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Chapter 11 : Of The Head's Loo and Bruises
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“Mister Malfoy, I must admit that I am rather puzzled by your request,” Dianna’s hands were clasped together before her, anchored to the desk by her elbows as she leaned towards him with a quirked eyebrow.
“I believe it will be a crucial additive to her tutoring to pair her with me in class. The pathetic bloke she’s dancing with now doesn’t know his left from his right. You’ve seen him; he’s dropped her twice.”
Dianna sighed and leaned back in her chair, regarding her star pupil carefully. “Draco, it will not further you in any way to pair yourself with someone of her level. When I asked you to tutor her I was not of the impression it would compromise your progress.”
Draco’s smug smirk belayed that he believed one of two things; he knew it wouldn’t happen, or he didn’t believe Dianna had anything further to teach him. He was, in fact, thinking both.
“As you may, or may not, be aware, the Ministry of Magic instituted this course as an outreach to students to make them culturally aware and well rounded individuals. It was begun in an attempt to broaden your horizons,” Dianna’s fist pounded onto the desk. Draco did not flinch, merely raised an eyebrow. “I don’t give a damn about any of that tripe,” her hands flew in the air in defeat. “I better see some solid progress in that girl, Mister Malfoy. She’s got one chance to pass her jury.”
Draco’s head declined slightly in acknowledgement as he stood from his chair, picked up his bag, and made for the door to her office. Dianna was right on his heels as he exited.
“Attention, my lovelies!” she said loudly as she entered the room. “Mister Malfoy, get that mess of hair pulled back from your face,” she called as she passed him.
Draco sank to the ground in his customary position at the front of the room, tying his hair back, as Dianna flicked some music on. Warm ups were no longer conducted in class because Dianna had declared them a waste of class time. She expected everyone fully warmed up and dressed to go as soon as she decided to begin class.
“Miss Granger, if you please,” Dianna gestured for Hermione to come forward.
Hermione rose slowly, acutely aware of so many eyes on her and deliberately ignored Ron‘s, and even Harry’s, eyes as she passed them. Draco was in front of Dianna, leaning back on his hands with a disinterested expression across his face.
“Miss Granger,” Dianna said as Hermione stopped before her. “You are being reassigned to partner Draco Malfoy,” she then turned her back and walked towards the mirror as the class broke into ill disguised whispers.
“Today,” Dianna began loudly as Hermione tentatively took the vacated seat next to Draco, “We begin lifts,” Dianna clasped her hands over head, stretching casually as she talked and paced before the mirror. “We will start with simple jumps and escalate from there. I would like everyone to rise. Be sure there is plenty of space between partners, please.”
Under the loud movement of everyone getting on their feet, Hermione whispered to Draco over her shoulder, “I can’t believe you actually did that.”
“I told you I was going to,” he smirked as he put his hands on her waist.
“Girls in front of your boys. Boys hands on their waists!” Dianna watched this awkward exchange for a moment before intervening with a frustrated sigh. “Boys!” She put her hands on her ribs, directly beneath her chest, “This is not the waist!” She moved her hands to her hips, “Neither is this!” She moved her hands to settle on the side of her stomach in the indentation above her hips. “This is the waist. If you aren’t holding her here and pushing under her ribs, her feet won’t ever leave the ground.”
Draco chuckled in her ear and she shivered. “If you’re like Alice Tethor it won’t matter where you grab her, she isn’t getting off the ground period.”
“Draco!” Hermione scolded, “Don’t be cruel!” His response was another deep chuckle.
“Ladies, please assume second position. Men, your feet are roots. You must imagine them grown into the ground. You are her base; her stronghold.” Dianna made her way through the class, checking to make sure all the boy’s had their feet placed directly under their hips. “You must maintain your balance. You will have to train you arm muscles or you will never be able to hold her in the air and flip her and all the other fun stuff we will get to.” She stopped for a moment, her hands on her hips. “Mister Weasley, if you drop your partner today I will fail you both. Feet apart.” Ron shot her a venomous glare as she continued down the row.
“Now, if you would all plié,” she demonstrated at the barre at the front of the room, her heels toward each other and her toes pointed toward the opposing walls. “Remember to keep your hips squared and front. Miss Patil don’t lean forward like that and Mister Finnigan please don’t use Miss Brown to keep your balance!”
“Will you relax?” Draco’s fingers tightened on Hermione’s waist. “You learned to plié in beginning ballet years ago. Bend your knees. I’m not going to let you fall over.” Hermione exhaled slowly, willing her body to relax and trust his words.
“Now, girls are going to jump, small jumps please, your toes should be the last part of your body to leave the ground. Use your bent knees. Make sure your core is centered. Do not rely on your partner to get you off the ground! You must be able to take flight alone. You must be able to fly alone, ladies. Gentlemen, you will lift up.” Dianna demonstrated again. “You must push up under her ribs as she jumps. As I said, you will need to build your upper body strength for the forthcoming choreography. Yes, this means homework.”
Ignoring the groaning of her students she plowed on. “I want the boys doing our warm up routine push ups at night before bed and in the morning upon waking. You will also use the Gravitas charm to build your arms.” Dianna pulled her wand from where it was tucked into her ponytail and said; “Gravitas!” Promptly two translucent orbs appeared on either end of her wand. She handed the wand to Neville Longbottom. “Here. Try it.” Neville was unprepared for the weight and he pitched forwards.
Dianna clucked in disappointment and took the wand back. “Ladies, I want you doing curl ups, sit ups, push ups, all kinds of ups! You need to build your muscle tone so your gent has something to grab on to!”
Harry’s hand raised and Dianna called over her shoulder as she walked back to her mirror, “No, Mister Potter, Quidditch warm ups have nothing to do with my homework assignment and you may not count them so.”
“My team’s warm ups are just as harsh as this. The babies should stop complaining. No wonder Gryffindor team always loses,” Draco muttered.
Hermione stiffened and Draco mentally berated himself for slipping again. After a few breaths Hermione tried to move on by saying, “You’re still playing Quidditch?”
“I’m captain,” he replied shortly.
“Oh,” she said meekly. “I hadn’t noticed you leaving for practice.”
“Now if I could see everyone try the jump please,” Dianna interrupted.
Hermione focused her eyes on the mirror before her. Dianna began to clap a simple beat. “On the beat! Five, six, seven, eight!”
Hermione found she wasn’t quite ready and was entirely caught off guard. She tried to jump and bend her knees at the same time and would have ended up on the floor if she had been partnered with anyone else. Draco somehow not only lifted her the small amount she was supposed to jump but he managed to make it look effortless and graceful.
Around them the rest of the class was thudding loudly back to the ground.
“No! No, no, no, no, no!” Dianna thundered. “We are not griffins in tutus! We do not stomp!”
Hermione took another deep breath and readjusted her feet beneath her. She was going to be ready this time. She was determined.
“What was wrong with your arms ladies? Did you forget you had them? Were some of you thinking they would magically propel you into the air? Put them on top of your partner’s hands!”
Hermione’s insides jumped a bit as she did; Draco's hands were very cold.
“This time I want to see some effort. Ladies, your goal is to get your rump as high as his chest. Men, word to the wise, don’t try to hold her there just yet. You won’t be able to at this point until you build up your arm muscles. In fact, just for fun we’ll have a little demonstration of this point at the end of class to show you what I mean. Perhaps it will encourage you to complete your assignment.” Dianna leaned against the front barre, elbows against the mirror. “Now, off you go. Five, six, seven, eight!”
There was a sudden eruption of groans around the studio and quite a few thuds from couples that promptly fell or partners promptly dropped. Hermione found she hardly had to work at all and the ordeal was over seconds before she had registered it had begun. She had done it.
Dianna’s hand came across her face in disgust. “I suppose if you both fall it doesn’t count as ‘dropping’ your partner.” She shook her head. “Again!”
The class scrambled back in to position and the music changed to a fast, pounding beat. “Five, six, seven, eight! Five, six, seven, eight!” Dianna counted. “Leap on the pick ups my little ones!” she commanded. The class began a rigorous game of balance and leap; one Draco was apparently a master at for Hermione never once lost her balance. The rhythm became a pulse and soon she was numb to everything; his hands lifting her and his body behind her, her fear of falling, the class around them, all she knew was that pounding pulse. Five, six, seven, eight! Five, six, seven, eight! Prepare, leap, descend, and land! Prepare, leap, descend, and land!
“Keep your heads up ladies!” Dianna called somewhere in the distance. “Lock your eyes on that reflection. See yourself flying and don’t grimace Miss Jefferson. You love to fly! You love this moment! Hold your core! Keep yourself centered! Knees bent! The ground is unwanted; push it away! Keep that back straight! You are proud to be free of it! Gentleman! Eyes off her butt if you please! You are roots to the ground! Stay grounded! You want her to fly, but you are her only way back to the ground! You want her to come back to you so you cannot fly with her, no matter how much you want to! Let me see it!”
Hermione’s stomach muscles were screaming in protest and small beads of perspiration dotted her forehead. She was growing short of breath. Behind her she could hear Draco’s slightly steadier breathing rhythm and forced hers to match it.
“Five, six, seven, eight! Prepare, leap, descend, and land!“
She heard a sharp thump but kept her eyes on her reflection, fighting to keep the pain from in her arms and knees and back and stomach from showing in her expression.
“Mister Weasley, I told you it was a failing mark for the both of you if you dropped her!”
Hermione couldn’t help it; her eyes closed in a quick grimace of discomfort. Thankfully, at that moment Dianna commanded they stop. The entire class simultaneously slid to the ground.
Dianna regarded them coolly. “Did I say you could sit?”
As everyone fought to regain their footing, Hermione held a tentative hand to her side, kneading the muscles gingerly, unaware of Draco’s observing eye.
“Resume you positions, please,” Dianna said.
Draco’s brow creased as Hermione stepped awkwardly in front of him. “You going to be able to do this?” The question was asked in a cold tone, but she was touched nonetheless, knowing the intention behind it. “Apparently we’re working on getting your upper body in shape.”
“Aren’t you the least bit tired?” she asked as his hands fell on her waist again. The coldness was soothing this time.
“Unlike you, I’m not out of shape. I’ve never stopped my dancing routine, so my muscles have never had a chance to deteriorate on me. You’re in for a long haul,” he warned.
“I would like to show you all why what I’ve requested you do for homework is so very important. You will now take your partner and hold her in the air. She’s going to almost sit on your chest, but most of her weight will be supported in your arms and your root into the ground. Don’t fool yourselves. It will hurt. Your arm muscles will scream at you and shake and burn. Ladies, you may find bruising on your waist, you may not be able to sit certain ways or turn certain ways. Your body is a stubborn beast. You must train it. Stretch yourself to your limits, but remember, in the end, you do have limits. You must take care of yourselves! Get plenty of rest, and cold compresses work wonders for sore muscles. Now, girls, please be sure to point those toes. Floppy feet are disgusting. I want you to keep your hands on your partner’s for now. We will deal with proper poise later. Go on the count. Five, six, seven, eight!”
Hermione felt a sudden weightlessness that was incredibly surprising. She squeezed Draco’s hands tightly, wishing they weren’t digging into her sides so much. Her neck felt heavy and it was a constant battle to remain straight and poised, her eyes on the mirror.
Around them couples were dropping to their feet at a steady rate. Hermione suspected Draco could hold her up there till sunset, so she was startled when he set her on her feet. The three or four couples left descended only seconds after. Hermione turned questioning eyes to him as Dianna dismissed them with a gleeful smile, reminding them to do their homework and promising there would be more fun tomorrow.
“I don’t need to prove anything, Hermione, and you’re not ready to try to.” She agreed, but it was still disheartening to hear. “You’re doing that wrong,” he said, looking at her hands. She had subconsciously been kneading the muscles in her sides, hoping they’d unclench.
“Whatever do you mean by that?” she asked as he stepped forward.
“Move your hands,” he directed, pushing her hands away and putting his own in their place. “You have to do it in circles. The point is to force the knot in the muscle to unclench, not tighten it up further.” As he was speaking his fingers were doing as he said; kneading in small circles. She jumped, a small bubble of laughter escaping.
He rolled his eyes.
“I’m going to take a shower before dinner, so don’t hurry back,” she said as she grabbed her bag and exited, leaving Draco as the only apparent person left in the studio.
Draco shook his head and made his way to his bag, pulling the tie from his hair as he went. “You always slink up behind people when they aren’t looking, Weasel?” he said nonchalantly over his shoulder as he bent down to grab the strap of his bag.
“I want to have a word,” Ron growled.
“Sure about that? If I remember correctly, it didn’t go so well last time.”
“I don’t actually want to have a conversation with you,” Ron continued, “I only want to know why the bloody hell she’s your partner now and I want you to know if you bloody touch her again like that I will personally do something about it.”
Draco leaned back against the mirrored wall, arms crossed. “Such as?”
Ron swallowed; nothing came to mind.
Draco laughed. “Green isn’t your color, Weasel-bee.”
“Are you saying I’m jealous?” Ron spat.
Draco slung his bag over his shoulder and leaned forward. “Yes,” He walked past him.
“Malfoy!” Ron called.
“She’s my partner because I say so and you gave your ’warning.’ You’re dismissed Weasley.” Draco’s fists were clenched as he pushed through the studio door. He was guessing that pounding the shit out of Weasley would not make the girl all too pleased with him.
By the time Draco reached the common room Hermione was completely showered, dressed, and reading a book on the couch. He dropped his bag by the door and made directly for her chair, bracing his hands on the arm rests.
“Bloody hell, you smell good,” he murmured into her neck.
She laughed and pushed him away. “You don’t! Go shower!”
He groaned but trekked his way up the stairs and she heard the door shut and the water start a moment later.
Draco turned the water as cold as it would go before stepping in. His skin crawled at the temperature, but he welcomed the sensation. Anything that kept him from going numb was welcome. The cold did wonders to the pain in his body.
Should I heed Mother’s plea? She must be in a terrible place if she had risked contacting him in such a way. If his father found out… The hairs on his arms stood on end. He switched the temperature to the hottest setting.
If his father found out he would beat Mother to an inch of her life. It wasn’t a new concept within the family structure. Draco had never, in all six years of attending Hogwarts, gone home for a holiday break. Hogwarts sure as hell wasn’t home, but it was a far cry from going back to that place.
The air in the bathroom faintly held the scent of her shampoo still; it was entirely distracting. He leant over, analyzing the bottles on the edges of the tub, grabbing a black one. He flipped open the cap, took a deep breath, and then unscrewed the cap entirely, placing it back on the edge of the tub as the scent swept through the shower. Distraction be damned.
His mother was the only person that had ever cared for him. He had to go back. There was no reason for him to stay over break anyways.
Hermione. He remembered her mother’s letter and was forced to switch the water back to the coldest setting. She had no choice but to stay.
What was the worst that would happen to her? There was no chance she’d be injured, unlike his mother. She was entirely safe here at Hogwarts. Loneliness was the only thing she would suffer. No matter how much he relished the idea of staying with her and breaking down her walls, his mother’s plea was burning within him.
Draco, my little dragon, come home to me, my child. I am frightened.
He would just have to focus his efforts towards the girl when he returned.
“Are you ready to go?” Hermione asked as he descended the stairs. “I hope you don’t mind, but I ate while you showered. I figured you wouldn’t care since it’s not like we can walk down and eat together.”
He stopped on the final stair, trying to decide if it did bother him.
“I brought you back something,” she smiled sweetly. “It’s in the kitchen. You can heat it up after the meeting,” she stood and walked towards the portrait.
He wished he were still in that cold shower. The sweet smile was unsettling but the sucker-punched feeling in his gut had to do with the unidentifiable emotion accompanying her actions; the foresight of caring enough to bring something back. He noticed her awkward walk, his mind flying back to the time when his muscles were just beginning to build up and accustom to the strenuous movements he was insisting on.
He stopped her, as she was about to reach the portrait. “When we get back,” he said softly, “I’ll show you how to ease your muscles.”
“All right,” Hermione shuffled the parchment in front of her, carefully avoiding eye contact with the blonde next to her. They had purposefully sat at opposite ends of the table from each other. “I believe that’s it for today. Are we all agreed?”
A tentative hand rose in the front row of seating.
“What?” Draco had his feet on the table and was leaning back in his chair.
The girl was a fifth year and obviously terrified to be speaking to Draco Malfoy so she turned to Hermione. “We prefects would like to propose the consideration of a holiday ball.”
Hermione sat back. “Well,” she took a moment to think about it, “I don’t see why not,” she turned to Draco.
“If you want one,” he shrugged.
Trying to hide an unexplainable blush, Hermione shuffled her papers again. “We will have a holiday ball. I will leave it to the sixth year prefects to organize everyone. We will require a volunteer list and detail as well as cost summation. Bring it to me as soon as you are ready and I will present it to the Headmaster. Meeting adjourned.”
Everyone happily rose, chatting excitedly amongst themselves. Hermione took her time gathering her things, she wanted to be last out so she could walk back with Draco, but she had no such luck.
She looked up and stifled a groan. “Yes, Ronald?”
He shuffled his feet, his hands in his pockets. “Could I walk you back?” She looked up, about to say no, realized she couldn’t, and saw Draco nod to her as he slipped out the door, leaving them alone.
She sighed, “Sure,” and grabbed her things.
The walk was silent almost the entire time, right until they reached her hallway.
“Hermione…we’ve been best friends forever, and it makes me sick to think anything would get between us…anyways…I wanted to know, will you go to this holiday ball with me?”
Hermione stopped dead right outside the portrait hole. “What?”
“Will you go with me to the holiday ball?”
“I haven’t even gotten it approved by the Headmaster yet,” she put her hand to her forehead.
“Will you go with me, or not?” his voice rose.
“Problem?” A cool voice interrupted. Both parties turned around to find Draco sweeping up the hall, his robe billowing behind him.
“Malfoy, bugger off. We’re having a conversation,” Ron ground out.
“Not outside my portrait hole with that tone of voice you’re not,” he said in reply.
Ron stayed still for a moment, waiting for Draco to leave, which he did not. Finally he awkwardly asked, “What’s your answer, Hermione?”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea, Ron,” she replied as she stepped inside the portrait. Draco did not move. Ron waited long enough to have a staring contest with Draco’s imposing presence before standing down and sulking off.
Draco entered the common room to find Hermione waiting inside. “You said you have a way to fix my muscles,” she reminded him. She had dropped the edge of her shirt just as he walked in to the room, but not before he caught a flash of color on her waist.
“Do you have a bathing suit?” Draco asked.
Hermione blushed. “Of course…but why?”
“Go put it on. I’ll meet you in the loo.”
Hermione closed her door behind her and made her way to her trunk. Why did her bathing suit have to be a two-piece? It was ‘the thing‘. All the girls wore them, but at this moment she was considering wearing ski pants and a sweater rather than face Draco Malfoy in a bikini.
As she was rummaging through the trunk to locate said bathing suit she came across two articles of clothing she had previously worn in dance practice but recently only as pajamas. The sports bra and short black shorts weren’t exactly body encompassing, but they were a far cry from the exposure of a bikini. She made her way skeptically to the bathroom.
Draco was perched on the edge of an ice filled tub. His robe was draped over the sink and he had rolled the sleeves of his white shirt up, leaving the top few buttons undone.
He didn’t say anything about her chosen apparel, but grabbed her hand and pulled her closer, turning her so he could get a better look at her right side. There was a purple blotch surfacing on her waist. He touched it softly with a critical eye.
“I’m right handed, that’s probably why this is the only side that’s bruised.”
“I assure you, the other side hurts just as much,” she had her face turned away.
“All right, in the tub,” he commanded.
“In that?” she turned quickly.
“You’re keeping your clothes on so what’s the fuss? Climb in.”
“That tub is full of ice!”
“You can thank me later,” he said dryly, taking her arm and supporting her as she stepped in.
“Oh Merlin. Oh Merlin. Oh my Merlin. Dear Merlin. This is so cold!” she swore.
“Sit,” he commanded.
She closed her eyes.
“You have to sit down, Hermione. If you don’t ice those muscles they will lock up. Now stop being stubborn. I’ve had to do this countless times. Bend your knees. Sit down.”
She held on to his arm and slowly lowered herself in to the cold slush, emitting exclamations of her discomfort as she went. He then settled himself opposite her on the edge of the tub.
“You’re going to stay?” she asked through chattering teeth.
He smirked. “I could leave, but I figured you would want someone to distract you from the comfort of your bath.”
She nodded, wrapping her arms around herself.
“I’m going home over the winter holidays,” he said after an awkward moment of silence.
“Oh,” she said, her voice down heartened. “It’s-It’s alright. I’m s-sure someone else w-will be s-staying.”
“Want to talk about what just happened in the hallway?” he tried after a minute.
She turned her head away. “I told him no.”
Draco stood up and leant against the sink. He took a deep breath. “You know I can’t take you.”
“I know,” she said softly behind him.
“I think you should go with him,” he said.
There was an angry sloshing as she got on her feet. He grabbed the nearest towel and threw it around her, helping her step on to the bathroom rug and gently rubbing her arms and shoulders as she stood there shivering and wet.
“Why do you want me to go with him?” she asked angrily.
“I never said I wanted you to. I said you should. There’s no way in bloody hell I want you to go with some other bloke,” he ground out.
She was silent for a moment. “I don’t want to go with him,” she said softly as she wiped some stray water droplets from her face.
“It will keep them off our trail that much longer,” he insisted. “And it won’t exactly be like you’re there with him, because I’m not letting the two of you out of my sight to begin with.” Her shivering had finally subsided. “You should get dressed and go to bed before you get sick,” he said softly.
She sniffed and wiped her hair back from her eyes, “Okay, I’ll…I’ll tell him tomorrow.” She left the room and he closed the door behind her. He practically ripped his shirt as he tugged it off and didn’t bother to remove his black pants before sinking into the ice filled tub, the click of her door shutting echoing back to him.
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