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A Missed Mark

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Fred and George Weasley were sitting in a corner of the commons room, very inconspiciously eyeing the stairs to the boys' dormitories, waiting for their youngest brother. Ron emerged, late on this tuesday morning, Harry in tow as Hermione already waited for them, tapping her foot impatiently. It had been a fabulous year for the Weasley twins. They no longer attented school, they had their own shop, and they were only back at the castle for an extended weekend to do a bit of... promotion. Preferably with a live example, a.k.a. Ron. 

"Fancy a chocolate, Ron?", Fred said non-chalantly, strolling past with the box in his hand, "Mom sent them."

Ron, who should have known better (but apparently thought that his mother's food ought to be above suspicion), reached out, but Hermione was faster. She took three chocolates, popped the heart-shaped one into her mouth, handed the other two to Harry and Ron and shoved the box back at Fred. "No time for chocolates, we'll barely have time for breakfast before we run late", she commented, and disappeared through the portrait hole, followed by Harry and Ron. Fred and George watched her disappear, with the sinking certainty that what had been intended as a joke was now a disaster waiting to happen. Hermione had swallowed the love potion.

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Fred and George followed the trio through the portrait and down to the Great Hall to do some damage control. The least they could do was keep an eye on things and make sure Hermione didn't do something uncharacteristically... stupid. 

The Great Hall looked like it would on every other morning, even though there was an awful amount of cheer in the air, along with the owls sending love letters back and forth. At least it was not raining confetti like it had four years ago when Gilderoy Lockhart was still a professor at Hogwarts. Looking up at the staff table, the students could see Slughorn humming happily and Dumbledore making the salt and pepper dispensers waltz with each other, much to the misgivings of professors Snape and McGonagall as Flitwick constructed a miniature dance floor with his wand. Fred and George sat down, still with that sinking feeling in their stomachs. 

"How are you feeling, Hermione?", George said off-handedly, trying to sound casual. Hermione made a face. "Like I am surrounded by people who don't take their education very seriously. Good thing we have Slughorn first, he always takes his time with his breakfast." Hermione turned back to her porridge, but Fred and George's expressions brightened a little. Potions in first period! Surely there must be a way to remedy the situation! Of course they couldn't accompany the students into class, but Harry and Ron... might find a way to fix things. The twins just had to confess to one of them first. 

"You did WHAT?", Ron exclaimed, after they had dragged him away on "family business", sending Harry and Hermione ahead to potions. "Well we didn't INTEND for it to be her", Fred said, which only infuriated Ron more. "You meant to make me, your own brother, run amok!" "Yep", the twins replied in unison, without even the slightest of regrets, because "it would have been perfectly harmless if it had been you, Ron. Everybody would have known it was nothing but a good joke!" Ron glowered at them, clearly they had a very different sense of humour. Fred hastily picked up where George left off. "But with Hermione, you see, she already might have shown certain signs of... affection towards our mark, love potion or not. She already was halfway in love." "Really?", Ron asked incredulously, "with who?" "Oh, Ron...", the twins replied, "sometimes you really are blind."

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When Harry and Hermione entered Slughorn's class room that Valentine's day, it already exhibited an assortment of potions, just as it had on their first day. Hermione identified Amortentia, Dreamshade, Forget-Me-Not and Cupid's Arrow. They were all love potions. She graced the cauldrons with a dark look. She was decidedly not in a romantic mood today. Yet she knew that her mood could be improved if she smelled at least one of them, and it could hardly be avoided in the 90 minutes she would spend in the underground chamber with little to no ventilation. How that had ever been approved as a safe place for potions was beyond her. 

They had just started working on their own potions as the familiar aromas of amortentia already drafted over to her. She could smell freshly mown grass, a new sheet of parchment and something just out of the oven, something she still wasn't quite able to identify.

Ron slipped into class a few minutes late and put his cauldron up at their table. He looked troubled, but Hermione had bigger worries. Harry had kept outshining her in every lesson, but she would be damned if that kept her from working. She barely paid attention to the boys who were whispering to each other, assuming that Harry was passing on stupid tips from his stupid book. She never caught the shocked expression on Harry's face as he looked at her. She finished her potion, again not up to Harry's or Slughorn's standards, and left the class room in an angry rush. Yet before she made it to the door, she had to pass by the presented cauldrons and potions. She smiled a little at the scent of ginger biscuits that was suddenly everywhere...

 

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"So what do we do?", Ron muttered to Harry, after he had told him what happened. They were bent over their cauldrons, both eyeing Hermione. "I don't know", Harry whispered back, thinking. It would by far exceed his abilities to concoct an antidote for an unclassified love potion. He supposed Slughorn would be able to do it, but then that might lead to all sorts of trouble... and Hermione hadn't done or even said anything unusual yet. Maybe the potion was a fluke? Maybe it wasn't even working? He shared his theories with Ron, who agreed.

"Who is that potion even for, supposedly?", Harry asked aloud, after class was over and Hermione had left. Ron shrugged. "They wouldn't say. Some bullshit about a lady's privacy. As if that will matter, if we don't find a way to stop this thing if it does kick in." It was Harry's turn to agree with Ron. To him, Hermione had never shown an overt interest in anybody- the only thing she was interested in were her classes. 

Then a dangerous idea came into his head, the kind of idea that usually got him within an inch of being kicked out of Hogwarts. "Ron", he said lowly, turning his head so that no one would see, "what if we don't have to cure Hermione? What if we simply give a potion to her crush, whoever that is, as well?" Ron looked at Harry for a moment, before both turned to the full cauldron of Amortentia that was happily bubbling in the corner. "We do this as a last resort", Ron said, and Harry nodded.

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"Fred! George!", Ron called to his older brothers to catch up with both of them in the hallway, Harry right behind him. "You need to tell us who Hermione's crush is!" They turned around, identically annoyed expressions on identical faces. "No, we don't. You are going to find out when the potion kicks in and not a minute sooner, not from us." "Yeah, about that", Ron said, "why isn't it doing anything?"

"The thing with love potions", George explained, "is that once taken, they all only last for a few hours, so that many of them expire before the consumer and the mark ever even meet each other." "We thought it would be a good idea to include a trigger, so that the potion is only activated when consumer and mark are actually together, to create a maximum effect with a single product, you see", Fred finished.

"Great, so what's the trigger?", Harry asked, watching the twins having an entire silent conversation with each other before turning back to him and Ron. "A look", they said eventually, "a look is all it takes."

"So Hermione hasn't looked at her crush yet?", Ron asked, baffled. "Your intelligence outshines even the most brightly polished of tea spoons", Fred commented sardonically, while George amended "it does take a few seconds, a locking of the eyes on both parts. Just looking at the person is not enough." "So when will Hermione lock eyes with her crush?", Harry asked pragmatically. "That depends...", the twins said, "on what your classes for the rest of the day are." Harry and Ron showed them their time tables.

"Congratulations, the dormant dose of Dreamshade we measured for a tall boy is going to wake up alive and kicking in a small girl in ten minutes."

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Hermione Granger stared at the woman in front of her. Had those eyes always been so green? The hair always so dark, the lips always so tempting with precarious promises? Yes, a small voice whispered at the back of her mind that seemed to be trapped in a sudden haze ever since she had laid eyes on the other woman today, yes, but not like this.

Hermione was barely listening to the woman talk. She knew she should be paying attention, really, but all she could pay attention to where those sharp angles and soft curves more or less hidden under flowing robes, the clearly defined edge of a jaw she just wanted to smooth over with kisses, below it the faintly beating pulse on a neck and even lower, the gentle rise and fall of a chest... that chest...

She had to tear her eyes away eventually, dimly aware that this was still a class and she was raising her wand to perform a spell as instructed, something about the eyes... look at me again, Hermione thought desperately, for she could not bear not to see those eyes, suddenly could hardly stand sitting so far apart, never touching, not even once feeling skin on skin, when a single desire now burned through Hermione's mind like a wildfire. 

To collide and conquer.

Next to her, Harry and Ron watched their friend's eyes glaze over, understanding beginning to dawn on their horizons.

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Minerva McGonagall always saved the eyes for last. They might start with the eyebrows on the tremendously difficult subject of unsaid human transformations, but there was little you could not repair when it came to that area. The eyes, however, were the most difficult to get right, as well as the most disastrous when gotten wrong. She had no desire to see any of her students permanently lose their eyesight in the penultimate year of their education, or lose both eyes entirely in one lesson gone wrong. She cautioned her students, severely so. Safety was paramount, after all.

Apart from that however, she had found out years ago that one could gain a surprising amount of information about the students just in the moment they thought they were turning into someone else. Their inner selves revealed as outer appearances changed, so to speak, all defenses crumbling as they were no longer perceived as necessary...

It was foolish, of course, but oh so entertaining.

...Not that she got much entertainment from Mr. Weasley, whose eyes were still stubbornly stuck in their own colour. She fought back the smile that was invading her lips as she recalled the Weasley twins, vehemently assuring her that they had mastered the spell and switched eye colours. She moved on to Mr. Potter, who displayed one eye in his mother's green and the other one in a light grey that oddly enough reminded her of Mr. Malfoy... before Minerva turned her attention to Hermione Granger, her heart skipping a beat as their eyes met.

Looking down at her student, Minerva could clearly see that both of the girl's eyes had turned the exact same shade of green she would see when looking in the mirror.

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"Professor", Hermione said, intending to have a word... more than words... with her professor after class, but "Oh no, you won't", Harry and Ron said, dragging her away and out of danger. "But-" "Come on, Hermione!" They were leading her away from the precipice of disaster, two out of three minds spinning out of control.

Hermione's was swimming in a sea of green, green eyes, green robes, green quidditch pitch and their shared laughter after a match, McGonagall's stern criticism of the way the game had been commentated again fading away in victory, and Hermione found herself asking "When is the next quidditch match again?"

Harry and Ron, who had already worn exasperated expressions, now looked at her like she had gone completely mad. "Since when do you care about quidditch?", Ron asked, and Hermione dreamily said "I don't. But she does..." 

Ron shook his head, his own mind screaming. Bloody Minerva McFreakinGonagall! Oh, he was going to kill Fred and George for this. Very funny, to have him, OR HERMIONE, roam the school with an uncontrollable desire for their own head of house. He supposed he should be glad the mark hadn't been Harry, but he really couldn't find it in himself to be grateful right then as they sat down to lunch, Hermione's eyes fixed on the staff table, waiting for what she perceived to be the love of her life. 

She already was halfway in love, the twins had said... but as he looked from one of his best friends to the other, he thought that Hermione might not be the only one. As much as she was staring in one direction, Harry was staring in another... right across the hall at the Slytherin table.

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"Hiya", Ginny said, plopping down between the trio at the Gryffindor table, ripping them from their respective reveries. Or rather, she made Harry and Ron jump a little while Hermione stayed lost in her thoughts. Ginny nudged the girl with her elbow. "You okay?" Hermione slowly turned towards her friend.

"Do you think McGonagall likes me?", Hermione asked, seemingly out of nowhere. "Of course she does!", Ginny exclaimed immediately, "she always says you're one of the best students she's ever had!" "Yes, sure, but I meant like OUTSIDE of the classroom." Ginny looked at Hermione for a moment, then at Harry and Ron. She had been wondering about Hermione's emotional attachment to even the most unappealing theoretical framefork in Transfiguration for a while now, but this...

This was a whole new level of dedication.

"You can thank Fred and George for this, they gave her a love potion", Ron said. Well, that cleared things up at least. "And you're letting her run around like this?!", Ginny inquired indignantly, with a stern expression that was such a close imitation of her mother's that both Ron and Harry instantly felt guilty. "Well, it's not like we can send her to the hospital wing with this. Nor can we lock her up in the girls' dormitories. When Hermione gets back to normal and remembers we made her miss a class, she'll have our heads!", Ron justified. Ginny had to admit he had a point. "What's your next class, anyways?"

"Herbology", Harry replied, "atleast that keeps her out of the castle." They were talking about their friend like she wasn't even there.

"What do you think, Hermione?", Ginny wanted to know, so used to her friend having all the answers that for a moment she forgot Hermione was not herself just then. "I just hope she knows she's the most wonderful person... both strong and gentle...", Hermione whispered, and Ginny rolled her eyes. "Well, just don't let McGonagall hear that, or there'll be nothing gentle left about her.", she commented, watching Hermione watch McGonagall march into the hall with the dreamiest of looks on her face.

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Professor Sprout did not like to give out detentions, since she believed students had better things to do with their time, but sometimes it could not be avoided. And Merlin knew, if she had to watch Hermione Granger almost die from Venemosa Tentacula bites or Alical Mushrooms one more time, she would have to draw a line. For the girl's own safety as well as that of the rest of her class.

It was not like the 6th year to be this distracted. Pomona knew she was one of the few students who had achieved an 'Outstanding' in their Herbology O.W.L.s, though she attributed that fact rather to the Gryffindor's sheer stubbornness to excel at everything than any particular interest in the subject. 

It was perhaps an unkind thought, and Pomona did not like to think it, but she always liked to classify people in gardens- and if Hermione Granger had a garden, it would wither and die, forgotten in favour of books and academia. She fell right into what Pomona had labeled the "Minerva category" when it came to plants (and she would never gift one to McGonagall again). 

True enough, Miss Granger would not shy back from getting mud on her robes or dealing with a side of wildlife that could euphemistically be called "unpleasant", which was an improvement compared to other 6th year girls. But then again, neither did she relish digging her fingers into the dirt just for the sake of making something grow. 

She looked the girl over and wondered what Minerva saw in her. Maybe it was the same talent Pomona saw in Neville Longbottom. No, that wasn't it. There was more. Minerva cared for the girl in too many ways. If she hadn't known better, Pomona would've thought her colleague had a crush. But Minerva McGonagall didn't GET crushes... did she?

"Hermione, will you stop PINING after McGonagall and help us deal with this thing?!", Ron Weasley exclaimed, unaware that Sprout was standing right behind them, all thoughts of detention wiped from her mind.

Maybe, just maybe, Hermione Granger could make something grow, after all. All she needed was a little soil.

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"She likes you, too."

"I... excuse me, what?"

"Miss Granger. She likes you, too. I heard Weasley say so."

"Mr. Weasley is hardly the most reliable source of inform- I mean, that is hardly an appropriate discussion since- I never even-"

McGonagall stood there, clutching her chest, thinking she might be having a heart attack. Pomona wondered whether she had miscalculated the amount of "soil" this affair needed. She always rather did overestimate it. But there was no taking back her words now.

Meanwhile, Minerva was still wondering whether she had even heard right. 

"Miss Granger likes me- like... LIKES me- likes me?"

Pomona snorted, it was just too adorable to see a woman like Minerva McGonagall reduced to repitition. Moreover, 'even Sybil would've been able to foresee this', she thought, but to Minerva she just said "Yes, she does."

"Professor!", a voice panted behind them, and McGonagall and Sprout spun around, almost expecting to see Miss Granger, but the formerly empty class room was still empty... well, nearly empty. The Fat Lady was breathing heavily, obviously she had hurried through a lot of portraits to find them and was currently shoving the occupant of this one out of his frame.

"Professor, the Weasley twins just left, but I overheard them say something about a love potion earlier and if all my information from the other portraits and ghosts is correct, then- Miss Granger likes you even more now than she did before."

...Just when Minerva McGonagall thought she had seen it all, this school still always found a way to surprise her. She sank down onto the nearest chair and Pomona quickly conjured two double shots of firewhiskey, handing one over and toasting hers to the Fat Lady. The Fat Lady made a face. She still hadn't quite gotten over her latest hangover. 

"Is there any plant to counter-act a love potion, Pomona?", McGonagall asked. Pomona sipped her whiskey, a wry smile on her lips as she replied "well garlic usually does the trick, Minerva."

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There was a knock on the door and the two professors looked at each other while the Fat Lady suddenly tried very much to fade into the background of her portrait. "That'll be Miss Granger making the most of her free period, I better be off", she squealed and made to disappear. "You let her out of the commons room?", McGonagall exclaimed. "And I had Cadogan tell her you were here, ta ta", the Fat Lady said and made her exit, Minerva staring daggers at the empty canvas.

The door swung open in the same moment that Professor Sprout reached for her wand. There was a simple solution to the situation, to make sure nobody said anything they would regret for the rest of their lives, and she would do it with a single word:

"Silencio!"

Hermione Granger opened her mouth for a declaration of undying devotion that never came. 

With a smug smile, Pomona turned back around to Minerva. "Now. You take her to the hospital wing, Poppy has something for that potion. And then you take her for a long walk across the grounds, I'll take my leave now." Minerva gave her friend a grateful nod, just as silent as Hermione was and a little stunned at that much pragmatism. Sprout hurried out of the door, taking that last tiny little detail with her, counting 3, 2, 1...

Minerva crossed the room to where Hermione was standing just to- soft, warm lips were suddenly moving against her own, Hermione standing on her toes to reach and a hand on Minerva's cheek, making it perfectly clear that "the brightest witch of her age" did not need words to express her feelings. 

Minerva pulled back and put Hermione under an upper body bind charm, a firm hand on her shoulder as she guided her student like a prisoner from the class room to the infirmary. Hermione never saw it, but behind her back, Minerva was smiling all the way. 

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Hermione had remained silent after she had downed the clear contents of the vial Madam Pomfrey had handed to her, not a word spoken as she walked through the entry hall and out onto the grounds next to her head of house. 

"She hates me", Hermione thought, not even able to look at the other woman, just blindly and silently walking towards whatever her fate would be. Ever since she had come down from her high, Hermione was sinking like a stone thrown into the black lake.

Minerva cast one final look around and, satisfied that they were out of sight, slipped her hand into Hermione's. "You're not in trouble", she said with a small smile, and Hermione's head jerked up. "I'm- I'm so sorry professor", she said, blushing in a shade that was quite lovely to behold. "I understand that you have been poisoned, and all actions are not your own." Minerva gave Hermione's hand a re-assuring squeeze, and the girl returned it gratefully.

Wait.

What?

"Professor, what... uhm, why..."

Hermione had meant to ask why they were holding hands, but somehow couldn't get herself to utter the question. The answer came anyway.

"I like you, too." "You do?" "I do."

Minerva watched Hermione's face closely for a reaction and subsequently saw it lit up by a smile that put the early sunset to shame. "Of course we have to wait until your education is finished, even though you are of age", Minerva said, and the smile fell a little. "But after that... and just for today... I'm all yours."

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"Where have you been?"

Harry and Ron asked at once, as Hermione sat down to dinner that day. Ginny was watching her closely with a smirk on her face. They had been worried when Hermione had managed to slip past their watchful (distracted) eyes and out of the commons room, but Hermione just said "The infirmary. Madam Pomfrey had me back to normal in a second."

Relief washed over two faces, but Ginny asked "and you went all by yourself, did you?" "Professor Sprout took me, we met in the hall." The lie came forth easily. After all, Professor Sprout had played an important part in today's events.

"Guess that means we can throw out the Amortentia now", Ron said and turned to his best mate, "you still have it, Harry?" "Aaahhmm..." Harry patted down his robes, unable to find the vial of stolen potion. "I took it", Ginny said cheerily, "watch what happens."

There was some commotion at the Slytherin table until Draco Malfoy managed to tear himself free, his pale face flushed and agitated. "Potter!", he cried. The Gryffindors laughed, and Hermione chanced a look up at the staff table. McGonagall winked at her and turned to an enraged Professor Snape. Hermione's heart was soaring all of a sudden, as she recalled those last few moments by the lake...

 

"Professor?"

They were still on the shores even though the sun had already set beyond them, huddled together on a rock in a cove, neither of them wanting to return to the bright insides of the castle. It was dinner time and they would have to leave soon, Hermione knew, and yet she kept thinking 'just one more minute', every time another minute had passed. 

Just a moment more with her head in the crook of Minerva's neck, her professor's left arm looped around her shoulders and her right hand still in Hermione's.

"Yes dear?" "The love potions... what do they smell like to you?", Hermione asked, and looked up into lake green eyes that twinkled right back at her behind square glasses. "I can smell cinnamon, the tips of a pine forest and peppermint..." Hermione looked up at her professor questioningly. McGonagall arched an eyebrow and amended "...toothpaste." It took a moment before they both burst out laughing.

 

 

THE END.