Chapter 5 : Partners
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The return to Hogwarts was every bit as tough as I thought it would be. Yet is was a bittersweet moment. On one hand I was glad to be back in the place that I considered to be home. After the previous year it was good to be back to normality, surrounded by friends in a place that I felt safe. And yet the place where I had once felt so safe was now tainted. Around every corner there was the memory of another friend that had died. Another place or person that haunted my nightmares. The previous day has been tough and I was sure it was only the first of many more tough days that would follow; Fred's birthday, Christmas, the one year anniversary of the final battle to name but a few. Yet the worst bit was over. I was actually quite glad to be back. It would give me the chance to make new memories and hopefully put some of the ghosts of the last year to rest. We had been given a second chance and I was only too aware of the many people who weren't as lucky. This was an opportunity to move on and get things back to normal and the way that they should be.
The journey down to breakfast on the first morning back was very similar to the journey on the Hogwarts Express the day before, only ten times worse. Whereas before we were running late and had only caught brief glimpses of the staring faces and peering eyes, today it was painfully obvious. Nearly everyone that we walked by stopped and stared, people whispered behind their hands and some people just openly whispered and shouted things at us as we walked together to the great hall. I felt my face immediately flush scarlet as I could feel all the eyes boring into my back as we went down the stairs. I dropped my eyes again, trying desperately to avoid all the faces peering in my direction. I had never been one for attention, always being happier in the background of things. You have no idea how much begging it took for Viktor Krum to persuade me to go to the Yule Ball with him once I had realise it meant dancing in front of everyone. It was only his very sweet begging and the fact that I knew people would be looking at him more than me, made me say yes. Having stares directed at me was something like my personal worst nightmare.
Unlike me, Ginny did her best to ignore it and kept her head held high, even trying to hold a conversation as we went. I guess she sensed my discomfort, as she linked arms with me, dragging me alongside her as I desperately tried to ignore the peering faces and concentrate on what she was saying, which was remarkably easier said than done.
Breakfast was an even worse experience if that was possible. In fact I think that it may have been the most embarrassing moment of my entire life. Just as the new prefects were handing out our new timetables handed out for the following year, a blinding flash filled my entire eyes, causing me to go blind for a few seconds, with flashing stars filling my vision. After a few moments of rapid blinking, I finally regained my sight enough to see a small, brown haired boy standing in front of Harry, Ron, Ginny and me, holding a rather large camera.
'Oh my god', he squeaked. 'I can't believe it's the golden trio. Can I have a picture with all of you? Can I have your autographs please?'
I immediately flushed red again and lowered my gaze out of embarrassment. I looked over to Harry and saw that every ounce of colour had drained from his face, leaving him deathly white. I looked in confusion between Harry and the young boy trying to figure out what had caused such an extreme reaction. It took only a short minute before I made the connection, my mind flashing back to a nearly identical incident from years ago. Colin Creevey. Colin was a Gryffindor who had started Hogwarts the year after we had. He was a muggle born and right from the start he had been obsessed with Harry. He hero- worshipped him, following him around everywhere he went, trying to take pictures or get an autograph. He even followed Harry right into danger and into the final battle and to his death. Although he was only a year younger than us, he had always seemed a lot younger. Harry had never forgiven himself. He never really would. He would always blame himself for the deaths of those who had followed him into the battle. For those who had died for him.
'I'm so sorry,' I said getting to my feet and pulling at Harry's arm, signalling for him to follow me. One look over at Ginny's concerned face told me that she had seen Harry's face and new that something was wrong. I imagined she would know exactly what the problem was. 'We have to get to class. We're already late,' I explained to the boy, as I pulled Harry out of the hall.
'Harry are okay,' I asked when we had reached the entrance hall, which thankfully was pretty quiet. We led Harry over to one of the stone benches, although he didn't want to sit down.
'Yeah, I'm fine. It's just, did you notice?' Harry asked, his face clouding over with emotion.
'I know. I saw. But Harry you can't keep blaming yourself. Colin wanted to fight and he knew what he was getting into. You have to remember, it wasn't just your fight. Lots of people had a reason to want to fight.'
'Yeah I know, but's it just hard. I thought being back would make things easier to move on, but there are just memories everywhere.'
I knew how Harry felt and I didn't have anything to say to comfort him. It was hard for everyone and I knew how much harder it would be for Harry. He took everything very personally and the guilt was weighing heavily on him. Ginny took Harry's hard and gave it a comforting squeeze. Harry smiled back at her, some of the turmoil and pain leaving his face as he looked at her. Again I felt like I was intruding, so I took a small step back and watched as various other students started to leave the great hall and head to the first classes of the year.
The first years were streaming out in large crowds, not wanting to be alone, clearly afraid of getting lost in the huge castle on their first day. I smiled and said hello to a few people as they went past until my eyes locked with none other than Draco Malfoy's. Ours eyes connected for a moment and unlike the day before, he didn't look away.
'So class then?' Harry said and I pulled my gaze away quickly to look at him instead, trying to look like innocent like I hadn't just been staring at Draco Malfoy.
'Hey guys wait up. Why'd you run off?' Ron came bursting out of the great hall, panting slightly, with a small grin on his face. When he was met with nothing but raised eyebrows and silence from everyone he continued to prattle on about how weird it was to be asked for an autograph and how he hoped that the kid could read his writing. It never ceased to amaze me how totally obtuse Ron could be. He had never been one to pick up on the emotions of others, especially when there was food in the nearby vicinity.
While Ron continued rambling, I took the opportunity to check my timetable. 'Oh that's new,' I exclaimed, cutting Ron off mid-sentence.
'We're having completely mixed classes this year. All four houses together, instead of just the usual two.'
'I guess its McGonagall's way of trying to get the houses to mingle a bit more. Build bridges and all that,' Ginny offered. 'At least we'll be together. How bad can it be?'
Well of course Ginny just had to ask, because it was bad. Just about as bad as it could get. When we had first arrived in class, we had taken seats together at the back of the class, with me and Ginny sitting at one bench and Ron and Harry sitting at the bench behind us. The class had maybe around twenty students. Quite large for a NEWT class, but since there were people like us who had originally missed seventh year there were more people than usual taking the class. It wasn't long before our new potions professor arrived. Professor Slughorn had gone back into retirement at the end of the previous year and so this year we would have two new teachers, one for transfiguration and one for potions. The teacher, who arrived, was a woman in her mid- thirties, with her black hair pulled into a tight bun at the back of her head. I couldn't help but think of how she looked like a younger version of Professor McGonagall.
'Welcome to your NEWT level potion class. My name is Professor Haven. I have worked as a potion maker at St Mungo's for the last six years and I am looking forward to the coming year and teaching you all the vital skills that you will need to get through your NEWTS. I'm not going to lie to you. This year will be challenging. You will be learning how to make some of the most complex potions in the wizarding world and you will need patience and skills in order to succeed this year.'
'However, before we start I would like to make a few small changes to the seating arrangements.'
At this, everyone nervously glanced around the classroom. It seemed that old habits dies hard as everyone seemed to have sat with people from their own house. At Professor Haven's word, we all grimaced slightly, knowing what was to come.
'You will be sitting in alphabetical order. The seats that I put you in will be your seats for the rest of the year. The partner that you are assigned will also be your partner for the remainder of the year. Potion making is a complex art and one that will often require collaboration with other. As such you will be working closely with your partner, working together to make various potions. If you wish to gain a high level in your NEWTS you will need to learn to communicate effectively with your partner.
Professor Haven summoned a register and started to read through it, beginning with Hannah Abbott, assigning her a seat at the front of the class. I quickly did the maths in my head let out a small groan as I realised who my partner would be. I barely had time to adjust to the idea when Professor Haven called out my name and pointed to a seat near to the front of the classroom, at the opposite side from Hannah. I began to gather my books together when she said my partner's name.
I closed my eyes and heard Ron give a loud scoff. I turned around to shoot a glare at him, before walking over to my new seat. I didn't miss the fact that he gave me a thumbs up with a look of smug happiness on his face. I was sorely tempted to make a gesture with my hand, but unfortunately my hands were both full with my books and bags. It was probably just as well, as Professor Haven was standing a mere few feet away from me. Probably not the best way to make a good first impression with a new teacher.
While I had been busy scowling at Ron, Malfoy had been quicker at gathering his things together, as he was already sitting at the seat nearest the wall, the better seat of course; his arm casually resting on the table, his eyes firmly fixed on the front of the class.
I threw my bag down on the table, making it bang a little louder than I had meant to and winced slightly, when I saw Malfoy's eyes flicker briefly in my direction and a small sneer appear on his face.
I sat myself down on my seat and turned my back to him, determined not to look at him. I really didn't need to look at his ferrety features for longer than necessary. I turned to glance behind me, to realise that Harry was sitting at one of the tables behind me with Pansy Parkinson and across from him was Ginny and a Ravenclaw girl from her year. I searched the class to find Ron and gave a small chuckle when I saw him sitting next to Blaise Zabini; a look of complete and utter disgust on his face. I guess I wasn't the only one who would be having a completely miserable year. I caught his eye as he looked up at me and I repeated his previous gesture to me, by subtly putting my thumbs up to my face and giving him a smirk. He however, had both hands free and was able to stick a certain finger up in my direction, giving me a scowl along with it. I couldn�t help but laugh at his face and I caught Harry's eye when turned around and realised that he was laughing too. I caught Malfoy's look of disdain as I settled back into my seat, rolling my eyes at his killjoy attitude. I would not show him that he intimidated me.
I laid my books and parchment across the table in my usual routine and pulled attention back to Professor Haven, who had directed us to turn to page seventy two of our books. I quickly flipped through the book and I couldn�t help but smile at the words that met my gaze. Polyjuice Potion. I gave a quick glance over my shoulder to look at Harry, who was grinning widely at me.
'Polyjuice Potion is an extremely delicate and complex potion. It will take us at least one month to brew and I will be amazed if any of you manage to brew it correctly.'
The smile that I had been trying to supress quickly came back to my lips. I had currently made Polyjuice Potion twice so far. Once in second year, when we were trying to get information out of Malfoy and once last year, when we had to break into the Ministry of Magic.
After answering most of Professor Haven�s questions about Polyjuice Potion (I let Harry and Ron answer some too) and earning ten points for Gryffindor between us, we finally had to start making the potion. I quickly scanned the ingredients and when it became clear that Malfoy wasn't moving, I gave an annoyed sigh and jumped out of my seat.
'I'll get the ingredients then shall I. Don't you bother moving yourself,' I said sarcastically before adding 'pompous arse', just loud enough for him to hear. I didn't even wait for Malfoy's reaction before I stormed off to the supply cupboard where I met Harry.
'This year is going to be so much fun,' I muttered bitterly, searching through the various jars and bottles for the lacewing flies which were one of the first ingredients on our list.
'I know. I think you got the worse end of the deal though Hermione,' Harry said, passing me the lacewing flies from the top shelf above me. 'At least this lesson should be easy for you. You had this potion perfected in second year.'
I gave him a modest little nod and a smile, before returning to my table. I noticed that Malfoy had actually managed to move himself and had filled the cauldron with water and had lit the fire to boil it.
I laid out all of the ingredients and made a move to roll up my sleeves, which was part of my usual preparation before making a potion. I rolled up the right sleeve first so that it sat just above my elbow and was halfway through the process on my left sleeve, before I realised that I had just exposed my scar. I gave a small intake of breath, causing Malfoy to glance in my direction. How could I be so stupid? I quickly rolled my sleeve back down, so that it sat midway between my wrist and my elbow, hiding my offensive mark.
I sighed with relief when it was safely hidden, but caught Malfoy's gaze lingering on my arm. 'What?' I snapped, causing him to glance up at me. Something in his gaze made my heart momentarily stand still. He was looking at me with a mixture of curiosity and pity and it made my blood run cold. What had he seen? Had he seen my scar? I didn't think I could take it, if he had seen it. I really didn't need to give him of all people more ammunition to use against me.
I was surprised however when he didn't even bother to answer me. He merely shrugged and looked away beginning to look through the ingredients that I had brought over. I watched him curiously, still waiting for him to mention my scar, when I noticed that his sleeves were identical to mine. The right one rolled all the way up past the elbow and the one on the left only going just above the wrist. I watched as he placed his right hand on his left forearm and rubbed it gently. It took me a moment to realise what he was doing. What he was thinking about? What was hidden underneath that sleeve? His dark mark. I couldn't help but wonder what was going through his mind. Was he as ashamed of his scar as I was of mine and that was why he was hiding it, or was he merely thinking about the good old days with Voldemort? No doubt it was the latter I thought bitterly; no doubt reminiscing about the glory days.
We worked in silence for the next half an hour. I was surprised at how we quickly fell into a routine of working together. I would do one step of the potion and he would do the next. It pretty much meant that we didn't need to speak to other, so it worked perfectly. It was all going rather well until I noticed that instead of shredding the Boomslang Skin as he was supposed to be doing, he was rather neatly slicing it into perfectly equal portions.
'You're doing that wrong,' I said, sounding more shrewish than I intended. I couldn't help but wince slightly as he stiffened and then turned around to glare at me.
'Is that so,' he said quietly, his voice like ice, dripping with disdain.
I narrowed my eyes at him and stood up straighter in an attempt to show him that I wasn't intimidated.
'As a matter of fact yes, you are. You are supposed to be shredding the Boomslang Skin, not slicing it into perfectly equal portions.'
'Well I'm sure it will be fine,' he quickly retorted, returning to carefully slicing the skin in front of him.
'No it won't be fine Malfoy. It says shredded, so funnily enough, it has to be shredded,' I said sarcastically and also slightly louder than I had intended. I turned around to check over my shoulder to see if I had caught Professor Haven's attention, but luckily she was distracted by Ron and Zabini, who seemed to have made a mess of their potion, judging by the orange froth that was seeping out over the top of their cauldron.
'Oh, give it a rest Granger,' he said in irritation, his eyes rolling. 'Stop trying to be such a know it all. It's not like you're such an expert in Polyjuice Potion, so stop trying to tell me what to do,' he spat in my direction. I noticed that his body was tense. I was seriously getting on his nerves and I had to say I was enjoying the thrill of having an argument again, especially since I was right. It seemed just like old times.
'For your information Malfoy,' I spat, saying his name as bitterly as I could manage, 'I have made Polyjuice Potion twice before, the first time being when I was twelve. It looks like I was more skilled at twelve than you are now,' I retorted, satisfied at seeing his brows furrow with annoyance.
'Yeah right, Granger. What would you have needed Polyjuice Potion for in second year?'
I took complete satisfaction in the confused and intrigued look on his face. I put a completely innocent look on my face before raising one eyebrow and saying, 'wouldn't you just love to know,' before I whipped out my wand and made his sliced Boomslang skin vanish, much to his annoyance.
'And what is that supposed to mean?' he retorted, clearly frustrated by my implication.
I simply raised my eyebrows back at him with a small smile formed on my lips, before I turned around and waltzed over to the supply cupboard, leaving him with a look of surprise and confusion on his face. The blood was pumping through my veins, on fore with the thrill of fighting with Malfoy. I hadn't felt so alive in a while. Yes it definitely felt good to be back.
After potions class, my day was definitely looking up. More than once that day I caught Malfoy scowling in my direction and I won�t even try to deny that I enjoyed it. It made me feel good to know that I gotten under his skin. I would bet that he was still trying to figure out what I had meant with my comment.
It wasn't until dinner that night that the others started to notice his constant glaring. I had just taken another glance over my shoulder to see if he was still scowling in my direction, as he had been doing all day. I would bet that by now he had realised that we had tricked him at some point and was trying to work out when we had done it, or else he probably thought that I was just lying to wind him up. He probably thought that he was way too smart to have ever been tricked by us. Either way, I was enjoying watching him squirm.
'Why do you keep looking over at Malfoy, Hermione? And why is he shooting daggers at you?' Harry asked, glancing over at Malfoy. 'I mean if looks could kill.'
I gave a small chuckle before I answered 'oh he's just trying to figure out at what point in second year we tricked him with Polyjuice Potion. He was really bugging me, so I couldn't help winding him up just a little bit.
Harry and Ron gave out a loud laugh. 'Yeah, he totally fell for it. Took us right inside the Slytherin common room and he didn't suspect a thing. Even when my hair started to turn back to red, he still didn't twig, the idiot,' Ron mused, recounting his experience of being Crabbe.
I gave another quick glance over my shoulder to see Malfoy looking over furiously at us, his face full of rage, while Blaise Zabini talked beside him. I guess he had realised that we were having a laugh at his expense. It was only then I noticed how far apart they sat from everyone else at the Slytherin table. Usually Malfoy was surrounded by a large crowd, all hanging onto his every word, but he and Zabini were sat at the end of the table with no one sitting near them. I guess the rest of the Slytherins had a problem with him turning over to the good side and helping defeat Voldemort. I was pretty sure that more than a few of the Slytherins parents had been put in Azkaban after he had been defeated. As usual Malfoy and his family had come out of the way completely unscathed. Everyone else had lost something or someone. Once again, Malfoy and his family had been on the wrong side in the war, done unspeakable things and yet got away with everything.
'I wonder why he came back anyway. I mean after everything that happened, why would be even want to?' I wondered aloud. 'Why would any of the Slytherins come back for that matter? I mean Hogwarts doesn't exactly hold the same values as they do. I'm surprised more of them didn't go to Durmstrang instead.'
'They all have to be seen to have changed. Going to Durmstrang would get the Ministry's attention and they would have been watched like hawks for any slip ups with dark magic.' Harry answered. 'Most of their parents are either in Azkaban or avoided it by the skins or their teeth, they have to be seen to try and fit in again. Without him to follow, they have too much to lose. They have to conform to regular views.'
'Yeah like any of us actually believe they've changed,' Ron scoffed through a mouthful of food. 'We all know they're just waiting for the next dark wizard that they can follow.
I was pondering what the boys had said, when somebody brushed past my back, pushing me slightly forward as they past. I was in the process of turning around to say something rather rude to them when I saw them slide into the seat beside me.
It took only moments for my fists to ball up with frustration as I heard the words that had plagued me throughout most of sixth year.
'Hi, Won Won,' Lavender Brown said, while stroking Ron's arm.
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