Chapter 11 : A Different Sort of Letter
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Hermione stared in futility at the empty space where her textbook had been. “Okay,” Ginny enunciated carefully. “I know something’s wrong, and I thought it best to give you some time before talking to me about it, but you seem to be getting worse. So now I’m going to ask, what in the bloody hell is going on between you and Malfoy?”
Hermione put her head in her hands. “I don’t know! We had detention together and we actually seemed to be getting along together all right,” At this, Ginny’s eyebrows shot up in disbelief, but she didn’t interrupt. “And then,” Hermione continued, “every time I turned around, he was there! Saving me a seat in class, carrying my books, and now he seems to think that something’s going on between us!” She didn’t dare tell Ginny any more than that—after all, she was dating Ginny’s brother.
“Why would he think that? Did anything else happen?”
Hermione abruptly stood up and grabbed her discarded school robe from off of her bed. She was deliberately stalling so that she could think of the best way to answer Ginny’s question by lying to her as little as she possibly could. She heard something drop out of the pocket, but she was too worked up to notice. “This is Malfoy we’re talking about,” Hermione said as she pulled the robe on over her school jumper and skirt. “His mind doesn’t work the same way as a normal person’s does.” That was most definitely true, as far as Hermione was concerned.
Ginny wasn’t looking at her. Instead, she was staring at the floor. Hermione followed her line of sight and saw the letter from Harry lying on the floor (still unopened—in her recent confusion, Hermione had forgotten all about it), and on top of it, Ron’s brief note.
Ginny slowly picked up Ron’s note and read it. Hermione watched her as if in a dream, unable to move. Ginny looked up at Hermione in sympathy and, Hermione suspected, frustration at her brother’s lack of tact and sighed. “Is this what you’ve been hiding from me all this time?” she said gently.
Hermione felt her eyes fill with tears. “Ginny, everything is such a mess! I wrote Ron about everything that’s been going on, and I mean everything. And that’s…that’s all that I got,” she finished lamely and felt the tears begin to slip down her cheeks.
Ginny went over to Hermione and hugged her. “Don’t get me wrong; I love my brother, but he really can be an insensitive prat sometimes. I don’t know what else to tell you about him, but I do know that you should stay away from Malfoy. He’s always been nothing but trouble and he always will be.”
Later, Hermione walked down to the Great Hall alone. Ginny could see that Hermione needed some time to herself and made excuses about having to contact her teammates about setting up the next Quidditch practice. Hermione appreciated the gesture; her nerves were still raw from everything that had happened, and she really didn’t want to talk to anybody for a while.
She reached the Great Hall and found a seat off to the side that was relatively secluded. Taking a leaf from Malfoy’s book, she had brought a textbook with her to prop up as a barrier to any other students who might attempt to strike up a conversation with her. She got situated and began to read and eat her supper.
Just then, the evening’s owl post sailed through the Great Hall, and to her surprise, a letter dropped onto her lap. If it was a longer response from Ron, she wasn’t sure if she wanted to read it. She had finally read Harry’s letter—another long one—and he had had no problem making time for her. Surely, her boyfriend should have been able to do as much.
She picked up the sealed letter and looked at it. There was a drawing of a dragon on the front of the envelope. No, it definitely wasn’t from Ron, and it wasn’t from Harry either. Under the picture, it was addressed to Granger, The Head Girl.
Hermione’s eyes flew open in surprise. There was only one person she knew who would address her in that way. Involuntarily, her eyes darted over to the foot of the Slytherin table where Malfoy sat. He was staring back at her intensely; and his silver-blue eyes seemed to goad her, Go on, open it.
Her heart started to beat rapidly in her chest as she tore open the letter and read,
I thought it was time you got a real letter for once so you don’t have to waste any more tears on that stupid Weaselby.
Bet you’re impressed to get a letter from me, huh? You should be. I don’t do this for just anybody, you know.
Anyway, I’d just like to know why you decided to leave the broom closet so soon earlier today. You seemed to be enjoying yourself. It can’t be because you chickened out, because aren’t you Gryffindors supposed to be brave? I’d like to see more proof of that, if you know what I mean.
There was another picture at this point in the letter—it was a Gryffindor lion, dancing across the page followed by two penguins that looked very much like McGonagall and Flitwick. Hermione smiled reluctantly; she had been right all along about Malfoy drawing the penguins. She continued to read:
You’ve been pretty brave so far, though. Most of the people around here keep away from me, but that’s a good thing.
I have a detention with Slughorn tonight, but I plan on getting out about an hour before curfew. Meet me in the hallway between his office and the painting of the drunken monks if you’re as brave as I think you are.
Next to his initial was another drawing of a dragon. Of course, she realized. Draco. Dragon. And then she noticed the post-script:
p.s. That’s a nice bum you’ve got there.
She was torn between indignation at his cheekiness and feeling touched by the fact that he had gone through such trouble. He had made sure that she had gotten a letter to make up for the one that had upset her so much the night before. She slowly looked up at him again and his eyes captured hers from across the room. He raised his glass of pumpkin juice to her in a silent toast. She blushed and looked back down at the letter in her lap. Once again, she had lost her appetite. Her heart was pounding too hard to think about dinner now.
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