“Why’d you pick Amortentia?”
Hermione paused in her stirring and sighed. “Because it’s a challenge, Ron. Now please stop hovering.”
Ron took a step back, and she relaxed, the tension going out of her shoulders. She’d spent the past two hours combining carefully obtained and prepared ingredients, the last twenty minutes of which had required what she’d come to think of as “Ron maintenance.” He’d been somewhat adrift since they’d broken it off (since she’d broken it off) over winter hols, with Harry spending all his free time with Ginny, and Hermione—well, Hermione had little free time between schoolwork and her duties as Head Girl.
Ron came up beside her and leaned over the cauldron, sniffing. “It doesn’t smell like anything. Not finished yet?”
“Be careful, would you!” She yanked his arm, pulling him back. “And it’s not supposed to smell. That’s one of the alterations I’ve experimented with.”
“Oh.” He shoved his hands in his pockets. “That seems pretty dangerous, Hermione. After what happened this Valentine’s—”
“I know, Ronald, but I’m making the potion purely for academic purposes. No one will come into contact with it.” She checked the time with a quick Tempus and blew an errant curl from her face. Ten more minutes, a final stir, and she’d be finished. If Ron’s clinginess didn’t drive her barmy first.
The door to the Potions classroom groaned open, and Harry stepped in, hair mussed as per usual, lips puffy, clothes rumpled. Hermione’s lips quirked as she and Ron turned to face him.
“Hey guys. You ready for practice, Ron? Ginny’s gone on ahead to make sure Slytherin doesn’t try to steal the pitch out from under us again.”
“Yeah, yeah, coming.” Ron made for the door, his expression gone cloudy. The idea of his best friend shagging his sister was not one that would ever go down well. “See you at dinner, Hermione?” he paused to ask, looking at her hopefully over his shoulder.
“Of course.” She smiled. As if she wasn’t at dinner every night. Or most nights, anyway. Sometimes Head duties kept her.
He beamed and nodded at Harry. “I’ll see you out there.”
After Ron had closed the door, Harry approached the table. “How’s the potion coming?”
“Well, I think. Almost done.”
Harry scratched the back of his neck. “You know Ron thinks you’re making this for him, right? For the both of you?”
“What?!” Her hands reflexively went to her hips. “That makes no sense!”
He shrugged. “He thinks you want to get back together, that you realized you made a mistake and are too proud to admit it or something.”
Turning round, Hermione put her head in her hands and stared into the bubbling cauldron.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
“I just thought you should know. Not that I want to get in the middle of things between you two. Maybe you could be clearer about your feelings?”
“Harry, I have been clear. I would have to take his heart out and tap dance on it to be any clearer, and I’d really rather avoid that.” She let out an anxious laugh.
He put his hand on her shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “Sorry. I know it’s awkward. It’s awkward for me, and I haven’t dated either of you.”
She laughed, this time happily, and turned to give him a quick hug. As she raised her arms to wrap them around his shoulders, she bumped the cauldron and heard a hiss as liquid splashed over onto the flames. Gasping, she instinctively jumped away from the table, dragging Harry with her.
“Oh no! Are you wet at all?” She patted herself down and watched, wide-eyed with panic, as Harry did the same.
“Don’t seem to be. I don’t think it got us.”
Hermione exhaled shakily. “Thank God. Not that you’d be the worst person in this situation, Harry, but I’m starting to think I should be wearing protective gear.”
He chuckled. “Not a bad idea. And with that, I’m off to Quidditch practice. See you at dinner. And don’t let Malfoy keep you this time,” he pointed at her warningly as he headed for the door.
She rolled her eyes. “I won’t. Have a good practice.”
Alone once again, five more minutes to go, Hermione sat and stared unseeingly at her notes. In addition to the two hours she’d spent on the Amortentia that day, it had taken her weeks to gather and prepare all the ingredients, some extremely rare. While she hadn’t quite lied to Ron about the difficulty of the potion being a reason for focusing on it for her extracurricular project, it wasn’t the sole reason. Or, if she was honest with herself, the most important reason.
No, her choice of Amortentia had mostly to do with Draco Malfoy.
As uncomfortable as Ron was with the reality of Harry and Ginny having sex, Hermione felt equally—if not doubly—unsettled by her repressed attraction to the school’s haughtiest, most spoiled wanker. And that wasn’t even counting their personal history of animosity. The inexplicable situation had only gotten worse since they’d been made Head Boy and Girl, forced to work together and live in close proximity, shared Common Room and all.
Of course Hermione had absolutely no intention of using the potion as part of some crazed plan to make Draco fall in love with her. But it was clear her unhealthy fixation had led her to pick Amortentia in particular over the many different difficult potions she might have chosen. Perhaps working with the potion of obsession would help clear her of hers.
In moments of optimism, Hermione almost believed that could be true.
When she wasn’t consumed with some task, when she worked on the potion alone, or as her mind wandered during those moments just before sleep, Hermione knew she was capable of using the potion. That she hoped for an occasion to use it. However, the instances she allowed herself to imagine were always accidental, exempting her from all responsibility.
Draco rudely barging in on her in the Potions classroom, knocking the cauldron over as she herself had almost done. Draco sneakily confiscating her work for his own like the Slytherin he was. Someone else spilling or stealing the potion…
The most guilt-free, far-fetched scenario of all: Draco taking the potion and barely being affected because he already wanted her. The Amortentia would simply cause him to act on his most secret of desires.
Hermione made a garbled noise and banged her head lightly on the table. This was awful. Pathetic. She hadn’t felt this pathetic since the start of first year when she’d wandered around Hogwarts friendless.
Ron was right about the dangers of making the potion scentless. That Valentine’s there’d been a rash of love potion “poisonings,” resulting in utter chaos—hilarity, yes, but many an awkward morning after and plenty of hurt feelings to go around (students had therefore nicknamed the incident “The Second Valentine’s Day Massacre”). At its climax, the smart had begun fleeing whenever they caught a mere whiff of any pleasing scent, and it had reportedly saved many a shred of dignity. Removing the most powerful love potion’s key identifier would clearly render it even more devastating.
The scent alteration, however, had little to do with a desire to improve Amortentia’s effectiveness (although this was of course how Hermione described it in her report). Rather, she in no way wanted external confirmation of her feelings. Merlin forbid she smell that woodsy shampoo Draco used. Or his post-Quidditch leather-and-sweat combo. Or the lemon drops he liked to suck with that gorgeous mouth of his…
Instead of a garbled groan, Hermione whined her distress this time and fought the urge to beat the cursed potion into a froth, stirring it the required ten times clockwise, slow and steady. It wouldn’t do to let her uncharacteristic inattentiveness and imprecision cause a disaster. Damn her insidious desire for a calamity to bring former enemies together in some ridiculous plot straight out of a romantic comedy! Making the potion additionally absorbable through the skin nearly assured an accident, and she could only blame her irrational fantasies for such a choice.
There. She had only to let it cool; her report was already written. She levitated the clearly labeled cauldron to the “Projects in Progress” shelf and cast a few wards for good measure. Gathering her things, she unceremoniously dumped them all into her bag.
Including one slightly damp quill.
After an uneventful, if prolonged, prefect meeting and equally uneventful dinner (if you didn’t count the new awkwardness she now felt after Harry’s revelation regarding Ron’s lingering feelings), Hermione sat in her room, at her desk, quill in hand. It had become her habit at night, upon completing her homework and putting in a decent hour studying for N.E.W.T.S., to do a little writing. For fun. And, well, for mental health.
As a girl, Hermione had been an obsessive diarist, but once she became friends with Harry and Ron, she was far too busy almost being killed and, in turn, preventing their deaths to keep a diary anymore. Now that Voldemort had retreated and Hogwarts was once again safe, she supposed she had the time to do things like make up stories featuring people she knew as the characters.
Draco Malfoy and herself in particular.
As with the Amortentia, Hermione thought writing could be her (admittedly demented) way to a kind of catharsis, a working through what she knew to be an unhealthy, who-knew-how-long-repressed, obsession. Unlike the Amortentia, there was no chance anyone could get hurt, especially since she Vanished everything she wrote when she was done for the night. She wouldn’t risk prying eyes, nor would she risk her own sanity by endlessly poring over what she’d written. The point was to write it and get it out of her system. Plain and simple.
Hermione stretched in the unyielding, wooden chair, not even her most comfortable pajamas enough to distract her from the ache at her shoulders and neck. Leaning over a cauldron was murder, and there was no way Potions would ever make the top of her list of career choices. Yet the thought of being done with the Amortentia caused its own stress, a hollow sensation in the pit of her stomach that gnawed away worse than going without food.
Cracking her knuckles, she picked up her quill and frowned. The feather was all smooshed. It must have gotten crushed in her bag. What a shame; it was her favorite, Ron having given it to her. She had plenty more, but she’d come to think of this one as her writing quill. She should never have taken it from her room. It seemed fine otherwise: just a bit aesthetically displeasing. She dipped the nib in some ink and tested it on some parchment. Smooth as ever, and Hermione felt a little jolt of compulsion, as if tonight in particular she simply had to write.
She smiled, folded her legs, and began.
A bark of laughter and loud voices in the adjoining Common Room broke Hermione’s concentration. She gripped her quill as she recognized the boisterous guffaws of Crabbe and Goyle, and the less boisterous but equally abrasive chuckle of Blaise Zabini. Draco’s smooth, mannered rumble followed, along with some muffled words she couldn’t make out.
“Honestly,” she muttered. Past ten they weren’t even supposed to have guests. She angrily blotted the blob of ink that she had allowed to drip onto the page in her distraction and made to try again.
More peals of laughter. And was that her name she just heard? Hermione grit her teeth. At least Draco wasn’t finding whatever it was that funny. When he really got going, his laugh became high-pitched and vaguely girlish. These were the sorts of things she noticed about him now. Although, in all fairness, anyone living this close to him would. Right?
And another ink blob. Hermione tore off the parchment, crumpled it up, and cast Incendio. Brows knotted, she put quill to fresh paper and began.
Draco Malfoy, prat extraordinaire and onetime ferret, sat with his idiot Slytherin friends in the Common Room shared by himself and his fellow Head student, Hermione Granger. Zabini was, as usual, making snide comments about various students and professors that were sort of funny but not really.
It didn’t matter because Draco’s mind was elsewhere. It was on the girl in the next room with her door closed, probably studying or trying to brush that crazy hair of hers that he couldn’t help but like anyway.
He and his friends were being loud and obnoxious, which was something Draco typically wouldn’t care about in a million years.
But Hermione Granger was someone he didn’t expect to care about in a million years either.
So, he got up and stretched in the cat-like manner he always did and spoke. “Well boys, thanks for the entertainment, but I’ve had a long day, what with all my very important Head duties. Bugger off, and I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Being the obedient, pathetic followers they were, Crabbe, Goyle, and Zabini gathered whatever things they’d brought and left.
Draco immediately headed for his room, but something stopped him. Turning, he found himself inexorably drawn to Hermione’s door. He stood there, listening for the tiniest sound but hearing only his anxious breaths. Should he knock?
He shook his head. What would he say? Though Hermione had been nicer to him that year than he deserved given the fact that he’d been unforgivably vile to her in the past, he was still too much of a complete and utter coward to do anything about the feelings he’d developed for her.
Okay, he wasn’t a complete coward: he’d managed to confess his mission for the Dark Lord to the Headmaster the year before. He supposed he did have some character.
He was just too used to being handed everything he wanted. Miserable, he wandered off to his bedroom, pining for the girl he wanted so badly but whose intelligence, kindness, and unexpected beauty proved too intimidating a challenge. If only she knew how he felt…
Hermione smiled as she put down her quill and flexed her fingers. Normally she wrote a happy ending for herself (and Draco), but her aggravation at having her quiet evening of “therapy” delayed inspired her to try something different. The idea of Draco miserably pining for her was surprisingly pleasing. And she had left the story open-ended. Perhaps she’d continue it tomorrow. Regardless, she still Vanished what she’d written, leaving no chance for unwanted parties (in other words, anyone) to see it.
She’d been so absorbed in her writing that the racket from the Common Room hadn’t even registered. At the moment, Draco was speaking, his haughty, melodious voice, if not his words, coming to her through the door. She got up and put her ear against the wood, curious and not a little embarrassed, but heard only the squeak of sofa springs and the outer door being open and closed.
Next, the sound of expensive leather shoes on the cold floor, moving away. A pause. Closer now, closer, until it was clear Draco was approaching her door.
Panicking, Hermione looked around for her robe. These may have been her favorite pajamas, but they were positively matronly, cotton and flowered, the print worn.
Grabbing her robe from the bedpost, she slung it on, tied it, and turned back to the door, (mostly) ready to receive Draco.
Maybe he’d left? Simultaneously relieved and crestfallen, she put her ear to the door once again, just to check. She heard nothing, but she swore she could feel his presence on the other side. She put her hand on the knob—
—and heard his footsteps starting at her door then dwindling away as he presumably reached his own.
Hermione stood there a moment, hand still gripping the knob, brows knotted.
Her hand fell and she wandered distractedly to her bed, climbing in and putting out the light.
As she eventually drifted off to sleep, her mind finally permitted the silly thought: It was just like what I wrote.
The next day, Draco had turned into a girl.
Not literally, but he was certainly acting like one whenever Hermione was around, which was a lot given their class schedules and Head duties. She hadn’t caught even a glimpse of him in their rooms, leaving the distinct impression that he was avoiding her. In classes and during meals she’d catch him staring, but whenever she attempted to make eye contact he’d look away. And blush, for Merlin’s sake. He barely said a word as they worked out the prefect schedule where normally he’d argue endlessly if Slytherin students were given even a minute more patrol time than any other House member.
Hermione naturally bristled when some idiot boy assumed a girl had her period if she had the gall to be in a bad mood. But she couldn’t help thinking that if Draco was indeed acting like a stereotypical third-year girl, surely that girl was on the rag. When he wasn’t blushing and giving her the silent treatment, he was scowling and being short with her at completely random moments.
His behavior confused and hurt Hermione. He may still have been a prat now and again, but for the most part they were able to work and live together amicably. She had no idea what she might have done to set him off. As she entered her room at the end of the day, she vowed that she would find out.
“Granger! I want to talk to you!”
Hermione looked up from her Arithmancy text and rubbed her eyes. At least she wasn’t going to have to demand any answers.
“Come in, Draco.”
“No. You come out here.”
Hermione frowned but got up and opened the door. Draco had retreated and stood in the center of their Common Room, and she was surprised to see his hand at his wand pocket.
“You cast Imperius on me!”
“What?!” Hermione took a step forward, shocked and outraged, but Draco gripped his wand in his pocket, and she halted. “Draco, think of who you’re talking to. I would never—”
“Legilimency then? Are you doing some strange experiment or something?” His look was accusing and wild-eyed.
“No!” Not in the way he meant, anyway. “I promise I’m not trying to harm or otherwise affect you, Draco. Please,” she spoke as soothingly as possible. She needed to defuse the situation before his fear turned to violence. “Tell me why you think I would do such a thing.”
Her earnestness seemed to calm him. He removed his hand from his pocket and took a deep breath. “For a short period of time last night, I was not acting under my own will.”
Hermione sat in one of the wing chairs, a spike of nervous energy stabbing her through the middle. “Go on.”
“Th-that’s it,” he stuttered. “Isn’t it enough?”
“Why did you suspect me? And why Legilimency?”
He folded his arms but broke eye contact. “Obviously because you were in close proximity when it happened.”
“All right. And my second question?” The nervous energy had become a great, dense cloud permeating every part of her body.
His face colored, and he hastily grabbed his schoolbag from a nearby chair. “This is pointless. I’m staying in Slytherin tonight.” With that, he stormed out of the room.
Hands clutching her knees, Hermione remained in her chair for several long moments, her mind balking at the only reasonable explanation. She really had written his actions the night before. But how?
Jumping up and striding purposefully to her room, she fetched the roll of parchment she’d been using for her stories, the nightmare of Tom Riddle’s diary and the Chamber of Secrets filling her mind. She cast a Revealing charm, but to no avail. Panic increasing, she paced her room.
“Think, Hermione, think. You’ve been using this same, new parchment for stories all Spring term with nothing strange happening. Why last night’s story? Even if—and that’s a big if—Voldemort or his followers were involved, how could they possibly benefit from Draco doing what I want him to do? And would the parchment be destroyed so easily?”
There were too many holes in the Voldemort theory, or even the idea that the parchment was responsible. What then? One wrote on parchment with—
A quill she’d used the same day to make notes on the Amortentia. A quill that later looked bedraggled, as if it had been wet.
Hermione fell face-first down onto her bed.
After a minute of stifled breathing, she rolled over, got up, and sat at her desk. She opened a drawer and removed the quill, handling it delicately. There was one final test to perform.
Taking a different roll of parchment (just in case), she prepared to write a new story. One in which she would act.
Hermione Granger, Brightest Witch of Her Age, yet frequently clueless as to romance, decided she needed to set the record straight with her dear friend and former boyfriend, Ronald Weasley.
Leaving the sanctity of the Head Girl’s room, she made her way to Ron, wherever he was. It broke her heart to have this conversation, but she realized it was far crueler to let him hope that they might one day rekindle their romance.
“Ron,” she said, “I love you so much—as a friend. I know you wish we’d once again be something more, but we tried that, and it showed me that we’re better off as friends. I’m sure you hate hearing it, and I’m sorry if I’m hurting you. Please forgive me if I gave you a false impression.”
She decided to leave it there, giving Ron the ability to react as he chose.
Putting the quill down, she waited, figuring she’d feel a compulsion to act out the story or an Imperius-like haze.
She tore off and Vanished the parchment on the off chance it was a vital element of the whole thing.
And more nothing.
All right…. The options were that she was totally wrong or simply doing something wrong in her attempts to recreate her actions the night before.
Ron had never appeared in her stories, she realized guiltily. They were about her thing for Draco, and involving Ron, though it had never even occurred to her to do so, would seem perverse and beyond the point. And while the imagined conversation with Ron was on the topic of romance, it was not itself romantic. It was about ending the prospect of romance.
She knew what she had to do.
Hermione Granger, total fool but a true Gryffindor, changed into her favorite pajamas and put on her fluffy kitty slippers (the ones that reminded her of her dearly departed Crookshanks). Gathering her considerable courage, she took her wand to light the way, and made for the cesspool known as the Slytherin Common Room.
Upon arrival, she spoke the password Draco Malfoy had given her in a drunken stupor earlier that year, and the door opened.
Her presence was greeted with laughter, her ridiculous appearance a sight the Slytherins could not resist mocking.
“I’d like to speak to Draco,” she said, chin up despite their jeers.
When he appeared, annoyingly handsome as ever, she immediately apologized. “I’m sorry, Draco. It was my fault, but I didn’t mean it,” she explained vaguely, in case others overheard. “It’s my quill. I spilled my experimental Amortentia on it and wrote a…sort of romantic story b-because I like you. You acted out that story. I apologize for the lack of will and fear you experienced. I would never purposefully hurt you. I’ll report myself to the Headmaster tomorrow.”
Not wanting to script his response, she stopped writing, her hands shaking.
Within moments, she felt a pleasant dreaminess steal over her and a strong pull at her chest. Disrobing, she began to change out of her clothes.
Hermione blinked and stared back into Draco’s wide, grey eyes. She was cold. Except her feet, which felt rather sweaty, and her face, which was hot all the way to her ears.
“Is that the end?” Draco whispered.
She looked down at her fluffy slippers and nodded. Acting out the story had felt like following a linear dream or like being drunk or stoned (she assumed) and watching yourself from afar. Except the dream or trip was scripted, and she was the writer. She couldn’t imagine how scary it would be if she wasn’t. How frightening it must have been for Draco.
He nodded and took her by the arm. “Let’s go back up to our rooms.”
She didn’t resist as he led her out of Slytherin, the students there looking around in mild confusion. She was conscious of the warm pressure of his hand on her arm, and it somehow lessened her anxiety as they headed upstairs and down corridors until they reached the Head rooms.
“Show me what you wrote,” he said as soon as they closed the door.
Knots tying in her stomach with every second, Hermione went to her room and returned with the story—and the quill.
Draco sat in a chair and scanned her writing. She could not read his expression.
“Where’s the one from last night?”
She fidgeted. “Gone. I Vanish them after I’m done.”
He looked up. “‘Them’? How many have you written?”
She shrugged. “I don’t know.” Although she could figure it out if she tried. “I only finished and spilled the potion yesterday.”
He placed her story on the table nearby, blonde fringe hiding his eyes. “Not what I meant,” he said quietly.
Shifting on her feet, Hermione waited for him to say more. When he didn’t, she asked, “What was it like thinking thoughts or feeling emotions I wrote? I didn’t really script any for myself, or if I did they were things I already thought or felt.” Too nervous to keep standing, she sank to the chair beside his.
Why was he looking away from her so determinedly? Why wasn’t he angrier, staring her down and yelling?
“It was strange,” he said, “but strangely natural, too. Hell of a potion, Granger.”
She flushed. “That’s one way of putting it.”
He tapped his fingers on the arm of his chair then reached for the quill. Her heart sped up double-time. “So, when can I write something with this?”
“Why would you want to?” she laughed. It rang as false as one of Lockhart’s books.
Finally, he looked at her, a mysterious smile on his face. Could an eighteen-year-old’s heart explode from overwork?
“To even the score, of course.”
“But that’s why I had myself go down to the dungeons, wearing this and these, to explain and apologize and—and everything.”
He tilted his head in momentary contemplation. “Perhaps, but you were also doing an experiment. Regardless, to make us truly even, I have to write your actions.”
Correction: her heart was going to explode from fear.
No. She was a Gryffindor, damn it.
“You’re right. Go ahead.”
Draco grinned and rose, taking the quill with him into his room.
She was going to vomit. Even Gryffindors vomited.
She could think of no one worse than a Slytherin having that quill in his or her possession, and no Slytherin more clever—or more invested in making her life hell—than Draco.
Feet practically doing a jig on the stone floor, she resolutely awaited her fate.
A mere few minutes later, the pull and the dreaminess brought her to Draco’s room.
She looked around and saw Draco sitting at his neat and orderly desk with his back to her. Slowly, he turned and stood. They walked towards each other, and Hermione noticed the pull was gone. Only the pleasant sense of mild intoxication remained.
Draco’s hand came up to push her hair back, and Hermione smiled. She stepped up on her toes, and he leaned forward, meeting her lips with his own, warm and firm. The kiss was brief but she felt its heat burn through the potion’s haze, a liquid fire more intense than any she herself had written for them.
He was good. Really, really good. Nobel Prize for Literature good.
They broke apart, and Hermione found herself panting as if she’d held her breath for minutes. She reached for Draco, ready for another kiss, but he’d turned and was getting something from his desk. Returning, he put some parchment in her hand. The story.
The dreaminess vanished. She shook her head to clear its vestiges and looked up at Draco.
“Go on, read it,” he urged.
Hermione Granger, Brightest Witch of Her Age—but not bright enough to see that the preternaturally gorgeous boy she likes returns her feelings—enters Draco Malfoy’s room.
There they each do what they truly wish to do until Draco hands Hermione the parchment upon which these words are written.
Hermione bit her lip, still warm and tingly from the kiss.
“So,” she began, eyes lingering on his elegant handwriting, “you’re more decent than I assumed. I suppose I needn’t be as ashamed of my feelings as I have been.”
He raised her chin with thumb and forefinger until she met his eyes. “Let’s not spread that rumor. They’ll question my Sorting.” His grin was crooked.
She chuckled. “Only a Slytherin would fail to be insulted by a lack of decency.” She stood on her toes again in preparation for another kiss. She supposed she was through writing.
“Only a Gryffindor would have the bollocks to wear all that in public. Kill your cat for those slippers?” He snuck in a kiss before she could smack his shoulder.
“Careful, or I’ll wear you on my feet next.”
“I wish you’d kept the other stories. That way I’d know if this is foreplay.” He’d wrapped an arm around her waist and was nuzzling her neck.
She was glad he couldn’t see her blush. She had indeed written many a scene involving the two of them arguing and then passionately mauling one another. Faking indignation, she scoffed, “Who taught you that threats are foreplay?”
Ignoring her question, he stepped back, swiped the quill from the desk, and snapped it in half. “Enough banter, Granger. Let’s 'write' some new stories together.”