Hermione Granger spotted Theodore Nott tucked away in his favorite alcove of the Hogwarts Library. Yes, she knew which of the numerous alcoves was his favorite. His eyes were moving over a roll of parchment in front of him, his quill danced in the long fingers of one hand, his other hand was pressed at a place in a textbook open at his side, elbow holding another thick tome open. He looked utterly engrossed in his usual state of controlled chaos.
Hermione sighed. This was what she found attractive in a wizard. Brains and the willingness to apply them with diligence. She hated to interrupt him. But…
His eyes froze. The quill stopped moving. His head lowered and a lock of his dark hair fell down over his forehead, hiding much of his face.
“Not now Granger. I need to finish my Potions essay.” Theo replied as his quill started moving deliberately once more.
The witch frowned.
“Granger again?” Hermione whispered more to herself than to the wizard in front of her.
“That’s your name last time I checked.” Theodore Nott whispered to himself too.
Hermione stared at his thick head of hair as Theo struck out a line on his parchment. Struck it out with ink, instead of vanishing it like a normal person.
“Alright, Nott.” Hermione nodded and hitched her bag higher on her shoulders. “I came to tell you that Parkinson was taken to the infirmary after an incident in the girl’s toilet. Head Girl asked me to tell you that you will be covering her prefect rounds tonight.”
Nott flicked his hair back and rolled his eyes. He charmed the ink on the parchment to a quick dry and put his quill away in a silver monogrammed box that held a half full ink pot. One by one, he closed his books, marking his spot with pretty feather bookmarks before putting them neatly in his leather satchel. Hermione noted that he slid the books in sorted by size. The quill and ink box went on top of the smallest books, followed by the roll of parchment he’d been working on. If Hermione hadn’t been fascinated by his process, she’d be tapping her foot in impatience while she waited for him to look at her and say something. She felt slightly ashamed of her own bursting at the seams satchel and vowed to come up with a more efficient method to organize its precious contents.
Finally Nott looked at her.
“Thanks for the information. Anything else?”
His stark blank eyes made Hermione wish he was still fussing with his books. The impersonal gaze cut more than avoidance.
“So… We are patrolling tonight, together.”
Nott huffed and rose to his impressive height, scraping the wooden library chair back.
“Exchange with Weasley. I’ll patrol with him.” He stretched his arms and neck in utter nonchalance, and lifted the strap of his satchel to his shoulder.
Hermione was still internally sputtering over his imperious command and trying to decide how best to let her irritation show when Nott started walking out of the study alcove, dismissing her altogether.
“I will not exchange my duties with Ron.” She told his back.
Nott paused but didn’t turn around.
“You want to spend a couple of hours exploring dark places with me?”
“Do not make it sound torrid.” Hermione scoffed, finally losing the nervousness that had been plaguing her since last week’s two shared rounds with Theodore Nott. “I plan my days to fit all my responsibilities. Exchanging with Ron right now and covering his rounds later is not convenient for me.”
Nott turned, his face twisted in a sneer.
“Not convenient. Well, making the rounds with you is not convenient for me either, thank you very much. If you can’t ask your precious Ronald for a favor, here’s what we will do. You will go back to your dorm and I will finish the rounds on my own.”
The bitter animosity of his eyes as he said the words made Hermione gape at him in confusion. Ignoring her was one thing. Actively hating and spewing venom was another.
“I don’t want to walk with you.”
Well that did it. Hermione dropped her bag with a thud and folded her arms at her chest.
“I was good enough to walk with last week. To flirt with…to kiss… Not anymore, huh? You would just ignore me or treat me as a pariah now? Tell me, Nott, was it some sort of sick joke? A bet? Who will kiss the swotty Gryffindor bookworm and laugh about it later! I hope you at least made some good galleons out of it. After all, you are the consummate pureblood from the ancient house of Nott, handsome, intelligent and polite to boot. Why would you ever lower yourself to being with me huh? Kissing a mudbl-”
A large hand covered her mouth before she could finish the word.
“Do not utter that ugly word.” He growled in her face. “Now if you are quite finished insulting my life choices, I’d like to go do something productive.”
He loomed tall and threatening over her. His arms went completely around the slender Hermione, holding her without giving an inch to the much smaller witch.
Theodore’s body against her’s made her instantly warm and flushed. Unbidden, memories of the last time Theo had been this close to her hit Hermione. He hadn’t given her an inch that last time either. He had held her tight and thoroughly snogged her in an open corridor. Anyone could have walk in on them but neither of the two teens had cared. The studious, serious wizard hadn’t been tentative about it either. He had kissed her like she belonged to him, all claiming and possessive and wild. Hermione had never been kissed like that before, or since. The learned feel of his body, heat and scent was like a brand she couldn’t wash off. It had been a profound experience for the young witch.
That was then. Things looked so utterly cold between them now.
After kissing her silly in front of the Portrait of the Fat Lady at the end of their rounds, Theodore had walked back down the stairs towards the dungeons without looking back. That night, the dancing butterflies in her stomach had kept Hermione awake till the early hours of morning. She couldn’t wait to catch his eye at breakfast. And maybe, just maybe he would hold her hand?
She took extra care with her hair that morning and rushed to breakfast with an excitement that surprised Harry and Ron. Food had never excited their witch that much, but what did the boys know.
When Hermione searched the Slytherin table, she didn’t see Theo there. She lingered over toast for as long as she could, but the Slytherin never showed up. Her morning disappeared in a Ravenclaw Gryffindor Care of Magical Creatures and double Herbology. She had to skip lunch because Professor Sprout wanted to adjust Hermione’s schedule for extra credit greenhouse work and then she needed to rush to Runes before she was late for the class. They had combined classes with the Slytherins on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. It being Wednesday that day, dinner was when Hermione finally saw Theo Nott again. Just being in the great hall with him, even over other house tables, gave her a thrill. She tried catching his eye without success. That was when she saw rough angry looking letters at the back of Harry’s hand.
She had grabbed her best friends hand and cried what the scars were. Harry had slid off the bench and marched out the Great Hall, Hermione in pursuit. It had been harrowing, listening to Harry describe Umbridge’s detention and the line he had written. She tried taking her to the infirmary but the stubborn boy wouldn’t budge from his spot in front of the Gryffindor common room fireplace. Hermione felt a kind of anger she hadn’t felt before take root in her heart. She resolved to do something about the bitch and spent the rest of the evening listening to Harry rant.
They had potions with Slytherin bright and early the next day. Hermione took her spot with Neville as per usual, in front of Harry and Ron’s table. She noted that Nott was sitting towards the front of the class across the center aisle from her, with Daphne Greengrass. The two had their heads tilted down together and were smiling at some shared joke. As if he felt her gaze, Theo glanced at Hermione. Hermione felt warm all over from his gaze. They had a small moment. She smiled. Theo went back to his whispering with Daphne.
Just then, there was a crash at the back and the witch turned to see what had happened. Ron had put asphodel roots too near the burning stove. The roots must’ve heated enough to cause blowing up the rest of their ingredients, along with a few strands of Hermione’s hair. Professor Snape marched up to Ron and Harry, banged their heads together and vanished the contents of their table before deducting points and handing out detentions. Hermione and Neville got detentions right along with the dynamic duo for, in Snape’s exact word, disturbing the class with stupid girlish shrieks, Hermione and Neville’s. Hermione put out the fire in her hair and turned back to the front of the class to find everyone poring over their books and materials in an effort to not attract undue attention from an irritated Professor Snape. She noted that Theo and Greengrass were well into prepping their ingredients. The two worked well together. She couldn’t catch his eye for the whole two hours after.
The day went just like that. Missed glances and missed chances. With each passing hour, Hermione withdrew a little more inside her heart, feeling a little more used by the Slytherin.
By the time weekend rolled around, Hermione had been roped into visiting Hogsmeade with the whole Gryffindor gang. All she saw of Theo was passing glimpses at Honeyduke’s and The Three Broomsticks. He stuck with a group of his housemates comprising of Malfoy, Greengrass and Parkinson. Everybody knew Malfoy was dating Parkinson, so it looked to Hermione that Nott was out with Greengrass. The pair did look awfully friendly with each other. Hermione recalled how they had worked together in Potions, like they were used to working in close proximity all the time. After that, she studiously avoided looking at any set of robes with a hint of green, lest her stupid crush on the stupid Theodore Nott made her cry in front of her friends.
That had been last week. It was Monday again and after successfully avoiding to look at Nott for the whole day, Hermione hadn’t wanted to go talk to the Slytherin when the Head girl asked her to. She was on such a successful streak of avoidance after all. But the witch took her prefect duties seriously and so she’d swallowed her hurt and gone to talk to him anyway.
Fat lot of good that did, acting like a responsible prefect. Theodore Nott was hell bent on pushing her away and being as cruel as he could be in the process. Hermione could only take so much crap. She would not trade her rounds with Ronald Weasley. Theo Nott would not order her around. No one ordered her around.
Nott hadn’t let go yet. Hermione twisted and squirmed in an effort to dislodge his hold on her.
“Look here Nott. I will follow the rules and do my rounds. If you’re too high and mighty to be seen with me, you can walk ten steps away. Now let go of me and meet me in front of the Great Hall in fifteen minutes to start the patrol.”
Nott looked as if he wanted to say something. But he chose to remain silent and let Hermione go. She picked up her bag and flounced out. After putting away her bag in her dorm, washing her face and grabbing a warm scarf to wrap around her neck, Hermione marched off to the Great Hall. Before the final turn of the stone staircase, she stopped and stared at the already waiting fellow prefect in his pristine dark robes. He’d grabbed his green Slytherin scarf as well.
Nott’s face was turned down, toward the ancient parquet floor brightly illuminated by torches burning all around. His hands were in his robe pockets. He looked pensive and deep in thought. From a distance, his presence still hit Hermione like bricks on glass and her eyes watered in hurt. Hermione pressed her palms to her eyes, took a moment to calm down and went down the remaining steps.
They didn’t say anything to the other, didn’t so much as nod. Hermione caught his eye once and turned on her heel. She walked towards the stairs to start with the first floor. Nott followed ten steps behind. They cleared the first, second and third floors in silence, each acutely aware of the other’s presence. The corridors were deserted, classrooms locked as expected. Not even Mrs Norris broke the reverie of the eerie moonless night.
At the next flight of steps, Nott finally broke the silent impasse.
“What did you mean when you said I am too high and mighty to be seen with you?”
“It means precisely what you think I meant.” Hermione replied with annoyance.
“Don’t presume to know what I think. I am asking you to clarify your words because I don’t want to presume things about you either.” Nott said evenly, refusing to get into another argument.
Hermione felt strangely chastised, more so because he was making sense and she was fundamentally unable to turn her back to logic. Any logic. Even if it came from stupid Theodore Nott. In her heart of hearts, she could admit that sensible talk was what attracted her to him in the first place.
But that was neither here nor there, so she climbed the stairs in silence.
They reached the landing halfway between floors.
“Do you think I am too high and mighty, or do you think that I vainly consider myself too high and mighty? For you?”
Hermione turned to stare at the wizard. He was a few steps away, eyes fixed on her. There was something to be said about Theodore Nott’s stare when he chose to fix it on Hermione Granger. That look in his deep indigo eyes had been the second thing that roped her into his sphere. He was doing it again now. She thought about his question.
“The second one.” She replied honestly.
Theo nodded and gestured for her to keep moving. Hermione started going up the stairs again. She could feel his gaze on her. Little ripples of static moving across her neck, shoulders and back, as if she were naked and exposed to a brewing thunderstorm.
“If it makes any difference, I’d like to tell you that there was no bet about kissing you. It wasn’t a joke or a dare either.” The softly uttered words made Hermione freeze again.
A pause and then-
“I wanted to kiss you, Hermione. I have for a while now.”
And there it was. The way he said her name. Hearing Granger from him after the intimate way he said Hermione had made the witch feel wretched. Hearing him say Hermione again…She swallowed on her dry throat and resumed walking.
They reached the top of the staircase and started towards Ravenclaw’s Eagle nest. It was dark there. And very silent. The very magic of Hogwarts seemed to be poised and waiting for something.
At the end of their rounds, in front of the doors to the Great Hall, the two prefects found themselves at a loss for words.
Her gentle whisper barely reached Theo’s ears when she said, “Wanted to kiss me? In past tense?”
“Are you finally asking me how I feel about you?”
After a few days of being on tenterhooks, oscillating between hope and despair, Hermione could safely say that yes, she wanted to know how he felt about her.
“Yes. I am asking.”
Theo chewed on his lip and nodded, as if he had reached a decision.
“I have a question too, if you could answer it for me. Why did you kiss me back?”
“What sort of a question is that?” Hermione answered, folding her hands against her chest to ward off the cold.
“You thought I was playing games with you, or that it was part of a bet? Then why did you kiss me back Hermione? You seemed to enjoy my company, welcomed my attentions, smiled at me. I am not the kind of person who takes risks. But I took a risk for you. I kissed you. And then you started avoiding me next day onwards like I was some sort of sordid secret.”
Theo clicked his mouth shut and stared defiantly at her, refusing to say anything else. Hermione felt an immediate urge to sooth his ruffled feathers, as if he were a hippogriff in a snit over being ignored and was too prideful to admit that he needed some form of affection, or a hug. She mentally shook her head in exasperation and decided to enlighten the idiot wizard a little.
“At the time I didn’t think you were playing games. I enjoyed our conversations. I liked you. You are the only wizard I know who can out-discuss me on school work. Spending hours with you was surprisingly effortless and enjoyable. When you kissed me, I wanted to kiss you back. I Wanted to know how it felt with you. Is that so hard to believe?”
The two stepped closer, unconsciously drifting to each other.
“You are Gryffindor’s princess, Hermione Granger. Yes, it is hard to believe for me. Especially after you started avoiding me like the plagues.”
Hermione gave out a bark of a laugh.
“Who is Daphne Greengrass?” She raised an eyebrow when she asked her question with a muggle reference she was sure Theo wouldn’t get. She did it to ask her piece, state her problem and still save the dregs of her pride.
“I am tired. Good night Nott.”
Hermione turned and started towards the staircase. She was at the first step when Theo ran after her and lightly touched her elbow. She refused to look at the boy looming at her side.
“Daphne Greengrass is my childhood friend, no more, no less.”
The clipped words warmed Hermione in the way her scarf and robes had been unable to achieve all evening. They also made her bold enough to ask what she did next.
“Why didn’t you seek me out after our kiss?”
His hand circled around her elbow and the little currents of static were back. Theo’s other hand burrowed through her hair to find the nape of her neck. He pulled her hair and twisted her head to the side and up towards him.
“Why didn’t you talk to me or seek me out? I was so mad, I wanted to hex you so you would just fucking look at me.”
“I looked.” Hermione huffed in frustration, “You were not paying attention. And then I was mad too when you took Greengrass to Hogsmeade.”
Theo’s face twisted in consternation.
“We went as friends, Hermione. You went with your friends too.”
“I wanted you to ask me to go with you.”
He stared at her. She stared back. His face inched closer to her.
“I’m still mad.” She murmured, her breath belligerently hitting his lips.
He kissed her hard, with an open mouth and withdrew immediately.
“I need to punish you so we don’t have a repeat performance of last week.”
“Punish me?” Hermione gasped “How dare-”
Theo dragged his thumb over her mouth and cut off the tirade she’d been planning to go on.
“We’ll test a theory. An experiment and a punishment, for the betterment of the wizarding world.”
“The betterment of the wizarding world?”
His face was so close. All Hermione could see was the fire lit in his deep indigo eyes. Her chest touched his when she breathed. His hands were warm and firm on her elbow and face. If she opened her mouth a little, she was sure the thumb would penetrate and land on her tongue. She wondered how his skin would taste.
His lips descended on hers again, gentle and coaxing this time, eviscerating all thought. He leaned into her, till her back was touching the wall and Theo was pressed all around her. She clutched his robes and pulled him closer. He tilted his head and tasted the words of need on her tongue that she couldn’t utter.
Too soon, he pulled back from the kiss.
“You kissed me like that to better the wizarding world?” Hermione mumbled, still floating inside.
Theo kissed her jaw, trailed the side of her neck. Slowly, his hands wandered up her body and gently cupped her blushing cheeks.
“That was for the selfish betterment of my world. For the wizarding world, your punishment starts tomorrow. Sit with me for breakfast, at the Slytherin table. When we are finished eating a full meal, let me hold your bag and walk you to Transfiguration, your first class. In the afternoon, come cheer for me at Wizarding History Quiz club. I am a finalist.”
Hermione couldn’t help smile.
“You are a Wiz Hit Finalist?”
“Haven’t had a single wrong or missed answer. Ever.” He smirked.
“Ok Mr. Hot Nerd. I’ll think about breakfast but I will come to your little gathering and clap when you win. But how is all of this going to better the Wizarding world?”
“We are going to find out if a relationship between a fiery Gryffindor and a coldly aloof Slytherin can bring down the walls of this schoolhouse divide in our lives. The experiment would test the limits of tolerance within our houses, our friends and families. I can draw a chart to maintain data. We can add points as we go, compare it to extrapolated results later, see how the experiment is going in say, a year? And what’s a nerd?”
Hermione smothered her giggle, slid her hand inside his robes and carefully removed his gold rimmed glasses from the inside pocket where he hid them. She cleaned the pristine gold pair at his lapel and put them on his eyes.
“How did you know about those?” Theo frowned.
“I’ll tell you all about nerds and my wondrous powers of deduction later. For now, kiss me some more?”
“The glasses come in the way.”
Hermione squished his cheeks and gave him a loud smooch.
“The glasses are perfect. I am sure you can find a way around them. Start looking-”
Theo pinned her to the wall again and proceeded to give her the kiss of her life.