Author's Note: Special shout out to TigerAndDaisy for being my beta. Love you girl!
Also, if anyone knows the talented Jaxx, I had a piece of artwork comissioned for the ending scene in this chapter. Since I can't post the media within the chapter here like I can on AO3, please check out her instagram handle at Jaxx_art_box to see!
Thank you everyone so much for reading, favoriting, and reviewing. It means the world to me. :)
The golden quartet felt on edge after the first week of classes finally passed. After Umbridge gave Harry detention, he marched straight to Professor McGonagall's office to report the incident. Their Head of House evidently gave him a biscuit for calling the woman a liar but warned him not to cross Umbridge again because of her position within the Ministry. They all had a good laugh about that until Draco told Ron and Hermione what the deplorable woman asked of him. Ron thought it was genius and that Draco could be the inside source of everything Umbridge was trying to do, but Hermione vehemently disagreed. She thought it was too dangerous and would ultimately backfire on Draco, who was supposed to be keeping a low profile, to begin with. They were arguing whether or not Draco made the right call when Harry came back from his first night's detention with a scar across his hand.
I must not tell lies.
Apparently, the Defense Professor didn't think the prescribed school punishments applied to her and forced Harry to write his lines using a Blood Quill. Draco explained that it was a medieval writing instrument and torture device outlawed by the Ministry in the 1940s. Still, they occasionally surfaced in shops along Knockturn Alley or could even be found in a Pureblood family's vault.
Harry informed them that Umbridge thought that the message hadn't quite "sunk in" and turned his singular detention into a week's worth, but the timeframe wasn't the worst part about this whole situation. When Hermione insisted that Harry report the incident, the dark-haired wizard became defensive and refused to go to Hospital Wing or call Sirius. So, Draco did the one thing he could do for his friend and made a home remedy for Harry to soak his hand in.
"It's not much. Just some lemon juice and Murtlap Essence to help prevent infection and scarring," he explained.
Harry grimaced as he submerged his hand. "Better than nothing. Thanks, mate."
Thankfully, Harry's continuous detention ended long before the Gryffindor Quidditch tryouts were to be conducted, so he could help Angelina pick out their replacement Keeper and Chaser. Ron and Draco were strapping into their gear when they noticed Hermione was knitting in the stands.
Draco smirked, "Well, look who got over her aversion for sports and came to support us?"
Ron chuckled, "She's not going to watch me. Clearly, she's here for you, Mate."
"Rubbish," Draco retorted. A nervous laugh escaped from his lips as he finished lacing his knee pads.
Ron rolled his eyes as he struggled with his elbow guard, "Whatever you say, Mate."
Draco gently reached out and touched his arm, stopping Ron. "Here, I got you."
When Draco was finished tightening the padding, Ron looked at his friend with gratitude. "Thanks, mate. I appreciate it."
Draco held out his forearm, and the friends clasped one another in a brotherly grasp. "You're going to do great, mate. Keeper is as good as yours."
Ron nodded, "Just as you will be the next Chaser. It'll be nice for you to have an official spot on the team besides alternating in."
"I wouldn't be so sure about that," a confident, feminine voice rang through the tent. Draco's and Ron's jaws dropped when they saw Ginny dressed in Quidditch gear.
"Ginny! What are you doing?!" Ron exclaimed.
"I'd think that would be obvious," Ginny replied in a cheeky tone. "I'm trying out for Chaser."
Draco snorted, "There's no way you will get it."
Ginny raised her eyebrow at the blond. "Is that a challenge, Malfoy?"
"What if it is?" Draco crossed his arms and straightened his stance as the two stared one another down. When he got ready for tryouts this morning, the only other person he knew who was competing for his position was Dean Thomas, but Draco felt confident he could overtake the rookie given that he had been serving as an alternate on the team since second year. Now, he wasn't so sure. Though Draco had never seen the youngest Weasley play before, he had first-hand knowledge of how much people collectively underestimated her ability. Ginny was a talented and powerful witch you did not want to cross. She was just more selective and discrete when she chose her targets.
"Oi! Everyone going out for the team, get your arses on the field!" Angelina shouted into the tent. Draco and Ginny broke out of their stand-off and briskly walked onto the pitch with Ron trailing behind them.
As the other participants were getting into formation, Ginny smirked at him, "Alright, Malfoy. You obviously think you've already secured the position, so how about a bet?"
Draco raised an eyebrow at her, intrigued by the proposition. "Go on," he drawled.
Ginny's eyes lit with a mischievous glint that looked identical to her twin brothers when they were plotting some epic prank. She smiled sweetly at him, "If I get the Chaser position over you, then you have to take me to the next Hogsmeade weekend."
Once more, Draco's jaw dropped, and his eyes widened.
"Whoa! Whoa, no, no, no. Absolutely not," Ron argued. He gave his sister a stern look. "First off, gross. That's one of my best mates, Gin!"
She shrugged her shoulders, "So?"
"So!?" Ron repeated back, his voice rising a few octaves higher than usual. "He's too old for you, that's so! Besides, you're too young to be dating anyway!"
Ginny scoffed, "As if. I did go to the Yule Ball last year with one of your classmates. Besides, my love life is none of your business."
"I'm not hearing this. Nope! La la la la la," Ron chanted. He paced around the field with his hands over his ears and eyes closed.
"How mature," Ginny deadpanned before turning back to Draco. "I don't understand why you have an issue, though. It's one date."
"I…" Draco trailed off before he snapped back into attention. "It's a what?"
"A date. You know, something two normal, single individuals go on to get to know one another. I'm sure you're familiar with the concept. Unless, are you seeing someone?" Ginny asked.
"Uh, not… I mean…"
She gave the blond an incredulous look. "It's a yes or no answer, Draco. Unless… who're you dating?"
"No!" Draco blurted out.
"No? So, you aren't dating anyone? Okay, then there shouldn't be a problem. Besides, if you're so confident you will win, you have nothing to worry about if that's your concern," Ginny challenged.
"Alright, Ginevra," Draco drawled out her full name, causing Ginny to roll her eyes at him. "If you get the Chaser position, then I'll take you to Hogsmeade in two weeks. But, if I secure the spot, then you have to teach me your Bat-Bogey hex."
"Oh, you sneaky little ferret. Really couldn't let that go from last year, could you?"
"Nope," Draco popped the p at the end before crossing his arms. "So, you game?"
"Alright," Ginny held out her hand. "You got yourself a deal."
"Deal. Always a pleasure doing business with you, Ginevra."
As soon as they dropped their hands, Angelina called the pitch to order and explained how tryouts would proceed. She started with the Chaser tryouts right off the bat before moving on to the Keeper position. Thankfully, Angelina paired Dean, Ginny, and Draco together to perform a series of passes before each took a turn to try and get the Quaffle past Angelina. He had to hand it to the youngest Weasley. She wasn't half bad. Ginny managed to keep pace with him and perform a series of complicated maneuvers successfully, but to Draco's relief, he was the only one who scored.
"Well done, Malfoy," the Quidditch Captain complimented before dismissing the Chasers. Three people were trying out for Keeper, which needed to be done individually. Angelina, Katie Bell, and Harry acted as the Chasers attempting to score. The objective for each Keeper was to see how many goals they could block out of five. As Andrew Kirke, a seventh-year Gryffindor, took his position in front of the three hoops, Draco flew up to the stands and sat next to Hermione.
"Hello," she greeted as she picked her knitting back up.
"Hello to you too," Draco replied with a smirk on his lips. "So, what did you think?"
"Hm? Oh, you mean your performance on that death trap you call a broom?" Hermione retorted in a sweet voice, causing Draco to laugh. "Yes, I supposed you did very well."
He leaned forward and tucked a curl behind her ear before whispering, "Maybe I'll convince you to fly with me one day."
Hermione tried not to gasp at how warm Draco's voice felt against her skin. She felt shivers trail down the base of her neck and silently mourned the close contact as Draco pulled away. Coming back to herself, she blinked at the blond before playfully smacking him in the arm for his cocky expression.
"That will never happen," she affirmed.
"Never say never," Draco retorted, still smirking at her.
Hermione rolled her eyes, "Then it is highly improbable. You know I could not pass the practical in our first year and convinced Madam Hooch to let me write an essay instead."
"Hence why you had a perfect score in that class," Draco agreed.
Hermione nodded, "Yes. I understand the theory well enough. It's just…."
"The thought of flying terrifies you. I understand, love."
"Then I'm glad we are in agreement," Hermione said primly.
Draco leaned forward again and spoke so softly that Hermione could barely hear him. "It's too bad. I quite enjoyed the thought of you holding onto me while we sailed through the night sky during a full moon."
His smirk widened when he heard her let out a soft groan. As much as he enjoyed teasing his girlfriend, Draco reluctantly turned his attention to the Keeper tryouts. Andrew was floating down and being replaced by Cormac McLaggen, a sixth-year Gryffindor.
"Oh, this will be delightful," Fred said as he and George took a seat behind Draco and Hermione.
"What's that?" Draco asked.
Fred and George shared a knowing look before nodding towards the field. "McLaggen's an arse, but he has potential to be a great keeper," George explained.
"He thinks his presence alone will improve the Gryffindor Quidditch team," Fred added spitefully.
"Just because his uncle is big in the Ministry, he thinks he can walk around the pitch like he owns it," George said.
Draco grunted, eyeing the older student with disdain, "I know several people like that."
Thankfully, McLaggen didn't do as well as George predicted and only stopped four out of five passes sent his way. Draco, Hermione, and the twins watched in amusement as he stormed up to Angelina and demanded a redo in his tryout. All four of them laughed when Angelina pulled out her wand and shot a dangling jinx at the aggressive sixth year.
"What… what are you doing? Put me down!" McLaggen yelled.
"Come at me again, and I'll make sure you never get on the Gryffindor Quidditch team," Angelina spat. She raised him just slightly higher, causing the teenager to squeak out in fright. "Understand?"
McLaggen nodded his head several times until Angelina felt satisfied he would respect her decision. She flipped him right side up and dropped McLaggen on the ground before calling Ron to take his place in front of the goals.
"Alright, here we go!" Fred crossed his arms behind his head and leaned back in his seat.
"Let's see what Ronnikins will do," George agreed.
Much to Draco's delight, Ron managed to block all five goals aimed his way. He laughed loudly when he saw the twins' shocked expressions at seeing their younger brother perform the best out of the lot.
As Draco and Hermione stood up, she shot the twins' a smirk, "Always the look of surprise."
"Honestly, it's your fault for underestimating your own brother," Draco agreed with a chuckle, leaving the bewildered Fred and George behind in the stands. When they made their way down to the pitch, Harry and Ron flew down to greet them just as Angelina bellowed across the field.
"Alright! That's it! I'll have the final team roster posted by Monday, along with the practice schedule."
"Well done, Ron!" Draco complimented as he clapped his hand on his friend's shoulder.
"Same to you, mate," Ron returned. "I think the positions are as good as ours."
Sure enough, Monday rolled around with excellent news. Just like she promised, Angelina posted the roster after dinner for everyone in the Gryffindor Common Room to see. Draco had finally made the team as an official Chaser, no longer a spare, while Ron had been chosen as the team's new Keeper. Fred and George, to their credit, didn't tease their younger brother as they pulled Wood's old Keeper robes out for him to try on. Harry, Draco, and Hermione were so proud of him as they watched from the couches in front of the fireplace. Much to McLaggen's annoyed protest, Dean and Ginny had been selected as alternates while the arrogant tosser had not made the cut.
Draco may not have gotten Prefect, but he felt such relief that he would have Quidditch to fill his time besides homework. He had never been interested in any other clubs, like the Frog Choir or the Godstone's team. Ron had tried starting a Chess club sometime in their third year, but he never garnered enough support to get it off the ground. On the other hand, Hermione had more of a flair for activism. Ever since she met Dobby, Hermione had wanted to create a group in the school that was focused on Magical Creature rights, specifically regarding freeing the house elves from their enslavement. Right now, Hermione was peacefully knitting away another hat that she was trying to hand out to the kitchen elves of Hogwarts for them to pass along to other elves. They may not free those still affected by the archaic laws, but at least she was spreading awareness for her grassroots movement.
As Draco was about to ask her how her latest hat was coming, Ginny Weasley made her presence known by sitting on the couch's armrest. "Well, I see congratulations are in order, Malfoy."
Draco nodded, "Thanks, Ginny. And well done on making alternate. You are a great addition to the team."
Ginny crossed her arms, "Such a shame, really. I was looking forward to snagging a Hogsmeade date."
Hermione perked up, "date?"
"Yes, you see, Malfoy and I had a bet. If he scored the Chaser position, I would teach him my Bat-Bogey hex, but if I beat him, he would take me on a date to the next Hogsmeade weekend."
"Not happening, Gin!" Ron hollered from across the Common Room.
Ginny rolled her eyes, "Well, obviously not because I am a witch of my word. You won, Malfoy. Fair and square. Which means it's time for me to pay up."
Draco's eyes widened, "You mean right now?"
"Yes," Ginny said, slowly raising an eyebrow at him, "Is that okay?"
"Uh, yeah. Sure," Draco responded carefully.
"Great! Let's go," Ginny instructed cheerfully, bouncing off the arm of the couch.
"Um… go where? Can't we just stay here in the Common Room?"
"So the entirety of Gryffindor house can learn my signature move? Fat chance!" Ginny reasoned. She gave Draco an impertinent look, "Are you going to question everything I do all night, or can we get on with it? There's an empty classroom not far from the Fat Lady we can use."
Though he couldn't see her, Draco felt how tense Hermione was after hearing "empty" and "classroom" in the same sentence. Oh, this was hard, and it didn't help that Draco felt sort of set up. He could play this off as one of two ways. One, he could just go with Ginny and then explain the whole situation to Hermione later. Two, he could refuse and offer to do the lesson another time. He'd have to make up a lie as to why he couldn't follow the redhead, but doing that would just make Ginny more suspicious. Consequently, the longer he delayed, the more likely they would draw an audience because of Draco's hesitation. With his mind made up, Draco decided to silently rise from the cushion and be led by Ginny out of the Common Room.
The sound of the portrait closing caused Hermione to wince as she watched Draco leave. She had so many questions, and with how crowded the Common Room was at the moment, Hermione couldn't just outright ask Draco what the bet meant and why he agreed to it. Logically, she knew that having to keep up with the ruse they weren't together meant that everyone else believed they were single, but she hadn't been prepared to hear that witches were already pursuing her wizard. And of all the people, Ginny had to be the one! Letting out a frustrated breath, Hermione tied off her yarn and pulled the needles from her recent creation. After two years of practice, she had finally started to show some promise in her craftsmanship. The red beanie in her lap actually looked decent enough to wear and would make an excellent addition to her S.P.E.W. collection. She had been so focused on the object that she didn't hear Harry scoot over and nudge her in the arm.
"A bit early to be working on Draco's birthday present, don't you think?" he teased with an easy smile.
Hermione blinked at him, "It's not…." She trailed off when Harry waved her off.
"It's okay, Hermione. You don't need to explain. We all know how you like to be prepared," Harry said.
"Oh," Hermione's voice dropped off as she looked back at the beanie. She had intended for this to go to Dobby or another kitchen elf, but looking at the size again made her start to question if it would fit a human head, mainly Draco's. She had gotten little attraction on the house elf freedom campaign from those in the Wizarding community, but over her two years of making friends with the elves has shown her they fully support her movement. Some time within the next week or so, she wanted to make a trek down to the kitchens and pass out some of the new material she made for the house elves to pass around, the hat included. But maybe she could convince a certain blond wizard to wear the hat and accompany her. A slight smirk formed at the corner of her mouth as she thought about Draco having to wear the beanie down to the kitchens.
"What's got you smiling?" Harry asked her, breaking her from the fantasy forming in her mind.
"Oh, nothing. Just that I have officially decided I will give this to Draco. Thanks for the suggestion, Harry," Hermione informed him, her smile widening.
Harry raised an eyebrow at her, "Okay…"
"Hey, isn't it almost time for the meeting?" Ron asked quietly, crouching down in front of Harry and Hermione. He took a quick sweep around the Common Room. "Where's Draco?"
"He went off with Ginny to settle a bet," Hermione answered, a bit more harshly than normal.
"As long as they keep their hands to themselves, then everything is all good," Ron stated.
Harry gagged, "Gross! And T.M.I.! We do not need to know those details."
"Agreed," Hermione added, briskly rising from her seat. "I believe you said something about a meeting we should be attending. Don't want to be late." She started marching towards the boy's dormitory with Harry and Ron in tow.
"What's got her wand in knots?" Ron mumbled to Harry.
"Remember what I said on the train?" Harry murmured back.
"Right. Don't ask."
Draco couldn't get the image of Hermione's sad gaze out of his head as he followed Ginny to the old classroom. He kept wondering what the right thing to do was in this situation. Should he tell Ginny that he changed his mind and turn back around? Or should he just keep going? He was already out of the Common Room anyway. Before he could change his mind, the door creaked open to reveal a dusty room that hadn't looked used in a long time. A slight draft created a chill throughout the depressing space, making Draco shiver as Ginny shut them inside. Resigning himself to get the "lesson" over as quickly as possible, Draco steeled himself to tell her he was ready to learn her hex when the redhead beat him to the punch.
"You know... If I were in a secret relationship with my best friend, I would probably try and hide it better."
Draco spun on his heels. "What?" he blanched.
Ginny had a smug look on her face as she rocked on the back of her heels and clapped her hands. "Ha! Luna was right! There is something going on between you two!"
"Wait, what do you mean, 'Luna was right?'" Draco repeated back.
"Seriously, Malfoy? She's your cousin!" Ginny retorted, exasperated.
"What does that got to do with anything?" Draco asked loudly.
Ginny rolled her eyes, "Only that Luna is probably the most observant person in this entire school, and she caught you and Hermione sneaking off several times last year." Draco felt the flush of embarrassment creep up the side of his neck as he sheepishly rubbed the back of his head. Noticing his discomfort, Ginny continued, "Don't worry. I have no intention of seducing you and betraying Hermione. I only made the bet with you so that I could confirm Luna's claim."
"How lovely that you and Luna conduct social experiments on your friends for amusement," Draco snapped sarcastically.
"If you're worried about what Hermione is going to say, then don't. I'll talk to her tonight and put her mind at ease," Ginny said casually. "Now, to the real information. How long have you two been together?"
Draco crossed his arms, "And what makes you think I'm going to tell you anything about our relationship?"
"Because I won't teach you my Bat-Bogey Hex if you don't start spilling," Ginny said, smacking Draco in the arm. "When did you two get together?"
Draco rolled his eyes, "December of last year."
Ginny's eyes widened, "Oh, wow! Almost a whole year!"
Draco's stance softened, and a small smile graced his lips, "Yes. It'll be a year on December 19th."
"Aww..." Ginny gushed.
"Oh, don't start," Draco groaned.
"Just because I play Quidditch doesn't mean I don't know how to be a girl every once in a while," Ginny said in a sing-song voice. She gave Draco a friendly smile. "But enough of that. Come on and get your wand out. I better close out our deal and let you get back to your witch."
Draco blinked, "You mean it? You really are going to teach me your hex?"
Ginny nodded, "But on one condition. You have to swear not to teach it to Harry or Ron."
"Why not Hermione?" Draco asked.
Ginny gave him a knowing smirk, "Because she already knows it. Duh!"
"Are you kidding me?!" Draco gasped.
"Nope," Ginny said, "She just chooses not to use it. Now, are we going to stand around here all night, or can we get on with it?"
Silently, Draco pulled out his wand and came to stand beside Ginny. He watched in awe as she conjured a training dummy and then fired off another hex that caused bats to shoot out the noise and fly around the room.
Draco winced, "That looks painful."
"And it will happen to you if you ever break Hermione's heart," Ginny retorted sweetly before diving right back into her instructions on how to cast the spell.
Much to Draco's relief, Hermione had not closed off from him after going off to get a Bat-Bogey Hex lesson from Ginny. True to the youngest Weasley's word, she had explained things to Hermione, who seemed to accept the reality of the situation. This left Draco free to indulge in his own devices as he spent the week leading up to Hermione's birthday plotting in order to give her the best day ever. Conveniently, they were the last ones out of Charms as they started to make their way down the stairs to lunch. Sneaking his hand to grab her wrist gently, Draco caught Hermione off guard and tugged her down a side hallway and into a tiny broom closet not far from the staircase.
"Draco," Hermione quietly asked as she allowed herself to be led by her boyfriend. She scrunched her nose as she took in the tight and dusty quarters. "Well, this is charming," she retorted sarcastically.
Draco rolled his eyes, "I grew impatient to give you your birthday present."
"Oh, Draco! You didn't have to get me anything for the hundredth time!" Hermione protested.
He winked at her, "Oh, but I do." With a little flourish, he held out the oddly shaped object wrapped in parchment. "Happy Birthday, love."
With a sweet smile, Hermione accepted the present. "Thank you," she said as she began to unwrap it. Once the parchment fell away, Hermione could clearly see in the low light it was a purple beaded bag that pulled open on a drawstring. It was round, made of cloth, and had a couple of tassels hanging off the side that swayed as Hermione fumbled with the bag.
"I know it doesn't look like much, but in my defense, you made your position on jewelry abundantly clear last year," Draco said, raising his hands in mock surrender.
"Way to understand the assignment," Hermione teased, opening the bag to peek inside. Her brows furrowed when she couldn't quite make anything out, even something as plain as the lining. She felt like something more should be there, but the bag's magic felt like someone had cast a disillusion charm all over the inside.
"Ah, that would be the concealment charm. If you pull this tassel here, it drops the spell and allows you full access to the bag," Draco explained.
"You mean…" Hermione's voice trailed off in wonder as she followed Draco's instructions. She instantly felt the hazy magic lift as the internal storage of the bag expanded. Hermione's mouth dropped open into a large O when she saw steps of a ladder start to peak out of the opening. She dropped the bag with a squeak, afraid the ladder would expand further and hit her in the face.
"Yes, it has an undetectable extension and feather-light charm, which can expand enough to be a livable space if needed."
"Inside the bag!?" Hermione exclaimed.
Draco nodded, "It's about the size of a large two-bedroom flat. Not a lot of space, but…."
"But it's more than enough to practically carry everything I've ever owned and more! Draco! Where did you get this? It had to cost a fortune!" Hermione asked. She felt quite guilty having accepted and, consequently, dropped such an expensive and magical item. With flushed cheeks, she quickly pushed the ladder back inside the bag before closing it up.
Draco shook his head, "Not really. It's actually just an everyday purse that I convinced Tonks to pick up while she helped get our school supplies. She convinced Hestia, the Unspeakable in the Order, to cast the Charms to make it what it is today."
Hermione raised an eyebrow at him, "Isn't that illegal?"
Draco shrugged, "Maybe…."
Hermione rolled her eyes, "You know what. I'm not going to question it. This is so ingenious and thoughtful that I am positively speechless!"
"I got the idea while staying with you over the summer. You know that program that your father watches on the tele-vizon."
"Television, and yes… You mean Doctor Who?" Hermione burst out in a fit of uncontrollable laughter. "You based it off the Tardis?"
Draco snapped his fingers, "That's it! I specifically asked Tonks for a blue bag, but she said this was the closest she could find."
"Very fitting! It really is bigger on the inside," Hermione stood up on her tiptoes and wrapped her arms around Draco's shoulders, "but mostly, it's absolutely perfect."
"You're perfect," Draco whispered against her lips as he leaned down to capture them.
Hermione hummed into the kiss as she felt the butterflies of anticipation begin to flutter. She pecked him a few more times before pulling back to look him in his silver eyes. "I'm not perfect, but I appreciate the compliment."
"If you won't accept perfect," Draco trailed off, leaning down to kiss her again. He pulled back and whispered against her ear, "Then you are near perfection."
To his delight, Hermione laughed in her usual bright and jovial tone, causing his heart to beat slightly faster and his smile to widen. "Well, if you insist," she retorted before giving him one last peck to his lips. "Thank you," Hermione whispered in his ear before pulling away.
"You are very welcome, but don't think the celebrations are over yet," Draco teased while wagging his finger at her.
Hermione rolled her eyes, "But of course not."
"We will have cake and celebrations with Harry and Ron this evening in the Common Room," Draco informed her.
"After Quidditch practice. Naturally," Hermione agreed in a light tone. She playfully crossed her arms and raised an eyebrow at Draco, "We can't forget the cake, which, I am assuming, Dobby is providing?"
Draco leaned forward and kissed her forehead, "Semantics that you don't need to trouble yourself with love." Hermione opened her mouth to protest, but Draco shushed her. "Now, now. It is your birthday, and you deserve to be spoiled. But right now, we really do need to make our way to the Great Hall."
"I am a bit famished," Hermione agreed reluctantly. "I'll step out first, and then you catch up to me on the staircase."
"And the cover story?" Draco asked after placing another kiss on her forehead.
"I ran back to the Common Room to grab a book, and you were in the lavatory," she said.
"Brilliant!" Draco flashed her a dazzling smile which caused her to roll her eyes again before she slipped out of the cupboard, leaving Draco to stand in the absence of her presence. Once again, he felt the high of astounding Hermione with his gift-giving ability. But Draco was also reveling in the sense of relief that flooded his heart by how open and warm Hermione was with him. It was like the past week of analyzing her strange behavior hadn't happened as they went back to normal. Or what was expected for their relationship. Pleased with himself, Draco put the mystery out of his mind as he exited the broom closet. However, he was careful to keep his steps light when he heard Hermione arguing with someone.
"Honestly, Professor. I simply…"
"Professor Umbridge, Miss Granger," the Defense Professor corrected.
Hermione huffed, "Professor Umbridge. As I was saying, I misplaced my favorite quill and was just doubling back to search for it…."
"That is no excuse for why you were coming out of a broom cupboard. Tell me, Miss Granger, do you think lying to a teacher is any way for a Prefect to behave?"
Shit. Everything in Draco's body began to freeze at hearing that Umbridge had caught Hermione. Not even one month into the school year and they were already getting caught. Thankfully Draco was out of Umbridge's line of sight, so she didn't see Draco exit the same closet. There would be no telling what Umbridge would have done with that information.
"I'm not lying," Hermione protested.
"Perhaps I should assign you detention," Umbridge continued, "along with your… beau. And maybe I should look into having your Prefect badge removed. After all, we can't have disobedient students in positions of leadership, now can we. Especially when they are… wholly undeserving."
Oh, that bitch! Draco thought as he silently reached into his bag. Umbridge had the gall to giggle after her passive threatening statement, making Draco bite the inside of his cheek. He timed his movements just right so that as soon as Umbridge rounded the corner, she would almost run smack into Draco. "Oh, pardon me, Professor Umbridge. Hermione, I found your quill." He gracefully brushed past Umbridge, hiding how enraged he truly felt by seeing her flushed with embarrassment and unshed tears pooling in the corner of her eyes. "No need to worry, love." He held up the random Quill he pulled from his bag. "Somehow it got shoved near a classroom at the end of the floor. Must have fluttered down the corridor when it fell out of your bag."
Stunned by his intervention, Hermione wordlessly accepted the Quill and nodded her head in thanks.
Draco turned back to Umbridge with a charming smile, "I couldn't help but overhear, Professor Umbridge, but did you just say Hermione Granger has detention for lying?"
"Why, yes, Mr. Malfoy, I did," Umbridge replied sweetly.
Draco laughed a pretentious boisterous laugh he often heard his father employ when he was in certain company, "Well, that is absolutely absurd! Hermione is not only the brightest witch of her age, but she is one of the most honest people I have ever met. Trust me, Professor. You just need to get to know the students better to know who the eh… trustworthy ones are. And Hermione is one of the most trustworthy people in this entire school."
"Is that so," Umbridge replied. She giggled again before piercing her beady eyes on Hermione, "I have yet to see Miss Granger live up to the praise you have so graciously bestowed upon her. One would say it's entirely unbelievable."
Though internally Draco was losing his patience with this deplorable woman, he kept his temper in check long enough to smirk at Umbridge. "More unbelievable than the Dark Lord returning? Would you say?" He felt a sick sense of satisfaction as all the color drained from Umbridge's face. She stared coldly at Draco, but no words came out of her mouth. Taking advantage of her stunned silence, Draco inclined his head to her before gently turning Hermione in the direction of the Great Hall, guiding her down the staircase. "I think you can let Hogwarts' top student off with a verbal warning this time, Professor Umbridge. I'll make sure to accompany her in the future when she goes searching for lost objects." He paused for a moment to allow the woman in her awful, gaudy pink suit to speak any objections. Upon hearing none, Draco flashed her another devil-may-care smile over his shoulder, "If everything is alright, Professor Umbridge, Hermione, and I are heading to lunch."
The two Gryffindors didn't look back as they hurried as fast as was socially acceptable to get away from your teacher. It wasn't until they had cleared the Entrance Hall that Hermione and Draco let out breaths they were holding in.
"Merlin's beard," Hermione breathed out as she allowed the tears she had been holding back to fall from her eyes.
"Hey, it's okay. Hermione. Love. It's over. I promise," Draco said, taking her in his arms and rubbing soothing circles on her back.
"It's not," Hermione's voice cracked. "It's not over. She's got it out for Harry. And now me. You didn't hear how she initially addressed me."
Draco stiffened, "What did she say?"
"She almost slipped up and called me a mudblood," Hermione revealed. She pulled back to wipe her eyes before placing a hand on Draco's arm. "Thank you for stepping in."
"Oh, Umbridge has no idea who she's messing with. Hermione, I swear, I'm going to…."
"No!" Hermione said harshly. "You will do nothing."
"Don't 'love' me, Draco Malfoy. We have no idea what power this woman potentially has, and the last thing you need to do is make yourself a target. It's clear to me that she has it out for Harry. And now we know she is a blood purist. We need to be careful and warn Harry and Ron, so they know to keep their heads down too. The less attention we attract to ourselves, the better," Hermione explained.
Draco bit his lip for a second as he tried to listen to what Hermione was saying. Rationally, he knew she was right, but he wanted to argue with her on this. Everyone knew this woman was bad news and not suitable for Hogwarts. A part of him wanted to stand up to Umbridge on principle, like how he got that small little jab about Voldemort just moments ago, but doing things like that would only cause trouble for the students. He let out a frustrated breath, "I hate it when you're right."
Hermione gave him a sweet smile, "which is all the time. Now, can we finally go to lunch? I am starving."
They silently walked to the Great Hall and found Harry and Ron laughing with Ginny, Fred, and George. Steeling themselves, they approached the table to tell them what had just happened.
Not even two weeks later, Hermione's deduction came true as most of the student body watched Mr. Filch climb up on a ladder with a plaque and mallet.
"What do yeah suppose he's doing?" Seamus asked Dean and Neville.
The pounding of the thick spike penetrating the stone of the castle wall reverberated throughout the Entrance Hall as Mr. Filch vigorously carried out his task. However, the declaration wasn't explicit until the caretaker descended the ladder.
EDUCATIONAL DEGREE NO. 1
DOLORES UMBRIDGE IS HEREBY APPOINTED "HIGH INQUISITOR" OF HOGWARTS SCHOOL OF WITCHCRAFT AND WIZARDRY
"What the bloody hell is a 'High Inquisitor'?" Ron asked rhetorically.
"Nothing good," Harry answered as they trekked back to Gryffindor Tower after dinner. Inside the safety of the Common Room, Draco, Ron, and Harry plopped on the couch in front of the fireplace as Hermione hurried off to her dorm room.
"She's going to start changing everything, isn't she?" Ron asked to no one in particular.
That was when Fred and George came up behind them and clapped their brother on the shoulder. "Merlin and Morgana! You can't do that to me!" Ron jumped.
The twins leaned in conspiratorially, "We read something interesting about this new 'High Inquisitor' in the Prophet."
"Yeah, come to find out our traitorous brother knew about the appointment, being the junior secretary to the Minister and all," George added nonchalantly.
Ron raised an eyebrow, "Percy?! He's in on this!"
"Yep," Fred confirmed, "But that's only the beginning. Apparently, Umbitch will be going around to all the teachers and will be inspecting each class."
"When do those start," Draco asked.
"Monday," George informed them.
"So, we need to keep our heads down and focus on not getting flagged by her," Harry said, giving the twins a knowing look, "Or causing our professors any unnecessary trouble."
Fred flicked Harry's ear, "I resent that implication, Potter."
"Can't resent what's true," Draco added quietly.
"Oi!" George flicked Draco's ear. "Watch it, Malfoy."
Harry held up his hand where you could just barely make out the faint scar from the Blood Quill, "Take the advice from someone with first-hand experience. You don't want to serve detention with her."
Everyone groaned at the horrible pun. "Bad form, Harry," George said.
"Besides, we are reserving our pranks solely for Filch and Umbridge this year," Fred affirmed with a mischievous grin.
"Which means we need to get more creative. Lads," George saluted as the twins gave their leave.
The boys watched the infamous troublemakers' retreat when they noticed Hermione skipping down the steps, her eyes scanning the Common Room for someone. She carried a large cardboard box in her arms with the initials S.P.E.W. written along the side. When she made eye contact with the boys, her face lit up with a broad smile as she walked over in their direction.
"Oh no," Ron said under his breath.
"Not us. Not us. Not us," Harry repeated quietly until Hermione was within earshot.
"Draco! I need your help," Hermione said as she balanced the box on the arm of the couch. She tossed the red hat in Draco's lap, "Can you put this on and come down with me to the Kitchens before curfew?"
"Uh," Draco grunted as he eyed the handmade, knitted hat. It was Gryffindor red and looked similar to the gifts that Molly Weasley would make for each family member for Christmas, but the quality was slightly off.
"Oh, honestly," Hermione huffed as she pulled the hat out of his hands. Faster than a Snitch, Hermione tugged the hat over Draco's head. "My knitting isn't that bad. You can wear the hat while we talk to the house elves."
"What do house elves have to do with vomit?" Ron sputtered in between holding back his laughter.
Hermione rolled her eyes, "It's not SPEW. It's S.P.E.W. The Society for the Promotion of Elvish Welfare. It's my advocacy group for house elf rights and freedom."
"Ah, sounds…" Ron drifted off, not entirely sure how to respond.
"Adventurous. You go change the world, Hermione," Harry encouraged, trying to keep his humor in check.
"And Draco… you should totally go with her, Mate. Can't have a lady walking around the castle alone at night," Ron hinted.
"How chivalrous," Hermione deadpanned.
"Well, we are Gryffindors. Gotta live up to our house and all that lot," Ron offered with a smirk.
Hermione rolled her eyes before she turned to Draco. "Will you please come with me?"
Draco groaned when he saw her vast puppy-dog eyes pleading with him. Not only did she have to ask so sweetly that it almost broke his heart, but add in an unfiltered line of sight to those gorgeous, chocolate brown orbs, and he was a complete goner, a love-sick swot that was putty in her delicate, ink-stained hands. "Fine," he sighed, getting up from the couch.
Hermione squeaked in delight as the bright smile returned to her face. "Oh, thank you, Draco! You are going to love working with S.P.E.W. We have so many great discussions and ideas to try and get through to the Ministry. And just wait until you meet Pitts! He's an amazing pastry chef…."
As Hermione continued to ramble about the Hogwarts' house elves on their way out the portrait hole, Draco couldn't help but frown at how Ron and Harry had completely given up any pretense of not laughing and were howling on the couch. Over his shoulder, he glared at his friends, which only served to increase their merriment as they continued to chuckle and laugh at Draco's expense.