Hermione’s wand-arm was trembling slightly from exertion, but she didn’t let go of her protective shield just yet. Magic kept pouring out of her wand, feeding the protego she’d cast but the hostile curse was still drilling into the invisible barrier, trying to reach her to take her out. Her shirt clung to her back, damp with sweat, and even her thick eyebrows couldn’t keep the salty droplets running from her forehead into her eyes.
She gritted her teeth and widened her stance, putting her bodyweight behind her countercurse, keeping the shield up on sheer willpower. Hermione couldn’t help the little smirk playing around her lips when the other witch had to cease her attack to catch her breath. The split second was enough for Hermione to whip her wand in her other hand and cast three hexes in fast succession.
It threw her opponent off and Hermione charged forwards when the witch stumbled on her feet in an attempt to block the spells. But the woman was powerful and recollected herself quickly which only frustrated Hermione more. They’d been at it for almost half an hour now, and every muscle in her body ached. The Gryffindor witch growled as she ran, hoping to intimidate the enemy and end this duel, but she had no such luck.
The other woman had found her footing again and had conjured the frosty cold she was known for. Hermione got dozed with ice water, chilling her to the bone and making her gasp for air as her lungs momentarily froze and stuttered. It took all of the brunette’s power to raise her wand hand and summon the fire that matched her temperament. Flamy red and yellow, much like her Hogwarts House, sprouted from her wand and battled the blue ice.
To no avail. The witch opposite her was older, more experienced, more powerful, and above all, more cunning. Where her dueling tactics were brash, risky at times, and often very straightforward, her opponent’s were much more sly. She was calculated, careful, lured Hermione out of her hiding place and made her spend much more energy than she intended. It was like she was always one step ahead, cleverly anticipating Hermione’s hotheaded reactions to her spellwork.
It was infuriating and terribly exhausting, and Hermione knew her reflexes were getting slow. Her eyebrows got singed by the heat of her own spell and yet it seemed unable to penetrate the wave of magic in front of her. She was tired. They’d been at it for too long. Without the protective bubble surrounding them, Hermione was sure there wouldn’t be a single wall standing. At the start of the fight, she’d been so sure they were evenly matched, but now she felt her resolve crumbling.
She broke off her spell, physically unable to feed the fire any longer, and raised her hands in defeat. Hermione felt nauseous when her wand was pulled from numb fingers by a wordless expelliarmus and knew she would need days to recover from this magical outburst. She’d been played. Masterfully at that. And when her knees hit the cold stone floor and a cedar wand was pointed at her face, she knew she’d been defeated.
Hermione looked up into blue eyes that matched the magic that had forced her to her knees. On the other side of the wand that was a hair’s breadth from her nose, stood Narcissa Black, formerly Malfoy. Proud and tall, and with a wicked smile playing around her lips. Her usually immaculate hair was in disarray and her chest was heaving from exertion, but other than that, nothing gave away that she’d just fought to the best of her ability.
And then… applause erupted.
“Yes, indeed. An applause is in order for our dear professor Granger who gave it her best!” Narcissa’s cool voice sounded above the cheering students as she withdrew her wand and offered her hand instead.
“Do you have to rub it in every time?” Hermione gritted her teeth as she allowed herself to be pulled on her feet.
“Come now,” Narcissa gave the Gryffindor witch her wand back. “It’s merely for educational purposes.”
And when Hermione turned to the students as well, she knew the Head of Slytherin was right. All the first years were gathered around the protective bubble that now slowly dissolved like molten butter. There was no us versus them among the young witches and wizards. They’d cheered for both professors and all four houses had mingled, Hermione noticed as she spotted a mixture of colored ties everywhere.
Her hurt Gryffindor pride already forgotten, Hermione bowed in Narcissa’s direction, acknowledging her as the winner of the duel, and the blonde bowed back. A matter of mutual respect. One of the new core values of Hogwarts with Minerva McGonagall at the rudder. A house-elf that was paid for its services, courtesy of Hermione’s first career at the Ministry before joining the Hogwarts’ staff, appeared with two glasses of water.
“Now aside from being tradition,” Narcissa addressed the students between sips, “this duel is also meant to be educational.”
“Not only to give a demonstration as to why you shouldn’t anger your teachers,” there were a few nervous giggles at Hermione’s joke. “But also to show that with these magical abilities, come great responsibilities. Magic can be dangerous when used for destruction.”
Narcissa pitched in again, they were a well-oiled machine after several years of mutual teaching. “But experience tells us that dark magic is most often used by those who feel lonely, misunderstood, ignored, bullied.”
“Which is why we make sure to gather all the first years on the second day of school. To remind you that while the Hogwarts houses still exist for nostalgic reasons, they no longer define you. We want everybody to feel free to cross ancient boundaries and make friends with witches and wizards who sit at one of the other tables.”
“Everybody needs a friend,” Narcissa made sure to scan the crowd looking for any signs of an unhappy child. They were there from the start. Downcast eyes, nervous fidgeting. Someone standing just a little bit farther away from the group. She and Hermione always made sure to pay special attention to the odd ones out. “The magic you saw today was volatile, powerful, dangerous. But in a way, it was still very controlled and safe.”
Hermione nodded, “Imagine if Professor Black had actually tried to injure me.” Hermione spotted a few students who gulped and had to resist smiling. They were so easily impressed at this age. “You now understand why we urge you to use your magical skills with caution, and to find peers who support you through your seven years at Hogwarts. Those who are happy, stay in the light.”
“And before our dear Head of Gryffindor can send you all off for lunch, I’d like to add that I want to see a short essay from each and every one of you. Four inches will suffice, but I want to read what you have learned today. It can be a battle tactic, a life lesson, or a goal to strive for.”
There was an excited murmur among the students and Narcissa threw Hermione an amused look. It was the same every year. They were excited about magical homework for about one week before the moaning and groaning began. Still, the short essay often confirmed any suspicions they had from scanning their pupils. Those that showed signs for concern, always wrote essays that made both Heads of Houses frown.
The courtyard emptied as the first years went to find the Great Hall, chatting excitedly among each other, and Hermione kneaded her sore shoulder. “Did you really have to push me that hard?”
“I can’t help it that you never manage to control your impulses, Hermione. I can almost predict your next move without any divination being involved.”
The brunette glared at her colleague before they both sauntered off to the teacher’s lounge where Minerva always wanted a quick update of the previous day. There never was much time in the mornings as most professors prepared their classrooms for the day’s lessons, nor the evenings where they often had marking to do, attend detentions, or attempted to have somewhat of a private life as well.
“Ah, right on time,” Minerva said brusquely the moment the last two professors entered. “You look like Narcissa swept the floor with you, Hermione.”
“Do you really have to rub it in, every year?” Hermione plunked down in her seat. “All of you?”
“You’re just upset that you no longer manage to score an O for Outstanding in every subject,” Neville grinned from across the table and Hermione nearly hexed him.
“How did it go?”
“Apart from professor Granger not giving me that much of a challenge,” Narcissa kept teasing. “There was only one student that concerned me. Slytherin of course, somehow they always seem to be sorted into my house.”
Minerva glanced at her Potions’ teacher over the tips of her fingers and sighed. “Would that be mister Ernest by any chance?”
“I’m not surprised,” the Scottish witch flicked her wand and a report appeared out of thin air and landed in Narcissa’s lap. “He comes from a very difficult home situation. Perhaps it’s best we monitor him extra closely, until we’re sure he’s made friends.”
Both Narcissa and Hermione agreed, as it was their mutual program they’d founded to make sure everyone found a second home at Hogwarts. The Headmistress had been pleased when she’d hired both witches in the same year. Their initial reluctance towards them had long disappeared and they were an excellent team. Narcissa had been the easiest to persuade as the Slytherin had been looking for a new job after a few years of making up for her wrongs.
Hermione on the other hand, had taken a whole lot of convincing before she accepted the position. Her divorce with Ronald Weasley had been the final push, and while Minerva had felt sorry for the crying brunette on her doorstep, she couldn’t have hoped for a better witch to take over her position as Transfigurations’ professor.
“Anything else of note?”
There wouldn't be much to mention. Not this early in the school year, but Minerva always asked. When all of her staff members shook their heads, she pushed away from the table. “Excellent, I will see you all at lunch?”
“Not me,” Hermione made a face. “I’m going to take a hot bath and a relaxation potion because I strained my bad shoulder and I’d rather not let it escalate again.”
Hermione had taken a bad hex to the shoulder during the Battle of Hogwarts, and sometimes the old injury played up again, just like the scar tissue on her ribs put there by Dolohov at the Department of Mystery. But they all wore scars from the war, whether they were visible or not. So nobody judged Hermione for it.
“Me neither,” Narcissa sighed, “because I haven’t gotten round to brewing the relaxation potions yet. Poppy gave me a list of every brew she’d require to start the first term, but those were not exactly a priority. I’ll brew one now,” she looked at her colleague. “My own recipe. We all know it’s better than the one in the books.”
“Much appreciated. I’ll ask the elves to bring us something to eat before hopping into my tub.”
Minerva gave them both a look before rising to her feet. “Very well, good luck to you all. May we have another good year at Hogwarts.”
All the professors dispersed with the majority turning left towards the Great Hall and Hermione and Narcissa turning right towards their quarters. The lay-out of the newly built castle had changed somewhat. All the dormitories were in the same wing now, allowing for students to visit each other more easily. And all the teacher’s quarters were located on the highest levels, allowing them to have larger living rooms and a lot more privacy than before.
Hermione turned left towards her door while Narcissa walked on. The candles in her quarters immediately flicked to life when she entered and she placed her wand on the sidetable next to the door. She quickly stepped out of her yoga pants and shirt, clothes she only wore for the duel as she was normally clad in her teaching robes. Her bra, socks, and knickers followed suit and she whisked them all to the laundry basket.
While sauntering to the bathroom, Hermione tied her hair in a high bun and opened the tab of her tub. She’d always claimed to be perfectly capable of living without magic, but she’d definitely miss the perfection with which she could run a bath. The temperature always adjusted to what her body needed, the added oils varied depending on her mood, and the water never got dirty or cold. It was a luxury Hermione could never part with anymore.
The brunette sighed when she sank into the water and her sore muscles immediately unclenched. Every year anew she vouched not to let Narcissa get to her, but every year the blonde managed to make her lose control. She cursed out loud when she tried to reach for the washcloth but her sore shoulder wouldn’t let her. Hermione wanted to twist around in the tub so she could use her other arm to grab it, but saw the cloth wasn’t there.
“Allow me to help you, professor Granger,” a husky voice suddenly sounded behind her.
“I think that’s the least you can do, professor Black.” Hermione winced in pain. “Ouch, I really overdid it.”
Narcissa dropped the washcloth in the water for a moment and carefully kneaded Hermione’s shoulder underneath her fingers. She could feel the knot of twisted muscles and tskt. “You Gryffindors with your pride.”
“Our pride? As if you don’t find a malicious satisfaction from defeating me. You’re as prideful as me, Cissa!”
Teeth nipped at the shell of Hermione’s ear while slender fingers wrung out the cloth and started to scrub the sweat off tanned skin. Hermione relaxed into Narcissa’s touch and moaned softly when the older witch cupped her breasts and rolled her nipples between her fingers. Then the cloth moved again, across her stomach, towards her thighs while a tongue soothed the nips on her ear.
“Minerva knows about us.”
Narcissa hummed against her cheek. “You say that every time we come up with an excuse not to attend breakfast, lunch, or dinner. She’s yet to call us out.”
“She’s hardly going to do that in front of the other teachers,” Hermione gasped when the cloth pressed between her legs. “I’ve been avoiding being alone in a room with her for the past two years.”
“Or she wants to join us.”
“Don’t be such a tease. I wish I’d never told you about my silly crush when I attended Hogwarts as a student.”
Hermione felt a rush of magic behind her as the blonde undressed and got nudged forward so Narcissa could settle behind her in the tub. “But I so enjoy knowing your dirty little secrets.” The Slytherin allowed her hands to resume their earlier position between Hermione’s thighs.
No reply came from the younger woman. Hermione simply craned her neck so she could kiss her lover on the mouth. Narcissa eagerly swallowed the whimper that escaped Hermione’s lips the moment her fingers touched the Gryffindor’s clit. They often met like this, for short trysts in between classes, just to build up arousal so they could finish the job later in the evening.
“Did you bring the relaxation potion?” Hermione managed between moans as Narcissa dipped in and out of her entrance while adding pressure to the circular motions above it.
“No, darling. I figured I’d make you relax some other way. Besides, a good relaxation potion takes a few hours to brew. I brought a healing potion for your shoulder instead.”
Hermione shuddered in Narcissa’s arms, clenching down on the witch’s fingers, before sighing contentedly. “Well, consider me properly relaxed.”
A soft chuckle caressed Hermione’s cheek as Narcissa withdrew her fingers and flicked her wrist. A vial came flying from her robe that lay discarded on the floor, and she caught it blindly.
“This should make you feel better,” she uncapped it and poured the potion on her fingers before massaging it into Hermione’s shoulder. “I don’t have anything against your bruised ego, I’m afraid.”
“You’re so insufferable. One day I’ll defeat you!”
“Well, I’m not getting any younger,” Narcissa snarked while proving her point as she struggled to get out of the tub.
Hermione rolled her eyes and stepped out of it so she could help the blonde before drawing her closer for another kiss. “Do you want a go as well?”
“We don’t have enough time, darling. If Minerva hasn’t found out about us yet, showing up late to our classes looking properly fucked will certainly tip her of. Besides, the potion needs some time to work and you’ll be needing that arm,” she winked before drying them both with wandless and wordless magic.
“Tonight then, professor Black?”
“Oh yes, professor Granger. I expect your best and nothing less.”
“An O for outstanding” they said simultaneously before chuckling at the joke and getting ready to tackle the remainder of the day.