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Into the Black

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Hermione and the other students arrived in the defence classroom on Tuesday afternoon, and stopped dead in their tracks. The classroom had been changed.

It was time to begin their practical lessons.

Hermione had forgotten that Regulus had told the class the week prior that they would be attempting non-verbal spells this week. By the looks of things, a few other students had forgotten as well.

"Make sure to place your school bags on the side or front of the room," Regulus said to the students from his desk. "We won't be needing any textbooks for today's class, or Thursday's class. You'll only need your wands."

Hermione dropped her bag on the floor near the front of the room. Her friends doing the same. She removed her wand from her sleeve on her left arm. Numerous students doing the same thing. A few removed their wands from their pockets. Not a single student had their wand in their school bag, where they technically were supposed to be kept during class time, according to the school rules.

Regulus gave the students a nod. Understanding, but not commenting on the rule in place.

"Be careful with keeping your wands in your pockets." Regulus said to the room. "Can anyone tell me why?"

"Moody told me I could lose a buttocks if I kept mine in my back pocket." Harry said to Regulus. His voice carrying across the room. "Constant vigilance and all that."

Regulus grinned."When was this?"

"Summer before fifth year." Harry replied. "I got picked up at my Aunt and Uncle's place by him and a few others to spend some time...at another location. I had my wand in my pocket and he let me know what he thought of that."

Regulus nodded. "That is one of the reasons not to keep it in your pockets, accidental magic. You can also warp the shape, when you sit down repeatedly. Not a good thing to do." Regulus told the class. "I would recommend keeping your wand in your sleeve. Most Wizarding clothing will have a place for it. If you prefer to wear muggle clothing you can make a place of your own. I'm not entirely sure what the spell is. You'll have to look it up. Another way is to wear a holster on your forearm, hidden from view underneath your sleeve. You touch your wand and the holster will release it. You can get those at any wand shop or supply shop." Regulus smiled at the class. "Your Hogsmeade weekend is coming up soon, you can purchase a holster at Dervish and Banges."

"But isn't that against the rules?" A Ravenclaw student asked. "We're supposed to keep them in our school bags during class time. And when in the hallways." He frowned.

"You're supposed to, yes." Regulus admitted. "But I've never seen someone actually follow it, other than first years. You certainly weren't when you pulled your wand out of your pocket. I think as long as you don't hex or curse anyone in the hallways it can be overlooked." Regulus paused. "If it makes you more comfortable to have it on your person at all times, it shouldn't be an issue."

Regulus took a look around the room and then looked at his watch. "I think everyone is here by now. Class has begun. Today we will be practising our non-verbal spells. We will begin with the disarming spell. Yes, it is only a second year spell, but you need to start somewhere. The more complex the spell, the more difficult it will be to do non-verbally." He looked around the room. "Everyone can pair up now, please." The students began pairing off. "I want you to decide who will go first. The person who is waiting to be disarmed please hold your wand in your hand and stand there. No blocking, no fighting back. Not yet. I need to see where everyone is right now, and we will go from there."

Students nodded and readied themselves. Each and everyone of them taking a duelling stance.

"Remember what you now know about non-verbal spells." Regulus told the room. "Focus and intent." He paused. "Begin."

Hermione, facing Theo, focused on the spell. Expelliarmus, she thought clearly.

Theo's wand flew out of his hand. Arching into the air. Hermione reached her left hand up and grabbed his wand.

She gave him his wand back with a grin.

Theo too was able to disarm her non-verbally.

Regulus slowly walked around the classroom. All of the eighth year students were able to disarm their opponents non-verbally. Not at all surprising. He knew Severus taught them non-verbal spells. Although he disagreed with the way in which he did it. Quite a few seventh year students were successful as well.

He slowly walked up to a Muggleborn Hufflepuff girl and waited off to the side. Watching. The girl was a seventh year. Quiet. But smart. She knew her defence theory very well. She was the only student to get an outstanding in his class so far. Twice.

She was frowning. Trying to disarm her classmate. The classmate's wand hadn't moved yet.

"Focus and intent." Regulus said quietly to her. "Think of the spell. Think expelliarmus, just don't speak it out loud."

The Hufflepuff gave him a nod and refocused on her classmate. Eyebrows crinkled. Lips pressed together tightly. She moved her wand in the proper formation, and the classmates wand flew out of his hand.

Regulus grinned. "Good job."

He continued his walk through the classroom. Correcting stances and wand movements as he did.

"Good," Regulus said to the room. "Everyone has succeeded with the disarming spell. Now we move on to defending against it. One person attempting to disarm, the other attempting to block it. Both non-verbally, please. Use only the shield spell to block. Protego. Nothing else. No other curse or jinx." Regulus paused and took a look around the room. "Begin."

Regulus watched as numerous wands arched across the room. He could hear students swearing under their breath as they stepped forwards toward their partners to get their wands back. He grinned.

"Yes. Like I said before during our lectures...the more complex spell, the more difficult it will be for you to perform non-verbally. Your shields won't be strong enough at first. Or they won't be there at all." Regulus paused, taking a look around. "Focus and intent. Focus on the shield. Visualize the shield. Protego."

The class practised for the rest of the period. The majority of students were able to produce a weak shield. Something that would be able to slow down a spell but not inhibit it entirely. A few students, mainly the eighth years, were able to produce a full shield.

"Next class we will pick up where we left off today," Regulus said to the room. "Once we have that we will move on to defending against something more than a disarming spell...I'm thinking stunning spells. Just giving everyone the heads up. Class dismissed."

...


...

It was the beginning of October, a Sunday afternoon, and Hermione was straddling Theo's lap while he sat on their couch in the Room of Requirement. The two of them had been working on their Transfiguration homework, due the next day. Hermione had almost completed her assignment when Theo decided that it would be a good idea to snog her senseless. She agreed. It was a good idea.

Theo's hands were caressing her hips and squeezing her behind as they snogged each other.

Hermione gasped as Theo nibbled on her bottom lip. Grinning.

One of his hands began to move up underneath her shirt. Barely touching her back. Softly touching her stomach.

Theo pulled back from Hermione slightly. Watching her as he slowly moved a hand further up her shirt. Watching her expression. Cautious.

Hermione gave him a nod and he added a second hand. His fingers tickled her sides. Her ribs.

Theo gave her a grin as she tightened up. Squeaking. Ticklish.

He leaned forward slightly in his seat and began kissing her again. Tongues caressing tongues. Licking. Nipping.

Hermione removed her hands from Theo's shoulders and grasped the bottom hem of her shirt. Removing her top in one swift movement. Left with only her black, sheer lace bra. The one that Ginny had recommended to her with a wink during their summer shopping trip with Luna.

"Fuck," Theo muttered under his breath as he kissed her some more.

Hermione grinned. She grabbed both of his hands in hers and brought them up to her bust. Placing them firmly on her breasts. She gave herself a squeeze in the process. Indicating to Theo what she wanted.

Theo began squeezing her gently, watching her expression as he did so. Making sure she was alright with what he was doing.

Hermione closed her eyes and thrust her breasts further into his hands. She loved this. Loved this feeling. Of him touching her. Squeezing her.

She blinked her eyes open as she felt Theo drag his thumbs over her nipples which had pebbled. Hard.

Theo was watching her. Dark brown eyes looking into her grey. "Okay?" He checked in with her as he gently pinched her nipples through her bra.

Hermione nodded. "I like this," she muttered roughly to him. "I like how you touch me. It feels good."

Theo gave her a grin which Hermione returned.

She closed her eyes again. Enjoying his touches. She loved how they both explored what they were comfortable with. What each of them liked. Learning. Understanding. She trusted him. She knew he wouldn't hurt her. Wouldn't push her too far, too fast.

Theo began softly kissing the tops of her breasts. Above her bra, as he continued to run his thumbs over her.

Hermione hummed quietly as she brought a hand to Theo's hair. Running her fingers through his brown locks.

Hermione's mind drifted as she enjoyed Theo's caresses. His kisses. Thinking of when they had spent the night together on her birthday. Just talking and snuggling. Asking each other questions. Learning. Understanding. Thinking of when they had touched each other intimately weeks ago. Theo's hands on her, rubbing her. Her hands rubbing him. Stroking him through his trousers. She thought of the summer. Spending time with Theo in the Black Library. Regulus and Narcissa teaching her how to hold herself in public when they had gone out for lunch. Before, when Hermione told Regulus what she had overheard at The Burrow that summer. Molly Weasley. Ron and Molly. Ron telling her that his mother thought she was a scarlet woman during her fourth year for dating Viktor. For supposedly dating Harry. Scarlet woman. Old terminology for slut. Whore.

Hermione tensed up. She brought her hands towards herself as she opened her eyes. She tried to cover herself up. Self-conscious. Ashamed.

"Hey...hey," Theo pulled away. "It's alright. It's alright, Hermione."

Hermione cupped her breasts. Hiding them from Theo. "I'm sorry." She swallowed. She covered her face with her hands. Trying to hide. Trying to disappear. She started to climb off of Theo. Derogatory words continuing to run through her head.

She sat on the couch, bringing her knees up in front of her. She hugged her legs. Her face resting against her legs. She tried to catch her breath. Tried to clear her head.

Theo's hand cautiously touched her shoulder. "I have your shirt, Hermione." He told her. "How about we put it on so you're more comfortable, alright?"

Hermione made a sound in her throat. Unable to speak. She could feel herself sliding. Losing control. Her brain working a million miles a minute. Going through other words for for whore. Other words for slut. Her eyes burning. Stinging. Focus Hermione.

She looked over at Theo sitting beside her. Blurry. Worried.

She felt her shirt get placed in one of her hands. She clutched it. Trying to find the bottom to pull over her head.

She dragged it on. Hands fumbling. Shaking. Tears running. Brain thinking.

She took a breath. Deep.

She felt a hand return to her shoulder. Cautious.

Theo.

"I'm sorry." She said again. Her throat thick with emotion.

"Sweetheart. You have nothing to be sorry about. Nothing to apologize for."

Her tears wouldn't cease. Her hand wiping her face repeatedly. Her cheeks still wet. Her eyes still stinging.

"Can I hold you?" Theo asked her cautiously.

Hermione gave him a nod and she felt his arm reach around her shoulders. Pulling her close to him. Nestled into his side.

His hand ran through her hair. Her curls.

Soft. Calming.

Hermione took another breath. She swallowed. Exhaled.

She took another. Theo continuing to run his hand through her hair.

Her arms cautiously pulled him closer to her. Wrapping around his lower back. Wrapping around his waist. His stomach.

She leaned her head against his shoulder. A kiss to the top of her head.

"Do you want to talk about it?" Theo chest rumbled against her cheek as he spoke.

Hermione closed her eyes. She sighed.

"Fourth year." She whispered to him.

Theo hummed. Indicating he was following along. That he had heard her.

"Do you remember things from then?" Hermione asked him quietly. "About what went on during the school year?"

"The Triwizard Tournament." Theo stated. "Durmstrang and Beauxbatons. Yule ball. You beautiful and in a beautiful dress. Viktor Krum. Dancing." He paused. "Did something happen then, Hermione?"

"Not what you're thinking." She replied. "Viktor was always a gentleman. Always respectable towards me." She swallowed. Thinking. Clearing her head. Organizing what she wanted to say to Theo. "Rita Skeeter." Hermione said clearly. She felt Theo tense. His arm tightening around her shoulders. "She wrote some unflattering things that year. About me. About me and Viktor. About me and Harry, supposedly. About me cheating. Love potions." She sniffed.

"Hermione..." Theo said quietly.

Hermione shook her head and pulled away from Theo. Trying to get some distance. Trying to figure out what she needed to say.

"I don't care what Pansy said to her. I think I understand why she did what she did. It's fine. It's done." Hermione said. "Ron was angry at me for going to the Ball with Viktor. He told me I was fraternizing with the enemy, by going to the ball with him. He was jealous." Hermione swallowed, wiping her cheeks some more. Trying to clean herself up. "His mother, Molly, reads the Daily Prophet, she read every single word that Skeeter wrote about me. She read every word of the supposed love triangle that I was in with Viktor and Harry. She told her son that girls who dated around were scarlet women. She told Ron that I was one because I was supposedly dating both Viktor and Harry." Hermione snorted to herself. "She told her son that I was a slut because I didn't go to the Ball with him. Because I went with someone else. The only person who actually asked me. Who actually paid any attention to me. She told her son I was a slut because I stuck by Harry's side when everyone else thought he had cheated to get into the tournament. Including Ron." Hermione swallowed.

"Which was what Regulus was getting at in Flourish & Blotts, when he and Mrs. Weasley were bickering at each other. Hissing at each other." Theo responded. Finally understanding what had happened during their Diagon Alley visit.

Hermione nodded. "I don't know how he found out about that specifically." She swallowed, thinking. "Harry might've told him what had happened. They were talking a lot. Spending a lot of time together going over things. Experiences. Expectations placed on them by others. It may have gotten brought up during one of those talks they had." She frowned. "He told me he had read the garbage that Skeeter wrote. The lies."

Hermione felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned into Theo. Wanting comfort. Needing comfort.

"I'm sorry that you've experienced that, Hermione." Theo muttered to her as he held her.

She sniffed. "I let my mind wander when you were kissing my breasts. Eventually it wandered to Ron saying I would be viewed as a scarlet woman. I could hear Mrs. Weasley's voice. Hissing the words at me." She shook her head at herself. "I'm not ashamed of who I am. I'm not ashamed of what we've done so far. It's just that sometimes...this time...the words hurt like they were meant to. Usually those types of words just bounce off of me." Hermione swallowed.

"Have I pushed you too far?" Theo asked her, quietly. "Are we moving to fast for you?"

Hermione shook her head emphatically. "Not at all. I want more with you actually." She gave him a soft smile. One which he returned to her.

"I just have doubts - hesitations - sometimes." She frowned. "I sound and feel very contradictory. Conflicted."

Theo kissed her hair again. Fingers running through her curls.

Hermione sighed. "Not to pour even more cold water on things, but I need to finish my essay for Professor Clearwater. I just have the conclusion left. It won't take me too much time."

Theo let her sit back up closer to the table. He gave her a grin. "It's no problem, Hermione." He tucked a piece of hair behind her ear, snickering as it sprung free almost instantly. "Dinner will be starting in about thirty minutes anyway. We wouldn't have been able to carry on much longer without making another entrance."

Hermione laughed as she dipped her quill into her inkwell. "Thank you for being patient. And understanding."

"Anytime."

...


...

After dinner Hermione and Regulus made their way to Regulus' office. It was the time they had figured would work best for them, in order to carry on with Hermione learning more about the House of Black.

"What will I be learning about today?" Hermione asked Regulus as they stepped into his office. He set out to make some tea for the pair of them as Hermione sat on one of his cozy chairs near the fireplace.

"I don't know." Regulus told her, giving a bit of a laugh. "What would you like to learn about?"

Hermione frowned as she accepted the mug of tea from him.

Regulus sat down in the other chair facing her. He waited for her to respond. Patient.

Hermione opened her mouth to say something. She hesitated and closed her mouth again. Her brows scrunched together. She took a sip of tea.

Regulus gave her a grin. "What is it, Hermione?"

Hermione placed her mug on the side table next to her. She looked down at her lap. Her hands.

She cleared her throat. "It's not necessarily about the House of Black."

"That's fine." Regulus assured her.

Hermione could feel him watching her. Trying to get a read on her.

"It's about defence." She said quietly.

Regulus' eyebrows rose slightly. "Okay." He frowned as he took a sip of his tea.

Hermione looked at Regulus. "I don't know what else I need to do on my written work to get an outstanding grade from you. You've given me an acceptable and two exceeds expectations. That's it. I don't know what you're looking for, from me."

Regulus gave her a slow, single nod of his head. "You've always gotten outstanding grades." He stated to her.

"I have, yes."

"Your answers are by the book." Regulus told her. "There is nothing wrong with that. But I think you are smart enough to be able think critically. To be able to bring forth your own ideas. More of your ideas to the table."

Hermione raised her eyebrow, disbelief evident on her face. "So, what you're saying is, the person you've given an outstanding to has done all that?"

Regulus nodded. "Yes, they have." He set his mug down. "You're grades won't matter, Hermione. You'll be able to get whatever job you want when you're finished here. It doesn't matter."

"It matters to me." Hermione said firmly. "I don't want to get a job because of my last name. I want to earn it."

"Hermione —"

"No. You need to listen." Hermione said abruptly to Regulus.

"You are the only professor who has marked me this way. My grades are identical in every other class I'm taking. The other seven classes, all outstanding." Hermione shook her head to herself. "What you don't realize is that I have had to earn my place in this world. I've had to work my arse off to stay here, to prove to people that I belong here. I know that if my grades were merely acceptable, people would have assumed that it was because I'm Muggleborn. Yet you keep keep telling me that it doesn't matter. If I were Muggleborn, it would matter, and you know it. I wouldn't be able to find a decent job if my grades were average. I refuse to use my family name to find my ideal job." Hermione frowned, eyes wet. "I don't think you're marking me fair. I don't think you are marking me like everyone else. I think you are being harsh. I think that if I were still Hermione Granger, Muggleborn witch, you would have given me an outstanding on each assignment that I've handed in to you."

"Hermione," Regulus said softly to her. "I understand where you're coming from —"

A harsh laugh erupted from Hermione. "With all due respect, Regulus. No, you don't. You have no idea."

She stood up from her chair.

"I think I'm done here." She said to him. "I need to go write in my journal for my mind healer to discuss on Tuesday. I have a lot to say it looks like."

Hermione left Regulus' office, letting the door close harshly behind her. She made her way to the Gryffindor common room and pulled out her journal from her school bag.

She had a lot on her mind.