A/N- A faster update! We finish winter break and return to school and Hermione makes some new friends. And learns about other perspectives on pureblood society in Britain. And the completion of the potions projects, plus Snape's thoughts on them. We're going to start rapidly approaching the summer now so hang onto your butts :-)
Also thanks for the lovely reviews. It's always nice to be appreciated.
The match was three hours, and Harry was aware Hermione opened a book after about 10 minutes of the game. He was very into it though. The Magpies ultimately beat the Bats 590-550 and it had been fantastic, watching professional seekers playing. He felt like he'd learned an awful lot that he could use in his next game for Gryffindor.
Upon returning to Nott Manor, while Theo and Blaise argued about various fouls committed in the game against their teams with Blaise adamant his team had been the victim of match fixing, Hermione gave Harry the grand tour. The house was huge, as was the library. Harry thought it looked kind of like a museum, and more than a few portraits were hostile to his being there. "No wonder you don't like it here," he said after Hermione had silenced the third portrait to complain about Harry's presence and Hermione being raised by muggles.
"Cantankerous Nott's portrait loves to tell me what a traitor I am to the family name," Hermione rolled her eyes, "but they're heritage so they get to stay. For my money I'd burn every last painting. Why remember what proud bigots my ancestors were?"
"Well you knew Mr. Nott isn't exactly the perfect wizard."
"He's a proper Slytherin alright," Hermione frowned. "I think my bravery and compassion are pure Granger. There's none of either trait in the Nott bloodline."
"But you've got Theo," Harry said.
"The best part of this whole mess," Hermione agreed, "even if he's annoying me today. Actually for the past week."
"That and he's an annoying teenage boy," Hermione mused, making Harry laugh. "It really is more the way he is around Blaise. They're both fine on their own. Put them together though and it's like they're both seven years old again."
"Ah like Dudley and his friends," Harry nodded in understanding.
"I'm presuming it's some sort of male thing because there's no other explanation for it," Hermione said. Harry smirked. She said it with such scientific certainty that it amused him.
"What did they do to earn your ire?"
"Fed Crookshanks a hair loss potion," Hermione frowned. "He could have died if he went outside but they just found it funny. So I'm doing my best to ignore them both. I'm still upset."
Harry thought she had every right to be. "Could he be fixed?"
"My father bought a special hair growth potion for cats. Which of course makes Theo and Blaise unsure why I'm upset since it's such an 'easy' fix," Hermione folded her arms. They just didn't get it.
Hermione walked along the train corridor. The return to Hogwarts always felt longer when made over winter break, for some reason. She arrived at the bathroom but it was occupied so she settled near the window, gazing out at the rolling countryside. The bathroom door opened and Daphne Greengrass exited, "Granger," she nodded.
"Greengrass," Hermione responded. "I got the magazines," she said in a low voice. "I'll slip them to you in Arithmancy." Daphne's eyes found hers and for just barely a second Hermione saw the witch's guard drop. But it quickly went back up. Hermione entered the bathroom. She found Daphne interesting. She'd asked her father about the other 'Sacred 28' families and he'd given her Cantankerous Nott's book to look through as well as some other historical documents and books. He seemed relieved to know that Hermione was curious about her heritage; relieved enough he didn't question what she wanted to know or why she wanted to know it.
The conversation with Daphne at the New Year's Eve party had given Hermione a new perspective. As much as she criticized the pureblood upper crust for acting like someone they weren't, Daphne was right. Hermione was doing the same thing. Whereas Daphne tried to fit that perfect princess mold and pretended to be an extreme version of it, Hermione fit the mold of the ultimate rebel. Being muggle for the sake of being muggle. Mocking and belittling the purebloods who played by the rules either in words or actions. Okay, maybe that was a little extreme but Hermione did feel rather hypocritical. Daphne didn't feel free to be herself but did Hermione? That answer was also a no. Perhaps that was partly why she got annoyed with Theo at times. He was happy to attend the balls and do the song and dance required of purebloods because all those rules favored pureblood men. His actions weren't regulated by pureblood code unless it referred to courting a pureblood female. Theo could show up naked to a ball and no one would say boo to him. If Daphne did the same it would be the scandal of the century and her father would be a laughingstock. Hermione loathed hypocrisy and Theo used that same buzz word as her father. It was their 'heritage' and it was something to be proud of.
All of that was why Hermione wanted to learn more about the history of her family and the other Sacred 28 families in England. To understand where these egos came from and why they persisted. The Malfoys had vineyards, the Greengrasses were a big printing family; and not just books but newspapers and magazines, though they no longer held shares in the Daily Prophet and Witch Weekly. Daphne's father Aidan Greengrass had sold both for a massive fortune when he took over the company and began to focus more on the book printing side of it.
The Notts were into textiles, historically; not just cotton and wool but also dragon scales, dragonhide, and the skin of other magical beasts. Hermione did find the history of the Nott family interesting. But boy did her ancestors specialize in blowing smoke up their own arses. Each accomplishment was filled with praise for it and an attempt was made to paint it as especially brilliant and innovative, even if it was stolen from muggles. And several accomplishments had been.
Hermione returned to the compartment she was sharing with her brother and friends to see them playing poker. "You want in?" Dean asked her as he shuffled the deck.
"Sure," Hermione nodded, sitting down next to Harry.
Upon returning to Hogwarts Hermione's focus was primarily on the potions project and her now very displeased attitude toward Blaise Zabini. She made a point to wait after class one day to talk to their professor, "Professor Fox?"
"Yes Miss Granger?" He asked.
Hermione looked at him quizzically, "Why didn't you pair Daphne Greengrass and I up at the start of the year? We had the best grades last year."
Fox blinked, "Yes you did. But I thought it would be better to keep you separate."
"I find it unfair to make us babysit your problem students when working together we'd actually probably perform better and even be able to work on harder potions," Hermione said. Thinking about Daphne's complaints about Seamus she had understood the blonde's points. And the more Hermione thought about it, the more Hermione had realized that she and Daphne would probably be even further ahead of their peers than they already were if they worked together. She found that very unfair. If she and Daphne could do better, why hold them back? It was antithetical to wanting your students to succeed.
Joseph Fox blinked in surprise. He'd not expected Hermione Granger to be upset with the partnerships. Zabini was her brother's friend, after all. "Are you displeased with your partnership Miss Granger?"
"I want to get the best education I can, Professor Fox. I don't hate working with Blaise, but I do dislike being his babysitter. I'm in class to learn, not babysit my brother's friend," she said. "I do enough of that on breaks."
Fox nodded. "Very well. When I next change the partners up after the assignments are turned in I'll take this into account."
"Thank you," Hermione said before putting her bag on her shoulder and leaving the classroom.
Class presentations were a new experience for the students in Fox's potions class. In fact they were so new that Snape sat in on the class, watching them from the back of the room. "Thank you Miss Greengrass and Mr. Finnegan," Fox said. "You both did good work on Felix Felicis. Next up is Miss Granger and Mr. Zabini."
Hermione and Blaise went up to the front. "We worked on love potions and frankly, they're not even real." Daphne glanced at her former head of house to see he had a pleased smirk on his face as Hermione spoke. "They don't create love. They create obsession and they rob the person taking it of their free will completely."
"Yeah they're really nasty," Blaise agreed.
Harry squirmed as Hermione gave her presentation. He didn't know what his mother was dosed with; though Snape reckoned it wasn't Amortentia. Different love potions had different effects, after all. Amortentia completely changed a person's personality but others were more subtle. He had the dreadful sense he'd never really be able to know who his mother was since the only people who really knew her and loved her before the love potion had been pushed away by Lily after she'd been dosed with it.
Daphne was impressed with how thorough and well-argued Hermione's presentation was. She knew Blaise wasn't much help; she'd had study groups with him before and he was not particularly talented with research. Or motivated, for that matter. In fact he hardly spoke during the presentation. Like Daphne, Hermione delivered it on her own.
When classes let out they all exited the classroom, leaving Snape and Fox behind. "Interesting assignment," Snape said. "But the variety in quality was shocking."
Given Weasley and Crabbe had said truth potion was good because it forced people to tell the truth and ended their presentation, Fox had to agree. "Yes I think I underestimated just how few of them are even interested in potions."
"Potion making requires two things that teenagers tend to lack," Snape smirked, "patience and concentration. Very few of your third years have those qualities."
"Still, Miss Granger and Miss Greengrass gave outstanding presentations even if their partners clearly lacked their interest and enthusiasm," Fox said. "They researched their potions well."
"Yes I need to think on their obvious skill in brewing. I want to foster growth and not let them be stuck behind with their less motivated peers," Snape tastefully said. He'd actually been thinking about it since learning Hermione had brewed polyjuice the previous year. He had no doubts that Daphne probably could as well; he had a few ideas but nothing concrete as of yet. "I will worry about the two witches. You've got your hands full with Crabbe and Weasley."
"Yes I do," Fox sighed. "Any advice?"
"Just survive it and ignore them when they insult the art," Snape said. "It's all you can do, sadly. Potions is very underappreciated by most students. But the flip side of that are students like Miss Greengrass and Miss Granger. As irritating as it was to see her hand in a parchment two feet longer than I asked for, it was easy to see her delight in potion making and desire to be the best she could."
"Are you thinking of putting them in an advanced class?"
"More like extra credit," Snape mused. "I don't miss teaching the lesser skilled of the students but teaching the two young ladies one or two nights a week in my potions lab would certainly let them tackle the more dangerous potions their classmates aren't anywhere close to brewing."
"If I made them partners they could work on it in potions class too," Fox suggested. "With the exception of a handful of potions that require time on the fire, they'd fly through my curriculum if they were paired up. Part of the reason I didn't partner them up in the first place."
"I'll check my schedule and if I can make it work I'll call them into my office to discuss it," Snape said. He stood, "And Joseph, don't beat yourself up too much. Most of the other pairings did a pretty good job even if they didn't quite hit the mark. Potter and Malfoy, Parkinson and Patil, Brown and Davis all did well."
"Thank you sir," Fox smiled, pleased the headmaster appreciated what he'd been trying to do.
"Hermione?" Lavender asked.
"Yes?" Hermione asked her.
"I have some follow-up questions on love potions," Lavender said. "Could we maybe talk about it tonight in our dorm?"
"Sure," Hermione nodded.
"I did the presentation too," Blaise gave her a charming smile, "I'll happily talk to you about it, say over lunch in Hogsmeade?"
Lavender gazed at Blaise like he had two heads, "We all know Hermione wrote that presentation, Zabini. Not you."
It took everything in Hermione not to laugh at the way Lavender had so effectively shot down Blaise. It was really rather hilarious, given how arrogant he was about his charm and ability to woo people. Not that he was wooing anyone at 13 but Blaise was a wannabe lothario, hence Hermione's struggle to maintain her composure. "That was rude," Blaise muttered before walking away. Hermione gave up the fight and laughed at his sulking. It was good to see someone put Blaise back in his place.
Hermione and Daphne practically bit the headmaster's hand off when he offered them the extra lessons. That pleased Snape. He didn't hate teaching, overall. He just hated teaching students who didn't want to learn or appreciate his craft. Too many students treated his class as something to misbehave in and Snape had always hated that. He began his private lessons by teaching them how to brew Amortentia. Though highly illegal (Snape had special dispensation for Hermione and Daphne to brew it from Madam Bones), it had several important techniques he wanted them to experience and learn and if they ever wanted to go after their potions mastery, this was a potion they'd have to brew to earn it. Giving them a dry run felt important to him.
This also meant reading up more on the potion and what the individual ingredients did. Hermione looked at Daphne as they worked on the potion one evening, "How is homosexuality treated in the magical world?"
Daphne blinked, "What brought about that question?"
"Well one of the case studies Professor Snape gave me of this potion being used in the past was of a witch, Estella Jewkes, using Amortentia on another witch by the name of Lisette Crispen. But it's very factual with no context. In the muggle world being gay is rather controversial. Some people care way too much and in a very negative way so I was wondering what it's like in the magical world."
"Oh," Daphne tilted her head in thought at how to answer Hermione's question. "Well if I told my parents I was gay they wouldn't be happy about it. But wizarding society as a whole wouldn't really blink. It's not a common thing but blood is what matters to families. So I guess my parents would have a bigger concern with any relationship of mine being pureblood."
"Blaise said some purebloods are racist."
"Oh there definitely are some very racist purebloods. I'm sure there's some homophobes too. But those are people more like your great-uncle Cantankerous Nott who you could never be 'pure enough' to satisfy," Daphne explained. "Most people are more concerned with your family name than your genitalia or race. Blaise is an acceptable pairing for me because he's a pureblood, no matter if he's black or of Italian history. You are an acceptable pairing for me because you're pureblood and a Nott, even though you're a woman."
"But werewolf or vampire is right out, no matter man or woman. No muggleborns or half-bloods either," Hermione said.
"Yep. You catch on quick," Daphne teased her with a wink. "Another of our rules you find stupid?"
"Yes but I was expecting to be told being gay was about as bad as being a half-blood," Hermione answered, "so I guess you could say I'm a little surprised."
"Well we can't be backwards on everything," Daphne deadpanned, making Hermione laugh.
They worked with Snape a few hours three times a week and both witches enjoyed it as February turned to March. During Potions class Hermione and Daphne would make short work of their assignment and then read case studies about Amortentia for the remainder. Daphne was disgusted by the potion. It was every bit as vile as Hermione had said during their class presentation.
But she did enjoy working with her new partner. She was quick and like Daphne very interested in potions. It was refreshing, having someone she could connect with over potions finally. Although she found she liked talking to Hermione about more than potions. Daphne was swiftly developing an appetite for muggle fashion, and Hermione's mother would send monthly magazines to Hermione who would give them to Daphne.
With no one else to talk to about the magazines, Hermione became her ear as Daphne gushed about this dress or mocked this new style. Hermione, meanwhile, found herself having to learn about fashion from a very enthused Lavender and Parvati. The two witches were delighted to start explaining the finer points of fashion with her and Hermione, though she honestly wished that she could just have them sit with Daphne and go over the magazines instead, had to admit they both seemed thrilled that Hermione and them were talking about more than the occasional homework assignment.
And when Hermione was fed up of dealing with idiot boys (even her brother), it was nice to have Lavender and Parvati to vent to. They weren't the airheads Hermione had always assumed they were. "I really don't know why you have such hatred of your hair. People would kill to have curls like yours."
"It's unmanageable," Hermione frowned.
"Not if you use the right products," Parvati said, running her hands through Hermione's hair. "You have to work with your hair, not against it. That's the key."
Hermione looked at those big pleading eyes of Lavender, sure that Parvati had a similar facial expression, and she sighed. Why did pouting work on her so well? She opened up her coin purse and tossed a couple galleons onto the bed, "Order the products you think I need."
Lavender squealed in delight and jumped off her bed to hug her roommate. Hermione shook her head, amused at the desire Lavender had to give her a makeover. "Just the hair, Lavender."
"You wouldn't need much makeup anyway," Parvati dismissed after rolling her eyes as Lavender began to clearly plot all the makeup she wanted to try. "Some lip gloss would just highlight your lips a little more."
Lavender stuck her tongue out at Parvati before Lavender bounced into the bathroom. Sometimes she really was surprised by her blonde roommate. Other times she acted exactly as expected. Perhaps Hermione had judged the two witches far too early into their relationships. True, neither witch was all that nice to her at first (well, mostly Lavender) but then Hermione wasn't exactly nice to them either.
Of the two, Parvati interested her more. While Hermione had thought Parvati was a half-blood, she had since learned that Parvati was actually not. She was a pureblood whose family had some muggle history both in India and in England (in other words, she had a few squibs who'd married muggles in her family tree) and so simply wasn't 'pure enough' for the likes of Parkinson and other Sacred 28 families. "Don't worry Hermione, I'll place the order. Lavender would buy every beauty product they have. She's my best friend but she's got a very disturbing love affair with makeup."
Hermione laughed at that. Then she grew serious, "You really don't think my hair is a lost cause?"
"Nope," Parvati answered. "That product you were using is good, sure, but there are better ones available. Don't worry. I'll take care of you. You'll love it when I'm done."
"Since when are you so good with hair?" Hermione asked.
"I want to be a fashion designer," Parvati confessed, "and part of that is learning about hair. Plus I can't use just any product on my hair either; not like Lav does. So I understand your problem. But don't worry. With a Patil on the case it will be solved quickly."
"Thanks Parvati," Hermione smiled.
"I do wonder why your sudden interest in fashion, though," Parvati said.
"I have a new acquaintance who's an aristocratic pureblood and very interested in muggle fashion," Hermione said. "But doesn't want anyone to know. She likes to talk to me about it and you know I don't have much knowledge to help her out on that front."
"So you're learning about fashion just to help someone else?" Parvati's voice was filled with awe. Hermione wondered if perhaps she didn't do as good a job hiding her disdain for fashion as she thought she was. "That's very Gryffindor of you," Parvati said after a moment's pause. "But Hermione, be careful. If you're always doing things to make others happy, you'll have nothing left for yourself."
"I'm not displeased with the situation," Hermione said. "I like you, after all. It's nice to get to know you in this new way." Parvati finished wrapping Hermione's hair in a scarf in a bid to help stop it from being so bushy in the morning and picked the galleons up off the bed, placing them in her coin purse. "Thank you, Parvati."
"You're welcome," Parvati smiled at her and sat back down on Hermione's bed, this time facing her. "And let me just say, I'm so glad Parkinson isn't my partner anymore in Potions. We got along alright in class but it took me great pains sometimes not to hex her."
"She has that effect on me too," Hermione laughed. "For some reason, though, Theo seems to not mind her."
"He's probably scared of her," Parvati smirked.
It was a sentiment she'd wondered about too. Hermione sighed, "I love Theo but sometimes he's just way too okay with all this pureblood nonsense. He doesn't see the problems with those stupid etiquette rules or even think the way the pureblood rules favor men over women is anything to be upset about."
"Well he's naïve," Parvati shrugged, "he's probably never once seen it from your perspective. Indian magical culture is a caste system like Indian muggle culture is. I guess that might be why I see the stupidity of pureblood Britain."
"Or maybe pureblood Britain is just stupid," Hermione muttered, making Parvati laugh. "Although I recently learned they're not inherently homophobic so they have that going for them."
"Ridiculous, isn't it?" Parvati asked. "Although I notice those saying the so-called aristocrats aren't homophobic are the same people who say they also aren't racist. White and heterosexual, every time."
"You think there's more bigotry than indicated?" Hermione asked, a thought she'd certainly had on the subject given some of the things Blaise had told her about his life.
"It's more subtle than the Death Eaters," Parvati said, "but I do think it's still there. Rather than insult your skin color or your sexuality they just use the acceptable outlet of targeting your ancestry. It's not my skin and/or sexuality that is the reason an arsehole would protest you dating me, it's simply that my blood is inferior. But then, don't racists also think their blood is superior?"
"Good point," Hermione nodded. "I was dubious on the racism thing already because I know Blaise has experienced racism in pureblood circles."
"Zabini would still be more accepted than I would," Parvati shook her head, "you've landed in a really fucked up social structure, Hermione."
"I know!" Hermione fell back on her bed with a huff, "Dating will be a nightmare. My father keeps getting betrothal requests and refusing them. If he weren't around, or worse was a monster, I don't know what I'd do." Parvati gave her a sympathetic smile before the bathroom door opened and Lavender exited in her pajamas. "Thanks for the help with my hair, Parvati," Hermione said as she stood to go brush her teeth.
"You're welcome," Parvati said. "I've got a catalog somewhere. I'll order some stuff for you tomorrow."
Hermione and Daphne watched as Snape studied their potion, "Excellent work, both of you," he said. "I'm impressed."
"Thank you sir," Hermione smiled. She was enjoying these private lessons featuring complex potions. Fox was a good potions professor, but Hermione had to admit she enjoyed being tutored by Snape. Because he was such a hard man to please, his praise meant that much more.
"What will we be working on next?" Daphne asked.
"Well you've worked on studying Felix Felicis so why don't we brew that next?" Snape asked. The two potions had been his first choices because the two witches had been so thorough in their work researching them for Professor Fox's project.
"Sir about what Amortentia makes us smell," Hermione began, "is it true the smells of it are the things we're most attracted to?"
"Yes," Snape nodded. "It will change, over time. When I first smelled it at sixteen it was my crush at the time. When we brewed it this time I smelled completely different scents. It's not about true love or anything like that; Amortentia at its core is about obsession and lust. Hence the smells you smell changing over the years based on your attractions."
Both Hermione and Daphne leaned over the potion to smell it before both turned scarlet in embarrassment. Suppressing a smirk, Snape bottled the potion, "I'll keep this for proof of your talents. Now then, let's go over Felix Felicis."
The two witches sat down and Daphne pulled out her notes on the potion she'd researched. "Sir it takes six months to brew this," Hermione frowned, confused. They only had three months left of school.
"Yes," Snape nodded. "I will have to finish it myself. But don't worry, I will start a second batch around the time you leave the school so you'll both be able to finish the potion when school starts back up." Hermione smiled, glad that he'd already foreseen and solved that potential problem.
Narcissa Malfoy collapsed on top of her lover. "Have I mentioned how much I like it when you floo over?" She asked him.
"I think you said something last time," Alexander answered. "I can't say I recall, though. You were naked and I was very thoroughly distracted by that."
She laughed before leaning in to kiss him, "You're ridiculous."
"Do you have summer plans?"
"What do you have in mind?" Narcissa asked.
"I bought a box to watch the Quidditch World Cup from this summer. For my kids, obviously," he added. "Hermione's friends Harry, Dean, and Seamus will all be coming as will Blaise. I have plenty of room still. You and Draco could come if you want. We get the box for any and all matches we want to see and the kids get a chance to meet the teams that will play in the final."
"Draco would love that," Narcissa said. "Are you sure it wouldn't be too much of an imposition?"
"You are not an imposition," Alexander said. "It would help me to have another parent there to look after the kids and any seat not claimed is a bit of a waste if you ask me. Seamus' mother will be joining us as well but the more the merrier. It's a big box and I doubt all the kids will want to do all the same things."
"Shouldn't you invite some girls?"
"My daughter doesn't get on with many girls," Alexander said.
"She's taking extra potions lessons with Daphne Greengrass," Narcissa pointed out.
"A Greengrass though?" Alexander asked, dubious about that. He couldn't see his daughter getting on with any member of the Greengrass family.
"Did you ever see a Nott getting along with a Potter?" Narcissa asked him.
"That's a good point," he conceded. "I'd never have guessed that could happen."
"She seems to get on with the Brown girl and the Gryffindor Patil too. They might not be interested in the quidditch but they might be interested in mingling with international wizards and witches," Narcissa reasoned. "Plus Hermione might like not being the only person not interested in quidditch under the age of 18."
Alexander laughed at that. When he calmed down he looked at her, "So will you come with us this summer?"
"I think Draco would very much enjoy seeing the World Cup. So I'd be delighted to come with you."
"Brilliant," he smiled, leaning in to kiss her. "And maybe I can get you to come on your own too."
"You have a filthy mind," she playfully scolded as they rolled in the bed.