Chapter 3 : iii.
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But I still love you more than anyone else could
All that I keep thinking throughout this whole fight
Draco sat in Charms, the insufferable annoyance known as Pansy Parkinson, seated next to him. He really couldn’t fathom why she was so attracted to him. He paid her little to no attention, and he was often rude and cold toward her. And yet, she never left. She was always right there, by his side, ready to dote on him. He hadn’t asked that of her since the beginning of fourth year. After a week of humoring her, he’d become irritated and just dropped her, not giving her a second thought. But she never left.
He was taking casual notes, which surprised him. He hadn’t been one to study and such lately, but he found that he needed a distraction in most of his classes, especially with her sitting so near him. Her, Hermione, someone that, before now, he’d never even given a second thought. However, she’d captured his attention, and quite strikingly so.
Two thirty finally came, and Pansy gathered her things, waiting for Draco. He glared at her until she sighed and left, and he was just stowing his notebook away when he noticed her glance back. He saw it out of the corner of his eye, a fluttering gaze before she stood and swung her bag onto her shoulder. He hurried to put his things away, and he jogged down the steps and took on a brisk pace until he was walking nearly alongside her.
“I got your note,” he said, and she smiled, “I read through it last weekend.”
“Did you enjoy it?”
“Quite. Who’s Tolkien?”
She turned her eyes on him, surprised, “He wrote Lord of the Rings. Try it out. If you liked Beowulf, then you’ll definitely like that.”
“Another epic poem?”
“Oh, no, it’s written in prose. It’s a little difficult to get through, but it really is good. The story is, at least.”
“I wish I could give you recommendations, but you’ve probably read the entire section.”
“I haven’t. Leave something for me. If I’ve read it, I’ll read it again. I don’t mind.”
“And then we can meet?”
“I don’t know, Malfoy,” she stopped and frowned, “I don’t think that’s wise.”
He shrugged, “If you think so.”
And he disappeared. Draco felt her eyes on him as he left, and he smiled. He knew just the book for her.
Draco could already feel himself falling asleep. He’d been up too late the previous three nights, and his eyes were heavy as he read the same line over and over again.
At first, when she pushed open the door and stepped in, she saw nothing at all.*
They began to droop, and he shook his head, pulling his legs up beside him. He put his thumb on his page and let the book close before lifting the other hand to rub his eyes. He sighed. He had to stop falling asleep here. Madame Pince had nearly given him a concussion the other night when she hit him with a book. It was hard to wake him once he’d drifted off, and she’d given him a stern lecture that nearly got him out past curfew. Not that it mattered, of course, he was frequently out late at night, roaming the halls when he shouldn’t be.
He didn’t even notice his head tilt back, his eyes slip shut, and, suddenly, he was gone.
Hermione found him in this manner two hours later, The Secret Garden tucked under her arm. It had been his choice, sitting on its side, with a note poking out of the back, a note she wouldn’t read until she’d gone through the whole book. She smiled at him, his book sitting in his lap, his thumb holding his place, his cheek resting against the back of the couch, his grey eyes closed.
She went to sit on the other couch, flicking her wand at one of the lamps so it ignited. He stirred as she opened the book, and she watched him carefully. She was somewhat hidden, and so it didn’t surprise her when he turned his head, eyes opening, and he sat up, blinking.
He looked down at his book and sighed. Hermione continued to watch him, concern furrowing her brow. Lost in his own world, he let his emotions show through, a world of sorrow and hurt, of anger and disappointment. But, as quickly as the wall had come down, it was back, and he opened the book, stared at it a few moments, and flipped back a few pages.
Hermione waited until he turned a page to do so, masking her noise by his, and they continued on like this for an hour before he started to doze again. Hermione watched him in amusement, how he didn’t turn the page, how he kept reading and rereading a line until he finally closed the book on his thumb and frowned. She looked down, smiled, and turned to the next chapter.
His head instantly snapped up, and his eyes bore into hers as she looked up, brown eyes wide. She’d forgotten to wait.
“How long have you been here?” he demanded, anger slipping into his eyes.
She decided it best not to lie, “A few hours. You were sleeping when I got here. What are you reading?”
The anger disappeared from his eyes, and he flipped the cover to show her: Atonement.
“I’ve never read it,” she admitted, and she saw a flash of a Draco she’d never before witnessed.
His grey eyes lit up as excitement trickled into his features. He stood, his movements fluid and soundless, and he walked over to her. He paused, staring right at her, and he seemed to bore into her eyes, to dissect her expression, before he finally sat. She had her legs crossed, and so he kept his feet on the floor. She was shocked, however, when he reached toward her hands and plucked her book out of her hands.
“You can read that later,” he murmured when she started to protest.
Draco set the book down on the floor next to him before opening to the first page in Atonement.
“You’re not going to read to me,” she said, staring at him incredulously.
“Just close your eyes.”
She glared at him. This was the Draco she knew.
“I can’t believe you,” she huffed, quickly getting off the couch, but his reaction was fast, faster than she’d expected.
He grabbed onto her sleeve, careful not to touch her skin, and held her there.
“I didn’t mean it to come off condescendingly like that. I apologize. Can we try again?”
She sat, speechless.
“Just… listen, okay? I only asked you to close your eyes—okay, demanded,” he offered when she threw him a hefty glare, “—because I think it helps when someone is reading to you.”
She finally obliged, crossing her legs underneath her again and closing her eyes.
“The play—for which Briony had designed the posters, programs and tickets, constructed the sales booth out of a folding screen tipped on its side, and lined the collection box in red crêpe paper—was written by her in a two-day tempest of composition, causing her to miss a breakfast and a lunch.*”
“How old is she?” Hermione interrupted, and Draco sighed.
They exchanged a glance, and she begrudgingly shut her eyes again, waiting for him to continue, “When the preparations were complete, she had nothing to do but contemplate her finished draft and wait for the appearance of her cousins from the distant north. There would be time for only one day of rehearsal before her brother arrived. At some moments chilling, at others desperately sad, the play told a tale of the heart whose message, conveyed in a rhyming prologue, was that love which did not build a foundation on good sense was doomed. The reckless passion of the heroine, Arabella, for a wicked foreign count is punished by ill fortune when she contracts—*”
“Honestly, how old is she?”
Draco stopped, sticking his thumb in the book. He looked over at her, and her brown eyes opened to stare back at him.
“She’s thirteen. It’s 1935. Can we continue?”
Hermione smiled, nodding.
And so they continued, and, whether it be the atmosphere or the soothing tone of Draco’s voice, Hermione was lulled into a world of complete serenity. She hadn’t experienced such happiness and easiness since her first years at Hogwarts. The shelves around her were comforting, the books her friends, and Draco read with a tone of effortlessness and confidence; he’d read this before.
When he finally stopped, clearing his throat, Hermione was leaning dangerously close to him, and she opened her eyes, noticed their proximity, and shot back up into a straightened position. She looked down at the book, and smiled.
“I really like it,” she said, nodding, “I really do.”
And then she took in a long breath, her mind tumbling. She felt a trill of excitement sitting here with him, separated from the dangers of the outside world. It terrified her to think that she was being so civil with her enemy, that she was so at ease around Draco Malfoy. Though, in her defense, they only met on the terms of her favorite topic: literature. She nodded, attributing her sudden kindness to him to that.
“Maybe,” she began slowly, and he looked hopeful, “we could do this again?”
He nodded, and Hermione saw a flicker of gratitude touch his features before he closed the book softly. Draco reached over and retrieved The Secret Garden.
“Have you read this?” he asked, handing it back to her.
“I have, though I thoroughly enjoyed it, so it will be a pleasure reading it again. How is Tolkien treating you?”
“He writes like an essayist,” Draco groaned, and Hermione laughed, nodding.
“That he does, at times. Have you ever read Woolf?”
“Unfortunately,” he muttered darkly, “I couldn’t stand much of her. I read A Room of One’s Own,” he added at the curious arch of her eyebrows, “It was wretched.”
She laughed harder, “It really is. She’s good at essay-writing, though, if you can stand her. Oh,” she let out softly as the clock chimed, “It’s nearly dinnertime. Do you want to go?”
“I really do enjoy this, Hermione, but we do have appearances to keep up.”
The thought struck her, and she shook her head, “I’m sorry, I don’t know what I was thinking. You won’t let me check that out, will you?” she asked, pointing to his book.
“Oh, no. I’m reading it. But, if you meet me here tomorrow at, say, eight, I can let you know what happens in chapter two.”
“I’d like that,” she said, standing, “I really would. I better be off, though. The boys will wonder where I’ve gotten to. Draco,” she paused, frowning, “Get some rest, okay? You can’t keep falling asleep in here. Madame Pince will have your head.”
“You should have seen her the other night,” he muttered, going back over to his couch to stow his book away and gather his bag, “She took a hefty textbook to my head.”
“No!” Hermione gasped, staring at him in horror.
He just shrugged, “I guess I’m hard to wake up sometimes. It’s nice to see you happy.”
She nearly dropped her bag, and he shrugged again.
“You’ve been unhappy lately. It’s nice to see you happy,” he repeated before nodding toward the shelves.
She blinked a few times before following him. He’d been watching her?
They stopped at Madame Pince’s desk, and Hermione checked out two textbooks while Draco slid Atonement across the counter. She noted it without much care, smiled at the both of them, and they headed out.
“She seems to like you,” Hermione said as they walked.
“She’s starting to warm up to me. She didn’t like me so much in my first few years here, but I’ve been quite a bit more respectful recently.”
“Recently being, what, a month?” she laughed.
“No, around the beginning of sixth year, when I first discovered that Muggle section. The first few times, she gave me these very terrifying glares, but I held out.”
She smiled, watching him. She had never seen him so refreshingly human, and she was again brought back to who he was. Before she could pose a question, however, they had reached the Fat Lady.
“Tomorrow at eight?” he asked, starting to turn away from her.
“Tomorrow at eight,” she confirmed before he left, and she stood there, watching him walk away.
“He’s dangerous,” the Fat Lady murmured, and Hermione looked over at her, “But he likes you. Be careful with that one.”
Hermione just shook her head before going inside.
Disclaimer: Everything recognizable belongs to J.K. Rowling. Lyrics from Make This Go On Forever belong to Snow Patrol.
*These lines are the respective property of Ian McEwan’s novel Atonement.
Also, I ask that, though Atonement was published in 2001, you ignore that small fact and don’t bash me for using it. I’m trying to keep most things as close to cannon as possible and to keep the years and dates all in order, but I really wanted to use this novel. I hope that’s alright, :)
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