Chapter 2 : Small Comfort
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With another shudder at his own shameful behavior, Draco fell back onto his bed, his head burrowed deeply into the down pillow. If his father ever found out what had happened, well, Draco would be as good as dead.
After he had showed such weakness that a dirty Mudblood pitied him, and after he had, for some reason that he couldn’t bloody think of now, actually hugged her, he quickly ran from the room when he came to his senses enough to realize what he was doing, and who he was touching. But apparently he hadn’t regained enough sense to pick up the bloody wand that he had idiotically dropped when Granger had touched him, and left it on the floor of the classroom where Granger stood as he ran out like a cowardly fool.
But that was what he was, wasn’t it? Too scared to finish off Granger, and too stupid to keep his wits about him. Too weak to keep his emotions to himself, and too dirtied by the touch of a Mudblood to be of any use to anyone. That was what his father would say, he knew. He always complained of weakness in his son, but Draco had seen his father grovel at the feet of the Dark Lord, and didn’t feel his father was any different from himself. He was too scared to stand up to his boss, but too ambitious to leave his side.
Anyway, why did Draco always have to be “of use” to someone? He was always being used – by Snape, by his father, and by the Dark Lord himself. Unwillingly, he recalled the words that Granger had said to him only hours earlier.
“You can be protected by people who will care about you, not just use you as an unwilling pawn in their schemes,” she had said in what he now saw as a desperate attempt to save her own life. A desperate attempt that, he realized unhappily, had worked.
She couldn’t have been serious. She was bluffing, saying that some people wouldn’t just want to use him. People like that didn’t exist – by their nature, everyone wanted something, and Draco was a convenient way to get it. The Order of the Phoenix would just use him for information on the Dark Lord, or as a spy, and he would simply be working as a tool for the other side.
He was sure Granger had been lying to buy herself time. Talking of “people who will care about you,” and all that… who would learn to care about him, anyway? His mother cared, as his mother she had to, but that seemed to be it. It’s not like suddenly Potter’s going to be spoon-feeding me porridge, now is he? Draco thought sarcastically.
But, he realized with a jolt, he didn’t really have time for such speculations at the moment. He was currently hiding, wandless, in the Room of Requirement, lying on a small but comfortable bed that he had received in answer to his request for “a place to sleep for the night where no one will find me.”
He couldn’t possibly leave the room, what with the school crawling with Potter and Friends, and going home to the Malfoy Manor was certainly not an option. He knew that his father, the Dark Lord, and all the other Death Eaters would be waiting for his arrival and news, after hearing from Snape, of how many of Potter’s little friends he finished off. He didn’t suppose they would take kindly to his showing up without his wand and with no explanation to why he didn’t kill anyone in the entire night.
No, he would have to stay right here, at least for now. He would have left the school if he hadn’t had to deal with the issue of getting his wand back. He was sure that the mudblood Granger would have pocketed it by now, and given it to her beloved Potter as a reward or something, but he wanted to check the classroom just in case.
Glancing quickly at his watch to ensure that most people in the school would be asleep – he hoped – Draco heaved himself off the bed. He crept silently toward the door and opened it slowly, hoping it wouldn’t creak. It didn’t, and after looking around and seeing nobody in the corridor, he eased himself out of the room and closed the door behind him. He moved swiftly and silently throughout the school, which still had some Order members patrolling around, perhaps looking for any leftover Death Eaters, but luckily the classroom wasn’t far. When he reached the room, he opened the door slowly as to make as little sound as possible, and heard someone coming behind him. Quickly he stepped inside, closing the door without bothering to check
that the room was empty.
He turned around, looking for his wand, and instead saw Granger sitting on a desk in the empty classroom, his wand by her side. His instinct was to hex her, but he didn’t even have his wand. He couldn’t see her face, which was hidden in her hands, but she was hunched over and looked much smaller than she usually did. His anger subsided and was replaced by curiosity at the sight of the normally know-it-all mudblood looking, for some reason, quite frail.
As he stepped forward to see what she was doing, he heard her emit a tiny sob, and quickly stepped back to leave, forgetting all about his wand, and feeling extremely awkward. She had seen him crying, and now he witnessed her. But unfortunately, in his hurry to get away, he clattered clumsily into a desk, making her look up in surprise. Her eyes were red and her face was tearstained, but other than that she looked no different than usual.
“Malfoy,” she said quietly in apparent surprise. “What are you…?” Her gaze fell on the wand she had set on the desk next to her and realized the answer to her question. She gave a tiny nod before covering her face back up with her hands.
“Er…” Draco had never cared for Granger, but felt awkward nonetheless. He was about to ask her if she was okay, but instead said brusquely, “What are you doing in here?”
Gathering her composure, Granger looked back up. “Is it not obvious, Malfoy?” she glared. “I suppose you don’t care about Dumbledore’s death, seeing as you caused it.”
He felt a wave of guilt at hearing that comment. He was responsible for the headmaster’s death, and was, though he hated to admit it to himself, feeling awful about it. Dumbledore was always there, steady as a rock for the entirety of Hogwarts. Draco remembered Dumbledore’s last words to him, offering help, hours, years ago. He remembered why he was immersed in sadness – because Dumbledore was gone. He couldn’t admit it to his father or any other Death Eaters, but he felt hollow without the thought of that one last strong force of protection in Hogwarts. He felt so terrible, and the worst part was that he couldn’t even tell anyone – not even his mother.
After a long pause during which Draco pondered this, he became more and more frustrated with his situation, in which he was bombarded with pain and misery but forced to simply swallow the emotions.
“You’re wrong, Granger,” he blurted out loudly. He probably should have stopped himself, but now that he had told someone of how he felt, he felt much better.
“What?” she asked incredulously. Was this some sort of sick joke?
“You think you know everything, don’t you, you bloody know-it-all. Well, you don’t. You don’t know anything.”
“So what you’re saying is…” she said slowly. “You actually feel bad that Dumbledore’s…” she trailed off before finishing, “dead?”
He frowned. “Yeah. Yeah I do. What of it, Granger?” He was vaguely aware that he was being stupid, childish, but it felt so good to be able to tell someone, anyone, about the guilty feelings that he had harbored.
She smiled a perverse, sad little smile. “You know, Malfoy,” she said. “You’ve always been such a coward.” He looked away angrily.
“But now,” she continued. “For the first time in your life, you’re being a man. Merlin,” she murmured incredulously.
He stared at her as she sat on the desk. She thought he was a man for admitting that he felt bad about the old man’s death? He felt like he had been thrust into an alternate universe. Maybe she was playing some sort of joke on him.
“No, really,” she said, seeing his expression. “Like your idiot father’s ever been brave enough to feel remorse.”
“Shut up about my father,” he snapped reflexively, before realizing that she was right. His father was the biggest coward he knew.
She looked out the window as he stood silently, leaning on the desk he had bumped up against. His eyes trained themselves on her face, which had been amused but now seemed rather anguished. As she stared at the window tears began to roll down her face once more, though she quickly brushed them away.
“What are you crying in here for, anyway?” he asked loudly, just to break the silence.
She looked back at him, her eyes full of sadness. “I didn’t want to bother Harry or Ron, if you must know,” she retorted.
Draco was confused. The three of them had always been attached at the hip, he recalled irritably. Weren’t they all in love with each other?
“Shouldn’t they be comforting you or something?” he blurted. “Isn’t that what friends do?” he asked with bitter sarcasm.
“They have other things to worry about,” she replied simply.
Draco felt angry. She was supposed to have someone always comforting her, wasn’t she? The bloody Mudblood always had friends by her side. The thought that her stupid friends, who were world-renown for their loyalty, and friendship, and love and all that bloody nonsense, were not even living up to their angelic reputations irritated him.
“Well, you should have someone comforting you,” he said, thinking aloud.
She looked at him, eyebrows raised. He winced inwardly at how that had come out – it sounded like he wanted to comfort her, which he didn’t. But why did she look so surprised, anyway? Oh, because her friends were so noble and self-sacrificing or whatever, whereas he was the scum of the earth? A loser like him would never be able to comfort someone, was that what she thought? Just like his father, thinking that he was of no use to anyone. Well, he wasn’t. He could comfort someone if he wanted to.
His mind set, though perhaps his wits weren’t completely about him, he stepped forward until he was next to her desk. Granger had gone back to staring out the window, and jumped, startled, when he rigidly placed a hand on her hunched shoulder.
She looked up at him incredulously, but didn’t say anything. He was looking down at her fiercely, determined, and moved his arm so that it wrapped awkwardly around her shoulder. Granger had gone back to looking out the window. Apparently he was lousy at this “comforting” thing. No. He could do better. He would comfort her so much that she would be beaming as she waltzed out of the classroom.
Determined to try again, he stepped in front of her and lifted her chin up with his fingers.
“It’s gonna be okay,” he said reassuringly as she looked up at his face in shock. He pushed a few strands of hair back from her face and stroked her cheek with his pale fingers.
“What the hell are you doing, Malfoy?” Granger jumped up as she snapped. “I don’t know what you’re playing at, but it’s sick. Here’s your bloody wand.” She thrust it at him. He looked down at it, taking, remembering suddenly why he had ventured here.
“Have fun with your Death Eater friends,” she spat before turning and storming out of the room, leaving Draco there, holding his wand loosely in his hand, utterly bemused.
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