Hermione lay on her common room floor, flipping through a small photo album. In front of her reclined the newly addressed Draco (still called Malfoy in company) watching her as she did this. They were having an informative conversation about their childhoods.
“Who is the odd little kid with the broom?” Hermione unintentionally blurted out whilst she looked at a photo in the album. Draco turned to her with a look of indignation upon his face. A strong feeling of embarrassment over took her, turning her cheeks a bright red. “Sorry, Draco. Is this you in the picture?” she tried to say as apologetically as she could.
Draco’s face softened, but Hermione knew better than to think his pride could be healed with an admission of guilt.
“No, that is my father,” he spoke with a hint of spite. “It’s not as if you have never taken a picture that later caused you embarrassment.”
There was a short pause. Hermione took this time to ponder the picture a bit more, or at least pretend to do so considering she did not want to argue with him at that time. After a moment, the silence was broken by Draco asking, “So…what is it you said your parents do for a living?”
Hermione was somewhat grateful Draco had chosen to change the subject. Although they had grown closer and fonder of each other, Draco’s temper was still nastier than any other on Hogwarts’ campus.
“They are both dentists.”
“Dentist? What the hell is that?” Draco bellowed.
“Dentists fix teeth. They remove spare ones and straighten smiles; that sort of thing.”
“So, your parents dig around in peoples’ mouths?” Hermione could see him turning up his lip. “That line of work doesn’t sound very appealing.”
“Well, my mum said it isn’t dreadful. I considered being one before I got my letter to Hogwarts.”
“Why don’t Muggles learn to use magic or hire a wizard to fix their teeth? It would be easier; one spell and it’s all over.”
“Muggles can’t do magical things like fixing teeth, and most are afraid of wizards or don’t believe we exist.” Hermione scanned the left page of the photo album. “Who’s this surly looking woman? Her face is familiar.”
Draco stretched to see the photograph. In it was a black-haired woman holding the tiny hand of a blonde boy of about the age of three. She did look highly disagreeable. The grimace she wore completely opposed her beautiful gray eyes. Hermione was sure she had seen this woman before.
Draco turned to Hermione with a puzzled expression on his face. “This is my Great Aunt Walburga, but you must be mistaken about her being familiar.”
“Why is that?”
“Come now, Granger. Have you forgotten who my family is? From what I can remember of my aunt, she held the same principles as the Malfoys close to heart. She would stone me if she was alive to know I am within two feet of you.”
Hermione was upset by Draco’s last statement, but pushed it aside to learn more. “What was she like? I know I have seen her somewhere. Perhaps if you told me about her, I would know why I believe I know her.”
“I can’t recall much. She died when I was five…”
“I don’t care. I would still like to know,” Hermione persisted.
“All right, then,” he said in a negative tone. “I know when I was younger, she called me her favorite little boy. She said if I were good, she’d give me ten Galleons for every perfect strand of hair on my head. She was truthful, as well. The day after she died, I had all her gold in my vault at Gringotts.”
“Why would she give it to you? Doesn’t she have kids or something?”
“Don’t underestimate my charm, Hermione. Even as a toddler, I could work magic without a wand…”
Hermione stared at Draco reproachfully.
“Or both her sons being dead to her could have affected her decision.” Draco rolled his eyes at her as he revealed the last portion. “It doesn’t matter. I can not fathom a single way you could have met her.”
Leaning closer, Draco ran his finger over the pictures (people jumped from frame to frame to avoid being smashed by his hand) to point out a surly, but good-looking man of about fifteen with a handsome face, lovely black hair, and the same gorgeous eyes as Draco’s great aunt.
“This is one of her sons. He died soon after I was born, but Mother has mentioned him a few times. She always grows ill when she sees this picture…”
Hermione was not listening. She was peering more closely at the photograph. She knew this man’s features; only she did not know him. She had seen his eyes, lovely black hair, and dashing form on a once gaunt and caged man.
Draco had moved on to more family members. “…And this is my father’s mother, Folie. She left me quite a bit of gold, as well--”
“Her son, what was his name?” Hermione interrupted without thought. Though Draco’s attention was now on a completely new person, hers still lingered on the dead man in the photo.
Looking a little annoyed at being cut off, he answered, “Regulus. Regulus…Black.” Draco’s face twisted to reflect his comprehension. He stared from the album to Hermione and back to the album seemingly to work out more and more of what she was thinking and feeling. “Have you been to any Pureblood houses lately, Granger?” he inquired in a low voice as if he knew exactly where she had been and whom she had been there with.
Hermione focused on the album, not wanting to have any definite reaction to what he had said. She was not sure what to expect from him since they had so far avoided so much that dealt with their opposing sides, and she was not positive how much information would be too much information. How much of what she said would make it to Voldemort? How much of it could be used?
She looked up slowly; first moving her eyes, and then rotating her neck to follow. “Whose hose would I have been at Malfoy?” she spoke with a smirk worthy of Draco’s countenance covering her lips. “It’s not as if you have invited me to Malfoy Manor.” Her grin almost dared him to say anything else related to the topic.
After a long pause, which was paired with a long gaze from one to the other, Draco finally moved the conversation to another subject. “So,” he started, closing his album as he began and getting to his feet, “There is a Hogsmeade weekend coming up. I think it’s the weekend after Valentine’s Day. Are you going?” He extended a hand to help Hermione to her feet.
Taking his extended hand, she looked up into his eyes only to reply, “Yes, there is a Hogmeade weekend after Valentine’s Day; and yes, I am going. Why are you concerned, though, Draco?” She tried to read his body language and his facial expressions, but could not see any change from his normal movements. ‘He’s not really asking because he cares, is he?’ she thought to herself.
“I wanted to know if I could look forward to you and the Weasel parading around spreading your good will,” Draco drawled, releasing Hermione’s hand now that she was to her feet.
Looking a little affronted, Hermione narrowed her eyes and rebutted, “I do not think you would notice if I were considering you would be prancing through the town with one of your fourth year jezebels.” After the word “jezebels” left her mouth, Hermione blushed, realizing how horrible and elderly that particular word must have sounded.
“I don’t prance,” was his retort.
“And I do not parade, but that did not stop you from accusing me of doing so.” Even now Hermione’s cheeks were flushed from embarrassment, but she managed an air of unappreciative irritation.
All the while Draco stared back at her, with an expression of both affront and intrigue. Hermione could see he was teetering between both emotions and was waiting to see which he would settle on. It was not long before she knew he had decided on one, for seconds later he was closing the gap between them both.
“You care who I ‘prance’ with?” he asked, locking his eyes with hers.
Hermione coldly stated, “You care who I ‘parade’ with.”
Draco drew even nearer. “Maybe I don’t think you should parade with anyone else.” His right hand slid up her left shoulder and clenched one of her rough curls.
“Maybe you shouldn’t prance with anyone else before you ask me not to parade with anyone else.” She spoke as if him being so close to her did not lessen her irritation, though it did.
It seemed that after that statement, Draco had realized defeat in that small battle, but Hermione knew better than to think her not going to Hogsmeade with Ron was his only motive.
She was right. A moment later, his lips were pressed as if her were working out an entirely different plan to get something he wanted from her. Or maybe something he wanted of her.
“Hermione,” he said almost as if the name was foreign to him. “How would you feel about not going to Hogsmeade?”
She automatically scrunched her eyebrows at this suggestion. Hogsmeade weekends were few and far between. They were the one time she left the castle aside from Christmas holidays during the school year. Besides, she wasn’t really sure where she stood with Draco. How could he expect her to give up her weekend when they were nowhere near…a relationship?
“A relationship…” she whispered almost inaudibly.
“What was that?”
“Nothing,” came quickly from her lips. She was still wondering how she could think of the label relationship when she and Draco barely had a friendship. “What do you mean ‘not go’? What else would I do?”
Draco’s eyes bounced from left to right as if he were watching a tennis match. Left to right; left to right; on it went until he broke with, “Stay here…with me.” It was like he was going through an internal battle. Hermione could visualize one side of the battle chanting “Hermione Forever!” and the opposing side shouting “Down with Granger!” It seemed Hermione’s following was winning.
Her cheeks red and eyes wide, Hermione tried to reply, but all that came out was, “Why? I mean I…Do you really…I…” Hermione was trying to think of something to say, but couldn’t. “I…I really should have met Ron and Harry in the Great Hall ten minutes ago.” She liberated herself from Draco and slid through the doorway hidden by the painting without looking back. She wouldn’t allow herself to look back. Looking back would cause her to think about what he had just asked her. Hermione did not want to face that at the moment.
Someway or another she found herself in from of the portrait of the Fat Lady that led to the Gryffindor Common room. She hardly remembered walking there, and as she climbed through the portrait, she did not remember ever saying a password.
In the common room were a few first years and Ron. Harry was nowhere in sight. Since she had already entered the common room, she could not leave. Ron was her friend; her best friend. Whatever Draco had said about parading was childish and not true. ‘Completely untrue,’ she convinced herself.
“Hi, Ron,” Hermione said, clearing a place in a large comfy chair beside Ron.
Ron’s eyes glinted once her saw her come near. He looked absolutely delighted. Hermione hoped this was only because he had not seen his friend in such a long time.
“Hello, Hermione. Where have you been?”
Smiling slightly, she replied, “I have been a bit busy. Being Head Girl is a little more time consuming than I thought it would be.”
“Long hours with Malfoy. Must be awful.”
“Awful, right…” She did her best to hold her smile as it was before. “Where has Harry gone?”
Ron’s mouth was open as if he wanted to ask something, but Hermione’s question had cut him off. Regaining his bearings, he responded, “He has gone to see McGonagall. Something about leaving again soon.”
Hermione nodded, feeling a little left out of her friends’ recent plans. “Oh…”
It seemed Ron could tell just finding out bothered her and tried to recover by telling her how badly they needed her to come with them and how they always assumed she would. That did little to change how she was feeling. Quiet engulfed them both after that.
Finally, Ron spoke up in a somewhat nervous voice. Or perhaps it was only his normal bumbling voice amplified. “Hermione, how have you been?”
Blinking several times to come back from the trance the silence had put her in, she answered, “I have been well; only a slightly tired.”
“Right…” He was showing a look she had seen earlier that day; he was trying his hardest to pluck up the courage to say something important. “So…Valentine’s Day.”
Hermione looked at him curiously. This was an awkward conversation unlike she had ever had with Ron. “What about Valentine’s Day?”
“It’s…soon. Only a few days away.” He put a great deal of emphasis on “soon” as if it were more important than any other word.
“Yes, it is.” She could feel something coming. It felt like the mist before rain.
“Are you going? Because if you are, I was thinking that you could go with me.”
Hermione stared at him intently. This could not be Ron, could it? This guy was nervous and stumbled over his words. It was all so odd. She had been waiting for him to ask her this for literally years. It was all so confusing; more so now than ever because of Draco.
Hermione’s thoughts had taken up too much time for Ron soon added, “Only if you want to. Or Harry could come with us…or we could really forget this has all happened.”
Hermione only gazed back at him. Was it really possible this had all occurred today? Draco and Ron? Why had they both chosen today? More importantly, what exactly was she supposed to do? Should she go? Should she stay? Was it possible to just ignore it all and hope it goes away?
‘No, I have to do something…’
Sitting at a table, watching the snow fall outside of the window covering the passersby, Hermione played with the wool of her scarf. Her coat was covered in now melting snow and hanging from her chair. She was at the table by herself and doing her best not to think about who she had not chosen to be there, at the Three Broomsticks, with. She was still confused. She did not think that would change anytime soon, but one trip to Hogmeade could not change too much of her life…No, it could not.
“Here you are, Granger,” broke the chill air while two bottles of butter beer hit the table. The lone person to join Hermione smiled brightly, almost more intense than his red hair.
“What made you call me that?” she asked taking a bottle and grinning towards Ron.
Still smirking, he did not bother answering. He only opened his bottle of butter beer and joined her in looking out of the window.