"Now, I know that wandlore isn't exactly part of ancient runes curriculum, but seeing as we have spent the entirety of our first day going off on this tangent, I might as well make it an opportunity for extra marks. Now, why don't those of you who are interested work on a 15 to 24 inch parchment on wandlore? It must be done in partners and it must fall within the set length. You are excused," Professor Babbling said.
Neville and Hermione were sitting in the front row. She was looking at him with pleading eyes. He wasn't desperate for the extra marks, but he knew that the witch sitting beside him would jump at the opportunity, and he definitely wasn't going to say no to an opportunity to spend more time with her.
"Please Nev, can we?" she asked the second they were excused. He nodded, feigning resignation.
"Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you!" she squealed happily, hugging him tightly.
"Anything for my best friend, My," he smiled down at her warmly. (He had had quite the growth spurt)
Her heart felt slightly heavier at his reminder, that he only saw her as a friend. It must be nearing that time again, if she was feeling all emotional, she thought. He hadn't noticed the small glint of sadness that had flashed in her eyes. He hadn't seen her smile waver minutely.
No, he was a bit too preoccupied with a certain livid snake. He had caught sight of a certain Draco Malfoy who had been looking at his My with longing throughout all of class. That, in his mind, had been completely natural. The thing that had him distracted was murderous gaze Malfoy had directed towards him the second Hermione had hugged him. Was Malfoy really willing to fight for Hermione's attention and affection, Neville wondered.
"Let's head to the library now, yeah?" Neville prompted Hermione.
She beamed at him and all but dragged him away, but not before he returned Malfoy's angry gaze with a glare of his own. He wasn't going to go down without a fight. Sure, he wasn't worthy of her yet, but he wasn't giving up on the idea of maybe possibly having something more than friendship with her. He had loads of competition, he knew, but he had something that they didn't. He was already her friend. He didn't need to get her to warm up to him.
"Nev, are you alright?"
"Hmmm, yeah," he replied distractedly.
"You're awfully quiet," she mused, walking along the bookshelves, carefully perusing them.
"Just thinking… shouldn't we outline what we're going to put in the essay first, so we know what books we need? I mean, I don't want to hog all of the wandlore books. I'm sure that there might be someone else doing the assignment…" Neville trailed off, looking at her amused face.
"I'm sure Dr-Malfoy will be doing it," she replied, pulling out three different books.
She grimaced for nearly slipping up. Malfoy and her had decided to have a truce of sorts seeing as they were paired up constantly in arithmancy and runes. They had gotten comfortable enough around each other that they used their first names. They weren't friends, heavens no! They didn't get along outside of class either, but he wasn't that bad.
Neville caught the slip up. He knew that being the two top students of the year, they would be partnered up constantly, but he hadn't thought that they were on good terms. Then again, maybe they had reached an agreement to be civil. Well, it didn't matter either way.
"Alright, we can do the outline after dinner. These should be different enough to give us good enough insight as to what we can talk about."
"Will Madam Pince let you borrow all three of those?" he asked uncertainly.
She raised an eyebrow, clearly saying 'what do you think,' before making her over to Madam Pince. He could see the way the grumpy librarian smile. She actually smiled at Hermione! They appeared to be amicable small talk, but he wasn't paying too much attention to them. He had once again caught sight of the white headed git. He glanced at Hermione, before making his way over to Neville.
Malfoy looked very much like a man on a mission. He walked with a purpose, not wasting any time. He did have a purpose. He wasn't losing Granger just like that. Sure he couldn't have her openly, not until they were out of Hogwarts, but he wasn't going to let a bumbling idiot like Longbottom or Weasley have her. If she was going to waste her time on anyone while she was at Hogwarts, they had to be better than that. Hell, even Potter would be better, he was sure.
"Malfoy," Neville greeted him.
"Longbottom," he sneered.
"What do you want?"
"You don't have a chance, Longbottom. You're not good enough for her."
"And you think you are? Don't make me laugh. I'm not just going to let her go, and seeing as you can't fight for her without making Mommy and Daddy bitch a fit that would see you disowned, I don't think you have a say in the matter," Neville replied calmly.
Malfoy lifted a delicate eyebrow, his face impassive.
"What do you know Longbottom?" Malfoy drawled.
"I saw the way you looked at her," Neville shrugged.
"Whatever," he scoffed, before walking away.
Malfoy was more serious about Hermione than he had thought, Neville thought. It's not like Malfoy could be with Hermione until after they graduated, Neville mused. Anything could happen in three years. Like war, not that he knew that.
"All set, let's go to lunch Nev," she said as she walked up to him.
"Let's," he smiled, taking her hand.
It was her turn to be dragged away. She smiled at the fact that he hadn't let go of her hand. As ridiculous as it was, she reveled in the contact. He smiled at the fact that she hadn't pulled away, not that she would. She wasn't the kind to do something like that.
The next day, the library
"Alright, so the different types of woods correspond to different personalities and magical affinities, right?" Neville asked.
"Yes, so that's something we should definitely include… Oh! What if we use our own wands and personalities as examples?" Hermione exclaimed excitedly.
"That sounds perfect My."
"Okay so mine is vine and dragon heart string… um it says here that vine is rarely used… and that vine wands choose witches or wizards who seek a greater purpose, who have a vision beyond the ordinary and who frequently astound those who think they know them best," Hermione read out loud.
"Well we know that's accurate," Neville chuckled. "You never fail to astound me," he said without noticing Hermione hiding her blush behind the tome in her hands.
"And dragon heart string is known to produce wands with the most power, capable of the most flamboyant spells. Dragon wands tend to learn quicker than other types. While they can change allegiance if won from their original master, they always bond strongly with the current owner. The dragon wand tends to be easiest to turn to the Dark Arts, though it will not incline that way of its own accord. It is also the most prone of the three cores to accidents, being somewhat temperamental," she continued steadily. "Also accurate," she mused. "I can have a bit of an explosive temper," she admitted.
"Don't I know it," drawled Draco from behind them, causing her to jump.
"I bet you can still feel it too," Hermione smirked.
"You wound me," he replied placing a hand on his heart.
"I did," she laughed. "Can I help you with anything, Draco?" she asked looking up at him with wide eyes that unbeknownst to her drove both wizards crazy.
"I was just wondering what you were writing in your essay," he replied smoothly, despite his heart pounding in his chest.
"And why should I tell you?"
"Why shouldn't you?"
"Fine. We're doing its history, the different materials used, and the compatibility between wand and magical," she sighed.
"Thanks, Hermione," he said softly, before turning around and leaving.
"Bloody git," Neville muttered bitterly.
"He wasn't mean, Nev."
"No, he just ignored me completely."
"It's better than being a jerk…besides, he takes some getting used to," she reasoned. "Anyways, let's do yours, alright?"
"Spruce, phoenix feather core," Neville replied, silently agreeing to not fight over something as stupid as Malfoy.
"Spruce produces wands that are ill-matched…with cautious or nervous natures, becoming positively dangerous in fumbling fingers. The spruce wand requires a firm hand, because it often appears to have its own ideas about what magic it ought to be called upon to produce. However, when a spruce wand meets its match - which, in my experience, is a bold spell-caster with a good sense of humour - it becomes a superb helper, intensely loyal to their owners and capable of producing particularly flamboyant and dramatic effects…phoenix feather cores show the most initiative, sometimes acting of their own accord, a quality that many witches and wizards dislike. Phoenix feather wands are always the pickiest when it comes to potential owners, for the creature from which they are taken is one of the most independent and detached in the world. These wands are the hardest to tame and to personalise, and their allegiance is usually hard won…" she read unbelievingly. "Nev… no offence but-"
"That doesn't sound anything like me," he finished, nodding. "It was my father's wand…"
"Nev, now we know why you don't do as well on practicals! Your father's wand is still your father's wand. You can use it, but it doesn't respond to you!" Hermione said excitedly after two minutes of silence.
"But, My, it's my dad's…"
"Well…um in the muggle world we sometimes put things we want to remember or conserve in a case… we can put your dad's wand in a glass case along with your mum's and you can keep them both with you if you want. We can even put picture of both of your parents in the case… Nev, you need your own wand. You aren't your dad. You aren't your mum. You're Neville Frank Longbottom. You're a bit of both," she said softly, taking his hand in hers.
"Alright, I'll get one over Christmas break… I think I'll use my mom's starting tomorrow… It should work better for me. I don't think it could be more stubborn than my dad's," he said sullenly.
She knew he was trying to lighten the mood, but she knew he was withdrawing into himself faster than she could finish a book. She loathed seeing him down. It crushed her more than being called the m-word could, especially since it had been her fault.
"Nev, have you been working out?" she blurted out without thinking.
He looked completely taken aback. Well, at least it had made him snap out of his depressing mood. However, that wasn't all, much to her surprise he blushed brightly.
"Er… yeah, Andromeda had tea with Gran and well, I happened to walk in. We got talking and the next day Mr. Tonks was there, and well yes… I'm still keeping it up, though. I wouldn't want to disappoint him, and it really makes you feel better," he admitted, rambling adorably.
"When do you work out?" she asked confused. They spent most of their time together. At what time did he have time for working out?
"Oh, um around 5…"
"But, wait, in the morning?" she exclaimed.
"Yeah…" he replied awkwardly, blushing again.
"Can I join you?" she asked hopefully.
She had been taking karate classes over the summer, and she really didn't want to lose everything she had been working for. Besides, she was more than curious as to how wizards worked out. Maybe it wasn't too different from muggle work outs.
"You'd want to?" he sputtered surprised.
He had never heard of girls wanting to exert themselves physically. Then again, he had only really gotten to know pureblood girls, and they didn't want to lift a finger if they could help it. Hermione couldn't be any more different to them. She was naturally beautiful, kind, brilliant, funny, and compassionate.
"Of course! I was doing karate over the summer, and I really should keep up my physical conditioning," she replied excitedly, her eyes sparkling.
"Kah-what?" Neville asked perplexed.
She wasn't sure how she could explain it without showing him. It was just something that was. She never thought about how to explain what it was.
"Oh, it's a type of self-defense… Like hand-to-hand combat," she replied, biting her lip.
"Do you think you could show me? I mean, we could set aside a few minutes after jogging around the lake."
"Nev, what are you going to do once it starts snowing?"
"Oh… um maybe there's a place we can use in the castle. I hadn't really thought that far ahead," he admitted sheepishly.
"We'll find something…" she said smiling.
Even if they didn't, they were both sure that it only meant spending more time with each other, so that would do just fine, more than fine, actually. They beamed inwardly. As long as they could spend time with each other, they were happy. For now, Neville added mentally.
A week later, by the Black Lake (been running for the past week, but it's the first time she shows him)
"Oh Merlin, My, is this something that girls usually sign up for in the muggle world?" he asked shocked, seeing Hermione demonstrate some stances, kicks, and punches.
"Yes, actually, most parents want their children to be able to defend themselves if they are assaulted or something," she replied.
"Why did your parents sign you up?"
"Well, I hurt my hand when I punched Malfoy last year, so I decided that I might as well learn how to punch properly. Besides, it could come in handy, if I ever lose my wand and I'm in a tough situation."
"Wait, you punched Malfoy?" Neville asked unbelievingly.
"Yeah…" she mumbled the color in her already flushed face brightening considerably.
"And he still talks to you civilly?"
"He's talked to me more civilly since actually…" she mused.
So that was the turning point, Neville mused. He was probably seeing that she was more than what he thought she was, and then she pegged his ego down a few…hundred notches, and voila. He wanted her. He thought he loved her, and she had no idea.
She definitely didn't see herself clearly. She was oblivious to all the glances she began to receive this year. She didn't see that Ron looked at her like she was a goddess. She didn't see that Harry was starting to not look at her like just another one of the guys. She didn't see that Dean and Seamus's eyes glazed over slightly whenever she'd sit by the fire, reading a book whilst biting her lip.
"You are absolutely brilliant, My!" he exclaimed with a lopsided smile.
That smile was going to be the death of her! She could feel her knees go weak. She was probably smiling and staring like an idiot, but she didn't care. It wasn't like there was anyone else around to see, and he would probably think he had something on his face. He wouldn't even think that she was admiring him, that she was completely entranced by his shining blue eyes, his soft dark brown hair, his beautiful, heart-warming, butterfly-inducing smile.
He really didn't know. He didn't see that Susan Bones, his childhood friend couldn't stop staring at him. He didn't hear how much Lavender and Parvati gossiped about how good-looking he had gotten over the summer, and how much they wished he would look at them. He didn't realize that Hannah was actually flirting with him. He didn't see himself clearly whatsoever.
He was seeing things, Harry decided. He had gone out for a walk seeing as he wasn't getting any more sleep. He had seen two people jogging around the lake, and being the curious person that he is, he decided to take a closer look. He could have sworn it was Hermione and Neville, but it had to be someone else with Neville. Since when did Hermione wear spandex and exercise, and actually know Karate. Besides, she didn't like nicknames, right? She kind of narrowed her eyes whenever he and Ron called her 'Mione. Then again, they usually called her 'Mione whenever they wanted her to have her help them with their homework.
Deciding it wasn't important, he made his way back to the castle forgetting all about seeing Neville and his work out partner. It was too early to be alive anyways.
... weeks pass...
She was happy, everybody could see it. She wasn't as snappy as usual. She smiled a lot more often, and had her eyes always been that bright chocolate amber color? Since when did she laugh and smile so much? It was a nice change, everybody had decided. They liked this happy Hermione, so they didn't question it. No one questioned it, not even her best mates Ron and Harry.
Why would they? She looked so pretty when she smiled and laughed. They hadn't seen her that happy...ever. Why ask questions when it was just plus points for them. Ron got to stare without making her angry. Harry got to bask in the peace, since his two friends weren't fighting. And they both got a not stressed, unhappy, or moody Hermione to help them with their homework. Of course, they didn't notice how soft Neville's blue eyes were when he looked at her. They didn't see Draco's steel gray eyes drinking in, absorbing every movement, every quirk that she made. They didn't see the appreciative glances she was starting to receive from many of the male members of the student population. They definitely missed the special smile that lit up her face whenever she talked to or about Neville.
Overall, however, no matter how oblivious everyone was, life was good... for now.
A/N Sorry for the delay... Anyways, the next chapter will be Beuxbatons and Durmstrang arriving and the selecting of the triwizard champions, so yeah.
The plan is that after that chapter, I'll fast forward through the tasks (hopefully in one or two chapters) and then it's the summer of fourth year!