A/N: This chapter is dedicated to two of my readers/reviewers:
FutureAggie09 - Thanks for of the super constructive reviews. They were awesome and very helpful.
lalaland7 - Thanks for being the first person to favorite me as an author and for being such a steady writer of your own story. It inspires me to continue on with my own when I am feeling lazy.
Hermione came down to the Great Hall with Harry and Ron as she usually did. The previous night’s explanation went off without a hitch. With her first hand knowledge of Ron and Harry looking for her, she had her story all mapped out. It rather scared Hermione how good she was getting at making up “half-truths,” as she started calling them. She simply stated that she and the student had to go Snape’s office to drop off some work before finishing up for the night and the meeting took longer than planned. Harry nudged Ron in the ribs at the end of her story and Ron, slightly pink, made a noncommittal noise and mumbled something that Hermione did not quite catch. She thought about this as she put some porridge into her bowl and poured herself some juice.
She was quite content this morning. She had just received a piece of the puzzle known as Draco Malfoy. She was matching what he said last night against all his actions over the past year. There seemed to be a redemptive quality to them. The way he had viewed the world had been flipped upside down and now he was trying to right it again. It was an amazing revelation.
As Hermione was laughing at something Ginny was saying about her brother Charlie and a Chinese Fireball, the morning owls swooped in from every open window. She always enjoyed this part of breakfast. She rarely received any post due to the fact that she had stopped subscribing to The Daily Prophet; and being muggle born, she had nobody that used owl post besides the occasional letter from her parents. Hermione was surprised when a light gray owl with great gold eyes dropped a letter on top of her head and landed in front of her, unblinking. The owl seemed to be waiting for her to open it and this notion was confirmed by a light peck by the impatient owl. Hermione sucked on her thumb a moment before she opened the letter.
You said you wanted to “spend time” with me? OK, then, meet me tonight. By the tree, by the lake.7 p.m. Reply by this owl.
The note was unsigned, but she knew who it was from. She was extremely surprised by the letter. Firstly, she didn’t expect to even hear from, let alone see him, until Sunday when the potion would be ready for its next step. Secondly, this meeting had no pretense at all. He wanted to meet her, alone, and without a defined reason to do so. This was wholly unexpected and she hesitated in her reply. While she was very eager to see what Malfoy wanted and the fact that he had seemed to accept her offer, she was also unnerved by the timing and location. Malfoy had been very deliberate and careful with any interaction he had lately. Therefore, this went against his current pattern. Also, the location was outside the castle, far from her friends and any safety besides her wand. Not that she thought she was going to be in any danger. The owl pecked her again with a bit more force as she thought about her reply.
By now she was getting the attention of her companions at the table and before they had time to ask her who the letter was from, she scribbled off a quick OK and gave it to the bird. It flapped its large wings and soared out of the hall. She felt Malfoy’s eyes on her, but she did not look back to the Slytherin tables. She wasn’t so much afraid of his face which she was sure would be some hard expression with unreadable eyes, but of hers. She already felt her neck getting hot and she could not understand why she suddenly felt so nervous about the meeting Malfoy that evening. It feels like I about to take an exam, she thought as she pushed away her food. Her stomach was starting to do tiny flips. Nerves, she thought, just nerves from not knowing.
“Hermione, are you OK?” Ginny asked with a look of mild concerned on her face. “You look pale all of the sudden.”
“Who was that letter from?” Harry asked, “Nothing serious, I hope.”
“No, nothing serious,” she said. She looked up and smiled hoping that it would improve her complexion. “It was just letter asking me to renew my subscription to The Daily Prophet. Nothing important.”
“OK, then,” Harry said grabbing another piece of toast. Ginny furrowed her brow for a moment before shrugging and continuing her discussion about the Weasley family’s upcoming trip to Romania.
Hermione sat at the table half listening, half thinking about her upcoming meeting for a few more minutes before she excused herself from the table. She could no longer sit pleasantly and pretend to care about dragons and flying carpet rides. As she walked out of the hall, she chanced a glance at the Slytherin tables. Draco was nowhere to be seen.
She left the common room at twenty mintues to seven. She had decided to go with her tried and true alibi of studying in the library. It was Friday night so she wasn’t worried about Harry or Ron wanting to join her in color-coding her notes. To make this story even more authentic, she filled her book bag with a few of her school and causal reading books. Maybe if this meeting or whatever it was didn’t take too long, she could get some work done.
The walk down to the lake was uneventful. She was glad she wore her navy blue pea coat and red turtle neck. The grounds where unlit, but having traveled them in the dark so many times, she didn’t bother lighting her wand. Instead she enjoyed the full moon and the stillness. When she arrived at the lakeshore, she could see Malfoy already waiting. His hair and skin shone milky white in the moonlight. He was wearing all black, as was normal for him, and given his stiff posture and continuous gaze over the lake, it appeared to be deep in thought. She continued at a normal pace toward him. She did not want to appear anxious or apprehensive.
“Good evening, Malfoy,” she said once she was in hearing distance. He turned to her and nodded. His expression was relaxed and his eyes for once matched his face. In the moonlight his eyes reminded her of two pearls.
“Granger, glad you decided to come,” he said in almost a warm tone.
“Well, you asked me to,” she replied. She was a little shocked by the civility that he was showing her. He was certainly shocking her a lot lately. “Also, I am a little curious to why you asked me out here.” She hoped she didn’t sound too presumptuous.
They stood looking at one another for a few moments. Hermione tried to keep her face from looking any particular way as to not cause Draco to stop whatever he was about to do. Draco seemed to be evaluating the situation. He furrowed his brow and ran his hand threw his hair a couple of times before he finally spoke.
“Look, Granger, about last night,” he said.
“It’s OK, I –”
“No, let me talk first. Think you can do that?” Draco cut in. He said this rudely and Hermione wrinkled her nose in response, but said nothing. “I just want to say sorry for unloading on you like that. You didn’t need to hear all that and I didn’t mean to say any of that either. With that said, could you please keep that whole episode between us?” He said all this quickly and mechanically, as if he had this speech memorized.
“Yes, of course. And, if didn’t interrupt me, I was about to tell you that I didn’t share that information with anyone. It’s your business, Malfoy. I am just glad you can trust me with it.”
“Trust? Gryffindors are supposed to be trustworthy, right? Or is that Hufflepuff?” Hermione rolled her eyes.
“Yes, Malfoy, you can trust me. I haven’t let you down so far, have I?”
“The fact is, Granger, that I don’t trust anyone,” he said, “Don’t take it personally; it’s just a trait that I have never developed.” Hermione was impressed with this statement. It was a candid, honest thing to say.
“No offense taken. I get it. It’s not like I ever said I trusted you either,” she said with a shrug.
“Good. It’s probably for the best that you don’t,” Draco said looking piercingly into her eyes. It was like he was trying to warn her against something.
“OK, Malfoy, I get it. You have trust issues. That’s alright, but I do want you to know that I am sincere in wanting us to be friends and wanting to spend time with you.” Hermione tried to look and sound as earnest as possible as she said this.
“There you go again with the whole ‘friends’ thing. Why on earth do you want to bother being friends with me? I’ve thought about it and I honestly don’t get it.” His expression was completely sincere as he said this, but he folded his arms protectively over his body. It was obvious that he was confused with the situation.
“It’s fairly simple to understand, as I have already told you before.” Now it was time for Draco to roll his eyes. “I have decided that you are worth knowing, Malfoy. You have changed over the past year and definitely for the better. You saved my life when you did not need to and, when we are not fighting, we do seem to get along fairly well. Do you need any more reasons or will that list suffice for now?” she said with conviction in her voice. She too had thought about why she was even bothering with trying to get to know him. These were the primary reasons sans the whole puzzle aspect.
Draco looked a little shocked. His pale eyebrows were raised and lips were slightly apart.
“Well, alright then,” he stated breaking the silence, “I suppose that list will do. But, tell me this, what are the conditions of our so-called friendship?”
“What, do you mean?” Hermione asked with a slight tilt of her head.
“I mean is this a secret friendship? Are we going to have a special code and handshake? Or are we going to become study buddies and eat lunch together?” Draco cocked his head back and looked down at her with a self satisfied smirk on his face.
“Would you like to go skipping hand-in-hand down to Hogsmead? We could share a butterbeer and everything. Would that work for you?” she replied calling his bluff. From his previous reaction about her friends knowing about them working together, she knew he was testing her.
“Oh, aren’t we being sarcastic all of the sudden? I guess I must be rubbing off on you,” he said. She gave him an exasperated look. “No, I don’t think I would like to skip down to Hogsmead with you. The damage of my reputation and the elevation of yours would be too much to bear.”
“Right. . .Anyway, so are we agreed to be friends and hang out, for lack of a better way of saying it?” Hermione said.
Draco hesitated. There was no more humor in him. “Are you sure, Granger? I mean it. You truly want us to be friends? To have a relationship outside of loathing or academics? I am not sure it’s a good idea. I am still me regardless of what you say or think.”
Hermione didn’t know what he meant by that last part, but she didn’t want to think about it just yet.
“Yes, I am serious. Look, it’s not like we need to set up dates and make plans. We will just continue with how we are now, but maybe hang out a bit after our potion project and/or just talk. It doesn’t have to be all serious.”
“Alright, fine,” he reached out his hand to her. She took it. It felt warm. “but don’t say I didn’t warn you.”
A/N: Another chapter complete. Yay! It feels like a filler to me, but it was a bridge I needed to make. I hope you enjoyed it. The pace will pick up soon, I promise.
Thanks to all of you that are taking the time read my story and those who take the time to review my story. You rock!