Chapter 9 : Chapter Nine: The Slytherin Affair
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On Tuesday evening, Draco made his way down to the Quidditch pitch with Astoria, who was a bundle of nerves. She was quiet as they walked, but when they neared the pitch, she came to a halting stop.
‘Oh, Merlin. What am I thinking? I can’t do this,’ she said, her breath coming out in short little gasps.
‘Tor, calm down,’ Draco said. ‘You’re going to make yourself hyperventilate. You’re over-thinking it. I promise, you’ll be fine.'
‘I can’t do this. I can’t,’ she insisted. ‘I’m going to make a complete fool of myself. Let’s just go back. It’s not too late—we can just turn around.’
‘No,’ Draco said. ‘You are not turning around, Astoria. You are going to go onto that pitch, and you are going to tryout for Seeker. And don’t you dare look at me with those pleading eyes of yours, because that’s not going to work on me. You’re going onto that pitch if I have to drag you there myself.’
She gulped. ‘I’m scared,’ she said. ‘I’ve never flown in front of so many people before... and there’s loads better fliers than me out here.’
‘Don’t think about them. Don’t think about the crowd, either,' he said. ‘Focus on the snitch. That’s it. Nothing else matters except that snitch.’
‘It's easier said than done,’ she muttered, looking slightly green, as if she were going to throw up.
Draco sighed. He grabbed her by the arm and yanked her towards him, his mouth meeting hers. The kiss was hot and fast and when he let go, they were both gasping for breath, and Astoria's face was flushed. ‘What was that?’ She demanded.
‘That, love, is what you have to look forward to after you catch that snitch. But you have to catch it first,’ he said, smirking.
‘You mean you’re giving me an incentive?’ She asked, raising her eyebrows. He could tell the idea appealed to her, though.
‘Exactly,’ he said. ‘But you have to catch the snitch.’
Astoria didn’t need to be persuaded any further. She all but ran onto the pitch, and Draco took his place in the stands with the few supporters who had bothered to show up. As the players mounted their brooms, he shot Astoria a seductive wink. He could’ve sworn he saw her smile at him, but they were in the air right after that, and he couldn't have been sure.
Once the team was in the air, it was hard to keep track of Astoria, but he kept a close eye on her and the other person trying out for Seeker. A male Seeker whose name Draco couldn't remember but was pretty sure he was in fifth year. It was irrelevant. The other “Seeker” only posed a threat to Astoria, and Draco badly wanted her to get on the team. Even still, he couldn’t deny that the other boy was fast. But hopefully Astoria was faster. And quicker at catching the snitch.
They were only in the air for an hour, but it felt like three. He could barely keep track of Astoria, and it was getting darker, making it harder to see. But then he saw her, soaring towards the ground with the boy Seeker right behind her.
‘Go, Tori! Go!’ He yelled, hoping she could hear him. The other supporters shot him curious looks, but he ignored them.
Her broom flew in a circle, and then Astoria had something clenched in her fist. The snitch. Nott called an end to the game and the players landed. The boy Seeker threw his broom onto the ground and stomped away. Pathetic, Draco thought as he left the stands.
Astoria raced towards him, snitch still clenched in her fist. He caught her and spun her around.
‘You did it!’ He said. ‘I told you, didn’t I? I told you that you’d do it. You just needed a little push.’
She grinned. ‘Can I have my reward now or do I have to wait until later?’
In answer, Draco kissed her, and Astoria wrapped her arms around his neck, her fingers releasing the snitch at last.
The next evening, before dinner, Harry sat in the library, watching Ginny as she worked on her Transfiguration essay. The common room had become far too crowded and Ginny had wanted quiet, so they’d come here. His own essay was already finished, so he had nothing to do except wait. Besides, he much preferred to watch her. Admiring Ginny was one of his favorite things to do. He couldn't help it. The way her nose wrinkled when she was concentrating, and how her long red hair fell over her shoulder as she leaned forward to dip her quill back into the inkpot and the scent of her shampoo that came with it. She was too beautiful not to look at.
‘You can go find Hermione if you want,’ Ginny said. ‘I’ll just meet you in the Great Hall for dinner.’
‘No, I’ll stay,’ he said. ‘I’ll be right back, though. I’m just going to get a book to read.’
She nodded, not even once looking up from her work. Harry stood and made his way to the back section, where the muggle books were. Hermione had showed him this particular section of the library—the least popular section, it seemed, since all the books were dusty and unused—a long time ago. He liked reading the muggle magazines, especially the ones with the cars and such that he had stolen from Dudley when they were younger.
But just before he reached the section, he noticed two figures looming in the back end of it. He started to turn away. He’d noticed the section seemed to be deemed the “snogging section” of the library, since there was usually one couple there or another. He normally just ignored them and collected his magazines anyway. He would’ve, but his scar had begun to prickle, like a warning, and he stopped.
‘—mean you don't know?’A deep male voiced hissed angrily. It sounded desperate, and yet terrified.
‘I mean that I don’t know,’ said a second, female voice. ‘It just started burning. And then there was this message. It said... something about that filthy mudblood Granger being dangerous.’
The male voice scoffed. ‘She’s not dangerous,’ he said. ‘She only survived the war because she was smart, and yeah, she’s better at spells than some of us. But she’s not dangerous.’
‘Still, we should trust the Mistress. If she says that the mudblood’s dangerous, then we should listen to her,’ said the girl. ‘You should stay away from her.’
The boy hissed. ‘I don’t care what the Mistress says, Parkinson,’ he said. ‘Granger is not dangerous. And I want to have a bit of fun with her first.’
Harry froze, his blood running cold. ‘I don’t see why you’re so fascinated with the filth, Theo,’ said Pansy. ‘She's disgusting, and hideous.’
‘I’m not fascinated by her, but the broken-hearted make the best targets,’ he said, sounding disgusted. ‘I wonder if the Weasley witch has figured it out yet.’
‘I doubt it,’ Pansy snorted. ‘I put a damn good spell on her. Besides, what can she do about it? She’s helpless.’
Ginny. They were talking about Ginny, sitting in the same room. He couldn't listen anymore— he felt like he was going to be sick. He walked backwards until he could turn without being heard. Then he walked back to Ginny's table, and sat down.
’I thought you were getting a book?’ She asked.
He looked up at her. She seemed perfectly healthy to him. She hadn't done anything out of the ordinary, or acted strange recently. She was perfectly normal. Maybe he had misheard. Or maybe he was finally going crazy, imagining danger when there was probably none.
‘Um, there was a couple back there. I didn’t want to intrude,’ he said. At least he had the good grace to flush a little, or she never would’ve believed him.
‘OK, then,’Ginny said. 'Well, I'm done here. Why don't we head down to dinner?'
He nodded, and they left. He tried to shake off what he had heard, telling himself that he would talk to Malfoy about it later, see what he thought. But as hard as he tried to ignore it, he couldn’t help but feel a trickling sense of dread.
Several weeks went by, and Hermione found herself quickly slipping back into a familiar routine, and as the weeks passed, she felt, once again, at home within the castle walls. She enjoyed her new friendship with Draco, as well. It was easy to talk to him, and discuss things without feeling like she couldn't fully express her opinion or said opinion would be judged. Draco never judged her for voicing her thoughts or feelings or decisions, whereas her friends might be too quick to question her decisions. She loved her friends, but sometimes they were a bit bigheaded, and frankly, she liked being able to express her views on things without being looked at like she had four heads and was insane (which was often their expression).
And of course, there was Theo. He was wonderful, but sometimes Hermione got the sense that he was hiding something from her, something important. But she didn’t pry. Whatever it was, Theo would tell her on his own if he felt it was something she should know.
Though she had kept her relationship with Theo mostly secret (except for telling Ginny, who had not said anything to Harry about it), there were rumours regarding her friendship with Draco. Several people were under the impression that there was something distasteful going on in the Head's Tower between the two, and Hermione had been called more than one name that did nothing to improve her reputation, and reminded her of fourth year, when Rita Skeeter had the world convinced she was dating both Harry and Viktor Krum. She kept telling herself that they were just rumours, and not to pay any attention to them at all, the names and suggestions people made cut deeply.
Since that first morning, Draco had taken to eating at the Gryffindor table for at least one of three meals a day. Sometimes Astoria joined him. Hermione didn’t like Astoria much. She was the proud type, and while she wasn't as rude as Pansy, she seemed to have a chip on her shoulder, especially when it came to Hermione. She was nice to Ginny, and friendly to Harry, but not so to Hermione. In fact, she was a downright bitch to her. Whenever Hermione said something, the most awful expression would appear on Astoria's face, as if someone had just asked her if she would like to bathe in cow manure or something equally disgusting. She said nothing to Draco about it, but it was beginning to bother her more and more. Perhaps because his relationship with Astoria was the only thing that had people second-guessing the disgusting rumours, though most still seemed convinced they were involved in some sort of forbidden romance. The idea was ridiculous, and Hermione outright laughed when people asked her if they were true or not. Apparently the two were considered to be Hogwarts’ version of Romeo and Juliet, which the portrait of Shakespeare thought was even more hilarious than Hermione did.
Nevertheless, she ignored (or tried to ignore) the rumours, and let the student body think what they wanted. She tried to tell herself that it didn't bother her.
On Saturday morning, October the 7th, Hermione woke early, and prepared for Hogsmeade. Using her wand, she curled her hair into a fancy knot at the back of her head. She had used some hair potion to make her hair less bushy, so a few smooth-curls framed her face. When she was finished with her hair, she pulled on a warm brown wrap-around sweater with a tank top underneath, a pair of dark grey jeans and brown leather boots. She packed her wand and money into a matching brown bag, and left the room to find that Draco was awake. Upon seeing him, she burst into laughter, noticing that he was wearing an almost identical sweater to hers.
‘Why are you laughing at me?’ He asked, frowning at her.
She struggled to regain composure. ‘We match,’ she explained, gesturing at their sweaters. Draco glanced between them, and she could’ve sworn that she saw the ghost of a smile flicker across his face, but it was gone in a heartbeat.
‘This is only going to add more fuel to those rumours,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘Should I change then?’
‘No,’ she said, quickly. ‘I mean... uh, who cares what people think? Besides, that sweater looks good on you. Brown is a good color for you. You should wear it more often.’
He raised an eyebrow at her. ‘Been checking me out have you, Granger?’ He winked, and she flushed.
‘N-no,’ she stammered. It wasn’t exactly a lie, but it wasn’t the whole truth either. She couldn’t help noticing him when he wore certain things, like a shirt that might be getting too tight, or the sweater. It wasn't her fault that he enjoyed wearing close-fitting clothes that happened to look very good on him. Take that sweater for example. It fit him just perfectly, like the sweater was hugging his muscles or something. The sweater had just the right cozy-look to it, and it reminded of her of the Weasley sweaters that she loved on Ron so much. How she had enjoyed cuddling up to him when he'd been wearing the fuzzy sweaters...
Stop it, she scolded herself. For instead of picturing Ron, she had been imagining Draco in a Weasley sweater, and herself curled up next to him on the sofa in front of a blazing fire. Her cheeks felt like they were on fire, and she looked away from him quickly. With the smirk he was giving her, her face was probably crimson.
‘I won’t tell if you don’t,’ he said, winking again.
She muttered something about needing to leave, and fled the Head’s Tower. She grabbed a quick breakfast from the Great Hall—just a piece of toast and some slices of bacon— and then went to meet Theo in the Entrance Hall. He was already waiting for her, wearing a comfy blue sweater with a white shirt underneath and jeans. The blue brought out his eyes, she thought. Pansy was with him, wearing a purple shirt under her leather jacket and a long, flowing black skirt. She didn’t look so evil, Hermione decided. But she still wasn’t looking forward to spending quality time with her.
‘Good morning,’ Theo said, smiling brightly at her. ‘You look beautiful, as always.’
She blushed, smiling. ‘Good morning,’ she said.
‘I hope you’ve eaten,’ Pansy said. ‘I don’t really plan on stopping until noon, at the earliest.’
‘I’ve eaten,’ Hermione said, trying to be civil.
Pansy nodded, pleased. ‘Good. Let’s be off, then. No point in wasting time standing around like a bunch of clueless first years.’
They left the school then, and got in to the carriages that would take them to Hogsmeade. Pansy pulled out her purse, and proceeded to count her money as they rode to the village. Theo, who was sitting next to her, leaned close. ‘Sorry about this,’ he whispered. ‘It’s just that all her other friends are busy, and I always go with her to Hogsmeade, so I feel bad leaving her by herself.’
‘It’s fine,’ Hermione whispered back. I have no reason to be jealous, she told herself. They’re just friends—they’ve been friends for as long as I have been friends with Harry and Ron. I have no reason to be jealous of Pansy Parkinson. ‘I don’t mind.’
‘Please try to be nice to her,’ Theo said. ‘I know you two have had your issues, but she’s not that bad, really.’
There was a sort of desperate tone to his voice. Hermione could tell that he really did want her to make an effort at being friends with Pansy. So Hermione told herself that she would try. For Theo’s sake. And if Pansy decided that she really didn’t like Hermione, and they were better off being enemies, then at least Hermione would’ve tried.
They reached Hogsmeade at last, and Pansy dragged them into Gladrags Wizardwear, and led them straight to the women’s section. Hermione and Theo pulled up a couple of chairs as Pansy attacked the aisles, pulling outfit after outfit from the racks and proceeding to the change rooms in the back. Hermione raised her eyebrows after almost each outfit was discarded, though it had looked fine on Pansy, and Theo simply smiled and shrugged, as if to say ‘what did you expect?’
They left Gladrags with several bags, and they followed Pansy into Genie’s Lamp, a formal robe store that sold costumes unlike any Hermione had ever seen in any muggle store.
‘What is this supposed to be?’ She asked, pulling out a strange purple set of robes that seemed to twinkle when she moved.
‘It’s Merlin,’ Theo said. ‘The costume comes with a beard and a staff.’
She put the costume back, suddenly thinking of the story Draco had told her, about sneaking out one year and dressing as Merlin. She spotted something else, and it made her laugh. The costume looked ridiculous, but she could tell right away it was supposed to be a Quidditch uniform. She pulled out the tag. Apparently, the costume would magically transform into the color of the wearer’s chosen Quidditch team. She immediately thought of Ron— he would love it. She must have been smiling, because Theo was looking at her strangely.
‘Sorry,’ she said, moving away from the costume. ‘It just looks ridiculous. All of these costumes are ridiculous.’
‘But the muggle ones are insulting,’ Theo said. ‘So we come up with our own things. Most people just wear formal robes and dresses and stuff. We try not to wear costumes that will offend magical creatures.’
‘I suppose that makes sense,’ she said. ‘Merlin, it’s been ages since I dressed up for Halloween.’
‘Well, we don’t really celebrate Halloween at Hogwarts. Other than the feast, anyway. It’s a muggle holiday, so we don’t celebrate it the traditional way. The costumes are here mostly for the muggle-borns,’ he said.
‘Granger!’ Pansy called from somewhere in the back. ‘Get over here, will you? I need your help.’
Hermione sighed, and went to the back where Pansy was trying on dresses. She pulled her into the change room with her. ‘What is it?’ Hermione asked.
‘Zip me up,’ she said, turning around. Hermione zipped up the dress, and she was about to leave again when Pansy stopped her. ‘You need to try something on.’
‘Uh, no,’ Hermione said. ‘I don’t do dress up.’
Pansy sighed. ‘It’s not dress up,’ she said. ‘You’re going to the Halloween Ball with Theo, aren’t you?’
‘Well, yes,’ Hermione said slowly, unsure of where this was going. ‘But I don’t see why it matters.’
‘Because you need a dress,’ Pansy said. ‘And I’m going to find you one.’
Hermione stared. ‘I don’t know if that’s a good idea,’ she began, but Pansy held up a hand, cutting her off.
‘Look, you and I have our differences. But I’m Theo’s best friend, and there is no way I’m letting my best friend show up to a dance with a girl who looks like trash on his arm,’ she said.
‘I can pick out a dress myself,’ Hermione said stubbornly. ‘And I happen to think I clean up very nicely, thank you.’
‘Yes, you did nicely on the Yule Ball. Even Draco was staring at you all night,’ Pansy said grumpily. ‘Sure, Viktor Krum wasn’t a bad catch. But this is different, Granger. This is Theodore Nott, Pureblood Slytherin, rich, handsome, charming. Everyone knows Theo doesn’t date trash. His status speaks for itself. You cannot show up on his arm wearing something off the rack . You have to look like the type of girls Theo dates—incredibly sexy, well-dressed, but most importantly, you have to look like you belong with him. Blood status doesn’t matter. Popularity doesn’t matter. When you’re with Theo Nott, you have to act like you deserve to be. Everything from your walk to your smile has to scream that you, no one else, belong with Theo. You have to ooze confidence and grace and sophistication. You must be the girl in the room no one will take their eyes off of, even for a single moment, the girl all the other girls envy.’
Hermione swallowed. ‘You make it sound like I’m going to a ball with the Prince of England,’ she said.
‘Darling,’ Pansy said sweetly, ‘Around here, Theo is royalty. And to be with royalty, you have to act like royalty.’
Draco and Astoria had been enjoying themselves so far, and he found himself staring at her when she wasn’t looking. Daphne and Blaise had showed up at the Three Broomsticks at ten past noon, and Harry and Ginny shortly afterwards. Now they had nothing to do but wait for Nott, Pansy and Hermione. They had ordered their butterbeers, and Astoria was listening wide-eyed to Ginny Weasley discussing Quidditch. Even Daphne, a Chaser, seemed interested in it, though she was far too proud to actually show it. Draco only knew she was interested because he knew Daphne well, and she had an intense look of concentration on her face, the way she did when she was paying attention to something.
Blaise and Harry had attempted to engage Draco in a conversation about possible career paths as Aurors (Blaise seemed to get along quite well with Harry, Draco saw. So far, they were all getting along nicely), but he had ignored them, and drew his attention back to the front door.
Finally, Theo strode in, the girls behind him. Pansy had a smug look on her face, and Draco wondered what that was about. Hermione seemed to linger in the doorway for a minute, but she soon followed Pansy to the table. Theo, pretending to be the perfect gentlemen, helped Hermione with her coat.
Draco had chosen the moment to take a drink of his butterbeer, which he began to choke on as soon as Hermione’s coat was removed.
She hadn’t been wearing that when she’d left.
‘Are you OK, Draco?’ Astoria asked, peering at him curiously.
He covered his choking with a cough. ‘Fine,’ he said, still staring at Hermione, who was sitting down now.
It was new, that top. He was almost certain of it. There was no way Hermione Granger owned anything that revealing.
She had changed into black leggings that fit her tightly, and she was wearing a different shade of lip-gloss, and there was something sparkly in her eyelashes. Her shirt was this brilliant shade of green. It seemed to shimmer when she moved, and Merlin, he had never seen her in something so tight-fitting. It had a wide scooped neck, but Draco had a feeling that if she were to lean too far, he might be able to see right down her shirt.
The shirt had to have been Pansy’s idea, he decided. There was no way Hermione would ever wear something so scandalous without lots and lots of prodding, and Pansy was known to be very pushy when it came to clothes.
If her goal was to get Hermione out of her comfort-zone of jumpers and over-sized shirts, then Pansy had definitely succeeded. Draco hadn’t known a shirt could look so good, nor that Hermione had such a figure. But Merlin, did he wish that she wouldn’t cover it up so often. She was beautiful, he thought. Stunning.
She was incredibly sexy.
Someone—Astoria— kicked him in the leg, jolting him out of his daze. ‘Ow. What was that for?’ He hissed at her.
‘You’re staring,’ she said simply.
He couldn’t help it. But he tried to look away from Hermione, and pay attention to his date. It was very difficult to do so, considering that Hermione’s eyelashes sparkled when she blinked, and when she laughed she lit up, and she was just... Breath-taking.
When they finally left the Three Broomsticks later in the afternoon, Nott pulled Draco aside.
‘You can fancy Granger all you want, Malfoy,’ he hissed at him. They were walking ahead of the group, pretending to have a friendly conversation. ‘She’s mine.’
‘I don’t fancy her,’ Draco replied evenly. ‘But perhaps you should stop calling her “Granger”, if you’re dating as you say.’
‘Oh, we’re together,’ Nott said smugly. ‘In fact, I think she’s very smitten with me. She’s quite entertaining, as well. I might keep her around for longer than I intended. Though I daresay Pansy will tire of her quickly.’
‘She’s not a pet or a toy,’ Draco said through his teeth. ‘She’s a person. You can’t just toss her out when you’re done having your fun with her.’
‘Careful now, Draco, or I might start thinking you actually care about her feelings,’ Nott said. ‘If I were you, I’d keep a close eye on your girlfriend.’
‘Is that a threat?’ Draco asked, trying to remain calm.
Nott smiled thinly. ‘I don’t make threats, mate,’ he said. ‘I make promises. And I keep my promises.’
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