Chapter 6 : His Unrest
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Revolting! What the hell is the Malfoy name good for if I can't get out of doing nonsensical rubbish like this?
He stared with hatred at the nasty, black slug-like things that lay before him on the table in the greenhouse as Sprout walked between the rows of students lecturing on the proper way to harvest bubotuber pus. Draco thought the whole thing was a huge waste of time, especially because Samhain morning happened to fall on a Friday this year. It wasn't like anyone actually cared. They were too busy thinking about the Samhain feast, their stupid apples and divining the future.
Groaning, he stopped wiping and moved to the next bubotuber, cursing his life, his family, his existence.
"Here, Draco. You can have some of mine."
It was Pansy. Lost in his complete revulsion for Herbology, Draco had forgotten that he still shared a bench with the bane of his existence. She sat next to him, talking to him incessantly from one side, her voice full of eagerness, whereas he found he didn't give a toss what she said. Pansy was too helpful and too keen on him. She was too easy and that was the worst part.
He didn't offer a word of thanks as he snatched the small bowl that held the yellow substance without looking at her. Instead, he stared towards the window of the wide room, where Hermione Granger was working diligently at her task, never lifting her head. Though he couldn't see because of all the riotous curls on her head, he imagined she was carefully lancing each of the disgusting, yellow swellings, just as that old biddy, Sprout had been teaching them.
Stupid Granger thinks she knows it all. Merlin, she thinks she's so much smarter than the rest of us! Makes one wonder why she can't tell how pathetic it is to pine after a boy like Ron Weasley, especially since there are so many better ones available!
Somehow the thought upset him more than Draco would admit. What had transpired on the Quidditch pitch the day before needled him fiercely and just that fact was driving him mad. Sighing, he returned to the task at hand, very carefully ignoring Pansy Parkinson as she chattered on and on about things he would never care about and only half heard.
His mind was on the girl that sat on the other side of the room.
Draco saw her again a few hours later, in the Charms corridor as she was leaving Flitwick's classroom, laughing at something Loony Lovegood had just said. Her laugh was light; it sounded like the bells that he could hear when he was at home for the Christmas holiday. Strangely enough when she laughed Granger was almost pretty.
Yes, he had to admit the thought was an insane one. The fact was that in the last two days, Draco had done and thought things that made no sense to him. Like talking to a Mudblood. Almost feeling sorry for her. And thinking that when she laughed she was-
I don't like this. There's no reason for me to be thinking like this. I loathe the way she affects me!
He'd have to stop it. Hermione Granger wasn't pretty! She was boring, a bookworm, rather irritating, and he had only talked to her because he needed her help and she hadn't been able to help him.
So why am I still thinking about her?
Scowling, he leaned against one of the stone walls, waiting for her to pass him by.
Unsurprisingly, their eyes met and Draco felt a sense of satisfaction. At least she still had the good sense to recognize that he was better than her and when he deigned to look at someone, they were supposed to look back.
Draco's smugness died the moment she passed him by without a word, as if he were nothing. Flabbergasted he straightened, his eyes following her head of unruly hair, mouth hanging open.
How dare she ignore me! I'll show her!
"That's a rather ugly jumper you're wearing today, Granger! I'm starting to think you might have a horrific collection of those hiding out in your closet!"
What am I doing?
It was as though he was obsessed wit the need to have her attention.
Draco saw her stop and her back straighten as she tensed up, turning slowly. Her eyes were alight with challenge, her jaw clenched and her nose scrunched up in a way that wasn't altogether unattractive. In fact, there was something about her that made his breath catch. As they stared at one another, Draco came to a disturbing, startling epiphany. Suddenly, everything made sense and there was no escaping it.
Draco wished he were alone so he could consider these strange, unwanted feelings that Hermione Granger had stirred within him. He was smart enough to know there was a logical explanation, and one he had been avoiding for at least two days. He liked her.
Shit. Now, that's impossible! I can't like her!
No, it wasn't right. Yet there was no other reason for his softening towards her, nothing to explain away the unfortunate fact that the feisty Mudblood seemed to know exactly how to make him lose his self-control.
Draco began to fight an inner battle that he knew the logical part of him would lose. He feared it would be a bloody slaughter.
Yes, of course she was. And somehow it was that aspect of her personality that was also strangely appealing.
What about the fact that she's an uptight, sharp-tongued harpy?
Was that really so bad when compared to the other girls in the school? Most of them were vapid and silly with no substance or wit at all.
I hate her!
This was true too; Draco did loathe her, but for all the wrong reasons. He loathed the fact that a girl as smart, capable and open-minded hadn't chosen him - she had chosen someone else.
"Do you plan on saying something, or are you simply going to stand there like an idiot because that's what Malfoys do?"
Her voice was like ice, and it made Draco want to claw her eyes out in his confusion and frustration.
"Your ugliness has rendered me speechless," he snapped.
"And I should care what you think because…?"
"Because, I'm Draco Malfoy."
She laughed at his petulance.
"Unlike everyone else stupid enough to buy into your egotism, I don't care who you are, Malfoy! I don't care what you think and what you do! You have no right to question my actions and decisions. Not right now, and certainly not yesterday. Get over yourself and leave me alone!"
She didn't spare him another second, instead whirling on the heel of her worn shoes and stomping down the hallway holding her head high. Draco was overcome with confusion. How was it that she was walking away from him? He was suddenly enraged at the casual way with which Granger had brushed him off. It wasn't possible, was it? He should have been the one to deride and push her away.
All he wanted to do was to grab her by that impossible hair and show her who was in charge. Unfortunately, he wanted to show her with his lips, which was part of his problem.
Face it, Malfoy. You like her.
Hunching into his school robes a bit more, Draco Malfoy hurried in the opposite direction, his hair falling into his eyes.
Well, I'll cure myself of that soon enough, and she won't ever have to have known..
Luna was watching Hermione, her eyes full of concern and interest.
"Would you like to go to the library with me, Hermione? I'm going to help Neville do some research on more uses for Bubotuber."
Hermione nodded without much enthusiasm, her mind still on her latest run-in with Malfoy. It had been happening far too much in the last two days, since their row in the library three nights before.
Have I just not noticed him before?
It was a cold and unwelcome thought, because Hermione didn't want to believe she had noticed Draco Malfoy at all. If he had been around all this time, and she hadn't noticed him until now, what did that mean? She certainly didn't want to dwell on the possibilities.
Lately, she had seen him in the library not just in the mornings but in the evenings as well. He had been watching her in the greenhouse during Herbology lessons. Not to mention the way he had leered during Care of Magical Creatures.
Hermione blushed uncomfortably as she thought once more on what had happened at the Quidditch pitch the day before and tried, in vain, to make sense of it all. It just didn't compute. It wasn't like Malfoy had ever bothered with her before his whole ordeal with Pansy Parkinson just as it wasn't like she had ever thought about him before.
All she knew was that he had been right; she was pining after Ron, acting like a silly little girl, and the only solution was simply to have it out with Ron and then move on, no matter what the outcome was.
Can I do that?
Hermione took a deep breath. She would have to.
If only I wasn't so jealous! If only Samhain and stupid Divination didn't exist! If only Draco Malfoy hadn't followed me in the library that night!
Too many 'if onlys' made Hermione dizzy and she swallowed, turning towards Luna.
"Let's stop at the Great Hall first. I need to talk to Ron."
No time like the present.
The moment Hermione's admission fell from her lips she wished she could take it back. But once those damning words were out there was no going back, and Hermione knew instantly that Ron didn't feel the same way as she did. It wasn't like he even had to say a word; she had seen his face change, a clear yet irrevocable look in his brown eyes.
She had tried and failed. She, Hermione Granger, brightest witch in her year, the girl with all the answers, had failed.
Her heart stopped beating in that heavy, sickening moment.
He doesn't feel the same way.
Tears prickled and Hermione's fingers grew icy-cold. She tried to blink the heat building behind her eyes away, but it came all the same, threatening her vision, making her cheeks burn as hot as her hands were cold. The feeling of being rejected was like nothing Hermione had ever felt; it was almost a physical pain, like she wanted to wince with each dulled heartbeat. As she fought with herself, she could hear the sound of Ron's voice.
"I didn't…I didn't know, Hermione, honest! I do care about you. You're brilliant, and funny, and tough. You're the best mate a bloke could have, but I-"
Hermione could see Ron's worry and disappointment, and in spite of the fact that he had just crushed her heart in his hands she wanted to tell him it was all right, that she would be fine. It wasn't his fault he didn't feel the same, was it? And she didn't want him to pretend.
It just wasn't meant to be.
Hermione could no longer look at Ron, and, turning away, she brought her hands to her cheeks, hoping to warm them or to cool herself down; she wasn't sure which one she was trying for at that moment. The one thing she was sure of was that it hurt.
It was a dizzying, humiliating kind of hurt, the kind of hurt that made you want to tear your hair out, scream at the top of your lungs, grind your teeth, and then curl up into a ball and die.
But what could a girl really do besides lift her head high and force a smile she didn't feel?
Hermione did just that. And then she gathered her things to go realizing that she had been getting up and leaving an awful lot lately. Maybe she just didn't fit in; maybe she never would.
She heard herself tell Ron to have a good time at the feast that night, and she offered Luna a broken smile as well, though she knew it wasn't nearly as sincere as she wished it to be. She willed her legs to move one in front of another, to take her away somewhere else entirely. Somewhere where she could be alone.
How was a girl supposed to get over such a disappointment, then? It wasn't like Hermione had any prior experience – in fact, she had none at all. And it wasn't as if she could turn to any of her girlfriends. Luna had Neville, and Ginny was deliriously happy with Harry.
Hermione paused at the two oak doors leading out of the Great Hall, a sudden, overwhelming need to cry washing over her. Blinking rapidly, she worked to keep from embarrassing herself further and wondered where to go next.
In the end, she chose a well secluded corridor; the one nearest Myrtle's bathroom. She knew that almost no one ventured that way, and she would be sufficiently alone. There, she climbed up on the windowsill, leaned against the glass, and began to cry.
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