And again, as it was accustomed now as they marched into their classroom to learn about rubbish that they should not be learning about, they were greeted by a happy voice.
"Welcome, class, welcome." As the Sixth and Seventh Years marched into their Family Consumer class for the day, miserable-looking as ever, a big-bellied professor with an odd top hat and over-the-top excitement smiled at them all. "Take your seat with your respective others," he encouraged, motioning them to the tables all around.
"Professor Slughorn, " Lavender raised her hand as she took a seat on an open table, "where's Professor Sprout? I thought she'd be teaching the classes from now on?"
"Oh, she will, Miss Brown," the Potions Master nodded at her, his small eyes gleaming, "but I requested to teach this lesson today. Seeing as I've been around for many years and have a particular experience in this matter."
"...I see," Lavender said, her eyes growing angry as Seamus dropped himself to the seat next to her; groaning about her always having to choose and not taking his choices in consideration. "If you don't like it, Finnegan, I can always kill you," she snarled, hushing him up with her stare.
"Since you're alive, Harry—" Hermione Granger kept her eyes focused on the book in front of her, not bothering to look up at the person who'd just slammed a copy of Seventh Year Transfiguration on her desk and was panting heavily. "I'm guessing you managed to convince Ron that you're not, what's the word, groping his sister?"
"No," Harry breathed, quickly taking a seat next to her. Inhaling and exhaling deeply as if he'd just ran a mile or was back in those ridiculous tasks of the Triwizard Tournament. "I managed to escape him because a couple of Fourth Years thought Ginny and I made a lovely couple, and that we had the right to fondle one another if we wanted."
Shooting her brows up in surprise, a little uncomfortable by her friend's straightforwardness, Hermione cleared her throat. "So, the fans saved the day, did they?"
Harry scoffed. "Not bloody likely. They made it a lot worse." Still not looking away from the intriguing page of her book, Hermione ignored the loud thump Harry's forehead had made when he collided it with the desktop. "Cho Chang's sister happened to be in one of the packs and ratted me out in a heartbeat. She said something about getting what I deserved for leaving her sister for Ginny." Snorting now, Harry looked up at his friend with grand amusement. "Oh, if only she knew that I left Cho for you."
Knowing the direct meaning to that, of what had happened their Fifth Year, Hermione laughed along with her friend. "Honestly, Harry."
BAM—there was another book slammed onto the desk. "Does the Weasley girl know you're trying to steal my fiancée? Because if you really wanted the little Bookworm, I'd be happy to trade."
To the sound of that irritated, venom-filled voice, Hermione chose to close her book and direct her attention to the person across from her; her eyes piercing straight through gray ones that held a twinge of anger. "Hello, darling. Had a fantastic day so far?" She batted her eyelashes in clear mock as the blonde's best friend approached his side.
"I like her." Blaise Zabini pointed a finger at the Gryffindor witch; laughing at Draco's frowning face. "She's funny."
"Oh, yes, very witty," Malfoy huffed as Blaise dropped himself to the nearby desk. "Out of my seat, Potter," he growled at the Boy Who Lived, motioning him out of his space next to Hermione with snapping fingertips.
Rolling her eyes at her fiancée and his most-likely-to-be best man, Hermione ignored them as she turned her attention back to the boy she loved dearly. "I still don't know what's so awful about this situation, Harry. I mean, sure, it's disgusting to know, but it's natural."
Deciding to avoid a fight with Malfoy, Harry moved to the front of desk; his hands resting on the surface across his best friend. "Of course it is, but that doesn't mean he won't be sending an owl to her other brothers." He was pale, seriously stricken by this with grave embarrassment. "You know what that means? The entire Weasley clan will be hunting me down, 'Mione."
"Rubbish," Hermione snorted, patting Harry's hands soothingly. She was, through her friendly gesture, aware of the gaze boring directly to her side that came from the Slytherin beside her. "If anything, the boys will just take the mickey out of you two. Besides, Ron's a foul, hypocritical git. When he was snogging Lavender all around the castle, he didn't stop assaulting her when her brothers were in Hogwarts too."
Harry rose an eyebrow. "I didn't know that."
Hermione nodded, smiling at him calmly. "They were two big Seventh Years. They gave Grawp a run for his galleons."
Remembering Hagrid's giant, half-brother, Harry chuckled as an ease took over him for a moment. "Thanks, 'Mione. You're amazing at this," and he leaned forward to place a kiss on her forehead.
Expanding her smile a little more to her surrogate-brother, Hermione returned back to her book when Harry proceeded to his table as soon as Ginny had marched into the classroom. And right as she'd found the page she had last read, she could still feel those silver eyes on her.
One minute, two minutes, and right before the third minute of an awkward tension on her shoulders, Ron appeared to her left side in rescue. "Hermione," he said to her, taking a seat on the table there as Pansy strolled into the room scouting for him; a smirk on her face as she noticed Sprout gone.
"Still upset, Ronald?" The brunette questioned, ignoring the blank greeting he'd given her.
Grunting in response, Ron turned to his fiancée as he chose not to speak further to his best friend.
"Weasley," Pansy greeted in an emotionless tone. "How was your day so far?"
Ron shrugged and said, "aggravating. And yours?"
"That's lovely," Pansy said offhandedly, stuffing her Potions book into her bag; not meeting the redhead's eyes as both seemed to be in a silent agreement not to bother showing any consideration for one another. "Mine has been boring so far, but I'm hoping for some amusement."
"Interesting," Ron mumbled, turning to play with the sleeve of his robe and sounding out the Slytherin witch too.
Knitting her brows at Ron and Parkinson, Hermione felt the immediate shock trying to take over her facial expression at the interaction those two had. Turning to the side, looking from the corner of her eye and noticing Malfoy glare at the desktop, Hermione wondered why she couldn't have a simple, civil conversation with Malfoy? Surely they were in the same boat as Ron and Parkinson—they could do it too, right?
And as she looked longer at Draco, Hermione shoved the Slytherin to his right side as she noticed he'd been sitting on the edge of her robe. "Move, ferret." (Oh, right. She was the child in all of this.)
"Alright, silence now." Professor Slughorn cleared his throat loudly, shutting the conversations down as he attempted to begin with the lesson. "Before we begin, the Headmistress would like me to remind you that you've two weeks to choose a date for your, erm…wedding," he said uncomfortably at the class, well are of the lost causes among them.
"Get away!" Lavender snapped at Seamus, slapping his hand away from her book as she focused her attention back at the front with a frown.
Shaking his head, Slughorn continued. "You must inform your Family Consumer professor, which in this case is Professor Sprout, immediately. And if the situation presents itself in which you've not established a date, the Ministry will assign you a date." A few scoffs sounded around the room. "Now, now, children, the Ministry's trying to give you as much freewill as possible—"
"Free will?" Cho Chang scowled at the professor, already seated next to her soon-to-be husband. "How is it exactly freewill when the Ministry's forcing us into marrying ruddy gits? Who are they to send us off into the house of perverted snakes?"
And as she pointed an accusing finger at Blaise, he started defending himself as a few Ravenclaw boys sending death-glares at him. "It was a joke! It's not my fault her sense of humor's dried up as a prune."
Coughing at the infuriated look on Cho's face, Slughorn tried to press on once more. "Erm..Today's lesson is quite simple, since you've already been assigned your respective headquarters. I'm here today to demonstrate the art of living in a muggle community."
Smirks and warning stares were sent around to the Slytherins in the room as murmurs broke out around the classroom as the signal word 'Muggle' went off. Every Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff dared them to say something nasty in return to the professor's comment.
"...Not bloody likely," Malfoy hissed in a very low voice. Looking around at the staring faces, mouthing the words to himself.
Hermione frowned deeply, hearing him perfectly.
"Many times a newlywed married magical-couple decides it's best to begin their lives and family in a peaceful muggle town. And many times, the magical-couple has a rough time adjusting to the contraptions used to survive by the normal Muggle." The professor smiled, walking over to a section in front of the classroom where a large table sat with a cloaked thrown over it.
"What is this, Muggle Studies?" Zabini huffed, crossing his arms across his chest and nodding Malfoy towards the table.
"Now, it's my job today to show you how each of these contraptions work. This will give you a small idea of what to wait for." Slughorn pulled the cloak away from the table, showing the metallic objects to the class that sat on it. "Any volunteers for a bit of show-and-tell?"
Narrowing his eyes at the professor and his contraptions, Malfoy snorted. "No one said living like a muggle was an option."
Gritting her teeth by Malfoy and Zabini's comments, Hermione shot her hand in the air. "Professor," she called, "Malfoy would like to volunteer." And she picked up her fiancée's arm, raising it high. "He wants a bit of experience before we get our home in a Muggle village."
"Excellent!" Slughorn grinned largely. "Mister Malfoy, if you please. We'll try the microwave first!"
"The what?" Pansy and Ron asked at the same time as Blaise laughed with hysterics.
Draco turned to Hermione, glaring with all the hatred he could muster up as the latter leered triumphantly.
"I'm a Muggle-born, Malfoy," she whispered as his paleness turned red, "it is bloody likely."
"No, Ronald," Hermione huffed, rubbing her temples for the eighth time as her frustration multiplied. "You have to pronounce the words correctly in order for the spell to function."
"I am pronouncing it right." Ron glared, leaning back on one of the library chairs. "Everte Statum," he said again.
Hermione sighed, stacking her books. "Ron, the way you're saying is correct—when you speak it," she emphasized her words. "Now, try saying it exactly that way when you're waving your wand about."
"I am saying it that way!"
Hermione sent him a scowl. "Fine, Ronald," she breathed, gathering her things, "make sure to say it exactly that way in the mirror. Get some good goes at yourself, you stubborn idiot."
"Why are you angry?" He asked, raising his eyebrow.
"I'm not angry, Ron." Hermione stood from the library desk they were studying in for the last couple of hours, obviously lying. "I'm just tired, so I guess this is it for our tutoring lesson." She threw her bag over her shoulder, adjusting the strap quickly. "And next time, make sure Flitwick assigns you a tutor you can actually work with so I don't waste my time."
"I don't even understand what's the point of giving me a tutor," Ron interjected, watching as Hermione gathered the stuff that didn't fit in her schoolbag; ignoring her retort. "I'm a bloody war hero, why in Merlin's saggy pants do I need help in saying one certain spell?"
Hermione exhaled, shaking her brown curls at him with an incredulous glaze passing through her eyes. "So that's the reason behind all of your foul attitude lately?" She frowned. "Because you think you're some kind of hero?"
"I don't think I'm a hero, Hermione," Ron said indifferently, "I know I'm one." He leaned forward and hissed it out lowly, his bright eyes darkening as he did. "I didn't spend an entire year on the run so I could return to Hogwarts and be treated like a bloody thickhead.
"I didn't help fight to bring the Dark Lord down and save this castle so some bloody professor could tell me that I need to participate and pronounce my spells correctly. I've done every bloody spell imaginable, he has no right to correct me." He pushed a book off the round table, making it fall a foot away as his anger rose and his fists clenched.
Hermione jumped up at the sudden noise, the book echoing louder as the vacant library sat silently before them. And with that frown, she turned back to the redhead. "I was on the run as well, Ron," she said in a tiny voice, too afraid to speak up and lash out all her anger at him. "It might've escaped your notice, but I was right beside you and Harry fighting with all that I had."
"Really, Hermione?" Ron stood from the chair, sliding it back and letting it fall. "Because it seems to me that the difference you're missing between you and I is that I lost a lot during the war," he snarled at her, growing red in the face.
Hermione bit her bottom lip, trying not to let the tears pile in her eyes and leak out. "Do you think you're the only one who suffered?" She inhaled deeply, counting a few seconds before speaking. Her eyes burning. "What about Harry? What about little Teddy? What about every student who lost family and friends?" She took a step back from him, feeling ill as she saw the growing venom in his eyes. She was aware that her best friend was standing before her, but she didn't know who he was any more. "What about George?" She mouthed, spinning on her heels and marching forward.
Lavender Brown's words echoed around the walls of her head. She said let him be, give him time and he would adjust to life after the war and every after-effect that came with it. So Ron was still in mourning, she understood that, but letting the ego of being a 'hero' get to his head, and confuse his mourning with smugness was something she wasn't about to tolerate. She had enough of Ron Weasley's fits for a lifetime.
"—Oi, Granger, watch it!" Hermione collided with a strong shoulder, sending her tumbling back a few steps.
"Malfoy," she hissed, rubbing her shoulder. "What are you—what's that?" She questioned, noticing the metallic box in his hands; her face filled with suspicion.
"It's a microwave, Granger." Pansy Parkinson, who accompanied Malfoy, rolled her eyes. "And you're suppose to be the Muggle-Born here. Pathetic."
Hermione frowned. "Whatever." She shook her head and wiped her fallen tears before Pansy could spot them. "Where are you two taking it, anyway? Hogwarts doesn't run with electricity."
"Here, Pans," Malfoy interrupted Pansy, shoving the metallic box into her meaty hands. He stepped in front of her, giving her his back as his gray eyes were quick to dig their way towards Hermione. "Are you alright?" He murmured, noticing the redness of her eyes.
Hermione chewed on the inside of her cheek, a little taken aback as she remained silent.
Okay, so, what was she supposed to do here, confide in him? Tell him that her best friend was acting like a mental ghoul? Confess to him that she didn't know who Ron was anymore? That it pained her to feel like Ron was slipping away from her and Harry?
Did she look stupid?
"Nothing," she replied quickly.
Of course not, she's the Brightest Witch of the Age. Someone please give her more credit than that. Who in their right mind trust their fiancées,anyway? Certainly not her.
"Are you sure?" Malfoy pressed.
"….Do you honestly care, Malfoy?" Hermione adjusted the strap of her schoolbag, watching as his eyes looked to the floor and back at her face. The same expressionless gaze shined in his eyes; the blank look on his face staring back at her. "That's what I assumed," Hermione added after his silence.
Hearing footsteps approaching the corridor she stood with the two Slytherins, the brunette Gryffindor sighed loudly as the person she'd been escaping called her. "You forgot your Charms book." Ron stretched forward a thick book, his eyes shifting back and forth to Malfoy and Hermione and their proximity.
"Thanks," Hermione grunted as she yanked the book from his hand.
"Dra - Draco!" From behind the Slytherin Prince, Pansy groaned painfully. "I'm falling! Help!"
Turning back to his friend, Malfoy took the metal box with an irritated look. "I've seen you carry heavier bags of clothes than this, Pans."
Pansy scowled as she rubbed her palms soothingly. "Not true."
And as the Slytherin witch threw him a calculating stare, Ron frowned at her, but ignored her as he turned to his best friend. "We better go, Hermione," he told her, grabbing her elbow.
"No." Hermione shoved his grip away. "I'm going to my chamber, I need some sleep," she said, not turning to face the redhead. "You should take your fiancée and do the same, Ronald. I think we had enough for today."
Ron kept his frowned, annoyed now. "….Hermione."
"Make sure you cover him well enough at night, Parkinson," Hermione said rapidly before Ron could get out the rest of his sentence. "If he doesn't feel like he's getting top attention in his room, he might think Hogwarts isn't worth it anymore. Heroes like him need excellent service."
"I didn't mean it like that!" Ron hissed, turning Hermione around from the elbow and disregarding her shove a moment ago. "You know what I meant, Hermione. You know that what I said—"
"Oh, please, Ronald, you act like I don't know you." Hermione tried moving his grip. "You've always wanted the attention, and trust me you're getting it. And not for the merits you wish to be recognized as. "
"Weasley, it might be best if you let the Bookworm go." Draco's eyes lowered to the rough grasp the redhead had on the female Gryffindor and he felt a twinge of something, like a protectiveness seeping into him. "If there's trouble in paradise—"
"Oi!" Pansy scowled.
"—I suggest you work it out by not speaking to each other, just like all the other couples in their rough times. Now, if you will, let the witch go."
"Stay out of it, Malfoy," Ron growled.
Giving the Slytherin boy a look that told him to stay put for a moment, Hermione looked at the redhead Gryffindor with a sad stare. "Just let go, Ron," he tone was almost pleading, "I'm honestly exhausted to care for any explanations at the moment. I'll give you all night to come up with the perfect excuse of your bloody attitude these past few days and then we can talk."
"You don't think I've the right to be mad?" Ron asked, ignoring her request again. "To be angry and conflicted?" He gripped harder, flashes of the war playing in the back of his head. "I lost my brother, Hermione."
"So did Ginny," Hermione tried to push as well, wincing from his hold, "but she's pulling herself together. Trying her hardest to live in the peace she and Fred also fought for. She's not living in misery and letting the bad interfere with her life."
"It's not the same! What I saw—"
"I saw it too!" Hermione pushed again, irritated now. "And I don't go around treating you like you're not worth it!" She shoved a hand on his chest and tried pushing him backward. "Let - go!"
Ron's eyes burned behind his sockets, his face ached with anger at the disgust in Hermione's face. And before he couldn't contain it, he let go. "EVERTE STATAM!" He bellowed, shoving Hermione aside and casting out a red light from the tip of his wand.
And as something exploded, Ron turned on his heels and left.
"Ah…" Pansy breathed, gazing at the giant parts of metal on the floor now. "He blew up the microwave." She bent down and grabbed the part of the box which held the digital numbers. "Professor Slughorn gave me this." She turned the part around and expected the clear damage.
For a moment, for a moment as they ignored the dark-haired girl, Draco and Hermione stared at one another in the eye as they found themselves embraced into each other. His arms were wrapped around her, pulling her in his chest in a protecting way as soon as Weasley had tossed her.
Tearing themselves away quickly, Draco dusted himself from the smoke that had appeared. "His loss, Pans," he finally spoke, "it was for your chamber, anyway."
Hermione groaned, shaking her head at the two Slytherins. "At least he learned how to say the spell right." She gave Pansy a weak smile. "He'll replace it, you know."
Pansy glared, throwing the metallic part back on the marbled floor. "I wanted that one!" She stomped her foot.
"Pans," Draco sighed, "you didn't even know what it was for."
"I don't care." Pansy crossed her arms. "That bloody Weasel better replace it! I was going to store some items in there!"
"It's meant to be used as a cooking tool, Parkinson," Hermione informed.
"Brilliant, Granger," Pansy huffed as she started walking in the direction Ron left in. "After he replaces it, I'll shove his head in there!"
And as the girl headed away, almost in synch, Malfoy and Hermione turned to the direction of their chamber; leaving the scraps of metal behind. "Do you think she'll really hurt him?"
"Maybe." Malfoy shrugged, kicking a bit of metal. "She'll probably find a shiny new object by tomorrow and forget all about this."
"I'm sure I can talk Professor Slughorn into giving me his toaster." Hermione smiled for the first time tonight, forgetting about her row with Ron. "It's got a shiny side. She can stare at herself all night and pop toast."
Draco chuckled. "Sounds like Pansy found a new talent."
Hermione giggled lightly, letting her mind wander off. She laced her arm through Malfoy's, both of them laughing loudly that they didn't notice the sudden contact of their flesh or the sudden glow both of them radiated for a millisecond.