The next day was Sunday, and according to Ginny, the former Slytherin team had booked a Quidditch practice in the afternoon. She decided (after another sleepless night) to take Ginny’s advice and go over to the Quidditch pitch at the end of the practice session and try to talk to Malfoy. She didn’t have much faith that it would go very well, but at least she would be taking some sort of action instead of staying in her room and crying. Hermione had had quite enough of that.
When she finally managed to make her way down to the Great Hall for breakfast (she was groggy from lack of sleep), Ginny was more than halfway done with her waffles. She looked at Hermione with concern as she sat down beside her. “How are you feeling?” she asked, as she watched Hermione drown her waffles in syrup.
“I’ve been better,” Hermione gave Ginny a wan smile and began to cut up her waffle into bite-size pieces. “I’ve decided to go talk to Malfoy after his team’s Quidditch practice this afternoon.”
“That sounds like a good idea.”
Hermione smiled ruefully. “Of course you would say that. It was your idea.”
“But it’s still a good one,” Ginny grinned back. “It’ll be fine, trust me.”
“Perhaps…” Hermione shrugged and took a bite of waffle. “And perhaps not,” she added after swallowing.
“Yes, but at least you’ll know the score once and for all.”
At that, Hermione’s eyes involuntarily glanced over at Malfoy’s corner of the Slytherin table. It was empty.
Ginny had followed her gaze. “He was here and left before you made it down. Fastest breakfast in Malfoy history, I’d bet.”
Hermione sighed; apparently he was trying to avoid her. This wasn’t going to be easy.
A couple of hours later, Hermione nervously headed off to the Quidditch pitch. From a distance, she watched the last half hour of practice, her eyes tracking Malfoy as he caught the snitch over and over again. He seemed separate from the rest of the team; they were all involved in working on a particular strategy, while Malfoy’s only focus was on his own game. As the Slytherin (no, she noticed that they had changed their name to Team Venom, and their robes were now primarily green and black with a large cobra as their logo) captain shouted some pointers to Malfoy, he pointedly ignored the captain and flew up high over the pitch, under the guise of looking for the snitch.
Finally, practice seemed to come to an end. The team had all congregated at the middle of the field for some last minute instructions, but Malfoy, true to his anti-social tendencies, broke away and headed towards the exit to the locker rooms. Hermione saw this as her chance and hastened towards the archway to the locker room exit, getting there just as Malfoy appeared at the other side.
When he saw her, he stopped dead in his tracks. “What are you doing here?” He asked, his tone accusatory, wary, and puzzled all at the same time.
Hermione took a deep breath. “I had to talk to you about yesterday,” she began.
He looked uncomfortable. “Granger,” he said slowly, “maybe it’s not such a good idea that we—”
“Well, well, look what we have here…what’s going on, Malfoy?” The former Slytherins had just made it to the archway and were glancing back and forth between Malfoy and Hermione with sly expressions.
Malfoy’s eyes closed in frustration and he was gripping his broom tightly enough to coax sap from the wooden handle. “Leave off, Zabini,” he said through clenched teeth.
“No, I don’t think so.” Blaise Zabini stepped in between Malfoy and Hermione with a devious sneer. The rest of the team was snickering and jeering from behind. Hermione took a step backwards; she was terribly outnumbered. Blaise looked Malfoy directly in the eye. “I never would have thought it of you, Malfoy,” he said, as he shook his head at him.
“What?” Malfoy managed in a choleric tone.
“For you, of all people to go slumming it with a mud—”
Quicker than lightning, Malfoy had punched Zabini in the mouth with such force that it knocked him to the ground. Hermione gasped in disbelief. “Aaargh!” Zabini was moaning, “I think you knocked a tooth lose Malfoy; you’ll pay for that!” His lip was split and he was bleeding profusely. Malfoy stood over him, his fists clenched in rage; Hermione was shocked into silence, and the rest of the team was staring at Malfoy in wide-eyed disbelief. Malfoy turned on them.
“Does anyone else have anything to say?” he blustered.
Without a word, the rest of the team dispersed; someone hauled Zabini up from off the ground, and within seconds the area was deserted, save for Malfoy and Hermione.
Hermione finally found the ability to speak. “You didn’t have to do that,” she breathed.
Malfoy hesitated for a moment; he seemed unsure of what to say. If Hermione didn’t know better, she’d think that he looked self-conscious. He finally shrugged and straddled his broomstick. “Whatever, Granger; consider it a parting gift.” And with that, he flew away.
“He did what?” Ginny gasped in disbelief as she sat across from Hermione on the bed. They were back in the dormitory and Hermione was filling her in with the latest turn of events.
Hermione’s eyes were downcast and she was toying with the comforter. Ginny flopped back onto the pillows and cradled her hands behind her head. “Punched out Zabini…I never would have expected that! He must really care about you—what’s the matter?” she asked, when she noticed Hermione’s expression.
“Well, after that, he just took off. He wouldn’t even let me explain what had happened outside The Three Broomsticks,” Hermione added gloomily.
“Sounds like he really has his knickers in a knot over this whole thing...who would have thought…Malfoy…” Ginny mused.
“And now I don’t know what to do,” Hermione finished, flopping onto the comforter in frustration. She pulled a pillow over her head.
Ginny smacked the pillow. Hermione grunted in protest. “Do you think this is worth salvaging?” Ginny asked the pillow.
Hermione was silent for a moment. “Yes,” she mumbled from underneath the pillow.
“Then you already know what you have to do.”
Another few moments of silence passed as Hermione considered Ginny’s words. Slowly, Hermione emerged from under the pillow with a determined look on her face. “You’re right,” she said. “And I think I have an idea.”
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