Returning to Hogwarts proved the only action successful in relieving Hermione's sudden fear, which gripped her tight after the Death Eater activities during the World Cup. Despite remaining safely inside the Burrow's wards, Hermione couldn't shake her fear. Even considering stepping out of the wards forcefully instituted images of Death Eaters snatching her for sport.
Proactively, Hermione buried her fears in research teaching herself defensive hexes, jinxes, and obscure medicinal spells. Few wizards and witches bothered studying the specifics of healing magic unless they were pursuing a mastery, which left them unprepared to fight off the first part of a spell normally used for restarting a heart. Her repertoire of spells developed more during her independent research than with her teachers. Putting said magic in practice, however, only occurred during the school year.
Neither Harry nor Ron knew the amount of practical experience Hermione possessed. Both wizards assumed her knowledge was all from reading. Books and Cleverness was how they always described her. Initially Hermione couldn't shake the humiliation of her first encounter with Thorfinn Rowle.
During her second year, Hermione investigated a series of noises, which had disrupted her studies, to insist the responsible party respect the sacredness of the library. Instead she shrieked at the sight of the blonde Slytherin mid-coitus. Her subsequent shriek of outrage brought Madame Pince down upon the three of them. While the girl participating managed to bolt, Hermione and Rowle were dragged to the Headmaster's office.
Rowle's narrow escape from expulsion became the catalyst for his torment of Hermione. The older Slytherin began lobbing tripping jinxes and severing charms at her while she moved between classes, and any other time he encountered her. Initially, Hermione presumed Rowle would eventually grow bored at her lack of reaction. However, the morning she was cured of petrification, Rowle was waiting for her outside of the hospital wing, and hexed her once the doors closed behind her. Losing her temper, Hermione set his hair on fire with her signature blue bell flames. Despite his clear surprise at her retaliation, Rowle extinguished the flames and chuckled.
"Alright Baby Girl," Thorfinn had said, a wide grin on his face. "Nice to see you have some fight in you. I won't be going so easy on you next term."
Flabbergasted, Hermione watched the Slytherin swagger away, perfecting the leisurely stroll Malfoy pitifully attempted. Muttering about insufferable gits, Hermione continued her way down to the Leaving Feast. As with most of her decisions regarding Thorfinn Rowle, Hermione found herself in Diagon Alley snapping up every book she could find on jinxes, hexes, and charms, before she realized she intended to meet his challenge head on.
Hermione couldn't even claim that Rowle was responsible for exchanging hexes during her third year. Considering that it was Hermione who sought out the older Slytherin, the moment they arrived in Hogsmeade, and hexed him before disappearing into the crowd. Her simple attack set the tone for the following year. The moment they caught sight of the other, a spell was cast. It didn't matter if Hermione's back was turned, or Rowle hadn't caught a glimpse of her first.
Their ruthless corridor dueling increased Hermione's reaction time and developed her ability to cast without drawing attention to herself. In fact, it was the only way she managed to keep her acquaintance with Thorfinn secret from Harry and Ron. Each spell Thorfinn lobbed at her, Hermione would turn around and master before expertly using it on him. It wasn't until fourth year that she even realized he'd been teaching her, developing her reflexes, and forcing her to become creative in her spell selection the entire time.
Exactly how was she ever to explain to Harry and Ron that a Slytherin pureblood managed to turn the Gryffindor Know-It-All into an experienced dueler with ability better than most seventh years? Unfortunately, Ron's reaction to Harry becoming a champion for the Tri-Wizard Tournament complicated matters further. Even on a good day, Ron couldn't control his temper or see past his family's prejudice against Slytherins. She couldn't imagine how he'd react to learn that she'd developed a crush on Rowle.
Despite Harry's unwanted role as a fourth champion, the Triwizard Tournament remained in the background of her competition with Rowle. In fact, the three of them to be the only Hogwarts students not obsessed with the tournament. Hermione's time was spent split between hexing Thorfinn and helping Harry prepare for the first task. Knowing the Ministry was using the tournament to distract from the events at the Quidditch World Cup, made Victor Krum's invasion of the library even more infuriating.
The professional quidditch seeker himself was quiet, but the groups of female students following him around were not. Each one giggled incessantly, nor did they possess any concept of how to whisper. Initially, Hermione endured the noise with silence charms, but eventually was forced to switch her schedule to avoid the irritating witches. Her solution was short lived when Krum suddenly changed his hours to match hers.
Resolving to avoid the library altogether, Hermione overheard Professor Snape berating Rowle during her search for an alternate study spot. Considering the rarity of the dour potions' professor punishing a Slytherin publicly, several students were milling around and watching.
"Has all intelligence taken leave of you?" Professor Snape demanded, his voice carrying down the corridor. The students watching weren't subtle with their gossip, which surprisingly Professor Snape didn't notice.
"The headmaster warned you at the beginning of term to toe the line. You were ordered to abstain from embarrassing Hogwarts during an international diplomatic situation. Why then, did you choose to dung-bomb the school library?!"
Rowle wisely did not respond. Professor Snape did not tolerate unnecessary responses or interruptions while he disciplined students.
"I cannot protect you from this, do you realize this? The Headmaster has had it in for you since the in his sights for years, and embarrassing Hogwarts during an international tournament is more than sufficient for the Board of Governors to uphold an expulsion."
"Fuck," Thorfinn muttered.
"Succinct as always, Mr. Rowle," Professor Snape snapped irritated at his student. Before Rowle could muster up a response, or Hermione realized she'd decided, the witch was standing between the two wizards.
"Professor," Hermione interrupted, completely unaware of what was about to exit her mouth. "I set up the dung bombs in the library."
"What do you want you idiot girl?" Snape demanded. "I'm in the process of…."
Focusing on Sirius' advice, regarding that the best lies were based on truth, Hermione rattled off, "Viktor Krum studies in our library, which is fine, but the girls who follow him around are incessantly loud. It's distracting, and there's so many of them that their voices break through silencing charms. I was hoping that by planting the dung bombs, it would deter their presence, and I could utilize a bubble head charm to study."
Snape and Rowle stared at her, though it was the former who finally spoke.
"You mean to tell me, that rather than alert Madame Pince to the matter, you chose to sabotage your fellow students by rigging a series of dung-bombs to explode in the library?"
Hermione nodded before she answered her professor verbally.
"Madame Pince has been overwhelmed by them. Not a single girl listens to her, and she's been reduced to taking house points, since there are too many to hand out detentions," Hermione answered. Drawing on her memory from seeing Thorfinn in the stacks last, she took an estimated guess about how he would have rigged the bombs.
"Frankly the witches from Beauxbotons are worse. I figured that strategically setting up the bombs to centralize around the main study tables, it would be enough to dissuade them from gossiping there."
"Three hundred points from Gryffindor for sheer stupidity and permanent damage to a significant portion of school library. You will report to Madame Pince and offer your assistance to her regarding salvaging any books. Furthermore, you will hand write an essay citing a minimum of five ways you could have handled the situation without resorting to destroying the library."
"Yes sir," Hermione answered, purposefully ignoring her classmates who'd immediately began hissing amongst themselves about the punishment. The present Gryffindors were already glaring darkly at her
"Be grateful I don't take another hundred," Professor Snape said, clearly dismissing her. Hermione didn't hesitate to scurry out of sight. Looking around at the remaining students, he bellowed at them, "I suggest you find a better place to be." Once he was satisfied, Thorfinn and he were alone, Snape turned to him. "I suggest you keep your newfound alliance out of the Headmaster's sight."
"Yes sir," Thorfinn said.