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Trials and Tribulations of A Wannabe Ballerina by cliche but oh so true
Chapter 20 : Prima Drama
 
Rating: MatureChapter Reviews: 21


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All too soon, I was back on the L headed for Madame’s studio. Today was the day that I would know the results of the audition. True to her sadistic nature, Madame had not called me to let me know if I’d made it or not, wanting me to seek her out to find out the news. Of course, I could have just called the Royal Ballet Theater and asked, but for some reason, I felt like I could take Madame’s disappointment better than I could take a stranger’s condescending and cool apologies.

Not that I thought I had totally bombed it. I had done well. The question was, had I done well enough to beat out the competition? The answer to that question lay in the hands of one woman. One dragon of a woman whose presence I now craved.

I got progressively more and more nervy as I got closer to the studio, and by the time that I reached the outer stairs I was sprinting. I burst into the lobby and made short work of the lobby to get to the receptionist’s desk.

“H-Hermione Granger,” was all I could manage to say, leaning on the stainless-steel counter of the desk. The girl, who had moments before given me a skeptical look, snatched up the phone and said very quickly, “Madame DiVenti, Miss Granger is here to see you.”

Ah, finally, a little recognition. Too bad it was only because I was Madame’s favorite that I got it. Oh well, who was complaining? Not me, no sir, not me! Shut up, shut up, stop that! I instructed my blabbering subconscious.

There was a loud bang in the hallway that led to Madame’s office, followed by a large shuffling noise. Madame was soon seen sweeping down the hall, leaving a poor assistant picking up papers in her wake. I tried fruitlessly to read her facial expression, but soon realized that it was the one she always wore when roaming her domain—very, very scary.

“Madame,” I said, dipping my head to her.

“Hermione,” she said. “Come with me.”

Oh, dear sweet Jesus. What was this? I obediently followed her up the many flights of stairs to the private studio on the fourth floor. Was it just me or was the place ominously empty and silent? I didn’t think I could stand this much longer.

Inside the small room, Madame moved across the floor and looked out of the large windows, her back to me, her hands on the barre. I hesitated in the doorway, not sure what she expected of me.

“Come,” she said, casting her sharp eyes over her shoulder, then back out over the city view.

I put my bag down on the floor and went to stand beside her at the barre. There were a few moments silence. I scanned her profile. Her eyes were far away.

She began to speak. “From the moment you stepped into my studio, I knew you were going to be exceptional,” she said. Her voice was not gentle, but had its usual brusque quality. “You stood out. The way you held yourself, the way you listened to your teachers and the music, the speed at which you learned all told me that you were extraordinary.” Here she paused, and I was suddenly and acutely aware of the lines on her face. “And for years you kept showing me that. You grew into someone I was proud to have taught.” She sighed and looked at me. “But then you went off to that school,” she said, and I heard a slight bitterness in her voice. “And I didn’t see you for years. Do you know how frustrating that is for a teacher? To watch a brilliant student waste herself like that?” Her eyes flicked sharply at me, but she seemed to forget that almost instantaneously. “When you came back you were not the same person,” she went on. “You had been in love, and it had broken your heart. Your dancing reflected that. You were afraid to let yourself love like you had again. And so you didn’t dance with the emotion you once had.”

I felt horribly dizzy, with pins and needles prickling my entire body. “I didn’t—I wasn’t good enough.”

She turned to look at me and I saw the disillusionment in her eyes. “No. No, you didn’t get Odette.”

“Oh,” I choked. Oh. I could feel the tears behind my eyes but I would not let them come. “Did I get anything? Anything at all?”

“One of the Little Swans,” she said.

I couldn’t manage to say a thing. A little swan. They might as well have cast me in a boring corps role. I stepped on my own foot, hard, to keep from crying.

“And understudy to Odette,” finished Madame.

I looked at her. An understudy and a little swan. “I’m sorry, Madame,” I said quietly. “I know I could have done so much better.”

“Oh, pish, Hermione,” she said sharply, seizing my chin and looking right into my eyes. “You didn’t disappoint me that badly. Don’t you dare cry about this. You’ve done well. Now go home and calm yourself down. I don’t want you in this attitude on the first day of rehearsals.” She let go of my chin and gave my cheek a pat.

Once I had got over the shock that she hadn’t tried to murder me, I straightened myself up. She moved towards the door. “Rehearsals begin the day after tomorrow, at ten o’clock a.m. to six o’clock p.m. For God’s sake, don’t embarrass me by being late.”

She was nearly gone when I remembered to ask. “Madame,” I said quickly. “Could you tell me how Mr. Malfoy did?”

Madame didn’t turn around. “Prince Siegfried.”

I felt as though I had been slapped in the face. How could he have possibly done better than me? How could… how? Frustration and the sting of rejection made me shake with rage.

Shit! And now it was going to be even worse, since I’d been so stupid… since I’d let him… oh, fuck it, since I’d slept with him! He was going to be such a pompous ass about all of this. Damn, damn, three times damn him! I was going to have to watch him with the other girl, the one who’d beat me out of my part, and follow her around to learn to copy her every movement.

I stood stock still in the studio, waiting for Madame’s footsteps to recede before I snatched my wand from my bag and simply Disapparated.

* * *

I appeared exactly where I’d wanted to—the gate of the drive to Malfoy Manor. I jammed my finger onto the buzzer and waited impatiently. Momentarily, a familiar voice answered.

“May I inquire as to who this is?”

“Valentina? It’s me, Hermione, you know, the girl who—“

“I’m sorry, I think you have the wrong address,” she interrupted. “The Brooks residence is just down the lane on the left.”

“Wh—hey!”

I didn’t know if you could hang up those intercom thingies, but that was definitely what she had just done. Now what? I knew I couldn’t Apparate in.

I was stomping around outside the gate, trying to figure out what to do, when the intercom suddenly buzzed again.

“Miss Granger!” hissed Valentina’s voice. “Wait for me, down the lane on the left! Hurry!”

Oh, great balls of fire, there was a face in the window of Malfoy Manor. I went with my first instinct and jumped into the nearby hedges, which was very painful but an effective hiding place. I just hoped there wasn’t any poison ivy lurking about…. Er, wait a minute, why was I hiding from Draco?

I almost came out of the bushes again before I thought about what Valentina had said. Clearly, she knew I was me. Also, she had no intention of letting on that she knew I was me to anyone else. Which had to mean that there was someone else in the house besides Draco. If she was telling me to meet her somewhere, I had better do it. It didn’t look as though I was going to be getting in any other way, anyhow.

I shuffled through the thick shrubbery, bent double to keep out of sight of the manor’s windows and kept going until I saw the road veer off to the left in one place. I poked my head up out of the bushes and found that the trees blocked me from the view of the manor, so I stood up.

I didn’t see Valentina anywhere so I leaned against a tree to wait. It wasn’t long before I felt someone grab my arm and whisk me around.

“What are you doing here?” Valentina hissed.

“Hi, Vals, nice to see you again,” I said.

She glared.

“Why do you think I’m here? To see Master Malfoy, as you call him.”

“What business do you have with Master Malfoy?”

“Um, I’m his friend?” I tried.

She looked at me like I was a fool.

“Look, I left something in the house,” I said. “I really need it.”

“I can get it for you.”

“No!” I said quickly. “I, um, hid it in a really safe place. I’m the only one who can find it.”

“I know the house better than you,” she said. “I can find anything.”

“It’s personal!” I blurted. “Um, it’s something personal. I’d really rather no one else saw it.”

She glared at me. “You are not a good liar, Miss Granger.”

“Valentina, you are mad. Let me in the house.”

“No, I cannot.”

“Why?”

“Because Mr. and Mrs. Parkinson are inside, speaking with Master Malfoy.”

“Pansy’s parents are in there?”

“Yes.”

“Well, how long are they going to be there?”

“I do not know.”

I rolled my eyes in frustration. “Well, I’ll wait.”

“You still have not told me what your business is with Master Malfoy.”

I looked at her. “Vals, I am pretty sure you know what my business with Master Malfoy is.”

She gave me a blank look. “I am sure I do not.”

“Oh, come on,” I sighed. “You’re not stupid, okay? In fact, you’re irritatingly smart. Hasn’t he ever done something like this before?”

“Like what?”

“Jesus, you’re really going to make me say it, aren’t you?”

“I would not presume to make you do anything.”

“God, you’re annoying,” I muttered. “Anyway, I’m not telling you one bloody thing. How do I know you don’t go blabbing everything you know to Pansy?”

“You don’t. And you are getting nowhere closer to getting in the house.”

            I eyed her. “You just want to know all Master Malfoy’s little secrets, don’t you?” I said. “You live for one thing alone, Vals—gossip.”

            She actually avoided my gaze! Hurrah for bluffing! “I know nothing of Master’s private life.”

            “Oh, don’t lie,” I said. “It’s no secret that the servants in a house know all the family’s dirty little secrets.”

            “I mind my own business,” Valentina said stoutly.

            “I don’t believe you for one minute,” I said. “I’ll make you a little deal. I’ll tell you everything I know about Draco and Pansy, and you let me in the house in exchange.”

            She looked at me with sharp interest in her eyes. “You cannot tell anyone.”

            “Not a soul.”

            “I could loose my job.”

            “Oh, I don’t mind shutting up. I just love to tell everyone about the time that Pansy… oh, oops! You haven’t given me your side of the bargain yet.”

            “Finish telling me what you know,” said Valentina, “and then I let you in the house.”

            “Nope,” I said. “How am I supposed to know that you won’t just scurry off when I’m done with story time and leave me out here?”

            Valentina looked cheated. “Well, how am I supposed to prove to you that I don’t lie?”

            I looked her over. Her uniform was plain, simple and boring. Her hair was pinned up neatly under a kerchief and her face was entirely bare of makeup. She wore no jewelry. She was completely bare of collateral.

            “Take something from the house,” I said. “Bring it here. Make it something of Pansy’s—something you know she’ll miss.”

            “I can’t do that,” she said, her eyes wide. “I’ll be fired.”

            “It’s your choice,” I said with a pleasant smile. “Pity… I was so looking forward to telling someone all that juicy gossip.”

            Valentina’s pretty face soured. “I don’t like the way you play,” she told me. “But I’ll play anyway. For now.”

            “Thanks, Vals, you’re a doll!” I said as she stomped off back to the house. “And remember, I’ll know if you lie to me!”

* * *

            “Are you telling me Pansy wears things like this?” I asked incredulously, holding the thing Valentina had brought like it was a dirty nappy, which, essentially, it was. Dirty, as in naughty to the point of being disgusting. And the nappy part… well, let’s just say that no baby would be caught dead in something with such poor absorbency. Or something covered in so much lace.

            “I’m not telling you anything,” she said. “You have to tell me now.”

            I cast her a look. “Vals, don’t take this the wrong way. You may look quite sturdy and capable of enduring long periods of discomfort, but believe you me, you are going to want to sit down for this.”

            So she sat. And I began my epic with the time that in first year, Pansy had been caught with a fourth year prefect named Ryan Lowland playing strip poker in an empty classroom. I covered the time that Vance Stone had proudly waved a pair of Pansy’s notorious red silk knickers from his place at the Ravenclaw table, the time Harry and Ron had uncomfortably related to me the exact reason why none of the Slytherin Quidditch team could get out of bed to play the semi-final match in fifth year, and made a smashing finish with the wonderful crashing of our graduation ceremony, courtesy of Pansy, Jake Roscoe’s twenty-five year old brother Joe, and a bystanding broom closet.

            Throughout these revelations, Valentina’s eyes widened, her brow furrowed, her nose wrinkled, she gasped in the correct places and even contributed the occasional groan. When I had finished, she sat on her log for a few moments, speechless. She shook her head a few times and finally said, “I knew she was bad. But I never thought… I didn’t know it was even possible to be such a…” she looked around furtively as though afraid of Pansy hearing her, even from prison, “whore.”

            I giggled. “What, you didn’t figure it out from things like this lying around?” I gave the atrocious garment a flick.

            Valentina wrinkled her nose. “I have figured out a lot of things,” she said. “But some things… how do you say it? Sometimes you don’t see what you don’t want to.”

            “I don’t blame you,” I said. “Can you imagine her wearing this, er, this… whatever it is?”

            “Yes. I mean, no!” Valentina shook her head. “Stop talking about that.”

            “Okay, okay. Into the dragon’s lair.”

            “It’s okay,” said Valentina, getting up. “The dragon is not home.”

            We traipsed through large amounts of foliage to reach a tiny hidden gate in the back of the manor grounds. Valentina pulled out a keyring to rival Filch’s, pulled out a nondescript silver key and unlocked the door. She shooed me in first, followed me quickly and pulled the gate noiselessly shut behind her. I heard the lock click into place.

            We hurried along the perimeter of the mansion, hugging the wrought-iron fence, which was overgrown with greenery, making us nearly invisible. We came to a stop, and Valentina motioned me to be quiet, like I had been chattering away before. I found that we had reached a place in the fence where there seemed to be a lot less brush. I soon discovered that that was because there was an ingeniously concealed trapdoor in the dirt.

            Valentina pulled it open and went down flight of stairs until she’d disappeared into the darkness, beckoning me to follow. I eyed the entry skeptically, wondering if as soon as I got down there she would knock me out cold with a candlestick, but soon shrugged and followed her down. Who keeps candlesticks in secret passages, anyway? This was starting to sound all too much like that atrocious game, Clue.

            It turned out that Valetina was a woman of her word and did not sock me as soon as I got down the stairs. She had lit up a flashlight and was holding another for me. I took it and she closed the trapdoor with a dull thud. If all of this business had seemed a little too 19th century, it was no longer a bad Jane Eyre ripoff. While the manor looked positively gloomy from the outside, the inside, or at least what I had seen of it, was a vaulted, open space made mostly of marble and steel. Not, as such, Victorian.

            Valentina had already begun to walk down the hallway leading away from the trapdoor, padding along silently as a cat, her wavering flashlight beam and my own the only source of light. I hurried to catch up with her, making a lot more noise, of course.

            “Vals?” I asked after about three minutes of walking steadily uphill.

            “What?” she hissed in a whisper.

            “Where exactly are we going?”

            “Into the house! Now shut up!”

            “Yes, but where are we now, exactly? I mean, shouldn’t we be under—“

            Valentina clamped a hand over my mouth, her eyes wide. I understood why when I heard a loud creak over my head. We were actually underneath the house. And someone was walking around above us. We heard muted voices, but it was impossible to discern what they were saying. I pried Valentina’s hand off my mouth and proceeded after her with utmost caution, although I was still trying to listen in on their conversation.

            We were still going uphill. In another three minutes, when the sound of the voices and footsteps had long faded away, we came to a spiral staircase. It was very narrow and went up off into darkness. I suddenly felt like Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty. Grimacing at the prospect of such pressing darkness, I continued to trail after Valentina as she wound up the staircase. Luckily there were no creepy portraits or torches burning on the walls, or I might have had a hysterical laughing fit from nerves and anticipation.

            All of a sudden, just when I was thinking that this ascent was never going to end, we emerged into bright sunlight. I squinted and threw my hands up to shield my eyes. When I could see properly again, I realized that we had reached the top of a very tall tower. God, if anyone offered me a spindle, I was going to freak.

            “Stop looking like that,” said Valentina with a chuckle.

            “Oh, have off, it’s not my fault I don’t want to sleep one hundred years in this place. I do have a life to live, you know!” I said.

            She looked at me like I was insane. “Now you wait.”

            “Wait until Parkinson’s olds leave?”

            “Yes,” she said. “I must go back into the house. I will be missed.”

            “You can’t just leave me here all by myself,” I said. “What if I’ve got to use the loo?”

            “There’s one over there,” she said, pointing to a door on the far side of the circular room. “And before you start, there’s food.”

            “What if you forget about me?” I protested. “I could die up here!”

            “I trust you remember the way out should my memory fail. And I do not doubt you could make enough noise to remind anyone you had been neglected, if the occasion arose.”

            “But—“

            “I’ll be back soon.” She turned and walked back down the staircase into the dark.

            “Excellent,” I said sarcastically. “Now I’m all alone in this bloody tower. There isn’t even a place to sit down.”

            Left alone, I was able to do some real stewing over the whole issue of this ballet. Which was probably the worst thing I could have possibly done, but how could I have helped it? I had really expected it of myself to be better than that. But I hadn’t been good enough. That, I could live with in the long run, when I had had time enough to swallow my disappointment and anger. It was the humiliating fact that Draco had proved that he was better than me that made me sting. Why was it that he could just throw himself back into this and suddenly be fabulous? I had tried, but I had failed. Why had he been able to do it if I hadn’t? I chased myself in circles with questions like these for a time before I finally heard footsteps on the stairs again.

            Valentina came in a moment later. “See, I told you I don’t forget.”

            “Humph,” I said moodily. “Will His Majesty see me now?”

            “I daresay I will.” Draco. Oh, for panties’ sake, why did it always have to happen like this?

            In a flash Vals was gone, replaced by Draco, who was wearing a charcoal tee and yummy black jeans. He was in his sock feet, too, how cute…. Get a grip, control yourself!

            “I didn’t expect to see you again so soon,” he said, crossing the room to me. “I would have thought you’d be the type to wait for me to call, not show up at my house and blackmail my maid to let you in to have a word.”

            I almost said something insanely idiotic like, “Well, I was hoping for more than a word,” before I remembered exactly why I was here. “I didn’t exactly expect to see you again so soon either,” I said.

            He looked at me. “You’ve lost me.”

            “Oh, nevermind,” I said. “It’s freezing in here. Can we go downstairs or are your guests still here?”

            “They’ve gone,” he said, still casting an odd stare in my direction. “Yeah, come on, Valentina will put the kettle on.”

            He opened the door Vals had told me was the loo and walked out into a much more spacious set of stairs. That little wench! I didn’t make a peep about that but went down the stairs after him.

            “So you found you really couldn’t last a few hours outside my presence?” he asked smugly as we walked down the hall.

            “No,” I said. “I came to talk to you about Swan Lake.”

            We had reached the kitchen and he opened the door. Like magic, Vals had left a steaming pot of water and assorted teabags on the counter. He didn’t say anything, to my extreme annoyance, but poured two mugs full of water. “Mint?”

            “Draco, I am here to talk about the ballet,” I repeated.

            “Oh, fine, if you insist,” he said in the most infuriating manner possible. “How’d you do? Odette? That’s wonderful, I’ve got Siegfried. Cheers!” He raised his mug while I gaped at him.

            “Are you mad?” I asked him.

            “How could you possibly be upset?” he answered me with a question.

            “What the hell do you mean?” I choked out. “I’m—for shit’s sake, Draco, I’m not Odette!”

            He looked at me for a moment before cracking a smile. “Very funny, but honestly, Hermione, did you think I was born yesterday?”

            Oh, shit. Shit, shit, shit. Now I was going to bawl. “N-no,” I said shakily, “I am not kidding. I am a little swan. And Odette’s understudy. And that is it.”

            Draco looked down at his tea for a few moments. “You’re not going to want to hear this,” he said finally. “Especially not from me. But I knew that this would happen.”

            In an instant what would have been tears turned into rage. “Yeah, because I was just that bad. I was horrid, and it made you look bad to dance with me. I get it.”

            “Will you stop acting like a prima donna about this?” he asked me. “Do you realize you expected yourself to get this role? You went into that audition as Odette. You set yourself up for this. You were unrealistic about what you could make yourself do in the short time that you had.”

            “So it’s my fault,” I said. “Yeah, you know, you’re right. I’m just a bitchy prima, used to getting the lead.”

            “When have you ever not had the lead in a full-length ballet?” he snapped.

            “I’ve always had the lead!” I cried. “That’s why this is so upsetting to me!”

            “Well I’ve never had a lead, not once in my life! Because I’ve never even been in a full-length ballet before! So why don’t you swallow your pride for once, Hermione, and recognize that there are other people out there who deserve a chance!”

            I felt like I was smoldering. I took several very heavy breaths before I responded. “Yeah, there people who deserve a chance at something they really want. There are those kinds of people who have to make sacrifices for the people they love. There are those people who give things they love up for a better purpose than making themselves feel good.”

            “How can you bring this back to me?” he snarled, slamming his mug down. “How can you possibly compare what you’ve been through to what I have?”

            “You’re a fucking hypocrite,” I retorted. “You don’t have the faintest idea what you’re really talking about. You just spew the first rubbish that comes into your head out, don’t you? You don’t think about what you’re saying, or how it makes other people feel!”

            There was an extremely tense silence. We stared at each other in fury. I half-expected him to explode, but instead his eyes bored into mine like icy needles.

            “I’m leaving,” I spat. “It’s been great talking to you. I’ll see you at rehearsal.”

            “Go, then,” he barked at my retreating back. “Go, keep on denying the fact that you’re acting like a child about this. I’ll see you at rehearsal, if you can swallow your pride enough to watch me touch another woman!”

            “What?” I said incredulously, turning around. “What are you on about?”

            “That’s what this is about, really, isn’t it?” he shouted. “You don’t want me even touching another girl.”

            “Draco,” I said, losing all my anger in the face of this frankly ridiculous argument. “Is your ego really so huge that you think I’d turn green over watching you dance with another girl?”

            “That’s the reason why you’re so pissed off,” he said. “It’s got to be, there’s no other reason you could be.”

            “Did it ever for one minute occur to you that maybe I came here to talk to you about this ballet because I was really upset, and I wanted to be able to talk to someone who I thought would understand? I was really frustrated about this, and I still am, and I thought you would be a friend and talk to me about it. But I get here and you act like I’m stupid for coming to you and tell me to grow up and get over it. I’m sorry, but it’s not that easy for me. And I know there’re other people out there who can dance Odette just as well, if not better, than me. But that doesn’t take the edge off the fact that I was beaten out by someone else for a role I really wanted. I’m not jealous of you and whoever made Odette. I’m upset at the loss of a really great opportunity. And if you think I’d be so petty as to guilt trip you about how well you did, then you have got to wake up and realize that I am not Pansy.”

            “What the fuck does that have to do with anything?” he asked after a pause. He was, on the brighter side, no longer shouting.

            “You know exactly why I said that, Draco Malfoy,” I said. “You want me to be just like her so when I show my feelings you can act like I’m being a manipulative, jealous bitch.”

            “Why the hell would I want someone to be like that?” he retorted.

            “So that you can put them on your shelf, and dismiss their feelings and the fact that they care about you easily, instead of actually dealing with anything.”

            He snorted contemptuously. “You’ve got me all figured out, I see. You could make a regular fortune off that talent.”

            “Why are you so afraid of me?” I snapped.

            He laughed, which was irking. “I’m not afraid of very many things. I was afraid of my father. I was afraid of Voldemort. I’ve been afraid of death. But I have never in my life been afraid of you.

            “Oh, grow up,” I said, loosing patience with him entirely. “You can call me when you’re ready to act like an adult.”

            “Why the hell would I even want to call you?” he yelled at me as I went up the stairs to leave the kitchen.

            I didn’t bother turning around. He was such a prick, such a fucking self-centered, stupid, selfish, uncaring, manipulative asshole! I was muttering these things to myself, partially to keep from having an utter nervous breakdown and partially to keep myself from running back through the kitchen door and pounding him to a bloody pulp. “Stupid fucking idiot! Bugger him!”

            I was halfway down the hall when I heard the kitchen door fly open and bang against the adjacent wall. I turned to see Draco moving at quite a clip towards me. He was running after me! Once I had got over that shock, I did what my most animal instincts bade me do—I ran as fast as I could in the other direction. I was now playing chase with Draco Malfoy.

            Gasping for breath, I skidded into the main hall and went for the stairs. As soon as I put my foot on the first stair I heard Draco enter the hallway just as I had seconds before. “You’re wasting your bloody time running from me, Granger,” he panted as I dashed up the stairs.

            I reached the top and looked down at him catching his breath. “You’re wasting your breath talking.” And off I took. I made a mad pattern along the landing that stretched along the wall, listening to his pounding footsteps on the stairs. My intention was to get back to the tower that I’d been in and get myself the hell out of here. I wasn’t sure why Draco had decided we were going to be primary schoolers all of a sudden, but I wasn’t keen on being “it”.

            I hesitated when I came to three different doors, but the sound of footsteps spurred me to dive into the first one on my right. I closed the door soundlessly behind me and promptly swore under my ragged breath. I was clearly and unmistakably in the master bedroom. Meanwhile Draco had caught me up. I could actually hear him panting in the hallway outside the door. I hurried across the room on tiptoe, looking for a place to hide. I heard him yank open the door to one of the other rooms and begin searching it. Oh, oh, pants, how was I going to hide? And why did this kind of game make me really have to go pee?

            He had finished with the room next door. I spotted a large walk-in closet that had been blending fairly well with the wall. His footsteps got closer. I slid the door open and stepped in. I heard his breathing outside the door. I closed the closet. I heard the doorknob to my room twist. I pressed myself farther back into the clothes, which were clearly all Pansy’s as they were dresses. His footsteps crossed the room. He had nearly caught his breath back by now.

            “Hermione, I know you’re in here.” Ugh, did this have to be like some weird slasher film?

            I resisted the urge to say, “Yeah, like you knew I was in the other room.”

            “I can smell you,” he went on. What was he now, a bloodhound? Nonetheless I was getting really tired of all this business. I was debating whether I should just jump out and with the element of surprise make my escape when the door to the closet slid suddenly open. I expected him to see me immediately and was shocked when his eyes continued to scan the dark space. God bless Pansy’s ugly clothes! I was saved!

            Or, I thought I was. Until he flicked on the light switch. We stood momentarily shocked and staring at each other before he stuck both his hands up to the elbows into the dress forest, seized me about the hips and dragged me out.

            “What is your fucking problem?” he shot at me.

            “What is my problem? I’m not the one who decides to play cat-and-mouse with my houseguests!”

            “I didn’t know you were going to be a guest,” he said, smiling a very, very sexy half-smile.

            Oh, dear God, he was trying to seduce me. “Well, I wasn’t,” I said waspishly. “I was just leaving, in fact, before you went madder than usual and—“

            “Don’t lie,” he murmured, drawing me close. “I know why you really came here.”

            “Yes, I’ve told you. To talk about the ballet with my friend, who is very unsympathetic and cold, and who I don’t want to be around because he has hurt my feelings.” Why were my knees going all wonky?

            “What a bastard,” Draco said, running his hand up and down my back.

            “Yeah, what an absolute bastard,” I said, giving him a shove. “You’re engaged, okay? And I’m angry with you, for a good reason. So leave off.”

            “You didn’t seem to care I was engaged last night,” he said defensively, his chin jutting out.

            “Yeah, well, I’m really wishing last night never happened because, guess what? I woke up in the morning and you weren’t there, not even a note, and I show up here and have to be snuck in by your maid. Why? Oh, because your fiancée’s parents are visiting. And then, when you finally have time in your busy schedule for me, I try to talk to you about something and you treat me like an idiot.”

            “Oh, come on, not again,” he rolled his eyes back into his head.

            “Go fuck yourself, you prick,” I said, freeing myself entirely from his grasp.

            “Why would I do something myself that I can get other people to do for me?” he gave me a dirty smile.

            “You make me sick,” I spat. “Now, I’m leaving.”

            I turned to go, but he was in my way again. “Move, Malfoy!”

            “No,” he said.

            “Well, why not? You’ve made it clear you don’t want me here!”

            “Rubbish. You’re staying.”

            “I will not.”

            “You will,” he said, coming close again. “You will because I say you will.”

            “I don’t give a fuck what you say. If you don’t let me out of here right now, I am going to kill you.”

            “I’m really scared now,” he snarled, bringing his face to mine. “What do you want to talk about?”

            “Nothing with you,” I said, trying to sidestep him. This only led to his hands on my waist, holding me in place. “Stop touching me.”

            “No,” he said. “If you really wanted me to stop, you wouldn’t be shaking like a leaf right now, would you?”

            “I’m not shaking,” I said firmly, as though that would make it true.

            “You are,” he said. “Just like you were last night when I—“

            “Malfoy, shut up,” I warned. “I’m not in the mood for your bullshit.”

            He grabbed one of my hands and pushed it underneath the back of his shirt so I could feel the slight edges of lightly scraped skin. “You did that,” he told me, as if I didn’t already know.

            “Unfortunately I didn’t break the skin,” I retorted.

            “Not that much can have changed in less than a day,” he was saying. “You can’t just decide not to like me anymore.”

            “I can and I have,” I snapped. “Not like that, anyway.”

            “You are a terrible liar.”

            “And you are an awful person.”

            “You’re just as bad as I am,” he said, smirking. “You’re the mistress.”

            I struggled violently at the word mistress. “I am not your mistress. And I haven’t betrayed anyone, unlike you. It’s not like Pansy was expecting me to marry her.”

            “Oh, you haven’t? Weaslette seems to have a different opinion on the subject. And I have a sneaking feeling Potty and Weaselbee will agree. And,” he went on, pushing me up against the wall, “have you forgotten that I only recently forgave you for what you thought of me? That’s a betrayal if I’ve ever seen one.”

            “It wasn’t a betrayal, Draco,” I said patiently.

            “Back to first names, I see,” he said, still smirking. “It was a betrayal, Hermione, and there’s nothing you can say that will change that.”

            “Well, I won’t say anything then.”

            “That’s exactly what I was hoping for,” he whispered, kissing my neck with light butterfly kisses.

            I could actually feel myself trembling, and I knew I wanted him worse than ever, but I did not want him to win. “Get off, Malfoy!” I said loudly, pushing him. Unfortunately, my voice came out a little hoarse.

            “Am I flustering you?” he said, staggering back a few steps.

            “No, you are irritating me to the point of violence,” I snapped. Thank God, my voice had gone back to normal. “I want to leave.”

            “Where will you go? Back to your lonely flat? To Potter’s? The Weasley shack?”

            “Shut up,” I snarled. “The Burrow is not a shack.”

            “No, clearly it’s an animals den. Figures,” he said.

            “Malfoy! You will stop insulting my friends or you will regret it!”

            “Oh, is that right? What are you going to do about it? Cry?”

            SMACK. I hit him so hard across the face that it sent me staggering backwards into the massive bed, where I sat wondering at my own physical strength.

            Draco had also fallen back a few steps, and now stood with his hand over the left side of his face. He drew it away and I saw a large, fiery handprint beginning on his right cheek.

            “You bitch,” he said, crossing the room towards me. I hated to say it, but I was a little afraid of what he was going to do. “You stupid fucking bitch.”

            “Is that the best you can do?” I asked, looking up at him as he stood over me.

            It was clear that that had done it. In one move, he pushed me back on the bed and landed himself on top of me. Instantly his mouth was on mine. God, who did he think he was?

            I tried with all my might to free my mouth from his, or at least to keep it shut. I pushed my hands hard against his chest in an attempt to heave him off. “Malfoy!” I managed to say, albeit a little muffled.

            “Calling my name already?” he said, kissing my neck. “That’s a record.”

            I lost my patience with his self-centered bullshit, seized a large swatch of his hair in my hand, and yanked backwards, hard.

            “Fuck!” he yelled, his face suddenly coming into my view. “What the hell?”

            “Get OFF of me, you great stupid git!” I yelled in his face.

            His face contorted with fury. He stood up suddenly, seizing my arm to drag me with him, so that when I stood, I was within inches of his chest. He whirled me around so I faced the door, and gave me an enormous push. “Leave then!”

            He had pushed me too hard, though, and I fell to the floor. Luckily the only part of me truly injured was my pride. “That’s just why I didn’t want to get involved with you in the first place,” I said bitterly, getting up and brushing my hair out of my face. “You say you don’t want to be like your father? Look at yourself.”

            “Don’t you dare compare me to my father! I am nothing like him!” he roared.

            “I can see that,” I said sarcastically, walking out the door.

            This time he did not come after me. I walked out the front door of Malfoy Manor and down the twisting gravel path in the haze of evening. I pushed the giant wrought-iron gate open and stepped outside the grounds, then lifted my wand and Apparated home.


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