Chapter Seventeen: Quidditch
It was Saturday already. The week after the Ball had passed in what seemed like a blink of an eye, and Draco was sitting at the Gryffindor table next to a very nervous Hermione, already dressed in her team robes. They had been pretty much inseparable ever since the Ball, and he’d hardly left her side that week. McGonagall was delighted, because their new friendship was influencing everyone else. House Unity, so far, was a success. Even some of the other Slytherins had started befriending people from the other Houses. Of course, not everyone would be swayed right away, but some of the younger students and one or two older ones had started sitting at different tables. Luna was always sitting with the Gryffindors, and so was Hannah Abbott, from Hufflepuff, who had begun dating Neville after the Ball. Blaise only sat with them once, and it had seemed like he was seconds away from punching him in the face because Draco had been sitting close enough to Hermione that they were nearly touching. It was too painful for Blaise to sit with them anyway.
‘Hermione, will you please stop fidgeting?’ Draco sighed, putting down his fork. ‘You’re going to be fine.’
She wasn’t eating. In fact, she looked like she might be sick. ‘What if I’m not fine, Draco?’ She asked. ‘What if I fall off my broom? What if I throw the Quaffle in the other goalpost? I’m going to make a fool of myself, Draco. Why did I let you talk me into this? I’m going to fail… I’m going to fail…’
‘Look at me,’ he said, and she did, but her lip was trembling. ‘You will not fail. Do you know how I know that?’
She shook her head, biting her lip. ‘No,’ she said.
‘Because you’re Hermione Granger,’ he said. ‘You never fail at anything. You just have to breathe. If you start to panic, just look at me, alright? I’ll be right there. I won’t let you fail. Do you understand? I won’t let you fail.’
She took a deep breath. ‘But… but what if I fall off my broom?’ She whispered.
‘Then I’ll catch you,’ he said simply. ‘But you won’t, Hermione. I promise you won’t fall.’
She nodded, and started eating, shoveling eggs into her mouth like she hadn’t eaten in weeks. Just then, Daphne Greengrass came over to their table. Nott and Pansy were nowhere in sight, and he knew she was working with them, thanks to Dumbledore’s portrait. She seemed nervous, too. ‘Erm, Hermione,’ she began.
Hermione looked up, surprise clearly written on her face. ‘Yes, Daphne?’ She asked.
‘Er… I just wanted to say… Good luck today,’ Daphne said. ‘And… er… you too, Harry, and Ginny.’
They were all staring at her. Not in a million years would Draco have expected Daphne to come over and wish Hermione luck. She wasn’t cruel, but she wasn’t the nicest person either. And she was obviously helping Nott with his plans. Maybe that was part of his plan, but it didn’t make sense. Unless…
Unless something was going to happen at the Game.
Oh, no, Draco thought, feeling suddenly sick to his stomach. Of course, that’s what it was. It was the only thing that made sense.
‘Thanks, Daphne,’ Hermione said, pulling him out of his thoughts. ‘I need all the good luck I can get.’
Daphne smiled tentatively, and then walked away. Draco was thinking every non-verbal protection spell he could at Hermione, just in case she would need them.
‘Come on, team,’ said Harry. ‘Let’s go down to the pitch.’
Hermione set down her fork and looked at him, her eyes wide with fear again. ‘You’ll be fine,’ he told her. ‘Just breathe.’
She looked like she might be sick, but nodded and followed Harry and the rest of the Gryffindors out of the Great Hall.
Please let her be safe, he prayed to whoever might be listening. But he had a horrible feeling that something very bad was going to happen.
Draco walked down to the Quidditch pitch with everyone else when McGonagall announced it was time, gripping his broom—which he’d shrunk—tightly in his hand. He didn’t want to have to use it, but if he did, he would. Whatever Nott was planning for the Match, it wasn’t good, and he needed to be able to save Hermione if something happened to her.
In the stands, he sat in halfway up the center, memorizing the spell Dumbledore had used on Harry to stop him from falling in Third Year. If she fell, he wouldn’t let her touch the ground.
He scanned the crowds anxiously, but Nott and Pansy were nowhere to be seen. Lavender Brown sat amongst her friends, clutching a poster in her hands. She looked rather anxious.
‘Draco,’ said a voice above him.
He looked up, startled, and saw his mother standing in front of him. She was smiling, even though she looked pale and tired. ‘Mother,’ he said, surprised. ‘What are you doing here?’
‘I came to watch Hermione play, of course,’ she said.
He slid over so she should sit down, and she made herself comfortable next to him. ‘How did you know Hermione was playing today?’ He asked her curiously.
‘Oh, Draco, the Prophet has just been buzzing with the news,’ she said. ‘And once I heard she was playing Chaser, well, I couldn’t just stay at home. Besides, I take every opportunity I can to see you. Did you call her Hermione?’
It was a good thing it was cold, so she wouldn’t think much of the red that tinted his cheeks. ‘Yes. I mean, we’re friends now. The Heads are required to share a dorm, you know,’ he said.
His mother nodded, smiling. ‘I’m glad Lucius didn’t ruin you with his prejudices,’ she said. ‘McGonagall did tell you about the trial, I hope?’
Draco scowled and nodded. ‘Yes. I was just about to send a letter to you, actually. She offered to give you one of the Order’s safe houses,’ he said.
‘That was nice of her,’ she said. ‘Of course, I would be glad to leave the Manor. I was already thinking of selling it before we got this dreadful news.’
He was relieved that she wasn’t going to argue. His attention was grabbed by the Gryffindor team coming out of the tents, and he gripped his broom more tightly. ‘Oh, look, it’s starting,’ he said. ‘I trained her, you know.’
‘Really?’ She asked. ‘You need to start telling me these things in your letters, Draco,’ she scolded.
He just shrugged, and Madam Hooch blew the whistle. ‘The Quaffle is released, and the game begins!’ Shouted Hannah Abbott, who was doing the commentary. ‘Ginny Weasley manages to grab the Quaffle, and passes it to Hermione Granger!’
His mother squeezed his hand, obviously sensing his nervousness, and he squeezed back, thankful for the support. ‘Come on, come on,’ he muttered under his breath.
‘GRANGER SCORES!’ Hannah Abbott screamed. ‘Gryffindor lead ten to zero!’
Draco nearly did a happy dance, and he just barely managed not to. His mother grinned at him, and he sat anxiously as he watched.
About ten minutes later, Gryffindor was in the lead with thirty points to five. He couldn’t refrain from grinning wildly. His mother looked thrilled, too, because she was practically dancing on her seat.
And then, just when Hermione was about to score another goal, his worst nightmare came true.
Hermione’s broom flipped upside down, and she was thrown off it. Luckily, she managed to grab hold of it before she fell, but he knew she didn’t have a good enough grip.
‘Uh-oh,’ said Hannah Abbott. ‘It looks like Hermione Granger’s lost control of her broomstick!’
People began whispering, exchanging worried looks with each other. He started muttering no-slip spells under his breath, aiming them for Hermione, and whispered the counter-shrink spell. His broomstick sprang to normal size, and his mother gave him a worried look.
‘Why do you have your broomstick?’ She asked.
He looked anxiously at Hermione. She still wasn’t slipping, but the spell wouldn’t last for long. ‘I had a feeling this might happen,’ he said. ‘Well, not this exactly, but something like this.’
His mother smiled, shaking her head. ‘Go then,’ she said. ‘I’ll keep muttering the no-slip spells.’
‘Thank you,’ he said, climbing onto his broomstick. People stared at him as he sped towards the dangling Hermione, but he ignored them. Nothing mattered except keeping her from falling.
She looked surprised when he flew next to her. ‘Draco?’ She said his name like a question, staring at him with wide eyes.
‘I need you to trust me,’ he said. ‘Do you trust me, Mia?’ He didn’t care how dangerous it was, what he was about to do. He needed to get her safely to the ground. She wouldn’t fall, not if he could stop it.
. ‘I… yes. Of course I do. But…’ She swallowed, and looked down, fear relevant in her eyes. He had never seen her so afraid, even when she’d been tortured by Bellatrix, she had never looked so terrified.
‘Trust me,’ he said again.
Hermione nodded, and he flew downwards so that he was just underneath her. ‘Let go,’ he called up to her.
‘What?’ She demanded, incredulous. ‘Are you insane? I’ll die!’
Draco fought back a sigh. If she didn’t let go now, she was going to slip. ‘No you won’t! Just let go, Hermione! Trust me.’ He said.
She hesitated a fraction of a second, and then she let go. She screamed the whole way down, until she froze three inches above his head, and then began floating softly downwards, until she was right beside him. ‘How are you doing this?’ She asked him in wonder.
He smirked. ‘I’m full of surprises,’ he said, and she smiled. His broom began heading downwards, and Hermione, still floating in the air, followed him in the invisible-net spell, which he’d created himself years ago.
They landed, and Hermione hovered above the ground for a minute before falling softly on her back. He climbed off his broom, and Professor McGonagall, Madam Hooch, Harry and his mother all rushed over to them. Harry, who looked frantic, was the first one to reach them.
‘Hermione, are you alright?’ He demanded, kneeling down next to her.
She nodded, still looking a little dazed. ‘Yes, I’m fine. Thanks to you, Draco,’ she said, turning to look at him.
‘I told you I wasn’t going to let you fall,’ he said.
Hermione smiled at him, and sat up, just as Madam Hooch came over to them, followed by McGonagall. Both looked absolutely furious. ‘That was incredibly dangerous, Mr Malfoy!’ She exclaimed. ‘Not to mention reckless! If that spell hadn’t worked, Miss Granger would be dead!’
Draco fought back a sigh. He had expected this reaction. ‘But she’s not,’ he said, almost wearily. ‘If I hadn’t done it, she’d have slipped in a matter of seconds, and then she would be dead or dying by now.’
‘He saved my life, Madam Hooch,’ said Hermione gently. ‘Yes, it could have gone wrong. Yes, it was dangerous, but he risked it anyway.’
Madam Hooch softened. ‘Alright. That was very serious magic, though, Mr Malfoy. How on earth did you manage to keep her from falling long enough to get to her?’ She asked him curiously.
His mother, who had come up beside Madam Hooch while Hermione was talking, gave a small smile. ‘I helped him, using the no-slip spell,’ she said. ‘It’s a common household charm that is usually used in the wintertime, to keep from slipping on ice. It works on anything, even a broomstick.’
Hermione looked surprised that his mother had done that for her, but he didn’t really blame her. Until after the war, they’d never helped anyone unless they got something out of it—and they especially didn’t help muggleborns.
Narcissa nodded. ‘It was the least I could do, Miss Granger,’ she said. Hermione smiled at her, almost shyly. That surprised him. She wasn’t the shy type—but it was his mother, so she did have a good excuse.
‘Well, if you’re alright, Miss Granger, then I suppose we’ll get your broom down,’ said Professor McGonagall. ‘The match isn’t over yet. Of course, if you don’t want to continue playing, that’s understandable. We’ll just be playing with six players, rather than seven.’
Hermione glanced at him, swallowed, and looked back at McGonagall, determination flickering in her eyes. She wasn’t about to give up. ‘No, I’m finishing the match,’ she said. ‘I won’t quit just because someone was foolish enough to put a hex on my broomstick.’
Draco’s lips twitched in a smile. Luckily, Hermione didn’t notice, so it didn’t matter. ‘I thought you might say that,’ Professor McGonagall said. ‘Well, then. Let’s get that broom down, shall we?’
Hermione nodded, and Madam Hooch muttered a spell that he didn’t recognise under her breath, and the broomstick dropped to the ground, landing a few inches away from where they stood. Hermione grabbed it, and turned back to them.
‘Ready, Harry?’ She asked.
Harry, who’d been very quiet, nodded, smiling. ‘Ready,’ he replied. The Gryffindor team, waiting anxiously a few hundred feet away, looked relieved when Harry went to join them. Hermione turned to Draco.
‘You’ll be fine,’ he assured her, knowing what she was going to ask. ‘Just remember, you’re Hermione Granger. You never fail.’
She grinned, hugged him around the neck—he could only stand there in shock—and went to join the rest of them.
He followed his mother back up to the stands, watching anxiously as the game started again. Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed his mother smiling—no, it was more like beaming—at him. ‘What?’ He asked, raising an eyebrow. ‘Why are you smiling at me like that?’
She smiled even wider—if that was possible—and shook her head at him. ‘You’re in love with her,’ she said. ‘My baby’s in love. I can’t believe it.’
His mouth popped open, and he closed it quickly. He had to swallow before he could answer her. ‘Of course I’m not in love with her,’ he lied. ‘Where on earth did you get that idea?’
His mother laughed. ‘But you are, though. I saw it in your eyes when you looked at her,’ she said. ‘You’d do anything for her, wouldn’t you? You’d die to protect her. You’re doing everything you can to protect her now. I don’t know what you’re trying to protect her from, but you’ll die before anyone hurts her. Maybe it’s your way of making up for what happened in the Manor, or maybe it’s something else. I don’t know, Draco, but you’re in love with her.’
He looked at his mother as if she held all the answers he needed. It was true, of course. It was useless denying it anymore. In fact, he wasn’t even sure why he bothered trying in the first place. Maybe because Blaise would never forgive him, or maybe because he was afraid of what Hermione’s reaction would be. Or maybe, if he was being honest, because it scared him, to have these feelings about a girl he’d openly despised for the last seven years. But he couldn’t deny it any longer.
He, Draco Malfoy, was in love with Hermione Granger.
‘I’m right, aren’t I?’ His mother asked, beaming again.
Draco sighed, but nodded. ‘Yes, you’re right,’ he said. ‘But… she can’t know. It would make everything… too complicated. And it wouldn’t be right to tell her, because it’s not like I can do anything about it. Astoria’s still unconscious in the Hospital Wing. That’s as bad, if not worse, than cheating on her. She’s a little annoying sometimes, but Astoria’s still my girlfriend, and I couldn’t do that to her.’
‘I would kill you if you did,’ his mother said. ‘But I d o get the sense that Hermione is very confused about her own feelings, so even after you break up with Astoria, you need to wait for her to decide how she feels. If you tell her how you feel about her, she might back away from you entirely, if she’s confused and unsure of herself. Hermione’s the type of woman that needs to be entirely certain before she decides to go after what she wants.’
He nodded. ‘I know that,’ he said. ‘I wasn’t going to do that to her, anyway. I won’t risk losing her, not when she means this much to me. I’ve already lost seven years with her because of Lucius. I’m not about to let her go now.’
His mother nodded, and touched his hand. ‘You have grown so much, little dragon,’ she said softly, so that only he could hear. ‘It makes me sad, but I am so very, very proud of the man you have become.’
Draco smiled a little. His mother was the only one who was ever important enough to see him smile, the only person he ever hugged. Until Hermione. Luna had been right. She had changed him. And it was a good thing. He’d needed to be changed. ‘It’s all because of Hermione, you know,’ he told her. ‘If we hadn’t been made Head Boy and Girl, then I would still be… different, but I wouldn’t be like this. Hermione changed me.’
‘Not exactly,’ she said. ‘She did change you, yes, but it wouldn’t have been possible if you didn’t have this side of you already. She just brought what was on the inside to the surface.’
She was right. He’d always had a good side, but he’d never been able to free it. It had always been buried under Lucius’s influence. ‘I guess you’re right,’ he admitted, then, with a smirk, he added: ‘Again.’
His mother smiled at him, and they turned back to the Game. Gryffindor was in the lead, 100 points to 20. Hermione had just scored another ten points when Harry suddenly dived.
‘Potter’s seen the snitch!’ He exclaimed, just as Hannah Abbott confirmed it. They watched anxiously as the Hufflepuff Seeker tried desperately to catch up to Harry, but failed.
‘HARRY POTTER HAS CAUGHT THE SNITCH!’ Hannah Abbott yelled, and everyone erupted into deafening cheers. ‘Gryffindor win!’
The teams flew back down to the ground, and he and his mother, along with everyone else, ran down to the Pitch. Hermione ran over to him, beaming, and threw her arms around his neck. She actually looked like she might start crying tears of joy.
‘You won!’ He cried ecstatically. ‘I told you that you would, didn’t I? You didn’t believe me, but I was right! You won!’
She just smiled, and dropped her arms from around his neck. ‘It’s all thanks to you, of course,’ she said. ‘I couldn’t have done it if you hadn’t taught me how. And you just saved my life, so it’s really all thanks to you that we won.’
‘Nah, it was all your natural talent. I only helped a little,’ he said. ‘Now, when you get back from the party, we’ll have our own private celebration in the dorm. If you’re not too tired, of course.’
She shook her head, her eyes twinkling. ‘You really think I’d go to that party alone?’ She asked. ‘Nevermind. That’s a stupid question; of course you do. Well, I’m not. You’re coming with me, Draco. And don’t give me the crap about how all the other Gryffindors hate you. I want you there, so they’ll just have to deal with it.’
He opened his mouth to protest, but she gave him a look, and he closed it, sighing. ‘OK, I’ll go,’ he sighed. ‘But if this turns out to be a disaster, don’t say I didn’t try to warn you.’
She grinned, and then his mother, who’d been lingering a few feet away, walked up to them. ‘Congratulations for winning your first game, dear,’ she said. ‘You do make a rather excellent Chaser.’
Hermione blushed, embarrassed, and gave a tiny smile. ‘Thank you, Mrs. Malfoy,’ she said. ‘I appreciate that.’
Draco had the sudden urge to wrap his arm around her waist, but he resisted it. He wasn’t allowed to do things like that. Especially not here, where everyone could see it. And besides, she wasn’t his girlfriend—yet—so he had no right. He didn’t get to touch her, no matter how much he wanted to. And he did, desperately.
‘Hey, Hermione,’ said Harry’s familiar voice. Draco blinked, and turned to see him walking towards them. ‘We’re going to the common room to celebrate. Are you two coming?’
‘We’ll be right there,’ Hermione promised.
Harry nodded, and walked away again. Draco turned back to his mother. ‘Will you be going home right away, Mum?’ He asked.
She nodded. ‘Oh, yes. I should. I’ve left River by himself, and he promised to have a delicious dinner waiting for me when I returned,’ she said. ‘But I will write soon, and of course, we’ll see each other at Christmas.’
He nodded. He almost hugged her, but everyone was watching, so he decided that he had probably shocked everyone enough today. ‘Alright, I’ll see you then,’ he said.
‘It was wonderful to meet you officially, Hermione,’ said his mother. ‘I do hope we’ll be seeing a lot of each other in the future.’
Hermione nodded. ‘I hope so, too,’ she said. His mother smiled, then turned and walked away, disappearing into the crowd heading back towards the castle. They waited until she was gone before heading in the opposite direction to the Gryffindor tower. They walked in silence, until Hermione spoke:
‘Are you going home for Christmas, then?’ She asked.
He nodded. ‘Well, yes. It’ll be our first real Christmas. Lucius never liked to celebrate the holiday, so I think my mother is planning to decorate the house,’ he said. Then he caught the sad look on Hermione’s face, and raised his eyebrow. ‘What is it?’
Nothing,’ she lied. ‘It’s nothing, Draco. Let’s just go to the party, please.’
He frowned, but didn’t say anything. They reached Gryffindor tower, and Hermione muttered the password to the Fat Lady. He followed after her—hardly noticing that no one was staring at him—and watched her face carefully as she filled them both. Yes, something had definitely upset her. The subject of the Christmas holidays had touched a nerve, and he didn’t know why. Perhaps she was upset that he wouldn’t be there, but that didn’t make any sense. He’d figured she’d have gone to the Burrow or to her parents. It couldn’t be that. Maybe she just didn’t like the reminder of what Lucius had done to them. That’s got to be it, he decided.
He shook off the thoughts of Christmas, sat next to Hermione, and began to enjoy the first party he’d been to since before the War.
But he couldn’t shake off the fact that something definitely upset Hermione, and he desperately needed to find out what it was.
WEll, there's chapter 17!! As usual, I don't own Harry Potter, and I hope you enjoyed that chapter! Also, I encourage you to check out my one-shot "Yule Tide Kisses", because it's an outtake from this story. You don't have to, but I'd like it if you did. Anyways, thanks for reading my lovelies, and I hope you enjoyed this chapter.