Hermione was satisfied. Satisfied with the looks she got from Ron, Harry, Lavender and Ginny. Shock, curiosity and hopefully a bit of jealousy mingled in Ron’s eyes.
She was having dinner in the Great Hall, with Nils-Malfoy sitting next to her, whispering words into her ear. These words weren’t of romantic nature at all, though.
’Have you figured out something about that Princess in the photo?’ He asked.
’It’s the name of the statue. The Little Princess.’
’It looked more like a boy,’ Nils-Malfoy remarked. He tried not to sneer.
’Hold my hand,’ Hermione whispered suddenly, forcing a smile at the blond guy.
’What?!’ The idea of physical contact with Granger shocked Malfoy.
’Maybe we shouldn’t take things that fast…’ He added, not to sound rude. Nils was a polite guy.
But Hermione was determined.
’Ron is watching us so please, do something. Now.’ She demanded impatiently.
Nils-Malfoy gave in. He slowly, softly put his right hand in Hermione’s left while trying to forget the fact it belonged to the Mudblood.
’I’m doing it for the lucky liquid,’ he kept repeating to himself.
He was gazing at his glass of pumpkin juice and expected the sky to fall and the castle to collapse.
But nothing happened. The sky didn’t fall, the castle didn’t collapse. He survived.
Hermione’s hand was warm, a bit trembling. Malfoy knew it must have been hard for her, too. Doing it all because of that idiot Weasel.
Nils-Malfoy gulped and looked at Hermione Granger. She smiled at him gratefully. He squeezed her hand encouragingly and in that moment he realized that he didn’t only feel sympathy for her but he didn’t find her so ugly anymore. He wouldn’t have said she was beautiful but he definitely found Hermione prettier than Pansy. His eyes lingered on her long, dark eyelashes and on her shiny lips, wondering why he had considered her so ugly before. Probably he had only noticed the bushy mass of hair and her angry frowns.
’What?’ Hermione asked curiously, seeing that Nils stared at her, his blue eyes studying her face.
’Nothing,’ he said embarrassed and dismissed the unmalfoyish thoughts.
’So… When shall we leave for Budapest?’ He got to the point quickly.
’Tonight,’ Hermione answered, her left hand still under the boy’s. His hand was warmer than hers and it felt good. ’Before that insufferable git Malfoy gets there.’
Nils-Malfoy, who had just started to drink his pumpkin juice, banged down the glass coughing.
’I can’t see him anywhere,’ Hermione went on. ’I wonder where he can be. I’m sure he wants to get the lucky liquid, too. I hope he won’t get to Budapest before us.’
’Malfoy?’ He repeated, trying to stop coughing.
’Yes, you know, that arrogant, pureblood Slytherin.’
’Draco Malfoy. I know him,’ he choked. ’But I don’t think he’s that… insufferable,’ he added quietly.
’You had a different opinion last year, when he called you filthy Mudblood,’ Hermione raised her eyebrows.
Realisation hit Malfoy. Nils was a Muggle-born so now he was a Mudblood. He, Draco Malfoy, a superior pureblood now was transformed into a Mudblood, a guy of lower breeding. He got pale. The thought made him feel sick.
’Are you all right?’ Hermione asked him with a concerned look.
Nils-Malfoy nodded with a great effort and let go of Hermione’s hand.
’Let’s meet at Gunhilda. At 9 tonight. I have a plan how to leave Hogwarts and get to Budapest before Malfoy gets there.’
He stood up and stormed out of the Great Hall.
All the students knew that it was impossible to apparate on Hogwarts grounds. While waiting for Nils, Hermione wondered how the boy wanted to leave the castle at night.
She looked at the statue of Gunhilda of Gorsemoor, featuring a one-eyed, humpbacked witch. The Healer discovered a cure for dragon pox in the seventeenth century.
The third-floor corridor was deserted, Hermione shuddered. The statue was rather frightening. She started to get nervous. Why the hell did Nils want to meet her in that creepy place?
And then she saw him. The blond-haired boy was walking up to her slowly, calmly. She had time to look at him wearing jeans and a white turtle-neck pullover instead of the usual uniform. He looked good. Not as good as Ron, but he definitely looked good.
’And now? What’s the plan?’ Hermione asked impatiently when the guy stopped next to her, observing the statue.
’Have you heard of the One-Eyed Witch Passage?’ Nils-Malfoy asked her.
Hermione glanced at Gunhilda curiously.
’Passage? Is there a secret passage under the statue?’ She asked in disbelief.
’The statue conceals the entrance to a secret tunnel leading to Honeydukes Sweetshop in Hogsmead.’
Hermione looked at him admiringly and Malfoy enjoyed it. He had discovered the passage when he saw the Invisibility Cloak slip off Potter and he followed the careless Gryffindor.
’Dissendium,’ he gave the password and waved his wand. The hump of the witch opened and revealed a slide into the tunnel.
’Are you ready?’ Nils-Malfoy asked Hermione quietly.
She gulped and nodded.
’Let’s go,’ he said and held her hand unexpectedly.