to believe, but these little sessions aren’t exactly high up on my excitement list.”
“Well, Malfoy, if you think I circle these little dates in bright pink hearts on my calendar, you not only incompetent, but obtuse.”
“And I’m sure you are aware that you need them.”
“And you just have to be the one tutoring me. Just fucking peachy. You know,” he began, as the pacing started again, “I really don’t understand you. I honestly don’t. How do you think this makes me feel? A female is teaching me hand-to-hand combat. And a mudblood above all else. These aren’t spells, Granger, why are you so bloody good at everything!?” Fuming, he sent her a demanding look. She met his fiery gaze with calm patience.
“Malfoy, if I cared what you thought, we would have sat down with tea and scones a long time ago.”
The look he sent her could have melted metal.
“Oh, buck up, Malfoy. Just because your family comes from a long line of dark wizards doesn’t mean you have to be good at it.”
“Yes I do.” He mumbled, crossing his arms. “What else am I supposed to be known for if I’m not good at the dark arts?"
Hermione grinned and arched a brow. “Charms?”
He paused and sent her an blank stare. “I don’t recall you ever being so vulgar."
She laughed, good-naturedly. “You’ve a heart of stone, you do.”
“Not…to everything.” He suddenly gained interest in the floor and began to shuffle his foot around in a small circle.
“No. Just muggleborns, am I right?”
When he only glanced at her, she nodded. “Mmm. You know, maybe you should look for more in a person than bloodline, Malfoy. You’d gain more respect. Funny. I heard even the Slytherin girls don’t even gave you the time of day. Is it because you’re a cold-hearted bastard, I wonder, or because your father is rotting in Azkaban?”
Slowly, and deliberately, he began to walk towards her with an unreadable look on his face. Hermione only had time for a frightened gasp when he trapped her between himself and the wall.
“I really hate it when you get that superior tone in your voice.”
Grabbing her chin in his hand, he pulled her trembling mouth to his.
Neither knew that one kiss could be so ruthless. Six years of pure venom was released between two vibrating bodies.
She knew she shouldn’t have responded. Even now as he nipped on her lower lip she knew she should push him away. But she couldn’t. Her hands were fisted in his shirtfront and she was answering heat for heat. And it felt pretty damn good.
It was Malfoy who drew away, addressing her absolute quiet calm. “I don’t want to hear another word about me being a cold-hearted bastard.”
It pleased her that his breathing wasn’t as steady as hers. “I…you…we…this wasn’t right. You’re not supposed to kiss someone to make a point! And…I…” wasn’t making any sense. “This wasn’t right.” She repeated, for lack of anything better.
Malfoy dragged a hand through his hair and blew out a shaky breath. “Okay. You’re right. You’re absolutely right. You are, of course, my tutor, and a mudblood-"
“I beg your pardon?”
Malfoy silenced her by crushing his mouth to hers.
At breakfast the next morning, if anyone noticed Hermione’s erratic behavior, nobody commented. Harry and Ron were wise enough not to say anything regarding her nightly sessions with Malfoy. Unless they wanted little holes burnt in their foreheads from Hermione’s recent talent of laser beams shooting out of her eyes, or an hour long argue schpeal about the- waste- of- humanity-disguised-as-a-walking-leech. So they kept quiet. Even if she seemed a little nervous that particular morning. Or that she was pushing her food around on her plate rather than eat it, in seemingly deep thought. Harry decided he would pry later, when Ron wasn’t around to unconsciously upset her over whatever it was she was thinking about. When the owls dropped off the post, Ron gave the spastic Pig momentary attention by calling him an unflattering name then focused on his letter. Several moments passed, and his eyes grew round with shock. He made a squeaking sound in the back of his throat and had to stare at it a full ten seconds before the contents registered.
“Ron?” Harry asked. “What’s wrong?”
Hermione tore her gaze from the Daily Prophet to study her pale friend.
“It’s my mum. She’s pregnant.”
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