A/N: Okay, now before you get all mad at me for not updating... I have gone back to school which puts a bit of a road block on the story writing business, and I have also just been competely out of the writing "Zone". I think some of you fellow authors on this site will agree with me that when you dont feel like writing, you just cant. It is VERY hard to force yourself to write good material when you just arent feeling it. So this is what I have written for chapter 4, and I am sorry to report that I havent even started on chapter 15 of 'It Isnt Love Unless It Hurts' but on the bright side, I didnt leave you with a cliffhanger. I will continue to update as fast as my schedule (and my brain) will allow. Thanks!
I hadn’t had a man show so much patience and so much gentleness towards me since the last time I saw my father. Draco pulled me up so that I was sitting on Neville’s old bed (He wasn’t allowing me near Harry or Ron’s again) and helped me clean myself up. Producing a handkerchief from his pocket, he gave it to me and I wiped the remaining tears off my face while he smoothed my hair back, tucking what had fallen from the French twist behind my ears. Taking a deep, staggering breath and looked up at the wall in front of me, I started staring at it blankly.
A finger under my chin forced me to look back at Draco. He was sitting next to me, his body turned so that he was facing me, holding my glasses. He carefully hooked them around my ears and let them rest on the bridge of my nose.
“This never happened.”
Did he mean the sobbing or the random act of kindness on his part? Perhaps he meant both.
“Come on, the rest will be waiting for us in the common room.”
“Could I just…?” I began, looking wistfully at the hat and the picture album. He sighed soundly but picked them up and tucked them under his arm. Just as I reached the doorway, I turned around. I couldn’t not thank him, it would be incredibly rude.
“Thanks.” I said softly. He just nodded and lightly pressed on my lower back, trying to get me to keep moving. I walked shakily down the stairs, my legs feeling like jello and my stomach feeling like a frog was hopping around in it.
Pull yourself together, Hermione! They’re all watching you!
I scolded myself. Lavender put her hand on my shoulder, and Neville patted me on the back.
“Alright there, Mione?” He asked shyly.
“Yes, I’m quite alright Neville. Thank you.” I gave them both whatever smile I could muster, which I imagine would be a rather weak one, and exited through the portrait hole with the entire group on my heels. I lead them wordlessly up to the far corner of the seventh floor.
“This is the West tower. The staircase to my right leads to the Owlery, and the one on my left leads to the Ravenclaw common room which we will view in just a moment. My office and residence is in the North tower, beside the Astronomy tower, also on this floor.”
The Ravenclaw rooms were evaluated, the clipboards and quills were returned full of scribbles and notes, and the crowd dispersed to head down to the Great Hall for lunch. I carried the armload of clipboards to my office and let them cascade sloppily all over my desk to be reviewed later. I dragged myself up to my bedroom and fell into a crumpled heap on my bed. I would skip lunch.
I woke up five hours later feeling heavy and groggy, but more human than I had felt all day, and ambled down the spiral staircase again to start reading over the evaluation notes. However, when I got downstairs and saw my desk, it was certainly not the way I had left it. The messy pile of clipboards were neatly stacked in two piles, with an application for a restoration team already filled out and ready for owling to the Minister. I looked around for the black high heel pumps that I knew I had kicked off somewhere on my way to the bedroom, and found them set nicely at the foot of the stairwell. Had Pinkey been cleaning while I was sleeping again? But then how does that explain all of the notes being taken care of?
Draco Malfoy was laying on my lounge, reading The Daily Prophet and eating an apple.
“What are you doing here?”
“I know, but besides that.”
“Eating.” He held out the half eaten apple.
“Please don’t mock me right now.” My head was throbbing, my eyes were sore from wearing my reading glasses all day when I didn’t need to, and I felt like I was being weighted down with solid iron.
“I just though I would be neighborly and help you out.” He swung his legs over the edge of the lounge so he was sitting up.
“Neighborly? Your apartments are in the dungeons. This is the seventh floor, or were you not paying attention at all during the tour? Although, you shouldn’t have needed it, seeing as I know you were in the Headmaster’s office plenty of times during our school days.”
“If you aren’t going to be appreciative, I can just rip up that form and let you review all the notes yourself, if that’s what you want. Or, you can just say ‘thank you’ and go get ready for dinner that is in an hour. Everyone was worried when you didn’t show up for lunch, so I highly recommend attending at least on meal tonight.”
“I have had to say ‘thank you’ entirely too many times today. Why are you helping the ‘mudblood’?” He gave me a lopsided grin.
“Maybe it’s because I enjoy working beneath her.”
“Your dirty jokes are getting old, Draco.”
“That’s impossible. They never stop being funny, it must be the crowd.”
I rolled my eyes. “Yes, must be.” He still hadn’t answered my question though. “Why are you in my office, doing my work, and sitting on my lounge?” he shrugged.
Great, I’m never going to get him away from me.
“I just wanted to tell you something.” He said.
“And that being…?”
“Even though it all went down the toilet, I admire you for being able to go into the Gryffindor common room again. I know it was hard.”
Did he just…?
“If it had been me, I probably wouldn’t have even taken the job at all.”
Merlin’s toes, he did!
“Actually I didn’t exactly take the job, they fired me from my old one after the offer was made and I had to-”
“Well you know what I mean.”
“Umm… yeah.” I shuffled uncomfortably while he gnawed at the remaining apple core. Then I remembered something from earlier.
“Y- you know when you said before, that it wasn’t easy for you to be here either?” I stumbled over my words a little bit, not used to speaking to him in a non-spiteful way. He nodded, so I continued. “What did you mean by that?”
His eyes drifted past me to the portraits of the past Headmasters that hung on the wall. He pointed to Dumbledore’s picture.
“That old bat gave me so much grief, but when it came down to it, I just couldn’t… I couldn’t do it. It would have been like killing you,” my eyebrows shot up at the mention of me. “Yeah, don’t think they didn’t try to get have me get you, they did, but they quickly forgot about you when Dumbledore came into his plan. Anyways, I couldn’t do it, because it would have been like killing you; I would have been taking the one person that everyone looked to for advice and wisdom and love. If you take down the mother duck, all of the ducklings go down with her.”
“But I wasn’t mother duck, Harry-” He cut me off with a curt shake of his head in disagreement.
“Potter was just one who had to kill him in the end, you were the brains of the trio. You knew what had to be done, how to do it, and how to do it well. Those two boys looked to you for everything. Trust me, they didn’t want to leave you, but they died so that nothing bad would happen to you. I’m telling you, ‘mother duck’.”
People really don’t give this man enough credit for his intelligence, but honestly, I have never been able to understand where he pulls all of this information from.
“Draco, how can you actually say that their death had anything to do with me? There were deatheaters everywhere, people falling dead left and right. You remember what it was like, you were there! It was all so chaotic, Harry just ran off to find Voldemort and put an end to everything, and Ron went with him to cover his back while they ran through a maze of people… they didn’t have time to think of me.” It was hard talking about that night. In fact, this was the first time that I had not changed the subject and walked away. The memories were yanking unapologetically on my heartstrings.
“Of course they did, you were the reason they took off as fast as they did. Hermione, there is no doubt that you are a powerful and intelligent witch, but you wouldn’t have stood a chance against Voldemort or my father. Potter and Weasley knew that, and they knew they had to get to them first before they could get to you.”
I gave a mock laugh.
“Oh great, they died because of me.” Draco shook his head.
“No, they died to save you, and the rest of us.”
“So just where were you throughout all of this?”
“Hiding in the bushes watching and praying to Merlin that no one would find me.”
I laughed again, but stopped when I saw the look on his face.
Well that’s different from what I thought…
“So you didn’t…”
So you didn’t murder hundreds of people and stand back to laugh manically?
“I didn’t kill anyone. I stunned a few, and made a couple dance uncontrollably, but when I out there on that field, it was like I completely forgot who I was. All I could remember were though stupid spells from first year like the jelly-legs and stupefy, and I knew those weren’t enough to defend myself if either side found me, so I just…”
“Hid?” I helped.
“Yeah. I guess that makes me a coward.”
“Yes, but better a coward than a murderer.” I pointed out. He shrugged.
“In whose eyes?”
“In Dumbledore’s. He never told us not to be afraid. He always said that it was natural to be scared, but not to let it overcome us. He would have wanted a coward on his side, trying his best to do the right thing, not a cold-blooded killer.” He looked down at the rug and shrugged again.
“It’s too late now, though. Everything is over and done with, right?” He asked, looking up at me through his hair.
Why does he have to look so good when he does that?
“Um, yes… it is.” I looked away from him and cleared my throat. “So I’ll just go get ready for dinner now.”
Smooth subject change, Hermione.
I thought sarcastically. He wasn’t moving from the lounge.
“I’ll see you in the Great Hall then.” I tried again. I didn’t exactly want him to be downstairs while I was in the shower or changing. What if he came in while I was in the middle of dressing and caught a glimpse of something? I would never be able to look at him in a solely professional manner ever again knowing that he had seen my…
I am giving this way too much thought.
He seemed to finally be getting the idea that it was time for him to leave. He stood up and took a step towards me, looking rather unsure if he should shake my hand, hug me, or just leave.
“Did you want me to come around in about an hour to walk you down to dinner?” He asked.
“No.” I said quickly. A little bit too quickly. “I mean, you’re all the way down in the dungeons, I don’t want you to have to come all the way back up here.”
He’s being so nice! I don’t get it, where’s the catch?
“It’s no problem. You’ve had a rough day, I thought you might want some company.”
“Sure. I suppose.”
“Alright, I’ll see you in a bit.”
“Yep.” I watched him leave, and as soon as my office door shut with a soft *click* I turned and started running up the spiral stair case. Somewhere on about the seventh step my foot caught, and I tripped, falling head first into the metal stairs.
Well thank the gods I wasn’t named Grace.
In my bathroom I examined my face. There was a tiny cut on my chin, and the area around it was swollen pink and tender. It hurt, and there would most likely be a bruise by tomorrow, but it was nothing to cry about. I jumped in the shower, the hot water stinging slightly, but in a good, clean way.
For a while I just stood there, letting the water beat down on my skin and watching the steam swirl around me in misty question marks. It felt nice being engulfed in wet warmth as I washed away the haziness left over from my nap earlier. Stepping out and drying off, I changed into fresh robes. Black ones, of course. My hair stayed down in soft curls because putting it up felt like more trouble than it was worth just to go down for dinner, and my makeup routine has always been light, so I was slipping my feet into my heels and was taking a seat on the lounge not even twenty minutes after Draco had left. It was good being early though, because it gave me time to think. Or, to be perfectly honest, it gave me more time to convince myself that I wasn’t living in some paradox universe where Draco Malfoy was friendly and I was a sad sap.
He has been acting awfully chummy since he got here. He said he had seen the errors of his ways and was straightened out, but who can be so sure? Alright, so he didn’t exactly say that in so many words, but he basically did, sort of. We aren’t mates though. Just because he saw me cry and helped me with some paperwork does not mean we are mates. And we are certainly not going to be anything more than mates, not that we are that. Because we aren’t. And we won’t be, because we can’t. It wouldn’t be… what’s that word I’m looking for?
I paused for a moment mid-ponder. The only thing audible was the ticking of the old Grandfather clock in the corner, and the soft swish of the heavy golden pendulum. There was a knock on my office door and my body convulsed in fear as I leapt to my feet. My pulse spiked so high in nerves that the vein in my left hand twitched painfully. It only did that once, but I didn’t have any desire for it to happen again. I did my best to calm down.
It’s only Draco, Hermione. You were expecting him, this shouldn’t be a surprise.
Opening the door, I poked my head around and found myself face to face with him. I was almost his height in these heels, shy only an inch or so. It gave me a good view of his eyes. They were not a cold grey color as I had always thought in school, but a silvery blue. He gazed back at me curiously.
I imagine I looked quite foolish then, with only my head out the door and ogling him as if he were a crazed zoo animal, but either he didn’t notice, or pretended not to.
“Are you ready?”
“Well, should we go then?”
I nodded again. For some reason, I wasn’t moving. At first, as I was standing with a solid oak door in front of me trying to put a single thought together, if felt rather childish. However, as soon as I stepped out from behind my concealment an overwhelming wash of guilt flooded me. I didn’t just feel guilty, I was guilty. Here was Draco Malfoy, trying to be civil despite the massive amount of bad blood between us on the part of both, and what was I doing? I was being selfish. I was a selfish, self-centered, self-pitying slag. Alright, I wasn’t actually a slag, but it just sounded like an appropriate ending.
I cry over Harry and Ron almost everyday, and yet I have not done a single thing to make them proud. If they could see him now, they would probably want to try and heal the wound. Well, they would bloody him up pretty badly, but then they would heal the wounds.
I should put in a little more effort. It feels like there is much more to him than he is willing to reveal to me right away, and if he’s not going to treat me like pond scum, it might be worth prying him open a bit.
Even in school, Draco Malfoy clearly presented himself as a very dynamic character. He may have loved scaring everyone by letting them believe that he was following in his retched father’s footsteps, but there was not a single time when I would pass him in class or communal meals that he didn’t look utterly perplexed. This boy has something on his mind twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, and in this last day I have had the creeping suspicion that I was the thing on his mind this time. I knew that one thing had changed since school; he had grown a heart. It was almost laughable to think that ‘Malfoy’ and ‘heart’ can be run together in the same sentence, but if for no other reason, I know he is feeling because he accepted this job, where the only instant gratification is the look on the student’s face when the lesson finally clicks.
At dinner, there was a comforting hum of multiple conversations going on at the same time. I myself was quiet, but everyone else seemed delightfully engaged in friendly chatter. By the looks of it, everyone had attached themselves to someone and could now call them a friend, and for a moment I had hope that for the first time in decades, Hogwarts would have inter-house unity.
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