Chapter 7 : Eggs, Tea, and Compromising Positions
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When they entered the kitchen downstairs, they saw that Malfoy was already at the table. He lounged in his wooden chair, looking quite comfortable, with a cup of coffee on the table and the Daily Prophet in his hands. He didn’t look up when they walked in, but simply raised his eyebrows so subtly Hermione was sure only she had noticed it.
“I’ll put on some eggs,” Harry said after an awkward pause. He was strongly reminded of the days he had had to cook breakfast for Dudley at Privet Drive, but had no problem heating up the stove with a flick of his wand and then cracking the eggs open manually.
“Er, shall I make some tea?” suggested Ron tentatively. Hermione smiled brightly, with some effort, and nodded. Tea would be perfect to help her clear her head and handle the increasingly awkward situation.
She sat down at the square little table perpendicular to where Malfoy sat, and leaned her elbows on the table, her mind racing. Suddenly, she looked up.
“Where are the Order members, do you know? They said they’d be keeping an eye on us, but I haven’t seen anyone in here at all, besides us,” she started. She had been wondering about that since the night before but had been too tired and stressed to ask anybody.
“Oh,” Malfoy said, then cleared his throat. “There’s a note.” He pointed over to the coffee table in the living room which was adjoined with the kitchen, all without looking up from the paper, though Hermione noted that his eyes weren’t moving at all. She figured he was only pretending to read so he wouldn’t have to talk a lot or make eye contact, but she didn’t saying anything since it suited her just fine. She got up and walked over to the coffee table, shuffling in the big, comfy velvet robe, and picked up the note. It was written in McGonagall’s tidy, businesslike handwriting.
“’The members of the Order of the Phoenix are, as you know, quite busy with handling the recent events, and we have decided not to station anyone at your safe house for the time being, due to matters of priority. We trust that you will all behave yourselves, and will keep in mind the importance of your actions at this crucial time. However, you should know that there are many precautions and spells placed about the house, so if any dangerous behavior ensues, be assured that Order members will be there at once. Do not forget: much relies on this house remaining safe. Regards, Professor McGonagall.’ Well, I suppose that answers my question,” Hermione said, but she could feel the tension building at the acknowledgement of the fact that the entire house was occupied only by the four of them, with no older witch or wizard for guidance or to settle disputes.
She supposed they would all just have to get along.
She set the note back down on the table and walked back over to the kitchen, where Harry was loading up some plates with eggs and Ron was pouring a few steaming cups of tea.
“Er, Malfoy,” Harry said in a strained voice. Finally, Malfoy looked up, though he wore his usual bored expression. He raised his eyebrows by way of inquiry.
“Eggs,” said Harry gruffly. He sat down across from Hermione, at Malfoy’s other side, and stared at his plate uncomfortably.
Hermione understood this weird behavior to mean that Harry was trying to be civil to Malfoy, however difficult that was, by offering him some breakfast. Apparently Malfoy understood this too, because he nodded curtly and set his paper aside, putting a few of the eggs that were still on the pan on his plate as Ron set the cups of tea down in front of Harry and Hermione. When Malfoy sat down, they all started to eat. The tension was so thick no one dared to utter a word. All of a sudden, Harry spoke up rather angrily.
“You know what?” he said forcefully, glaring at Malfoy, who, in turn, looked up at him in surprise. “What are you even doing here?” Malfoy opened his mouth to respond, but Harry went on. Hermione, familiar with these bouts of anger he was prone to getting, simply looked up, waiting to see what he would say next.
“I mean, it’s not like you weren’t the one trying to kill Dumbledore all year. It’s not like it wasn’t you who let Death Eaters into Hogwarts! We all know it was, so why are you here? You think you can suddenly just switch sides and no one will mind? Do you really think we’re all that stupid, that we’ll just believe whatever you say? What gives you the right to even be under the protection of the Order?”
Malfoy looked a little less comfortable and lofty than he had a moment before. He lowered his eyes, but then looked up again before speaking.
“Look, Potter, don’t act like you don’t know why I did it all. Unless of course you really are that stupid, but I have a feeling you of all people know what Voldemort’s capable of. When Voldemort threatens to kill your entire family as well as yourself, you do what he says. Do you think I wanted to kill Dumbledore? Do you think it even mattered? He threatened to hurt my mother, Potter, and if you think I was just going to sit there and let that happen, you’re mad. Why is it okay for you to try to protect the people you love, but it’s wrong for me to do the same?” Malfoy clamped his mouth shut and stared stonily at the wall in front of him, his chest heaving with the energy of his little speech.
Ron and Harry sat in a shocked silence. Harry looked partly angry, party ashamed of his behavior, and partly understanding of Malfoy’s predicament. Meanwhile, Hermione was thinking of how he had acted in the day and night before. It really did seem like there was more to Malfoy than she thought. But, instead of resolving her thoughts, this just made her want to get an explanation from Malfoy more than ever.
When Harry and Ron were immersed in a mundane discussion of what their favorite holiday meal at Hogwarts was, obviously devised to distract from the ever-building tension in the room and the general stress of the situation, Hermione snuck a glance or two at Malfoy, who was staring rather blindly at the newspaper in his hand while picking delicately but distractedly at the eggs on his plate. She could have sworn his eyes darted up at her after a moment, before dropping discreetly back to the article about cauldron regulation laws. This gave her the confidence she needed, and she leaned as subtly as she could towards Malfoy, her eyes trained on the other two boys but her attention entirely to Malfoy.
"Meet me in the library at ten - we need to talk," she murmured almost undetectably to him. Her eyes shifted quickly over to him - he gave the tiniest nod and readjusted his page - and then back to Harry and Ron, to check that they hadn't noticed anything.
They were still conversing with increasing interest about the various mashed potato and meat pies that they favored at school, and Hermione let out a tiny breath of air in relief.
"Well, I'm going back to my room," she announced to nobody in particular. Harry and Ron looked up and nodded dumbly, and hastily stood up as she started away from the table, not wanting to stay there with Malfoy any longer. She could hear them coming up the stairs behind her, but once she entered the corridor and then her bedroom on the second floor, their footsteps faded away to the upstairs.
After standing for a moment in a state of semi-confusion, Hermione went to the bathroom and quickly brushed her teeth. She stepped into the shower, eager to rid the smell of eau de Draco from her body, and basked in the steaming water.
She stepped out fifteen minutes later, drying herself with a quick spell she had learned in third year, when her schedule had been so full she barely had time for personal hygiene.
She glanced anxiously at the clock, which by now read 9:26. Since she had some time before her impromptu meeting with Malfoy, she decided to do something with her bushy mane. As she twisted her brown hair into a neat but casual bun, she contemplated what she would ask Malfoy.
Why had he even tried to comfort her - both times - yesterday? Was he really that upset about Dumbledore's death? Was he still worried about his mother? What made him decide to switch sides in the wizarding war and go against everything he had ever been taught by his parents? And most importantly (at the moment) why had he been in her BED?
When Hermione had dressed in a worn pair of jeans and an old Oxford t-shirt, she grabbed her wand and walked down the corridor and up the stairs. She figured the library was on the third floor because that would be how Harry and Ron knew about it.
She peered into bedrooms and sitting rooms in the more expansive floor and finally found the library at the end of the hall. It was a warm, cozy place with a roaring fire that reminded her strongly of the Gryffindor common room. The red-and-gold upholstery, combined with the numerous shelves of books and wide, squashy couches, made her feel right at home. She was about to grab a book off the shelf and read it as she waited for Malfoy when she realized he was already there, sitting silently at the end of the couch with a book on his lap.
"Oh," she said nervously. She had expected to arrive first, but evidently Malfoy had had some time to kill beforehand.
Malfoy looked up without surprise, lifting his eyes lazily off the page of his book without closing or moving it. Hermione looked back at him uncomfortably, taken aback by his cool demeanor in which she saw none of the scared little boy from the day before. Her confidence in her previous speculations about his intentions was shaken slightly, but she sat down, took a breath, and began to address him.
"Malfoy," she started, "I'm sure you realize you owe me an explanation." He raised his eyebrows and she continued. "Yes. First you... one could hardly say, 'comforted' me...
And then you joined me in, in… bed?" She blushed at the implication – that hadn’t come out right – but finished, saying, "What the hell, Malfoy?"
She glared at him, all discomfort forgotten in her demand for an explanation.
After a beat, Malfoy spoke. "Look, it's not like Weasley and Potter were even there to help you or whatever," he said irritably, looking a little uncomfortable himself.
Hermione crinkled her brow. "That doesn't answer my question at all."
Malfoy sighed heavily.
"Well, you always have those two idiots around to help you or comfort you, don't you? But then they weren't there..."
"What I still don't get," Hermione interjected indignantly, angered by Malfoy's vagueness, “is why you would even bother pitying or helping ME, a stupid, worthless mudblood." Her voice was hard and bitter with sarcasm.
Malfoy flinched the tiniest bit and then looked almost exasperated. "I know that mudbloods aren't worthless-" he started but Hermione cut him off.
"But you've always thought that!" she cried.
Malfoy looked up tiredly. "How could I be in the same class as you for six years and think that mudbloods are worthless? Bloody hell, Granger, you know that everyone knows you're the smartest bloody witch in our year. Did you just want to hear it again?" He looked at her facetiously and her cheeks flushed.
"You still haven't explained what you were doing in my bed!" she exclaimed hastily.
That, after all, was the real reason she had wanted to talk to him today.
She squeezed her eyes shut in frustration – she needed to focus on her goal to see whether Malfoy was using her as a toy or whether he had some sort of soul.
"Ah, yeah, that," Malfoy mumbled. "You don't remember what happened?"
"Well," she replied reasoningly. "I had a nightmare and was saved by... You, I guess," she said blushingly. "That's really all I remember."
"Well, there's more to it," he responded in the same conversational tone. All the usual tension between the two school enemies seemed to have dissipated, at least for the moment. "I came in to wake you up, and when you woke up you sort of flung yourself onto me and yanked me down," he said.
"I did not!" Hermione replied hotly.
"You said yourself you didn't remember."
Hermione grimaced. He was right – she didn’t remember. But what reason did she have to believe him, anyway?
“Wait,” she said suddenly, after some thought. “I thought you were either Harry or Ron… I was half-asleep. But you,” she said, looking at him intently, eyes narrowed. “You were wide awake! I still don’t see any reason why you would suddenly have a change of heart and stop being a git.”
Malfoy blushed deeply. “I’m not a git,” he said defensively. “Besides, I wasn’t fully awake myself, I mean, it was the middle of the night!”
But Hermione saw the flaw in his story. “But you claim to remember everything. So either you’ve been lying about what happened, or you’re lying about your level of consciousness last night. Which is it?”
She looked at him challengingly and he seemed to shrink before her. His cheeks were still flushed a deep pink from embarrassment, and he avoided her eyes.
“So what if I was awake at the time? Does that even matter? You were screaming your head off and I wanted you to shut up. That’s it!”
Hermione’s eyes widened. “Of course it matters! I know that you were raised to believe that Muggle-borns are inferior to you, but I am a person! I have feelings, and you can’t just objectify me and use me as some sort of toy! You have no right to do anything with me, and you don’t seem to understand that! First disturbing me when I’m upset, like yesterday in that empty classroom, and then last night? What gives you the right to sleep in my bed, Malfoy? What gives you the right to even speak to me right now?” Hermione stood, hands balled into angry little fists, nostrils flaring, as she
glared at Malfoy.
“I KNOW YOU HAVE YOUR BLOODY FEELINGS,” Malfoy shouted suddenly, looking up at her in a fiery mixture of anger, annoyance, and shamefulness. “WHY DO YOU EVEN THINK I BOTHERED COMFORTING YOU, STAYING WITH YOU ALL BLOODY NIGHT MAKING SURE YOU WERE OKAY? DO YOU THINK I DON’T HAVE FEELINGS? THAT I DON’T KNOW EXACTLY WHAT YOU’RE GOING THROUGH?” Malfoy stopped, realizing what he was saying, and looked at the rug beneath them. “You think I don’t know I have no right. You don’t need to say it – I’m useless, too weak and stupid and cowardly to be of use to anyone. I’ve always known this – I don’t need to hear it from you, too.” By now his voice was so small Hermione strained to hear him.
She stood, frozen in place, shocked by his outburst and his confession. She felt terrible. Malfoy had been trying to comfort her, and had even stayed with her the night to ensure that she would be alright. She realized now that he had dealt with the same feelings of terror, uncertainty, and remorse that she felt – but worse, he thought he was worthless. But was he, really? A few days before she would have had no doubt about it, but now she couldn’t be sure. He had comforted her, and stayed with her, keeping the bad dreams away that night…
She moved slowly, her body stiff with the remaining shock of the new information. She walked forward, while Malfoy looked up at her from where he sat, his eyes filled with uncertainty. She sat down next to him, and slowly turned her head to look at him, sitting on her right. He was staring straight ahead, stonily, but she could see his eyes darting nervously around. She reached tentatively out to him, and took his pale, pointed face in her hands, turning it towards her. He stared at her in fear of what she would do next, but she simply looked at him, still holding his face gingerly.
She let her eyes run over his pale, pointed features as she held him. Neither of them moved as she looked at first his grey eyes, the moved her gaze down his regal nose, then down to his pale pink lips. They were perfect – not too thin, not too thick, but smooth and pearly pink. Her eyes shifted down to his chin, which was aristocratically pointed, before flicking back up to his eyes, which were still watching her.
In a sudden, spontaneous movement, Hermione flung her arms around his neck, and pulled herself closer, pressing her face into his shoulder. He was stiff for a moment, then slowly wrapped his arms around her waist. As they hugged for the second time in their lives, Hermione breathed in his scent – clean, crisp, and vaguely reminiscent of roses.
There was a sudden “BANG!” from somewhere down the hall, and Hermione yelped and jumped looking over her shoulder, twisting herself wildly, and ending up in Malfoy’s lap, quite unintentionally. She sat hard on the book that he was still holding, her head slammed against the armrest on the end of the couch, and her legs stuck out awkwardly in the air. Malfoy looked down at her, alarmed to see her in his lap, but powerless to move for the moment, while Hermione rubbed her head in pain.
Suddenly there were footsteps in the library, and, Malfoy, thinking quickly, transfigured a nearby lamp, which stood between the couch and the shelf behind it, into a ladder.
Hermione tried to roll off of him, but the pain of the bump on the head temporarily incapacitated her, so she could only swing her legs down to the floor. Seconds later, Harry and Ron walked down the aisle to the fireplace where the unlikely couple sat.
Ron was staring at them, his mouth wide in shock, Harry by his side. Both boys looked like they had been hit over the head with bludgers, but fury quickly filled Ron’s face.
“What is going on here?!” he yelled. Ron had been uncertain about the situation that morning, but this seemed like a pretty clear indication of some sort of shenanigans.
Hermione finally threw herself off of Malfoy, her feet faltering unsteadily as she tried to stand. Malfoy stood up behind her, tossing his book back down to the couch, and steadied her with a hand on her elbow. When he looked up and saw Ron’s murderous expression, he quickly snatched his hand back, and resumed his regular, haughty persona.
“No need to get your knickers in a twist, Weasley,” he drawled lazily in his usual, obnoxious voice. “Poor Granger was trying to reach a book on that ladder,” he gestured to the ladder he had charmed behind them, “when she was startled by an alarmingly loud noise and lost her footing. Thanks to you idiots, she fell off, hitting her head and crushing me, who was just innocently reading Hogwarts, A History,” he gestured to the book on the couch. “So I think you owe me an apology.”
Harry and Ron ignored this and turned to Hermione, looking at her with scrutinizing expressions, but she was busy rubbing her head, which had started to develop a rather large lump. Soon the boys flushed with guilt and Harry finally offered an explanation.
“Sorry, Hermione,” he said. “Ron thought he saw a spider and started trying to blast it with his wand, but he ended up hitting a piece of that really reactive stuff, er, what’s it called?”
He looked up inquiringly at Hermione but she was distracted, staring at the floor, evidently thunderstruck by pain but really too guilty about the lie Malfoy had told to look up. Finally Malfoy piped up lazily, “You mean erumpent horn?”
“Yeah,” Harry replied grudgingly. “It was a chunk of erumpent horn that had come off one of our potion-making kits.”
“It moved, I saw it!” protested Ron in embarrassment. “Sorry, Hermione, but… what are you doing with him in the library, anyway?” He narrowed his eyes in suspicion and Hermione looked away under the pretense of fixing a stray curl.
“It’s a library, Weasley, and we were both trying to read,” Malfoy cut in. “Granger rather likes to read, if you hadn’t noticed,” he added snidely.
“I knew that!” snapped Ron, and he said nothing more, but remained red in the face and looked to Harry to back him up.
“I guess we’ll let you get back to your reading,” said Harry with much awkwardness.
“Oh, no, I was just leaving,” said Malfoy, stepping swiftly in front of them. “I’d prefer to be in a room where I won’t run the risk of being attacked by girls falling from the sky.”
Hermione snorted in amusement, and when Ron and Harry whipped their heads around to look at her inquiringly, she tried to cover it up as a cough.
“Well, I’ve got reading to do,” said Hermione, after a beat. And with one last look up to see the back of Malfoy’s blond head, she picked up the book Malfoy had left on the table and flipped to her favorite chapter.
As always, thanks for reading, and please comment!! It only takes a second and gives me the incentive to write more :)
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