Chapter 3 : A Worthy Challenge
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The Weird Sisters had finished playing over two hours ago, and Pansy had squealed my eardrums numb after I had given her a very reluctant kiss on the cheek at the entrance to the Slytherin common room, but I hadn’t followed her inside.
Instead, I decided to roam the castle and walk off my indistinguishable and very sudden feelings towards a girl I had long since nursed a grudge towards. I was just coming to the conclusion that it was lust, simply lust, that was getting to me now (It was all that bare skin that got me going, that’s all,) when I passed by a painting with an incredibly fat woman sleeping on it, hanging open into the wall. Confused, I walked around the painting and discovered that it was in fact, a door that led into what looked like a very cozy room with warm hues and red and gold couches. The Gryffindor common room, duh, I thought to myself, just as I recognized two people, standing ten feet away from each other, red in the face, screaming at the top of their lungs.
“How could you even say something like that, Ron? I would’ve dressed like this for anybody that asked me, and I wanted to go with Viktor because I like him! Not because I’m trying to help him beat Harry! He’s my best friend, I would never —“
“I just don’t like it, Hermione! Like I said, he’s the enemy! He only wanted to go with you to, to pick your brains for ideas on how to work on that egg or something! You know how thick those sporty guys can be he’s just using you!”
“Ron! This isn’t about that it’s—“
“Of course that’s what it’s about, Hermione! You shouldn’t have gone with him.”
“Well, if you don’t like it, you know what the solution is, don’t you?”
“Oh yeah? What’s that?”
“Next time there’s a ball, ask me before someone else does, and not as a last resort!!”
There was a bang and stomping. I cleared my head in time to jump out of the way and out of sight as I heard Hermione – or, I mean, Granger – stomp out of the common room and down the hall.
I heard Weasley mumbling something I couldn’t understand, and the portrait door swung closed. From behind the tapestry I hid in, I saw Granger walk two steps, stop, lean over to hold on to the wall, and take off each of her strappy silver heels, one by one. She threw them to the side and reached up to take her hair down from the twist that had partly fallen out, take out the pins, and let it down. Her back was to me as she did this, and then walked gingerly, barefooted, down the corridor. Not thinking, I followed.
I had walked for about 30 minutes when I finally stopped.
I crouched down in the middle of a corridor, next to a locked classroom and about three yards from the boy’s bathroom, and put my arms around my knees, leaned into the wall, and started to cry.
Barefoot, hair a complete mess, makeup running, body weak from walking around for so long and throat aching from yelling so much, I just couldn’t have taken it any longer. How could Ron have done this?
If he had just asked me before Viktor had done all of this confusion and anger and needless arguments with him could have been avoided completely!
I would have said yes, of course I would have! He’s my best friend, and frankly, he was becoming more and more attractive in my mind since he protected me at the Quidditch World Cup, I probably would have kissed him just like I kissed Victor not an hour ago, and I would’ve enjoyed it too! But he had to completely and totally ruin everything by not being courageous enough or—
Footsteps. Great, what a wonderful end to a wonderful night, Filch is going to find me here and I’m going to be put in detention and there go my hopes to become prefect next year. Wait, that wasn’t Filch…
“You know, I always thought Weaselby was going to be the one to ask you to this ball, and I was confused when he was with Patil, but now everything makes sense! He’s gutless. But we’ve always known that.”
I knew that voice. But it couldn’t be—wouldn’t be—
“M—M—Malfoy?” I stuttered.
“Don’t act so surprised, Granger, your sobs are loud enough for the entire castle to hear.”
I gasped. It was Malfoy! And he was crouching down next to me, close to me. Sitting not a foot away from where I was curled up on the ground.
“Did you—did you follow me?”I said stupidly, looking at Malfoy, who was now sitting with his legs stretched out in front of him.
But I couldn’t pretend not to be shocked. Of all the people to be here, now, did it have to be him?
My initial thought, on the matter, however, was why? Why was Malfoy here right now?
“Yeah, I couldn’t help but wonder where you were going after that little lover’s quarrel. Thought it would be something juicy, but I have to admit, you disappointed me, Granger. I expected some kind of revenge potion at the very least, maybe you were going to run off to Krum.”
“You—you heard that? The whole thing?” Great. Just what I needed. Malfoy making fun of Ron and me for our, what did he just call it? A lover’s quarrel? And did he just admit to following me?
“Yeah, it was hard not to. Like I said before, you two aren’t exactly the quietest students here. You could’ve started an avalanche, I definitely would not have been surprised.”
I was speechless. Why did Malfoy seem so interested in what was going on in my life all of a sudden? Why wasn’t he calling me “Mudblood” or insulting me at all? Why was he being so blasé about him finding me in the middle of a corridor, sobbing uncontrollably over a stupid fight between my best friend and I, which he had just admitted to eaves dropping on?
But most importantly, why was he here? Comforting me, of all things?
Well, it counts as comforting, seeing as it’s coming from Malfoy. Even though he isn’t exactly trying to say anything to stop me from crying or offering me a shoulder to let my eyes out on or anything, he wasn’t trying to make me cry even harder, and that was a hard feat for someone as cruel as Malfoy.
When I didn’t answer, Malfoy simply looked at me and continued. Seeming to realize how utterly shocked I was at his presence, he said, “Anyway, Granger, I only showed myself just now because I want you to know that you’re right. I told you I heard everything between you and Weasley and what you said at the end there was completely on the nose. Weaselby is crazy for you and he was thick for not asking you to the ball when he so obviously likes you, and then even more thick for yelling at you when you went with someone with his head on straight. It’s got everything to do with jealousy, nothing to do with ‘betrayal’. Take it from a guy’s point of view. We know these kinds of things.”
Again, I couldn’t speak. Now he was complimenting me? And that entire monologue of his didn’t have one insult in it! Still speechless, I opened my mouth to speak, and then shut it tight. I knew I must look like a fish trying to breath in water.
“Malfoy, why are you talking to me?” I said finally. Malfoy simply looked down, seeming to be a little confused himself. He continued, staring intently at his feet, obviously avoiding eye contact.
“Look, Granger,” he said. “I know that you’re upset. You aren’t exactly one to succumb to tears over nothing, so I know that this is something that’s really bothering you and probably will for a while.”
He seemed to think for a second or two, and looked at me quickly. “That,” he continued, looking me up and down. “and you look absolutely gorgeous tonight. I can’t stand to see you look so miserable in that dress. Also, if you must know, when I saw you tonight, something broke inside me. I don’t know how it happened but all of a sudden, I felt bad for being so mean to you all the time, because unlike your dimwitted friends Potty and Weasel, you’ve never done anything to me.”
Malfoy seemed to struggle with something, then added quickly, “Don’t ask where this is coming from because even I don’t have an answer for you. I guess I just realized how thick and inconsiderate I’ve been. Not that I’m apologizing! I just, I regret my attitude. For the past 4 years.”
Malfoy looked away from me quickly and started twiddling his thumbs nervously.
I was dumbfounded. Draco Malfoy just called me gorgeous. And he said that he felt bad for how he’d been treating me. And… was I dreaming? I must be dreaming, this would never have happened in real life.
Since I still couldn’t get my mouth to work, Draco went on.
“Granger,” he said, still looking at his thumbs. “Don’t think this thing with Weasley is about you, okay? That nutter is a selfish bastard with no guts, which doesn’t exactly mix well. He likes you and doesn’t know how to tell you, which makes him despicable and, frankly, should make you run away and hide from him forever. But to each his own.”
Still, not a word could come out of my mouth. My face must’ve looked a little strange and possibly worrying because Malfoy started talking after a few seconds of my gaping at him.
“And don’t tell anyone I’m saying this to you because it would totally ruin my reputation as a badass Malfoy.”
At this, I finally was able to get a word in. “Malfoy, I’m not going to tell anyone. They wouldn’t believe me if I told them.”
“That’s a good point, Granger.” He looked… sad; determined and honest, for the first time in his life, but sad, or something. It was just, definitely an emotion I had never seen on Draco Malfoy’s face. I had never seen anything other than unexplainable pride or that disgusting sneer that always was there.
He looked at me expectantly.
“Thank you.” This last phrase came out strangled, and quite understandably. I never imagined I would be thanking Malfoy. Not in all my life.
The next thing I knew, though, Malfoy was standing up and walking down the corridor, head shaking.
He stopped suddenly, and turned towards me, about 20 paces away.
“Happy Christmas, Granger.”
I finally reached the Slytherin Common Room in the dungeons and mumbled the password, hierarchy, to the stone wall before me before I walked, dazed and confused, towards the greenish light that was my common room.
Without noticing who was around me, I huffed and sat down dejectedly on the nearest arm chair. I closed my eyes and rubbed a palm over my eyes in exhaustion, and then kept my eyes closed and sunk into the comfortable seat.
Then a voice made me jump up and pull out my wand in defense.
“Draco—Whoa man, chill out,” It was just Nott.
I sighed and glared at him. “You scared the shit out of me,” I said softly, running a hand through my hair and sitting back down in my arm chair. Now that I looked around me, I noticed that Nott and I were the only ones in the Common Room.
I kept my wand out and began levitating random objects and placing them at random places around the room. The lamp moved to beside the fireplace, a pillow moved to the coffee table, and a pair of pink shoes someone had left flew across to be hid underneath a cushion in a large couch near me.
Nott watched my actions apprehensively. “Sorry for scaring you, Draco,” he said quietly. When I didn’t respond, he continued.
“Where the hell have you been?” he asked. “Pansy came back hours ago, said you left her at the entrance to the Common Room and then continued to flirt with Blaise and I until she finally went to bed.” He made a face. None of the guys in our year thought she was anything special. Only the younger Slytherins were actually infatuated by Pansy, the rest of us merely dealt with her because of her ancestry.
I mulled Nott’s question over, wondering if I could trust him or not on what just happened with Hermione—I mean, Granger. I decided to keep it to myself and answered simply, “I’ve been wandering around.”
Nott just nodded, seeming to understand that I was keeping something from him. The fact that he didn’t question me any further really utilized his sense of respect for other people, and it sort of defined our friendship. Nott and I had always had a bit of an understanding. We respected each other’s decisions and opinions, and especially our need for personal space. While we both loved that we were placed in Slytherin House, both being ambitious and sort of elitist, we also recognized each other’s disrespect for most of the students in our house. They were mostly stuck up children with no brains; something that Salazar Slytherin would not have put in his own house. We just figured that those snooty kids had nowhere else to go, so the Sorting Hat would place them in Slytherin.
“So,” I said to Nott, a sore attempt at changing the subject. “Did you enjoy the ball?”
Nott shrugged, playing along. “It was alright,” he said lightly. “Nothing to complain about; wish I could’ve had a date though. The Beauxbatons girls were only entertaining for a little while.” Nott shrugged again, indifferent.
I nodded. “Yeah,” I said simply. Then, still in deep thought, I ran a hand through my hair for what was most likely the billionth time that night, and stood up again.
“I’m going to bed,” I said. Nott simply nodded, and he didn’t come up for a long time after I did.
I lay in bed for a long time, simply thinking.
Simply wasn’t the right word for it; the brain waves flowing through my head were more than simple, they were complex and confusing.
Why was I all of a sudden caring for Hermione Granger? She and I had never liked each other.
Well, that wasn’t true. I did have a lot of respect for Granger; she was stubborn as hell and had a lot more confidence than any other girl at this school. I even enjoyed our antics a lot of the time. And I could never forget the time she punched me in the face last year.
It was true that Granger had spunk. I had always thought that, even if my family didn’t like her kind.
That didn’t mean it was okay for me to be civil towards her! She was an abomination in my eyes, her blood status was a disgrace to wizard kind! Or… was it?
I had thought about this before, only I hadn’t put the connection between Granger and Mudbloods in my earlier internal monologues.
I had always questioned my father’s opinion on muggleborns. I never quite agreed with him when he said they were disgusting, I only thought and talked like that automatically because of him. I had actually thought, many times before, that he could be wrong; that muggleborns had just as much credibility in the Wizarding World as we did…
I sighed as I reached this conclusion. Okay, so I didn’t actually hate Granger.
Why did she have to dress like that in order for me to realize it?
Disclaimer: Again, some quotes, along with all the characters and basically everything else belongs to JK Rowling. Quotes come from GOF Chapter 22
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