Eighth year at Hogwarts was going to be Hermione’s.
She had given six years of academics to Harry and Ron, and now she was going to have a year that was all her own. Voldemort was dead; most of the Death Eaters were imprisoned; and Harry and Ron were training to become aurors. Hermione was going back to school where she could finally give herself entirely to her education in the manner she had always aspired to.
A whole year she could devote herself to extracurriculars simply because she wanted to; and not due to a pressing need to save Harry or the wizarding world.
She could tell, based on some of the looks she was getting, that people were feeling sorry for her. They thought she was going to school as a way of running away or hiding; imagining that there was some sort of schism between herself and her best friends. All the news rags were screaming it, proclaiming that the “Golden Trio” had fallen out and weren’t speaking. The leading theory was that she and Ron had broken up, and Harry had sided against her.
Hermione and Ron had hardly been together. They had discussed it and considered it. In the aftermath of the war, Hermione—and Ron—felt that they needed space to find themselves as individuals before trying to build themselves into a couple. Hermione had decided they ought to wait for a year and revisit the matter. Hermione would have completed her NEWTS by then and chosen her mastery and Ron would have wrapped up the most intensive part of auror training.
They would both have a better idea of what they wanted.
The fact that most of the wizarding world expected them to have gotten engaged at seventeen was just absurd in Hermione’s opinion. Despite the surprisingly good gender equality, Wizarding society was bizarrely antiquated in some ways. Because she was attending school rather than immediately getting married, the tabloids were convinced it must be because the Golden Trio had been shattered by something utterly salacious.
The mere thought made Hermione scoff inwardly and toss her head.
She had spent months living in a tent with her best friends. They had saved the world together. She was not going to become permanently attached at their hips in order to reassure an overly inquisitive public.
She was not interested in becoming an auror. She had fought her battles and she had no desire to have camping or dueling be a part of any future careers.
She wanted time to herself. To study. To not worry about keeping anyone alive or unexpelled. To decide what she wanted to do purely for her own sake, because of her own interests.
Eighth year was hers. Hers alone.
She hugged Harry and Ron, and kissed each of them on the cheek at Platform 9 ¾ before practically skipping onto the train.
She found an empty compartment, bustled in, and pulled out all her textbooks for review. She had read them over the summer, but rebuilding had made everything so chaotic, she really didn’t feel as though she’d pre-read things as thoroughly as she’d like.
Ginny stopped by and poked her head in to say hi, her Head Girl badge proudly pinned onto her uniform. Molly had been nearly hysterical with tears of joy when Ginny received it.
Hermione had experienced only had a moment’s envy at missing out on the position she had so coveted in her younger years. It hadn’t been a surprise. Minerva had visited Hermione and discussed the matter. Ginny and Neville had demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities at Hogwarts under the Carrow twins, but by all rights the position should have been Hermione’s during the previous year.
Hermione declined it. She was already getting cross-eyed trying to find a way to accommodate all the classes she wanted to take. She wanted a quiet academic year without any leadership positions.
The Head Girl badge had gone to Ginny.
Minerva had offered Hermione a prefect position instead but Hermione had declined that too.
The journey to Hogwarts was well underway when the door to her compartment abruptly slammed open and Draco Malfoy dove in and proceeded to disillusion himself on the bench across from her.
He had just finished disappearing when the door snapped open again and Daphne and Astoria Greengrass peered in.
“Granger,” said Daphne stiffly, pursing her lips as she stared down at Hermione. “Did you see Draco pass this way?”
Hermione stared for a moment.
“I’ve been reading,” she said.
Daphne sighed and rolled her eyes before turning to leave with her younger sister.
Hermione dropped her eyes back to her page and continued reading her arithmancy textbook until their clipped footsteps faded away into the click of the train wheels. Then she raised her eyes and lifted an eyebrow at the empty space across from her.
The emptiness rippled and Malfoy slowly bled back into view.
“Lying for me, Granger?” he said, raising an eyebrow, his words enunciated with a long, slow drawl. “I never thought I’d see the day.”
Hermione shot him a pointed glare and then proceeded to do a double-take. Malfoy was considerably bigger than she remembered him being, and she had seen him only three months ago while testifying at his trial.
He was noticeably larger, and broader, and more muscular than he had been then; and even if he had started engaging in the world’s most rigorous fitness regime, it failed to explain how he had grown taller, or why his voice seemed to have dropped an additional half octave.
She blinked at him repeatedly before recovering herself.
“I didn’t lie at all,” she said primly, lifting her chin. “I simply said I was reading.”
“A lie by omission is still a lie,” he said in a voice so low it seemed like he was growling at her.
Hermione’s entire body grew warm.
She fidgeted in her seat, feeling suddenly uncomfortable with his presence. Her neck felt tense and tingled slightly.
Why was he growling at her?
It was very disconcerting and peeving.
“Also, how are you not even a prefect?” he asked, eyeing her. “I assumed you’d be shoe-in for Head Girl. I thought I was the only one stripped of position. Even Pansy got to keep her prefect status, and she actually tried to hand Potter over.”
Hermione flushed a deep shade of scarlet and squirmed under his gaze. It was as though she could feel his grey eyes as they moved across her body. She had never felt so weirdly uncomfortable around anyone. She started to sweat. An inexplicable heat began steadily blooming in her lower abdomen at the sound of his voice.
She tried to ignore it.
“I didn’t want any leadership positions this year,” she said, her voice shrill as she crossed her legs. “I have a lot of classes that I want to take. It’s not as though I need it for my resume. If someone wants to know why I wasn’t prefect for Eighth Year, I can always show them my Order of Merlin.”
Malfoy chuckled and it was like chocolate and velvet, and she could practically feel it against her skin. She made a strangled noise and crammed herself into the opposite corner of the compartment.
Malfoy stared at her with narrowed eyes.
“What’s got you so bothered, Granger?” he asked, and Hermione could swear she was somehow feeling the vibrations of his timbre collect in her spine and proceed to set her on fire.
Her eyes grew round and she suddenly found herself desperate to get away from him. Something deep inside of her was warning that something very serious would happen if she did not.
She jumped to her feet and snatched up her satchel.
“Nothing,” she found herself saying, feeling strangled. “I need to go.”
She turned tail and bolted from the compartment before Malfoy had a chance to open his mouth again.
She rushed into a bathroom and splashed water on her face and neck, trying to cool down while she sought to make sense of what had happened. Something about Malfoy deeply unnerved her to an extent that she couldn’t explain.
She’d always prided herself that she had a fairly good head on her shoulders. She was not the sort of girl who blushed or turned missish just because she found a boy attractive. However she had quite literally noticed Malfoy had gotten fit, proceeded to half-melt into a puddle at the sound of his voice, and then snapped at him before running away.
It was as though being in proximity to him had awakened some slumbering creature in the back of her mind. At the sound of his voice it had started stirring and turning her into a mindless, irrational, lascivious pile of unwanted hormones.
Over Draco Malfoy, of all people.
Historic arse. School bully. Brainwashed pureblood elitist. Even if he were the most physically attractive man on earth, that would not make up for his general absence of spine, or lack of character.
Her crushes had always tended to start with character first, appearance second. Gilderoy Lockhart she had admired for his alleged accomplishments. Viktor Krum for his sincerity and sweetness.
Which was not to say that she had a crush on Malfoy! Not at all. He was simply—attractive. It was perfectly normal for a girl to occasionally appreciate a man on a purely aesthetic level.
That was all that it was, she told herself firmly. There was no reason to act bitchy toward him because of it.
She straightened, changed into her school uniform, and then went and found a new compartment.
It turned out, Malfoy wasn’t the only Eighth Year male that had grown dramatically during the summer. Hermione found herself slightly bug-eyed when she laid eyes of Neville Longbottom for the first time. As well as Anthony Goldstein and Theodore Nott. There were several other Eighth Year boys whose names she didn’t recall that seemed to have grown too.
From her seat at in the Great Hall, she stared at each of them feeling slightly aghast. While the boys all had obvious admirers, most of the other students did not appear nearly so discomfited by it as Hermione was.
“Hermione, could you pass the ham?” Neville asked in a low purr.
Hermione nearly toppled out of her seat at the sound of his voice and swiveled to stare at him with her mouth agape. No one else even looked up. As though men having voices that physically vibrated the air around them were a normal occurrence!
Neville stared at her with confusion.
Hermione choked. “What—did you just say to me?”
“I asked for the ham,” Neville said, his voice again low and full of vibrations
Hermione gasped and grabbing the tray she shoved it quickly toward him before standing up.
“I need to use the loo,” she muttered.
Hermione remained hidden in the girls bathroom trying to cool down for half an hour before fleeing to safety of the library. She couldn’t understand what was going on. She couldn’t conceive of any way to account for what was happening to her.
Why did it seem like she was the only one bothered by the mysterious growth spurts? It was bizarre.
The library was discouragingly unhelpful. There was no information about it in books on growth patterns. All the books on wizarding reproduction were in the restricted section and she wasn’t sure that she was curious enough to approach any of her professors for a permission slip. She wished she had Harry’s cloak of invisibility.
She decided to wait for a bit. It wasn’t urgent. In the meanwhile she would simply avoid Malfoy, Nott, Goldstein, Neville and the others. She had a lot of academic work to focus on anyway. It wouldn’t even be hard.
As it turned out, it was slightly hard.
When she heard their voices down the hallways, she would start and break out in a sweat. She was barely able to keep from panting as she fled. She had to avoid the library and the common areas like a plague.
She cast repeated cooling charms on herself when she shared a class with any of them, sat in the back of the room as far away as possible, and refrained from answering question because her voice often came out high-pitched and wobbly.
She acted so painfully uncharacteristic of herself that Malfoy proceeded to corner her after potions during the third week of class after she blew up a cauldron for the first time in her academic career.
“What’s wrong with you, Granger?” He spoke in a low, demanding voice that made Hermione shiver.
She wanted to know what it would feel like if he growled like that against the side of her neck. She nearly moaned as she forced herself to back away.
He was so close she could smell him, and he smelled positively edible. She wanted to run her tongue along his neck and the inside of his wrists and see if he tasted equally perfect.
What? She shook herself, trying to think straight.
Her neck felt so overly-sensitive. Her wrists started throbbing as she breathed in again.
“Nothing. There’s nothing wrong with me,” she said forcefully. She skittered away from him and rubbed her wrists against each other, trying to relieve the inexplicable tension.
He stepped toward her, breathing in a sharp sigh and stopped short.
His eyes locked onto hers and he shook his head before his expression twisted into shock. He clamped a hand over his nose and mouth as though he were about to be sick.
Without another word, he turned and rushed away.
Hermione stood staring after him dazedly. She sniffed confusedly her shirt, trying to determine what had abruptly nauseated Malfoy. She smelled fine. Maybe faintly musky, but only if she practically buried her nose in her clothing.
Malfoy was so spiteful. He’d probably just faked it in order to make fun of her.
Her face twisted and she straightened, rubbing the base of her neck where it was still aching.
She started for the library, but as she reached the door she heard Anthony’s voice. She promptly turned around and rushed to the Gryffindor dormitory.
Her neck and wrists were still tingling and sensitive and she rubbed at them. It was as though there was a tension building up there and nothing would relieve it.
When she got to Gryffindor tower, she squared her shoulders and made her way up to the top of the girl’s tower. Ginny had her own private room because she was Head Girl.
Hermione knocked softly and fidgeted, already feeling uncomfortable.
The door opened and Ginny smiled at her.
“Hermione, is there a student issue?” Ginny asked, pulling the door open and inviting her in.
“Oh, no. Um. I had a question,” Hermione said, scuttling into the room awkwardly. “I don’t know if it’s somehow weird for me to ask this, but I feel like I’m the only person who doesn’t know what’s going on.”
Ginny’s eyes widened. “You don’t know something? Well, then I don’t know that I’m going to be much help,” Ginny cracked a smile as she sat down on the edge of her unmade bed.
“Have—,” Hermione faltered. “Has Neville and some other boys in Eighth Year grown a lot over the summer? I feel like they have, but it seems like I’m the only person confused by it.”
The smile on Ginny’s face instantly vanished and her expression became distinctly cagey.
“Well, they had their final growth spurts,” Ginny said, her tone vague. “You probably never noticed that it happens because most wizards graduate before they get it.”
Well, that made sense. Malfoy and Neville and the others were eighteen. It wasn’t as though Hermione usually encountered that many eighteen year old wizards.
“Is that usual?” Hermione asked, “Do wizards normally have growth spurts that late?”
Hermione furrowed her brow and frowned slightly. “Harry and Ron didn’t.”
“Well, as I said,” Ginny’s voice seemed tight and her expression was defensive. “Some. Not all wizards do. It’s pretty arbitrary. Like Bill and Charlie did. But most wizards don’t and that doesn’t make them any less. It’s not as though it happens to some wizards because they deserve it.”
Hermione stared. “I think I’m missing something.”
“It’s—“ Ginny started and then waved her hand in the air. “It’s a pureblood thing, generally. It’s not really something that people talk about.”
“Oh,” Hermione said. People were intentionally turning a blind eye to it.
Ginny sighed. “Basically it’s something random that happens to some wizards, but doesn’t usually mean anything. At least it doesn’t mean anything to you or me or probably anyone we know. Just—ignore it.”
“Right,” Hermione said.
Touchy, touchy wizarding subject. She made a mental note to broach the subject very delicately if she got desperate enough to bring it up with McGonagall.
The next day she woke with a fever. Her whole body felt heavy, her lower abdomen ached, and she was really horrifyingly horny. The base of her neck itched and throbbed so much that she felt tempted to try rubbing it against the bedposts to try to relieve the ache. Her wrists felt similar. She ground them against each other to try to lessen it.
She pressed her thighs together and tried not to pay any attention to the growing sense of emptiness inside her. It was overwhelming. She felt like the world’s skankiest scarlet woman. Good heavens. What was wrong?
She must have caught something. Some wizarding disease that made her neck and wrists ache, made her whole body sensitive to deep vocal timbre, and made her feel like she might die if she didn’t immediately have sex with some boy with the largest male anatomy humanly possible.
She bit back a groan and tried to drag herself out of bed to go see Madam Pomfrey. She crawled to the door and then proceeded to half-stumble down to the common room.
The voice rippled down her spine, and she bit back a moan as she turned and found Neville staring at her from across the room.
“Are you alright?” he asked.
She mutely shook her head.
She suddenly felt an overwhelming desire to rub herself against him. If she pressed her wrists against his neck, she somehow felt sure that the ache would stop. She was dying to feel his lips against her neck. She could crawl into his arms and her body would stop hurting.
The they could shag.
Somehow she was certain that sex with Neville would be mind-blowing.
What? She blinked.
She shook her head sharply trying to clear her mind.
“I’m sick,” she said, her voice small and whimpering as she backed quickly away and huddled against the wall. “It’s probably contagious. You should send for Madam Pomfrey.”
Her wrists were aching intensely, and her body felt so oversensitive she began unconsciously rubbing her left wrist against her sternum.
Suddenly Neville’s expression shifted, and Hermione could see his eyes darken from across the room until they were almost black. The gentle, open expression that was usually on his face vanished. His expression became predatory in way she found deeply attractive. He was suddenly powerful and dangerous. The ache between her legs suddenly sharpened.
His eyes were locked on Hermione, and he was suddenly moving rapidly across the room towards her.
“Come here,” he said in a low, cajoling voice. Her whole body flushed as heat flooded through her. She turned towards him, giving a small keening sound.
“I’ll take care of you,” he said. “Let me take care of you.”
She started to reach for him.
A thought occurred to her.
Neville was dating Hannah Abbott.
A wail wrenched itself from her as she abruptly recoiled and huddled again, hunching her shoulders up around her desperately sensitive neck.
“No,” she said, fiercely squeezing her eyes shut.
She could feel Neville’s breath against the back of her neck and bit back a moan.
“Let me take care of you,” he was murmuring and it made her whole body shake. He nuzzled the base of her neck and she whimpered and arched her head over without thinking.
“No…” she said, struggling to think.
Neville’s large hands were on her body, and he was nuzzling more firmly against the back of her neck, breathing deeply against her skin. It was sending fire into her brain. She couldn’t think beyond the desire that was steadily wrapping itself around her.
“Ohhhhh.” She shuddered.
Neville was pressing her against the wall, and his hands were starting to roam across her aching body. She turned, arching her back and exposing her throat submissively for him.
“Good girl,” he said, his lips brushing against her skin. Something deep inside her thrilled at the words.
She’d do anything. Anything he wanted. She’d please him, and he’d take care of her.
Her wrists were pinned against the common room wall, she could feel his stubble against her skin as he started licking and sucking on her neck. Her whole body spasmed under him.
“What on earth? Oh my gosh!” Ginny’s horrified voice suddenly cut through the fire and fog. “Stupefy!”