Walking all the way to Charms classroom was like a stroll on the clouds up in heaven where the angels sang a chorus of melodies and the cherubs played their harps without a care about the sins of the world.
Or, as Draco would have simply put it, walking all the way to Charms classroom was pure F-U-N indeed.
He passed by the Great Hall… well, passed by was a kind way to describe it. He actually rounded up all the possible routes that he could in order to see again and again the spectacle he had made the day before, and by God… he was proud of himself. So proud, in fact, that this display of Granger’s public assertion of interest in him would go down in history as the most ingenious, well crafted, and well carried out scheme he’d ever had. And considering the pranks he pulled off on Longbottom, Potter, Weasley, and all the other poor unsuspecting souls in Hogwarts… that was saying a lot.
Draco had a very difficult time keeping a smirk off his face but he did all he could to restrain it. Instead, he pasted a compassionate look that the others would interpret as the expression on the face of a person that had to turn down a love confession made to him. Oh, what he would give to have Granger’s look of horror emblazoned in his memory for the rest of his life… that would surely lift his spirits whenever he needed a little pick-me-up every now and then!
Heaving a sigh of disappointment as he left the Great Hall for the thirtieth time that morning, Draco finally headed towards the dance practice. The disappointment, however, turned to delight as he realized that this was the morning he’d be seeing the downfall of Hermione Granger, since practically the entire student body was buzzing about her outrageousness and he knew for sure that the seventh year students would never let her forget it. And with him being there, holding her tantalizingly close and pretending to be the wizard-in-damned-expensive-robes who would save her dignity while humiliating her to the point of her death at the same time was just too delicious a chance to miss.
“Mr. Malfoy,” Flitwick’s squeaky voice, as well as a number of murmurs from his classmates, greeted him as he walked in. “We’re so glad you finally came to join us. In the center please… Miss Granger, take your position with Mr. Malfoy, that’s it…”
Draco saw her rise from her seat and walk towards him, her expression far from being glad. He glanced around and saw that most of his housemates and their partners were on their feet and practicing, and it hit him that she’d been sent to the corner, alone, to wait for him to show up. Icing on the cake, he thought, smiling at her and coaxing a pretty scowl in return.
When she finally got to his side a series of sounds like *cough*dumped!*cough*, *cough*turneddown!*cough*, and *cough*shameonyou!*cough* met their ears, though he knew the words were not directed at him. Granger stubbornly lifted her chin and arrogantly met his gaze, and he couldn’t help but notice the lovely shade of red her cheeks were wearing. She was probably scrapping the last remnants of dignity from her well of pride as she stood by him. “How are you this morning?” he asked nicely, taking a hand that was surprisingly cold. “I trust that you slept well?”
She bit her lip, and then glanced at Flitwick before coming back with, “Like a baby.”
The dark circles under her eyes proved her statement wrong, but he didn’t pursue that. Draco let out a slow grin. “Mind your manners, Granger. Aren’t you going to ask me how my night was?”
“Like I give a shi—“
“—it was fantastic,” he continued, turning her around against him and resting his palms over her waist like what Flitwick instructed. Ah. The fun part had begun. “My dreams were filled with little hearts and rose petals that reminded me of your… shall we say, ‘Proclamation of Lurve’ for me, and—“
“You know very well I didn’t do it,” she whispered, her hips moving left and right. “You’re totally demented to think that I—“
“Well it doesn’t really matter what you think, does it?” he retorted, twirling her twice. “It’s all about what the others think of you… and frankly, after the display yesterday I would love to know what these thoughts are.”
“You sneaky little piece of crap!” she breathed, capping her statement with a brutal squeezing of his hand. Granger shot another look at Flitwick and then performed the cross-step-cross movements they’d been doing since forever. “Even if you’re the last wizard in this world and I have a killing curse aimed at my throat, I would never ask you to be my date for the Graduation Ball. Everybody knows that.”
Well that stung. Hermione Granger truly had an artistic flare with words. His expression hardened at her heartfelt expression of distaste. “You’re wrong,” he told her simply, pushing her away with a little too much force than what was required. “What everybody knows is that you did ask me to be your date and I turned you down.”
She nearly stumbled but quickly regained her balance. Her face contorted into pure rage and he thought she was ready to claw his eyes out, but fortunately Flitwick’s clapping brought her to her senses.
“Excellent. Just excellent.” The clapping resounded again. “I’m fully satisfied… a few more sessions and you’ll all be ready to perform! Marvelous!”
Some of the other students clapped as well. Draco glanced at Granger and found her taking deep breaths, obviously trying to calm herself down.
“Tomorrow I will be giving you the entire morning off for some much needed free time,” Flitwick announced, and this was met with a louder cheering and whistling from the class. The miniscule professor held up a miniscule hand and squeaked, “but our practice will resume on the day after that, and since the Graduation Ball is only two weeks away I will be firmer and more demanding of you. That’s it then, you may go! Oh, except for Mr. Malfoy and Miss Granger. A word, please.”
The sounds of shuffling feet and ceasing murmurs crowded the small room as the others left. Draco caught some whispers here and there, mostly the usual “I’ll kill you Malfoy!” from Weasley coupled with “Die Malfoy die!” from Potter and the “I’m going to buy new robes today!” from Pansy with the “I think Harry just groped me!” from Blaise.
He couldn’t decide yet which statement was the most ridiculous so he decided that all of them were ridiculous and left it at that.
“Yes, Professor?” Granger intoned when they were the only ones left in the classroom.
Flitwick adjusted his glasses and looked at them. “First of all, I would like to tell you, Mr. Malfoy, that I did not appreciate your coming in late today.” He focused on him. “You should’ve sent word to me or to Miss Granger so that she didn’t have to wait long for your arrival.”
I’d rather drown in my own blood. Draco blinked and put on his most innocent expression. “I’m sorry, Professor,” he said. “It’s just that I was really feeling bad earlier this morning and I… well I had to make an effort to drag myself off my bed because I knew how important this practice was. I truly apologize for my tardiness, sir.” He turned to Granger. “I’m sorry, Hermione. I would never do it again.”
“Very well,” the professor said, ignoring Granger and smiling. “Though you were only able to practice some of the routines you both did extremely well today, and I think that you are truly worthy to be placed at the center. The spotlight will be on you two!”
Draco tried to look ready to vomit when inside he felt really elated. Granger, on the other hand, tried to look elated when she really was ready to vomit.
“Also, I received word from Professors McGonagall and Snape that you two are our valedictorians this year, and I can’t say I’m surprised. You both deserve it. Congratulations!” He took their hands and shook them fanatically. Draco had to hand it to Flitwick; he really was a sport. From what he heard, in the past the valedictorians usually came from Ravenclaw but this year, well… a Slytherin and a Gryffindor beat them to it. Ha.
“I would have you know that garnering this honor gives you the chance to be interviewed for our newly-established school paper,” the professor continued, pushing his glasses up the bridge of his nose. “The interview will take place at precisely three this afternoon inside this classroom. Padma Patil – I’m sure you both know her – will conduct the interview that will be published as soon as possible.”
Draco said, “Excellent.” To be honest he’d rather plot against Granger – scheming was fun, especially the part where he was visualizing her humiliation - but he wouldn’t dare pass an opportunity to reinforce the knowledge of how (ahem) truly great, amazing, and exceptionally talented Draco Malfoy was. After all, not only the students read the paper but also their parents, friends, relatives…
It was a disgrace that he had to share the limelight with Granger, but still. Limelight. Duh.
“Excuse me sir,” she suddenly said, a light in her eyes and a smile on her face, “did you just say that we’re going to be interviewed today and this interview will be published in the school paper and circulated as soon as possible?”
Flitwick nodded. “I hope you’d be available for that.”
“Oh,” she said, nodding her bushy head like crazy, “I wouldn’t dare miss it for the world.”
Alarm bells resounded inside Draco’s head, but he ignored that. After all, she couldn’t really do anything to him again because a) he ordered Goyle to screen his owls (he wasn’t exactly in speaking terms with Crabbe because of the whole – ahem – seizure incident) and b) he ordered the latest version of SneakoscopeTM that would guard him from all known plotting against him. Granted, the merchandise hadn’t arrived yet, but still. He was on the lookout.
“Very well,” Flitwick said. “You’re both dismissed.”
Granger walked in front of him and he followed; there was a bounce in her step that he couldn’t ignore. “For someone who’d been dumped you look extremely elated,” he pointed out.
She whirled to face him and instead of a frown there was a dazzling grin on her face that he thought was rather striking. “It’s just that I feel so excited about the upcoming interview,” she said, eyes twinkling and hands clutching each other. “You should too, you know.”
“Why? What are you going to do to me?”
She blinked innocently and said, “I’ve absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.”
Granger oh-so-delicately snorted. “My, my, Malfoy. Becoming a bit paranoid, hmm? Well, maybe you do have a right to be suspicious, because… oh, but telling you would spoil my fun. See you!”
“See you this afternoon, luv!” he called out, and he was rewarded with a look that would have frozen his conscience if ever he had one. Draco shook his head and decided to walk back to his room to prepare for the interview. But his feet brought him instead to the Great Hall… and he spent a good thirty minutes silently congratulating himself for a job excellently done.
Finally, he entered the Slytherin Common Room. He was immediately assaulted by a shrieking Blaise, whose shrieks resembled a Mandrake’s and were just as deadly. “Blaise,” he said quietly, “shut up.”
Miraculously, she did, and Draco found himself at the receiving end of many pats and thank-yous from Slytherins who weren’t brave enough to silence the banshee.
“Oh my God, Draco!!!” shrieked Blaise again, and soon the common room was devoid of other Slytherin students. Draco cursed his luck for being one of the two who remained. “You won’t believe what happened to me today!!!”
“Let me guess,” he said tonelessly. “Potter groped you?”
She nodded enthusiastically. “Oh my God!!! It felt like I died and went to heaven!!! You should’ve seen it!!! It was unbelievable!!!”
Do let’s punctuate each sentence with three exclamation points, he thought, wincing as she launched into a mucus-y tale filled with screeches and squeals of how the Famous Harry Potter ‘accidentally’ touched her on her…
Well, he wasn’t really listening, so he didn’t know where the stupid git touched her. Not that he cared anyway.
“It was really fleeting, but I swear on The Dark Lord’s grave that he—“
“Blaise,” he cut in, giving her a threatening look, “I don’t really give a damn.”
The other Slytherin promptly shut her mouth, and then marched out of the common room. A minute later her shrieks were heard again, thankfully very faint and distant.
Draco exhaled loudly, and then plopped himself down a chair. He grabbed a book entitled Eight Thousand Highly Effective Habits of Highly Successful Wizards and Witches by I.M. Arichbich (the chs were pronounced as ks, he was told) and engrossed himself on Tip Number Four: How to outsmart the people who bested you before.
Before he knew it, he’d already spent hours reading the book. He looked up when he heard the heavy door open and close. He grimaced as he saw Pansy enter the room with a very curios and questioning look on her face, scrutinizing each part of the room as though she hadn’t spent seven years living there. Not noticing that she was being watched, Pansy went to one corner and immediately inspected a bookshelf that was quietly resting and hadn’t been touched by anyone other than Draco. “What are you doing?” he asked, and immediately she dropped the book she took out.
“Err…” She hastily picked up and pushed the book inside. “I was just… looking around,” she said, turning to face him. Pansy’s eyes were riveted to the book he was holding and she brightened. “Oh! I also have that book in my—“
Draco raised his brows. “You read?”
Pansy looked outraged. “Of course I do, you arrogant bast— I mean, of course, Draco dear. I perfected the Potions exam, didn’t I?”
“One of these days,” he said, closing the book and standing up, “you’re going to tell me how you did it. Unfortunately that day won’t be today because I still have loads to do – prepare my valedictory address, humiliate Granger – you know, very important things.”
“Speaking of Granger,” Pansy said, sliding next to him, “did you do the whole display at the Great Hall?”
Draco frowned at her. Something was wrong with Pansy today… well, something always was but today it was extraordinarily blatant. Her tone, her stance, the uncanny presence of intelligence in her normally vacant eyes… “Pansy,” he said patiently, “how many times do I have to tell you that muggle nail polish isn’t a drink. You were supposed to—“
He stopped when she burst out laughing. “I’m… I’m sorry…” she said in between each horrible giggle. “It’s just that… that… ahem.” Pansy wiped tears from her eyes and then straightened herself. “You were saying?”
“You’re acting really strange today,” he muttered, walking away from her.
“Malf—I mean, Draco dear, wait up!” she called. He stopped and looked at her expectantly. “All right, I’ll get out of your sight only if you answer my initial question. Now did you?” she asked, her voice suspiciously vehement.
Draco rolled his eyes. “Of course I didn’t.”
She looked shocked. “You… didn’t?”
Merlin, this woman was dense. She vaguely reminded him of Granger. “Are you daft?” He paused. “Wait. Stupid question. Have you forgotten? I paid some lower years to do it for me, and—“
“I knew it!” she exclaimed. Then, catching hold of herself she said, “I mean, of course I knew it, I was just… um… trying to see if you knew that I knew… and… err…”
A very uncomfortable silence surfaced. His opinion of Pansy, though not high, certainly wasn’t in Weasley’s or Potter’s level. Now it was on the brink of descending to that. “If I didn’t know better, I’ll swear you’re not Pansy,” he stated.
A faint blush crept up her cheeks, and again Draco was hit with an image of Granger, though he couldn’t fathom why it did. While he was immersed in his thoughts Pansy grabbed hold of his nape and pulled him towards her. Their lips meshed and it took him a few minutes to get away. “Bloody hell, Parkinson! What the hell do you think you’re doing?!” he sputtered.
She flashed him a brilliant smile. “You’ll see.” And she was gone, a bounce in her step evident as she walked out the room.
Draco tried to collect his wits after the whole incident. How odd was that! He knew that Pansy wanted something to happen between them but he also knew she also knew that that something was never going to happen between them, so—
“Dra-co!” The door opened again and, again, Pansy emerged from it, carrying dozens of bags that wore the emblem of different muggle brands. “Oh, I’m so glad I caught you. Mother told me to give you this—“
“Where did you get those?” he demanded, thoroughly confused.
She blinked. “What?”
“You were here a moment ago, and you didn’t have those bags,” he elaborated. Draco wiped his mouth with his sleeve. “You even kissed me.”
Pansy’s expression immediately darkened. “One, I spent the entire lunch hour shopping.” She lifted the bags as evidence. “And two, I didn’t kiss you.” She snorted. “Like you’d let me.”
She went to him and placed a hand over his forehead. “Are you okay? Have you had your lunch? Well it’s almost three, and if you didn’t—“
“Three?!” he repeated, rushing towards the door. He almost forgot the interview for the paper! Draco wished he had his broomstick with him, but he didn’t so he concentrated on running all the way. Ten minutes later, and he was catching his breath in front of the door.
A sharp tap alerted him and he turned to see Granger at his side. “Are you okay?”
What do you care? “No. I think that someone, I’ve no idea who, used a potion and transformed herself to Pansy to kiss me.”
She blinked at his answer. He blinked at his answer. “Um, what?” she asked.
Bloody freaking hell! “I said, I think that someone wanted to kiss me so badly—“
Granger held up a hand. “That’s enough, thank you.” Then, she grinned. “Did you do the whole display at the Great Hall?”
He was taken aback by the question. Of course not. “I paid some third years to do it.” Bloody freaking hell! Did I just tell her the truth?
She patted his arm. “That’s all I wanted to hear, Draco dear.”
He stilled as his blood chilled. “It was you,” he whispered, his temper and blood pressure rising. “You were the one who impersonated Pansy and you…” Suddenly, a slow smile made his mouth widen. “You kissed me.”
“One major setback,” she admitted, frowning. “It was necessary for my plan to work.”
Alarm bells rang uselessly inside his brain. Stupid bells. “What plan?”
“You’ll see.” She looked past him and waved. “Hi, Padma!”
The Ravenclaw waved back. “I’m sorry I’m late. Were you waiting long?”
“No.” clashed with “Yes.”
Patil looked at him. “Oh I’m sorry I made you wait, Malfoy.”
“No you’re not.”
“No,” she admitted with a wink at Granger. “I’m not.”
“Let’s go inside,” Granger said, pushing the door open.
Patil went inside, and before Granger could he pulled her arm back towards him. “What did you do to me?” he demanded.
She smiled dazzlingly. “I just felt some dash of truth in your interview wouldn’t hurt a bit. After all, the school paper won’t be credible when it’s full of your flattering lies would it?”
“It won’t.” His hold on her tightened as the awful truth hit him. Draco snarled, “If something happens because of this—“
Granger yanked her arm out of his hold. “Trust me,” she said, “something will.”
“All right,” the Ravenclaw said once Draco and Granger were seated at the front. “Now I’m going to ask you several questions, and that—“ She pointed at a quill and several layers of paper on a table, “will take all your answers. We will print everything verbatim, and we won’t edit anything out… except the ‘ums’ and ‘errs’ of course.” She grabbed a piece of paper and read from it. “Now for the first question: what did you feel after you learned that you will graduate with the highest honor in our class? Hermione?”
Granger smiled (like it was going to be taped, he thought with a grimace) and said, “I felt really blessed and grateful that all my years of hard work and perseverance finally paid off. It is such an honor and I feel proud of myself for this accomplishment.”
“And you, Draco?”
This was relatively an easy question to answer. “I felt that finally I was being given an honor that was robbed from me several times over.” Crap. “Actually, I think it’s only fair that I become the valedictorian. I truly deserve it because of my extraordinary good looks and skills.”
Granger was sniggering on her seat. Patil was quiet, looking at him with wide eyes. “That was… truly modest of you,” she commented dryly. “Now, next question… what moment or memory in Hogwarts do you consider as your best?”
“Um… I’d have to say the time when Harry won the Quidditch Cup for us Gryffindors,” she answered with a fond smile.
He frowned as the truth poured from him. “This is a pathetic question. Of course the best moment for me was when I learned that I was a valedictorian. How unfortunate for me that I had to share the honor with a Muggleborn, but still. Honor. Duh.”
“And the worst?”
“Well… I don’t think I have an experience I consider as the worst because—“
“Oh come on, now who’s full of crap?”
Two heads whirled to face him. “Excuse me?” Granger asked.
He turned to face her. “You wanted the truth? You got it.” He looked at the Ravenclaw. “Mine was when I was turned into a ferret by that idiot professor. I’m sure everybody considers that as their best, but for me it was a humiliating, totally degrading experience that I would kill to remove from my perfect existence.”
Patil looked like she was keeping herself from laughing. “Next question: Who is the person you consider your role model?”
“My parents,” Granger answered without a second thought.
“Myself,” Draco answered without a second thought.
“And the person you dedicate this honor to?”
“And what do you want to do after graduation?”
“Um…” Granger twisted her fingers around. “Actually, I’m torn because a part of me wants to be an auror, while the other wants to become a professor here at Hogwarts. I guess it’ll depend on what offer comes first.”
He was silent for a whole minute, fighting within himself to keep his mouth shut. Must. Not. Talk. Must. Not. Reveal— “I want to model for Witch Weekly.” Note to self: tomorrow I commit suicide, make it look like murder.
“Very ambitious,” retorted Granger. “I’m sure that’ll happen in the near future.”
Correction: make it look like Granger murdered me. He cradled his head in his hands. “Shut up. If you must know, I got an offer and I am seriously considering it.”
“Well,” she said amicably, “they must be pretty desperate if they want you on their cover.”
Patil grinned in a very annoying way. “Final question: What can you say about each other? Especially since this whole graduation event throws you together often, with the dance, the speech…”
“Well,” Granger started with a glance at him, “as much as I am reluctant to reveal it, I think that Malf—err, Draco, deserve to be a valedictorian because I can’t deny for a fact that he is a brilliant student. I congratulate him for a job well done.” She then turned her attention to him.
“I…” want to murder her. A slow, excruciatingly painful death through strangulation would be nice. It’ll save me the trouble of having her around. “I think that Hermione Granger also deserves the honor because she is indeed very intelligent. Nobody else – except me, of course – would be fitting to claim the title. And she is definitely at par with me in dancing. I truly think that we are a perfect match in every possible way.”
At the end of his answer, two mouths were gaping open: Granger’s and his. Holy mother of Merlin, I can’t believe I just said that! Bloody stupid spell, stupid interview, stupid Pansy, stupid Granger! Bloody bleeding hell! I’m going to die! And I’m going to take her with me!
“All right!” Patil said cheerily. “I think we got it all covered. Thank you very much for an entertaining interview.” And she packed her little things and went off frolicking into the damned sunshine.
“Um…” Granger said when they were alone. “Well, um…”
“Just go,” he said weakly. “You must be oh-so-happy you got your revenge. By the time that paper’s published, I’ll be the laughingstock of the entire wizarding world.”
She bit her lip. “You deserve it for making me look like an idiot,” she retorted, though not as strong as before.
“Go,” he repeated. “Leave me alone.”
Granger nodded, but before she took a step she said, “What I said was also the truth, if that helps.” And she was gone.
The morning that followed a not-so-perfect afternoon brought him a copy of the Hogwarts’ Howlers and a very real, very angry howler from his own mother.