Hermione found that she was busier than ever over the rest of November. She'd had to learn a lot all at once, but she had to admit she didn't mind so much. She loved learning, and though lately she preferred reading about creatures and magic, learning about a whole new culture was interesting too. She tried to channel all of the characters in her books that found out they were secretly princesses.
She had several sets of new robes that she now had to remember which one was for what occasion, and the differences were more than the extra little patch of the Black coat of arms, and the different, family tartan of her uniform skirt; which was of course now predominantly black, shot with silver and gold, while the Gryffindor red and gold was relegated to her tie, her robes, and one red and one gold stripe on her sock. Apparently it was tradition to wear one sock with her family colours, (black, green, silver, and gold), and the other her house colours, making her look somewhat like a Christmas tree. The Professor only knew of one other Black wearing the Christmassy combination before in the history of their family, and that had been his brother. She had noticed the odd socks on all the poshest children, and found it curious; and now she knew why they wore such an odd combination. It was rather interesting, and she nagged Harry about ordering some Potter socks, as he was always keen to know about his family. Surely he would want to wear the combination that his father and other ancestors had. He revealed that he had been given them by Madam Malkins, but hadn't realised why; and had stashed them in the bottom of his trunk. He began wearing his own combination soon after, much to Ronald's chagrin, and the curiosity of many others.
For formal school occasions such as the opening and closing feasts, Hermione would have to wear a special sash as well, over a tartan waistcoat and under her robes, which she remembered seeing on many of the purebloods at the opening feast, and had panicked at the time, wondering if she'd forgotten a piece of the uniform.
On top of the school uniform, she had a new wardrobe full of different luxurious robes for the moments she wasn't in class. There were dress robes and dinner robes, day robes and tea robes, robes for general daily use, and others for when she left the castle for shopping or another general expeditions into public. All of the robes were differently tailored, and all had a more graceful hang on her awkward twelve year old body than her previous robes had, even though she hadn't even gone in to get measured this time. They were made of silk and wool, and were all types of different weights; depending on the occasions and the season.
And they were of course divine to wear. Even her plain woolen school robes were extremely fine, and she suspected there was cashmere or alpaca wool in the blend, because they were incredibly soft. She knew the jumpers certainly were.
She also had better quality sheets on her bed and warmer blankets, woven with runes for warmth and comfort. There were new grades of parchment, new inks, the most beautiful stationery for letters, and wonderful quills to write with; and of course a special magical black wax that seemed to have the very stars from the sky mixed into it, with a signet ring to seal all of her personal correspondence, including all of her homework going forwards.
Professor Black had insisted on giving her a crystal engraved with runes to place on the alcove above her pillow that gave her privacy behind the curtains of her bed if she tapped it with her wand. She also had another one in a special compartment of her multi compartment trunk that was to prevent anyone else (other than Kreature) touching her things or taking any of her belongings, which was of course made entirely necessary because of all of the luxurious items it now contained.
And then there was everyone else.
She hadn't realised how little the Slytherins had acknowledged her before until they started greeting her with a nod in the hallway, and of course she was no longer bullied at all for fear of reprisal from Professor Black, or even one of the other heirs of the big Houses who were allied with the Most Ancient and Noble House of Black.
Lavender and Parvati had been the biggest difference, though that was mostly because she lived with them. Both of them treated her with a respect they hadn't before, though Lavender's had a hint of jealousy to it. Pavarti however, seemed to be more friendly and relaxed. It was as if she hadn't quite known how to talk to her before, but now she started to make overtures of friendship, talking about different magical hair care techniques she might want to try, and all of the marriage contracts her parents were already looking at for her and her sister.
The Patils weren't quite in the wizarding aristocracy, but they were a respected family from an ancient line, who were known for their many talented healers. Parvati didn't know if she wanted to follow the family tradition or forge her own path, and it was a subject Hermione could relate to, so at last they had found something to talk about. She'd even introduced her sister Padma who Hermione found she liked very much, and they now greeted one another by name in the library or in the halls. They also had another thing in common once they'd really begun to talk, because while they were muggles, her family were also 'healers' of a sort, and she had many doctors and specialists in her extended family. She knew all about that pressure to follow their lead and study medicine. Padma had immediately started to teach her a few healing spells that she knew, which Hermione found she had an affinity for. Parvati admitted that she didn't seem to have the same knack for healing that her family did, but was already brilliant with potions and cosmetic applications, leading Hermione to feel that she could actually trust her about that hair advice, and to try her coconut oil skin moisturising balm that she had previously worried was a prank after some bad experiences at primary school.
The girls had both found Scotland and the castle was terribly drying on their skin, and Hermione had to admit she had the same issue. She found that the moisturiser Pavarti had so kindly mixed up for her did indeed help. She also convinced Hermione not to be shy about the different needs she had for her hair, something Fay and Lilly had made Hermione quite self conscious about; which she was embarrassed to admit had led her to ignore her hair's needs...which had admittedly only made things worse, really.
Much as her parents refused to do anything about her teeth, they were adamant about keeping her hair natural, and the routine of braiding and wrapping her hair every night and washing every two weeks, as well as her hot oil treatments, had fallen by the wayside at the looks and teasing of her white roommates. however Pavarti and Lavender encouraged her to do what she had to, as it was beautiful hair. After all, Pavarti and Lavender also had different hair, and soon showed Hermione that they had her back, surprising the other girls when their barbs and jibes were no longer accepted by their roommates, who told Hermione that both had each been too nervous to stand up to them before, but now felt like they could say something.
After all, while Hermione would never be a 'girly girl', there was nothing wrong with enjoying the friendship and camaraderie of having something in common, and while Hermione wouldn't be having giggly conversations about boys or colouring her nails any time soon, she found something very nice about their new nightly routine of braiding and wrapping one another's hair at night.
Not long after these changes, a few of the other black folk in the common room each quietly showed their relief that she had picked up her routine again. Angelina Johnson, the startlingly beautiful Gryffindor chaser who wore her hair in braids told her she'd be happy to talk about it anytime; Lee Jordan told her he was impressed she'd been able to grow her hair so long without magic; and even Zambini in Slytherin had sidled up to her one day after DADA and told her that her big braid out suited her, and to keep it up.
It was worlds different from the children of her primary school, who had all been white and very insulting, no matter how much effort she put in. Even the teachers had called her scruffy and said she had an attitude when she refused to tie it up in a rubber band. She was surprised how much it made a difference to have people to talk to about her hair; people who understood. and that they actually wanted to.
Outside of that, Hermione was quickly learning that her interactions with certain people were watched very closely. Harry, as her 'favourite', was treated differently than he had been before. While before, he had almost seemed like public property and fair game (but also conversely seemed like they didn't want to actually get to know him, or help him learn about the magical world). Now they gave him his own space, and it was acknowledged that he was her friend. She knew that Ronald and Percival Weasley had already had a falling out over it, but then that wasn't really surprising if she was honest; Hermione had already suspected the youngest Weasley was a bit of a fame-seeker. The way the redhead had already started acting as if the two boys were 'best friends', going so far as to actually say that to people as he postured behind Harry's back; and the way he had been scathing and dismissive of Hermione-his words had been the reason she had been crying in the bathroom on Halloween in the first place-told her all she needed to know. Harry had noticed as well, and had pulled away from the boy, and closer to Percy and Neville, who Hermione liked very much, even if he was a little bit of a klutz-but then Hermione suspected foul play when it came to the cause of his nervousness, and took care to pay attention whenever he spoke about his home life, so that she could bring her findings to the Professor.
And on that subject, even the teachers treated her differently. Some, such as Professor McGonagall, she suspected were a little warmer because of the real affection they had for Professor Black, and others, like Professor Snape, treated her differently because of the bubble of protection of the Black family that had appeared around her.
The way they all acted, she wondered if it was a real thing that they could see. Whether they could or not, Snape had stopped picking on Harry and Neville in his classes and in the halls, and as such, both had already started doing better in Potions class.
Neville was actually a very talented when it came to herbology, so to Hermione, it seemed obvious that potions should be a strong subject for him. She was sure they just needed to figure out the right approach. She thought that if they were able to study the ingredients lists before class to find the context of the ingredients rather than just having a list on a page, then he might be able to grasp the subject a lot better. So far this approach seemed to be working, and it helped her and Harry as well. After all, they hadn't come across many of the plants or animals whose parts were used in potions before coming to Hogwarts.
Harry, on the other hand, was perfectly capable (especially with his somewhat disconcerting expertise with muggle cooking for an eleven year old boy), he had just been spread thin worrying over protecting their cauldrons from interference from the Slytherins, and poisonous barbs from their professor's rather mercurial nature. All of that nonsense had ceased since Halloween of course, and Nott had even approached them in the library and asked if he could join their table in potions, making them one of the strongest groups in their potions class. Ron was upset of course, but in Hermione's opinion the boy had been cheating from her and Harry's work, which showed in the appalling slide of his grades into Troll territory since he was shunted. He was, after all, now forced to sit over by Seamus and his various explosions.
Hermione had been delighted at Theo Nott's approach, remembering him as her first pretend-friend in the library. His overtures now had confirmed her theory that he would have made friends sooner except for the politics of their conflicting houses, as well as her blood status. Contrary to the cruel habits of his housemates, he had always been polite but kept his distance; probably just as much because of his shyness and timidity as his status and his house. She was cautiously optimistic that they might be able to have a real friendship someday soon, as she quite liked him.
Professor Black had embarrassed her by having all the boys to tea one weekend to ask what their 'intentions' were, and Theo had blushed for a week afterwards, but he'd been allowed to continue to see her, so she guessed he had no ulterior motives. Professor Black had warned her that because his father wasn't a very good person, the Professor had allowed and encouraged Theo to pretend to his father that he was seeking her out for political reasons to keep him off his back and to keep her safe. Hermione wasn't usually one for lying, but she had conceded that the Professor and Theo were Slytherins, and they knew what they were doing when it came to social maneuverings.
Theo had also been a useful ally along with Neville for both Hermione and Harry to learn about the world of wizarding aristocracy (the Old Families, Magical Houses and wizengamot, and not the mythical 'Sacred Twenty-Eight' that had been invented by Theo's great grandfather, who acted like it had been there all along), which they had little to no idea about. Nott's presence particularly seemed to keep away Draco Malfoy, who had begun to speak to her with a sickly sweet smoothness that creeped Hermione out. Whenever he got too close, all she had to do was loop her arm through any of her male friends', or even lean close to speak quietly to them, and he would back off, no matter that they were more likely discussing homework or the differences between muggle science and magical theory than 'whispering sweet nothings' as Percy called it.
Neville and Theo got along like a house on fire; their families were both in horticulture, and they both excelled in herbology -though it didn't come to Theo as naturally as Neville, but that meant little when all Neville had to do was tickle a plant and it was greener afterwards!
Harry struggled along, though he seemed less stressed once he'd gotten through all of the Introduction to Hogwarts pamphlets that Hermione had asked for from Professor Black when she found out he'd never been given them. He seemed a little more like he felt like he belonged in their world, and Hermione could understand that. She and Professor Black had been rather curious about why Harry had never been given the pamphlets in the first place, and were treated to a rather harrowing tale about flocks of owls, envelope floods, dingy motels, tiny islands, a pocketed birthday cake and a flying motorcycle!
After that, Professor Black insisted Harry come with her to at least one of their sessions a week on top of his private Seeker lessons, and gave him a separate reading list to her own. While Harry was friendly to Kreature and all the other house elves he'd been introduced to, he didn't seem as interested about Beasts, Beings and anthropology as she and the Professor were, and so Professor Black had him learning different things about their world and his place in it.
They had also pulled Percy into Professor Black's radar. Sunday tea had become a regular event where Hermione was allowed to invite some friends to meet with her magical guardian, and he would speak to them and ask how they were going in the world. He had also invited his cousin Andromeda along once or twice, and she had told them about her job as Professor Black's lawyer. After one session, once Harry had gone off to dinner, Professor Black and Andromeda had told her about their pursuit of Harry's guardianship, and Hermione couldn't describe the weight that had come off of her chest at the news.
She'd noticed of course how small Harry was, and there were many things he'd said that had her feeling a growing sense of dread about his relatives. She felt bad that she couldn't tell him about it, but they detailed everything they were doing, from the mysterious potion he took before meals (like multivitamins, apparently) to being put on the quidditch team so he had regular exercise to develop muscles and resilience, though Professor Black added that the sheer joy of flying was also good for Harry's soul. She did think it was funny that Harry hadn't suspected anything, but remembered her conversation with the Professor about Father Christmas, and decided to leave it. Parents didn't always talk about everything they did for their children; they just did it, and this was similar. Likewise, she was sure she didn't know everything The Professor and 'Andy' and even her parents had been doing behind the scenes for her; she probably only knew the tip of the iceberg, because they were adults and though she was smart, she was only twelve.
It was amazing how many plates Professor Black seemed to have spinning at once, but she supposed she'd better learn to multitask, because if he never found a wife and had children she'd have to do all of it too. She'd far prefer to get a mastership and take up a research position, or become a lobbyist for creature rights, but she was twelve; he had time to have babies, and she had time to get used to the idea of being the Black heir.
She hoped he had babies though; it was becoming clear to her that he would be a very, very good father, and she thought it might be something he rather desperately wanted, given how he had taken to her own guardianship. It was a good thing he liked her parents, or she thought he might have gone for a full adoption!
She found herself settling in to her new role and situation and she was happy that it meant she was in a position to help those around her, and of course she was thrilled every time she did she was blessed with one of Professor Black's approving smiles.
She'd decided he was in fact far more handsome than Prince Charming when he smiled like that.