For a moment nothing happened. Draco and Ron faced each other, each waiting for the other to make the first move. When Draco moved, it surprised even Dumbledore. He changed his stance and, now square on to Ron, opened his arms wide. The onlookers murmured as his hand opened and his wand rolled off, landing silently in the lush grass.
“What are you doing, Malfoy? Pick it up!” Ron growled. Draco did not move.
“No, I won’t pick it up. This has gone far enough, Weasley. If you’re determined to kill me because you think you’ll get Hermione, go ahead, but I’ll tell you that it won’t work. She’ll hate you for the rest of her life. I won’t fight you in a contest where nobody wins.”
“PICK IT UP, I SAID.”
“No.” Draco started to take measured paces toward his opponent, keeping his arms stretched wide.
“Stop Malfoy! What are you playing at?”
“Playing? It’s your stupid game, not mine. You’re just like me Weasley, I found out a while ago that I’m not a killer and I don’t believe you are either.” He stopped walking, the tip of Ron’s wand only inches from his chest. “Decision time, Ron. What will it be?” Ron’s wand arm fell to his side and then he half turned away from Draco before swinging back and landing a heavy punch to the right side of his jaw. Draco lay on the ground not really comprehending what had happened. Through the fog and sparkling lights in his head and despite the ringing in his ears, he heard Ron speaking.
“Challenge withdrawn, Malfoy! You win, you bastard, but let me tell you this; if you ever hurt or betray Hermione, I will make sure you fucking regret it to your dying day.” He stormed his way out of the stadium muttering under his breath, not acknowledging Dumbledore or any of the others present.
The fog in Draco’s head began to clear slowly; his jaw began to swell at a faster rate. He felt hands under his shoulders and Harry’s voice penetrated his brain. “Come on Draco; let’s get you to Madam Pomfrey. She should know how to mend a broken jaw. I think I should do the talking as we go. You took a big chance back there, you know.” Harry picked up Draco’s wand as through clenched teeth and grating pain Draco replied,
“Not really. He’s like me, Harry, he’s couldn’t kill anyone in cold blood. He’s not a killer.” Harry couldn’t stop himself from grinning,
“Maybe, but that was a hell of a way to find out!”
The school nurse was not shy in expressing her opinion of the duel. “Rank stupidity, if you ask me. It would serve you right if I sent you away with no treatment. Unfortunately I’m ethically prevented from doing that. Get on the bed, while I get things ready.” She turned away and walked briskly to her office and storeroom. Draco sat on the bed and waited. Harry handed him a fresh paper towel to replace the blood soaked handkerchief he was clutching to his face.
Poppy came bustling back with more paper towels, bottles of potions and tubs of ointment. “Thank you Mr. Potter, you can go and wait outside. Mr. Malfoy won’t be speaking for a while. Goodbye.” Harry had no choice but to comply. He sat outside in the corridor reflecting on the events of the evening. Hermione, he thought suddenly, she won’t know what happened. She should be here. He summoned Gabby.
“Gabby, please bring Miss Hermione here right away.”
“Yes sir, Mr. Harry, right away.” Instantly Harry was alone again, but less than thirty seconds later the elf was back with Hermione in tow. “Ah, Hermione.”
“Harry, what’s happened, why are you here? Where’s Draco… answer me, where is he, please?”
“And Ron, where’s Ron? Harry talk to me!” her hand gripped the front of his shirt
“Calm down, Hermione, everything is fine. Sit here for a moment and I’ll tell you what happened.”
“No, I want to see Draco, he can tell me. Take me to him.”
“He can’t tell you…”
“What! Why can’t he tell me? He’s not..?”
“No, Hermione he’s not dead but he has a broken jaw and a bloody nose. That is the full extent of his injuries, which Madam Pomfrey is treating now. Ron is unhurt, except maybe for his pride and sore knuckles.” He went on to explain what Draco had done. The fact that he would take such a chance did nothing to relieve her mood.
She found herself in a curious place. She was angry because the two of them had fought at all, relieved because neither was seriously injured. She wasn’t supposed to be there, she remembered, having told Draco she would wait in her room. Half of her wanted to rush into the ward and hug him so tightly that neither could breathe, and the other half wanted to kick his backside all the way back to Arsey’s statue. Just then the door opened and they were invited inside. She hung back,
“Harry, tell him you’ve seen me and I’m glad he’s not seriously hurt and that I’ll see him back at the apartment. I’m not in the right frame of mind to see him now.”
Ninety minutes later, Hermione was making notes in her now well-thumbed script of the play when she was interrupted by Edmund. “Mr. Potter, the delectable Miss Weasley and somebody claiming to be Mr. Draco are coming in.”
“Thank you Edmund.” Hermione smiled at the description of Ginny. The girl herself was laughing at Edmund’s words.
“When I have my own home, I’m going to buy Edmund and keep him at my bedroom door.” They exchanged air kisses. “We’ve brought your fiancé home, ‘Ne. You should take better care of him, you know.” Hermione exploded.
“He’s not a child, Ginny. He’s perfectly capable of looking after himself. Except when his stupid male pride is challenged. He should have just walked away.”
“He would have risked going to prison if he had done that.”
“Oh come on, Ginny. Do you really think that the Minister would have enforced a 700-year-old regulation like that? This is almost the twenty-first century for heaven’s sake!” she took her first good look at Draco. The right side of his face was swollen and bruising almost as she watched. Her anger diminished but she wasn’t going to let him see that, not yet anyway.
Harry turned to Draco, “We’ll be off now and leave you two to sort out your differences.” To Hermione he said, “Poppy said I should tell you that she has locked his jaw for two days to let the fracture repair strengthen a bit. So he won’t be speaking and he’ll have to survive on soup and mashed potato. C’mon Gin, let’s leave them to it.”
“Yeah, okay. By the way, Poppy also said no snogging! Good luck with that.” As they left Edmund made a comment that Hermione didn’t catch but she clearly heard Ginny giggle.
Draco sat on the couch and Hermione sat at the other end, leaving a definite space between them. Any conversation, she realised, would be one-sided and she had no idea how to start. How do you interact with someone who can’t reply? There’s no point in asking questions, when you know won’t get an answer. Draco stood suddenly and disappeared into what had been his bedroom only to re-appear moments later clutching a note pad and a muggle ball-point pen. Sitting once more, he wrote something and showed her the page. She looked at the two words ‘Still mad?’
She tried to emulate McGonagall’s ‘severe’ face. “Yes, I am. I have every reason to be. You totally disregarded me, my opinion, my feelings, you ignored them all. So yes, I’m still mad.”
‘Should I have just given you up then? Would that have pleased you or should I have gone to prison?’ he wrote.
“You heard what I told Ginny.” He wrote furiously,
‘WHAT DO YOU WANT, HERMIONE? TELL ME! BUT DON’T TELL ME NOT TO STAND UP FOR MYSELF, OR YOU.’ She was silent for a while, then in a quiet, resigned tone she answered,
“I don’t know, Draco, I honestly don’t know. I’ve been so scared so many times just lately and I’m sick to death of it. First Pansy and now Ron; why can’t people just leave us alone, just let us be? What more can we do?”
Draco scribbled and Hermione read two words, ‘Marry me!’ “I’ve already said I’ll marry you, have you forgotten? Did Ron hit you that hard?” Draco shook his head, turned the pad sideways and wrote three huge letters and some smaller ones. He showed Hermione,
‘NOW!’ Inside the large circle of the O was ‘as soon as we can arrange it!’ Draco was getting annoyed and frustrated at his inability to speak. She smiled at him; a smile that said ‘I can’t be mad at you anymore’.
“Okay then as soon as possible, mind you, we thought that going public with our engagement would settle people down and look how that worked out.” Draco wrote something. It said simply ‘kiss me!’
“No! You heard what Ginny said, no snogging allowed.” He looked at her with big puppy dog eyes and turned down mouth. Hermione allowed herself a small grin before leaning over and lightly kissing him on the lips. “That’s all you get for now. A little incentive to hurry up and get better.” More writing,
‘I still have some pain so I don’t think I should sleep alone tonight.’ That night Hermione slept on Draco’s left side so she wouldn’t inadvertently knock or bump the swollen right side of his face. She was pleasantly surprised at what could be achieved without kissing.
Dumbledore understood the reasons for their request and readily acquiesced. It would take three or four days to take care of the legalities. Madam Pomfrey released Draco’s jaw a day early and cleared the bruising so that the slight swelling was all that remained of his injuries. That would be gone by the next day.
True to his word Ron had left the school earlier that morning. This news left Hermione saddened but relieved. You’ve got dirt on your nose, did you know? Her mind replayed some of the first words she had spoken to him. Just there. She found herself touching the side of her nose as she had on that occasion. They had gone through a lot since that first train journey. She privately resolved that one day she and Ron would be friends again.
They were eating a light lunch in their rooms when Edmunds voice sounded urgently. “Please, one of you two get out here quickly, there’s an owl with a letter sitting on my head. Please remove it before it craps all over me.” The door opened before Hermione could reach it. She held her arm up and the owl hopped on, hooting softly as it did so. Hermione detached the parchment and the bird flew away.
Dear Assistant Professors Granger and Malfoy,
The cast of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ are currently assembled for rehearsals in the Room of Requirement.
They most humbly request that the two of you get your arses up here as soon as possible, like right now!
Yours respectfully, (well, kind of)
Romeo, Juliet et al.
Hermione recognised Harry’s writing. “I suppose we’d better put in an appearance, we have lost a lot of time.”
“Mm Mm” was as far as Draco was prepared to go by way of agreement. It still hurt him to talk.
Entering the room they were astonished at the noise level. Wherever they looked groups of students with scripts in hand were reading scenes with each other. Harry, Ginny and Neville were reading the scene where Juliet and Paris meet at Friar Laurence’s cell. Hermione watched while Draco went to find Colin and Seamus to discuss, as best he could, the staging.
The scene ended and Hermione approached Harry and Ginny, without preamble she asked, “How long has this been going on?”
“A little over a week, Hermione. You’ve had other things on your mind so we started without you.”
“Thanks Harry, I’m grateful.”
“Thank Luna, it was her idea, and she’s not even in the play.”
“I’ll do that when I next see her. Now run that scene again please.” She asked turning to the page in her script and scanning the scribbled notes she had made. When they had finished she commented to Ginny, “Gin, you need to a little more demure and not shy exactly but a little more reticent. You’re thirteen and being forced to marry this guy. So a bit more demure and virginal.” Harry suddenly had a coughing fit and Ginny had to wait until it stopped before replying,
“Not a problem ‘Ne. I am demure and virginal so I’ll just be myself.” Something caught in Harry’s throat again. It sounded for a moment as though he had coughed the word ‘liar’.
Hermione set off to visit the other groups before returning to watch Ginny kick her shoes off, and climb into a bed with Dean Thomas. Cuddling together they played the scene before Romeo’s departure to Mantua. Hermione pronounced herself satisfied. She spoke to Harry, “They’re quite good together, aren’t they, Harry?”
“Too bloody good, if you ask me.” He replied testily. “Do they have to actually kiss and cuddle in a bed?”
“’Fraid so, Harry. It wouldn’t work otherwise.”
“Then Shakespeare was a prat!” he exclaimed, louder than he had intended, turning several heads.
AN. I, your humble patience pray, gently to read, kindly to judge and review this chapter. (Sorry Will, old mate.)