Chapter 15 : The Countdown
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There were only two days to worry about before the first Hogsmeade weekend of the school year. They seemed to fly by, marked only by Malfoy’s subtle teasing whenever he encountered her in class or in the Great Hall. Usually, Hermione was the only one who was aware of it, and she was glad. Mainly due to the fact that she didn’t want any more false rumors to get out—she would rather the truth be known, but at the proper time—but also, she found that she enjoyed having a little something that was just between herself and Malfoy.
The first evening when she went to the Great Hall for dinner, she found Ginny at a table surrounded by her Quidditch teammates. “Hermione!” she called. “I want to show you something. I know you’re not all that into Quidditch, but I thought you might appreciate this. We had to come up with our own team name and logo being as we don’t have House teams anymore, and this is what we decided on.” She showed Hermione a bright red banner with a silver figure on it. Hermione read the banner aloud. “The Silver Stags.”
Ginny had named the team after Harry’s Patronus. “Ginny, that’s beautiful. What a perfect name.” She was deeply touched, and very happy for Harry—Ginny truly loved him, and she knew that he felt the same way about Ginny. She just hoped that they wouldn’t both hate her when she told them about—
Just then, a letter from the owl post dropped onto Hermione’s lap. It had a drawing of a dragon on the envelope. Speak of the devil, she thought with a combination of exasperation and excitement. Luckily, one of her Quidditch teammates had asked Ginny a question, so Ginny didn’t notice that Hermione had received a letter, let alone see her tear it open.
It has occurred to me that as Head Girl, isn’t it up to you to assign patrol duty to yourself and the rest of us Prefects? I know a couple of deserted hallways we could check out this evening, if you know what I mean.
Hermione felt her face flood with color. She quickly folded up the note and tucked it into her robes. Her eyes darted over to the Slytherin table where Draco Malfoy was watching her with an evil smirk. He raised his eyebrows at her as if to say, Well?
Just then, she was interrupted by Michael Corner, the Head Boy. “Hey, Granger,” Corner was saying, “We should probably start assigning patrol duty to the prefects…we haven’t really gotten on that yet and it’s high time we did.”
Hermione narrowed her eyes. “Oh, really?” The timing was just a little too perfect. “And who gave you that idea?”
“Believe it or not, Draco Malfoy. Seems the chap’s finally decided to start taking his prefect duties seriously…”
And on and on it went. Most of the time, Hermione refrained from sitting next to Malfoy in class, but once or twice her curiosity and Malfoy’s allure were a bit too strong for her and she found herself in the seat next to his. Besides, he seemed to act out less when she was sitting next to him. Class would run quite smoothly with only the occasional nudge to her foot or tug on her hair when she wasn’t looking. Hermione convinced herself that the reason why she sat next to Malfoy was to keep him out of trouble, but if she were to be brutally honest, she would have to admit that it was getting more and more difficult for her to keep her distance from him. He was infuriating, he was cocky, he was insolent, but he was also forthright, considerate, and not to mention, terribly attractive.
Friday afternoon as she was packing up her books after Charms (she had been sitting with Ginny on that occasion, but at this point the class had cleared out), Malfoy came up behind her. “Granger,” he breathed into her ear.
“Oh, what now?” she said in an exasperated tone of voice. It was now more of a game between them—he tried to see how long it would take to get her all worked up; she held him off as long as possible.
“Just how long do you plan on taking to break the news to Potter and the Weasels? Is this going to tie up the entire day, or will you have time for…other things?”
She turned to face him with her hand on her hip and a pretend scowl on her face. “I haven’t seen Harry or Ron for a couple of weeks now. Why would I leave them to be with you?” she said in her haughtiest manner.
“Because I’m the only person you know with a real personality, that’s why. Not to mention the fact that I’m ridiculously handsome.”
“Do you believe everything your Mum tells you, Malfoy?”
“Stop blabbering and answer the question.”
“Well, I really do want to spend time with Harry and Ron, but at one point I’m sure Harry will want to be alone with Ginny, and Ron…well…” He would probably be upset with her and want some time alone, Hermione suspected.
“So I suppose I’ll be free later in the afternoon…”
He stepped in even closer to her, a predatory smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Right…and when would that be?”
Hermione found it difficult to concentrate with him standing so close. “Er…around three o’clock, I suppose?”
“Fine. Meet me in the side alleyway by The Three Broomsticks at three, then,” he leaned in and gave her earlobe a gentle nip with his teeth. She shivered with delight.
As she watched him saunter out of the classroom, she thought, I should be worried about breaking the news to Harry, Ron and Ginny. I should be concerned about how Ron’s going to handle the news. I should be agonizing over the fact that I might ruin three of the closest relationships that I have ever had in my entire life with what I’m going to tell them tomorrow. But I’m not. I should be, but I’m not.
The bottom line was, Hermione was happy for the first time in quite a while, and she had finally decided that it was something worth having, and she wasn’t going to give it up.
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