It carried on like this for the next few weeks. We talked, we joked and we learnt. It felt so undeniably natural that it was almost scary. I got scowls from Ron on a regular basis, and shrugs from Harry just as frequently. It was surprising, really. I thought Harry would be the one to react the strongest to my newfound friendship, not Ron... But it didn’t bother me. Ron and Harry were entitled to their opinions, and I wasn’t going to let them rule my life.
Draco and I were sat outside during care of magical creatures when it hit me. We were trying to make each other laugh whilst Hagrid was giving a lecture about some disgusting breed of Flesh Eating Slug that he’d created, and for the first time ever, I won. I made him laugh first, and I’d never noticed it before but God he was beautiful. His face completely transformed when he laughed, his steely blue eyes softened, his face just lit up and it was like... like witnessing some kind of natural phenomenon. It literally took my breath away. I’d never really seen him as attractive, all the girls in the dorm said he was ‘broodingly sexy’ or something idiotic like that, but now I saw what they might’ve been getting at. I’d already told him he had a lovely smile, and it was true. But when he laughed, when he completely let go, it was something entirely different.
“Oi! Malfoy! Hermione! Pay attention or it’ll be detention for the pair o’ ya!” Hagrid’s gruff, heavy voice cut through my thoughts. He sounded almost awkward saying the sentence, and it made my lip curl. No one was used to the fact that we didn’t fight when we were within a meter of each other yet, and the awkwardness that overcame them when they had to direct whatever they were saying at the pair of us was rather entertaining.
“Well done, Hermione. You won for once.” Draco said with obvious amusement.
“Rather sweet victory if I do say so myself.” I replied, a secretive smile gracing my face. He looked slightly confused for a moment, but shook it off and turned back to Hagrid’s display of worms slobbering over a steak.
“Miss Granger!” Professor McGonagall called out to me as transfiguration ended, “Please can I speak to you for a moment?”
“Of course Professor, I’ll talk to you later Draco.” I said over my shoulder as I moved out of the doorway. Draco nodded and started down the corridor, and I walked over to her desk.
“Miss Granger, there are two things I would like to discuss with you. One of them is your newfound friendship with Mister Malfoy. Where exactly did this come from? The last thing I remember is you two being at each other’s throats...” She trailed off, looking at me expectantly.
“Well, you see it’s sort of a bet.” I said awkwardly.
“Yes. I bet that he couldn’t be nice to me for the rest of the school term and it’s going surprisingly well so far.”
“I always thought that if he put his views aside you would’ve gotten on well. You are very similar. Both infuriatingly bright, strong willed, determined and very, very ambitious.” She smiled at me, her eyes twinkling. “But enough of your friendships, the second thing I wish to discuss with you is the Yule Ball we will be holding in three weeks time.”
“A Ball?” I asked her, “But we’ve only ever had a ball when the Triwizard Tournament was here!”
She nodded, “But we’ve decided to hold one anyway, seeing as how all the students enjoyed that one much.”
“And how can I help?”
“Just spread the word, Miss Granger. You are one of the most trusted students in your year, no one will doubt your word or think of it as a joke. We will announce it properly in a few days, but if word’s already spread it won’t cause such a fuss.” I nodded, not really understanding the professors’ logic but deciding not to question it. “That’s all, you can go now.” She smiled again as I turned.
I walked back through the hallways deep in thought, trying to figure out what underlying message McGonagall might’ve been trying to send me, but came up with none. I’d rid myself of all thoughts regarding said messages by the time I reached the common room. I entered, straightened my shirt, cleared my throat and yelled.
“Listen up! I’ve got a message from McGonagall!” Everyone hushed up. “In three weeks Hogwarts will be holding a Ball.” And that was all it took. The girls squealed, the boys groaned and the whole of the common room went mad.
I turned and slid out of the portrait hole; happy the message had been accepted well. By tomorrow, the whole of the school would know about it, and the preparations would be well and truly under way. It would be classed as a Summer Ball, I thought to myself as I walked towards the library, seeing as it was April now, and I couldn’t help but let my mind wonder as I thought about how the school would prepare for it… Would it be indoors or outdoors? Would it be themed? I was brought out of my daydreams by colliding with someone.
“Sorry! I wasn’t paying attention!” I started rambling.
“That much was obvious, Hermione.” A familiar voice said, “Lost in daydreams about dusty books and fresh parchment?”
“Stop mocking my love of books, Draco. It’s getting old.” I said, rolling my eyes but smiling all the same. “And as a matter of fact, I was thinking about the Ball we’re having in a few weeks time.” I walked around him and carried on towards the library.
“Hey! You can’t tell me something like that and walk off!” He yelled, sprinting to catch up to me. “What ball?”
“That’s what McGonagall was talking to me about, she wants me to spread the word about it.” I told him.
“So it’s a Summer Ball type thing?” He asked, pulling a face. “Mother always forced me to attend them as a child. All frilly dresses and smart robes and distant relatives I’d never heard of before.”
I couldn’t help but laugh at the mental image I received. A small Draco in pristine dress robes pouting as his Mother did his hair. I explained why I was laughing when he raised an eyebrow, and proceeded to inform me that he was ‘an adorable child, thank you very much’ which resulted in me laughing some more. We quietened down as we entered the library, and sat opposite each other as we worked on the Arithmancy homework we’d been set.
“So who’re you going to go with?” He asked me. I stopped writing.
“What D’you mean?” I asked slowly.
“Well, everyone gets a date for these things, right? So who’re you going to go with?”
I shrugged. “Whoever asks me, I suppose.”
There was a slight pause in the conversation, where my mind drifted back to the Yule Ball and dancing with Viktor and how the whole night my eyes would always wind up back on the brilliantly blonde head that was Draco Malfoy. I was so lost in my thoughts that I was only brought back to reality when I was flicked on the nose.
“Ow!” I cried indignantly, “What was that for?”
“You were lost in your own little world and didn’t answer my question.” Draco said, smiling lightly.
“What was the question?” I mumbled, rubbing my nose.
“Do you want to go with me?”
“Do I want to go to what with you..”
“The -” I stopped them, my hands frozen mid-massage, my eyes wide as I stared at him. “Are you serious? This isn’t some kind of joke or prank or whatever?”
“Totally serious question.” He said, leaning back in his chair. If I hadn’t been talking to him for so long, I would’ve missed the slight twitch in the corner of his mouth meaning he wasn’t quite as confident as he appeared to be. “So, will you?”
“Yeah, okay.” He looked up from the spot on the table he’d been examining.
“Totally serious answer.” I said, mimicking him. He smiled at me then, a smile like the laugh had been, totally free and genuine. It made my chest get a little bit tighter and I couldn’t help but smile back.
“Thank you.” I blinked, wondering if I’d imagined it.
“For saying yes.” He bowed his head, and carried on with his essay as if nothing had happened, and after a moment I did the same.