Disclaimer: I do not own any HP characters or events.


Chapter 3: Mercy

.

Hermione didn't get the chance to speak with Malfoy for another two weeks. He had made his way to the Slytherin Common Room with Crabbe and Goyle the first week, and didn't dare sneak in after them to be trapped in enemy territory. The week after that, he had visited the library again, only to leave a half-hour in of working, and walked down to the Quidditch pitch. She watched him fly around a few laps by himself, diving suddenly, twisting in the air, and practicing his maneuvering.

She would never admit it, but he flew incredibly well—that is, if he wasn't constantly taunting Harry or trying to cheat. He flew with the confidence of experience; the way he held himself on the broom, or dismounted it with ease as if he had been doing it since childhood.

When her third chance came to talk to Malfoy, it was already mid-October. Durmstrang and Beauxbatons' students were due to arrive in eleven days, and once the tournament started, she knew Hogwarts would be filled with more students so prancing around under a Time Turner wasn't going to be easy, no matter how developed her stealth skills were.

He sat in the library near the large window, writing his essay in silence. Again, she had to admit, the guy was actually smart. Hermione may have been the top in her year, but Malfoy was consistently right behind her, and she was sure Snape's favor couldn't extend into giving him higher grades in his other subjects.

She walked up to him from behind, lifting the disillusionment charm and cursing her lack of social skills to start a decent conversation.

"Hey Malfoy," she began; he turned to her, scowling again. "Er—I just wanted to say thank you for the book."

"I don't know what you're talking about," his upper lip curled slightly. He turned away from her and gave his attention back to his essay.

She decided not to press the matter, thinking that it probably hurt his pride to enough think he had handed the book to her. Wiping off her silly smile, she walked away from his table and began scanning the shelves for something to read. He had picked a great section to study in. There were plenty of books around that interested her, and she would be able to watch him from the corner of her eyes.

Picking up a rather thin text on elves, she began flipping through the pages. She felt Malfoy's occasional stare, but kept the direction of her eyes lowered.

After reading through the book, she returned it back to its place on the shelf, unsatisfied. Glancing higher into the ridiculously tall shelves, she noticed a few thicker books of interest, but the other ones were too high up to decipher. She pulled the rolling ladder towards her, clamping down her fear of heights. It wasn't even that high up, maybe ten feet. Firmly gripping the old wood, she climbed the steps slowly, and carefully. Hermione read the spines again, catching a few books on elf history and service. She slipped the book off the shelf, and added three more to her stack that showcased similar material. Determined to take the particularly interesting text on house-elves, she grabbed the spine and pulled. She realized a second later that she had slid the book too quickly, taking the other books that were stacked on top of it. For a terrifying moment, she watched in slow motion as the stack tipped over the edge of the shelf and began to fall straight towards her head. She pulled her face back, but it had been the wrong decision. The books came slamming down on her chest, causing her to lose grip of the ladder.

The next thing she knew, she was on her back, lying on the carpeted floor of the library. The right side of her head felt numb. She grunted incoherently, and muttered a stream of impressive curses when she felt her whole body respond in pain. There were several books on her face, and she tossed them off with extreme effort.

She heard footsteps round the corner. Damn, she had forgotten about him.

"Keep it down, will you?" she heard him yell. Then the footsteps stopped.

"Granger, what the hell are you doing?" Malfoy finally asked; his face twisted between mock laughter and honest curiosity.

She threw another book off her neck and coughed. "What does it look like? I'm having a party with my books." She let the comment sink in before rolling her eyes. "I fell, Malfoy."

"Really, how dimwitted are you?" he eyebrows lifted. "I assume you tried to take multiple books down and they fell over the shelf."

Damn.

"Sod off, Malfoy," she glared. "Unless you're going to help me."

He seemed offended by the mere idea. "I will most certainly not help you."

"Then leave," she repeated, sliding another set of books off her torso.

"Actually, I don't think I will," he replied smoothly. "Someone needs to witness this and add to the list of reasons why you will forever be an insufferable know-it-all."

She growled at him, but was cut off by a muffled groan of pain as she tried to sit up. Her head exploded with pain, but she held back the tears. Book tumbles off her chest and fell onto the floor. Hermione silently prayed that Madam Pince didn't hear her crash to come running over and see all her precious books splayed over the floor.

"And what's with these old books?" he questioned; picking the one that fell near his foot. "Trying to find out how to fix your mudblood status?" He smirked.

"Hilarious," she responded. "I'm researching on elves. Did you know that there are a whole load of them here at Hogwarts?"

He raised an eyebrow at her lack of response. "So what of it?"

"It's slave labor!" she explained impatiently, getting to her feet and lowering the books she actually wanted on a table.

"Slave labor?" he repeated.

"Yes!" she said, sending back the other books with a wave of her wand. "They hardly have a voice in society, there are no rules in the ministry that protect them from mistreatment, and they are basically bound to their master, forced to carry out their commands!"

He didn't seem bothered by the fact at all. "They're elves, Granger. It's their job to serve."

"They should be getting paid, and have breaks!" she persisted. "It's maddening how no one bothers to stand up for them."

"I'd reckon they'd be offended by the gesture," Malfoy snorted. "Though I'm not surprised you don't understand that part of our culture, coming from incapable muggle parents."

She took a sharp breath. Call her a mudblood, tolerable. Accuse her parents of being incapable? That was not okay.

"Don't you dare say my parents are incapable!" she snarled, barely holding down her anger. "You don't know anything—coming from a family where everything was handed to you on a silver platter! Even your personality is handed down!"

His smirk faltered, a menacing scowl replacing it. "What the hell is that supposed to mean?"

"Exactly what I said, you dolt!" she spat. "Have you ever questioned anything for yourself? Why do you believe the things you believe, Malfoy—because your father told you? You're nothing but his copy! A chunk of clay for him to shape as he pleases because you don't give a damn—"

"Shut up!" he cut her off, whipping out his wand the next second. "It's you who doesn't understand anything! My father is a respectable man and you have no right to talk of him like that, filthy mudblood!"

Her first shook with rage. "A respectable man? The man who taught you that I'm lower than the dirt on your shoes that's better off dead!? Go on—curse me. I know your father wouldn't hesitate in your position." She closed the distance between them in two strides, letting his wand dig straight over her heart. "Prove me right. Make your father proud."

Hermione locked eyes with his grey ones, which were swirling with emotion: fury, hate, confusion, and surprisingly, refusal. Her chest rose with rapid breaths, and her hands shook with adrenaline. She waited for him to make his move. Her wand was still stored inside her robes, but she wasn't afraid, she had no room for fear at the moment.

After a moment of intense staring, Hermione felt warm liquid trail down her cheek. Her right eye vision began to blur. What the—was something leaking from the roof? She ignored it, not daring to wipe her face. Another streak trailed down her temple, she felt it linger under her chin before it dropped onto her white shirt, staining it red.

Malfoy's eyes widened, all his previous raging emotions now overwhelmed by alarm. He glanced at the side of her head, and slowly pulled his wand back. The skin over her heart stung where his wand had been pressed. He glared at her with furious eyes, but clenched his teeth and lowered his wand.

"Leave," he growled.

Shocked, she slowly raised a hand and pressed it against the side of her head, wincing as she came into contact with the warm liquid. She retracted her hand and stared at the red fluid that stained her palm. Blood was now rushing down the right side of her face, dropping onto her white shirt. Damn, she had probably hit her head on the edge of the table when she fell. Momentary shock had numbed the pain, but her adrenaline was dying down, and the injury was making its presence known painfully.

"I…" she muttered. Hermione glanced at her watch and inwardly cursed. She still had a half-hour before the two hours of her Time Turner was up. He other self was still in class.

Remember the laws.

Madam Pomfrey couldn't see her. If she went to the Hospital Wing, her other self would have to be excused from class, not to mention there would be other students that were currently in the infirmary. No one could see her.

"I can't." she finally answered, cursing her carelessness.

"Don't try to be bloody heroic," he scowled.

"I'm not...! I simply can't right now," she repeated firmly, clutching the side of her head. She shrugged off her outer robe and used it to press against the gash—pressure; she needed to stop the bleeding as much as she could.

Malfoy's expression was torn again between confusion and distaste.

"Suite yourself," he finally said. "I'm not the one bleeding to death."

Hermione was so sure he was going to walk off and resume his work. But he remained where he was, surprising her again. He simply stared at her, his cold grey eyes instantly reminding her of his father.

But they weren't the same person.

See him for the person he is, not the person he thinks he is.

She sighed.

"Look… Malfoy," her head was starting to spin with the loss of blood. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean what I said. You are not your father."

He regarded her with narrowed eyes, and for a second, she thought he would attack for good. She had been so shocked when he retreated his hand. Was it possible that it was because she lowered her wand last time?

"You don't know anything," he quietly snapped.

She shook her head and sat down. "True, but I do know that you chose not to curse me a minute ago when you had the perfect opportunity. That's enough of a difference for me."

"I don't get you, Granger," he remarked. "Why are you trying so hard to be gallant? It's not going to make a difference."

Trust me, if Dumbledore didn't sign me up for this I would not be here. She shook her head. That was wrong and she knew it.

"Because I don't think it's right," she explained instead. "You're hatred towards me is illogical. It's taught. Unless you'd so kindly explain why you'd rather see me dead."

He scowled. "There's nothing illogical about it. You don't come from a magical family; it was a mistake. Not to mention you hang out with Potter and Weasley day to day. What's not to hate?"

"Don't speak as if my company determines who I am," she bit back. "Besides, that's fresh coming from you who has the two biggest airheads of our year following you around like lost puppies."

The corner of his lips twitched higher, and she could have sworn he looked amused for a split second. She must have been hallucinating from the loss of blood.

"They're not with me now, are they?" he raised an eyebrow.

"Neither are Harry or Ron," she retorted. "Also, are you implying that magic made a mistake in choosing me?"

"Yes," he replied immediately. "You guys are the reason why squibs are born into magical families. You steal their magical birth right."

Her jaw lowered. That was the most ludicrous thing she had ever heard, it was almost funny.

"How in Merlin's name would I steal magic?" she asked with incredulity. "That sounds ridiculous and you know it."

He glared at her. "I wouldn't know, I'm not a muggle after all. But it's not illogical. You come from a different world. This isn't the one you belong in."

That stung. She winched at his rejection but steadied her thoughts.

"Look, Malfoy, your statement is illogical because first of all, there are much more muggle-born witches and wizards than there are squibs. Mathematically, it doesn't add up." She smiled slightly. "Secondly, magic can't be stolen, and you know it. It can be diminished, weakened, strengthened, partially given, but it cannot be forcibly taken. Really—if I could steal your magic, wouldn't I have done that by now? Wouldn't the whole ministry be run by magic stealing muggles? See how ridiculous that sounds?"

"No," he replied after a moment of hesitation. "You're lying. That's what you muggle-borns made up to justify your situation and hope to fit in."

"I'm not lying," she insisted, noticing that he had used the term muggle-born for the second time instead of mudblood. "Look it up yourself. It's there, it's explained and most of all: it's logical. If you're going to live your life around the idea that purebloods are better than everyone else, then you best believe it's one hundred percent true. Don't simply take it at face value because that's what you were told."

For the first time in their conversation, Malfoy looked—for lack of a better word—speechless.

Hermione glanced at her watch again, thanking every deity that her half-hour was up. She rose from her sitting position, feeling her head reel with the loss of blood.

"Anyway, my time is up," she said. "I'm going to the Hospital Wing. Thanks for not hexing me."

He made some kind of undecipherable grunt and scowled.

Without another word, Hermione scurried off and stumbled out of the library and to Madam Pomfrey. A few students gave her curious glances as she hurried to the Infirmary, her head reeling with the conversation with Malfoy. She pushed the thoughts to the back of her mind and decided she would reflect upon it when she had blood to spare.

To say Harry and Ron were on the floor dying would have been an accurate statement presently. She had just returned to the common room after getting a thorough scorn from Madam Pomfrey, and the moment she explained that books had fallen on her while she was in the library, the two boys burst out in laughter, Divination homework be damned.

"Sorry, Hermione," said Harry, clutching his stomach. "It's just always something we joke about, and to see it happen—"

He burst out laughing again. Ron was no help either.

Hermione rolled her eyes. Yes, she thought it was quite funny as well, but the second she told them that Draco Malfoy had been with her and had his wand pointed in her direction, with blood gushing down her face, the story wasn't so funny anymore.

"You boys are ridiculous," she simply said and stalked off. Hermione had homework to finish and essays to write, and she wanted to stay ahead as much as possible before the tournament started.

.

It was the second week of November when Hermione was able to find the energy to sit down and talk to Malfoy again. Durmstrang and Beauxbatons had arrived the week before, and the Goblet of Fire had been placed for students to enter. Hermione had thought the dramatics revolving around the tournament was finally over, until Harry's name was called.

It was all down hill from there.

Ron was having a jealous fit, the other schoolhouses—particularly the Hufflepuffs—seemed to avoid them now. No one in Gryffindor believed in Harry's protests that he indeed, did not put his name in the goblet, but her, and honestly, she was tired of trying to be the middle player between him and Ron.

Harry was constantly upset, Hagrid was determined to get everyone on a nice walk with their blasted skrewts, and Malfoy was being an arrogant arse as usual. It seemed that the only time he was actually tolerable, was when he was alone in the library.

"Really, Malfoy," Hermione slammed her palms against the table he was sitting at. "Did you have to provoke Harry?"

It had been a week since Malfoy accidently hexed her after calling her a mudblood and riling Harry's anger. The only good thing about the occasion was letting Madam Pomfrey shrink her teeth smaller than they originally were.

He looked up from his book and raised an eyebrow. "I see your teeth are back to normal. Though as Snape said there wasn't much of a difference—"

"Shut it," she growled, losing control over her temper. She was simply on the edge with everything lately.

His left eye twitched but he made no motion in pulling out his wand and blasting her from the table. Why couldn't he act like this usually?

"Look, I have to ask—" she said, finally noticing that he wasn't wearing the POTTER STINKS badge on his robes. She sat down on the other side of the table with a plop.

"Granger—do not sit at my table," he frowned. "I don't want anyone to see that I'm willingly sitting here with you."

"Oh grow up, will you?" she rolled her eyes. "There's no one around. Now will you please listen to me?"

"No," he curtly replied.

"Do you really think Harry entered himself in the tournament?" she asked anyway.

"Of course," he sneered. "That's all Potter wants. More attention."

Hermione bit her lip but kept her temper in check. "Malfoy, do you think Harry is particularly smart? Magically talented and respectable?"

He looked disgusted. "Bloody hell, no. Potter wouldn't be able to tell the difference between—"

"Exactly my point!" she interrupted. He scowled at her. "Think. Do you honestly believe that Harry has the magical abilities to firstly cross over the age line—made by Dumbledore, mind you—and somehow fool a powerful magical object that's as ancient and esteemed as the Goblet of Fire?"

He went silent for a minute. Hermione could see the gears in his brain working, his grey eyes shifting with thought.

"I suppose not," he finally muttered. "But it doesn't change the fact that Potter had something to do with his entering. Probably asked someone older—"

"Come off it," she scoffed. "Harry wouldn't do that. Someone's out there and intentionally put his name into the goblet! These are dangerous, risky events that he has to face!"

"And why are you telling me, Granger?" his lip curled in distaste. "I'm not going to walk up to Potter and give him a comforting pat on the back."

Hermione snickered at the mental image. She could not for her life, imagine Malfoy doing anything like that.

"It's because you're the only one with the brain to understand," she said honestly.

He smirked. "Finally getting tired of your half-witted house company? About time."

She shook her head. "I may be an insufferable know-it-all, but I'm not blind, Malfoy. I know you're right behind me in our year."

"Did Granger just give me a compliment?" his eyebrows raised. "Have you been hit in the head? Oh wait—you were."

She glared at him. "I'll have you know, my head is still in perfect condition."

"Questionable," he said. "You haven't been raising your hand every ten seconds in class."

Hermione fought off her blush, trying to keep the glare in place. It was true. After her short flight of self-discovery, she decided to completely come to terms with her family and her blood. It was a working effort, and trying to keep her hand down when she knew the answer no one else did, was far more difficult that she thought. She had to constantly remind herself there was nothing to prove. Nothing to show off. There was no need to try and justify something that didn't need to be justified.

"You noticed me?" she asked, trying to sound disgusted but came out rather teasingly. Hermione knew she was walking in dangerous waters, but he had surprisingly been very civil.

"It's difficult not to," he replied smoothly. "Your terrible excuse of what you call hair constantly blocks my view of the blackboard, and your imperious tone of voice is nearly impossible to block out—"

Her jaw dropped, just as she thought he was going to compliment her, he turned it around completely an insulted her instead. She should have known. Expecting a nice comment or gesture from Malfoy came as often as a Leap Year.

"Of course," she muttered, ending the conversation.

She grumbled to herself and leaned back into her chair. For the next hour, Hermione simply sat there, and Malfoy returned to doing his homework. He hadn't told her to leave, and she was trying her luck. She knew he didn't forget about her presence because he would glance up occasionally and sneer at her, as if to ask why she was still there. But he never voiced the thought, so she stayed.

She closed her eyes and thought of the tournament. Harry was going to need all the help he could get.

.

Hermione was starting to get tired. She had been helping Harry with the Summoning charm every spare moment she had, which wasn't much. She was briefly tempted to use the Time Turner to send them back a few hours to practice more, but cut the thought almost immediately. Going back in time was strictly to help Malfoy, and she wouldn't betray Dumbledore's faith in her to keep the Time Turner if she was going to use it for other reasons.

After nearly clawing her face apart in during the first task, she felt immensely relieved to see Harry reach the egg successfully and finish without much harm. Even Ron had decided to come around after she had given him a piece of her mind. To add to her relief, the next task was set on February twenty-fourth, so they had plenty of time to rest and focus on their studies.

There was an explosion of cheers and victory banners all over the Gryffindor common room. Hermione joyously celebrated with everyone else, allowing herself a moment to relax after three stressful months of dealing with Malfoy, Harry and her studies.

To top it all off, she finally found the location of the Hogwarts' kitchen and the way to get in. She was brimming with excitement when she saw Dobby in there; she rushed off to catch Harry and Ron, practically pulling them by their ears to follow her back.

Things were looking up for her. Hermione spent more time in the library just for the sake of reading, Malfoy was still being tolerable when she was able to see him without the library being overflowed with students, Harry wasn't in any mortal danger at the moment, and she had received an O on her last potions essay. It seemed that Snape rather appreciated her lack of class participation and the shortening of her essays, writing to exactly 48 inches as he asked.

It was Saturday afternoon and after finishing all her work that was due for next week, Hermione decided to spend the rest of her evening in the library. She wanted to read more on the situation with elves, and be away from the ever-loud Gryffindor tower.

Making her way to the third floor, she swept through the library doors and took in the old smell of parchment and books. She had momentarily forgotten how much she enjoyed going to the library without having to deal with Malfoy. She walked immediately to the reference section where she previously fell off the sliding ladder and struck her head on a table. Now that was a grueling day.

Glancing up at the high shelves, she spotted a few spines she wanted to retrieve. She honestly didn't trust herself on the ladder anymore, so she pointed her wand at the book, and concentrated.

"Accio!"

Needless to say, summoning a book in a tightly enclosed space with other books wasn't her greatest idea. The text she wanted, along with two on either side of it flew off the shelf.

Feeling her heart drop, she yelped as she saw the summoned book fall straight towards her hands, while the two toppled off the shelf backwards. She caught her summoned book with ease and lifted it above her head, inwardly apologizing to the book for using it as a shield from the other two.

They never came. She saw a blur of black from the corner of her eyes, and two hands reaching out to expertly catch the falling books with a snap. Hermione lifted her head, growing wide-eyed as she saw Viktor Krum standing above her, each hand clasping a book.

"Are you all right?" he asked, his accent thick accent and deep voice sounding strange in her ears.

"Yes," she replied, lowering the book. "Er—Thank you."

He handed her the two books and she took them, feeling utterly embarrassed. At least it wasn't Malfoy. Actually, the git would have probably let the books hit her.

"You are Harry Potter's friend, yes?" He gave her smile. "Hermy-own?"

"Hermione," she corrected.

"Hermy-ne-own?" he tried again.

She held back a laugh. "Close enough… Viktor?"

He nodded, looking quite relieved she knew his name. "Vot are you reading?"

"House-elves," she replied surprised that he was curious to ask. She glanced at the group of girls at the end of the section. They glared at her and whispered to each other. She raised an eyebrow. "You know, it looks like your fan club doesn't like me standing so close to you."

There was a flash of annoyance on his face. "I am sorry about them," he mumbled. "They follow me every vere, it is most difficult."

Hermione saw him look genuinely troubled, and for a moment, she actually felt bad for him. Those girls must have been following him the moment he stepped off the Durmstrang ship. She had originally thought he was an arrogant guy who flaunted his popularity and relished in the fact that he was admired everywhere he went. To her surprise, Viktor Krum seemed quite withdrawn to it all. She gave him a sympathetic smile.

"Have you tried using the disillusionment charm?" she suggested quietly.

"The vot?" he lowered his voice as well.

She stared at him with surprise. Those in her year might have not learned it yet, but surely it was upperclassmen material—Hermione had read about it in the advanced charms textbook. She knew Durmstrang taught the Dark Arts, and it seemed that they didn't bother learning concealing charms. She glanced at the young seeker.

"Disillusionment charm," she repeated. "It makes you invisible—not perfectly—but it does its job, quite useful."

"I haff never heard of it," he replied honestly. "Durmstrang does not teach us spells like it."

"Would you like to see it?" she offered.

He nodded, seeming eager. He eyed the group of girls with distaste, but they were too distracted giggling to notice his discomfort.

Hermione pulled out her wand and lightly tapped Viktor's head. She could tell by his expression the exact moment he felt the egg crack over his head. The charm traveled down his body, and he melted into the background behind him.

There was a moment of silence as Hermione just stared at a seemingly empty lane between the bookshelves. She could only assume Viktor was occupied with testing the charm that he wasn't speaking.

The group of girls finally noticed he was no longer there, and whined rather loudly, clearly upset that he had left without them knowing. Madam Pince then came around the corner, shooing the girls and scowling at them for the noise. They left hurriedly wondering out loud where he could have gone.

Hermione sighed and silently thanked Madam Pince for staying ever so strict. She turned back to the place Viktor should have been standing and reached out slowly with her hand, hitting his body with her fingers.

"Oh good, you're still here," she pat what she concluded was his shoulder. "I'm going to release the spell."

She flicked her wand in his general direction, and Viktor came back into view, a wide smile on his face. She retracted her hand back quickly, realizing that she had been patting his chest, and not his shoulder.

"Sorry," she mumbled.

"You do not haff to be sorry, Hermy-own," he replied. "That vos very—vot's the vord—impressiff! Yes, vill you teach me?"

"Sure," she agreed.

If he learned the charm, his fan group wouldn't be able to follow him everywhere, and in turn, the library would be quiet again.

Hermione spend the next few minutes going over the charm and the wand movement. Viktor caught on incredibly fast; being able the cast the spell on his first try. He wasn't the Durmstrang champion for his Quidditch skills that was for sure.

"Thank you, I vill use it veil," he gave her a large smile and Hermione could feel her previous assumptions about his melt. The man was like a giant teddy bear.

"Glad to help," she replied. "It's for catching my books earlier."

He seemed to blush lightly. "It vos nothing."

"Still," she insisted, checking her watch and grabbing the forgotten books. "I'm sure you have lots of research to do, I'll leave you be."

Giving him one last smile, she turned on her heel and walked away. She was surprisingly in a better mood after talking to him. She had been terribly mistaken about his character, and he had turned out to be a very likeable person.

Hermione sat at one of the empty tables and began to read through her acquired books. It felt wonderful to sit in a comfy chair and read to her heart's content. She definitely needed to spend more time away from the boys, Malfoy included.


A/N: I obviously don't have the perfect grasp on Draco's character but I am almost sure he wouldn't have cursed Hermione. Or would he? Tell me your thoughts.

I was always curious as to how Viktor and Hermione started talking in the library so I thought they'd have a small exchange.

To my guest reviewer Elased, who mentioned about Hermione not aging during her petrification, I'm not entirely sure as well, but I would think the time caught up with her after she was un-petrified. If that isn't canonically true, then for the sake of my fic let's say that happened.

Cheers,

El