As soon as the sun came up the next morning, I was taking my Nimbus Two Thousand and One down to the Quidditch Pitch to do a few laps around the goalposts.
Ever since I was little and my father first taught me to fly a broomstick, I had been using it as an outlet for any and every negative emotion or feeling that passed through me. If my father yelled at me for something or my guilty conscience got the best of me after a particularly mean bit of bullying, a few laps around in the air always cooled my head.
Today, my little tradition worked wonders.
After about ten minutes of zooming from one end of the pitch to the other and back again, I gained a bit of confidence and started to get creative. I flipped, turned, barreled, dived, climbed, dropped, plummeted, tossed, and spun away. I soared to the end of the pitch and even further, going further than I ever had from the Quidditch pitch. I flew over Hagrid’s hut, over the Forbidden Forest, turned and skidded to a standstill right above the lake.
I was only a foot above the water’s surface. I leaned forward on my broom to look my reflection full in the face. There I was, slicked back white blonde hair, eyes the color of rainclouds, ivory skin. These things I saw every morning in the mirror next to my bed in the Slytherin boy’s dormitory. The part that was somewhat confusing and entirely worrying was the crease between my eyebrows, the circles under my eyes, and the blank and defeated expression in my face. The lack of sleep from the night before was obvious and even flying for hours didn’t have a chance in taking away any physical proof of my exhaustion. What I really needed was a rest.
Unfortunately, I was expected to be at the Slytherin table in the Great Hall for breakfast in about 20 minutes’ time, and even if I could go back to bed, I wouldn’t be able to do anything but toss and turn, just as I had the night before.
Hermione—God, what was I saying? Granger—was constantly on my mind. How she looked, what she said to Weaselby, and how she made me feel when we talked last night. I had even spent a good hour or so just worrying about Nott’s attitude; I wondered if he knew anything about my conversation with Granger. I had begun to get suspicious, thinking that he might have followed me or something – how else would he have known to stay out of my business?
But I realized, after a bit of rest and exercise this morning, that my internal rants about Nott were not only far-fetched but imaginative and ridiculous.
Still perched on my broomstick parallel to the surface of the Black Lake, I thought back to my night with Granger.
I knew that the way I had been acting was a bit of a shock, as it was far from the way I usually acted around her or, honestly, anyone. But I was far from expecting any sort of genuine attitude. I had been waiting for some kind of outburst, something that I definitely would have deserved, but a genuine opinion and respect for what I was saying was not what I was prepared for.
The fact that Granger did consider what I said as legitimate really showed me how terrifyingly wrong I was in my assumptions about her.
Granger was obviously a very open-minded and kind person, why had I never seen that before?
A little voice inside my head told me that I knew the answer to that question. Maybe it had something to do with my attitude towards her and her friends. Just maybe.
I blinked, and focused my attention back onto my reflection. I looked a little worse for wear, but what could I do to change that? So I slowly glided back towards where I had left my things in the seats at the Quidditch pitch. Once I landed, I reached for my wand from my pocket and sent my broom back to my dormitory using a banishing spell.
I walked towards the entrance to Hogwarts Castle, which was unlocked, thank Merlin, and opened the wide double doors slowly and as quietly as I could.
I then headed straight for the Great Hall, not running into a single soul on my way. I entered the Great Hall and made a beeline for the Slytherin Table, my eyes on Crabbe, Goyle, Zabini, and Nott, who were huddled together near the far end of the table, whispering about something.
That was when I saw her. Granger was back to her bushy haired self, of course, but was at the Gryffindor table with Weasley and Potter. She looked a bit reserved, and possibly a tad quieter than usual, as was her friend the Weasel. Potter seemed to be acting as a mediator, which was typical.
As I walked past her, she glanced up and did the slightest of double-takes. Our eyes met, and she blushed.
I, of course, could never let Crabbe or Goyle or any of the other Slytherins for that matter, to think that I had lost my nerve, and I could feel their eyes on me as I looked at Granger. Especially after last night’s awkward conversation with Nott, I couldn’t have anybody being suspicious of my feelings towards a Gryffindor Mudblood.
So, mentally punching myself as words tumbled from my lips, I spit out the first insult that came to my brain, sneering at Granger and her friends.
“Alright, Granger? Potty? Weaselby? I can see your hair is back to normal, Granger, we were wondering last night, what did Weasley have to sell to get his hands on that hair product to make it look so much less—disgusting?”
Weasley turned around spitefully and stood up before I could even take a breath.
Hermione’s eyes widened and her eyebrows shot upward with apparent understanding as I heard a loud giggle from the Slytherin table and some chuckles from other tables. Everyone on the Gryffindor table, however, glared at me. Hermione, quickly regained composure and said calmly, “Why were you wondering, Malfoy? Want to know how to get a bottle of it to fix yours? I should tell you now; it can’t eliminate grease and oil. Says so on the packaging.”
A low chorus of “ooooh”s was let out as Ron sat back down, glaring. “Shove off, Malfoy,” he muttered, and I swept along past them, pissed that Granger had one-up-ed me but even more impressed at her insult and her composure. She was a clever little witch; I had to give it to her.
I finally sat down with my group of “friends” at the end of the table, feeling eyes on me coming from all around the room. Doing my best to ignore them, I leaned across Nott, who was next to me, to reach a plate of eggs and another plate of sausages.
I piled my breakfast plate high, pouring coffee into a mug and stirring sugar and cream into it as I stuffed my face with fattening foods. I was a growing kid, alright? I needed sustenance. And it didn’t help my case that I had only gotten about 3 hours of sleep the night before.
“Draco just got out-insulted by a mudblood,” Nott sneered, amused. I rolled my eyes and, mouth full of toast, replied.
“The fact that she is a mudblood and I am not makes me the winner of all arguments by default. I don’t even have to say anything and I have one up on her.”
Crabbe and Goyle strained their foreheads trying to understand the complex sentence I had just said, but everybody else who heard laughed at my hilarity.
You could say insulting the weak and the poor was one of my strong suits.
Nott nodded in defeat and started shoveling eggs into his mouth. He waved his fork in my direction, and when he finished swallowing, he asked, “So where were you this morning, Draco? You disappeared at like, dawn and no one’s seen you since.” He filled his fork with eggs again and started chewing, watching me, interested.
“I did a few laps on the pitch,” I explained simply. “What’s on the schedule for today?”
I figured the best way to distract my fellow Slytherins from my early morning wanderings was to ask them what they had planned on doing for the rest of the day. Nott, however, raised an eyebrow, as if he knew exactly what I was doing.
I gave him a look and ignored him.
Pansy spoke up. I hadn’t even realized she was there.
“Well, Draco,” she said. “I was going to finish up my Potions essay, the one Snape assigned for over the break? But if you want you and I could go for a walk or something!”
Merlin, her voice was obnoxious. How could her parents stand something so atrocious? I would’ve put a silencing charm on her from the moment she first spoke “Daddy.”
“Actually, Pansy,” I said patiently. “I already have plans and it’s bloody cold outside. You can go on a walk yourself though, if you feel so inclined to get out of this castle. I’d do that essay though, if I were you.” I winked at Nott, who snorted a little but managed to pull it off as a cough.
Pansy, for her part, understood that I had just insulted her and looked affronted. She chose to ignore the fact that I was obviously not interested, however, and got up from her seat at the table, her plate barely touched. She kissed me on the cheek as she walked away, arm in arm with some other 4th year girl.
Nott and Zabini laughed as she walked off, and Zabini even nudged me on the shoulder, shaking his head.
“That girl just fawns over you no matter how utterly impossible you are,” he said, laughing still. “You’d think she’d get the hint!”
I smiled and shook my head. “No,” I said. “She’s much too pathetic for that.”
I found myself glancing over, again, at Hermione Granger and her friends as they left the Great Hall and headed towards Gryffindor Tower, I presumed.
That sure did wipe the smile off my face.
I watched Malfoy walk away with resentful eyes. I had thought that, maybe, his attitude towards us would have changed after what he said to me last night, but apparently, I was wrong. Not that it bothered me too much.
I caught Malfoy’s eye again as I was leaving the Great Hall with Harry and Ron. I wondered what the heck was going on with him, why he was being nice to me last night and why the hell he would insult me after what I thought was a bit of an understanding.
I decided it didn’t matter. I decided that there was only one thing that I was going to think about today, and it wasn’t Ron or Malfoy. I was going to dwell on the happiness that had come, however short lived, from the kiss between myself and Viktor the night before.
Lavender and Parvati (who had apparently kissed Seamus at the ball, so she was back to talking to us) were definitely interested in keeping me on that fateful subject.
I ran into them in the Gryffindor Common Room, and they pretended like they needed help with Charms homework in order to give me an excuse to follow them into the Girls Dormitory.
As soon as the door was closed, they pounced on me.
“Why didn’t you tell us you were going with Viktor Krum??” Lavender said, practically pulling her hair out with excitement.
I smiled, abashed, and shrugged innocently. “I didn’t think you’d believe me…” I mumbled.
Parvati hit my shoulder lightly, exasperated. “That’s beside the point!” she squealed, not even bothering to mention that it could have been believable that I was going with Viktor. “How was it!?”
I grinned excitedly and plopped onto my four-poster, where Lavender and Parvati sat down next to me.
“He kissed me!” I said, beating myself up for mentioning it (I knew the gossip Parvati and Lavender worried themselves with), but excited to share the news with girls either way.
They both squealed and jumped a little and demanded that I tell them every single detail. I did what I really never did ever and shared my romantic secrets with the two girls I knew would spread the details like wildfire, but decided that I didn’t care. I would pretend that someone saw Viktor and I if it got around to too many people. Never would I allow anybody to think I had willingly offered information of the type.
A couple of hours later, I was still laying on my four-poster bed, gossiping with Lavender and Parvati. I was inwardly patting myself on the back, proud that I had had a good and long and girly conversation with two girls without scoffing and acting like I was better than they (not saying it wasn’t true – only it doesn’t earn you very many social points if you prove to people how much better than them you are)
“So are you going to see Marko again, Lavender?” I asked.
Lavender giggled. She had just explained to me, in minute detail, all about the snogging that had gone on in a broom cupboard with the boy from Durmstrang late last night, which explained her prolonged absence from the dormitory and the fact that she slept until noon that morning.
“I certainly hope so!” she said, and began to explain her thorough plans on getting Marko to ask her out to the next Hogsmede trip. At this point, I started to lose interest, and decided I would go back to the Common Room to see how Ron and Harry were doing.
Ron, who I noticed was being quite silent, didn’t hear me approach and didn’t talk to me for the whole afternoon unless I asked him a specific question.
I followed his example, and as a result, Ron and I were trying too hard to be nice to each other that day. For 24 hours, maybe even more, we were maddeningly polite and I knew that Harry had noticed. He kept glancing at us, eyebrows squished together in silent frustration whenever we would obviously avoid an argument by giving up what we had been trying to say.
I knew he had heard our, ahem, conversation last night, at least the end of it, which meant that he knew that I was so big headed that I thought Ron had wanted to go to the ball with me. I wondered what he thought about that.
For the next few weeks, however, Ron and I got along just fine. I mostly shoved aside the feelings for him that had developed only recently, and suffered only a tiny bit because of it.
I spent more and more time with Viktor, we even went on a few double dates with Lavender and Marko (I made Lav vow not to say anything to Harry or Ron – that would just cause more trouble) and that always helped get my mind off of that unruly redhead that I was constantly thinking about, which was nice. We kissed a few more times, and got pretty close to doing more than just that; kissing. But I was only 16 years old, he was 18, and he understood when I lead his hands upward on my body rather than lower down. We never had “that” conversation, we only ever talked about “that” when it was right in the moment, and Viktor was begging to go a little further, just a little further, with either his words, or his eyes, or his hands even.
Every time, I had to shake my head, take a step back, move his hand away from certain areas on my body.
He got especially insistent the night after the second task, after he had “saved” me from the merpeople in the black lake, and had seen the scowl on my face as that bimbo Fleur Delacour kissed Ron on the cheek, when Ron had done absolutely nothing to deserve such affection. He had also invited me to visit him in Bulgaria that summer right after he “rescued” me, to which I said maybe. He apparently had been expecting a better answer than that, and continued advertising his jealousy towards Ron when he mentioned that I had stayed at Ron’s house the summer before.
I had to take a little break from Viktor after that, and sort of avoided him by spending all my time with Harry and Ron again. Of course, there was that ridiculous article in Witch Weekly in which Rita Skeeter made me out to be some sort of “scarlet woman,” as Ron so hilariously put it. I was walking from the library back to the Common Room with my hands in bandages from the hate letters I received after that article when I saw Malfoy, alone for the first time since our unexpected conversation in the halls after the Yule Ball. He tried to walk past me without a word, but I was too mad at the world to let him get away with that.
“Malfoy, what the hell?” He stopped in his tracks and turned around to look up at me with a strangled expression on his face.
“What do you want, Grang – What happened to your hands?” his expression betrayed a small amount of pity, which frustrated me to the point of losing my composure.
“Malfoy, you don’t make any sense. The night of the Yule Ball you were—and now you’re—and the day after you—and ever since you’ve been—ugh!!! I’m just so annoyed with you! I thought you had apologized and then you turned around and insulted me, which frankly, I wasn’t surprised about, because I knew you had to keep up your ‘image’ but I thought you might be—oh, I don’t know why I’m even bothering. Go ahead and continue to be a complete asshole, I really don’t mind.”
I hung my head in defeat, having just reminded myself what a waste it was to even attempt to coerce Draco Malfoy, of all people, into being a respectful person. Why couldn’t I ever keep my fat mouth shut?
I turned around and walked away from Malfoy, heading towards the Common Room again. But his voice made me stop and face him.
“Granger, when I apologized that night, I wasn’t kidding. I really do know how much pain and trouble and unnecessary anguish I’ve caused you and your friends. You especially.” Malfoy looked at my mouth, and I knew he was remembering, just as I was, that day not so long ago that he cursed my front teeth to grow at an unexplainable rate. He continued. “I just, I didn’t think you were that accepting of my apology. And I didn’t think we were good, so I just continued the charade of ‘hating’ you.”
So what was he saying, that it was just a charade? Really? My jaw dropped a centimeter or two before I regained composure and said, “I don’t hate you.”
Malfoy looked at me, waiting for something else, something intelligent and well thought out to come out of my mouth.
“Look, Malfoy,” I said. “You can pretend to be an ass in front of your friends, that I don’t mind, but don’t blow me off whenever I see you in the halls if you really want to be ‘good’. That’s all I ask for. If you’re serious about being nice to me, I’d like to hear your story sometime. Maybe I’d actually get a chance to understand where all the hatred and angst came from.”
Malfoy’s eyes brightened. His unusually kind, gray eyes, that I had never paid much attention to, actually brightened with excitement. He was, of course, not exactly one to show his emotions easily, so he controlled his expression quickly. But I didn’t think I could forget that one split second of eagerness outlined easily by the crinkles near his eyelids, the ever so slight dimples in his cheeks. There was an air of eagerness that someone as hateful as Malfoy could never fake. And when I realized that he was thinking about me when he acquired this look of satisfaction, I was stunned into silence. His gray eyes bored into mine, and I had to look down. I was getting shy because of Malfoy. What was this?
“I’d like to tell you my story sometime, Granger.” He said. “And it will probably explain a whole lot more than that.”
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